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Reform Scotland News: 22 January 2014

Daily Political Newspaper Summary:  22 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: The independence debate is focusing on issues that are of little importance to voters, according to the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey. The research suggests that debates over issues such as whether an independent Scotland could retain the pound or remain a member of the European Union will have little impact on how Scots will vote next September. (Scotsman page 1, John Curtice in the Scotsman, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 1, Express page 1, Courier page 21, P&J page 14)

Furthermore, research by ScotCen Social Research has found that poorer voters in Scotland are much more likely to support independence than their wealthier peers. The survey supports the view of Scottish National campaigners who say support for staying in the UK tends to be strongest among those who have prospered within the status quo. (FT page 3)

Tom Gallagher in the Scotsman suggests that some centrist Tories would risk a referendum upset in order to keep the Labour party ‘at bay’.

Donald Brydon, Chairman of the Royal Mail, has criticised the SNP over plans to ‘divide’ the people of the UK. In a personal attack on the First Minister, Brydon has accused SNP leader Alex Salmond of ‘trying to poke Middle England in the eye’ to provoke retaliatory ‘rude remarks about the Scots’. (Mail page 1)

Lord Rennard: Lord Rennard, former chief executive of the Liberal Democrats, has reportedly instructed a QC to advise him over the “lawfulness or otherwise” of his suspension from the party. The Lib Dem peer was suspended earlier this week for bringing the party into disrepute by refusing to apologise to four women who allege that he sexually harassed them. (Scotsman page 12, Ian Bell in the Herald, Dan Hodges in the Telegraph, Express page 4, Guardian page 4)

Meanwhile, the former leader of the party, Lord Steel has urged Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem leadership to “get a grip” of the situation, while suggesting the party drop its suspension of Lord Rennard. (Herald page 6, Telegraph page 4)

Bedroom Tax: Housing associations in Scotland can expect a bill of £79.1million over the coming three years as tenants charged by the so called bedroom-tax are forced to downsize, according to research by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA). (Herald page 2)

Meanwhile, spending by Scotland’s councils on helping tenants affected by policies such as the bedroom tax has almost quadrupled since the controversial benefit charge was introduced, official figures show. (Scotsman page 18, Times page 2, Record page 2)

Energy firms: Power bosses were yesterday accused of taking advantage of their position as an effective monopoly to “neglect” customers, showing “utter complacency” over power cuts which left thousands throughout the UK without electricity. The criticisms came as executives from major energy firms appeared before the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 9, Guardian page 15, Courier page 14)

Economy

Lloyds Banking Group: Lord Levene yesterday accused Lloyds Banking Group and the government of acting in “bad faith” in their handling of the controversial sale plan for 632 bank branches. Lord Levene, former chairman of NBNK, a vehicle set up to bid for the 632 branches, told MPs that taxpayer-backed Lloyds was “swayed by political considerations” in its decision to sell the branches to the mutually owned Co-operative Bank. (Scotsman page 35, Martin Flanagan in the Scotsman, Herald page 22, Telegraph B1, FT page 2)

Budget bill: Finance Secretary John Swinney has said that investment in Scotland’s essential infrastructure will be a strong focus of the SNP Government’s budget when it is published today, with investment in infrastructure expected to rise to £4.17billion next year. Mr Swinney said the budget bill would also include funding for childcare, free school meals and business rates relief. (Scotsman page 7)

Young adults: Analysis by the Office for National Statistics has revealed that more than a quarter of young British adults between the ages of 20 and 34 are living with their parents, an indicator of how the economic downturn has impacted the prospects of young people. (FT page 2, Guardian page 3)

Business optimism: UK bosses have reportedly started the year among the most optimistic in the world, with their newfound confidence underpinning planned hiring-sprees and new investment this year, according to PwC’s annual global CEO survey. (Times page 41)

Justice

Falkirk vote-rigging scandal: Police yesterday announced that no criminal charges would be brought against Stevie Deans, the trade union official at the centre of the Falkirk vote-rigging scandal. (Telegraph page 8, Courier page 19)

Education

Truancy: High Truancy rates in Britain are resulting in British pupils lagging behind their peers in the best performing nations across Europe and the Far East, according to research by the Organisation for Economic, Co-Operation and Development (OECD). (Telegraph page 14)