Police search for two century-old tortoises feared stolen

First April disappeared from her enclosure in Fife and then Toby vanished two days later.

By Susan Nicholson

Police are searching for two century-old tortoises feared stolen from their home in Fife.

They disappeared from an enclosure in their owner’s garden in Ceres.

April, thought to be around 100-years-old, was taken first on Sunday.

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On Tuesday, her companion Toby, who is at least 150-years-old, disappeared from his bed.

“Toby was sleeping in his straw bed and it looks like he’s been lifted out, there was no trail of straw where he’d moved off,” said owner Louise Conacher.

“April does wander a bit, but there’s no way they could have escaped from their enclosure.

“We carried out a thorough search of the garden and the surrounding area and there’s no trace of them.”

Toby and April, missing tortoises.
Police: Officers are investigating Toby and April’s disappearance.
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Police Scotland say they’re investigating the thefts and inquiries are ongoing.

Toby was given to Ms Conacher’s parents 40 years ago.

The family found April, who they think had been abandoned, during a family holiday in Speyside more than 30 years ago.

“We can trace Toby’s heritage back to Crail in Fife around 150 years ago,” said Ms Conacher.

“We think April is at least 100 given the size she was when we found her and the length of time we’ve had her.

“I inherited them both a couple of years ago and they need special care and attention.

“I’m really worried about what might be happening to them now.

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“An adult tortoise is worth £200 to £300 so I think they’ve been stolen as pets to sell on.

“I just hope they can be found and returned to us.

“If whoever took them can just bring them back and leave them in their enclosure I’d be happy.”

If you have any information, call 101.


Extra police on streets for first night of 10pm curfew

A closing time of 10pm came into force for pubs and restaurants in Scotland on Friday.

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Police: We will not tolerate abuse.

Police patrols have been stepped up on Scotland’s streets after bars and restaurants were put under a new 10pm curfew.

Friday saw the first night of the new measures designed to help tackle recent surging cases of coronavirus, which also limits hospitality venues to table service only.

The industry has warned the curfew could be a “fatal blow” for many of its businesses.

But the government says the policy’s aim is to limit transmission of the virus in hospitality settings while still allowing venues to continue trading.

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In further measures this weekend to stem a swathe of outbreaks at university campuses, students are prohibited from going to pubs, cafes or restaurants or from socialising with anyone outside their accommodation.

It was made mandatory last week for customers at pubs and restaurants to wear face coverings when not seated at their table and for staff on shift.

Venues are also forbidden from playing background music, must enforce strict rules on hygiene and distancing and record customers’ details for the test and protect programme.

It comes after social gatherings were restricted to no more than six adults from a maximum of two households.

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Meanwhile, private indoor gatherings between households are not allowed in Scotland at all.

Speaking at Thursday’s coronavirus briefing, Police Scotland’s chief constable said patrols would be increased to ensure compliance with the new hospitality measures.

However, Iain Livingstone admitted the curfew could see an increase in house parties or gatherings as customers refuse to end their nights early.

He said: “Additional officers will be deployed across Scotland to support colleagues from local authorities and to monitor compliance.

“I think it’s important for me to say that the vast majority of licensees have acted with great responsibility during this very challenging period – I pay credit to them and undertake that policing will continue to support and work with the licensed trade.”

The chief constable said that officers would “continue to use good sense” when enforcing the new rules.

Later in the briefing, the head of Police Scotland said there was “a danger” that parties would increase after the early closing of bars.

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He added: “That is why I’ve been so clear this afternoon about discouraging people from having house parties, discouraging people from gathering together indoors where there’s no level of regulation or oversight.

“The reason that we’re going to ask our officers to be around at the 10pm curfew tonight is that it’s a change and with any period of adjustment… there will always be some that won’t (follow regulations).

“We’ll go and speak to people and encourage them to do the right thing and if they’re not, ultimately, then we’ll take enforcement action.”

Mr Livingstone also said that he would not tolerate any abuse levelled at police officers or staff who try to enforce the new measures.

He said: “It won’t be tolerated.

“I have made a public pledge of my fundamental commitment of that and will continue to take action against those who look to do harm to people who ultimately are doing their job for the public.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she echoed the chief constable’s comments on abuse suffered by police officers “100%”.

