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Reform Scotland News: 20 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

Independence referendum: Amid claims that Downing Street had contacted Vladimir Putin for guidance over the upcoming Scottish referendum, in an interview with the BBC the Russian president has said that the independence debate is a matter for the UK, while emphasising the advantages of a “single, strong state.” (The Herald page 1, The Scotsman page 8, The Times page 2, Daily Record page 2, The Sun page 2, The Courier page 21)

Yes Scotland has reportedly come under criticism for its delay in publishing its donor income. The former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alistair Graham, has said that the campaign’s intent to wait a full year since its last donor income publication in April 2013 was “anti-democratic” (The Herald page 6, The Times page 2, The Daily Telegraph 10). The campaign also faces accusations that it has been trying to bribe young, undecided voters with iPads, something which “underestimates the common sense of Scotland’s young people”, according to former Labour government minister Brian Wilson (Daily Record page 2)

Economist Professor Ronald MacDonald, who holds the Adam Smith Chair of Political Economy at Glasgow University, has said that Alex Salmond is ‘duping’ the public by failing to consider a plan B for an independent Scotland’s currency. (The Daily Telegraph page 1)

The former SNP deputy leader, Jim Sillars, in The Sunday Times suggests that a vote for independence would result in a “socialist rebirth”, bringing Labour back into Scotland and making it easier to eject Alex Salmond from office. (The Sunday Times page 7)

Devolution: A report to be published by the think-tank IPPR will argue that large parts of the welfare budget and tax credits should be devolved to Scotland. The Devo More report will say that Holyrood should have more choices in how active the state becomes. (The Herald page 6)

Andrew Nicoll in The Sun argues that the No campaign’s silence on increased devolution for Holyrood suggests they have no real desire to give Scotland any more powers. (The Sun page 8)

EU membership: Professor Kenneth Armstrong of Cambridge University has said that the SNP’s preferred method for an independent Scotland to fully join the European Union increases the delay or failure of their membership hopes. A leading expert in European law, Professor Armstrong will present his views to a Holyrood Committee this week. (The Herald page 6)

Meanwhile it has emerged that Scotland’s Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, considered reporting the SNP Government to the Court of Session over their failure to produce documents on an independent Scotland’s role in the EU. (The Herald page 6)

In a speech later today, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael will insist that Alex Salmond is “morally bound” to tell Scottish voters on what terms an independent Scotland would pursue European Union membership. (The Scotsman page 13, Press & Journal page 17, The Courier page 20)

An academic adviser to the Better Together campaign has hit back at Alex Salmond, after the First Minister quoted Professor Jim Gallagher in support of the case for EU membership within 18 months. In a letter to Mr Salmond, Professor Gallagher insisted that the time scale “was too short for all that needs to be done.” (The Scotsman page 8)

SNP advisers: In a move which is expected to reach an overall bill of £1million, Alex Salmond’s government has employed its 14th special adviser. Ross Ingebrigsten will today join the communications department, amid Labour concerns that the SNP is “using the tax payer as their personal bank account.” (The Herald page 3)

Mikaeel Kular: Following the discovery of Mikaeel Kular’s body on Friday evening in Fife, his mother has been charged in connection with her son’s death and is due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court later today. Meanwhile, police are vowing to investigate any potentially illegal online comments concerning the three-year-old’s death. It comes as two men were arrested and released on bail over posts made on social media sites.  (The Herald page 1, The Scotsman page 1, The Times page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 9, Guardian page 5, Daily Express page 1, Scottish Daily Mail pages 1, 4&5, Daily Record page 1, The Sun page 1, Press & Journal page 14, The Courier pages 1, 8&9, The Sunday Times page 1)

Welfare benefits: With figures revealing that more than 36,000 Scots have had their benefits cut or withdrawn since October 2012, Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance has called on the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government to stop “hammering” the poor with benefit sanctions (Daily Record page 2).  Meanwhile, Labour has unveiled plans to force benefit claimants to undertake a course in basic work skills or face their benefits being stopped (Guardian page 7, The Daily Telegraph page 1, Daily Record page 2, The Courier page 21).

Labour Party: Ed Miliband has said Labour ‘will be the party of the consumer’ under plans to give consumer groups – such as Which? and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau –  a greater role in identifying and fixing ‘broken markets’. (The Herald page 6, The Scotsman page 10, Guardian page 4, The Sun page 2)

Childcare: Questions over the affordability of Alex Salmond’s proposed “transformational change” in childcare have been raised, after the government admitted its plan had not been tested through economic modelling. (The Herald page 5)

Social Justice: David Torrance writing in The Herald argues that while there is a strong belief that Scotland is more egalitarian than the rest of the UK, most of the commitment to social justice and reducing inequality is largely rhetorical.

Opinion Polls: Brian Monteith in The Scotsman argues that instead of relying on polls, the public should focus on events and how politicians respond to them as the only indicators of outcome.

Energy

Renewable energy: Engineers from Oxford and Edinburgh Universities have estimated that enough renewable energy to power about half of Scotland could be harnessed from the Pentland Firth. The study has boosted the Scottish Government’s plan to generate all of the country’s electricity through renewable sources by 2020. (The Herald page 1, The Scotsman page 1, The Times page 13)

Health

Private healthcare: Guidance issued by Health Secretary Alex Neil has urged health boards across the country to cut down on their use of the private sector for treating NHS patients. However, Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians have warned that waiting lists would grow if he continued to drive the private sector away from the Scottish health service. (The Herald page 5, The Scotsman page 9, The Times page 6, Scottish Daily Mail page 8)

Health inequality: A Holyrood committee is to investigate whether or not investment in the early years is an effective way of reducing the health gap between rich and poor. The inquiry will also assess the effectiveness of the health service in its role in reducing inequality. (The Herald page 8, The Scotsman page 11, Press & Journal page 19)

Cervical cancer: The charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has launched a campaign to raise awareness and educate women about cervical cancer, following the results of a survey which shows that almost one-third of women in Scotland are unaware of the factors which can contribute to the cancer. (The Herald page 8, The Scotsman page 17, Guardian page 9)

Education

University pay rises: After revelations that over half of Scotland’s university principals earned above-inflation pay rises last year, academics and student leaders are calling for new legislation to restrict pay for senior managers. (The Herald page 1

Transport

Passenger delays: Passengers on one of Scotland’s newest railways will face disruption for the next five years while it is shut for repairs. The Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line – used by an estimated 400,000 people a year – will undergo substantial reconstruction costing up to £20million, with week-long closures beginning next month. (The Scotsman page 11)

Justice

Technology in trials: Lord Carloway, who presides over the High Court and the Court of Session, has encouraged the introduction of hi-tech electronic devices in a bid to end lengthy trials and improve efficiency. (The Herald page 5, The Scotsman page 16, Daily Express page 4)