Volunteers deliver nearly half a million free meals

The team have been providing vital food parcels throughout the pandemic.

Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, a volunteer movement responding to the COVID-19 crisis in Edinburgh. Katielee Arrowsmith via SWNS
Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, a volunteer movement responding to the COVID-19 crisis in Edinburgh.

Volunteers have delivered nearly half a million free meals during the coronavirus pandemic – providing breakfast, soup, a snack and a main course for 50p per person.

Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts was set up in Edinburgh in March last year when the impact of the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods became apparent.

Unlike food banks, there is no referral needed and also no means testing, so people can access meals immediately when they need them.

By the end of January, it is expected that half a million meals will have been delivered, with the number so far around 430000.

Chef Gemma Johnstone-Cooke with donated produce. Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS.
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On one day alone last week, 1041 ‘day’ packs – containing breakfast, soup, a snack and a main course – were dropped off.

Supermarkets donate food to the organisation, meaning most of the costs are fuel for the van and containers, and a ‘day pack’ costs about 50p to make.

One of the founders, Sonya Mathews, 35, said: “We get people who are really grateful to be able to get food without all the red tape.

“Using foodbanks is not straightforward.

Chef Gemma Johnstone-Cooke making soup at Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts. Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS.
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“We get Instagram messages from people in other parts of the country where food provision involves waiting for referrals.

“It can be too complicated and too convoluted.

“We don’t means test anybody, anyone who asks for help gets help.

“Poverty and destitution are often situations which could happen to anyone.”

More than 200 volunteers help with packing up parcels with 60 people offering to work in a socially distanced kitchen in Leith, Edinburgh.

Volunteer delivery drivers at Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts. Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS.

Another 100 volunteers deliver food, and over the course of the pandemic more than 1,000 people have given up their time.

People who have been furloughed or have become unemployed have helped, including teachers, bankers and students, with many working one day a week.

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Hot food is also provided at Leith Theatre, in Leith, Edinburgh, from 12 until 1pm every day.

Sonya, who lives near Leith, Edinburgh, and is unemployed added: “It is the entire community pulling together.

Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, a volunteer movement responding to the COVID-19 crisis in Edinburgh. Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS.

“We rescue food – we get it donated from supermarkets and we take it from businesses which have shut in lockdown.

“We managed to come up with this system, whereby we can provide this much food for 50p.”

She was scathing about school meals provision down south which hit headlines.

Sonya added: “The government outsources these provision services to their buddies with no supervision.

“It is indicative of the fact they really don’t care.

“If it was a voucher it is an intangible thing, but the photos show a bag of potatoes, a tin of beans and a loaf of bread.

“It is indicative of how little they care.”

She said demand varied as the pandemic wore on, and added: “We are not seeing the same people for ten months in a row.

“We see an increase and decrease in demand, and we expect to see it increase when furlough ends.

“We expect to have delivered 500000 meals by the end of January.”

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FM ‘hopeful’ outdoor meeting rules will be relaxed

Nicola Sturgeon hopes to make some 'relatively minor but important' changes to lockdown restrictions next week.

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Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes to relax the rules around outdoor meetings next week.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she was keen to allow people to meet a loved one, but cautioned people not to get carried away as Scotland emerges from lockdown.

Outdoor meetings of four people from two households are scheduled to be allowed between March 15 and April 5 in the Scottish Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Sturgeon said changes to the current rules – which allow the meeting of two adults from two households for exercise – could be announced in the coming days.

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She said: “I am hopeful that next week we might be able to make some relatively minor, but I think important, changes to the rules around our ability to meet people outdoors and also to how young people are able to interact with their friends outdoors.

“I think it’s really important that we don’t get carried away yet.

“The overall stay-at-home message needs to stay for a bit longer so that we don’t send our progress into reverse, but I am very keen that within that we should all get a bit more opportunity to see a loved one, as the first steps we take out of this lockdown.”

Sturgeon also announced that Scotland has recorded 11 deaths from coronavirus and 498 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

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It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7409.

