Plug pulled on Edinburgh’s Christmas extravaganza

Plans had been in place to spread the festival across the city, but it will now take place online.

Edinburgh’s Christmas festival has been cancelled to stop huge crowds gathering in the capital.

The annual extravaganza usually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors who spend millions of pounds.

Plans had been in place for markets and rides to be spread out across the city more than usual, but the celebrations will now take place entirely online.

The city council said it made the decision after talks with public health experts about the spread of coronavirus.


The world-renowned Hogmanay party in Edinburgh was cancelled earlier this year.

Underbelly, the producer of the winter festivals, described the decision was “very sad”.

Charlie Wood, the Underbelly director, said: “We very much wanted to bring some festive cheer and light to Edinburgh this Christmas and to support local makers and producers, at the end of what has been a challenging year for everyone.

“Public health is our absolute number one priority, and with the ongoing uncertainty concerning Covid-19 and the possibility of further restrictions, we have taken the collective and very sad decision with the council, NHS Lothian and Scottish Government not to proceed with this year’s Edinburgh’s Christmas sites in the city centre.


“There will be no public events which might encourage gatherings of people at either Edinburgh’s Christmas or Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.”

Former prison officer jailed for murder of Emma Faulds

Ross Willox, 42, killed his friend and then tried to cover up the crime by burying her body in a shallow grave in a remote forest.

Police Scotland
Emma Faulds was last seen in April 2019.

A former prison officer who murdered his friend and hid her body in a remote forest has been jailed for life and will serve a minimum of 20 years behind bars.

Ross Willox killed Emma Faulds after arranging to party with her at his home in Monkton, Ayrshire, on Sunday, April 28, 2019.

Ms Faulds was reported missing by her family on April 30, 2019, two days after she was last seen.

Her body was found about six weeks later in Glentrool Forest, in the Galloway Forest, Dumfries and Galloway, after a major search involving specialist officers and search dogs.

Police forensic officers carried out searches in the Galloway Forest (Andrew Milligan/PA

Ross Willox, 42, had denied the charges but was found guilty of murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow in May.

He was sentenced to life with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 20 years when he returned to the court for sentencing on Tuesday.

Judge Lord Mulholland told him: “You have been convicted of murdering a young woman, Emma Faulds.

“Only you will know what happened in your house that night that led to you killing your friend.


“Having murdered her you created an elaborate scheme to cover up your crime.”

He said that Willox placed the body of Ms Faulds in a shallow grave and covered it up and tried to ensure it would decompose more quickly by placing it in a wet area.

The judge said: “You hoped it would never be found and her devoted family would have to spend the rest of their lives wondering where she was and if she was alive or dead.”

After Ms Faulds was reported missing, Willox told police he had been partying with her at his flat but said they then went in her car to her flat in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, where he claimed he left her fit and well.

However, police became suspicious about his movements when they found CCTV footage that showed a man driving her car back to her street.

They then found CCTV footage of Willox driving his Mercedes jeep through Girvan on April 29 towards the Galloway forest area, a region where he had previously worked building wind farms.

He was also captured on CCTV in Ayr before his trip to the forest going to various shops buying bottles of bleach, rubber gloves, shower curtains, tins of outdoor disinfectant and waterproof trousers.


Police said that, put together circumstantially, this painted a suspicious picture of Ross Willox in relation to the disappearance of Ms Faulds.

The Galloway Forest covers an area of about 700 square miles, however, by using specialist techniques, police were able to focus on a search area.

Using cell site analysis from Willox’s phones, overlaid with CCTV analysis and time and distance runs with cars, officers were able to narrow down the search area to 10-15 square miles and the missing woman’s body was recovered on June 12, 2019.

Willox, who became friends with Ms Faulds when they both worked at HMP Kilmarnock, was arrested on May 8, 2019 and later charged with her murder.

Detective Inspector Peter Crombie, deputy senior investigating officer on the investigation, described Willox as a “selfish, arrogant monster” and said no motive for the crime has been identified.

