Greyfriars Kirk to mark 400 years on Christmas Day

As well as a special service, a time capsule will also be filled to commemorate this year for future generations.

Church of Scotland: Greyfriars Kirk will mark 400 years on Christmas Day. Church of Scotland via Email
Church of Scotland: Greyfriars Kirk will mark 400 years on Christmas Day.

An Edinburgh church known around the world for Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal terrier who guarded his master’s grave for 14 years, will celebrate its 400th anniversary on Christmas Day.

Greyfriars Kirk, which is also famous for its association with the Covenanters, church radicals of the 17th century, will hold a special service on December 25 and also create a time capsule commemorating this year for future generations.

Rev. Dr Richard Frazer, who has been the minister of Greyfriars since 2003, said: “Compared to the immensity of ‘deep time’, a phrase coined by the geologist James Hutton, 400 years is the mere blinking of an eye. Hutton is one of the many enlightenment figures associated with Greyfriars Kirk and his memorial is in the graveyard.

“That being said, these last 400 years have seen the world transformed more radically than any period during human history.


“The reformers who founded Greyfriars were deeply committed to universal education, especially for those whose lives were blighted by poverty.

“To this day our congregation continues the tradition of anti-poverty advocacy through our partnership with the Grassmarket Community Project and our commitment to issues around social justice.”

Church of Scotland via Email
Greyfriars Kirk: A service before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Current parishioner Mrs Heather Jack first starting attending Greyfriars as a young child in the 1940s when her father, Rev. Duncan Strang, became the minister of the church. He had served in the First World War with the 9th Seaforth Highlanders.

Recalling her early memories of attending services there, she said: “There is no doubt the stress of battle had left my father with impaired health, despite which he retained amazing stamina for the Sunday morning route march across the Middle Meadow Walk to the kirk. Meanwhile the family car, an elderly Morris, was furloughed in the manse garage.  


“For this he was always formally attired in full morning dress, with top hat which he would doff to parishioners as he rapidly overtook them.

“Hats for women attending church were de rigueur. 

“For all the years we lived in the parish, I remember the interior of Greyfriars was furnished with traditional pews: no flexibility to rearrange them for special services which are an interesting feature of our congregational worship nowadays.  

“In the immediate post-war period there were continuing shortages and restrictions which lasted for many months after the war was over. Attendances were large at the kirk, and our father had two assistants to help in worship and pastoral care.”

Church of Scotland via Email
Edinburgh: A time capsule will be filled for future generations.

The time capsule is being made in the workshop of the Grassmarket Community Project and will include items relevant to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as messages addressed to the future congregation.

These have been written by well-wishers such as Rt Rev. Dr Fair, the moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland; Frank Ross, the lord provost of Edinburgh; and current members of the church.

Neighbouring organisations from the southside of the city including ecumenical partners, other faith groups, the National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh University have also been invited to contribute.


The congregation had organised an ambitious programme of events throughout 2020 including a festival of science and faith featuring speakers such as Professor Dame Sue Black, but were unable to hold them due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The festival has now been rescheduled for October 2021 to be themed around the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and is being supported by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Church of Scotland’s Society, Religion and Technology project.

Greyfriars continues to serve its neighbours through the Grassmarket Community Project, a social enterprise that provides a vital lifeline to those experiencing issues around addiction, poverty, homelessness and mental health.

Gillian Couper, who is both a member of the congregation and a project manager there, spoke of her hopes for the future.

She said: “Over the years 17 congregations have united to become the present kirk, the rich and diverse history of these provide inspiration for us today.

“Greyfriars is a place for hospitality and friendship, with a passion for social enterprise and community action.

“I hope that we can continue to work alongside many different groups to help ensure the local community continues to provide a welcome and somewhere everyone can belong.”

Volunteers will be livestreaming the kirk service for the first time on the Greyfriars Facebook page this Christmas Day at 10.30am.

Sturgeon: I had no reason to want to ‘get’ Salmond

Scottish Tories repeat their call for the First Minister to resign following eight-hour evidence session.

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Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have differing versions of events.

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she had no reason to conspire against her predecessor Alex Salmond.

The First Minister rejected the “absurd” suggestion there was a plot against Salmond as she gave evidence to a Holyrood inquiry.

