Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 15 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.
Independence: Foreign Secretary William Hague is to outline the case for Scotland remaining within the UK based on its “unique role” in world affairs. Mr. Hague will be in Glasgow on Friday to present the latest of the UK government’s ‘Scotland analysis’ papers. (Scotsman page 10)
A paper to be released by the UK Government later this week will claim that the SNP’s plan to charge UK students tuition fees in an independent Scotland is illegal under EU law. The document will argue that the proposals, under which EU students would go free, would be discriminatory towards citizens of the UK. (Herald page 1, Guardian page 12)
Alistair Heath in the Telegraph calls for a more federalised Britain, arguing that policy such as welfare, education, pensions and as many other policy areas as possible should be devolved to each of the UK’s component-nations’ parliament, while each of the component-nations should also be responsible for the raising of whatever money it spends. Heath argues that such an approach would inject a healthy dose of competition and ensure good policies attract both investment and talent, while bad ones trigger exodus.
Brian Wilson in the Scotsman comments on Tory MP David Mundell’s questioning of SNP priorities, while arguing that the SNP is more interested in using issues to push independence rather than the powers that they already have.
Ian Bell in the Herald comments on Scotland’s assumption of its share of the UK national debt in an independent Scotland.
General Election: Andrew Whitaker in the Scotsman predicts that the Lib Dem’s abandonment of their longstanding anti-Tory stance is set to lose the party votes in next year’s General Election.
Immigration: Prime Minister David Cameron has reportedly shelved a report on EU migration after the home secretary, Theresa May, failed to find evidence supporting her case for imposing tighter restrictions on immigrants entering the UK. (FT page 1)
Meanwhile, the Treasury’s economic forecaster has hailed the economic benefits of immigration, warning that cutting the number of foreign workers will make it harder for the UK government to reduce the deficit. (Telegraph page 10)
Inflation: Inflation fell to the Bank of England’s 2 percent target in December for the first time in more than four years, easing pressure on Governor Mark Carney to consider an early rise in interest rates. Economists have predicted that interest rates are unlikely to increase from their current low of 0.5 percent until next year at the earliest, despite a fall in unemployment. (Scotsman page 35, Herald page 23, FT page 3, John Authers in the FT, Sun page 4, Courier page 31, Mail page 2)
Start-ups: Academics from three Scottish universities have urged the government to abandon their long standing support for high-growth firms in a report that accuses both the Scottish and UK government of focusing too heavily on technology start-ups that are “incapable of growing”. (Scotsman page 35, Terry Murden in the Scotsman, Herald page 24)
House prices: A report by LSA/Acadata Scotland has concluded that the Scottish property market is “making solid progress on all fronts”, leading to further optimism for the year ahead. (Herald page 8, Times page 8)
Payday loans: Nearly a million people are estimated to have taken out payday loans to cover their rent or mortgage in the last year, while nearly a fifth of people are estimated to have borrowed in some way to cover rent or mortgage payments, according to research by housing charity Shelter. (Scotsman page 9)
Corroboration: Former solicitor general and High Court judge Lord McCluskey has warned the Scottish Government against the abolition of the requirement for corroboration, questioning whether police officers can be trusted to conduct investigations in a fair and balanced way without the historic safeguard. (Scotsman page 1, Lord McCluskey in the Scotsman)
Meanwhile, moves to remove the need for corroboration have been put on hold as Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill seeks to allow an expert group to give further consultation to safeguards before the change comes into force. (Herald page 1, Times page 9, Magnus Linklater in the Times, Express page 17, Mail page 10, Dominic Sandbrook in the Mail)
Education panels: A petition by the Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) to end the legal right of Churches to make decisions on education was yesterday considered by Holyrood’s public petitions committee. Campaigners appeared before MSPs to warn against the church’s exerting of “undue influence” on crucial decisions about local education. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 8, Times page 2, P&J page 14)
NHS legal battle: BT has launched legal action against the NHS in Scotland after it appeared it would not be awarded the contract for the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN). The NHS National Services Scotland (NHS NSS) has spent the last year negotiating with potential bidders, ultimately preparing to hand the contract to another company, and end the existing contract BT has with NHS Scotland. BT is seeking a rerun of the bidding process, though failing that will seek £20million in damages. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 1)