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Reform Scotland News: 10 February 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: In a survey of 1,000 people conducted by Panelbase, support for an independent Scotland fell only slightly to 37% of respondents, with reports suggesting that the recent increase in support for Scottish independence appears to be holding.  49% supported the Union, leaving the outcome of the referendum up to the 14% of yet undecided voters. The survey also found that 51% of those asked expected to pay more taxes under independence and a further 41% believed keeping sterling in a formal currency union would be the outcome of a Yes vote. (The Scotsman page 6, The Times page 4, Daily Record page 2, The Sun page 2, Press & Journal page 13, The Courier page 15, The Sunday Times page 1)

A survey by TNS for the BBC has found that the economy is the key issue for voters ahead of the referendum, with pensions and welfare in second and third place respectively. The survey also reportedly highlighted the fact that both businesses and the public remain unconvinced of Alex Salmond’s economic plan for an independent Scotland. (The Scotsman page 6, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 4, Daily Record page 2)

An independent Scotland would seek closer links with Scandinavia, as outlined in the SNP’s White Paper, with claims that Alex Salmond could seek to become a member of the Nordic Council in the future. (The Herald page 6)

The SNP has claimed that an independent Scotland would be due £4.7 billion in defence assets and cash alone from the rest of the UK. Claims by the Party’s defence spokesman, Angus Robertson, that Scotland would be financially capable of meeting the start-up costs of a new military force have been criticised by the Ministry of Defence, which stressed the SNP’s “total lack of understanding of how defence works.” (The Herald page 6)

In an article in The Sunday Times, Gillian Bowditch, Peter Kellner and Jason Allardyce look at the profound political, economical and social consequences of independence for both sides of the border. (The Sunday Times page 23)

Immigration: According to a poll conducted by YouGov for Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, most Scottish people want to see levels of immigration reduced and believe that control of the issue should be transferred to Holyrood. However, Scots were more open in their attitude than their English and Welsh counterparts, with 75% of the latter wanting a decrease in immigration compared to 58% of Scottish respondents. (The Scotsman page 6, The Herald page 1, The Times page 1, Scottish Daily Mail page 4, Press & Journal page 14, The Courier pages 14-15)

David Cameron: David Torrance in The Herald rejects Nicola Sturgeon’s criticism of the speech made by David Cameron’s on Friday as a “flimsy…threadbare defence of the union”, arguing that the Prime Minister has made a strong start in the Better Together campaign’s pursuit of a more emotional pitch to match their practical and political arguments for the Union.

Gillian Bowditch writing in The Sunday Times responds to David Cameron’s speech by highlighting that the perceptions of most people with regards to the referendum are dominated by London. She adds that in order to keep Scotland as part of the UK, the Prime Minister must demonstrate a real sense of unity and that the benefits of the Union must apply universally across the country. (The Sunday Times page 27)

Labour Party: The Scottish Labour Party is to propose that car tax and airport passenger duty should be devolved, with party leader Johann Lamont also wanting to pursue plans to hand Holyrood powers over setting and levying income tax. (The Sun page 2)

Lesley Riddoch writing in The Scotsman suggests that the referendum could be a game-changer for Labour if they commit themselves to devolving income tax, welfare and oil revenues. This could, she suggests, reverse the Party’s image in Scotland, where they are seen to be “membership-lite, demoralised and rudderless” by many.

Budget: Nick Clegg will today suggest that the starting threshold for income tax could be raised above £10,000 in next month’s Budget, adding that the Party “wants to keep cutting income tax for ordinary tax-payers.” (The Herald page 6, The Daily Telegraph page 2)

Bedroom Tax: Campaigners staged a mock funeral in Glasgow to celebrate the scrapping of the controversial Bedroom Tax by the Scottish Government, which has set aside £35million to protect against the impact of the reform. (The Scotsman page 10, Daily Record page 2)

Mark Harper: The Conservative immigration minister has stepped down after admitting he had employed a cleaner who was in the UK illegally. As part of his resignation, Mr Harper is expected to receive £8,000 in severance pay, which Labour MP John Mann has branded as “absurd”. Meanwhile, communities’ secretary Eric Pickles has insisted that Mr Harper did not break the law. (Guardian page 11, Daily Record page 2, The Sunday Times page 1)

Economy

Scottish businesses: Scotland Office Minister David Mundell has said that businesses in Scotland are being boosted as part of the UK, with January seeing the “most marked increase” in manufacturing and services for three months. (The Sun page 2)

Jason Allardyce and Iain Dey in The Sunday Times consider warnings that a Yes vote may lead to a business exodus, with both the Inverness-based Orion Group and Lloyds reportedly threatening to pull out of Scotland. (The Sunday Times page 8)

Health

Alcohol pricing: A study by Sheffield University has found that a minimum price of 45p per unit would tackle problem drinkers, save up to 860 lives a year and cut hospital admissions, without penalising those who drink moderately. Although this level is 5p less than the 50p per unit limit proposed by the Scottish Government, the study appears to support claims by ministers that a minimum price is needed to curb Scotland’s alcohol intake. (The Scotsman page 18, The Herald page 10, Guardian page 10, The Independent page 17, Press & Journal page 18)

Cigarette packaging: According to a survey by Cancer Research, the majority of Scots support plans to introduce standardised packaging for cigarettes, with just 12% objecting to the proposals. (The Herald page 5)

Hospital waiting times: The Scottish Government has downplayed figures that reveal some patients in A&E departments were kept waiting for more than 20 hours for an available bed. (The Times page 6, Scottish Daily Mail page 6)

Justice

Corroboration: Union leaders have warned that plans to scrap corroboration in Scots law would worsen the increasing workload of the prosecution service, delay cases getting to court and add further stress to prosecutors. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said the end of corroboration is necessary to ensure “access to justice” for victims of crime. (The Scotsman page 10, The Times page 17)