9am Briefing: Mum and two kids in hospital after blaze

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FIREFIGHTERS have again urged people to check their smoke alarms after a mum and two children were taken to hospital following a blaze.

Fire crews were called to the three-storey property in Mowbray Rise, Dedridge, West Lothian, just after 10pm last night. The blaze is believed to have started in a cupboard on the first floor.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said the woman and children, aged 13 and 15, were suffering from shock.

All three were taken by ambulance to St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

The spokeswoman said the household had no working smoke alarm, and had the blaze happened later on in the night when the family were sleeping, “it may have been a different story”.

• THE chances of a “devo max” option being included in Scotland’s independence referendum were boosted today as it emerged a non-party initiative is to be launched to argue the case for more powers for Holyrood.

First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday announced plans to hold the referendum in autumn 2014, but the UK Government continues to insist the Scottish Government does not have the power to stage a referendum.

Today reports said a group of civic leaders, including senior figures in the Scottish voluntary sector, trade union movement, churches and business, were in the final stages of launching a new campaign for devo max. Opinion polls have consistently shown a majority of voters in favour of more powers for the parliament short of independence.

William Hill are now offering 9/1 that Scotland will secure independence by 2020.

• MITT Romney has won the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, a major step toward cementing his position as the party’s choice to run against President Barack Obama in November.

With a sizeable win in New Hampshire on the heels of his narrow victory last week in the Iowa caucuses, Mr Romney has strong momentum going into the crucial - and likely more difficult - South Carolina primary on January 21.

Returns from 69% of the state’s precincts showed Mr Romney with 38% of the vote.

His victory was expected; Mr Romney is the former governor of the neighbouring state of Massachusetts, has a vacation home in New Hampshire and is a frequent visitor to the state.

• CAMPAIGNERS are to ask the Scottish Parliament to block the sale of publicly-owned property to make way for the controversial £300 million Caltongate project in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Members of the Canongate Community Forum say the city council was wrong to approve the sale of land and buildings for £3.4m last month without enough consultation, it was reported today.

Resident Julie Logan said: “The sale of these assets was approved just before Christmas at a time when all of the interested groups did not have the time to put together formal objections. It was agreed without providing any evidence this delivers best value.”

The Caltongate scheme includes a five-star hotel and conference centre, offices, shops, cafes and 165 new homes.

The Cockburn Association also criticised the sale, saying the council was “rushing this through at a very bad time to sell”.

• THE retail sector is at a “crossroads”, industry leaders said as they urged the Scottish Government to ease the cost pressure stores face.

A report by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) warned of the “fragility of retailing” in the current economic climate.

It also stressed the need to “ensure that additional costs are not imposed so as to avoid a net loss in retail jobs”.

SRC chairman Ken MacKenzie said that “with some of the most challenging market conditions for years, Scottish retailing is at a crossroads”.