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Reform Scotland News: 18 September 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 referendum: With exactly one year until the independence referendum, both the nationalist and unionist campaigns have restated their case ahead of a Scottish government-led parliamentary debate on Scotland’s future at Holyrood today (Scotsman page 1, Margo MacDonald, Rupert Soames and Ben Thomson in the Scotsman, Record page 4, Sun page 8, Mail page 1, P&J page 13, Courier page 14). A TNS BRMB survey for the Herald has shown that 45% of respondents believe the Scottish economy would perform worse if separated from the UK, with only 23% believing it would improve with independence (Herald page 1). A YouGuv poll for the Times has found that more than 52% of voters would currently vote ‘No’ with only 32% saying they would vote ‘Yes’ to independence (Times page 1). Meanwhile, a report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has proposed that an independent Scotland could reduce the debt burden that would be inherited upon leaving the union, by passing oil revenues to the UK Treasury. (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 2, Times page 5, Telegraph page 1, Express page 2, Guardian page 4, Mail page 4).

Allan Massie in the Scotsman comments that whilst in principle many Scottish voters might agree with nationalist sentiment, with regard to practical considerations about independence, even if they consider the union unsatisfactory, it at least avoids uncertainty. Ian Bell in the Herald comments on the role politicians should play in the upcoming referendum, Iain Macwhirter in the Herald and Kerry Gill in the Express argue that currently undecided voters will be crucial to the referendum outcome, whilst John Curtice in the Herald comments that no firm conclusion can be yet drawn from the many opinion polls. Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph argues that support for independence has remained static throughout the campaign. Meanwhile, Matt Qvorptrup in the Scotsman compares the independence referendum with the 1975 UK referendum on remaining in the EEC, commenting that Harold Wilson’s success provides an example to the Yes campaign of winning a referendum having been behind in the polls with a year to go. Alex Bell in the Guardian comments that the SNP must broaden their vision of an independent Scotland, whilst Peter Kellner in the Times argues that to win the referendum the Yes campaign must seek to increase support amongst unionist party supporters.

Free school meals: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced at the Liberal Democrat Conference that children in infant schools in England will be eligible for free school meals. The Scottish Government will receive £60million through the policy, and intends to expand free school meal provision in Scotland, although they are yet to announce how this expansion will be delivered. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 8, Telegraph page 1, FT page 2, Guardian page 1, Mail page 1)

Liberal Democrat Conference: Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has warned the party conference in Glasgow that they will have to continue with a programme of public spending austerity, should they remain in power following the 2015 General Election (Scotsman page 8, Telegraph page 6, P&J page 14). Meanwhile, party delegates have voted to support a scaled-down version of Trident (Scotsman page 8, Telegraph page 7, Guardian page 10). Party leader Nick Clegg will today insist that he would be open to the prospect of working with Ed Miliband’s Labour Party in coalition after the 2015 General Election (Times page 14). However, Daniel Finkelstein in the Times comments that the similarities between the parties in such a coalition would adversely impact upon the Liberal Democrats.

MSPs’ expenses: The expense claims of MSPs for the last year have been published, with the figure for 2012-13 standing at £12.2million, a £500,000 reduction on the previous year. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 9, Telegraph page 11, Express page 4, Sun page 17, Mail page 2, P&J page 15, Courier page 17)

Scottish Conservatives: Following a review of their candidate selection procedure, the Scottish Conservatives are considering US-style primary elections as the means of selecting their Holyrood candidates. (Herald page 8)

Royal Mail: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman comments the British Postal system is threatened not only by privatisation, but also by Scottish independence.

Economy

Lloyds Banking Group: George Osborne has hailed the taxpayers’ £61million profit from the sale of shares in the Lloyds Banking Group. Proceeds from the £3.2billion sale of a 6% fraction of the bank will be used to reduce the national debt, the Chancellor has said. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 24, Times page 37, FT page 3, Guardian page 23)

Housing market: A survey undertaken by LSL Property Services has found house sales in Scotland are at their highest level for five years, with July seeing a 21% increase in sales from the previous year. (Scotsman page 20, Herald page 11, Express page 1)

Crime

 

Traffic offences: Police Scotland has attributed a dramatic increase in traffic offenses in Edinburgh to their crackdown on speeding and dangerous driving, claiming that the change in policy has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of road deaths. (Herald page 3)

Health

Hospital wardens: Following a successful trial appointing wardens to move smokers off hospital sites, public health minister Michael Matheson has urged more NHS boards to consider implementing the scheme. The introduction of enforcement staff at hospitals in Glasgow has seen the number of smokers outside hospital entrances halved, however by March 2015 NHS boards will be required to implement and enforce the Scottish Government’s smoke-free policies across their grounds. (Scotsman page 19)

Transport

Edinburgh Trams: Edinburgh City Council have announced that the city’s trams will be carrying passengers by May 2014, with all works associated with the project removed in the coming month and with testing along the line carried out by early December this year. The news has been welcomed by both Council transport leader Lesley Hinds and Scottish Government transport minister Keith Brown. (Scotsman page 21, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 9, Express page 9, Mail page 17)

Train drivers: Scotrail are being urged to increase their pay rise offer for drivers, amid an ongoing dispute over train drivers’ wages. Drivers union Aslef is to ballot Scotrail members regarding an overtime ban which would see drivers refuse to work on Sundays. (Herald page 3)