Reform Scotland News: 17 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.

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

Scottish rights: In a speech yesterday Alex Salmond called for a new written constitution to be set out if the public vote in favour of an independent Scotland.  The First Minister proposed that the written constitution would include measures such as a right to a home, free education, a ban on nuclear weapons and rules on international engagement of Scotland’s armed forces. (Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 6, The Sun page 2, The Times page 3, Keith Aitken in the Express, Express page 15, Telegraph page 8, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph, Mail page 10, Courier page 14, P&J page 12)

Better Together: Former First Minister Henry McLeish has warned the Better Together campaign against complacency and commented that he felt the group was promoting an “unreformed Union”. (Scotsman page 5)

EU: Business Secretary Vince Cable is expected to urge the Prime Minister not to take a “dangerous gamble” over membership of the EU and that any attempt to negotiate large scale exists from existing EU powers would make it “next to impossible” to safeguard the UK’s best interests. David Cameron is due to make his speech on the EU tomorrow.  Ed Miliband accused the Prime Minister of “losing control” of his party over the EU, and his problems in Europe are “just beginning”.  (Scotsman page 12, Bill Jamieson in Scotsman, Tavish Scott in the Scotsman, The Herald page 6, The Financial Times page 2 and page 9, The Times page 11, Express page 1, Leo McKinstry in the Express, Telegraph page 10, Mail page 12, Guardian page 2, Martin Kettle in the Guardian)

Freedom of Information: Nicola Sturgeon yesterday said that changes to Freedom of Information laws would include a move to publish historical documents faster and would extend legislation to bodies such as sport and leisure trusts which spend public money. (Scotsman page 16, The Herald page 8)

First Minister accused of shift: The Better Together campaign group has reportedly hit out at Alex Salmond for apparently “flip-flopping”.  The campaign group states the First Minister falsely lead supporters to believe their position in the EU would be firm if Scotland goes independent.  Salmond yesterday admitted an independent Scotland’s EU membership would have to be negotiated, although insisted there would be no question about the organisation wanting “oil-rich Scotland”. (The Herald page 6, The Financial Times page 2)

Economy

Blockbuster:  DVD rental chain blockbuster went into administration yesterday.  The company employs 4,190 people throughout the UK. (Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 5, The Sun page 2, The Times page 6, Express page 2, Mail page 21, Guardian page 8, Courier page 13, P&J page 24)

Housing market: According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, a total of 21,700 loans worth £2.7bn were made to first-time buyers in November, one of the highest monthly totals for the last three years. (Scotsman page 15)

The high street: Darina Kerr in the Scotsman comments that high street retailers must adapt if they are to survive.  Experts fear there could be as many as 40,000 empty shops on Scotland’s high streets, as retail analysts warn the number of empty retailers is set to double.  (The Herald page 1)

Welfare: Camilla Cavendish in The Times comments on the benefit system, arguing the “merry go round that takes cash from some people to give to others is out of control”.

Health

Dental: Official NHS figures show a 20% rise in patients relying on heavy duty drugs to help them deal with the fear of drills, with more than 50 Scots a day opting for sedation.  This has reportedly increased costs by a third. (The Herald page 5)

Independence: Blair Jenkins stated at the launch of Yes Glasgow that independence will allow Scotland to tackle deep health inequalities. He reportedly argued the mortality rates and health inequalities in Scotland are mainly caused by economic and social inequality, and the powers in those areas remain at Westminster, therefore Scotland “must take a different direction of travel”. However Jackie Baillie said the Scottish Government was to blame for failing to reduce health inequalities. (The Herald page 6, Daily Record page 2)

Scan delays: Despite Scottish Government targets promising swifter treatment, hundreds of patients are reportedly waiting more than 18 weeks for diagnostic tests.  The Scottish Government has condemned the long delays as “unacceptable”. (The Herald page 7, Daily Record page 2, The Sun page 2)

 Education

Tuition fees: Michael Fry in the Scotsman comments that unless universities in Scotland start charging tuition fees, their academic standards could be negatively affected.

Education budget: Teaching Unions argue learning will be damaged after Glasgow proposed cutting £15 million from its educational budget. (The Herald page 6)

Students: Scottish students could reportedly still be dealt with by the UK’s university admissions body even if Scotland goes independent.  A Scottish Government spokeswomen stated “UCAS, as an independent UK body, will consider whether or how their expertise could be deployed for the benefit of Scotland”. (The Times, page 13  )