Sturgeon to set out life in lowest tier of Covid restrictions

The First Minister is due to make an announcement at Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

PA Media via PA Ready
First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon is due to make an announcement at Holyrood on Tuesday.

Nicola Sturgeon is due to set out what life in Scotland will look like under the lowest level of coronavirus restrictions.

The First Minister is to make an announcement at Holyrood on Tuesday as part of the latest review of the route map out of lockdown.

She said last week it was “unlikely” that any area would see restrictions eased on June 28 – the date it had been hoped all of Scotland would move into level zero restrictions.

Sturgeon previously said this move would likely be delayed by three weeks.


The Scottish Government will also publish a review on Tuesday of physical distancing requirements, along with a paper which Sturgeon said would set out “what we hope life will look like beyond level zero – as we get to the point where we can lift all, or virtually all, of the remaining restrictions”.

This level, the lowest in Scotland’s five-tier system, is only currently in place in the island authorities of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, with all mainland areas having either level one or level two restrictions applied.

Sturgeon previously told MSPs: “Given the current situation – and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further – it is reasonable to indicate now that I think it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from June 28.

“Instead, it is likely that we will opt to maintain restrictions for a further three weeks from June 28 and use that time to vaccinate – with both doses – as many more people as possible.


“Doing that will give us the best chance, later in July, of getting back on track and restoring the much greater normality that we all crave.”

Scotland prepare for ‘all or nothing’ clash with Croatia

Steve Clarke and his players can make history by reaching the knockout stages of Euro 2020.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Scotland are looking to progress after drawing with England at Wembley.

Scotland take on Croatia at Hampden on Tuesday knowing that a victory will put the team in the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time in their history.

Victory against the World Cup finalists would ensure at least a third place finish in Group D and a guarantee of progressing as one of the four best third-placed sides in the competition.

Depending on the result of the game between England and Czech Republic, Scotland could even finish second if they win and score at least two goals.

Though the men’s team has been at eight World Cup finals and is now competing in their third European Championship, the side has never advanced from the group stages.


A second place finish would mean Scotland would face the runners up from Group E in Copenhagen in the round of 16, while finishing third would mean a match against Netherlands in Budapest or the winners of Group E at Hampden, with the opposition only confirmed when all group games have been completed.

Steve Clarke says the team will need the Tartan Army’s full backing. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke believes his side are underdogs for the clash at the national stadium, up against a team that was runner-up at World Cup 2018. Around 12,000 fans will be at Hampden for the game and Clarke has called on the Tartan Army to make their backing known throughout to help spur the team on to success.

“If they can make half the noise that the 3,000 supporters did at Wembley then it will be a great atmosphere,” he said.

“What I would say to the Tartan Army is we need your backing from the first minute to the 95th minute. We need you all the way.


“Sometimes in a game things go against you, that’s when you need the crowd more than anything. So hopefully they will get behind us from the first to the last minute.

“And hopefully everybody leaves the stadium with a big smile on their face.”

The squad was dealt a blow the day before the definitive match when it was revealed that Billy Gilmour had tested positive for Covid-19 just days after a man of the match performance against England on his first international start. While the Chelsea youngster self-isolates, the rest of the squad have all returned negative tests and have travelled to Glasgow from their training base in Darlington.

Clarke admitted that Gilmour had been in his planned starting line-up but said that his absence opened up an opportunity for someone to step in and become a “hero”.

The manager also addressed the side’s goal drought so far in the competition. Scotland are the only team not to score at Euro 2020 but have had multiple chances against Czech Republic and England.

Clarke said: “If we keep creating the chances we have created, if we keep having the shots at goal we have had in previous matches, then you would like to think that Lady Luck will be on our side and maybe one of them will hit the back of the net, or at least one will hit the back of the net.

“If we reach the performance levels of the other night then I think we will be very competitive in the game and then that you need that little stroke of luck that every team needs in a big game. Hopefully it’s our turn to be the lucky team.”

The team that stands between Scotland and history

A closer look at what Steve Clarke's men can expect from Croatia at Hampden on Tuesday.

