Rocket firm calls for ‘space junk’ clean-up to avoid disaster

Skyrora is developing a space tug that could play a crucial role in clearing redundant satellites.

Space: Skyrora is aiming to launch its first rocket next year. Inok via IStock
Space: Skyrora is aiming to launch its first rocket next year.

Action needs to be taken on ‘space junk’ before a disaster happens, the head of Scottish rocket company Skyrora has said.

Volodymyr Levykin said the uncontrolled re-entry of the remains of the 18-tonne Chinese Long March 5B rocket – which plunged into the Indian Ocean just west of the Maldives earlier this month – should not be happening.

Mr Levykin, CEO of Edinburgh-based Skyrora which aims to launch its first rocket next year, said the incident underlines the value of the firm’s work in developing a space tug that could play a crucial role in clearing redundant satellites and other so-called ‘space junk’.

He said: “The world had to watch and hold its breath to see where the debris from the Chinese Long March 5B vehicle would hit the Earth. But events like this shouldn’t be happening.

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“There are around 34,000 objects above 10cm in size in Earth’s orbit that would be considered space junk – 3000 of which are redundant satellites.

“Moving at around 10km per second, these objects could seriously damage operational satellites or even the International Space Station.

“It’s vital that something is done to address the situation before disaster strikes and we’re faced with the loss of crucial services, or worse still, loss of life.”

Skyrora via Holyrood PR
Skyrora: CEO Volodymyr Levykin.

Mr Levykin said the situation has heightened the demand for a vehicle that can make multiple stops and functions in space without the need for multiple launches.

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He added: “Orbital transfer vehicles, such as Skyrora’s space tug, are on hand to help safely de-orbit space debris or transport it to a disposal orbit.

“With the capability of re-firing its engine multiple times and so manoeuvring once in orbit, a tug can complete several missions after deploying an initial payload.

“By integrating them as part of the rocket’s third stage, we can effectively deploy a vehicle as part of every launch, creating an orbital fleet of ‘space tugs’ ready to be called upon when required.

“Every launch, regardless of who is behind it or where it’s launching from, should now include some sort of space tug to make sure these uncontrolled re-entries are a thing of the past.

“It’s not only about helping the planet or clearing up the mess orbiting it but about protecting the crucial infrastructure that’s taken decades and trillions of dollars to build, which could effectively be wiped out in an instant.”

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Sustainability: Skyrora has completed tests on a space tug model.

Skyrora has already successfully completed tests on a space tug model at its engine development facility in Fife.

The development is a key part of Skyrora’s mission to place space sustainability as a crucial element in its planning and company vision. It has also developed a new way of launching satellites without damaging the environment as well as creating an eco-friendly fuel that ensures the UK has the most environmentally-friendly space industry in the world.

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The company recently secured €3m funding from the European Space Agency, which will be used to complete Skyrora’s XL programme to deliver consistent orbital launches from the UK.

Skyrora XL is a 23m, 56-tonne, three-stage rocket capable of carrying up to 315kg into orbit. The vehicle is on course to be test launched in 2022 from a UK spaceport and the project is set to generate 170 high-skilled jobs.


Watch live: First Minister provides Covid update

The First Minister was speaking on Monday.

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It comes after several positive cases were identified.

Nicola Sturgeon is providing a coronavirus update after six cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 were identified in Scotland.

The positive cases were announced by the Scottish Government on Monday and comes after three were detected in England.

Four of the cases are in the Lanarkshire area and two have been identified in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

More to follow…


Six cases of new Covid-19 variant Omicron confirmed in Scotland

The Scottish Government revealed that six cases of the new variant have been identified.

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Covid-19: Six cases of new variant confirmed.

Six cases of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 have been identified in Scotland.

The Scottish Government revealed the positive cases on Monday.

Four are in the Lanarkshire area and two have been identified in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Some of the new cases have no travel history, which suggests there is a degree of community transmission.

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Public Health Scotland and local health protection teams are supporting those involved and contact tracing is being undertaken to establish the origin of the virus and any individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed the news as he urged the public to “redouble their efforts”.

He said: “This will be a worrying time for the six people now identified as having the new variant.

“All will receive expert help and support and Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases.

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“This will help establish the origin of the virus and any further individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks.

“There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant. 

“Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and response to treatments or vaccines and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information. Until more is known we must be cautious and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.

“We have already taken steps and are aligning with the new border restrictions being introduced by the UK Government which will require fully vaccinated arrivals to take a PCR test within two days of arrival and to self-isolate until a negative result is received.

