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Reform Scotland News: 17 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

Scottish Conservative Party conference: In her keynote speech to the Scottish Conservatives in Edinburgh yesterday, leader Ruth Davidson has said that her party would use the powers promised to Holyrood by Westminster to cut tax bills and make major reforms to education and welfare systems, the latter of which she claimed to currently be “amoral”. Ms Davidson also confirmed a plan to recruit an extra 1,000 nurses, financed by the restoration of prescription charges in Scotland. Setting out the party’s agenda for the next Holyrood election in 2016, Ms Davidson praised the efforts of the country’s “everyday grafters”, adding that future prosperity would be based upon a “strong and growing working class.” (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 6, Daily Telegraph page 9, The Times page 2, Financial Times page 4, Daily Express page 17, Daily Mail page 10, Daily Record page 10, The Sun page 2, Press & Journal page 13, The Courier page 17)

Meanwhile, Conservative Cabinet minister Ken Clarke warned in a speech at the conference that the world would take less notice of the UK if Scotland decides to vote for independence, adding that if Scotland left the Union it would have as much influence on the international scene as Malta, one of the smallest member states of the EU. (The Scotsman page 9, The Herald page 6, Daily Telegraph page 9, The Times page 2, Daily Mail page 10, Press & Journal page 12, The Courier page 17)

David Torrance in The Herald discusses the Conservative Party’s reactions to the independence referendum.

Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond has criticised the SNP’s plans for independence, arguing that they pose a threat to the levels of safety and security and the future of defence jobs in Scotland. Speaking at the Scottish Conservative Party conference, Mr Hammond said that the SNP’s defence plans are not credible and that the administration is “deluded”. (The Daily Telegraph page 4, Press & Journal page 12, The Sunday Times page 11)

John McAnally in The Daily Telegraph argues that a vote for independence would “fatally undermine the Armed Forces on both sides of the border”, and would force Britain to abandon its nuclear weapons.

Andrew Marr Show: Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Alex Salmond continued to insist upon a currency share between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK, but added that there are “Plans B, C, D, E and F” if an alternative is needed. Amid growing pressure to clarify other currency options, the First Minister maintained that a formal monetary union is “in the best interests of Scotland and, indeed, the rest of the United Kingdom.” (The Scotsman page 10, The Herald page 7, Press & Journal page 14)

The SNP have accused the BBC of breaching strict impartiality rules and have called the broadcaster to investigate its coverage of Scotland’s EU membership, after presenter Andrew Marr appeared to give a personal opinion on the matter during his interview with First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Guardian page 13, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 1, Daily Mail page 2, Daily Record page 10, The Sun page 2, The Courier page 16)

Lesley Riddoch in The Scotsman comments on the need for the BBC to equally scrutinise both Unionist and Nationalist views on Independence.  

Meanwhile, Ed Balls has said that sharing the pound with an independent Scotland would create the “euro crisis in spades.” Appearing alongside George Osborne yesterday on the Andrew Marr show, Mr Balls added that a currency union would be in the interest of neither country. (The Daily Telegraph page 4, Daily Mail page 2) 

Independence debate: International law expert Professor Alan Boyle, from the University of Edinburgh, has warned that a yes vote for an independent Scotland could throw the 2015 General Election into chaos. In evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee, Professor Boyle spoke of the possibility of an emergency law having to be passed to stop candidates for Scotland’s 59 seats from taking part. (The Herald page 7)

David Cameron has called on former Prime Ministers to help him in the campaign to save the Union, adding that he would be prepared to share a platform with Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Sir John Major. (Daily Express page 17)

Labour MP Jim Murphy will today claim that poorer voters would have the most to lose under independence. Although polls suggest low-earners are more likely to vote Yes, Mr Murphy claimed that many Scottish families would be worse-off if Scotland left the UK. (Daily Record page 11, The Sun page 2)

Brian Monteith writing in The Scotsman argues that the No campaign needs to be more positive in arguing for maintaining the Union.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Stephen Noon, chief strategist of Yes Scotland, argues that the Yes campaign is working, despite negativity from Westminster. (The Sunday Times page 29)

According to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), an independent Scotland’s share of the cost of cleaning radioactive waste from Britain’s nuclear sites could amount to £10billion. (The Sunday Times page 10)

Scottish Labour Party: Ahead of next weekend’s party conference in Perth, party leader Johann Lamont will promise to deliver the “maximum devolution Scotland would want.” In a document that will be published tomorrow, the proposals for a transfer of powers to Holyrood will include plans to give MSPs the ability to vary the rate of income tax by about 15p, making the Scottish parliament responsible for at least 40% of what it spends. (The Herald page 6, The Guardian page 13, The Times page 6, Daily Express page 17, Daily Mail page 7, The Sun page 2, The Sunday Times page 1)

Gillian Bowditch in The Sunday Times interviews Johann Lamont and comments that despite the Labour leader’s “iron will” and strong local government election results, she must keep working to make an impact on the public conscious. (The Sunday Times page 5)

Ian Davidson writing in The Sunday Times argues that the Labour Party needs to adopt a “new outlook and fresh goals” for a better future. (The Sunday Times page 29)

Budget: On the eve of George’s Osborne’s fifth Budget, the Chancellor is reportedly set to “build for Britain” by announcing a £6billion cash injection to build 120,000 homes by 2020 to help first-time buyers. The proposals will mean the Scottish Government will receive several hundred million pounds over the period under the Barnett spending formula. Elsewhere, the Chancellor is tipped to increase the personal tax allowance by £500 to £10,500, while rejecting Conservative pleas to stop more middle-income earners being included within the 40p tax band. (The Herald page 6, The Guardian page 23, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Independent page 12, The Financial Times page 2, Daily Express page 2, Daily Mail pages 1, 6&7, Press & Journal page 16, The Courier page 15)

George Osborne has come under criticism, however, from some Conservative MPs after he apparently said that people, who earn over £42,000 and have to pay the 40% income tax rate, feel “successful” and that they have “joined the aspirational classes.” (The Daily Telegraph page 9)

Bill Walker: The disgraced former MSP Bill Walker is to be released from jail this week having served only half of his twelve-month sentence for domestic battery over a thirty-year period. (Daily Express page 11, Daily Record page 13, The Courier page 14)

Economy

Bank of England: Mark Carney will this week announce plans to modernise the central bank with sweeping new powers, which include signalling that he will allocate more resources to the bank’s forecasting after its failure to predict quicker than expected falls in unemployment. (The Financial Times page 2)

Education

Curriculum for Excellence: Roderic Gillespie, the head of Scotland’s new exam system, has left his post, just weeks before the first National Five exam will be taken by fourth-year pupils across the country on April 29th. (Daily Record page 1)