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Reform Scotland News: 6 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

Independence debate: Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to make a series of speeches around Scotland emphasising the importance of the Union, starting with a major speech in Glasgow early next week. (Herald page 1)

In their annual report, under the heading Risk Management, Lloyds Banking Group has said that Scottish independence could have a “material impact” on its business. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 1, Telegraph page 1, Times page 1, Daily Express page 2, Daily record page 8, Press and Journal page 12, Courier page 16)

Dr Angus Armstrong of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has warned that Alex Salmond’s plan to enter a currency union with the rest of the UK would not be in the best interests of anybody outside Scotland, and that the risks of such a policy would outweigh the advantages highlighted by the SNP. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 5, Telegraph page 9, Daily Record page 8)

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has written to the Scottish Government’s fiscal commission to look into alternative options to an independent Scotland’s use of the pound. (Scotsman page 5, Sun page 2)

 

Bees: Beehives have been installed in the garden of the parliament at Holyrood, in what is the first effort of its kind by a UK legislature to help support the declining honey bee population. (Herald page 1, Scotsman page 2)

 

Unite: The union Unite, the Labour Party’s biggest affiliate, is to reduce funding to the party by £1.5 million. The move, which will effectively cut their funding to Labour in half, comes as changes are made to the party’s links with trade unions. (Herald page 5, Scotsman page 6, Telegraph page 4, Daily Record page 9, Sun page 2, Guardian page 2)

 

Free childcare: The Institute for Fiscal Studies has cast doubt on the SNP’s plans for universal free childcare after Scottish independence. The think tank argued that there is little evidence to suggest that such a policy would, as the SNP is claiming, encourage tens of thousands of women to get back into work. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 5, Times page 4)

 

European elections: Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage are to go head-to-head in two broadcast debates on the European Union in the run-up to the May 22nd elections to the European Parliament. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 10, Telegraph page 4, Financial Times page 4, Daily Express page 5, Courier page 22)

 

Immigration: Following reports that Downing Street is withholding a government paper about the impact of immigration on the UK economy, demand is intensifying for its immediate publication. Reports suggest that the actual impact of non-EU immigration on employment is vastly different from what has recently been cited by the government. (Scotsman page 10, Financial Times page 4, Daily Mail page 2)

Iain MacWhirter comments in the Herald that the UK Government likes to think that the British public is anti-immigration. He argues that we would probably realise that immigrants aren’t swamping our culture or taking our jobs if the government would stop telling us incessantly that they were.

 

Economy

Pensions: At a pensions conference in Edinburgh yesterday, Larry Fink, Chief Executive of investment giant BlackRock, has said that the UK Government should make saving for retirement compulsory. (Herald page 3)

 

Savings: A survey by Scottish Widows has found that savings set aside by people in Scotland have dropped 6% in the last year, with one in five having no cash in reserve in 2013. Family pressures were cited as the biggest obstacle to saving. (Herald page 10, Scotsman page 11, Daily Mail page 19, Courier page 25)

 

Hydroelectricity: £1.9 million of funding has been secured for Scotland’s first community owned hydro scheme on Forestry Commission land. The low-carbon project, which will be built in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, aims to generate 1,300,000 kW hours of energy per year – enough to power 300 homes. (Herald page 10)

 

Public debt: Professor Jo Armstrong, of the centre for Public Policy and Regions, and Paul Johnson, of the Institute for Fiscal Studies have reportedly both told Holyrood’s Economy Committee that reneging on its share of the UK National Debt would bring “significant benefit” to an independent Scotland. (Daily Express page 2, Daily record page 8, Sun page 2, Courier page 17)

 

Education

Glass ceiling: The Scottish Government has been criticised over a gender imbalance in public bodies after it was revealed that only two women were chosen to lead the nation’s 12 new college regions. (Herald page 1)

 

Transport

Road safety: Helen McArdle comments in the Herald that latest round of Scottish transport statistics show that Scotland’s roads are pretty safe, but that a lot depends on the difference between the deadliest roads and the most dangerous roads so the statistics should be interpreted accordingly.

 

Health

GP recruitment: Doctors have warned that a recruitment crisis is threatening GP services in Scotland. Concerns submitted to the British Medical Association suggest that it is becoming increasingly difficult to fill vacancies, and as a result, the workload shouldered by GPs is “unsustainable”. (Herald page 3, Daily Mail page 6)

 

Access to records: Under new targets for the Scottish Government’s Vision for Health and Social Care, patients are to be given online access to their own health records by 2020. (Herald page 11)

 

Local government

Graeme Hendry: SNP group leader on Glasgow City Council, Graeme Hendry, is to step down at his group’s AGM in a fortnight. (Herald page 6)

 

Future of Pensions in Scotland

There are still some places available for our free event ‘The Future of Pensions in Scotland’ which we are running with Pinsent Masons.  It will take place at 2pm on Thursday 13th March and promises to be an interesting discussion with the UK Pensions Minister, Steve Webb MP, and other leading politicians. Please email Alison.Payne@reformscotland.com for full details, or to reserve a place.