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Reform Scotland News: 25 February 2013

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 25 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

Misconduct allegations: Cardinal Keith O’Brien is facing criticism after allegations of inappropriate acts involving other priests emerged, allegations which the Cardinal denies. The Cardinal, who is due to retire shortly, sparked controversy when he said that he would welcome an end to the celibacy rule for priests. Pope Benedict is reported to be considering the accusations. (Sunday Herald page 15, Scotland on Sunday page 1, The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, Sunday Times page 17, Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 1, Daily Express page 1, Daily Record page 4, The Guardian page 1, Scottish Daily Mail page 1)

Lib Dem harassment claims: Charges of sexual harassment were levelled against Lord Rennard in a Channel Four report, calling into question how the Liberal Democrat party handles such claims. There is continuing speculation about how much Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his office new of these claims.  (The Scotsman page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 7, Daily Express page 1, Daily Record page 2, Gabby Hinsliff in the Guardian)

UK Foreign Aid policy: Writing in the Sunday Herald, Ian Bell criticises Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks about earmarking foreign aid for peacekeeping and defence related operations. He argues that such a policy puts foreign aid workers at risk and represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the uses and purposes of aid.

Independence arms ban: The UK government has revealed that an independent Scotland would be banned from possessing nuclear weapons under non-proliferation treaties. This might necessitate a formal leasing deal between the UK government and Scotland to maintain the Trident nuclear fleet in the Clyde during the transition. (Scotland on Sunday page 2)

Bruce Millan: Politicians from across the spectrum paid tribute to Bruce Millan, former Scottish Secretary and European Commissioner, who has died aged 85. (Sunday Herald page 8, Scotland on Sunday page 1, The Times page 4)

Young voters: Election chiefs have requested the ability to encourage 16 and 17 year olds to vote amidst concerns about turnout amongst this age group. While the Electoral Commission will play a large role in promoting the vote, local authorities would like to encourage further participation amongst new voters, a move which will require a change in legislation. (The Scotsman page 14)

Royal Mail post independence: Westminster confirmed that neither the Post Office nor the Royal Mail would continue to operate in an independent Scotland, requiring the Scottish government to develop the infrastructure for mail deliveries. (Daily Express page 4)

Gay marriage concerns: Religious leaders in Nicola Sturgeon’s Glasgow constituency have warned that her plans to push forward gay marriage legislation may cost her the seat as Muslim and Catholic voters respond to proposals. (Daily Express page 4)

Eastleigh poll: Voters will take to the polls on Thursday to replace former Lib Dem Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne. Earlier polling indicated that Lib Dems would retain the seat, but more recent polls indicate increased support for the Tory candidate. (Daily Express page 2)

Glasgow referendum: Writing in the Scottish Sun, Andrew Nicoll reflects on the implications of Glasgow’s referendum on independence, noting that the Yes campaign would have been better off remaining at a distance from the campaign.

Economy

UK Credit Rating: Chancellor George Osborne was forced to apologise after Moody’s moved to downgrade the UK’s AAA credit rating to Aa1, warning of sluggish growth ahead. The UK’s Standard & Poors and Fitch rating remains at AAA but both firms have a negative outlook for the UK. Mr Osborne may face criticism from within his own party as Tories question the Chancellor’s authority and the efficacy of his policies. Former chancellor Ken Clarke warned that it may take years to regain the rating. SNP Finance Minister John Swinney attributed the lack of growth and the downgrade to the UK’s failed austerity programme. Writing in the Scotsman, Lesley Riddoch argues that the change in the UK’s economic status may convince voters that the status quo is not necessarily Scotland’s safest option. In the Herald, Andrew McKie notes that the concerns put forth by Moody’s align with Mr Osborne’s austerity policies, endorsing fiscal consolidation. (Sunday Herald page 12, Scotland on Sunday page 2, Sunday Times page 1, The Guardian page 1)

Scotland’s economic future: Writing in Scotland on Sunday, businessman and Better Together board member Phil Anderton puts forward his case for remaining within the Union, noting that independence would bring increased costs for businesses and investors and arguing that the UK as a whole provides greater economic security.

Currency post-independence: In a paper expected to be published next month, the UK government indicates that an independent Scotland would be able to retain the pound but only if the Scottish government accepts budget constraints set by London, particularly relating to the level of deficit. Writing in the Sunday Times, Gillian Bowditch reflects on the SNP’s fiscal proposals, noting that the influence an independent Scotland would have in London would be limited. (Financial Times page 1, Scotsman online)

Consumer prices: Purchasing power has plunged by two thirds over the last 30 years as the costs of everyday goods and essential household items have soared, a study by the Bank of Scotland indicates. Housing prices have also increased by six times. (Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman, The Herald page 5)

RBS share sales: Reports indicate that RBS is preparing for the sale of shares before 2015, a move that could raise billions of pounds for the UK government ahead of the 2015 General Election. RBS is 81% owned by the state and was recently fined by regulators for the Libor rate fixing scandal. (The Herald page 7, The Sunday Times page B1)

Health

NHS quality concerns: An investigation by the Sunday Herald indicates that Healthcare Improvement Scotland, an NHS watchdog, shelved a report which would have revealed serious deficiencies at Ninewell’s Hospital in Dundee. The report revealed long wait times for beds as well as indications that concerns regarding the quality of care weren’t being taken seriously. Nicola Sturgeon who was health minister at the time that the waiting list scandal blew up may face questions on the government’s handling of the issue. Labour has accused the NHS of hiding the truth behind waiting times and patient care. The Royal College of Physicians has also weighed in on the controversy, expressing concerns of patient deaths and poor quality of care and has proposed plans to allow doctors to report the misconduct of their peers. (Sunday Herald page 4, The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 7, Sunday Times page 1, The Times page 9)

Medical negligence claims: Medical negligence claims cost NHS Scotland £213 million in the past six years, a number which is expected to rise. The total cost includes compensation, defence bills, and legal expenses for successful claimants. (The Herald page 1)

Local Government

Steven Purcell on the implications of independence: In his first interview since leaving office three years ago, Steven Purcell speaks with the Sunday Herald about the referendum on independence and its implications for Glasgow. He urged city leaders to be prepared for both outcomes, despite not being in favour of independence. (Sunday Herald page 29, The Herald page 5)

Local government and the constitution: The Labour leader of COSLA has called for local government rights and responsibilities to be enshrined in the constitution of an independent Scotland. While David O’Neill stresses that he does not support independence, he urges the need for councils to utilise the debate the secure their place. (Sunday Herald page 29)