Reform Scotland News: 20 September 2012

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions. Where there is a link to a newspaper’s website, the relevant page reference is highlighted and underlined.

In addition to the newspaper stories outlined below, further news coverage can be found online at BBC News Scotland, STV News and Sky News

Politics

Welfare and independence: The SNP has rushed to condemn the idea put forth by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith that an independent Scotland would need to increase taxes or face cuts to welfare. Alex Salmond has warned that such allegedly unfounded remarks could “blow the referendum talks between the Scottish and UK governments off course”. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 6, FT page 4, Express page 10, Sun page 2, Telegraph page 2, Courier page 15)

Referendum consensus: Alex Salmond has announced that a deal on the conduct of the Scottish referendum will likely be reached with Westminster by the end of October. The decision will put an end to the debate about whether ballot papers should bear just one question, or whether a question on further devolution can also be included. (Scotsman page 4, Express page 15, Telegraph page 2, P&J page 12, Courier page 14)

How Scots vote: Keith Aitken questions, in the Daily Express, whether Scots will truly vote in the independence referendum as this week’s Social Attitudes survey would suggest (which would be a resounding no). With the Scots so strongly backing Labour in the 2010 UK election, then shifting so decisively to the SNP in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election, but showing real indifference to the SNP in the local elections the following year, Aitken believes that nothing should be taken for granted and that the SNP’s conduct and the referendum debates really could have an impact in the next two years. No outcome is assured. (Express page 13)

Disingenuous: Adam Tomkins, John Millar Professor of Public Law at the University of Glasgow, criticises in today’s Times the attitude with which Alex Salmond has approached the referendum situation since the SNP’s surprise victory in the last election. (Times page 28)

Assisted suicide: Independent MSP Margo MacDonald has secured the 18 signatures from other MSPs required to reintroduce her now revised assisted suicide bill to parliament, after a previous incarnation of the bill was voted down in a free vote in 2010. (Scotsman page 13, Record page 2, Sun page 2)

Strathclyde police: The Strathclyde Police Authority (SPA) has been criticised for not taking on board the critical findings of a report last year. The Accounts Commission and the Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland have accused the SPA of laxness in its involvement in setting police priorities with, notably, only three councillors out of 34 attending a strategic planning workshop for the police last winter. (Scotsman page 17, Herald page 10)

Scottish Labour leadership: Michael Kelly in the Scotsman describes the various managerial focuses that need to be forcefully changed in the Scottish Labour Party r in order to get it back on track after its poor results in the last election. (see also Herald page 6, Iain MacWhirter in the Herald page 13)

Economy

Devolution New Deal: The representatives of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved administrations made demands, in yesterday’s Joint Ministerial Committee in London, for hundreds of millions of pounds to be put towards major infrastructural projects designed to stimulate growth in their respective spheres of governance. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 6, Record page 7)

Tornagrain: Planning permission has been granted for the construction of 5000 homes at Tornagrain, between Inverness and Nairn. The development is intended to ease the pressure on the housing market in the region, and create a new town of up to 10, 000 people in the next thirty years. (Scotsman page 20, Herald page 5)

The geopolitics of recovery: Bill Jameson in the Scotsman, is optimistic that business confidence is slowly but surely returning worldwide. Fewer doom and gloom reports about the eurozone and about the lack of a strong and sustained recovery in the United States have diminished the fear gripping the hearts of investors. What could reverse the increasing trend of confidence, though, has less to do with financial stability mechanisms and US employment figures, and far more to do with growing fears of a military stand-off with Iran and the spike in oil prices that would likely cause – and so global geopolitics could prove to be the next straightjacket for the slowly recovering world economy. (, see also Camilla Cavendish in the Times page 29)

Welfare reforms: Chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Martin Sime condemns, in the Scotsman, Westminster’s planned welfare reforms, insisting they will not reduce unemployment, yet may cause tremendous psychological damage to those affected by the changes. (see also Anne Johnstone in the Herald)

Transport

Edinburgh-Glasgow main line: Labour has attacked the SNP government over a major scaling back of planned improvements for Scotland’s busiest rail line, in the wake of £300 million of cuts to the programme. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 7, Courier page 22)

Drink driving: In tandem with the consultation already underway in the Scottish government over lowering the legal blood alcohol level limit for drivers from 80mg to 50mg, some calls have been made to lower the limit further still for younger and for newly-qualified drivers. (Scotsman page 11)

Health

Junk food: The Scottish Parliament has been urged to approach junk food with the same rigour as it does alcohol and tobacco, in the hopes of improving the overall health of Scots at a time of rising pressures on NHS capacities. (Scotsman page 6)

Sick Kids: Plans to move Edinburgh’s Sick Kids hospital from Sciennes to Little France, next to the Royal Infirmary, have been given final approval by the Scottish government. The construction and move are due to be completed in 2017. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 11, Times page 6, Courier page 18)