The Scottish Liberal Democrats have launched their election manifesto with a promise to “put recovery first, not independence”.
Leader Willie Rennie argued that in the wake of coronavirus, “we must bring the country together to recover from this dreadful pandemic”.
He insisted: “This is not the moment to go back to the divisions of the past with another independence referendum that will divide because the recovery will require the skills and talents of everyone.
“Just imagine what we can do. This manifesto is packed with over 50 top line commitments.
“To cut mental health waits. Faster treatment in the NHS. Giving pupils the education they deserve to achieve their best. Creating well paid jobs with a skilled workforce. Taking bold action to tackle climate change.
“This is a liberal offer. At our heart we want every individual to achieve their potential. Liberal Democrats will put recovery first.”
The manifesto, launched ahead of the May 6 Holyrood poll, promises an “urgent programme to help children bounce back in education” after schooling was disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic.
Liberal Democrats plan to raise the school starting age to seven, with a play-based education until then, and more childcare for youngsters from the age of two.
Every qualified teacher will be guaranteed a job – a move the party says would cut class sizes – and starting salaries will be at least £30,000.
The party will also guarantee every primary and secondary school pupil has at least one week away at an outdoor centre – as well as “regular” classroom lessons outdoors.
It vows to put “recovery first for the NHS”, with 15% of health spending going on the key area of mental health.
The Lib Dems say they will train more specialist mental health workers who would be based in community centres, schools and workplaces, as well as hospitals.
They also plan to double the number of specialist psychiatrists in training to help young people, as well as doubling the number of people training to be counsellors – with the offer of a £5000 grant to those studying on such courses.
Other commitments include a job guarantee for 16 to 24-year-olds, moving one million homes to zero-emission heating by 2030, and the creation of the new post of Outdoor Recreation Champion within government, to help everyone in Scotland get the benefits of the outdoors.
But unlike other parties, the Lib Dems do not support the creation of a National Care Service in Scotland, saying they are “concerned that this risks losing local innovation and skills, and could repeat the expensive mistakes made by the similar creation of Police Scotland”.
Speaking about the policy programme, Rennie said: “Liberal Democrats will put recovery first, not independence.
“That means an NHS recovery plan. It means a greater priority for mental health with extra counsellors, mental health first aiders and specialists for easy access near to you.
“Bounce back support for pupils, employing more permanent teachers to cut class sizes, and extend free nursery education to all two-year-olds.
“Creating more jobs and taking action on the climate with one million low-cost, low-carbon homes, a young people’s job guarantee and £5000 training grants.
“That’s what you get when you put recovery first.”
Some coronavirus travel restrictions have been removed in Scotland and more people are now able to meet up outdoors.
From Friday, Scots can leave their local authority area and visit other parts of the country for the purposes of outdoor socialising, recreation or exercise.
But they must follow the “stay local” order for other purposes such as non-essential shopping, and travel to some islands is not allowed.
Six adults from up to six different households are able to meet up outdoors. Children under 12 do not count towards the limit.
The latest stage in lockdown easing was announced at an unscheduled Covid-19 briefing by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.
She said the continued decline in virus cases meant the restrictions can be eased earlier than planned.
Gordon Watson, chief executive of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, told STV News that extra rangers and litter staff will be out in force on Friday.
He said: “We know people are desperate to get out after a long winter lockdown, but things aren’t quite the same just yet.
“So if you do come out, businesses won’t be open and not all facilities will be open, so we ask people to plan ahead.”
Overnight stays are not permitted, so camping outside your local authority is still not allowed.
As people are expected to take advantage of the easing and good weather to get outdoors, hillwalkers have also been urged to make sure they properly prepare.
Mountaineering Scotland has welcomed the move but warned that conditions on hills can vary with snow still lying extensively at higher altitudes.
Heather Morning, adviser for Mountaineering Scotland, said: “People should also be conscious that, with limited opportunity to climb in the hills over the last few months, they may have lost some hill-fitness and may well prefer to take on easier walks to begin with so they can ease themselves back into the swing of things.”
Further easing of restrictions is expected later this month, with non-essntial retail, gyms, pubs and restaurants all due to reopen on April 26.
Hospitality will be bound by curfew restrictions, meaning pubs will have to close at 10pm with alcohol only allowed to be served outdoors.
The Scottish Hospitality Group said only 22 to 24% of licensed premises have outside beer gardens – many of those that do only have three or four tables, making opening financially infeasible.
A spokesperson said: “If you are allowing a wedding of 50 to have alcohol, it’s time to allow our locals to enjoy a meal with a drink, as they support us all year.”
The discovery of 77 UK cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India could be a cause for concern, an expert has said.
Public Health England (PHE) reported that 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been confirmed in England as well as four cases in Scotland.
