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Reform Scotland News: 17 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 

Currency Union: In a speech to business leaders today in Aberdeen, Alex Salmond will defend his “Plan A” for the currency, explaining why a sterling “union not only favours Scotland but is in the clear economic interests of the UK as well.” The Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are urging the First Minister to address an alternative for the currency, following the Chancellor George Osborne’s claim that “if Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the pound.” Meanwhile, a YouGov survey found that 58% of English and Welsh voters believe that Scotland should be barred from using the pound in the event of independence. (The Scotsman page 4, The Herald page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 2, The Times page 11, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 5, Daily Record pages 8 – 10, Press & Journal page 1, The Courier page 13, The Sunday Times page 1)

Lesley Riddoch writing in The Scotsman argues that George Osborne’s “thuggish menace” misjudged the consensual approach of many Scots towards a possible currency union, which is seen to be “reassuring and quite modern” to some voters. Regardless, she argues that the Chancellor’s attempt at “clarity” stood little chance of success in the face of Scotland’s “visceral hatred of wealthy southerners” and that the self-preoccupation of the London political elite is making more Scots back full independence.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Gillian Bowditch claims that George Osborne’s “bleedingly obvious” case against a currency union has done the independence campaign a favour by giving Alex Salmond a renewed opportunity to come up with a credible economic policy, which needs to convince the public and Scotland’s trading partners. (The Sunday Times page 27)

Alex Salmond, in The Sunday Times, criticises George Osborne’s position as a “calculated combination of bluff, bluster and bullying” and outlines his reasons for advocating a currency union. (The Sunday Times page 26)

David Torrance in The Herald suggests that while Alex Salmond is media savvy, unflappable and strategic in his politics, his financial nous is more rhetorical than real. He argues the currency union is a more political and tactical solution, rather than an economic one and that with increased scrutiny of the SNP, “holding the line” on such issues is no longer possible and that the party must address the tension between rhetoric and reality.

Independence Referendum: The President of the European Commission has warned that it would be “extremely difficult” for an independent Scotland to join the European Union. Despite the SNP’s claims that Scotland would automatically be admitted to the EU, Jose Manuel Barroso said it was unlikely that other member states would be willing to admit the newly independent state. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish finance secretary John Swinney have both labelled Mr Barroso’s views as “preposterous” (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Guardian page 9, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 1, The Independent page 17, Financial Times page 1, Daily Mail page 4, Daily Record pages 8 – 10, The Sun page 4, Press & Journal page 11, The Courier page 13)  

Britain’s 33 largest retailers are overwhelmingly against Scottish independence, according to a survey by Korn Ferry and the British Retail Consortium (BRS). The chairmen of companies including Sainsbury’s, Boots and Marks & Spencer, all feared the potential impact that a Yes vote could have on their business, with particular concerns raised over a possible increase in supply-chain management costs and extra administrative expenses brought about by the introduction of new legislation. (The Scotsman page 5, The Times page 11, Financial Times page 2, Daily Mail page 5)

According to senior Labour Party peer Baroness Jay, an independent Scotland would “not automatically” follow from a Yes vote, adding that constitutional arrangements would need to be negotiated. SNP MSP Linda Fabiani criticised Baroness Jay’s comments as an “irresponsible intervention by an unelected Labour peer.” (The Scotsman page 5, The Herald page 6)

The UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has today warned that an independent Scotland would rely on power from England to keep its lights on and see bills rise under Alex Salmond’s 100% renewable energy plan. (The Herald page 6)

Brian Monteith in The Scotsman considers the advantages that being within the United Kingdom has had and reflects on the Scots that have made a considerable impact upon the cultural, political and historical framework of Britain.

Lib-Lab Coalition: In an interview to be broadcast this evening by BBC Radio 4, Nick Clegg has reportedly hinted he would consider a coalition with Labour next year, claiming that Ed Miliband’s party “had changed”. Amid apparent signs of growing tension with David Cameron, Mr Clegg criticised the Conservative Party for failing to talk “to mainstream voters about mainstream concerns”. (The Scotsman page 16, The Herald page 6, The Guardian page 1, The Times page 1, The Independent page 1, Daily Mail page 12, The Courier page 13)

Child guardians plan: The Evangelical Alliance Scotland is the latest organisation to question the Scottish Government’s plan to appoint a guardian for every child, as it raises “serious concerns about the role of the state in modern Scotland.” The proposal, intended to ensure the well-being of children from birth to 18, is considered one of the most controversial components of the Children and Young People’s Bill. (The Herald page 10, The Courier page 13)

Economy

Whisky tax: The Scottish Council for Development and Industry will today ask the Chancellor to use next month’s Budget to boost incentives by cutting the excise duty on spirits, which have seen a 44% increase in the past six years. (Daily Record page 2, Press & Journal page 11)

Commonwealth Games merchandise: Despite promises to involve Scottish firms in the production of merchandise for this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, it has been revealed that it has almost all been produced in Asia. MSP Alison Johnstone said that “Scottish manufacturing needs support”, while others expressed concerns about the working conditions of factories in China and Bangladesh, two countries in which a majority of the items were made. (Daily Express page 15)

Health

Legal highs: The number of hospital admissions across Scotland for the use of legal highs and stimulants has risen considerably, according to NHS figures. Government ministers have been warned that the psychological effects associated with the use of such substances is likely to become the biggest drug threat in decades. (The Sunday Times page 4)

Transport

ScotRail: A survey of more than 7,000 passengers by Which? has revealed that just over half are happy with the service they receive from ScotRail. The company was ranked third-best regional operator in the UK, after 56% of travellers said they were satisfied with ScotRail’s performance. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Guardian page 5, Daily Express page 2, The Courier page 22)