Reform Scotland News: 7 August 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: Following a Freedom of Information request to 95 councils in Scotland, England and Wales, Labour have claimed that 96% of households affected by the Bedroom Tax are unable to move into smaller properties. Figures published by Edinburgh City Council show that the number of social housing tenants in rent arrears has more than doubled in the two months since the introduction of the Bedroom tax, with 72% of those affected by the charges failing to pay rent. (Scotsman page 2, Scotsman page 10, Herald page 9)

Budget cuts: A report from the Centre for Public Policy for the Regions has warned that the budget controlled by the Scottish Government will be reduced by £0.9 billion in 2016. The CPPR conclude that reductions in public spending or tax rises will be necessary, although the outcomes of the independence referendum and the 2015 general election will affect future spending. John McLaren in the Scotsman argues that there will therefore be great uncertainty amongst voters regarding the future of public service provision as they vote in 2014 and 2015. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 5, Mail page 17, P&J page 12)

Transport police: The Scottish Government has called for British Transport Police in Scotland to become part of Police Scotland. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has written to the UK Transport Secretary claiming the move would make the policing of railways in Scotland more effective and efficient. (Scotsman page 16)

Polls: The Labour Party are seeking to recruit a veteran Australian political strategist to compete with the Conservatives more aggressive electoral strategy masterminded by Lynton Crosby. With Labour’s lead in the polls falling, the signs of economic recovery are reported to be boosting support for the Conservatives. (Guardian page 7, Express page 2, Times page 2, Telegraph page 1)

Ed Miliband: Union officials have voiced fears that the process of making changes to the relationship between the Labour Party and union members appears to be being rushed (Scotsman page 18). Ian Bell in the Herald comments that Ed Miliband’s actions have failed to increase his personal credibility as party leader.

Conservatives: The debate surrounding David Cameron’s refusal to allow new grammar schools in England has been reopened by the Welsh Conservatives proposing an education system with both academic and vocational streams (Telegraph page 1). Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph comments that the Scottish Conservatives might benefit from emulating their Welsh counterparts’ stance on education.

Liberal Democrats: It is expected that delegates at the Scottish Liberal Democrats conference will be urged to support land reform measures becoming a key part of the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ next election campaign. (Scotsman page 13, P&J page 11, Courier page 20)

Rangers: The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has criticised trustees of a charity tied to Rangers FC, for diverting money raised at a fundraising event to the football club. The charities watchdog found a “conflict of interest” in the relationship between the trustees and the football club, although did acknowledge that the agreement to forgo the funds was widely publicised. (Scotsman page 8)

Independence: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman considers the economic arguments for independence, suggesting that Scottish nationalism is based on separatism rather than an economic rationale. Allan Massie in the Scotsman comments that it is not negative for voters to reject Scottish independence, whilst Tommy Brennan in the Scotsman argues that an independent Scotland would allow self-determination of policy to the Scottish people. David Pratt in the Herald comments that whether Scotland becomes independent or not, the Scottish Government should seek to develop its own foreign policy stance on the international stage. 

Currency: John Kay in the Financial Times comments that it is possible that the pound could feasibly be used as the currency of an independent Scotland.

Shooting: Two men have died and another has been injured in a shooting at a farm near East Kilbride. The owner of an equestrian centre on the farm was killed, and his son injured, before the gunman shot himself. Police are not looking for anyone else in connection to the incident. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 5, Express page 1, Record page 1, Sun page 1, Times page 1, Guardian page 9, Mail page 1, P&J page 13, Courier page 20)

Economy

Employment: Citizens Advice Scotland have warned that a third of people employed in Scotland are in part-time or temporary employment, and as such any decreases in unemployment have been accompanied by increasing rates of underemployment. Research commissioned by the Labour Party found more than 1 in 10 employees want to work more hours, whilst it is argued that such trends are unsustainable for the economy. The Scottish Government has vowed to blacklist companies that employ workers on zero hour contracts, with regard to tendering for public contracts. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 2, Sun page 2, Seumas Milne in the Guardian, Caroline Lindsay in the Courier)

House prices: Halifax report that UK house prices have increased at their fastest rate in almost three years, with greater consumer confidence increasing demand. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 9, Guardian page 23, Mail page 12)

Factory Output: The Office for National Statistics report that the output from UK factories has risen faster than expected, with a 1.9% increase in output between May and June demonstrating manufacturers are capitalising on increasing demand. (FT page 2, Guardian page 23)

Education

University places: UCAS has reported a 2% rise in Scottish applicants being accepted at Scottish universities. The rise follows the Scottish Government increasing the number of places available to students from poorer backgrounds. However, there are fears that with English and foreign students paying fees to attend Scottish universities, Scottish pupils entering the UCAS clearing system will lose out to those paying fees. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 9, Express page 18, Times page 5, Telegraph page 1, Mail page 4, Courier page 16)