The figures come from the latest update of PHE’s surveillance of the distribution of different variants across the UK, based on data up to April 7.
Officials have designated it a “variant under investigation” (VUI) rather than a “variant of concern” (VOC), such as the Manaus (Brazil) or South African variants.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the variant features two “escape mutations” – E484Q and L452R – which “are causing people to be concerned”.
“There’s laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations,” he said.
“Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviruses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by vaccine.
“But we don’t know that for certain at the moment.”
In India, Covid-19 rates are soaring, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deats.
Prof Hunter said it is “not surprising” that the variant has come from India.
“If you think about where the main variants have arisen – South Africa, the UK, California, Brazil, and now India – all of these are countries that have really struggled to keep case numbers down.
“So it’s not surprising. India has got a huge pandemic, and therefore that’s where you’re going to be getting the variant.”
He added: “The big, big anxiety with this one is that it seems – and again this is still a little bit speculative because it hasn’t been confirmed – but… there are two mutations here that are causing people to be concerned.”
Scottish actor Kevin Guthrie has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a vulnerable actress.
The Sunshine on Leith star, 33, took advantage of the 29-year-old woman who had appeared unwell after a night out.
The incident occurred at the flat of fellow actor Scott Reid – Methadone Mick in BBC’s Still Game.
Guthrie had insisted he had only “helped” the woman that night – but his DNA was found on the inside of her underwear.
He wept and said “why?” as the verdict was delivered at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday.
He had denied a sexual assault charge during a four-day trial.
Sheriff Tom Hughes told him: “You took advantage of this woman while she was in a vulnerable position.
“The jury say you were found in a position of trust while you were supposed to be looking after her.
“Your position stands in direct contrast to the one of your friend Scott Reid whose actions were highly commendable.
“He rushed to her aid when something happened outside his home and he cared for her.
“He was constantly trying to get help through NHS 24 and did absolutely anything to help her.
“This must carry a custodial sentence for this serious matter you have been found guilty of.”
Guthrie, of the city’s Yorkhill, was put on the sex offenders’ list.
He was bailed pending sentencing next month.
The attack occurred between September 30 and October 1, 2017.
The woman had been due to meet Guthrie and Scott at a bar on the night of the alleged attack.
Scott received a call from a taxi driver to collect her as she appeared ill.
He and Guthrie helped the woman into the flat in Glasgow’s Kelvindale and put her on a bed.
Scott called NHS 24 leaving Guthrie in the room “to make sure she was okay”.
The woman recalled Scott not being in the room and bed covers then “being moved down my body”.
She went on: “I remember my top being lifted up and my bra being held down.”
The woman was groped by Guthrie before he performed a sex act on her.
Guthrie – who also starred in the Fantastic Beasts film and Netflix series The English Game – carried out a further two sexual acts and kissed her on the mouth. He would stop when Scott would come into the room.
She added: “I was unsure about what was happening, I could not believe it was happening.”
Prosecutor Harry Findlay asked why she did not say anything.
She replied: “I couldn’t. I found it difficult to communicate in any way.
“I think I was frozen as well.”
Guthrie refuted the accusations agreeing with his QC Gordon Jackson that it had instead been a “panic situation” due to the woman’s condition.
However, his DNA was found on the inside of the woman’s underpants.
Mr Findlay asked Guthrie to explain why this was.
He said: “I can’t for the life of me explain in any rational sense how that happened.”
Sentence was deferred until next month for background reports.
The minister of the church used by the royal family when at Balmoral Castle has laid claim to the Duke of Edinburgh being “one of us” in the north east of Scotland.
Reverend Kenneth MacKenzie is the minister of the Parish of Braemar and Crathie and domestic chaplain to the Queen, who visits the church for Sunday services with members of her family, including Prince Philip, when staying at the castle.
Ahead of the duke’s funeral on Saturday, Rev MacKenzie paid tribute to him and highlighted just how many communities across the country, and the world, had an affinity with the 99-year-old.
He said: “Over the last few days, many different tribes and nations have, with some justification, laid claim to the duke, and while I seek no argument with those who claim that he was ‘thoroughly European’, ‘archetypically British’, ‘adopted by the Commonwealth’, ‘Baptised Orthodox’, ‘Confirmed Anglican’ or whatever – let me try to set the record straight.
“I think HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was one of us.
“I make this claim on behalf of those who live in the north east of Scotland, where early on the duke famously received a formal education, and where, by his own acknowledgment, he would later learn even more by walking in the footsteps of those who loved and cared for the land and forests of Upper Deeside.
“At the risk of sounding even more ‘parochial’, I make my ‘one of us’ assertion as a person who serves in a local church.
