Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 26 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.
STUC and independence: Representatives from the Scottish branch of the Trades Union Congress will brief the TUC on the impact of the referendum and possible independence in the first national discussion of the subject. The STUC has not taken sides in the debate, but may do so at a future conference. (Sunday Herald page 12, The Scotsman page 5, The Sun page 2, Daily Express page 4, The Sunday Times page 1)
Political debate: Writing in the Sunday Herald, Tom Gordon and Iain MacWhirter both discuss a shift in tone in parliamentary debates as tempers flare over independence, leading to concerns about the level of the debate. Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Euan McColm urges politicians to put aside hateful attacks and engage people in constructive debate.
Labour list changes: Labour List MSPs are fearful of losing their places under a new system, proposed by an internal party working group, designed to ensure the best representative in each slot. However, it has faced opposition from sitting MSPs. (Sunday Herald page 7)
Independence timetable: Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie writes in the Sunday Herald, urging the First Minister to reassess the timetable for parliamentary elections should the independence referendum be successful. He notes the need for a new organisational structure, constitutional documents, and negotiations with the United Kingdom and with the international community. (Sunday Herald page 17)
Emissions targets: Scotland’s director of energy and climate change David Wilson has reportedly indicated that Scotland will not meet its ambitious, and legally binding, climate change goals. However, Scotland tops the table for cutting greenhouse gases amongst all original EU-15 countries, although it falls behind several newer EU states. (Sunday Herald page 21)
Scottish Conservative rebrand: Scottish Conservatives have introduced a new logo, a “Union Saltire” designed to evoke the party’s unionist and Scottish roots. Critics have described it as resembling a wind turbine and a tube map. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, The Telegraph page 12, The Sunday Times page 15)
Monarchy debate: Speaking at the Radical Independence Conference, chairman of the Yes Campaign Dennis Canavan criticised the SNP’s proposal to retain the monarchy under independence. Mr Canavan linked his argument with the Claim of Right which stipulates that sovereignty should remain with the people rather than an unelected monarch. Green leader Patrick Harvie and former SNP MSP Jean Urquhart also spoke at the event, outlining their vision for an independent Scotland. (Scotland on Sunday page 2, The Daily Telegraph page 12, Daily Express page 4)
Catalan vote: Catalonia voted in snap elections, called by pro-independence leader Artur Mas. Mr Mas hoped that an electoral victory would provide him with a mandate for a referendum on independence. His party lost 12 seats but the left wing pro-independence ERC doubled its vote. Spain has pledged to block a referendum on independence, and the Spanish Constitutional Court blocked efforts by the Basque Country in 2008. (Scotland on Sunday page 11, The Herald page 16, The Times page 29)
EU relations: Following the failure of the adoption of the EU budget, Ross Clark and Jack Grimston imagine how the UK’s hard line on the EU might reshape the union. Whitehall is conducting balance of competences reviews, designed to see how Brussels affects UK activity. (The Sunday Times page 17)
Devo plus proposal: Writing in the Scottish Sun, Andrew Nicoll responds to proposals put forth by the Devo Plus group, set up by Reform Scotland. The group has continued to campaign for further powers for Scotland following the referendum. However, Mr Nicoll notes that without the SNP threat of independence, Westminster has little incentive to devolve further powers to Scotland.
BAE shipyard closure: BAE suggested that it would close one of its three UK shipyards, two of which are located in Scotland. The defence contractor employs 3,500 at Scotstoun and Govan with 5,000 workers in Portsmouth. The move comes in response to cuts in defence spending. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Telegraph page 12, The Times page 17, Daily Express page 4, Daily Record page 2)
Economic prognosis: The Institute for Fiscal Studies has indicated that the UK may face six more years of economic austerity as the Chancellor works to cut public spending and reduce the deficit. The Scottish government responded to the announcement by advocating public sector investment and finance minister John Swinney set out a list of ‘shovel-ready’ projects. (The Scotsman page 8, The Herald page 6, The Sun page 2, Daily Record page 2)
Oil dependency: Norway has often been cited as an economic model for Scotland, with a similar population size and oil reserves. However, critics of independence have charged that an independent Scotland would be overly dependent on oil and vulnerable to economic fluctuations. The SNP has indicated that Scotland would be less dependent on oil than Norway, noting that oil revenues contribute 36% of Norway’s total revenue and 20% of Scotland’s. Norwegian revenues are deposited into an oil fund rather than spent on public services, a model the SNP wishes to emulate when economic circumstances allow. (Scotland on Sunday page 6)
Legal aid row: Lawyers are threatening walkouts this week over the Justice Secretary’s plan which would require the accused to contribute to costs if they have a weekly disposable income of £68 or more. Critics claim it may force people to plead guilty or represent themselves because they cannot afford to pay, although Mr. MacAskill noted that it was in line with recommendations from the ECHR. (The Herald page 1, The Times page 8)
Smoking targets: The Scottish government is expected to follow Finland and Australia by announcing a smoke-free Scotland, an ambitious goal that would attempt to reduce smoking rates from 23.3% to 5% within a few decades. The programme would target children as well as those who wish to quit. (Sunday Herald page 4, The Sun page 2, Daily Express page 5)
Health board budget cuts: Health boards are working to cut their expenditures by £100 million, particularly focused on drugs and staff. However, concerns have been raised that the additional cuts will be harder to find. Health Secretary Alex Neil said that savings have been reinvested in coping with rising health care costs elsewhere. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)
Deaths at Scottish hospitals: An investigation by BBC Scotland found that more than 100 patients die in ‘serious incidents’ each year. Over the past three years, NHS Scotland has paid out £120 million in compensation and legal expenses for mishaps. However, the new Clinical Director Dr Jason Leitch points to improved survival rates and a reduction in the number of infections as evidence that reforms are working. (The Scotsman page 5, The Herald page 11, Scottish Sun page 12)
Visiting hour changes: Dr Jason Leitch, the Scottish government’s new clinical director, has proposed changes to visiting hours and patient interaction in order to make hospitals more comfortable and welcoming as well as improve safety and recovery rates. (The Herald page 3)
Local government consolidation: Speaking at the International Policing Conference, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill indicated that while the police have consolidated into a single force, the maintenance of 32 local authorities and 14 health boards was untenable in today’s economic climate. While the Scottish government denied plans to consolidate these organisations, they did indicate they were exploring options to reduce duplicated efforts and bureaucracy. Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Eddie Barnes outlines the case for more co-ordinated service delivery, noting that co-operation between local authorities and health care providers could improve areas such as social care. He describes proposals by Reform Scotland to transfer more power to local authorities, while creating 19 bodies to combine local authority and health board functions which would be overseen by democratically- elected local councillors, giving local government more relevance and accountability. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Daily Record page 2, Daily Express page 2, The Times page 8)
Wind farm planning: Alex Salmond was accused of bullying local councils to encourage further wind farm development. (Daily Express page 2, The Daily Telegraph page 13)