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Reform Scotland News: 18 December 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
Population: New figures published yesterday from the 2011 census have indicated that Scotland’s population has reached a record 5,295,000.  Migration and an increase in births has been attributed to the rise, though for the first time the number of people in Scotland over 65 is higher than the number under 15. (Scotsman page 1, Chris Wilson in the Scotsman, Herald page 1, Record page 8, Express page 5, FT page 4, Telegraph page 1, Mail page 1, Courier page 17, P&J page 12)

Pensioner benefits: Nick Clegg has reportedly called for the means testing of a range of benefits available to pensioners, such as the winter fuel allowance, despite the government being committed to preserving such benefits until 2015. (Scotsman page 5, David Maddox in the Scotsman, Herald page 6, Courier page 18, P&J page 18)

Scotland and the EU: Former European court judge Professor Sir David Edward has commented that an independent Scotland’s EU membership would only need existing treaties to be amended, not an “accession treaty”, which is required for new members. (Scotsman page 10, Peter Jones in the Scotsman, Times page 21, Joan McAlpine in the Record, Express page 4, Sun page 2, Telegraph page 12, Mail page 17, P&J page 18)

UK and EU: Ed Miliband yesterday claimed that the UK was “sleepwalking to a European Union exit” and called on the Prime Minister to clamp down on senior ministers voicing their opinion about whether the UK should leave the EU. David Cameron has reportedly commented that while he did not want Britain to leave the EU, an exit was “imaginable”.(Scotsman page 17, Express page 2, FT page 4, Telegraph page 2, Guardian page 4)

Plebgate: A diplomatic protection squad officer has been arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office over the alleged leaking of information surrounding the ‘plebgate’ saga involving Andrew Mitchell MP. (Scotsman page 12, Express page 4, Sun page 6, Mail page 4)

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.

Alasdair Gray: Author Alasdair Gray has defended himself against claims of anti-Englishness after saying that people who move to Scotland to further their careers were “colonists”. (Herald page 3, Collette Douglas Home in the Herald, Kerry Gill in the Express, Telegraph page 5)

Queen at the Cabinet: The Queen is today expected to become the first monarch in over 100 years to attend a Cabinet meeting. The visit is part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. (Herald page 6, Times page 13, Express page 19, FT page 4, Telegraph page 7, P&J page 18)

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

Scotland and Ulster: Hugo Rifkind in the Times comments that he doesn’t want Scotland to end up in a position, like Ulster, where it wants to remain in the UK, but England doesn’t care if it stays or not.

Economy
HMRC phone calls: The National Audit Office has branded it “totally unacceptable” that more than 20 million calls to HMRC hotlines went unanswered last year, whilst people who did get through were waiting on average twice as long in 2010/11 than in 2009/10.  (Herald page 1, Times page 4, Sun page 2, FT page 2, Telegraph page 14, Mail page 1)

Childcare costs: According to a report by Save the Children, the average childcare costs in Edinburgh for a private nursery is £38 per day, the highest in Europe. (Herald page 8,   Record page 11)

Justice
Industrial action:
Sheriff courts have been affected for a fourth day in the on-going dispute between defence lawyers and the Scottish government over planned changes to legal aid.  Yesterday lawyers refused to appear for new clients in custody courts. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 4, Times page 21, Express page 2, Mail page 6, P&J page 5)

Education
Tuition fees:
In a speech to mark her first year as leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Johann Lamont has warned that free university tuition in Scotland was “not sustainable” and a return to a graduate contribution scheme must be considered. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 6, Times page 3, Angus Macleod in the Times, Express page 10, Sun page 2, Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph, Mail page 6, Courier page 16, P&J page 15)