“A man of faith with an active and enquiring mind, the duke was always interested in the church at the national and institutional level – keeping up to date with the decisions and discussions of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland – but his interest did not stop there.
“He was never slow to question how this ‘so-called faith’ was being lived out in any given parish and community – and speaking for myself, I loved him for it.”
Rev MacKenzie, minister of the parish since 2005, previously told how highly regarded Philip’s work and interest in the community was.
This included the duke knowing people around the Balmoral estate and “not just their parents but grandparents” too.
The Crathie Kirk minister added: “Like many in this community, I have fond memories of personal encounters with the duke.
“But perhaps the most treasured memory of all will be of watching him take his place in church Sunday by Sunday, intentionally finding a spot from where he could best scan the assembled congregation.
“He did this partly to check up on who was there – I am told there were many interesting conversations with those from the estate on Monday mornings – and partly to keep a close eye on the preacher.
“He considered it important, I know, that we preacher types said the right thing – but being the duke, he also rather enjoyed it when we got it wrong.”
Meanwhile, students at the school the Duke of Edinburgh attended, Gordonstoun in Moray, took part in an early morning run on Friday in tribute to him.
Morning runs were compulsory at the school until the 1990s and more than 100 students and staff, in household groups, ran a 3.5km route from Gordonstoun House to the nearby coastguard watchtower which Philip reopened in 1955.
The watchtower replaced a wooden hut which the duke, a member of the “Watchers” – a precursor to the Coastguard – helped build in 1935.
The school’s young sailors will pay their own tribute to him on Saturday ahead of his funeral, laying a wreath at sea off Hopeman Harbour in Moray from the school yacht, while a lone student piper plays.
Killer stabbed man in heart after finding him at partner’s flat
Robbie Smullen has been jailed for more than nine years over the death of Barry Dixon.
A killer who stabbed a man in the heart after he found him at his partner’s flat has been jailed for more than nine years.
Robbie Smullen, 23, knifed Barry Dixon before leaving him at Shannon Beattie’s home in the Tulloch area of Perth.
A judge said Smullen had at the time been disinhibited by the effects of alcohol and “sexual jealousy” when he carried out the killing.
Lady Carmichael said: “No sentence I can impose today can repair or lessen the harm you have caused to the family of Barry Dixon.
“The effects of your actions are enduring for them and felt deeply by them.”
She jailed Smullen for nine years and three months, taking into account that he was freed under three bail orders from Perth Sheriff Court when the offence occurred.
Smullen had earlier denied murdering 22-year-old Mr Dixon in the attack on June 4, 2019, and maintained that he acted in self-defence.
But a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh rejected his claim and convicted him of the lesser charge of culpable homicide.
After the knife attack Mr Dixon was taken to Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital where a scan revealed he had fluid in the sac around his heart. Blood gathered around the vital organ was removed, but a stabbing injury to the heart was identified.
Mr Dixon went into cardiac arrest during efforts to repair the injury and life was later pronounced dead.
Police and paramedics had attended at the Perth flat following an emergency call and found Mr Dixon in the living room with a visible chest wound.
The court heard that Smullen earlier rowed with Ms Beattie, the mother of his child.
She asked him and his friends to leave the flat, which she shared with Smullen at the time.
Ms Beattie, 25, said she left seeking a cigarette and met up with Mr Dixon before returning to her flat where they were drinking.
When Smullen entered he asked what Mr Dixon was doing in the flat. Ms Beattie said Mr Dixon asked him to calm down. She said a fight broke out and she tried to split them up but Smullen pushed her away.
She told the court: “I just remember seeing Robbie on my right hand side and Barry was on my left hand side and Robbie stabbed him. It just happened so fast.”
Smullen told the court that when he arrived at the flat at Wallace Court he was angry and upset to find Mr Dixon there and thought he and his then partner were having sex.
He claimed that Mr Dixon came towards him and threw a punch and that he became aware of a knife in his hand. He said he grabbed his arm and they tripped and fell during a struggle.
Smullen said he fell on top of Mr Dixon and realised the other man had been stabbed when he got up.
He said he was terrified and panicked and ran to go and get help.
Defence counsel Ronnie Renucci QC, for Robbie Smullen, said he had been described as “an immature young man” in a report and he would not take issue with that.
He said: “This was not a case where Mr Smullen that night had gone looking for Mr Dixon, or looking for trouble. He was returning to his family home and came upon a situation which he was not and could not have anticipated.”
“He very much regrets his involvement in the death of Barry Dixon. The fact that he was the cause of the death of another person is something he will have to live with every day,” said Mr Renucci, adding that Smullen told a social worker that it haunts him.
“He has recognised he has to change his ways and move on from his past life,” said the defence counsel.
A young woman with autism and cerebral palsy has praised the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for giving her an “amazing sense of achievement”.
