Pick of the Press: The Herald

The Herald newspaper is behind prestigious student press awards. It is also behind the Scottish Politician of the Year, which have been sometimes known to be more fiery affairs. And today, the shortlist for this year's awards is unveiled, with eight titles up for grabs, including the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year, with MSPs, Derek Brownlee, Patrick Harvie, Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney, the contenders.

It's a big paper, The Herald's broadsheet dimensions, and the extensive coverage given to the categories takes up almost all of page seven.

Greeting readers on page three is a stunning photograph of Himalayan mountain, Ama Dablan. Once described – by Sir Edmund Hillary, no less – as unclimbable, a 16 year-old Scot has done just; congratulations to schoolboy, Calum Macintyre.

Of course, Friday is the day after First Minister's Questions, at the Scottish Parliament. And sketch writer, Ian Bell, doesn't disappoint (but then, he never does). He asks: How many tunes can a one-man band play, of Alex Salmond. He writes: “There was some oomp and even some pah, but also the sense that the First Minister was slightly off-key.”

Two other fine writers grace the paper with columns on, respectively, supermarket shopping and Afghanistan – that's variety for you: the former by Robert McNeil, recently of The Scotsman parish; the latter by David Pratt. 

MPs, Nick Clegg and Paul Flynn, question why British troops are in Afghanistan and Pratt wonders to what extent they know what it is really like living under the Taliban “and their al Queda guests”. He writes: “I do not accept that our defining moment has yet come in Afghanistan, allowing us to desert its citizens or abandon our mission there. On the contrary, this is precisely the moment when we are needed most.”

The paper splashes, meantime, with news that the most expensive place to live in Scotland – as far as house prices are concerned – is East Renfrewshire. It means, as the accompanying headline says: 'Property: West Now Topes East Prices'. According to new figures, a whopping £17,800 has been wiped off the value of the average house in what had been the most expensive location: Edinburgh.

Under an 'exclusive' tag on page 10, chief reporter, Lucy Adams, writes about “a radical pilot scheme that uses ex-offenders to rehabilitate prisoners” resulting in almost three times as many inmates as normal entering work or training on their release.

But she's not finished there. Two pages on, under another 'exclusive' tag, she reports a call from the HM Inspector of Constabularies that Scotland's police forces either work more closely together or even amalgamate.