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Reform Scotland News: 31 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

Currency debate: Further disagreements have erupted between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster over currency, following reports from an unnamed UK minister that Scotland would be allowed to share the pound in the event of a vote for independence. According to Alex Salmond, the claims have caused the No campaign a “demolition blow”. Meanwhile, several senior UK politicians insisted that a currency union would not be possible and Downing Street confirmed that they were investigating the identity of the anonymous minister. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Times page 1, Financial Times page 2, Daily Telegraph page 1, The Guardian page 6, The Independent page 3, Daily Mail page 5, Press & Journal page 12, The Courier page 15)  

Alex Salmond has ruled out using Trident as a bargaining tool in any negotiations over currency, maintaining that opposition to nuclear weapons “is not a campaign tactic or a negotiating position – it is one of the reasons for Scotland being independent.” (The Herald page 1, Daily Telegraph page 7, Daily Record page 2)

Better Together: Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael yesterday warned that Scotland could vote for independence because of the complacency among the campaign to save the Union. He added it was “not impossible” for the nationalists to soon override the pro-union lead in opinion polls and called for the Better Together campaign to match the zeal of pro-independence supporters. (Daily Express page 5, Daily Mail page 4

Meanwhile, Labour environment spokesman Thomas Docherty criticised Scottish Labour politicians for “not pulling their weight” in the fight against independence. (The Sunday Times page 1)

John McLellan in The Sunday Times urges the Better Together campaign to show more emotion in an attempt to “grab voters from Yes camp’s clutches”. (The Sunday Times page 23)

Alan Cochrane in The Daily Telegraph writes that the difficult few days for the pro-Union campaign may be the vital wake up call the campaign needs and argues that Alistair Darling should not be replaced, but should be put in sole charge of the entire operation. 

Lesley Riddoch in The Scotsman considers the top-down approach of the Better Together campaign, suggesting that it is out of touch with grass roots opinion.

Independence referendum: In research carried out by Ingenious Britain, almost half of smaller Scottish companies thought that independence would be bad for business. Uncertainty over taxes, regulation and Scotland’s place in the EU were cited as the main causes of concern. Out of the 1,000 businesses surveyed, 48% believed a Yes vote would have a negative impact on their firm, while 37% said leaving the UK would be a positive move. (The Scotsman page 1, The Times page 7, Daily Telegraph page 7, Daily Express page 5, Daily Record page 2, Press & Journal page 13, The Courier page 15)

John Collingridge in The Sunday Times looks at the possible risk of independence for Scotland’s shipyards and suggests that a Yes vote, coupled with a reduced Royal Navy, could see the end of a long tradition. (The Sunday Times page 8)

The Dowager Duchess of Hamilton has come out in support of the Yes campaign, suggesting that Scotland could become “a better, fairer and more compassionate nation as an independent country.” Simon Cowell, on the other hand, has urged Scots not to vote to leave the UK later this year. (The Scotsman page 4, The Times page 7, Daily Express page 5, Daily Mail page 4, Press & Journal page 12)

David Torrance in The Herald comments that the fate of Scotland will not rest on size, but also on luck.

Nicola Sturgeon has pressed Labour to clarify its plans to hand more powers to the Scottish Parliament after a No vote in September’s referendum. In a letter dismissed by Labour, the Deputy First Minister criticised the Party’s proposals, published earlier this month, as “seriously misleading”. (The Scotsman page 5)

Brian Monteith writing in The Scotsman argues that compared to the proposals outlined by the SNP and Labour, the Conservative plans to cut tax could make devolution plus more appealing.

Liberal Democrat Scottish conference: George Lyon, the Liberal Democrat’s lead candidate in Scotland in the upcoming European elections, has argued that his is the only party that can give the public a voice in EU affairs. (The Herald page 6, Press & Journal page 15, The Courier page 14)

Economy

Construction: The Scottish Construction Monitor has found that more than half of construction firms are more positive about their prospects in the coming year, the highest level of confidence since the economic crash of 2008. (The Scotsman page 6)

Health

Nursing vacancies: Statistics from ISD Scotland have revealed that hundreds of nursing and midwifery posts have been vacant for more than three months. The figures, obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, have raised fears about patient welfare and concerns that current staff are under additional pressure. (The Herald page 7, Daily Express page 1)

Justice

Stop-and-search: Stop-and-search powers are to be revised in the Scottish parliament, after figures revealed that police in Scotland carried out four times more checks than their English counterparts between April and December last year. (The Times page 8)