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Reform Scotland News: 24 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

North Sea oil: David Cameron will today reportedly warn that billions of pounds worth of North Sea oil and gas revenues will be at risk if Scotland votes for independence. At a meeting in Aberdeen attended by most of the Westminster Cabinet, the coalition government will promise a £200 billion boom over the next two decades if Scotland remains as part of the UK. Mr Cameron will warn that while a united Britain would be able to support investment in the oil and gas industry, Scotland’s finances would be vulnerable to market volatility if it was to become an independent state and Scots could see their fuel bills rocket as a result. First Minister Alex Salmond, however, accused the Westminster government of squandering oil revenues and criticised Mr Cameron’s continued refusal for a head-to-head debate on independence. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, Guardian page 4, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 1, Financial Times page 4, Daily Mail page 4, Daily Express page 17, The Sun page 2, Daily Record page 13, The Courier page 15, Press & Journal pages 1-5)

As the UK Cabinet crosses the border for only the third time in its history, Lesley Riddoch writing in The Scotsman considers the risks at stake for David Cameron. She argues that the visit may further weaken the Prime Minister’s objections to a televised debate on independence, as he appears to want to upstage the First Minister rather than engage with him. She also questions the response of Aberdeen’s strong Labour and SNP presence over Cameron’s “fleeting trip”.

In The Daily Telegraph, Alan Cochrane criticises the “hysterical” response of the nationalist campaign to the Cabinet’s meeting in Aberdeen today.

David Torrance in The Herald describes the significance of previous government meetings in Scotland and argues that, although politicians today operate very much in the here and now, the “hand of history” will play a decisive role in determining the coalition’s use of language, argument and their chances of success.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Allan Massie assesses the potential strength of David Cameron’s practical case for the Union, highlighting the influence of the Prime Minister’s “valuable Scottish ally”, Sir Ian Wood at the Cabinet meeting in Aberdeen today.

Independence referendum: A recent poll of 1,004 Scots by ICM for The Scotsman has revealed that support for independence has stalled slightly, with 37% of respondents backing the Yes campaign, 49% wanting to remain in the Union and 14% yet to decide.  In response to the ICM poll, however, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael maintained that the narrowing results should serve as a reminder that the outcome of the Referendum should not be taken for granted. (The Scotsman page 5, The Herald page 6, The Daily Telegraph page 7, The Times page 15, Daily Express page 2, Daily Record page 13)

In an attempt to dilute nationalist support, Labour, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats are reportedly to promise Scotland greater tax powers if they stay in the UK. The proposals would make MSPs responsible for at least 50% of the parliament’s £35billion budget. (Daily Express page 2, The Sunday Times page 1)

Sir Tom Hunter has emphasised the need for a “Plan B” on the currency, claiming that Alex Salmond’s assurances over the currency of an independent Scotland are “utterly disingenuous”. Meanwhile, Ed Miliband has said a currency union would “simply not be possible” if Scotland was to leave the UK while he was Prime Minister. (The Daily Telegraph page 7, Daily Record page 13, The Sunday Times pages 7 & 25)

Two-thirds of the FTSE 100 chairmen, who participated in Korn Ferry’s survey on the possible impact of independence, believe it would be bad for British businesses, with some warning it would dilute the UK’s European and international economic influence. (The Financial Times page 4)

Ewen MacAskill writing in the Guardian suggests that it is in the “long-neglected and poverty-stricken” housing estates of Glasgow that the future of Scotland will be decided. As some parts of the city’s east-end have some of the worst levels of child poverty, health and crime in Europe, the author claims that an increasing disenchantment with the union, and particularly the policies of the Labour Party, has resulted in a surge of support for independence in these areas.

Magnus Linklater in The Times argues that the recent “scare tactics” of George Osborne and Jose Manuel Barroso will not persuade Scots to remain in the UK and that David Cameron must now continue to emphasise the importance of Scotland rather than undermine its ability to run things on their own. (The Times page 24)

Pat Kane in The Sunday Times outlines his reasons for supporting the Yes vote, arguing that Scotland is “small enough and sophisticated enough” to respond to the demands of the 21st century and has the ability to successfully manoeuvre its way around education, energy and science challenges that it may face in the future. (The Sunday Times page 7)

Smoking in cars: In legislation proposed by Scottish Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Jim Hume, the Scottish Government has opened the door to a new law that would ban smoking in cars with children as passengers. (Daily Express page 24)

Education

College drop-outs: The drop-out rates for students from the most deprived backgrounds have fallen in Scotland, according to figures released by the Scottish Funding Council. Three-quarters of students from the 20% most deprived postcodes stayed at college last year, an improvement of 9% since 2006/ 2007. (The Herald page 7)

Primary school behaviour: Data released under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that almost 1,400 “monitoring forms” have been filed by teachers across Scotland since 2011, which has seen many playground squabbles being recorded as hate crime. (Daily Express page 1)

Justice

Reported rape crime: New figures have revealed that almost 1,300 rape crimes were reported to the police between April and December 2013, nearly as many as in the whole of the previous year. Although this is a historic surge in reports, Rape Crisis Scotland argues that the toll still does not illustrate the true extent of rape in Scotland. (The Herald page 1)

Criminal Justice Bill: Andrew Nicoll in The Sun discusses this week’s vote on the Criminal Justice Bill, which could see the abolishment of corroboration and the destruction of “one of the main pillars of our justice system.” (The Sun page 8)

Crime figures: Allegations that under-pressure police officers are “down-grading” crime statistics to help meet targets should be investigated, according to Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes. Official crime figures for last year showed crime was down by 13%, the lowest level in forty years. (Daily Express page 17)

Police morale: Unison has claimed a snapshot survey of 1,300 Police Scotland staff found that 86% felt undervalued, with 64% reporting an increase in their workload. (The Sunday Times page 13)