Ross Parker via SNS Group
Croatia line-up before taking on the Czech Republic at Hampden on Monday.

Scotland’s hopes of making it out of their Euro 2020 group will come down to Tuesday night’s clash with Croatia.

Steve Clarke’s team have taken just one point from their two games so far and a win is required to reach the knockout stage.

Here, we puts the focus on the team standing in their way ahead of the Group D showdown at Hampden.


Croatia returned home from the 2018 World Cup to a hero’s welcome after battling through to the final, where they lost 4-2 to France, but it has not always been smooth sailing since that Russian adventure.


They finished bottom of their three-team group in the inaugural Nations League, which started with a shocking 6-0 shellacking at the hands of Spain and ended with a 2-1 loss to England.

Croatia avoided relegation and finished third in the four-team pool, having topped their Euro 2020 qualifying group by three points over second-placed Wales.

Rob Casey via SNS Group
Croatia were disappointed by their 1-1 draw with Czech Republic on Monday.

World Cup qualification kicked off this year with a disappointing 1-0 loss at Slovenia while in their first two games at this summer’s finals there has been signs the squad is starting to show its age after lacklustre displays in their 1-0 defeat to England and 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic.


Croatia’s World Cup hopes were looking in jeopardy when they turned to Zlatko Dalic in 2017. The former midfielder had spent a successful period in the Middle East before coming in as successor to Ante Cacic .


He quickly surpassed expectations, steering them to second spot in their qualification group and then a play-off victory against Greece.

Dalic’s men beat Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland in what had been a tough-looking World Cup group in Russia, before knocking Denmark and the hosts out on penalties.

Victory over England in the semi-final propelled Croatia into the final and a new level of fame and goodwill for the 54-year-old.

Rob Casey via SNS Group
Zlatko Dalic led Croatia to the World Cup semi-finals.


Dalic’s favoured system is an organised, aggressive 4-2-3-1, with attack-minded full-backs – including Rangers ace Borna Barisic, when fit – providing extra threat.

Experienced Domagoj Vida is an important component at the heart of a defence that can also call upon former Liverpool player Dejan Lovren and some younger talented options.

Luka Modric plays ahead of the backline alongside Marcelo Brozovic, with a number 10 flanked by wide men as the physical presence of Bruno Petkovic leads the line.

Key men

The main man, without question, is Real Madrid’s Modric – still the heartbeat of the Croatian side at the age of 35. Modric has been named Croatia’s player of the year nine times and won the Golden Ball at the 2018 World Cup, as well as that year’s world player of the year award.

Rob Casey via SNS Group
Luka Modric was named the world’s best footballer in 2018.

Barisic has established himself as an important figure with his rampaging runs from left-back – but the Ibrox defender has sat out both games so far with a back strain.

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic partners Modric in midfield while AC Milan’s Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic – the Inter Milan star who netted their equaliser against the Czechs on Friday – provide a threat in attack.

Dinamo Zagreb’s Mislav Orsic, whose stunning hat-trick knocked Tottenham out of the Europa League, is a strong option off the bench.

Piper serenades whisky casks in bid to ‘boost flavour’

Ali Levack from Project Smok joined forces with whisky brand Wee Smoky to release a single in harmony with a new bottle.

Jeff Holmes via PA Media
Serenade: Ali Levack has been playing music to whisky in bid to enhance drink's flavour.

A piper has been serenading casks of whisky in a musical bid to enhance the flavour of the drink.

Ali Levack, frontman of Scottish “neo-trad” band Project Smok, has joined forces with whisky brand Wee Smoky to release a single in harmony with a new bottle.

The partnership began when Project Smok auctioned naming rights to their new single in a creative way to tackle loss of income due to cancellation of live gigs during the pandemic.

Wee Smoky won the auction, and will celebrate the release of the song “Wee Smoky” with its own release of 550 special edition bottles, with £1 from each bottle going to the band.


Levack, who was BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of 2020, played the whistle to the casks to enhance the flavour, a process known as “sonic-aging.”

The musician, from Dingwall, said: “Playing to whisky casks was a new experience. I loved being part of the whole process, from playing our music to the whisky while it aged to drinking it while listening to our recorded song.