She said the daily test positivity rate is 3.1%, up from 2.5% the previous day.

There are 666 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 52 in 24 hours, and 64 patients are in intensive care, down three.

By 8.30am on Friday, a total of 1,717,672 Scots had received their first coronavirus vaccine, an increase of 29,064 from the previous day.

Meanwhile, a total of 108,197 have had their second jab, with 8,139 getting this on Thursday.

Sturgeon said 96% of 65 to 69-year-olds had had their first dose of the vaccine, along with 39% of 60 to 64-year-olds, 33% of 55 to 59-year-olds and 27% of 50 to 54-year-olds.

Sturgeon also said routine testing was now available for people without symptoms in food production and processing businesses – such as dairies, abattoirs and meat and seafood processing plants.

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She said these workplaces had a higher risk of transmission, due to factors such as the cold temperature and limited ventilation.

Scottish port aims to ‘lead world’ in hydrogen technology

The Port of Cromarty Firth aims to build a facility to produce and distribute the element.

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Highland port unveils ambitious plans.

A Highland port has unveiled ambitious plans to lead the world in hydrogen technology – with the help of whisky.

The Port of Cromarty Firth aims to build a facility to produce and distribute the element.

The idea is that green hydrogen, created with power from windfarms, will ultimately help Scotland “de-carbonise” its economy.

The North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme will produce and distribute hydrogen locally and as far as Europe.

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One aspect of the project is to provide distilleries in the region with hydrogen.

A four-month feasibility study is due to begin this month backed by funding from Pale Blue Dot Energy, ScottishPower, Glenmorangie, Whyte & Mackay and Diageo.

The partners hope it could be operational within two years. It is unclear at this stage how many jobs could be created.

The port’s chief executive Bob Buskie said the project would help Scotland establish itself as a global leader in a technology still in its infancy.

Ex-FM tells Sturgeon and Salmond to stop fighting

Henry McLeish says there is 'no serious path' to the current First Minister's resignation.

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Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have both appeared in front of Holyrood committee.

A former first minister for Scotland has said Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond must stop “knocking hell out of each other in public”.

Labour’s Henry McLeish said there is “no serious path” to the current First Minister’s resignation.

Giving evidence at the Scottish Parliament committee inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against him last week, Salmond said there was “no doubt” his successor as First Minister broke the ministerial code but stopped short of saying she should resign.

Appearing before the committee on Wednesday, Sturgeon rejected his accusations and said she felt “let down” by his “absurd” claims of a plot of SNP figures against him.

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The committee was set up after a successful judicial review by Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government’s investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.

He was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault following a criminal trial last year.

A separate inquiry is investigating if Sturgeon breached the ministerial code, which she denies.

The Scottish Conservatives have said they have lodged votes of no confidence in Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney, though there is no timescale for these to be debated.

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McLeish told BBC Radio Scotland: “The First Minister, I think, has rebutted most of the challenges, the assertions, the allegations that have been made.

“In my view there is no serious path to the First Minister either resigning or suffering with a vote of no confidence in the parliament.

“What we should be doing now is for both the committee of inquiry at Holyrood and the separate inquiry into the breach of the ministerial code to be completed as soon as possible, get on with the election and get Scotland back to some normality.

“That’s a long shot in a way but we can’t continue to see two distinguished, prestigious people knocking hell out each other in public – that’s got to be left behind.

“I hope at the end of all of this the parliament and the government learn lessons. That’s the important thing. There are reforms required and that should be the first priority after we get this initial mess sorted out.”

McLeish became First Minister in 2000 but had to resign the position just over a year later having become embroiled in an expenses row about a failure to declare subletting a floor in his Glenrothes office – dubbed Officegate.

Gerrard ready to redecorate Ibrox as Premiership title looms

Rangers are just four points away from being crowned domestic kings for the first time in a decade.

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Rangers boss Steven Gerrard admits he is looking forward to doing some home improvements around Ibrox.

Rangers are just four points away from being crowned domestic kings for the first time in a decade with title number 55.