“These measures will be introduced as soon as possible and kept under constant review. However, we reserve the right to go further if necessary. We are also adopting the expanded red list of countries identified by the UK Government.

“This will also be kept under review.”

Yousaf also highlighted the need for a booster shot for those that are eligible.

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He said: “We must now redouble our efforts to follow the basic rules that have served us well throughout the pandemic – wear a face covering on public transport and in all indoor settings for food and retail; open windows especially if you have people visiting at home; keep washing your hands regularly and thoroughly. 

“Work from home where possible, take regular lateral flow tests – especially before mixing with others outside your household.

“If you have symptoms, self-isolate and take a test and if contacted by Test and Protect or public health teams please co-operate and follow their advice. All close contacts of suspected Omicron cases will be advised to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

“And of course, if you are eligible for your booster, or are still to have any dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, please get vaccinated now.”

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “We obviously have some travel history on some of the cases, I don’t have all of that detail available to me at this stage, but on some of the cases we are aware that there is no travel history involved on some of the cases.

“So what that tells us is that there must be a degree of community transmission of this particular strain of the virus in the absence of direct travel connection for some of the cases in the southern African area.

“So that obviously opens up further challenges for us in terms of interrupting the spread of this particular strain of the virus and that will be the focus of the contact tracing operation that is under way already.”

The first two cases in the UK – in Nottingham and Essex – were announced on Saturday, while a third Omicron case was detected in the UK on Sunday in a person with travel links to southern Africa.

Britain will convene an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday to discuss the variant first detected in South Africa amid concerns it could spread rapidly and partially evade existing jabs.

Ice weather warning as number of homes left without power

The yellow warning was issued by the Met Office.

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A number of households have been left without power as a result of Storm Arwen.

A yellow warning for ice has been issued for the north-east of Scotland as cold weather sweeps the UK.

Drivers have been warned about some icy patches on untreated roads, whilst pedestrians and cyclists have been urged to take care on pavements and cycle paths.

The alert is in place until 10am on Monday.

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Monday: A yellow weather warning for ice has been put in place.

It comes as thousands of residents living in areas badly impacted by Storm Arwen have been left without power.

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Monday marked the third day for a number of people who had been impacted, whilst Scottish Water said on Sunday that around 3000 homes were without water supplies.

Energy firm SSE said it may take “several days” before power is fully restored to homes, adding the damage caused by Storm Arwen was ‘three times greater’ than the Beast from the East in 2018.

Schools in Aberdeenshire have also been closed for Monday and Tuesday to both pupils and staff due to the ongoing weather issues.

NHS Grampian also said that vaccination centres in Aberdeenshire would close on Monday and urged patients to rearrange appointments. 


Redoubling Covid efforts ‘will maximise chance of normal Christmas’

Nicola Sturgeon will tell the SNP conference on Monday that Scots 'must not drop their guard'.

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Christmas: Scots urged to be vigilant in the run up to the festive period.

Nicola Sturgeon will urge Scots to redouble their efforts in the fight against coronavirus – saying doing this will help “maximise” the chances of having a “more normal Christmas”.

With cases of the new Omicron strain having already been detected in the UK – although not in Scotland – the First Minister will use her speech to the SNP conference to highlight the need for vigilance.

With the Omicron strain “causing profound concern here and across the world”, Sturgeon will tell supporters and people across Scotland: “We must not drop our guard. This is a time to be more vigilant, not less.”

While her speech will cover issues ranging from Scotland’s public services, the economy and the country’s constitutional future, the SNP leader will also use it as an opportunity to make clear her top priority at the moment is leading the country through the pandemic.

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That comes despite infection levels in Scotland having been “stable”, if not “declining slightly”, in recent weeks.

She will state: “To be frank, that’s a much better position than I had dared hope for a couple of months ago.”

Despite this she will warn Scotland faces “big and very real challenges ahead over the winter months”.

Sturgeon will say: “Cases are rising in countries all around us. We know that colder weather, forcing us indoors, coupled with festive socialising will create increased opportunities for the virus to spread.”

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She will tell the conference that the new variant of Covid has led the Scottish Government to impose tighter restrictions at the borders, adding the fact that “none of this was even contemplated just a few days ago, is a reminder of how fast this virus can move and change”.

The First Minister will tell people: “We must, all of us, therefore, redouble our efforts to stop it in its tracks.

“The good news is that we know how to do that. We’ve done it before.

“Over these next weeks of winter, we need to pull together and look after each other.”

She will continue: “I promise that the government will do our job. Steering the country through this winter is my priority – it is my duty.

