Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 14 January 2013
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.
Pre-negotiating independence: Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has said that the UK government will not engage with talks with the Scottish Government prior to the 2014 independence referendum, saying that it is ‘not for us to map out a vision for the separation of our nations’. He also said that should a referendum on independence succeed, Westminster would negotiate in the interests of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, a statement that may indicate that Westminster would take a tough stance on Scottish demands. SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson countered claims that the UK government couldn’t enter into talks prior to the referendum on technical matters and accused the UK government of engaging in ‘scare tactics’. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Michael Moore in Scotland on Sunday, Press & Journal page 16, Scottish Daily Mail page 10, The Scotsman page 4, The Times page 3, The Telegraph page 8, Scottish Sun page 2, Daily Express page 2)
Pension reform: The UK Government will announce pension reforms which will create a simple flat-rate pension based on 35 years of National Insurance contributions. The move is designed to align pensions for men and women. More than 750,000 women in their fifties will receive an extra £468 annually at retirement to account for time off to care for children and relatives. Critics of the scheme point to longer working requirements, lower payouts and higher retirement ages. Nicola Sturgeon has announced proposed changes to the pension system in an independent Scotland that would harmonize pensions between men and women, taking into account time women spend out of the workforce. (The Herald page 1, Sunday Times page 1, The Telegraph page 1, Daily Express page 2)
International development funding: Humza Yousaf MSP, the Minister for External Affairs and International Development, outlines his plans for international development funding in an independent Scotland. Plans include an increase in aid commitments to meet or exceed UN spending targets for developed countries as well as exploring debt cancellation. Climate justice is also expected to play a key role. (Sunday Herald page 24, Scottish Daily Mail page 10, The Herald page 6, The Scotsman page 4, Scottish Sun page 2, Daily Express page 25)
Sectarian debate: Official figures indicate that Catholics are three times more likely to be victims of religious hate crimes than Protestants. A statement in response to the figures by Scottish Catholic Church spokesman Peter Kearney likened the situation of Catholics in Scotland to African Americans during the Civil Rights movement. The Church has also expressed concerns about the position of the Church should proposals for same-sex marriage legislation pass. Writing in the Sunday Herald, Ian Bell draws a distinction between individual members who may be the victims of discrimination and the Roman Catholic Church which, according to Mr Bell, is attempting to claim this status for itself. (Sunday Herald page 7, Sunday Times page 7)
Independence polls: A new poll indicates that support for independence has stalled since October 2012. The number of don’t-knows has also increased from 19% to 24%. The Scottish Government has faced criticism from opponents over its handling of questions of EU membership as well as public concerns regarding the economy and currency post-independence. (The Herald page 1)
MP salaries: Ian MacWhirter in the Sunday Herald responds to attempts by MPs to justify an increase in salaries while at the same time voting to cap benefit increases at 1 percent. He describes a change in the way the public views benefit claimants and entitlements and argues for a system which better aids its citizens.
Better Together leadership: Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Euan McColm reflects on Alistair Darling’s ability to steer the Better Together campaign and clearly communicate the benefits of the union. However, Mr McColm brands the approach of the Better Together campaign to avoid discussing particulars of further powers to Scotland until after a no vote a ‘complacent’ one.
England and Scotland: Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, polls indicate that the English will not view Scots living in an independent Scotland as foreigners. 64 percent of those surveyed believe that they will still share a common bond with Scotland. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)
Lord Wallace on independence: In an interview with the Herald, Lord Wallace expressed concerns about the UK’s standing within the EU should Scotland leave the Union. He warned that Scotland would not be able to adopt an ‘a la carte’ approach to Europe. (The Herald page 6)
EU vote: Prime Minister David Cameron is scheduled to make a speech on Britain’s future within the European Union next week and is expected to offer voters an in-out vote following the 2015 General Election. Mr Cameron is attempting to adjust the relationship between the UK and Brussels. (The Telegraph page 1, Scottish Sun page 2, Daily Express page 15)
Commonwealth Games volunteers: Chris Hoy joins the Commonwealth Games team in recruiting over 15,000 volunteers for Glasgow in 2014. Applications to volunteer for the games open today. (The Scotsman page 5, Scottish Sun page 10, Daily Express page 24)
Housing benefit changes: Landlords and local authorities have expressed fears that changes in the way housing benefits are applied will lead to non-payment of rents, discrimination against renters on benefits, and increases in homelessness. Under the Universal Credit system, Local Housing Allowances will be rolled into one payment which will go directly to the user rather than to the landlord. This may cause issues as claimants struggle to balance their budgets and have limited access to services to support them in this change. The SCVO has warned that changes will put one in four Scots in poverty. (Sunday Herald page 18, Scotland on Sunday page 7, The Scotsman page 8)
Minimum pricing challenge: The Scotch Whisky Association has launched a challenge against minimum pricing regulations on the grounds that the legislation breaches EU rules against trade restrictions. (Scotland on Sunday page 17)
Wind farm bills: The Public Accounts Committee has said that the new licensing regime for wind farms as well as infrastructure investments will lead to higher energy bills for consumers. The agreement, adopted by the Labour government and implemented under the Coalition, has allowed for power firms to be paid even if they fail to deliver on their investment. Heating bills have already reached a record high this winter. (The Times page 37, The Telegraph page 1)
Cystic fibrosis drug approval: The Scottish Medicines Consortium will rule on coverage of a new cystic fibrosis medication under the NHS. The drug, used for the ‘Celtic strain’ of cystic fibrosis, comes at a cost of £184,000 per patient. Approved in England last month, parents of sufferers have pledged that should the drug be denied, they’ll take their case to the Scottish Parliament. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)
Academic contracts: UCU Scotland has spoken out against zero-hours or hours to be notified contracts which tell staff how many hours they may be required to work but provide no guarantee that staff will receive these hours. 27% of staff at the University of Edinburgh are on these contracts. The Union has expressed concern that these contracts do not provide financial security and may affect teaching quality. The universities say that many HTBN contract holders are students who benefit from the work experience. (The Herald page 2)
College funding: Writing in the Scotsman, Brian Monteith criticises proposed plans to further centralise colleges and universities which may see cuts in college funding.
Police force merger: Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Eddie Barnes discusses the implications of the merger of Scotland’s police force and the challenges facing Stephen House, Scotland’s new Chief Constable.
Abuse reporting: A survey conduced by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found that 80% of Scots would delay reporting suspected sexual abuse of a child until they were sure. In response, the society has launched a UK-wide television campaign to urge people to report at the first sign of something wrong. (The Herald page 8)
Drug decriminalisation: A cross-party group of peers has urged the decriminalisation of possession of certain drugs as well as safety testing and regulated sales. The peers described the 40 year old Misuse of Drugs act as ineffective in preventing drug addiction. (The Scotsman page 6, The Times page 6, Molly Meacher in the Times)
Glasgow for Europe 2020: Glasgow has entered the bidding process to be one of the host cities for the 2020 European Championship. A decision will be announced by Uefa in May. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)