She said: “I would never have wanted to ‘get’ Alex Salmond – I would never, ever have wanted any of this to happen. I had no motive, intention or desire to ‘get’ Alex Salmond.”

Sturgeon told MSPs on the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints that the details of complaints against Salmond were “shocking” and his behaviour “was not always appropriate”.


She said Salmond’s account to her of his “deeply inappropriate behaviour” is a “moment in my life that I will never forget”, as she maintained she did not intervene in the Scottish Government’s investigation into her predecessor as First Minister.

Sturgeon apologised to the public and the women who submitted sexual harassment complaints about Salmond, saying there had been “a very serious mistake” in the Scottish Government’s investigation.

The inquiry into Salmond was launched after a number of women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment.

But a successful judicial review by Salmond resulted in the government investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, resulting in a £512,250 legal fee payout.


He was later acquitted of 13 charges following a criminal trial and Sturgeon told MSPs on Wednesday the idea that those involved were “concocting” allegations was false, and they came forward of “their own free will”.

She said it was “absolutely right” the Scottish Government investigated the complaints, saying an “individual’s profile, status or connections should not result in complaints of this nature being ignored or swept under the carpet”.

She said “two women were failed and taxpayers’ money was lost, I deeply regret that”.

She added: “Although I was not aware of the error at the time, I am the head of the Scottish Government so I want to take this opportunity to say sorry to the two women involved and to the wider public.”

Sturgeon said what happened was “simple”, adding: “A number of women made complaints against Alex Salmond. The government, despite the mistake it undoubtedly made, tried to do the right thing.

“As First Minister I refused to follow the age-old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants.”

Addressing Salmond’s committee evidence on Friday, Sturgeon said: “That he was acquitted by a jury of criminal conduct is beyond question. But I know, just from what he told me, that his behaviour was not always appropriate.


“And yet across six hours of testimony, there was not a single word of regret, reflection or a simple acknowledgment of that. I can only hope in private the reality might be different.”

The First Minister had originally claimed she first became aware of the Scottish Government investigation into Salmond on April 2, 2018, before later admitting to a March 29 meeting with his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein.

She said that at the March 29 meeting, Mr Aberdein “did indicate a harassment-type issue had arisen, but my recollection is he did so in general terms”.

She told the committee she wishes her memory of the meeting on March 29 was “more vivid”, but “it was the detail of the complaints under the procedure that I was given on April 2 that was significant and indeed shocking”.

Describing the April 2 meeting in her home with Salmond, she said while he denied the complaints against him he gave his account of the incident which “he said he had apologised for at the time”.

Sturgeon told MSPs: “What he described constituted in my view deeply inappropriate behaviour on his part, perhaps a reason why that moment is embedded so strongly in my mind.”

She said she did not “immediately record the April 2 meeting” as she did not want it to become public and risk “breaching the confidentiality of the process”.

She added she had no intention of intervening in the investigation process and did not intervene, saying to do so would have been an abuse of her role.

Addressing the judicial review, Sturgeon said there was strong prospects of defending the challenge and as late as December 11, 2018, the advice given was it was “very clear there was no need to drop the case”.

She said she followed the advice of law officers so did not breach the ministerial code, as has been claimed.

Labour’s Jackie Ballie questioned Sturgeon over “missing” documents from the Scottish Government’s legal advice given to the committee at the “11th hour”, with convener Linda Fabiani saying the committee shares Baillie’s “frustration” on this.

Sturgeon stressed she had always acted “properly and appropriately” and there was “no intention” by the Scottish Government to withhold information from the committee.

She added: “While the government made mistakes… there is nothing here that the government has to hide.”

She said her government’s complaints procedure is “lawful” but there was an error in the appointment of the investigating officer, who had prior contact with the two women who complained.

The First Minister was also questioned about a claim that a senior member of her team had leaked the name of one of the complainers to Mr Aberdein, who passed it to Salmond.

Sturgeon said: “I am not accepting that that happened, therefore I am clearly not accepting that was authorised.”

She said her assumption was Salmond had worked out the names on his own “through his own investigations”.

During the committee meeting, Salmond lodged a formal complaint with the head of Scotland’s civil service “on the conduct of the official who is alleged to have breached civil service rules, by disclosing the name of a complainant in the Scottish Government process”.

Sturgeon was also asked about a leak of the Scottish Government investigation to the Daily Record newspaper in 2018, which broke the news of the allegations.