Forbes: Chancellor should not decide which jobs are viable

A new job support scheme will replace furlough in November but is only designed to protect jobs deemed 'viable'.

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Kate Forbes: Localised lockdowns not taken into account.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak should not be able to decide what is a “viable job”, Scotland’s finance secretary has said.

The job support scheme announced by Sunak on Thursday is intended to replace furlough when that form of support ends next month, but only jobs that are deemed viable will be eligible for the new payment.

Kate Forbes expressed concern at the new measures, which she said should have also included an extension to the furlough scheme.

She told PA: “I don’t believe it’s the Chancellor’s job to decide what is and isn’t a viable job, because this scheme requires people to be in some form of work.”

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She said localised lockdowns are not taken into account in the scheme, and neither are parts of the economy such as nightclubs which have not yet been allowed to open at all.

The finance secretary added: “Where we’ve seen localised lockdowns during furlough, businesses have been able to re-furlough their staff and get access to critical support – this scheme won’t allow for that.

“The other thing it won’t allow for is sectors that haven’t been allowed to reopen, either because they have to remain shut or because business hasn’t increased.

“These are viable jobs, they’re good jobs – but because of the nature of lockdown right now, people have not been allowed to reopen.

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“The Chancellor’s scheme is, wrongly in my view, trying to determine what is and isn’t a viable job in a way that does not appreciate the reality of the situation we are living in.”

Under the new scheme, employers will continue to pay staff wages for the hours they work.

But if they are not required to work their full hours, the government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary.

It means employees who are working shorter hours than normal will still be paid two-thirds of the hours for the time they cannot work.

Employees must be working at least a third (33%) of their usual hours and will receive at least 77% of their normal pay.

Forbes also said she hoped clarity would have been given earlier for what was going to replace the furlough scheme at the end of October.

She said furlough should have been extended for businesses not yet allowed to open to ensure some support for staff who are unable to return to work at all.

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The minister added she has had “no indication” of Barnett consequentials coming to the Scottish Government as a result of the Chancellor’s winter economy plan.

She also said she is still waiting for information on extra funding from previous announcements such as the self-isolation payments set out in August.

A spokesman for the Treasury said: “The UK-wide package announced yesterday was broadly welcomed by business groups across Scotland and provides welcome support for businesses and workers.

“As the Chancellor has said, it would be fundamentally wrong to hold people in jobs that only exist inside the furlough.

“Our focus will continue to be on creating new opportunities for people in Scotland and supporting them into viable and secure jobs.”

Courtroom drama as cinemas prepare to host juries

Inside a cinema where juries will begin hearing court cases in the coming days.

The first trials using a cinema to host a jury will begin next week.

It’s a bid to address the court case backlog worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

From Tuesday, some High Court cases sitting in Edinburgh and Livingston will have juries sitting in five screens of the Odeon cinema at Fort Kinnaird retail park in the capital.

Each screen can accommodate 15 physically-distanced jurors, who will feature on a video wall in the courtrooms.

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The remote jury centres will initially be in place for six months – after £5.5m funding from the Scottish Government – but there is an option to extend them for a longer period.

STV News visited the cinema in Edinburgh to see how it works.


The cold hard reality of freezing fans out of football

Fears have been voiced about the prospect of serious financial difficulties if there wasn’t a return to some sort of normality soon.

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Warnings: Clubs could face financial difficulties.

Warnings about the cost of coronavirus to Scottish football are nothing new but there was a harder, colder edge to the conversation this week.

Since lockdown, and throughout the summer, fears have been voiced about the prospect of serious financial difficulties if there wasn’t a return to some sort of normality soon.

‘Some sort of normality’ meant at least some fans paying to push through turnstiles and into grounds. ‘Soon’ was more fluid but was generally taken to be no later than October 5, the date the Scottish Government had pencilled in for a phased return of supporters at sporting events.

The rise in coronavirus cases forced Holyrood to announce new measures to deal with the virus this week and that October date was revisited. Nicola Sturgeon said the proposed return was “unlikely”. Anyone with a grasp of reality heard that as “No chance”.

