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Reform Scotland News: 13 March 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

EU referendum debate: Ed Miliband has announced that a future Labour Government is “unlikely” to stage a referendum on EU membership. His comments have drawn criticisms for not making a commitment either way and accusations from David Cameron of making “no sense whatsoever”. (Scotsman page 16, Telegraph page 4, Herald page 8, Times page 14, Daily Express page 1, Daily Record page 2, Sun page 2, Guardian page 7, Daily mail page 10, Courier page 19)

Peter Oborne comments in the Telegraph that only the Conservatives now offer a realistic chance of letting the people of the UK have a say on whether or not Britain remains part of the EU, and that Labour’s newly revealed stance on the Europe will please UKIP and the Tories, but have a damaging affect on Labour themselves.

Iain MacWhirter, however, comments in the Herald that Labour’s new improved stance on Europe, which is to “look both ways” and not rule out a referendum, means that the UK is on a single-track exit route out of the EU, because a “maybe” can very easily become a “definitely” when it comes to commitment to a referendum.

 

Independence referendum debate: David Omand, ex-director of GCHQ, has warned that an independent Scotland will be less secure and more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. He also warned that the SNP’s plans to remove Trident would cast a shadow over relations with the US, and undermine Scotland’s relationship with NATO. (Telegraph page 1)

In the Herald, Catherine MacLeod cites the Scottish Parliament’s unused tax-raising powers as evidence that it is not the lack of political power that is the problem in Scotland, but a lack of political will and imagination. She also comments that, if a currency union is achieved, an independent Scotland would actually be less independent than they are at present, so there is no real point in voting Yes.

Allan Massie comments in the Telegraph that the issue of distinctiveness will become increasingly important as the referendum date draws nearer. He notes that Scotland and England are actually less different now than ever before, and that the rise in Scottish nationalism is perhaps a protest against that sort of assimilation, rather than an intrinsic desire for policies that better represent people North of the border.

 

Local authorities: David O’Neill, President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, has launched an attack on local authorities who have threatened to quit the representative body, warning them of the repercussions of “spitting the dummy out”. (Herald page 4)

 

Games campsites: Plans to create campsites in two sports fields in Glasgow that would accommodate 1000 visitors to the city during the Commonwealth Games this summer are to be scrutinised following complaints from nearby residents that they have not been informed properly about the plans. (Herald page 7)

 

Fracking: A new report by wildlife and nature groups, including RSPB and the Wildlife Trust, suggests that the UK is not ready to begin exploration for shale gas because there is not yet sufficient regulation to ensure that the process would not have a serious impact on the environment. (Scotsman page 3)

 

Economics

Scottish economy: The Scottish Government’s annual balance sheet, published yesterday, reveals that Scotland has a deficit of £12billon, 8.3% of GDP, which is larger than the UK’s deficit of 7.3%. Figures also show that there has been a dramatic fall in revenue from North Sea oil, which has dropped 41.5% from £11.3bn to £6.6bn in the last year. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 1, Telegraph page 1, Times page 1, FT page 3, Daily Express page 1, Daily Record page 8, Sun page 2, Guardian page 14, Daily mail page 6, Press and Journal page 12, Courier page 18)

 

Currency: Billionaire investor George Soros has warned that it would not be “actually practical” for Scotland to keep the pound if it became independent, and that if there were to be a Yes vote in the referendum, retaining sterling would be an obstruction to the success of the new country. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 5, Telegraph page 4, Times page 2, Daily Express page 1, Courier page 18)

 

Retail/hospitality jobs: Concerns have been raised over the potential loss of thousands of jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors in Scotland because businesses are failing to comply with recent legislation. (Herald page 1)

 

Education

Tuition fees: Universities across Scotland are calling for ‘legal certainty’ on whether they would be able to continue charging tuition fees to students from the rest of the UK. The Scottish Government insists that higher education institutions in Scotland could continue to charge these students fees of up to £9000, while the EU’s governing body has said that this could be regarded as a form of illegal discrimination. (Herald page 1)

 

Female students: The Scottish Conservative and Labour parties have pressed the SNP over a fall in the number of women studying at Colleges in Scotland, highlighting the fact that the figures are now lower than when the party came to power. (Scotsman, page 9)