“But no government can fight a virus alone – we all need to play our part. That was true before the detection of Omicron, and it is even more so now.

“If all of us increase our compliance with the protections already in place, we will help slow transmission.

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“So I am asking everyone to please, take the time now to think afresh about the basic steps you can take to keep yourself, your loved ones and the country safe.”

She will add: “If we all do this, we will slow the spread.

“And we will maximise our chances, not just of a more normal Christmas but a safer Christmas too and, let’s all hope, a much brighter new year.”


More than two thirds of people ‘support doubling child payment’

Campaigners said many families are facing a difficult winter.

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Poll: Calls to double the Scottish Child Payment.

More than two thirds of people think next month’s Scottish Government budget should be used to double a benefit payment made to poorer families, according to new research for anti-poverty campaigners.

The polling, conducted for the End Child Poverty coalition in Scotland, found that once “don’t knows” were excluded, 68% of people in Scotland support doubling the Scottish Child Payment, a £10-per-week-per-child benefit.

Coalition members said that many families are facing a really difficult winter and that next month’s draft budget is a “golden opportunity” to support them and raise the payment to £20.

The survey, carried out by Survation, found that even when people who responded “don’t know” were included, more than half (57%) of people agreed that the benefit should be doubled.

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The Scottish Government has already pledged to increase the payment to £20 within the lifetime of the parliament and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in September that it will happen “sooner rather than later”.

Peter Kelly, director of Poverty Alliance, said: “In Scotland, people believe in protecting one another and in doing the right thing. As this new polling makes clear, they overwhelmingly support taking action now to stem the rising tide of child poverty.

“Children and families living in the grip of poverty right now simply cannot wait. Scottish ministers must listen to people across the country who are calling on them to do the right thing, and double the Scottish Child Payment now.”

The latest poll comes after more than 100 charities, faith groups and trade unions wrote to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes earlier this month urging her to use the upcoming draft budget to double the Scottish Child Payment.

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The Scottish Child Payment is currently paid at £10 per week for each child under six in families in receipt of a qualifying benefit such as Universal Credit.

Commenting on the latest poll, Claire Telfer, head of Scotland, Save the Children, said: “We know that many families with young children in Scotland are struggling to make ends meet, parents are going without food or not putting the heating on, to care for their children.

“As a society we can – and must – do better. Next month’s budget is a golden opportunity to act now and support families and drive down poverty by doubling the Scottish Child Payment.”

The poll of 1045 people was carried out in mid-November.

Polly Jones, head of Scotland, Trussell Trust, said: “Families across Scotland are facing a really difficult winter. Right now, food banks in the Trussell Trust network in Scotland are giving out a food parcel every three minutes to people in crisis.

“This isn’t right, especially when we have the power to change this. Doubling the Scottish Child Payment now would be a huge boost to Scotland’s struggling families and I hope ministers will listen to the public and act.”

Other members of the End Child Poverty coalition in Scotland include Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Children in Scotland, Home Start, Barnardo’s, Children 1st, Oxfam, One Parent Families Scotland and Action for Children.

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The Scottish Government is being asked for comment.

FM told to ‘back or sack’ health board bosses over infection scandal

Scottish Labour said Nicola Sturgeon must decide if she is 'on the side of bereaved families or managers'.

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Hospital: Scottish Labour call on Nicola Sturgeon to 'back or sack' hospital bosses.

Calls for health board bosses to be sacked over the deadly infection scandal at Glasgow’s flagship hospital will be debated at Holyrood this week.

Scottish Labour will lead a debate on Wednesday to renew calls for senior management of the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) health board to be sacked as a result of the infection scandal at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).

Leader Anas Sarwar last week demanded that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon bring the hospital under direct ministerial control and sack senior management figures amid concern about waterborne infections at QEUH.

At First Minister’s Questions, Sarwar revealed that a further two deaths at the hospital may have been linked to the infected water supply.

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Sturgeon argued that “sacking a health board does not change overnight the practice in a hospital”.

But Sarwar has now called on the First Minister to “decide if she is on the side of bereaved families and bullied clinicians, or out-of-touch managers” when the motion is debated in the Scottish Parliament.

He said: “The ongoing scandal at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is the greatest of the devolution era, but the SNP government has failed to act.

“Lives have been lost, families have been shattered and whistle-blowers have been put under incredible strain.

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“In any other country, there would be resignations and sackings. But under this SNP government, it has been nothing but denial and cover-up.

“This must be a line in the sand, Nicola Sturgeon must decide if she is on the side of bereaved families and bullied clinicians, or out-of-touch managers.

