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Reform Scotland News: 21 March 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

Economy

Budget: George Osborne delivered his budget to the House of Commons yesterday, describing it as a budget for an “aspiration nation”.  Key measures in yesterday’s statement include:

  • scraping the 3p rise in fuel duty planned for September;
  • cutting a penny of the price of a pint of beer;
  • help for homebuyers with the government guaranteeing £130bn of mortgages;
  • corporation tax to be cut by 1 per cent to 20 per cent in April 2015;
  • allowance for small businesses to cut £2,000 off employer National Insurance from April 2014;
  • Increase in the personal allowance to £9,440 this year and £10,000 next year.

Forecasts published by the Office for Budget Responsibility halved the prediction for growth for this year from 1.2 per cent to 0.6 per cent and suggested that the decline in borrowing which occurred in the first years of the coalition “now appears to have stalled”.

(Scotsman page 1, Brian Monteith in the Scotsman, David Marshall in the Scotsman, David Bell in the Scotsman, John McLaren in the Scotsman, Pete Martin in the Scotsman, Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman, Iain McMillan in the Scotsman, David Watt in the Scotsman, Colin Borland in the Scotsman, Herald page 1, Michael Settle in the Herald, Iain MacWhirter in the Herald, Stephen Boyle in the Herald, Ian McConnell in the Herald, Ian Bell in the Herald, Andrew McKie in the Herald, The Times page 1, Jo Armstrong in the Times, David Wighton in the Times, Matthew Paris in the Times, Telegraph page 1, Robert Winnett in the Telegraph, Express page 1, Mail page 1Max Hastings in the Mail, Guardian page 1, Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, Patrick Wintour in the Guardian, Martin Kettle in the Guardian, Courier page 20, Kieran Andrews in the Courier, Graham Huband in the Courier, P&J page 1, Alistair Darling in the P&J, Stephen Vere in the P&J, Gordon Wilson in the P&J, FT page 1, John McDermott in the FT, Matthew Engel in the FT, Martin Wolf in the FT, Matthew Taylor in the FT, Jonathan Guthrie in the FT, Janan Ganesh in the FT, Tim Hartford in the FT, Sun page 1, Andrew Nicoll in the Sun, Steve Hawkes in the Sun, Record page 1, Torcuil Crichton in the Record, John Swinney in the Record)

Bank of England: Alex Brummer in the Mail considers the impact Mark Canrney, the incoming Governor of the Bank of England, will have.

North Sea oil: The Office for Budget Responsibility yesterday said that North Sea oil and gas would amount to £33.9bn between 2012/13 and 2017/18, a downward revision of £0.9bn. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 3, P&J page 16, Record page 7)

Unemployment: Official figures published yesterday indicate that Scotland’s jobless total fell by 4,000 between November and January, including the biggest drop in youth unemployment in 20 years.  However, the number of women unemployed rose by 8,000 between November and January.  Overall Scotland now has 200,000 people out of work and a jobless rate of 7.4 per cent, just below the UK rate of 7.8 per cent. (Scotsman page 14, Stephen Boyd in the Scotsman, Herald page 2, The Times page 21, Daily Telegraph page 1, The Daily Express page 8, Mail page 21, Courier page 18, Sun page 2)

Politics

Referendum date: Alex Salmond is expected to announce the date of the independence referendum to MSPs today. (Herald page 5, Daily Telegraph page 17, Courier page 2, P&J page 26)    

Trident:  According to the SNP, taxpayers in Scotland spent half a million pounds every day maintaining nuclear weapons. (Scotsman page 21, Record page 12)

Independence & the economy: Peter McGregor and Kim Swales in the Scotsman consider whether Scotland’s economic interests are best served within the “spatially polarised UK economy whose general growth performance it typically tracks” or as an independent country.

Devolution: Tavish Scott in the Scotsman argues that devolution should not end in Edinburgh and calls for councils to be given a stronger role.

Cardinal O’Brien: It is alleged that Cardinal O’Brien was in a “long-standing physical relationship” with one of the priests who complained about his behaviour. (Herald page 4)

High streets & housing: Jennifer Cunningham in the Herald comments that empty high street shops and offices could be converted into housing to help meet housing needs.

Education

Reform: Holyrood’s Education committee has reportedly called on SNP ministers to clarify legislation aimed at reforming the college and university sector in Scotland.  Ministers claim the Post-16 Education Bill will promote college and university education more responsive to the needs of students and employers. (The Times page 21)