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Reform Scotland News: 19 November 2012

 

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 19 November 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

Oil revenues: The Institute for Fiscal Studies concludes that if North Sea oil and gas revenues were allocated on a geographical basis following independence, Scotland would not face changes to its budget. However, higher spending on public services and the volatility of oil and gas resources could force an independent Scotland to take difficult decisions on spending over the long term. Should revenue be allocated based on population, Scotland might face a serious deficit. Both the Yes and No campaigns seized on the report.  (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 2, Financial Times page 2, The Times page 1)

Sterling zone warning: Brian Quinn, formerly of the Bank of England, is expected to report that the UK government will impose stringent conditions on an independent Scotland should they seek to keep the pound. Mr. Quinn’s report focuses on the economic conditions of independence, particularly regulations in the banking sector and mechanisms available should a bank fail. (The Scotsman page 6)

Scottish Labour changes: Scottish Labour will change its rules to allow candidates to stand in constituencies and on regional lists. The party will also introduce ‘twinning’ in first-past-the-post seats in order to increase gender diversity. The rule changes are a result of prominent Labour figures losing their constituency seats without having a back-up in place. Critics of the changes say that the rule encourages careerism and raises the barrier for younger politicians. (Sunday Herald page 8)

David Cameron election recruit: David Cameron has recruited Lynton Crosby, who has worked for Boris Johnson, as his election strategist. He hopes that the strategist will help mobilise voters after a crushing by-election defeat and record low turnouts for police and crime commissioners. (The Sunday Times page 1, Daily Telegraph page 2, Financial Times page 2, The Times page 13)

The Monarchy and Scotland: MSPs debated amendments to the Freedom of Information Act which would include an exemption for senior members of the royal family. This is particularly pertinent given the referendum on independence. The Sunday Times also explores the relationship between the United Kingdom and Scotland should the referendum on independence succeed. The Queen could appoint a Governor-General while remaining Scotland’s head of state, naming Princess Anne as a potential candidate. (The Sunday Times page 5, page 20)

EU referendum: Senior Tory David Davis has said that the public will not trust the Prime Minister on the issue of a referendum on continued EU membership. Labour leader Ed Miliband will warn CBI employers that Britain risks ‘sleepwalking’ towards a Euro exit although his party will oppose the UK leaving the EU.  Polls indicate that a majority of people in Britain wish to leave the European Union. (Financial Times page 2, Scottish Sun page 2, Daily Express page 4)

Votes for prisoners: Westminster will get a fresh say on the terms under which prisoners can vote, putting the government in conflict with the European Court of Human Rights which has ruled the UK’s outright ban on votes for prisoners illegal. The ECHR says countries can decide which prisoners can be denied the right to vote but can’t impose a blanket exclusion. (The Scotsman page 12, The Times page 14)

SNP competence: Writing in the Scotsman, Brain Monteith calls into question the SNP’s reputation for competent government in the wake of rows about college funding and European Union membership. In the Scottish Sun, Andrew Nicoll echoed these sentiments, noting that it is the job of the First Minister to know these details. In the Daily Telegraph, Alan Cochrane discusses Labour’s efforts to impose new rules on Parliamentary behaviour.

Lib Dem Trident delay: Liberal Democrats are seeking Labour support for their opposition to a like-for-like replacement for Trident nuclear submarines. They’ve secured a Government review into the options for the replacement of the nuclear deterrent but both Government parties have agreed to delay decisions until after the next General Election. (The Herald page 6)

Gay marriage: Alex Salmond’s minister has expressed concerns that proposed initiatives will force him to perform gay marriages, compromising his own beliefs. His remarks echoed concerns articulated by the Catholic Church as well as anti gay-marriage campaign group Scotland for Marriage. The Scottish government has said that religious bodies would not be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages. (Daily Express page 2, The Sunday Times page 3)

Greens on independence: Writing in the Daily Record, Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie urges parties to elevate the debate, calling for a more honest and open dialogue about independence. (Daily Record page 2)