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Similar steps that were introduced in England are expected to be in place for around six months and the overall impression is that if you want to watch professional football any time before March, you should test your broadband speed and check your TV schedule.

For the clubs, the announcement didn’t bring widespread panic but the sober realisation that of the budgets drafted and marked as best case to worst case, it would be the gloomier outlook that would prove to be accurate.

The Premiership is already under way of course, with a rigorous testing regime, a plan in place and a TV deal to satisfy and help cover some costs. Below the top flight though, the action has yet to start and there are questions about how it will end.

Clubs in the Championship, League 1 and League 2 don’t start their league campaigns until mid-October and the Betfred Cup before that. The later start dates were put in place primarily because fans were expected to be in attendance by then.

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Squads are assembled, contracts are in place. Costs are set in concrete. Now, projected income has vapourised.

The Scottish FA and Scottish Professional Football League haven’t always been renowned for swift action but they did move quickly after this week’s announcement. Talks were held with government and the Scottish minister for sport penned a letter to his Westminster counterpart seeking discussions about a financial recovery package. The message was clear: Send money or many clubs will be financially crippled, if they survive at all.

It’s no exaggeration when 43% of club revenues come from ticket sales.

Will a huge rescue package from London end all fears? It seems reasonable to expect that if there’s a bail-out for English clubs then a proportionate amount would be diverted to help in Scotland as well. But the conversation south of the border seems to be that help would only go so far, with the Premier League riches expected to trickle down and help those in the lower leagues.

That couldn’t happen here. The SFA and SPFL don’t hold huge cash reserves and the former has seen its own income slashed with the latter stages of the Scottish Cup and the upcoming internationals looking like they will be played at an empty Hampden.

Top flight clubs aren’t in much of a position to help either. Belts are being tightened across the board and at the same time as Ross County are talking about helping cup opposition with testing costs, Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson is talking about the strain on his club even after they qualified for Europe and banked money from player sales.

Hamilton boss Brian Rice was blunt in his assessment on Thursday’s STV News at Six: “Bail them out. Give us a hand. The whole country is on its knees. We’re not looking for favouritism, just looking for help like everybody else is.”

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Zoom calls between the SFA, SPFL and lower league clubs on Friday were more about assessing the damage than finding a solution.

While there was a confidence about starting the season, and making it through 27 games, the longer stands remain empty the less secure clubs feel. While a hypothetical right now, a testing regime with its associated costs (estimated at between £50,000 and £100,000 a season) would bring all sorts of questions. As you would expect, what’s manageable at Championship level is less viable in League 1 and even more challenging in the bottom tier.

Clubs were also asked to put a figure on the cost of a season without fans. It’s not just taking the temperature, the figures will be used to build a case for government assistance and it could be as stark as counting the clubs who will fail to make it if a bail-out package isn’t delivered.

Beyond the plea for help, there are limited options.

Suspending the season and ‘mothballing’ wouldn’t work for many as player contracts – a major cost – have to be honoured and clauses to cancel would apparently only kick in if all football was suspended by the Scottish FA. Taking a decision now to shorten the season and only play 18 games instead of 27 would be similarly ineffective.

Government money seems the only solution to the crisis and if it doesn’t materialise then cost-cutting, video streaming revenue and other fundraising won’t go far enough to make professional football viable for some.

Instead of excitement building for the start of the new season for those outside the Premiership, it’s being approached with trepidation and uncertainty. Chairmen are less concerned with an eventual finishing position in the league than with being in a position to finish the league season.

Games will be played as reserves dwindle and fears grow. Appeals will be made and doomsday scenarios will be spelled out.

There are no easy decisions for clubs deprived of the income that’s sustained them for decades and for over century in many cases. For many, it’s a waiting game now, hoping an injection of cash arrives before it’s too late. The fate of many may be decided in the halls of government instead of on the pitch.


Police condemn ‘sickening’ firebomb attacks on homes

Several homes were hit in the three targeted attacks.

Firebomb: 'Sickening' attacks condemned.

Police investigating a string of firebomb attacks in Greenock have described the crimes as “sickening” as they made a fresh appeal for information.