She said the leak “didn’t come from me, or anyone acting on my instruction or request”.

She added: “I’m certain as I can be it didn’t come from my office.”

Sturgeon is facing calls from the Scottish Conservatives to resign after two witnesses backed up Salmond’s claim that she misled parliament about a meeting with her predecessor in evidence to the committee.

She accused Salmond of “lashing out against us” in his evidence, adding “many of us, including me, feel let down by him”.

After the eight-hour evidence session, Sturgeon’s spokesman insisted the First Minister had “dismantled” the allegations levelled against her.

He said: “The First Minister gave a clear, open and transparent account to the committee and directly addressed all of the issues raised.

“She was happy to take all of their questions and gave evidence for as long as the committee members wanted.”

However, the Scottish Conservatives repeated their call for Sturgeon to resign, describing her evidence as a “litany of lies.

Party leader Douglas Ross said: “The litany of lies and abject failures is too much for any First Minister to survive. The evidence is overwhelming. She must go.”

Scottish Labour, meanwhile, said the First Minister still faced “serious questions”.

Committee member and deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “Ultimately, the First Minister was unable to answer accusations made against her, unable to disprove claims made by credible witnesses, and unable to properly defend the government’s costly decision to persist with the judicial review.

“Serious questions remain over the First Minister’s conduct.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The committee will need time to consider the large volume of new evidence before reaching its verdict. There are serious matters for the future of the First Minister.

“Reaching the correct conclusion will be the first step on the route to restoring confidence of those who may consider making complaints about harassment in future.”

What did Nicola Sturgeon tell the Alex Salmond inquiry?

The First Minister spent eight hours answering questions from MSPs on Holyrood committee.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon appeared before the committee on Wednesday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spent eight hours answering questions from MSPs on the Alex Salmond inquiry.

Here are some of the key claims she made:

No conspiracy

The First Minister rejected the “absurd suggestion that anyone acted with malice or as part of a plot against Alex Salmond”, saying the “claim is not based in any fact”.

She added: “There is nothing here that the government has to hide.”


She said the “idea this was some concoction or plot is just not based on any semblance of fact or any semblance of credible evidence”.

“I have seen nothing that comes within a million miles of backing up that central assertion Alex was making,” she added.

She insisted she “would never have wanted to ‘get’ Alex Salmond”, and that she had “no motive, intention, desire” for such action against her predecessor.

Naming of complainants

During his evidence on Friday, Salmond said the identity of one of the women who made complaints was disclosed to his former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, by a member of Ms Sturgeon’s team.


Salmond has now lodged a formal complaint with the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government under the civil service code on “the conduct of the official who is alleged to have disclosed the name” of a complainant.

Sturgeon said she disputed this version of events, saying: “I am not accepting that that happened.”

She told the committee she believed Salmond knew the identity of one complainant because he “apologised to the person” at the time of the alleged incident, and he “found out the identity of the other one through his own investigations”.


Sturgeon apologised to the women who submitted sexual harassment complaints about Salmond, saying there had been “a very serious mistake” in the Scottish Government’s investigation.

She said “two women were failed and taxpayers’ money was lost, I deeply regret that”.

She added: “Although I was not aware of the error at the time, I am the head of the Scottish Government so I want to take this opportunity to say sorry to the two women involved and to the wider public.”

Asked by committee member Murdo Fraser if she owed the Scottish people an apology for having previously told them they should trust Salmond, Sturgeon said: “I trusted him and I am not going to apologise for the behaviour of somebody else.


“I do not think it’s reasonable to ask me to apologise for the behaviour of Alex Salmond.”

Salmond’s ‘inappropriate behaviour’

Sturgeon told MSPs that the details of complaints against Salmond – which he denied – were “shocking” and his behaviour “was not always appropriate”.

She said Salmond’s account to her of what she called his “deeply inappropriate behaviour” is a “moment in my life that I will never forget”.

That Salmond “was acquitted by a jury of criminal conduct is beyond question”, she said, but added: “I know, just from what he told me, that his behaviour was not always appropriate.”

What Sturgeon knew and when

Sturgeon told MSPs that she first became aware of any complaint against Salmond from a Sky News inquiry in November 2017, about an incident at Edinburgh Airport.

This led her to harbour “a lingering suspicion that such issues in relation to Salmond might rear their head”.

