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Reform Scotland News: 18 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: First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday denounced Chancellor George Osborne’s rejection of a currency union as both “insulting” and “demeaning” and has claimed that unionist efforts have backfired. The Fiscal Commission Working Group, Alex Salmond’s economic experts, will meet again to continue working on currency options. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Scottish Sun page 6, Daily Record page 1, Financial Times page 1, Times page 1, John McTernan in the Times, Daily Express page 2_

First Minister Alex Salmond has also commented that sharing the pound would allegedly save rUK businesses £500million per year, due to high transaction costs that would be faced if an independent Scotland established a separate currency. (Herald page 6, Mail page 6, John McTernan in the Mail, Guardian page 4, Angus Roxburgh in the Guardian, P&J page 12, Courier page 1)

David Cameron has called Alex Salmond “a man without a plan” after his comments yesterday and his refusal to accept that currency union will not happen. (Daily Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane in the Daily Telegraph)

David Torrance comments in the Daily Record that Alex Salmond has been quite inconsistent when it comes to currency plans over the years.

Peter Jones in the Scotsman offers First Minister Alex Salmond an alternative in the currency debate by creating an edited Plan A and a “secret” Plan B.

David Maddox in the Scotsman comments that Chancellor George Osborne’s ‘no’ to currency union is not a bluff because the UK government truly believes that it is in Scotland and rUK’s best interests to stay together.

Independence: Harry Reid comments in the Herald that for him, the decision over Scottish independence is more a matter of the heart than the head.

Jose Manuel Barosso’s, President of the European Commission, comments on the difficulty of Scotland joining the EU and his comparison of the situation to Kosovo has caused much debate around Europe. (Financial Times page 5)

Gideon Rachman comments in the Financial Times that Scotland can be a “consensual and peaceful” model for how to handle separatism.

Academics For Yes: Sixty academics, including vice-principles of both Aberdeen and Glasgow universities have pledged their support for independence as part of yesterday’s launch of Academics For Yes. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 6)

Nicola Sturgeon: Yesterday, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed that an independent Scotland would be fairer and wealthier, thanks to an end to policies such as the bedroom tax. (Scotsman page 6)

Workforce laws: Scotland’s largest council, Glasgow City Council, which is Labour-controlled, has been criticised by union leaders and opposition politicians for imposing new Westminster workforce laws which were voted against by Labour MPs. (Herald page 1)

Immigration:  More than £4million has reportedly been spent “bribing” failed asylum seekers and immigrants to leave Scotland over the past 5 years. (Mail page 1)

Economy

Pensions: According to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, six out of ten people in Scotland want pensions to continue to be paid from UK taxes and that sharing pensions risk would be worth £200million per year. (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 6, Daily Record page 6, Daily Telegraph page 2, Times page 2, Daily Express page 2, Mail page 2, P&J page 11)

Oil and gas: UK ministers look set to support a new proposal for a Scottish-based oil and gas sector regulator in order to oversee greater cooperation between North Sea investors. (Herald page 2)

Health

Hospital working hours: Ian Ritchie, chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland, has called for an end to the long hours that junior doctors work, following the death of Dr Lauren Connelly after a night shift at Inverclyde Royal Hospital in 2011. (Scotsman page 13, Daily Telegraph page 5, Times page 4)

GP shortage: NHS Ayrshire and Arran has been paying out nearly £50,000 a month to provide locums to the island of Cumbrae which is struggling to find a new GP after the resignation of the previous pair. (Herald page 4)

NHS IT contract: NHS Scotland has signed a contract with IT company Capita which it claims will save the taxpayer nearly £4million a year and will introduce a single shared information network across the public sector. (Herald page 8)

Justice

Sobriety bracelets: Police Scotland has backed the introduction of US-style sobriety bracelets for those serving a community sentence where alcohol is believed to be part of the offence. (Herald page 3)

Education

Marking boycott: In an escalation of its industrial action, the University and College Union has given its members permission to refuse to mark exam papers and assessments if the dispute for higher wages is not resolved in the next two months. This could affect universities across Scotland. (Herald page 7 )