Kayleigh Ptak, from Perthshire, told STV News that Prince Philip’s youth awards programme has given her more independence and confidence.
The 19-year-old, who has attained a silver award, said: “It’s shown me that I can do anything, because I never thought Duke of Edinburgh was something I would be able to do and it has shown me that anything is possible.
“It’s given me more independence and confidence, and it’s just given me more motivation and it’s given me an amazing sense of achievement.
“And I hope, in the future, if I continue with DofE to inspire others to take part if they get the opportunities I have, because it’s just something that I am so passionate about.”
Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, passed away on April 9 at Windsor Castle.
The Duke and the Queen were married for more than 70 years and Philip dedicated decades of his life to royal duty, serving the nation at the monarch’s side.
The 99-year-old, who’s funeral takes place on Saturday, established the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 1956.
The awards programme – which operates in more than 140 countries – aims to inspire and transform the lives of young people through volunteering, physical activities and expeditions.
Kayleigh added: “It came along at a time where I didn’t really know what I was doing. So, I don’t think if I had DofE in my life when it first arrived, I don’t know what I would be doing.
“I’ve met a great bunch of people who, although we all have different needs and abilities, we all support each other and look out for each other when we need it, and we just get on so well as a team.”
Arsenal bound for Ibrox to mark Rangers’ 150th anniversary
Mikel Arteta will bring his side north to Glasgow for commemorative friendly on Saturday, July 17.
Warning: This article contains offensive language
Rangers will welcome Arsenal to Ibrox in the summer to mark the club’s 150th anniversary.
Mikel Arteta, who played for Rangers between 2002-2004, is set to bring his side north to Glasgow on Saturday, July 17.
Rangers are hopeful that a significant number of supporters will be able to attend but away fans will not be permitted due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
James Bisgrove, director of commercial and marketing, said: “Rangers’ 150th anniversary will be a special, special year for the football club, and I am thrilled Arsenal have accepted our invitation to come to Ibrox for a very special friendly match.
“There is a rich heritage shared by the two clubs, and it is therefore fitting we should meet at the beginning of a real, milestone year for Rangers.
“With the Covid-19 situation easing, we are very hopeful we will be able to welcome a significant number of our supporters back to Ibrox to celebrate not only the club’s anniversary, but also the winning of 55 in-person too.”
The announcement of Arsenal’s visit came just hours after Rangers boss Steven Gerrard praised Arteta’s men for dumping Slavia Prague out of Europe on Thursday night.
Gers lost to the Czech champions in the previous round of the Europa League, but the last-16 clash was overshadowed by the racial abuse hurled at Glen Kamara by Slavia defender Ondrej Kudela.
The 34-year-old Kudela has now be handed a ten-game ban by UEFA for allegedly calling the Gers midfielder a “f***ing monkey” – ruling him out of this summer’s Euros.
The fall-out from the explosive Ibrox clash saw Kamara hounded with further online abuse from the Slavia support.
But Arsenal ensured Slavia would go no further in the competition as they produced a four-goal blitz at the Eden Arena to secure a 5-1 aggregate triumph and a place in the semi-finals.
There was a powerful image moments before kick-off when Gunners striker Alexandre Lacazette chose to defiantly take a knee as he stared down the Prague line-up, who remained standing with their arms linked.
The stand-in skipper, whose teammates also kneeled, went on to strike twice, much to the delight of Rangers boss Gerrard.
He said: “I loved everything about the game. I loved Arsenal’s performance, I loved the way they went about it and I admired how they approached before the game, during the game and after the game.
“I was really proud watching Arsenal last night. Everything about it.
“I thought the way they prepared for the game, the way the manager spoke, the way the players behaved during and after, and then to back it up with that level of performance. I sat there and really enjoyed that game.
Attempted murder probe after car driven at teen and boy
Police appealing for information following incident in the east end of Glasgow on Wednesday night.
A 19-year-old man and a 10-year-old boy have been “left badly shaken” after a car was deliberately driven at them in Glasgow.
Police have launched an attempted murder probe following the incident, which happened at around 8.30pm on Wednesday night on Burnett Road in the Barlanark area of Glasgow.
The boy and teenager were not injured in the incident.
Officers have been checking CCTV footage for any additional information and have carried out door-to-door enquiries.
Detective Constable Sarah Steven said: “The motive for this crime is not known, however, we believe that the attack was targeted. I am appealing to the local community in trying to identify the suspect. I’m sure there is information out there which would assist our investigation and I would urge people to pass it on.
“I would also ask motorists with dash cams to check their footage, it’s possible they have images which could assist enquires.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Police Scotland via 101, quoting incident number 3595 of 14 April. Alternatively, please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be given anonymously.