But she said it was not until a meeting with her predecessor on April 2, 2018 at her home that she knew “beyond any doubt”.

The First Minister has previously claimed she first became aware of the Scottish Government investigation into Salmond at the April 2 meeting.

She later admitted having “forgotten” a March 29 meeting with Mr Aberdein, but she told MSPs on Wednesday: “The purpose of the conversation seemed to be to persuade me to meet with Alex as soon as possible, which I did agree to do.

“Geoff did indicate a harassment-type issue had arisen, but my recollection is he did so in general terms.”

She told the committee she wished her memory of the meeting on March 29 was “more vivid”.

Duncan Hamilton, a former SNP MSP and lawyer for Salmond, and the SNP’s former communications director Kevin Pringle, submitted evidence on Tuesday saying they believe Ms Sturgeon was aware the March 29 meeting would be about complaints against the former first minster.

Sturgeon ‘did not intervene’

Sturgeon said it would have been an “egregious” breach of her position had she acceded to Mr Salmond’s request for her to intervene following complaints against him.

“I did not intend to intervene, and I did not intervene, and while I know it is more complex than this, I think in terms of his anger towards me I think that is the root of it with Mr Salmond,” she said.

She added that it “would have been deeply wrong” to have intervened to try to “engineer the outcome” Salmond wanted.

Leaking of story to the Daily Record

The Daily Record newspaper broke the news of the allegations against Salmond on August 23 2018.

Sturgeon said the leak “didn’t come from me, or anyone acting on my instruction or request”.

She added: “I’m certain as I can be it didn’t come from my office.”

Judicial review

A successful judicial review by Salmond resulted in the Government investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, resulting in a £512,250 legal fee payout.

Sturgeon rejected suggestions the government did not take the advice of senior lawyers in conceding Salmond’s judicial review petition.

“The charge that has been made against me is that I wilfully allowed a judicial review to proceed against the legal advice, therefore I broke the ministerial code,” she said.

“With respect, as you now know, I was acting in accordance with the views of the law officers, not against.”

An awful lot rests on the independent ministerial code inquiry

Nicola Sturgeon admitted the catastrophic failure of the judicial review but she did not admit misleading parliament.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have both appeared in front of Holyrood committee.

Nicola Sturgeon said today this inquiry is not about Alex Salmond – it is about her and the government she leads.

She took responsibility for some of the problems here – she admitted the catastrophic failure of the judicial review – but she did not admit breaking the ministerial code or misleading parliament – they are the two of the most serious charges against her.

Opposition MSPs on the committee say she failed to answer some of their questions, avoided answering some of their questions

But she did admit some of her evidence was imperfect. At times she seemed quite emotional talking about her relationship with Salmond, but said she was not out to get him and dismissed the idea of a conspiracy as absurd.


In the last few days you’ve seen the two biggest figures in the last 20 years of Scottish politics and given the evidence they have produced to the committee you can see why they’re the two biggest figures in Scottish politics over that period.

Nicola Sturgeon today referred repeatedly to the independent ministerial code inquiry and I think that is the next stage in this – that is what there is an awful lot resting on – on the future of Scottish politics – and we should get the result of it, just like the committee, in the next three weeks.

At-a-glance: What does Sunak’s UK Budget mean for you?

The Chancellor set out a £65bn spending package to support the economy as it recovers from the pandemic.

Chris J Ratcliffe / Stringer via Getty Images
Rishi Sunak outlined plans to rebuild UK economy from damage caused by coronavirus pandemic.

Rishi Sunak set out plans to freeze income tax thresholds and increase corporation tax as he began the process of repairing the nation’s finances following the coronavirus crisis.

The Chancellor used his Budget to set out a £65bn spending package this year and next year to support the economy as it recovers from the pandemic.

But he warned the unprecedented spending could not continue and he had to be “honest” about putting the nation’s finances back on a sustainable footing.

The key announcements made in Sunak’s Budget can be viewed at-a-glance below:



Ezra Bailey via Getty Images

The furlough scheme has been extended until the end of September, although employers will be expected to make a contribution from July.

The scheme pays 80% of employees’ wages for the hours they cannot work in the pandemic.

After July, businesses will be asked for a 10% contribution, rising to 20% in August and September.


Support for self-employed workers will also continue until September.