Several homes were hit in the three targeted attacks, which occurred within a matter of days, leaving one man dead and a woman seriously injured.

Two of the properties had children under the age of 10 inside at the time they were attacked.

Detective Superintendent Gerry McBride spoke as police made a fresh appeal for information on the crimes.

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He said: “I must reiterate that these recent fireraisings in Inverclyde are sickening incidents, where innocent women and children have been attacked in their own homes.

“I am certain that nobody with a moral conscience would believe that this is acceptable and I urge anyone who knows who is responsible or has information to get in touch with us as soon as possible.

“The increased police presence in the area will remain whilst investigations take place and to prevent any further incidents from happening.

“With the help of the public, we can make sure those responsible are arrested and brought to justice.”

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In the first attack, a 46-year-old man died in a fire at a flat in the town’s Union Street at around 10.30am on Monday September 14.

On September 16 in Wellington Street, a 40-year-old woman was seriously injured and her nine-year-old daughter was left greatly distressed in the second attack.

On September 19, a 45-year-old woman and three members of her family, including her six-year-old daughter, were left shaken after an accelerant was thrown at the window of a property in Cumberland Road.

Officers are keen to talk to anyone who has information about the incidents.


Greens in plea for 100,000 coronavirus tests a day

The health spokeswoman for the Scottish Greens is also pushing for 'frontline workers' to have access to tests.

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Tests: Greens calling for 100,000 a day.

The Scottish Greens have pushed for mass Covid-19 testing of up to 100,000 people every day.

In a letter to the First Minister, the party’s health spokeswoman Alison Johnstone has called for an expansion to include increased weekly testing for NHS staff and carers, increased access for university students and staff, and “targeted weekly testing” for teachers.

Johnstone also pushed for “frontline workers” – including retail and hospitality staff – to have access to tests before they develop symptoms.

She urged the Scottish Government to invest in more advanced tests, such as the 15-minute version designed by Abbott Laboratories which cost $5 (£3.80) each.

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She said: “The Scottish Greens have been consistent throughout this crisis that a robust testing regime must form the basis of Scotland’s response to the virus.

“Now, with cases rising rapidly and the privatised UK-wide testing system failing to keep up, the case for mass testing is stronger than ever.

“The more data we have about who has the virus and where it is spreading, the sooner we can take action to reduce or better target the restrictions that can harm people’s liberty, mental health and economic prospects.”

Johnstone said it is time for Scotland to end its partial reliance on the UK Government’s testing system, which she described as “failing”.

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She said: “I understand Scotland’s NHS testing labs remain underused while we place the burden on the failing UK-wide system.

“That is the wrong way round. It’s time to step up Scotland’s own efforts to tackle the virus, provide regular testing for all our at-risk frontline staff and roll out the latest 15-minute tests for all.

“Scotland could be testing 100,000 people a day if we did this. The short-term cost of this would be more than worth the benefits of the country being able to recover.”

Concluding her letter, she wrote: “I realise that these proposals would require a major effort and expense, though I note that £136m of consequentials linked to Covid-19 testing have already been available to Scotland and there may be other opportunities to shift capital given the critical importance of delivering mass testing.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have recently secured a deal with LumiraDx to supply 12-minute test instruments to NHS Scotland which will play a vital role in Scotland’s Test and Protect strategy and will be rolled out in the near future.

“We have also continued to increase our NHS testing capacity throughout this pandemic and as we move into winter we will continue to work towards the target set out in our testing strategy of building laboratory processing capacity to approximately 65,000 tests per day between NHS Scotland laboratories and the Lighthouse Labs network in Glasgow, as we prepare for winter.

“Weekly testing is available to all care home staff and given the recent delays with the Lighthouse Lab Network, we have begun to migrate this programme of testing into NHS labs.”

Scotland confirms 558 new coronavirus cases in record high

It amounts to 9.5% of newly-tested individuals, the highest percentage of positive tests seen during the second spike

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Scotland has recorded 558 new coronavirus cases overnight, the most on record.

It amounts to 9.5% of newly-tested individuals, the highest proportion of positive tests since the government began publishing the data in July.

The World Health Organisation says countries who keep that percentage under 5% generally have their epidemic under control.