“The song and the whisky go very well together. When everything froze in March last year, we didn’t think we’d be in the same position more than 12 months later.

“We’ve had to think outside the box as to how we can generate income until we can start playing live music again.


“Auctioning off naming rights to a song was an idea we didn’t think would work, but it has ended up with us having our own whisky named after us, which is a dream come true.”

A QR code on the bottles will take drinkers directly to “Wee Smoky” on Spotify.

Wee Smoky’s founder, Edinburgh-based Rory Gammell, said: “Music is part of everything we do. Our whisky is best enjoyed with music so it was natural to experiment to see how music could enhance the flavour.

“My dream was for Project Smok to headline our launch party. Unfortunately, those plans were put on hold. Nobody embodies the spirit of our brand quite like them.

“They’re non-conformist and I couldn’t think of a better example of Scottish flair – they’re a remarkable band with a unique sound.

“They’re making people think differently about trad music, and we’re making people think differently about whisky. It’s the perfect match.”

The concept of “sonic-aging” stems from the 18th and 19th centuries, when vibrations in oak casks in transit across the seas were considered essential to the ageing process of liquors including whisky.


It is thought that by playing music to casks, such vibrations can be recreated, enhancing the flavour of batches by accelerating the way liquor reacts with the wood.

Around 8000 second vaccine appointments issued too early

The scheduling issue has seen slots given ahead of the eight-week interval recommended by the JCVI.

Pornpak Khunatorn via IStock
Jab: System fault blamed for appointments issued too early.

Around 8000 appointments for second doses of a coronavirus vaccine in Scotland have been issued too early due to a system fault, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

The scheduling issue has seen slots given ahead of the eight-week interval recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

An investigation has been launched, although the fault is now said to have been fixed.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf told the PA news agency: “We have been made aware of a system error which has led to a number of people being called forward for their second vaccination ahead of the eight-week recommended interval.


“We apologise to those affected and NHS boards are in the process of making contact with them to offer them a new appointment time or the option of attending a drop-in clinic when their second dose is due.

“If you have received an invitation for a second dose that is less than eight weeks after your first, please don’t come to your appointment.

“You can either rearrange by calling the helpline or visiting NHS Inform.

“If you are immunosuppressed and have an earlier second dose appointment for clinical reasons, please go along as planned.


“It’s important to stress that there is no clinical risk associated with receiving the vaccine earlier than eight weeks.

“This is the recommended interval because it increases the efficacy of the vaccine and the level of protection.

“We are liaising with boards to ensure that there are staff on hand at vaccination clinics to offer further advice and reassurance.”

The announcement comes the day Nicola Sturgeon received her second dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Anyone who believes their appointment for second doses is too early can rearrange online or by calling the Vaccination Helpline on 0800 030 8013.

Plan to award Josh Taylor the Freedom of East Lothian

The proposal is going before councillors this week in light of the boxing champ's historic win last month.

Craig Foy via SNS Group
Champ: Boxer Josh Taylor could be handed the Freedom of East Lothian.

World champion boxer Josh Taylor could be handed the Freedom of East Lothian under plans going before councillors this week.

Taylor, who grew up in Prestonpans, became the first British fighter to become an undisputed world champion in the four-belt era after defeating José Ramírez last month and returned to a hero’s welcome in the town.

The 30-year-old boxer would join a select group of people to be made freemen of East Lothian by the council, including Port Seton artist John Bellany, golfer Catriona Matthew, The Royal Scots Borderers, and the Lothians and Border Yeomanry.

A report to a virtual meeting of East Lothian Council on Tuesday reveals provost John McMillan has nominated Taylor for the honour and was seconded by the leader of the council, councillor Willie Innes.


It asks councillors to approve the nomination and “present the award of the Freedom of East Lothian to honour the sporting achievements of Josh Taylor, undisputed light-welterweight champion of the world”.

And it calls on them to instruct officials to arrange a presentation ceremony as soon as it is practical to do so.

