Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 21 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.
Defence spending and independence: A report issued by the Commons select committee claims that Scotland’s shipbuilding and servicing industries would be devastated by independence as a result of their reliance on orders and contracts with the Royal Navy. Within the union, the report claims, the Clyde yards would be guaranteed work for decades. SNP leader at Westminster Angus Robertson challenged the report, noting the exclusion of evidence from Vice Admiral Andrew Mathews and a Ministry of Defence disclosure which notes that Scotland currently receives only 5.3% of defence contracts. (Sunday Times page 10, The Herald page 6, The Scotsman page 1, Daily Express page 2)
European referendum: Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to make a long awaited speech this week on the UK’s role in the European Union. Analysts predict that Mr Cameron will outline proposals for a vote on EU membership. (Daily Express page 2, Scottish Sun page 2, Financial Times page 2)
In the Herald, Andrew McKie describes the Prime Minister’s expected speech as an ’exercise in futility’, focused on the electoral prospects of the Conservative Party rather than what is best for the United Kingdom. Writing in the Sunday Herald, Iain MacWhirter reflects on the implications of a referendum on European Union membership on Scotland’s independence debate. He notes that one of the key arguments made by Unionists is that the membership of an independent Scotland in the EU would be in question. Should the Conservatives proceed with a referendum on continued EU membership, this would undermine this argument. Also in the Sunday Herald, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warns that Scotland’s economy could be negatively affected by Westminster’s ambiguous stance on Europe, noting that an independent Scotland would remain committed to the EU.
Devo More proposals: A report to be released by the Institute for Public Policy Research this week will outline proposals for a shift of financial powers to Scotland should the referendum on independence fail. The proposal calls for the transfer of taxation and spending powers, but argues that corporation tax and oil revenues should remain reserved. The SNP reiterated its commitment to full independence in response to the report, a move that Alistair Darling branded ‘anti-devolution’. Tory Scotland Office Minister David Mundell has indicated that new proposals for extending devolution will be put forth by all the Unionist parties before the SNP’s white paper on independence is released this autumn. Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Eddie Barnes analyses Labour’s position on more powers for Scotland. Also in Scotland on Sunday, Alan Trench and Guy Lodge build the case for a ‘powerhouse parliament’ within the Union, noting that the failure of Unionists to meet the demands of the voters is undermining their cause.(Scotland on Sunday page 1, The Herald page 6, The Times page 14, The Scotsman page 6)
A constitution for Scotland: Chairman of the Constitutional Commission John Drummond builds a case for a constitution for Scotland, within the union or outside. His piece in the Sunday Herald calls upon Unionists and pro-independence voters alike to engage in the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future.
Algerian hostage crisis: Speaking yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron expressed concern about political stability and the threat of terrorism in North Africa. 81 people, including 6 Britons, were reportedly killed in the standoff. (The Guardian page 1, Sunday Times page 1, Scottish Daily Mail page 7)
Highland avalanche: Four winter walkers were killed in an avalanche in Glen Coe and one remains in hospital. First Minister Alex Salmond expressed his condolences for the victims of the accident. (The Herald page 1, The Scotsman page 1, Daily Express page 1, The Times page 4, Scottish Sun page 4, Daily Telegraph page 7)
Retail losses: Analysts are predicting a difficult year for the retail sector following announcements from Jessop, HMV and Blockbuster. Bamfield predicts that 60 to 65 retailers could shut throughout the UK, with implications for up to 65,000 workers. However, Scotland has seen the second largest increase in footfall in the UK with a 6.2 rise from December 2011. (Sunday Herald page 16, The Scotsman page 35)
Horsemeat scandal: Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Dani Garavelli reflects on the presence of horsemeat in value hamburgers at leading retailers. She points to a drive towards cheap foods and poor regulation.
Lottery funding: Writing in the Sunday Herald, Ian Bell reflects on the ethics of the lottery system which is used to fund services. He points out that for the poor, lottery ticket purchases reflect fear rather than hope.
Scotland and the pound: Former Chancellors Alistair Darling and Ken Clarke warned that the rest of the United Kingdom would maintain the right to veto Scottish use of the pound post-independence. Economists have indicated that the UK could maintain a strong role in Scotland’s budget if the independent country maintained the pound and used the Bank of England as the lender of last resort. (Sunday Times page 1, Scottish Daily Mail page 10)
Energy pricing: According to a report by VaasaETT, Scots pay the highest prices in Europe for electricity. The report criticised the lack of transparency around pricing, with particularly high mark-ups. (Sunday Times page 7, Daily Express page 15)
Youth unemployment: A State of the Nation report issued by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicates that future generations face widespread unemployment and health inequalities although promising signs include a fall in unemployment benefit claims and child poverty rates. Report author Tom MacInnes urged politicians to include discussions of poverty and health inequalities in the debate about constitutional change. Writing in the Scottish Sun, Andrew Nicoll describes these issues as central to the debate on independence. (The Scotsman page 8, Scottish Sun page 2)
Recession recovery: A report by the Centre for Cities has identified what it calls a “downturn of two halves”, ranking cities according to their performance in claimant counts, wages, the size of the business base and housing prices. Cities which experienced a stronger recovery often had high levels of private sector employment as well as local enterprise partnerships. (Financial Times page 2)
Superbug concerns: Hospitals throughout Scotland are on the lookout for Clostridium Difficile, a highly infectious superbug which can easily spread in the hospital environment. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to the infection. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)
Health board vacancies: Senior doctors have expressed concerns about vacancies which are increasingly filled by locums. Spending on temporary doctors and consultants is set to increase by nearly 15% to almost £60 million this year. (The Herald page 10)
Pain clinic: Until now, Scottish pain sufferers have been required to make the journey to Bath for treatment, a system which Health Secretary Alex Neil has pledged to bring to an end. Mr Neil is currently looking for an inpatient unit to treat the estimated 700,000 people in Scotland affected by chronic pain. (Daily Express page 15)
Universities and venture capital: Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh universities have joined with Rock Spring Ventures to develop a venture capital fund designed to fund fledgling life science companies which emerge from academic environments. (Financial Times page 4)