A week in Scottish politics: 24 to 29 August 2013


Reform Scotland’s round-up of comment and analysis pieces we have referred to in media summaries between 23 and 29 August which are freely available online.

Thursday 29 August

Syria: Hugh McLachlan in the Scotsman, Iain Macwhirter in the Herald, Peter Oborne in the Telegraph, Roger Boyes in the Times, and Leo McKinstry in the Express all comment on the Prime Minister’s promise of a further parliamentary vote before “any direct British involvement” in Syria, giving United Nations inspectors more time to report on the alleged use of chemical weapons; and the potential ramifications of British involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Alex Salmond: Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph argues that Alex Salmond is becoming a liability for the yes camp, and that his increasingly “ridiculous” pronouncements are becoming increasingly more detrimental to the separatist cause. Cochrane argues that Nicola Sturgeon, or another senior member of the SNP would be better placed to replace Salmond in the run-up to the independence referendum in September next year.

Sterling zone: Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman expresses concern about the SNP’s plan for a shared ‘Sterling zone’ with the rest of the UK after Scottish independence. The SNP’s plans were recently questioned by former Bank of England deputy governor Brian Quinn in a paper published by the David Hume Institute.

Interest rates: Terry Murden in the Scotsman and Emma Rowley in the Telegraph comment on Bank of England governor, Mark Carney’s warning of the dangers of stagnating Britain’s economic recovery with higher interest rates.

National qualifications: Dr Gill Stewart in the Scotsman argues that the new qualification systems in place for those who have just entered S4 rewards a wide range of achievements and reflect work completed throughout the year, and not just in final exams. She puts forth that the new qualification system placed greater emphasis on “deeper learning” and aided young peoples’ ability to think for themselves.

Colleges: Laurence Howells in the Scotsman comments on the reshaped college sector in Scotland, putting forth that the merging of larger regional colleges has led to a more recognisable identity for students and their prospective employers. He also comments that the new mergers are better for students, local communities and public finance.

Wednesday 28 August

Syrian crisis: MPs have been recalled from their summer recess in order to debate the Syrian crisis, with Westminster to vote on whether military action should be undertaken. Foreign Secretary William Hague comments in the Telegraph that the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria represents a challenge to the democratic nations of international community, whilst Daniel Finkelstein in the Times agrees that whilst the risk of intervening is high, to do nothing in the face of the reported atrocities would pose a greater threat in the long-term. Meanwhile, Janice Atkinson in the Express, Stephen Glover in the Mail, and Bob Gillies in the P&J all argue against military intervention without a clear objective and discernible end point. Finally, Allan Massie in the Scotsman and Seamus Milne in the Guardian comment that a peaceful resolution to the conflict would be better achieved by negotiation rather than military action.

Scottish Constitution: Alex Salmond in the Times comments that an independent Scotland will need a written constitution, which will be the work of the Scottish Parliament, civic society and Scottish people, rather than solely the responsibility of the current Scottish Government.

Scottish Socialism: Alex Massie in the Scotsman comments that neither the Labour Party nor SNP would provide a socialist government for an independent Scotland, and that in any case there is little public support for traditional tax-and-spend socialism amongst the Scottish electorate. 

Independence: Following comments from the former head of the Scottish Civil Service, Sir John Elvidge, on the societal impact of the independence debate, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph warns of the toxic legacy the debate might leave behind. However, Ian Bell in the Herald comments that external perceptions of Scotland being bitterly divided over the upcoming independence referendum are exaggerated.

House construction: Whilst Scottish Government figures about decreasing rates of home construction have fuelled warnings of an impending housing crisis from industry bodies and charities, Alan Taylor in the Herald criticises the continued construction of new homes in green belt land. 

Lord Advocate: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman comments upon the importance of the separation of Government and judiciary, and the pressures upon sustaining the independent role of Lord Advocate whilst dealing with highly politicised issues.

Tuesday 27 August

Exports: Jim Gallagher in the Scotsman looks at Scottish exports and the importance of trade with the rest of the UK.

Zero-hour contracts: Gregor Gall in the Scotsman argues against zero-hour contracts.

HS2: Michael Settle in the Herald comments on opposition to the high speed rail project within the Labour party.

Friday 23 August

MSP convicted: Alan Cochrane in the telegraph encourages the convicted Bill Walker to “do the right thing for once, resign your seat”.

Banking scandal: Martin Flanagan comments in the Scotsman on the amount of mis-selling scandals the banking sector has been involved in.