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.
Leaders’ debate: Nicola Sturgeon gave a clear hint during last night’s televised debate that a second independence referendum could follow next year’s Holyrood election. During a clash with Labour leader Jim Murphy, she stated that the decision would be “in the hands of the Scottish people”. The prospect of a governing deal between Labour and the SNP was openly courted by the First Minister last night claiming she would “keep Labour honest”, Jim Murphy replied that “we don’t need your help Nicola”. (The Herald page 1, The Scotsman page 1, The Times page 1, Financial Times page 1, The National page 2, Daily Record page 10, The Sun page 10, The Telegraph page 1, The Guardian page 6, Scottish Daily Mail page 1,Press and Journal page 10,The Courier page 16)
Daniel Sanderson in The Herald notes that in contrast to last week’s televised debate, in which Nicola Sturgeon was able to present herself as anti-establishment to great effect; last night saw the audience put all of the leaders in a difficult position. However, the debate also saw the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems joining forces to attack the SNP who have become “the establishment in Scotland”.
John Curtice in The Scotsman notes that Jim Murphy and Nicola Sturgeon were very much centre-stage during the debate with Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie somewhat sidelined. Ms Sturgeon’s attempts to appear more progressive than Labour were slightly dented by her struggle to explain “why another independence referendum was not ruled out for a generation after all”.
Magnus Linklater in The Times claims that last night’s debate was expected to be an arena in which Nicola’s Sturgeon’s “free hit” against the UK party leaders would be reversed, with her policies on tax, spending and borrowing “eviscerated”. However, he claims it was Andrew, a member of the audience, who put Sturgeon on the back foot rather than any of the other party leaders.
Alan Cochrane in The Telegraph states that last night’s debate showed Nicola Sturgeon’s “true colours”, after repeated pressure during the debate, she refused to confirm that Alex Salmond’s pledge of a “once in a lifetime” referendum would be upheld.
Jenny Hjul in The Courier suggests that questions should be asked of Nicola Sturgeon relating to the leaked memo.
Smith Commission: George Osborne has stated that if the Tories return to government, there will be no extra welfare powers devolved to Holyrood. Mr Osborne stated that the task of implementing the proposals put forward by the Smith Commission would require a lot of work, he noted that “rather than moving on to the next thing, let’s focus on the big job in hand”. (The Herald page 6)
Non-doms: Ed Miliband will announce an attack on the super rich with a plan to scrap the “non-dom” tax status, claiming that the archaic rule was a symbol of a system that does not expect everyone to “play by the same rules”. George Osborne has hit out at Labour’s plans claiming that “hundreds of millions of pounds” would be lost to the exchequer. (The Scotsman page 6, The Times page 2, Financial Times page 1, The Guardian page 1)
Tony Blair: The former Prime Minister has spoken in support of Labour’s campaign and has attacked the idea of a second Scottish independence referendum stating that the case for Scotland leaving the UK “had collapsed along with the oil price”. He noted that planned Tory spending cuts would be dwarfed by those that would be required to keep Scotland afloat. Tory ministers were quick to claim that Mr Blair’s contribution had put Ed Miliband “in the shade” while Mr Miliband’s aides praised a “helpful, brilliant contribution”. Labour veteran Tam Dalyell suggested that Tony Blair is to blame for “letting the Nationalist genie out of the bottle”. (The Herald page 6, The Scotsman page 8, The Times page 7, Financial Times page 2 Scottish Daily Express page 1, The Sun page 2, Daily Telegraph page 6, Scottish Daily Mail page 8, Press and Journal page 12)
Ian Bell in The Herald suggests that Tony Blair’s input to the Labour campaign is not helpful as he represents everything about the party that is causing them problems in Scotland today. He claims it is no coincidence that as Blair has re-emerged, Mr Miliband has “gone to ground” – Mr Miliband does not want to be seen to align himself with the policies of New Labour.
Election priorities: A poll by Ipsos Mori has shown that a higher minimum wage and assurances that pensions will rise are the top General Election priorities for Scottish voters. (The National page 3, The Sun page 8, Scottish Daily Mail page 7, Press and Journal page 10)
David Cameron: David Cameron has claimed he “abhors” the leaking of an official memo that claims Nicola Sturgeon would prefer him to remain in Downing Street, claiming the leak was unacceptable and he was determined to “get to the bottom of it”. (The Herald page 6, The Times page 7, The Sun page 8, Press and Journal page 13, The Courier page 15)
BBC abuse: BBC Scotland has issued an unprecedented plea for “restraint” after journalists covering the election were subjected to social media abuse. (The Herald page 7)
Pensions: Financial firms suggest that pension savers are resisting the urge to make a “mad rush” for their savings after new flexibilities came into force allowing pensioners access to the complete value of their savings. (The Herald page 8, The Scotsman page 13, The Courier page 19)
Hospital petition: 1,000 people have signed an online petition protesting against Scottish Government approval for NHS Highland to build a £15million new hospital on Skye. Protestors have requested an independent scrutiny panel to examine proposals, however, a Scottish Government spokesman said there was a “compelling case” for Skye as a hospital site. (The Herald page 4)
A&E waiting times: There has been an improvement in waiting times in A&E departments in Scotland since January. In the last week, 91.3% of patients were seen within 4 hours, however, this is still short of the Government’s target of 95%. (The Herald page 10, The Scotsman page 9, Scottish Daily Express page 2, Scottish Daily Record page 14)
NHS consultants: Despite SNP promises to lower spending, the NHS is paying £40 million a year in bonuses to consultants. (Scottish Daily Express page 16, Daily Record page 14)
Henry McLeish: Former First Minister Henry McLeish has come under renewed pressure over his leadership of a powerful colleges body as another member quit blaming poor governance. Barclay McCrindle, president of the Glasgow Clyde College Student Association, said that students were being “badly let down” by Mr McLeish. (The Herald page 9)