The full 80% grant will be given to people whose turnover has fallen by 30% or more. People whose turnover has fallen by less than 30% will receive a 30% grant.


Fizkes via Getty Images

The rate of corporation tax, paid on company profits, will increase to 25% in April 2023 but small businesses with profits of £50,000 or less will continue to be taxed at 19%.

There will be a “super deduction” for companies when they invest, reducing their tax bill by 130% of the cost. A new restart grant in April will help businesses reopen with £5bn of new funding.

Sunak said he was maintaining at their current levels the inheritance tax threshold, the pensions lifetime allowance and the annual exempt amount in capital gains tax until April 2026 and, for two years from April 2022, the VAT registration threshold.

The five per cent reduced rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector will be extended for six months to the end of September, with an interim rate of 12.5% for another six months after that.


Furthermore, the business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors continue until the end of June, and will be discounted by two thirds for the remaining nine months of the year.


Andrew Mckenna / EyeEm via Getty Images

The point at which people begin paying income tax will increase to £12,570 in April but will be maintained at that level until April 2026, meaning more people will be dragged into paying tax as wages increase. The 40p rate threshold will increase to £50,270 and then be frozen.

Income Tax is the responsibility of the UK Government and is collected and managed by HMRC.

The Scottish Parliament does not have the power to set personal allowance thresholds but can set its own rates and bands.

Scotland’s finance secretary Kate Forbes said in her budget last month that Scotland’s tax band system will remain unchanged.

The starter, basic and higher bands of tax will all rise by inflation, with the top rate frozen at £150,000.

Meanwhile, Sunak also said measures to support the economy amounted to £65bn over this year and next, taking the total Government support to £407bn over that period.

Borrowing is forecast to be £234bn – 10.3% of gross domestic product – next year but it will fall to 4.5% of GDP in 2022-23, 3.5% in 2023-24, then 2.9% and 2.8% in the following two years.


Planned increases in duties for spirits – including whisky – wine, cider and beer will be cancelled for the second year in a row.

The planned increase in fuel duty has also been cancelled.


ewg3D via Getty Images

Funding for the devolved administrations is increasing by £1.2bn for the Scottish Government, £740m for the Welsh Government; and £410m for the Northern Ireland Executive.

City and growth deals were announced for Ayrshire, Argyll and Bute, and Falkirk.

There will also be funding for the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone, the Global Underwater Hub and the North Sea transition deal.


SNS Group via SNS Group

On stamp duty, the £500,000 nil rate band will not end on March 31, it will end on June 30.

During the transition back to normal, the nil rate band will be £250,000, double its standard level, until the end of September – and will return to the usual level of £125,000 from October 1.

Sunak also announced a “mortgage guarantee”. Lenders who provide mortgages to homebuyers who can only afford a five per cent deposit will benefit from a Government guarantee on those mortgages.

Several of the country’s largest lenders including Lloyds, NatWest, Santander, Barclays and HSBC will be offering these 95% mortgages from next month.

In Scotland, the tax cut given to housebuyers during the pandemic will end on April 1 when the basic threshold for the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) returns to £145,000.

First-time buyer relief will remain in place and non-residential LBTT rates and bands remain unchanged.


Jack Taylor via Getty Images

The £20 weekly increase for Universal Credit will continue for a further six months and the minimum wage will increase to £8.91 an hour from April.

On apprenticeships, incentive payments given to businesses are doubling to £3,000 – applicable to all new hires, of any age.”


Getty Images via Getty Images

An extra £19m was announced for domestic violence programmes to reduce the risk of reoffending and to pilot a network of ‘respite rooms’ to provide specialist support for vulnerable homeless women.

Sunak said an additional £10m would be made available to support veterans with mental health needs.

Woman’s body ‘may have been in house for some time’

Detectives are treating the death in Aberdeen as 'unexplained' as inquiries continue.

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Aberdeen: The woman's body was found within a house in Allison Close.

By Jenness Mitchell & Louise Hosie

A woman found dead in a house may have been there for some time.

She was found in Aberdeen’s Allison Close last Thursday.

STV News understands that the woman may have been dead for a while.


Police are now attempting to piece together a timeline over when the death happened and when the body was discovered.

Local councillor Alex Nicoll said: “This is very, very sad and my sympathies go out to the family and friends of this lady.

“It is a terribly difficult time and my thoughts are with them.”