“She has a straight choice on the leadership of the health board – back them or sack them.

“That’s why this week in Parliament, Scottish Labour will give all parties the chance to do right by the families affected and vote to send a message to this Government that words are not enough.”

Responding to Sarwar, Sturgeon said: “When concerns are raised about the cause of someone’s death, then that has to be properly investigated so that the action that is then taken as a result of that is the right action.”

While she accepted “these are serious matters”, she added: “We do not do justice to the families concerned if we simply call for action that is not based on proper investigation, proper scrutiny and proper consideration.”

Following FMQs, a spokesperson for NHSGGC said: “In the past 24 hours, the QEUH/RHC (Royal Hospital for Children) and specifically the treatment provided to our patients has continued to be called into question.

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“Hearing such speculation and allegations has been extremely difficult for our staff and patients alike.”

The spokesperson said the continued claims that NHSGGC was failing to be transparent across all areas of patient care and building safety were “of serious concern”.


Silverburn owners in talks over selling shopping centre for £140m

Silverburn, based in Pollok, Glasgow, was originally bought by Hammerson for around £300m in 2009.

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Silverburn: Could be sold for £140m.

Retail property giant Hammerson is in talks over the sale of the Silverburn shopping centre near Glasgow for around £140m.

Shares in the company moved higher on Monday after it confirmed talks over the disposal of the site, which is a 50-50 joint venture Hammerson holds with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).

Silverburn, based in Pollok, Glasgow, was originally bought by Hammerson for around £300m in 2009.

However, the owner of Birmingham’s Bullring has been weighed down by dwindling valuations for retail properties in recent years.

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It told investors in August that its short-term priority is to sell non-core parts of its real estate portfolio.

The group said any sale would help to strengthen its balance and enable it to “recycle capital for investment”.

Hammerson sold its remaining retail parks operation, which included sites in Middlesbrough and Falkirk, to Canadian investor Brookfield for £330m as part of its disposal programme.

In a statement, Hammerson said: “There can be no certainty that a transaction will take place, but the company confirms the pricing under discussion is £140m, which would represent a class 2 transaction.

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“The company will provide a further update in due course, if appropriate.”

It comes after Hammerson revealed last month that the number of shoppers heading to its sites has improved to between 15% and 20% below pre-Covid levels.

Shares in Hammerson were 3.1% higher at 31.42p after the markets opened on Monday morning.


Irn-Bru maker to beat profit forecasts amid strong sales momentum

AG Barr said it has been boosted by positive trade in the ‘on-the-go’ and hospitality markets.

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Irn-Bru: Maker to beat profit forecast.

Irn-Bru manufacturer AG Barr has revealed that its profits for the year are expected to beat market forecasts after strong sales continued in recent months.

The Scottish business, which also makes Rubicon, said sales since September “have grown ahead of our expectations”.

It said it has been boosted by positive trade in the “on-the-go” and hospitality markets, while recent product launched have also performed better than expected.

The drinks firm has been buoyed by the return of more normal habits as people head back to offices in city centres, as well as the recovery of bars and restaurants in recent months.

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AG Barr told investors that its production and supply chain has remained resilient and supported recent growth despite the “challenging supply chain environment”.

“As a result of our continued strong volume performance and despite ongoing near-term operating cost pressures, we now anticipate both revenue and profit before tax for the full year to be ahead of current market expectations,” the company said.

It reported that revenues are expected to be around £264m for the year, with a forecast pre-tax profit of around £41m, assuming no significant changes to market conditions.

It is the second time the company has upgraded its profit guidance in the last four months.

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The London-listed business added that the pandemic “remains a risk” but highlighted that it expects the strong sales momentum to continue in 2022.

Wayne Brown, equity analyst at Liberum, said: “Another upgrade two months before year-end suggests a high degree of confidence and more to come is now highly likely.”

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Suspect charged and due in court after man stabbed in murder bid

Police launched an investigation after a 24-year-old man was found seriously injured following a disturbance in East Kilbride.

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Police: A suspect has been charged following an incident in East Kilbride last week.

A suspect has been charged after a man was stabbed in an attempted murder in South Lanarkshire.

Police launched an investigation after a 24-year-old man was found seriously injured following a disturbance in East Kilbride’s Calderwood Square on Wednesday, November 24.

On Monday, the force confirmed a man had been arrested and charged in connection with the incident.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “A 29-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with the attempted murder of a 24-year-old man who was found seriously injured in Calderwood Square, East Kilbride, on Wednesday, November 24.

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“He is due to appear at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Monday, November 29.”

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