Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 5 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.
Same-sex marriage: MSPs last night passed the Same Sex Marriage Bill at Holyrood by 105 votes to 18; the passing of the new laws enabling the first gay weddings to be held later this year. Protestors, who fear that new laws will undermine marriage and traditional marriage, gathered outside Holyrood to voice concerns, though they were reportedly outnumbered by the hundreds of supporters who gathered to celebrate the change.
An “opt-in” system is to be adopted, meaning that churches that do not want to conduct gay weddings do not have to do so. Scotland becomes the 17th country in the world to legalise gay marriage after yesterday’s vote.
Independence: Chief executive of BP, Bob Dudley, has said that Scottish independence would create “big uncertainties” for BP. Mr Dudley added that there was a “question mark” over future investments in Scotland should the Scottish people vote Yes in September; a result of uncertainty as to which currency an independent Scotland would adopt if Westminster blocked plans for the creation of a shared Sterling-zone, and what taxes would be imposed on firms.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, has warned that Scotland’s trade relationships are being put at risk by SNP plans for independence. Mr. Rennie put forth that independence would create a “border effect” with the rest of the UK that would damage existing trade relationships with other nations. (Scotsman page 4)
Mr. Rennie also announced plans by the party to release a report in the coming weeks examining the further devolution of powers to Holyrood should Scots reject independence. Former party leader Sir Menzies Campbell has been charged with identifying a package of possible measures, though he will also consider alternative proposed systems such as Devo Plus and Devo More. (Herald page 6)
Brian Wilson in the Scotsman argues that a shared Sterling-zone with the rest of the UK would be unfeasible and impractical, and that the lack of an alternative plan is creating uncertainty, as highlighted by BP chief executive Bob Dudley’s comments.
Ian Bell in the Herald comments that the failure of Better Together to unanimously address the issue of what happens should Scots vote No in the referendum is damaging the campaign.
Michael Fry in the FT argues that independence offers the opportunity for Scots people to revive a “proud capitalist tradition” and create a richer nation.
Unite: A leaked internal Labour report has claimed that there is no doubt that the Unite union recruited people into the party to try rig the selection of a candidate for the Westminster constituency of Falkirk. The report, commissioned by Labour’s National Executive Committee, alleges that members of Unite were recruited without their knowledge and signatures were forged. (Scotsman page 1, Telegraph page 4, Courier page 1)
Bedroom Tax: Finance Secretary, John Swinney, has confirmed that the spare room subsidy, or ‘bedroom tax’, will effectively be scrapped in Scotland from April. Mr Swinney pledged an extra £15million to help tenants affected by the tax, effectively cancelling out housing benefit cuts for all 76,000 Scots households affected. (Herald page 6)
Drug policy: Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected Nick Clegg’s call to end the “unwinnable” war on drugs and look at alternatives to tackling the problem. Clegg has pledged to examine how both drug offences and drug offenders are dealt with. (Times page 10)
Government organisation: Allister Heath in the Telegraph comments on the structure and organisation of Westminster, and questions the suitability and experience of ministerial candidates for certain roles within government.
Housing market: New figures released by Registers of Scotland have revealed a 26 percent increase in the number of houses sold in the last three months of 2013. The rise in property transactions is the highest recorded for this particular time of the year since the end of 2007. The increase in the number of houses being sold has coinciding with an increase of 3.1 percent on the average value of Scottish homes. (Herald page 5, Times page 19, Express page 8)
Corroboration: A senior judge is to lead an inquiry into the impact of scrapping the requirement for corroboration in Scots law. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said the group will also examine other areas of the law where changes might be needed. Last night the Law Society responded, saying that the ‘olive branch’ offered by the Scottish Government did not go far enough, while calling for the complete abandoning of the reform. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 7, Times page 8, Telegraph page 12, Express page 10)
Fraud: Experts commissioned for a BBC Scotland investigation have revealed that fraud could be costing the health service in Scotland up to £800million annually. The programme also claims that almost 90 percent of money recorded as fraud last year was never recouped by the NHS, with only 33 people (5 percent of those reported for fraud) convicted. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 4, Express page 15, Mail page 1)
University staffing costs: A report by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has found that universities in Scotland are spending a smaller proportion of their budgets on staffing costs despite seeing their overall income rise to £3billion last year. (Scotsman page 14)