Police are treating the death as “unexplained”.


A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers were called to an address in Allison Close, Aberdeen, on Thursday, February 25, after the body of a woman was found within.

“The death is being treated as unexplained and enquiries are ongoing. A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

Former Scots UKIP candidate’s mysterious death ruled natural

Relatives of 33-year-old Ramsay Urquhart reported a claim of death threats prior to his body being found in April 2019.

Urquhart family via STV
Ramsay Urquhart's family alerted police after he failed to answer phone calls from his wife, Pan Ei Phyu.

A coroner has concluded that an Inverness-born teacher and former Ukip candidate, found in mysterious circumstances in his London flat had died from natural causes.

Relatives of 33-year-old Ramsay Urquhart reported a claim of death threats prior to his body being found in April 2019.

They secured a review after complaining about the Metropolitan Police handling of an investigation into the circumstances of his death.

The force had concluded there were no suspicious circumstances.

Urquhart family via STV
Ramsay Urquhart was an Inverness-born teacher (Urquhart family)

Mr Urquhart’s grieving father Murdo, who gave evidence at the hearing, has campaigned for a thorough re-investigation of the tragedy.

Mr Urquhart, a married man, was found alone, face down, wrapped in a duvet in his accommodation within a house of multiple occupancy. He had been dead for some days.

Police were alerted by his family after he had failed to answer phone calls from his wife, Pan Ei Phyu.

They were concerned about his mental health.

Urquhart family via STV
Ramsay Urquhart at his wedding (Urquhart family)

A post mortem had found the death was “unascertained”.

After a two-day hearing at Sunderland Coroner’s Office, assistant coroner Andrew Tweddle said he was “not altogether satisfied by the manner in which the police did what they did at the time, and how the process of identification unrolled”.

Relatives had complained about the force’s handling of the inquiry on various levels, not least because family members did not get an opportunity to confirm identify of the body.

“There’s nothing to suggest Ramsay took his own life.”

Andrew Tweddle, assistant coroner

Summing up, Mr Tweddle said: “There’s nothing to suggest Ramsay took his own life.

“The toxicology was negative. There was nothing to suggest that he may have accidentally taken something which might have accidently caused his death, nothing that he might have taken inadvertently that might have caused his death, either.

“The appropriate conclusion to put on the record of inquest is one of natural causes.

“The deceased was found in his bed, in his room, on the night of April 17/18, 2019. He had been dead for some time previous to this and is likely to have died on April 15, 2019.”

Why are snapping crocodile stencils appearing near nurseries?

Spray painted markings warning people "don't get too close" have appeared outside schools and nurseries.

Michelle Bonner via Twitter
"Don't get too close" the stencil warns below an image of a crocodile.

Spray painted stencils warning people not to “get too close” with an image of a snapping crocodile appearing outside schools and nurseries have been met with surprise.

The white markings were noticed on Monday after nursery staff found they had appeared without any idea who had painted them.

The signs are part of a Scottish Government initiative in collaboration with Parent Club Scotland to highlight Covid-19 physical distancing at places with the highest footfall.

Parent Club Scotland said that the intention was to support the “brilliant job” being done in early learning and childcare settings, but the surprise appearance of the reptilian stencils has been met by confusion and anger by some.

This marking appeared in the private car park of a North Lanarkshire nursery (Carol Watson)

The snapping crocodile symbols have appeared in Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire and other locations, with some pointing out that they were spray painted onto private property without permission.

North and South Lanarkshire councils were uninvolved in the appearance of the markings in their areas.

Carol Watson, owner of Little Hands Nursery in Cumbernauld, said: “One of my staff members came to the office and asked if I was aware that a crocodile logo had been spray painted onto our car park.

“Honestly, I thought she was kidding. When I saw it I was angry that someone had done this without my knowledge or consent and had came onto our property without identifying themselves given we look after young children.


“I was also concerned about the logo itself as it is not in keeping with our ethos of a welcoming and caring environment and a crocodile does not make me think of comfort and safety.

“I am further concerned as to the amount of monies spent on this without consultation. I’m sure this money could have been put to use in far better ways.”

The government has since apologised for any of the crocodile markings that have been placed on private land and said it would arrange for them to be removed as soon as possible if requested.

Parent Club Scotland said the markings are water based and can be washed off easily using soap and will not remain for longer than four weeks.