Listing the achievements of Taylor, the report adds: “He has held the World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and Ring magazine titles since 2019 and the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organisation titles since May 2021.”

The report also references the boxer’s successful amateur career, which saw him win a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 while still a teenager, and a gold medal at the Games in Glasgow four years later.


It adds: “Josh Taylor is now only the second Scotsman to be an undisputed champion after Ken Buchanan and is the first British fighter to become an undisputed world champion in the ‘four-belt era’ and only the fifth man in the world to achieve this status.”

A parade to mark Taylor’s win is being held this weekend in Prestonpans after it was given the go-ahead, with Covid safety precautions in place.

By local democracy reporter Marie Sharp

Suits worn on screen by Sir Sean Connery to be auctioned off

One of the suits is thought to have been worn by the James Bond star in The Untouchables.

United Artists via Getty Images
Sean Connery: Suits worn by late star to be auctioned off.

Two suits worn by the late Sir Sean Connery in films will go under the hammer in an online auction this week.

The suits are thought to have been worn in films the James Bond star appeared in during the 1980s such as The Untouchables and either Five Days One Summer or Never Say Never Again.

A grey suit, made by Angels, Costumiers for the Entertainment Industry, will be auctioned by Lyon and Turnbull on Wednesday with an estimate of £600 – £800.

The other suit, cream in colour and made by Hayward, London, has an estimate of £700 – £900.


Lyon and Turnbull’s Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps and Photographs sale also features a document with Mahatma Gandi’s fingerprints and a postcard, inscribed “last post from St Kilda”, sent just before the islands were evacuated in August 1930.

Lyon & Turnbull via Email
Sean Connery’s suits to go under the hammer

Cathy Marsden, rare manuscripts and books specialist at Edinburgh headquartered Lyon and Turnbull, said: “Our job involves a lot of research and we had great fun with the unusual task of trying to identify in which films in which Sir Sean Connery wore the suits.

“We have managed to narrow down the cream suit to either Five Days One Summer or Never Say Never Again and we think the grey suit might have featured in The Untouchables.

“I am really looking forward to this sale, which has a range of items across popular and high culture with some fascinating and historic stories behind them.”


The cream suit has “Sean Connery 21.7.82 16140″ printed on a Hayward label on the inside trouser pocket, while the grey suit has “Sean Connery Sept. 8” handwritten on an Angels label to a trouser pocket.

The document with Mahatma Gandi’s fingerprints, thought to be perhaps the only existing example of them, has an estimate of £5000 – £10,000.

The sheet of paper attached to cardboard serves as a record of the political leader’s activism and role in the peace movement in the early twentieth century.

The postcard from St Kilda is part of a wider archive relating to the remote archipelago, 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides.

Other lots include a rare first edition copy, second impression hardback of the first in the series of the seven Harry Potter novels, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and a copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia.

Call for more information into toxic spill that killed fish

At least 500 trout and salmon died following the accidental release of Zetag into the River Eden in Fife.

Sepa via LDRS
Sepa: At least 500 trout and salmon died following the accidental release of Zetag into the River Eden in Fife.

Fifers are set to find out more about how exactly a toxic spill occurred on the River Eden following action from a Cupar councillor in the wake of another chemical incident on a linked waterway.

Lib Dem Margaret Kennedy has requested that Fife Council environmental health officers and national body Sepa work together to produce a report on Scottish Water’s accidental release of 400 litres of Zetag into the Eden in October 2018, at the peak of the salmon spawning season.

At least 500 trout and salmon died as a result of the spill stemming from the Scottish Water-run Cupar Waste Water Treatment Works, harming fish stocks for years to come.

Sepa investigated the spill after it was reported, and ultimately secured a conviction for pollution against Scottish Water in May this year.


The government-run utilities body was fined £6700.

While some details of the spill were read out in court, Sepa’s conclusions have not been made available to the wider public.

It does not routinely publish details of its investigations, but councillor Kennedy believes that Fifers are entitled to know how the failure in chemical control came about and what is being done to prevent it from happening again.

