Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 29 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.
Immigration policy: Scotland’s education secretary, Michael Russell, is expected to tell a higher education conference in Edinburgh today that the immigration debate south of the border “revolts” him, and is driven by UKIP and by “a nasty xenophobia”. Mr Russell is expected to tell delegates that the UK’s immigration policy is not only damaging Scottish universities, but the reputation of Scotland internationally.
Gus O’Donnell in the FT argues that politicians should show leadership on immigration, and points to figures that highlight the benefits of immigration to the UK economy, arguing that the political debate is hampered by public misconceptions.
Sterling zone: First Minister Alex Salmond has revealed details of his talks with former Bank of England governor Lord Mervyn King ahead of his first meeting with Lord King’s successor, Mark Carney. The former governor allegedly told Mr. Salmond that the Treasury would change its views on any potential Sterling zone after independence.
Government transparency: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman comments on Alex Salmond’s branding of inquiries into £54,000 of previously unaccounted spending on his trip to Chicago as “ridiculous frippery”.
Liberal Democrats: Allan Massie in the Scotsman argues that the Lib Dems should be praised for keeping the Tories ‘in check’ during their time in government. Furthermore, he argues that Nick Clegg and those around him acted in the interest of the country when they entered into a coalition with the Conservative party.
Lord Rennard: Sir Malcolm Bruce has pledged to deal with the Lord Rennard sexual harassment row “quickly and privately” after he was elected deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats. The allegations of sexual misconduct and subsequent threats of legal action have engulfed the Liberal Democrat party in recent weeks. (Herald page 1, P&J page 1)
Land sales: Sales of large estates should not go ahead without ministerial approval in an attempt to achieve greater equality and diversity in land ownership, a proposal by Community Land Scotland (CLS) has concluded. (Herald page 10)
Growth: Britain yesterday recorded its best economic growth figure for over six years, prompting Chancellor George Osborne to claim that his policies were delivering a “brighter economic future”. Official figures have revealed that GDP increased by 1.9 percent in 2013, the healthiest rate of growth since 2007. Labour and the unions argue that these figures have yet to make an impact on the cost of living, pointing to figures that show that wage growth continues to lag behind inflation.
Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph and Terry Murden in the Scotsman comment on the foundation of recent economic growth. Both point out that three-quarters of British output continues to be services-based, while manufacturing and construction both shrank in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, increasing consumer spending is fuelled in large part by borrowing, a worrying trend that Mr Osborne should seek to correct.
Personal income tax: Amid new figures that demonstrate economic growth in the last year, the Chancellor has come under increasing pressure to reduce the tax-burden on the party’s traditional supporters, the middle-class. A popular option that has been mooted among members of the party is raising the threshold for the 40 percent tax bracket. (Times page 9)
Ian Bell in the Herald, Daniel Finkelstein in the Times and Allister Heath in the Telegraph comment on Labour’s announcement that they would restore the 50 per cent tax band for those earning more than £150,000 should they win the next General Election.
Independence: Energy giant Scottish Power has moved to dismiss warnings that it may have to sell off part of the company should Scotland become independent. A Madrid-based newspaper recently claimed that its Spanish-based parent company Iberdrola would face a break-up should Scots vote yes in September’s referendum. Business daily Expansion has also claimed that independence threatens a special EU opt-out that exempts Scottish Power from European competition rules that ban firms within the EU from both generating and transmitting electricity. (Herald page 2)
Welfare cuts: Vince Cable has accused the Chancellor of focusing on welfare cuts for “ideological reasons”. Other senior Lib Dems have described the apparent determination of Tories to ‘hammer the poor’ as “19th century”. The accusations come amid the Chancellor’s recent announcement that nearly half of £25billion of savings will come from cuts in welfare. (Herald page 6)
Scottish tidal industry: Political instability caused by independence could deter potential heavyweight investors from choosing to invest in Scotland’s tidal industry, according to consultants at PMSS. The warning follows a report released earlier this week that showed that investment in Scotland’s offshore wind industry has more than halved in the last twelve months. (Times page 4)
University funding: Scottish universities will lose access to lucrative funding should Scotland become independent, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael will claim today. Mr Carmichael is expected to say that leaving the UK would mean Scottish universities would no longer receive money from Research Councils UK. (Scotsman page 6)
Scottish exams: Concerns have been raised over new exams in Scottish secondary schools after a survey carried out by the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) has revealed that 60 percent of teachers polled admitted that they were not confident of their ability to deliver the courses. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 4, Times page 14)