Michelle Bonner via Twitter
Crocodile stencil at the gate of a nursery where markings were already in place (Michelle Bonner)

One nursery owner said she felt it was a waste of resources given she already had markings on the ground at the entrance to her property.

Michelle Bonner, who runs My Little Fishes nursery in Old Drumchapel, said: “If it was authorised by [the Scottish Government] then seems a total waste of money and definitely not an essential job.

“They would have been better giving early years private settings a better grant for having to close as we have all lost out on a huge amount of private income.”


A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These temporary stencils are part of a wide campaign to highlight the safety measures that we are taking. They were placed on pavements outside some of the nurseries and schools with the highest footfall, to support the safe return to schools and nurseries. 

“We know that early learning and childcare settings are doing a brilliant job to follow the guidance within the settings, and this is part of a wider package designed to support them with that.

“We apologise for any inadvertent error where a temporary stencil has been placed on private land. Where this has happened, and where the property owner requests, we will arrange for these to be removed as soon as possible.”

Covid: Almost 300 deaths in past week as fatalities fall

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 750 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

BlenderTimer via Pixabay

Almost 300 deaths linked to coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland since last week, a decrease for the fifth consecutive week, according to official figures.

At the Scottish Government’s briefing on Wednesday, health secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed a further 35 people have died after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

That takes the number of confirmed and suspected coronavirus deaths registered since February 22 to 295.

On Wednesday, National Records of Scotland revealed there were 227 deaths linked to Covid registered between February 22 and 28 – a decrease of 64 deaths on the previous week.


At least 187 of the deaths have occurred in hospitals.

The death toll of those who tested positive now stands at 7371, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by NRS suggest the most up-to-date total is at least 9580.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 203,555 – an increase of 543 in the past 24 hours.

The daily test positivity rate is 2.6%, down from the 4.4% reported on Tuesday when 542 cases were recorded.


Of the new cases reported on Wednesday, 150 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 102 are in Lanarkshire and 77 are in Lothian.

The rest of the cases are spread out across eight other health board areas.

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 750 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – 34 fewer than what was reported on Tuesday. Out of those, 69 patients are in intensive care.

Freeman also confirmed that 1,661,879 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 27,518 from the day before.

A total of 92,550 people have received their second dose, a rise of 8105.

Of the new NRS figures, the majority were in hospital at 187, with 26 in care homes, and 14 at home or in non-institutional settings.

There were 66 deaths in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, 35 in Lanarkshire and 30 in Forth Valley.


At council level, the highest number of deaths occurred in Glasgow at 26, followed by 18 in Lanarkshire and 17 in North Lanarkshire.

NRS also reported that 65% of the deaths were of people aged 75 and over, with 14% under 65.

Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services, said: “Today’s figures continue to show a welcome reduction in the number of Covid-19 related deaths, but I am keenly aware that for families across Scotland each and every death represents a tragic loss.

“This is the fifth consecutive week that we have seen a fall in the number of deaths involving Covid-19, and this week there is also a fall in the number of excess deaths.”

Man sexually assaulted mum in front of child at gunpoint

William Trainor sentenced to two years in jail after being found guilty of assaulting woman with intent to rape.

STV News
William Trainor was sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh.

A man who carried out a sex attack on a woman at gunpoint has been sentenced to two years in prison.

William Trainor, 29, from Gretna, was found guilty of assaulting the woman with intent to rape and possessing a handgun, or imitation handgun, at the High Court in Glasgow on 21 January.

Trainor was also found guilty of behaving in a threatening and abusive manner and breaching bail.

The court heard that in the early hours of March 15, 2019, Trainor entered his victim’s home and when she confronted him realised he was holding a gun.


Trainor pointed the gun at her in front of her young child before making suggestive gestures and indicating that she should follow him.

The woman managed to close a door on him – shouting for him to get out – before he ran out the back door.

Trainor was sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on February 23.

Fraser Gibson, procurator fiscal, said: “William Trainor’s actions caused significant fear and alarm and it is thanks to his victim’s courage in coming forward to report what had happened that he has now been caught and prosecuted.


“COPFS is committed to bringing sexual offenders to justice and we strongly encourage anyone who has been a victim of any such offence to report this to the police in the confidence that they will be treated with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity by the police and our expert prosecutors.”

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