A week in Scottish politics: 14 to 20 December 2012



Reform Scotland’s round-up of comment and analysis pieces we have referred to in media summaries between 14 and 20 December, which are freely available online.

Thursday 20 December

English ‘colonist’ remarks: Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman has commented his support for Alisdair Gray, saying that Scottish identity must be protected from the threat of uniculturalism. This comes after writer Alisdair Gray commented over the weekend that English people working and living in Scotland were “colonists”. His comments were largely critical of the number of English candidates securing prime jobs in the Scottish arts scene.

University elitism: Michael Fry in the Scotsman looks into the criticism facing Scottish Universities for the low numbers of working-class students accepted each year. He puts forward a supportive argument on the side of the universities, saying it is probably better to see access as further down the list of priorities at the moment, with funding and achievement levels being a more imminent concern.

Deprived students: Michael Kelly in the Scotsman urges extra resources to be given to schools in deprived areas. His comments come after the exam results league tables published yesterday showing that schools in Scotland’s most affluent areas continue to benefit from a much higher proportion of students going on to university education.

Wednesday 19 December

Tony Blair: Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph  comments on the fact thatTony Blair has reportedly said that he would be “very happy to play a part” in the pro-union campaign.

Anti-English debate: Jenny Hjul in the Telegraph comments on Alasdair Gray, the author and painter, describing English people appointed to top jobs north of the border as “settlers” and “colonists”.

Devo Plus: Ben Thomson in the Scotsman outlines why Devo Plus is the best option for Scotland’s constitutional future.

Population: Ian Bell in the Herald comments on the new Scottish population figures which showed that there were now more people over the age of 65 in Scotland than under 15.

University tuition: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman argues that Scotland can no longer afford taxpayer funded university tuition.

Tuesday 18 December

Population: Chris Wilson in the Scotsman comments on new figures published from the 2011 census which indicates that Scotland’s population has reached a record 5,295,000, with migration and an increase in births has been attributed to the rise.

Pensioner benefits: David Maddox in the Scotsman comments on Nick Clegg’s speech to mark five years as party leader.

Scotland and the EU: Peter Jones in the Scotsman  and Joan McAlpine in the Record comment on the likely membership status an independent Scotland would have with the EU.

UKIP implications for Scotland: Ewan Crawford in the Scotsman comments on the implications for Scotland of UKIP becoming the third biggest party south of the Border.

No campaign: Harry Reid in the Herald urges the Better Together campaign to adopt a more positive no campaign.

Tuition fees: Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph  comments on Johann Lamont call to consider a return to a graduate contribution scheme for university tuition in Scotland

Monday 17 December

SNP and independence referendum: Brian Monteith in the Scotsman comments on the opportunity the SNP now has to rethink strategy and be honest about independence following last week’s retreat over automatic EU membership. Andrew McKie in the Herald criticises the SNP for not checking its assertions about independence and an independent Scotland’s EU membership. Andrew Nicoll in the Sun questions whether voters will trust Alex Salmond over independence promises. Gillian Bowditch on page 22 of the Sunday Times comments on the oversimplification of independence by the SNP and the lack of information on what it would mean for Scotland.

Edinburgh bikes: Jane Devine in the Scotsman comments on the expense and disruption of the Edinburgh tram works and argues that providing public bicycles would have been a better and cheaper solution.

Sunday 16 December

Independent Scotland and EU membership: Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Sunday Herald comments on why the EU will want to keep an independent Scotland as a member. 

SNP loyalty: Euan McColm in Scotland on Sunday comments that the ongoing row over whether an independent Scotland would automatically become a member of the EU is testing SNP members’ and politicians’ loyalty.

Friday 14 December

EU and independent Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon has conceded an independent Scotland would have to renegotiate its share of the rebate the UK receives each year from the European Union. Ms Sturgeon also said that European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso’s opinion that an independent Scotland would not get automatic EU membership should be respected; however it is not a ruling. Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph comments on Nicola Sturgeon’s statement and the challenges that Scotland could face in maintaining its current agreements with the EU after independence.

Fracking:  George Kerevan in the Scotsman comments on the ban on fracking being lifted by the UK government “subject to new controls to mitigate the risks of seismic activity”.

Audit Scotland report: Joyce McMillan in the Scotsman comments on the need for areas of Scotland with poor health statistics to have a better future rather than more money spent on healthcare and that low self-esteem linked to industrial decline is the underlying cause of regional disparities.