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Reform Scotland News: 9 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

Opinion Poll: Research commission by former Conservative deputy Chairman Lord Ashcroft has shown that the SNP remain the most popular party at Holyrood, despite the majority of Scottish voters rejecting independence. The poll of more than 10,000 Scottish voters found that 65% support remaining in the UK, with only 26% backing independence. Nonetheless, 40% would vote SNP at the next Scottish Parliament election, with 35% support for Scottish Labour. This is despite 61% saying that the SNP Government has its priorities wrong with regard to their focus on campaigning for independence (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 2, Times page 6, Telegraph page 1, Express page 1, Sun page 2, Record page 4, Guardian page 12, Mail page 1, Courier page 15). Brian Monteith in the Scotsman comments on the poll, suggesting that whilst much could happen before the 2016 Holyrood election, the figures suggest that the SNP could remain the largest party despite a referendum defeat.   

TUC: Ed Miliband will tomorrow address trade union leaders, to outline his plans to outlaw zero-hours contracts (Guardian page 1, Record page 4). Meanwhile, Unison General Secretary David Prentis has warned of the dangers of party infighting, with emerging claims regarding the Labour Party investigation into their candidate selection in Falkirk causing fresh concern for the party leadership. Unison is also reported to be cutting its funding of the Labour Party, citing a fall in Labour affiliates. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Herald page 4, Sunday Times page 1, Scotsman page 6, Herald page 1, Times page 1, Telegraph page 4, FT page 2, Sun page 2, Record page 4, Guardian page 9, Mail page 6, Courier page 14, P&J page 17). Andrew McKie in the Herald comments that whilst reform of Labour Party funding might be right, Ed Miliband’s efforts to reshape his party’s relationship with the unions has damaged his leadership. Tom Watson in the Guardian meanwhile argues that the Labour Party must remain relevant to the trade unions.

Bill Walker: Opposition parties have criticised the SNP for their original selection of former MSP Bill Walker as a candidate. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has called on the SNP to commission an independent inquiry into his selection, whilst Labour have asked for any information the party possessed with regard to allegations made against the former MSP to be released. Mr Walker resigned on Saturday night after 93 of Holyrood’s 129 MSPs signed a motion demanding he leave his parliamentary position (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Herald page 3, Sunday Times page 2, Scotsman page 8, Herald page 7, Telegraph page 8, Express page 2, Mail page 8, Courier page 2, P&J page 11). With preparations being made for the Dunfermline by-election, Jim Leishman is reported as a potential Labour candidate. (Record page 4, Times page 8)

Plain packaging: Public health minister Michael Matheson has pledged that the SNP will continue with plans to introduce legislation forcing tobacco products to have plain packaging. The UK government recently postponed similar plans in favour of acquiring more evidence. (Scotsman page 10)

Trident: Former Scottish CND chairman Alan McKinnon has warned that pressure to retain Trident nuclear weapons in Scotland would grow if independence was achieved. (Herald page 6)

Union Campaign: More than 80,000 people have reportedly joined the Conservative Friends of the Union campaign since its launch in March, a number roughly seven times that of the Scottish Conservative Party’s membership. The party leadership is hopeful that the cause can help rebuild its activist base. (Sunday Times page 9, Express page 2)

Glasgow: Following the release of figures that showed almost a third of households in Glasgow have nobody aged 16-64 in employment, Gillian Bowditch in the Sunday Times comments that the SNP could leave a lasting legacy by reversing Glasgow’s problems of unemployment and poor life expectancy. Euan McColm in Scotland on Sunday comments that the progress made by Glasgow City Council’s education department will make a difference to the city’s future.

Independence: Following the publication last week of a Treasury report into the economic prospects of an independent Scotland, John McLaren, Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Bell in the Sunday Herald each critique the ‘Westminster view’ of Scotland. Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday comments on the influence of practical considerations in fuelling scepticism about independence and support for the union.

Economy

George Osborne: The Chancellor George Osborne will today deliver a key-note speech claiming that recent signs of recovery and growth vindicate the Westminster Government’s economic policy. (Herald page 2, Times page 2, Telegraph page 1, FT page 2, Sun page 2, Guardian page 7, Mail page 2)

Economic recovery: Figures published by Barclaycard show further economic recovery, with a fourth straight month on increased consumer spending. However, whilst UK-wide consumer spending grew by 4.4% in August, Scotland was found to show the slowest recovery of all the regions, with spending rising just 3.4% year on year. With increased living costs, 34% of families also report that their budgets are being squeezed (Scotsman page 18, Herald page 10). According to the Bank of Scotland purchasing managers’ index (PMI) Scotland’s economic recovery has picked up speed, although it still lags behind the UK as a whole. (Herald page 26, Mail page 2)

Historic Scotland: Scottish Government agency Historic Scotland, Scotland’s largest operator of visitor attractions, have achieved a record 1.7 million visitors this summer. The June to August total has been attributed to more direct flights, more Scots deciding to visit historic attractions and greater numbers of Chinese and Russian tourists. (Scotsman page 3, Herald page 3)

Health

Patient care: A report by The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has shown a quarter of doctors and a third of nurses in Scotland, England and Wales have been put under pressure to behave in a way they believed was counter to patient care (Scotsman page 10). Meanwhile, the chairman of the patient safety board at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has warned against complacency regarding recent high morality rates at the weekends in Scottish hospitals. (Sunday Times page 7)

Waiting times: Figures from the most recent quarter show the number of outpatients having to wait more than three months to be seen in Scotland has increased. Opposition parties have criticised the SNP, with the Conservatives suggesting that there has been a 2,619% rise in patients not being seen on time in comparison with three years ago. (Sunday Times page 7)

Face transplant: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has confirmed it has backed the bid by doctors at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital to provide Britain’s first face transplant. (Sunday Times page 1)

Education

Modern Apprenticeships: A study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that the Scottish Government’s flagship modern apprenticeship scheme reinforces gender segregation. Whilst increasing numbers of men have undertaken positions in ‘traditionally female’ programmes such as care and teaching, just 1 in 50 construction or engineering apprenticeships are taken up by women. The EHRC claim Scotland is now the only part of the UK with higher male access to apprenticeships, with poor levels of access for disabled people reported also. (Herald page 5)