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Reform Scotland News: 21 February 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

Scotland’s currency: Former economic advisor to Alex Salmond, Professor John Kay, has warned Scotland should be ready to adopt an independent currency following a ‘Yes’ vote.  Professor John Kay argues the Scottish Government would struggle to negotiate a deal with the Bank of England to keep sterling without placing caps on spending and deficit levels. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 6, The Times page 5, The Daily Telegraph page 15, The P&J page 14)

Principles before personalities: Lord Jack McConnell in The Scotsman criticises the “personal bitterness and anger” among Scottish politicians in the independence referendum campaign, calling for a “grown-up pact” and refrain from “personal abuse and threats”.

Northern Ireland: James Maxwell in The Scotsman explains the worrying effect Scottish independence might have on some people within Northern Ireland.

Political donations: Latest figurers released by the Electoral Commission shows the SNP has seen the largest fall in donations, due to receiving two huge one off donations the previous year from lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir and a bequest from the Makar Edwin Morgan. (The Herald page 6, The Courier page 17)

Nationalism: In an exclusive interview with The Herald, leader of the UKIP, Nigel Farage brands Scottish Nationalism as a fraud, criticising Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond. Nigel Farage argues the SNP have sold a “completely false argument” that Scotland could leave the UK and be independent yet become part of the EU. (The Herald page 1

Timetable for independence: Dutch banking group, ING, questioned whether the SNP’s timetable for achieving full statehood was likely, stating that although they believe Scotland will benefit from taking geographical shares of oil and tax, the problem lies in the transition period.  ING claim there will be many months of discussion on the split of assets and liabilities, currency union and fiscal rules, which will hinder economic growth for both Scotland and the remainder of the UK. (The Scotsman page 6)

Economy

Employment: Official figures have shown the number of jobless Scots fell by 13,000 between October and December, leaving the number of Scottish people unemployment at 206,000. (The Scotsman page 6, The Herald page 14, The Sun page 2, The Financial Times page 2, The Daily Telegraph page 4, The Courier page 19)

Employment up, but we’re poorer: Bill Jamieson in The Scotsman argues although Scottish unemployment is falling, the numbers in work are still down compared to the UK as a whole.

Benefits: A policy review by the Labour Party in Scotland has argued that middle class benefits need to be curbed with savings re-allocated to help core services for the poor.  The report states the cutbacks on public spending mean ministers in Edinburgh can no longer give out “freebies” and tax freezes to the whole population without hurting the services for the most vulnerable. (The Scotsman page 11)

Energy prices: Iain MacWhirter in The Herald criticises the rising price of energy in Scotland, when Scotland has such a vast surplus in electricity and gas.

Justice

Anonymous evidence: Two Holyrood committees have said that they want to examine the Victims and Witness (Scotland) Bill which could allow vulnerable witnesses to give evidence in court from behind a screen.  The bill is aimed to ensure witnesses can fulfil their public duty in court and “improve the right and support for victims and witnesses.” (The Scotsman page 12, P&J page 6)

Jury dismissed: Judge Mr Justice Sweeney discharged the jury facing the trial of Chris Huhne’s former wife Vicky Pryce, accused of perverting the course of justice, due to it failing to reach a verdict.  The judge commented “In well over 30 years of criminal trial, I have never come across this at this stage, never.” Vicky Pryce now faces a retrial. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 7, The Financial Times page 4, The Times page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Courier page 18, Daily Mail page 4, The Guardian page 1)

Prisoners: It has been reported that in an effort to help over-crowded jails, more than 5,500 Scottish inmates have been released after only serving as little as a quarter of their sentence. It has also been reported the offenders are eligible to claim benefits while they are at home serving the remainder of their sentence. (Daily Mail page 1)

Transport

Fast rail: Transport minister Keith Brown has told MSP’s the Scottish Government will present its business case for a high-speed rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh next year. The report states a fast link will cut journey times to less than 30 minutes by 2024. (The Herald page 12)  

Local Government

Council cutting: Edinburgh city council have been encouraged to cut staffing costs as it has been reported the Scottish capital employs more officers on salaries exceeding £50,000 than any other local authority in Scotland. (The Daily Telegraph page 2, The Scotsman page 9)

Health

Waiting lists: Audit Scotland has reported new evidence of the potential manipulation of NHS waiting times, claiming public trust in the system has been jeopardised. The watchdog claims they have found numerous examples of patients being listed as “socially unavailable” for treatment, resulting in patients falling outside the waiting time targets.  Audit Scotland said it did not have enough evidence to judge whether patients were taken off lists by mistake or deliberately to meet targets. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Sun page 2, The Daily Record page 8, The Times page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 1, P&J page 1, The Courier page 1, Daily Mail page 2)

Education

Languages: Parents and council officials have criticised the Scottish Government over their ambitious strategy of increasing the learning of languages within Scottish schools, arguing it is unachievable and costly. (The Herald page 8 )