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Reform Scotland News: 28 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

Triple-A rating: It has been reported that the SNP have branded the UK government’s case against independence as being based on “assertion, not fact” after a leaked Treasury paper showed officials were basing their case for the Union on Britain’s AAA credit rating.  Following Moody’s announcement to downgrade the UK’s credit status to Aa1, an SNP spokesperson stated the Triple-A anti-independence argument had “backfired badly”. (The Scotsman page 4)

Pope Benedict XVI: Yesterday Pope Benedict gave his last audience in Rome as pontiff and will retire today.  The Pope claimed the past eight years brought “turbulent seas” and at times “it seemed although the Lord was sleeping”. (The Scotsman page 6, The Herald page 5, The Daily Record page 14, The Sun page 17, The Daily Telegraph page 5, The Daily Express page 13, The Times page 1, Financial Times page 6, The Courier page 18, The P&J page 24, The Guardian page 24, Daily Mail page 37)

Replacement: Pope Benedict has appointed Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow, to the “caretaker” role of Apostolic Administrator for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, following the scandal involving Cardinal Keith O’Brien.  (The Scotsman page 7, The Herald page 5, The Sun page 17, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 8, The P&J page 13)    

Lord Rennard: It has been reported that Nick Clegg  has stated his party made “very serious mistakes” in its failure to deal with the allegations made against Lord Rennard. (The Scotsman page 9, The Herald page 6, The Daily Telegraph page 4, The Daily Express page 9, The Times page 1, The Guardian page 4, Daily Mail page 4)

Independence: John McLaren in The Scotsman comments on Scotland’s fiscal and monetary policy prospects in the event of independence.

Armed forces: Professor Michael Clarke, director general for the Royal United Services Institute think tank, has reportedly warned Scotland’s armed forces would have to start from scratch in terms of personnel and equipment. (The Herald page 2 )  

Economy

High street: New research has shown retail stores are closing at a rate of 20 stores a day across the UK, with Scotland loosing 353 stores last year.  Within Scotland, the number of shops closing rose by 14 per cent and the number of new branches fell by 6 per cent, resulting in an overall decline.  (The Scotsman page 8, The Herald page 3, The Times page 16)

Gas profits: Consumer groups have reportedly criticised Scottish Gas’ parent company Centrica after figures showed an 11 per cent rise in profits after increasing costs to consumers by 6 per cent.  (The Scotsman page 16, The Herald page 10, The Daily Record page 2, The Sun page 2, The Daily Express page 1, The Courier page 13, The P&J page 1, The Guardian page 1)

Pensions: In a speech tonight Douglas McWilliams, executive chairman of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, will reportedly warn that young people will have to work until the age of 75 due to poor investment returns in emerging economies from countries such as China, resulting in many pension schemes closing due to bankruptcy.  (The Herald page 4, Daily Mail page 3)

US model: It has been reported Nobel prize-winning American economist, Joseph Stiglitz, has warned Scotland to not persist with following the US economic model, as he claims rising Gross Domestic Product is increasing poverty. (The Herald page 6)

Justice

Reform: The Scottish government has reportedly unveiled plans for the biggest change of the court system in a generation. The proposals have been set out in response to Lord Gill’s recommendations in his 2009 report, describing Scotland’s courts as being based largely on a “Victorian model”.  Audit Scotland also estimates the current system is wasting £55 million each year. (The Scotsman page 1, The Times page 16)

Sectarianism: Leading lawyers are reportedly concerned over football fans in Scotland having their human rights undermined and facing harassment by new police powers in order to try and crack down on sectarianism. (The Herald page 1)

Education

Postgraduates: Hundreds of extra postgraduate places are to be created following a £30 million investment from the Scottish government.  The Scottish Funding Council is to add an extra 850 places in the areas of energy, financial services, life sciences and tourism in an aim to widen access to the poorest students by helping to “ease the burden”. (The Scotsman page 17, The Herald page 10, The Daily Record page 2)

Fined: Figures from the Scottish Funding Council have revealed that Abertay University and the Scottish Agricultural College were fined up to £142,000 for admitting too many Scottish and EU students. (The Scotsman page 17)

Health

Waiting list pressure: Scottish ministers are reportedly under renewed pressure on waiting times after the Auditor General stated that the Scottish government had failed to identify early warning signs.  (The Herald page 3, The Sun page 8, The Daily Telegraph page 2, The Times page 22, The P&J page 18, Daily Mail page 1)

NHS: Christine Jardine in the Scotsman comments that the Scottish government should admit mistakes over political use of waiting lists.

Transport

Bus passes: It has been reported almost one in four Scots could hold a concessionary bus pass entitling them to free transport, costing £181 million.  (The Herald page 8)