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Reform Scotland News: 13 January 2014

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

University tuition fees: Academics Together, a group belonging to the pro-Union Better Together campaign, has urged the Scottish Government to publish any legal advice it has received on the matter of charging university fees to students from the rest of the UK in the event of a Yes vote. While the SNP’s White Paper proposed to pursue the current structure of fees, concerns have arisen that charging English, Welsh and Northern Irish students to study in Scotland after independence may breach EU law. (The Herald page 6, The Scotsman page 6, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 5, Daily Express page 2, Daily Record page 2, Press & Journal page 12, The Courier page 14, Katrine Bussey in The Sunday Times page 4

Independence referendum: The Government’s “top 20” reasons for Scotland to remain in the UK will be unveiled today at Stirling University in a speech by Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael. Key benefits that will be identified include the shared use of sterling, cheaper mortgages and safer banks. (The Herald page 1, Daily Express page 2, Daily Record page 2, Press & Journal page 13, Gillian Bowditch in The Sunday Times)

In a speech in his constituency on Saturday, Gordon Brown voiced his support for Alistair Darling, the Better Together campaign and increasing Scottish devolution, while criticising the funding proposals outlined by the SNP for an independent Scotland. His proposals have, however, come under fire from Labour MP Thomas Docherty, who has said he believes there is no “support at Westminster for Scotland unilaterally getting further devolution.” (The Courier page 15)

Gillian Bowditch in The Sunday Times analyses Gordon Brown’s potential to reinvigorate both the Better Together campaign and his own political career, with his increased “intellectual firepower, a sense of authority, a well-connected address book and utter self-confidence.” (The Sunday Times page 21)

Jim Murphy, the former Labour Scottish Secretary, has exposed divisions in the “no” campaign by refusing to share a platform with David Cameron, citing “poisonous” Tory policies. (The Times page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 8) 

Alan Cochrane writing in The Daily Telegraph discusses Jim Murphy’s “common sense” approach to the independence debate.

Professor Jim Gallagher writing in the Daily Express discusses the benefits of keeping Scotland in the Union, citing economic prosperity and increased security as decisive factors. (Daily Express page 12)

In claims, refuted by Downing Street, Russia’s leading news agency Itar-Tass reported yesterday that David Cameron’s government had sought help from the Kremlin to help block Scottish independence. (The Scotsman page 6, Daily Express page 2, Daily Record page 2, The Scottish Sun pages 1, 6 & 7)

Writing in nationalist newspaper the Scots Independent, former leader of the SNP Gordon Wilson has said the Yes campaign has “not covered itself in glory”, by leaving itself exposed to attacks and failing to explain clearly why “Scotland needs to be free of London control”. (The Sunday Times page 4)

In a series of lectures to be held at Glasgow University, the “Britishness” of Scotland will be discussed by renowned historians, archaeologists and musicians. It is hoped that the lectures – which will run until June – will appeal to those who feel disengaged from the economic aspects of the independence debate, with a focus on Scottish language, history and culture. (The Herald page 10 )

In an attempt to calm market fears ahead of the referendum, the UK Treasury will today assume responsibility for Britain’s £1.2 trillion debt stock in the event of Scottish independence. (Financial Times page 1)

Mure Dickie in The Financial Times argues that Alex Salmond’s threat to default on debts if proposals for a currency Union are rejected is irresponsible and questions how UK debt should be shared if Scotland left the Union. (Financial Times page 3)

David Torrance in The Herald discusses the intolerance that continues to surround the question of federalism, when it generally enjoys wider political support than granting independence.

Devo Plus: Ben Thomson writing in The Sunday Times discusses the Devo Plus option, arguing that last week’s YouGov survey illustrates that increased devolution is both the most popular and best outcome for Scotland’s future. (The Sunday Times page 4)

Steven Purcell, the former Labour leader of Glasgow city council, Scotland’s largest local authority, has said the Union is unfit for purpose in its current state, adding that Scotland’s relationship with the UK might be more secure if Holyrood was handed control over corporation tax and oil revenues. (The Sunday Times pages 1 & 23)

Childcare: A government report has claimed the financial powers of independence are needed to “transform” childcare provision in Scotland. According to SNP plans, independence would provide 1,140 annual care hours for one- to four- year olds, giving more parents the option of returning to work. Criticism has surrounded the government’s childcare plans, with critics warning against a “birthday lottery”, which allocates the level of care depending on birth year. (The Scotsman page 5, The Times page 6, Daily Mail page 2, The Courier page 14)

Brian Monteith writing in The Scotsman questions why the SNP is failing to provide “equal” pre-school education, adding that they fail to deliver existing policies “fairly and comprehensively”.

Housing benefit: The Scottish Government estimates that over 20,000 in Scotland would suffer if housing benefits for under-25s were removed. Last week, Chancellor George Osborne laid out plans to cut a further £25 billion from public spending after the 2015 election, including £12 billion from welfare provisions. (The Herald page 1)

Bedroom tax: Scotland Officer minister David Mundell has revealed that the Scottish Government has the power to exempt all those in Scotland forced to pay the so-called bedroom tax for a “remarkably little” cost. Mr Mundell has claimed that the SNP is using the controversial tax as an argument for independence. (The Scotsman page 1)

Education

School placing system: Brian Boyd, Emeritus Professor of Education at Strathclyde University has said the automatic right of Scottish parents to choose a school for their children that is not their local one should be abandoned, on the grounds that it leads to increasing inequality. (The Herald page 7)

Religious influence: Members of the Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) will tomorrow present their case to Holyrood, in a bid to reduce the influence of religion in Scottish schools. (The Herald page 3)

Sex education: The Catholic Church has responded angrily to a new sex education guide for schools which contains gay marriage and information about where to get contraception and STI tests. Michael McGrath, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES) has said that the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a curriculum reflective of the intended law to legalise gay marriage, moves beyond “the grudging tolerance…showed towards the right of Catholic schools to follow Church guidance.” (Daily Express page 8)

Language in schools: An award-winning head-teacher has said the Scots language should be put at the forefront of the Scottish Government’s initiative to promote language learning in schools. Isabel Lind has said that Scots is a valuable learning tool and should be included in the 1+2 initiative, which sees children learning two other languages alongside English. (The Scotsman page 12)

Justice

Scottish Police Authority: Vic Emery, chair of the Scottish Police Authority, has called for a review of the role, scope and scale of policing by leading academics in order to determine what the best number of police officers would be for Scotland. Mr Emery has described the SNP’s pledge to maintain Scotland’s 17, 234 police officers as “arbitrary”. (The Herald page 4

Prisons: Proposals by the Scottish Government to replace prison visiting committees with two types of monitors could cause “real confusion” among inmates. According to the Holyrood justice committee, a two-tiered independent monitoring system “could adversely affect the trust prisoners have for monitors.” (The Scotsman page 18, The Courier page 15