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Reform Scotland News: 31 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

Bedroom Tax: The Scottish Government has condemned a High Court decision that ruled applying a cap on housing benefits for disabled people lawful. The decision has been criticised by disability campaigners, whilst Scottish Housing Minister Margaret Burgess has demanded that Scotland gets a fair share of the £35 million funding pot set aside for those hardest hit. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 6, Record page 4, Guardian page 14, P&J page 14, Courier page 16)

Welfare: A paper published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies claims that Scotland could reverse the benefit reforms of the Coalition government as an Independent country, or with further devolution and greater responsibility for welfare.  However, it cautions that to sustain a more generous welfare system would require higher taxes or other budget cuts. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 6, Times page 1, Guardian page 14, Mail page 10, P&J page 12)

Pensions: Finance Secretary John Swinney has countered the claims of an Institute of Fiscal Studies report that an Independent Scotland would be unable to make up a shortfall in funding for pensions, arguing that the nation’s wealth would fund its pension commitments. (Scotsman page 6, Record page 23, Express page 5, Times page 4, Telegraph page 1, Courier page 21)

Independence: Scottish Secretary Michael Moore is set to warn of the major risks and “irreversible changes” that would accompany Scotland becoming independent country, in a key-note speech in Dunfermline today. His comments have been criticised as being “extremist” by nationalist opponents (Scotsman page 8). Gavin McCrone in the Scotsman comments that the unionist parties could project a more positive post-referendum outcome if they focused more on the popular option of further devolution. Eddie Barnes in the Scotsman argues that the SNP could prosper even if they fail to win the Independence referendum.

Gender Equality: The First Minister Alex Salmond has called for equal access to all Scottish golf clubs for both men and women. The main sponsor of the Scottish Open has vowed to ban men-only clubs from staging the event. (Scotsman page 3, Herald page 6, Times page 11, Express page 21, Mail page 19, P&J page 13)

Prostitution: Margo MacDonald MSP has claimed that managed prostitution is the best approach to dealing with the industry, following a clampdown on alleged brothels in Edinburgh which fuelled claims of police intimidation. (Herald page 7, Sun page 6, Express page 5)

Future of the monarchy: The Scottish Conservatives have written to the Yes campaign to ask whether it supports retaining the monarch as head of state (Mail page 10). Kerry Gill in the Express comments that the split within Yes Scotland with regard to the future role of monarchy in an Independent Scotland will damage both Alex Salmond, and the ‘Yes’ campaign.

Economy

Housing Market: Registers of Scotland have reported an upturn in the housing market with both the number and value of sales increasing in the first quarter of the financial year. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 5, Express page 1, Mail page 16, Courier page 1)

Tourism: Finance Secretary John Swinney has claimed that businesses can expect to benefit from the expected rise in “ancestral tourism” aided by the independence campaign and Scotland’s increased international profile. It is argued that the Homecoming, Ryder Cup and 2014 Commonwealth Games will generate a potential £2.4 billion market. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 6, P&J page 10)

Health

Care for the elderly: Scottish Government statistics show that the cost of its flagship policy providing free personal care for elderly people living at home has increased 160% in less than a decade.  From £133 million in 2003-04, local council spending increased to £346.7 million in 2011-12, with opposition parties expressing concern for the viability of continuing to finance free care. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 2, Express page 2, Mail page 17, P&J page 14)

NHS: Dr. Brian Keighley, chairman of the Scottish Council of the British Medical Association, has called for an independent body to govern NHS Scotland, outside of the direct control of politicians, in order to improve future healthcare planning. (Herald page 1)

Free prescriptions: Scottish Government figures show a 2.3% rise in the number of prescriptions. Whilst the increase has been attributed to the nations aging population, Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw claims universally free prescriptions have fuelled the increase. (Mail page 1)

Overdose kits: The Scottish Drugs Forum reports that home overdose kits have potentially saved the lives of 365 heroin and methadone addicts in the last two years. Scotland was the first country in the world to distribute the kits centrally, with the Scottish Government pledging £1 million to the three year scheme. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 6, Express page 10)

Justice

Twitter threats: Following the arrest of two men for threatening a leading feminist campaigner and a Labour MP, Scottish MPs Gemma Doyle and Pamela Nash have joined calls for Twitter to tighten its security and for the police to investigate online abuse (Scotsman page 7, Times page 9, Guardian page 9, P&J page 16). Ian Bell in the Herald comments that social media has amplified and encouraged otherwise unacceptable behaviour online. Simon Jenkins in the Guardian comments that regulation is needed to curb online bigotry.  

Education

Food and drink: Abertay University has launched a new post-graduate degree in food and drink innovation in collaboration with Scotland Food and Drink, Skills Development Scotland and Interface Food and Drink. The course is designed to address the lack of people working in the food and drink industry which is Scotland’s largest manufacturing sector. (Scotsman page 17)