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Reform Scotland News: 17 July 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

Independence: First Minister Alex Salmond has claimed that an independent Scotland would have the same the same triple-A credit rating as Switzerland, whilst citing the Isle of Man as an example of how an independent Scotland could retain the pound. However, his claims have been criticised by Alistair Darling and the Better Together campaign. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 6, Sun page 2, Record page 2, Express page 2, Times page 4, Mail page 4, P&J page 12, Courier page 17)

Trident: Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has claimed that Britain could maintain a credible nuclear deterrent whilst reducing the size of the fleet and ending round-the-clock patrols as the Liberal Democrats have proposed. However, such claims have been criticised by the Conservatives, Labour and the SNP. (Scotsman page 1, Tim Ripley in Scotsman, Herald page 1, Sun page 2, Record page 2, Angus Robertson in the Record, Express page 1, Telegraph page 10, FT page 3, Times page 1, Jim Murphy in the Times, Guardian page 6, Mail page 18, P&J page 13, Courier page 16)

BBC: The BBC’s annual report has found that only 48% of Scots believe that the BBC achieves an appropriate balance between Scottish and non-Scottish news in its coverage of current affairs in Scotland. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 9, Times page 1, Magnus Linklater in the Times, P&J page 19, Courier page 23)

The Open: Golfing legend Gary Player has criticised the First Minister’s decision to stay away from the Open in protest over the tournament being hosted by a men-only club. (Scotsman page 17, Herald page 3, Courier page 21)

Scottish Labour: Gregor Gall in the Scotsman comments that should the independence referendum be lost, Scottish Labour must be prepared to capitalise by establishing greater distance between the agendas of the Labour Party in Scotland, and the UK Labour Party.

Welfare reform: Ian Bell in the Herald criticises the Coalition government for its focus on saving money by reducing government spending on public services and the welfare state. Polly Toynbee in the Guardian comments upon the possible impact of the closure of Sure Start Centres. However, Paul Gilbride in the Express argues that Scots should support the Coalition government’s welfare reforms.

Economy

Energy bills increase: Chief Executive of nPower, Paul Massara, has warned that household energy bills will rise by £240 a year by 2020. He attributed the potential increase to the mounting costs of the UK Government’s green policies. (Scotsman page 19, P&J page 17, Courier page 19)

Wind energy: Energy minister Fergus Ewing has refused planning consent for the proposed Druim Ba wind farm near Loch Ness, on the grounds that it would have “significant adverse” impacts on the landscape and local residents. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 4, Telegraph page 9, Times page 9, Mail page 25, Courier page 4)

CBI: John Cridland, Director-General of the CBI, has criticised the Coalition government’s stance on business tax and its attempts to restart the economy. (Times page 2)

Renewable energy: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman argues that the Scottish renewable energy industry has benefited from developing within a single UK energy market, and would be damaged if Scotland were to become independent.

Health

NHS Lothian: A dispute between NHS Lothian and the private contractor, Consort, has reportedly  delayed attempts to build two new wards at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Consort, who receive £60 million per year in public funds to operate the ERI, are believed to want NHS Lothian to waive the right to penalise the firm for building faults for the next five years. (Scotsman page 16)

Education

Funding for robotics: Two Scottish universities have been given over £6 million of UK government funding for research into robotics and autonomous systems. Heriot-Watt and the University of Edinburgh will use the funding to develop a research centre in the capital. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 7, P&J page 18)

Local Government

Housing: A Scottish Government review of homelessness legislation has found that homeless applications have fallen by 13% but housing difficulties because of financial hardship and mortgage defaults have increased by 16%. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 4, Record page 2, Mail page 1)