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Reform Scotland News: 20 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


Oil revenues: First Minister Alex Salmond has questioned a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggesting that an independent Scotland would face tougher long-term choices than the UK as oil revenues begin to recede. He insisted that Scotland is in a much stronger fiscal situation than the rest of the UK. (Herald page 6)

Mike Russell: The Education Secretary Mike Russell will today face an emergency question at Holyrood about claims that he misled Parliament over college funding cuts. In June, Mr Russell said that funding had increased this year whilst official figures showed there had actually been a £9m cut. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 1, Telegraph page 1)

Holyrood and income tax: Iain Gray, convenor of Holyrood’s Audit Committee, said yesterday that the Scottish Parliament must be able to exercise greater oversight of HM Revenue and Customs when the parliament will become responsible for raising half the income tax in Scotland from 2016. (Herald page 6)

RBS: Peter Jones in the Scotsman suggests that it is not certain that Royal Bank of Scotland will stay in an independent Scotland unless Alex Salmond can issue guarantees that the Scottish government would be able to back its liabilities.

Lynton Crosby: Ewan Crawford in the Scotsman says that the Conservatives’ hiring of Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby for the 2015 General Election would have little impact on the result of the independence referendum and that whether Scotland becomes independent or not would depend on whether the Yes campaign can persuade the Scottish people that jobs would be safer.

EFTA: Gordon Wilson in the Courier says that whilst an independent Scotland would be welcome in the European Union, joining the European Free Trade Association might be better for the future of the new country.

Wind turbines: Scottish Enterprise yesterday signed a deal with Areva, one of Europe’s biggest wind power firms, to build turbines within Scotland. Up to 750 jobs are expected to be created under the deal. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 7, Telegraph page 15, Record page 9, Joan McAlpine in the Record, P&J page 13)

Energy prices: The UK Government will today announce plans to ensure that consumers get the cheapest oil and gas prices available to them. Labour say the plans do not go far enough and that the market remains uncompetitive (Herald page 3, Times page 7, Telegraph page 1, Record page 2, Guardian page 1, Mail page 1)

Vion: The Dutch company Vion announced plans to sell off its assets in UK, threatening up to 2,300 jobs in Scotland. The company recently closed the Hall’s meat processing plant in Broxburn, with the loss of 1,700 jobs. (Scotsman page 1, Times page 13, Sun page 2, Herald page 2, Record page 2, Mail page 2, P&J page 1)

Fathers’ rights: Scottish fathers are the victims of institutionalised sexism when it comes to being granted access to their children, according to a recent report by Circle Scotland. The report, entitled ‘Listening to Fathers’ tells of instances where fathers have been denied access to children living in homes where their mother is taking drugs. (Herald page 1)

Legal aid: Lawyers at an Edinburgh court room yesterday staged a walkout, forcing many of those arrested at the weekend to represent themselves.  The action is in protest at changes to legal aid which will mean that anyone with £750 of cash or £68 per week in disposable income will be forced to pay part or all of the cost of their defence. Lawyers say the plans risk miscarriages of justice. (Herald page 4, Scotsman page 1, Times page 12, Sun page 2)

Mortality rates: The gap between mortality rates amongst the young in Scotland and Europe is widening according to the Glasgow Centre for Population Health. The mortality rate is 44% higher amongst young working age men and 48% higher amongst women, compared to the rest of the continent. (Herald page 1, Scotsman page 19, Times page 6, Sun page 2, Telegraph page 7, Record page 2, Mail page 13)

University numbers: Scotland is the only country within the UK not to see a drop in university applications as the rising tuition fees in the rest of the UK take effect. Only two constituencies within Scotland showed a drop in application numbers. (Herald page 9, Scotsman page 15)

Apps: In a bid to make the curriculum more relevant, Scottish pupils will be given the opportunity to develop their own apps with material being developed by the British Computing Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. (Herald page 8)