Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 19 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.
Bonds: The Scottish Government is to be given the power to issue its own bonds on international money markets. Borrowing costs could, however, be higher for Scotland, given that Scotland has no track record in issuing bonds, with Westminster warning that it would “not guarantee” them. The new means of raising finance will be used by the Scottish Government to fund major infrastructure projects such as the building of hospitals and schools. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1)
Currency union: Nicola Sturgeon has predicted that the leader of the No campaign, Alistair Darling, will argue for a currency union following a Yes vote in September, accusing the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties of “campaign tactics” in the run-up to the referendum. Mr Darling last week said that a currency union would make no sense for both Scotland and the UK. (Herald page 6)
The leader of the Yes campaign, Blair Jenkins, has conceded that an independent Scotland may have to look to alternatives to sharing the Sterling with the UK, should Westminster’s parties go forward with plans to block a currency union. Mr Jenkins also admitted that there were both advantages and disadvantages to the informal adoption of the pound. (Scotsman page 6)
Alan Massie in the Scotsman argues that cross-party opposition in Westminster to a currency union is a means of extracting leverage in the event of independence. The process of negotiation, Mr Massie argues, will not be unilateral should Scotland vote Yes in September.
Independence: Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has accused the Scottish Government of failing to provide evidence that it can fund the pensions it has promised under independence, pointing to questions over North Sea oil revenues. Mr Brown has said that a Yes vote in September would mean the loss of the “pooling and sharing” of resources which help pay for state pensions. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 6, Times page 1, Telegraph page 2, Record page 6, Courier page 16, P&J page 13)
A report by polling expert John Curtice has suggested that the majority of voters want a more powerful Scottish parliament. However, the analysis concluded, voters who want Devo Max are still sceptical about voting for complete independence. (Herald page 6, Express page 6, Courier page 16, P&J page 13)
The new Scottish Conservative party chairman Richard Keen, QC, has predicted that a majority No vote in September would lead to a revival of the party as the SNP becomes a “toxic brand” and disintegrates. (Telegraph page 11, Times page 7)
Ian Bell in the Herald comments that irrespective of the outcome of September’s referendum, the nature of the No campaign is bound to leave a bitter legacy in Scotland.
Allister Heath in the Telegraph argues that an SNP-governed independent Scotland could never prosper as a result of a lack of organisation by the SNP, and the effects of their proposed policies.
Lib/Lab coalition: Nick Clegg’s reported attempts to build bridges with Labour ahead of possible coalition negotiations has been dealt a blow after shadow chancellor Ed Balls said that no one in the Labour party wanted to go into a coalition with the Lib Dems. (Herald page 6)
Meanwhile, Mr Clegg’s reported plans to ensure that the party’s 2015 election manifesto is ‘coalition proof’ by ensuring policies are compatible with either Labour or Conservative policies is said to be causing Lib Dem infighting. (Times page 2)
Welfare reform: David Cameron will today insist he is giving unemployed Britons “new hope and responsibility” by cutting benefit payments, while claiming that his welfare reforms are part of a “moral mission” for the country. (Telegraph page 1, David Cameron in the telegraph)
The government’s flagship welfare reform, the Universal Credit scheme, must reportedly start delivering results by the next General Election or risk being curtailed or abandoned altogether. The execution of the scheme has continually been beset by difficulties and rising costs. (FT page 4)
Inflation: Inflation has fallen below the Bank of England’s 2 percent target for the first time in more than four years. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell to 1.9 percent in January, down from 2 percent in December, though wage growth remained at less than half the rate of inflation at 0.9 percent. Economists have forecasted that inflation will remain below 2 percent throughout 2014, raising hopes that wage growth might finally overtake rises in the cost of living. (Scotsman page 1, David Bell in the Scotsman, Terry Murden in the Scotsman, Herald page 26, FT page 2, Times page 4, Telegraph B1, Guardian page 2, Mail page 2, Hamish McRae in the independent)
House prices: House prices in Scotland are rising at a faster rate than most of the UK. Reports by LSL/Acadata Scotland, the Office of National Statistics (ONS), and Strutt and Parker all highlight rising house prices and greater demand from buyers. Experts attribute the high level of sales to the return of the first-time buyer to the market. (Herald page 3, Express page 4)
Unison: The Glasgow City branch of Unison, Scotland’s largest public sector union, has urged members to disaffiliate themselves with the Labour party. Unison has been critical of the Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council’s decision to pioneer the new Westminster 45-day notice period workforce law, which Unison argue makes it easier to sack staff. (Herald page 1)
Private school: The cost of sending a child to a private school in the UK has risen by 24 percent in the past five years, according to research conducted on behalf of Lloyds Bank. (Scotsman page 17)