Labour MP readmitted: Former Labour MSP and MP Lord Mike Watson has been readmitted to the Labour party after serving 8 of a 16-month jail term for fire raising. He was able to rejoin five yeas after his expulsion. (The Scotsman page 9, Daily Record page 1)

Lord McAlpine legal suit: Ten thousand Twitter users face legal action after falsely linking Lord McAlpine to child abuse allegations. (Daily Record page 2, Sunday Times page 1)

Economy

Tax Laws: Business secretary Vince Cable has called for action against corporate tax avoidance, but stresses the need to encourage investment. He pointed to anger amongst small and medium sized businesses that multinational corporations are able to avoid tax without consequence. (The Scotsman page 8)

Virgin routes: Virgin has been offered short-haul take-off and landing slots between Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Heathrow following the takeover of BMI by British Airways’ parent company. CEO Richard Branson has promised jobs and better prices for customers as competition on the routes increased. (The Scotsman page 35, The Herald page 3, The Times page 4)

Scottish tourism concerns: Scottish MSPs have urged VisitScotland to reconsider its strategy built around the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, fearing a repeat of the 2009 Gathering event designed to attract American tourists. They fear that Americans are reluctant to travel abroad prior to the Fourth of July and that facilities are not adequate for the number of tourists expected. (The Times page 4)

Air tax powers: Alex Salmond spoke to Sir Howard Davies in an effort to secure the devolution of air tax powers to remedy what he describes as Scotland’s “crisis of connectivity”, with rising prices and fewer options for air travellers between Scotland and the rest of the world. (Sunday Times page 2)

Estate sales: The sale of Scottish country estates has slowed, reportedly reflecting concern about the outcome of the referendum on independence, the economic slump, as well as the added stamp duty for homes over £1 million. (The Daily Telegraph, page 5)

Health

Winter health concerns: NHS Lothian has reopened two wards at the Royal Victoria in preparation for increased demand over the winter. Cases of norovirus have already emerged in Scotland, leading to concerns about the health service’s ability to cope with demand. (Sunday Herald page 10)

Weekend hospital services: According to a report published by the British Medical Journal, Scottish patients are 40 percent more likely to die if admitted to hospital at the weekend. This is higher than England, where there is a 20 percent increase in mortality. (The Daily Telegraph page 12)

Education

University entry grades: The Scottish Funding Council will ask universities to ‘contextualize’ marks, taking into account the backgrounds of applicants rather than judging them simply on test scores. The proposal comes at a time when universities are facing criticism for their lack of socio-economic diversity, with St. Andrews accepting just 13 students from the most deprived backgrounds in 2010-2011. Universities will also be asked to recruit students from colleges. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, The Herald page 10, The Daily Telegraph page 12)

College funding: Education Secretary Michael Russell is facing controversy after Stow College chairman Kirk Ramsay secretly recorded a meeting in which the subject of waiting lists were discussed. Mr Ramsay was publicly asked to resign following the incident but opposition figures are calling for an investigation of Mr Russell’s behaviour. Writing in the Sunday Herald, Iain MacWhirter attributes the controversy to the SNP’s focus on independence rather than the business of governing. (Sunday Herald page 3, Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday, The Scotsman page 4, The Herald page 6)

Research and independence: Prominent microbiologist Hugh Pennington has warned that research council funding for Scottish universities would be cut in an independent Scotland as funding bodies are concentrated south of the border. (Sunday Herald page 9, The Times page 5)

Gender gap in childcare: Men make up less than 3% of carers in crèches and nurseries, and only 8% of teachers in primary school, a fact that child campaigners find worrying as it leaves young children without male role models. The Scottish Government has also launched a parenting initiative to make policies more ‘dad-friendly’ (Sunday Herald page 13)

Scots education: Writing in the Sunday Herald, Ian Bell responds to efforts to introduce Scottish literature to school children, arguing that children should instead be taught a love of reading rather than specific texts.

Head teacher requirements: Measures put into place by the Scottish government, which would require leadership qualifications for Scottish head teachers, have been called into question by the Unions, which argue that the requirements might put off teachers. (The Herald page 1)