“All I have seen [on the Eden spill] is what was printed in the press,” cllr Kennedy said.


“I’m concerned about the wider impact on the environment that it has, and I have concerns about how regulatory bodies can proactively manage our ecosystems and waterways.

“We need to know more about how, when something goes wrong, it’s managed locally.”

Her motion, tabled on her behalf at the North East Fife area committee by Tim Brett, was accepted unanimously.

Cllr Kennedy added: “By getting this report we can come through with other questions about the investigation process as it simply hasn’t gone the way the public would hope.

“What’s not right is that people don’t understand what happens in these circumstances and they don’t feel as if they’re being listened to.”

The Eden spill occurred when a forklift driver at the Cupar treatment works accidentally punctured a 1000 litre container of the chemical Zetag.

Zetag is a flocculant – a type of cleaning substance used to gather up solid particles in water. Upon contact with liquid it takes on a jelly-like quality that attracts foreign bodies, making them easy to remove from water sources.


Warnings produced by manufacturer Solenis note: “As with all cationic polyelectrolytes the product exhibits toxicity towards fish. It is important that precautions are taken where the product may come into direct contact with fresh-water courses, streams and rivers.”

Scottish Water plant workers, unaware of the catastrophic effect the material has on aquatic life, hosed the spilled chemicals into nearby surface drains that led directly to the Eden. The alarm was only raised when members of the public spotted fish floating down the river.

The Eden Angling Association (EAA), a non-profit body that maintains and controls fishing and restocking along the River Eden, is counting the costs of the spill more than most.

With few fish to catch and no restocking order served on Scottish Water to replenish the hundreds of fish and thousands of fry killed, its membership numbers dwindled immediately after the leak, forcing it to delve into cash reserves to stay afloat.

Almost three years on, salmon numbers are rising again on the Eden – but David Farmer, secretary and treasurer of the EAA, wants to know why Sepa wasn’t providing any insight into the investigation as it progressed.

His anxieties over water quality have recently been exacerbated by a fresh chemical spill that occurred last month on the Ceres Burn, which feeds into the Eden.

A Sepa investigation into that incident is ongoing, but it is understood that it is not in any way connected to the Eden accident.

“I provided a witness statement to Sepa at the time,” Mr Farmer said of the 2018 affair.

“To their credit, they have prosecuted that particular incident – but we weren’t called to the court case.

“The sheriff produced some miniscule fine which is not the right kind of message to send, particularly to someone who has caused so much damage.

“It’s only a small number of salmon that come up the river – and losing them has a long-term effect.”

Club records show that 32 salmon were caught in 2017. In 2018, this dropped to just nine, but recovered last year to 24.

It has worked to restock and protect the river on its own, without assistance or insight from Sepa or Scottish Water – but this situation, Mr Farmer says, is unsustainable and sows doubt in Sepa’s ability to protect Scotland’s waterways.

He hopes to set up a steering group in the near future made up of members of the EAA, Sepa, Scottish Water and other local figures to act in the Eden’s best interests.

“We’re not getting support from Sepa – the whole system for looking after the environment is broken,” Mr Farmer added.

“A £6700 fine is a joke – particularly because it goes right back to the Scottish Government and we see none of it despite the fact it would help us restock the river.

“We need more transparency on what’s being done to protect the rivers. People might understand [the action taken] if Sepa was more transparent but it’s not.

“Their reliance on the community for reporting is all reactive. There’s no effort to be proactive with the community at all.

“We don’t know if they’re doing anything like that at all. The experience to date is not good.”

A Sepa spokesperson said: “Following reports from members of the public in October 2018, Sepa discovered a chemical leak from the Cupar Waste Water Treatment Works had caused localised pollution and the death of hundreds of fish in the River Eden.

“Following the discharge, a clean-up of the river was completed, and remedial actions were taken.

“Sepa submitted a report to the Procurator Fiscal and Scottish Water was fined £6700 on Monday, May 10, 2021.

“While Sepa has not received a request for further information from councillor Kennedy, we would be happy to provide more information on the event.”

By local democracy reporter Jon Brady

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