No new deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the organisation which notifies the Scottish Government of fatalities had suffered a power outage.

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Of the new cases, 255 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 61 in Lanarkshire and 119 in Lothian.

It comes as infections surge among student populations around the country, however, the First Minister insisted the new cases “are not just a university problem”.

On Thursday, the governing body Universities Scotland announced students will be banned from pubs and restaurants or from socialising outside their household this weekend in a bid to curb the spread.

At Friday’s briefing, Sturgeon stressed it was just a temporary measure to try to stem immediate Covid-19 outbreaks on campuses.

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She added that the Scottish Government is assessing if students can be allowed to leave student accommodation to return to their family homes.

It follows new Scotland-wide restrictions this week banning people from visiting other people’s homes and imposing a 10pm curfew on all pubs, bars and restaurants.

Friday marks the second day this week the single-day record for new coronavirus cases in Scotland has been broken after 486 cases were announced on Wednesday.

There are 89 people in hospital around Scotland confirmed to have the virus, up by four in 24 hours.

Of these patients, 11 are in intensive care, up by one.

Federal UK ‘would replace division’ with co-operation

A Liberal Democrat MP said politicians must concede that 'Westminster does not have all the answers'.

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Westminster: MP calling for 'constructive third way'.

A federal United Kingdom could be a “constructive third way” between calls for independence and a “centralising” Westminster government, a Scottish Liberal Democrat MP has said.

Wendy Chamberlain, who won the North East Fife seat from the SNP in December’s general election, said the row over the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill had shown power must not be “hoarded” in London
She said politicians must concede Westminster “does not have all the answers”.

Chamberlain said: “Now more than ever we need a fair distribution of responsibilities and resources across the UK and co-operation between federal and state governments, with proper dispute resolution mechanisms for when they disagree.”

She was speaking ahead of the party’s virtual conference, which will include a call for Liberal Democrats across the UK to campaign for a federal settlement.

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Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for Scotland and Wales in the House of Commons, said: “The idea to reform the UK to a federal future is a constructive third way between a centralising Westminster government and a dash for independence from the nationalists. It replaces division with co-operation.”

The UK Government’s Internal Market Bill has attracted criticism from the SNP Government, and the Labour administration in Wales has also raised fears about the impact it would have on devolution.

Chamberlain said: “The outrage in all corners of the UK at the proposed centralised Internal Market Bill is a clear example where power needs to be shared across the governments and not hoarded at Westminster.

“The Liberal Democrats believe wholeheartedly in supporting a reformed union between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We believe that this is threatened by a political system which feels out of date and centralised, and has fuelled Brexit and the growth of nationalism.

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“The old-fashioned, out-of-touch Westminster must concede it does not have all the answers.”


Going home after six months in hospital with coronavirus

Niall Williams has issued a warning to those not taking Covid-19 seriously after spending months in intensive care.

A man who spent six months battling Covid-19 has issued a stark warning to people who are not taking the virus seriously. 

Niall Williams is leaving the Cameron Rehab facility near Leven to go home for the first time since March.

He has been in hospital with the disease longer than probably anyone else in Scotland.

Mr Williams spent months in intensive care, part of that in an induced coma and even after intensive physio, he still faces major challenges.

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While he begins his recovery following his long fight with coronavirus he wants to use his experience as a warning to those who are not following the government health guidelines.

He told STV News: “Follow what you’ve been asked to do. Face masks, washing hands all the time. Be ultra careful because otherwise you could be a cropper like I was.

‘People are not realising this is an invisible disease.’

Niall Williams

“People are not realising this is an invisible disease. You can pick it up in many ways and so easily. 

“I basically got damaged, respiratory issues that may come back after time, who knows? Because we don’t know about this yet. But being able to breathe deeply and being active – it’s hard.

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“I become fatigued very, very quickly. There isn’t going to be a normal life. It’s going to take time to get back to where I was.

“Follow the rules, they are not putting them in place because they feel like it. There’s a real hard reason and scientific facts behind it.

“They are there to protect us and I just ask everybody please just follow them because you’re going to allow other people to survive if you do. It is as simple as that.”


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