Gerrard, who’s been named manager of the month for February, said he’s looking forward to replacing banners describing his side as ’54-times champions’.

They could even have their hands on the trophy at long last as early as Sunday if they beat St Mirren tomorrow and Celtic slip up at Dundee United 24 hours later.

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That would deny Gerrard’s squad the chance to celebrate together on the field, with many fans preferring the dream scenario of seeing their side finally smash Celtic’s reign of dominance on their bitter rivals’ home patch when they head to Parkhead on March 21.

But Gerrard is only bothered about the fact the title party takes place – not the time or the venue.

And once the celebrations are over, he is looking forward to getting his DIY kit out.

He said: “Fans are entitled to think what they want. People will want it to happen for their own satisfaction.

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“For me it’s about becoming champions as quick as we can in any way we can do that.

“The important thing as a group is to just keeping winning football matches and it will happen when it happens.

“I totally respect that some fans might want to win it this way or that way – but I don’t think anyone will complain when we get this over the line.

“The important thing is to get that trophy back, get 55, knock all the 54s off the walls – that’s the main thing for me, adding to the wonderful history of this club.

“If it happens on Sunday, in April, or May, I don’t care so long as it happens.”

Gerrard knows the Ibrox faithful are ready to explode into scenes of jubilation having seen a group of supporters gather outside the Tony Macaroni Arena to set off a spectacular firework display during Wednesday’s win at Livingston.

But the Ibrox boss has urged fans to stay safe and abide by Covid-19 rules as they gear up to party.

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He said: “We all have to continue to try and abide by the rules and respect social distancing.

“I know a lot of rumours are going about but my job is to focus on the game and try and get three points. People have to understand the situation our fans are in and what they’ve been through and the priority is that they stay safe.

“The fans are the priority here and we totally understand and we can certainly relate to how they’re feeling at the moment.

“We know there’s a real excitement and rightly so. We want them to really enjoy this time and really revel in the moment.

“The fireworks display was impressive, for sure, and I got a bit of a fright. It went on for some time – and some of my players were dodging them when they landed on the pitch.

“So we would say try and keep them away from the pitch so we can focus on the job we’re trying to do.

“But we totally understand the excitement levels and it’s fantastic what’s happening at the moment – and we need to enjoy every single day.

“The important thing for us is to stay focused and try and get over the line as quick as we can. We’ve got an opportunity to make this 99.9% done and that’s what we want to do.”

Rangers have come a long way since losing to Hamilton exactly 12 months ago.

It appeared at that point Rangers might never overturn Celtic’s grip on power.

But Gerrard said: “Losing to Hamilton in the manner we did wasn’t a good day or good time and it’s not a game we’re proud of at all but what we’ve done over the last 12 months has been super-impressive and the players deserve all the credit for that.

“Football is a funny game and can change at any given moment – and that’s what happened from that day.”

Prince Philip moves back to private hospital after procedure

The Duke of Edinburgh underwent a procedure at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on Wednesday.

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Prince Philip has been in hospital since February 17.

Prince Philip has been transferred back to King Edward VII’s Hospital in London having had a “successful” procedure for a pre-existing heart condition this week.

The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s husband, was admitted to hospital on February 17, after feeling unwell.

He spent 13 nights at King Edward VII’s in central London before being moved to St Bartholomew’s Hospital on Monday.

On Wednesday, the 99-year-old underwent a procedure and was to remain in hospital for “treatment, rest and recuperation”.

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The Duke’s 100th birthday is three months away and has battled an infection since being in hospital.

Buckingham Palace said: “Following The Duke of Edinburgh’s successful procedure at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on Wednesday, His Royal Highness has been transferred to King Edward VII’s Hospital this morning.

“The Duke is expected to remain in hospital for continuing treatment for a number of days.”

Man accused of two attempted murders in 14 months

Leonard Cole denies two attempted murders and trying to pervert the course of justice.

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Cole appeared via video link at the High Court in Glasgow.

A man has been accused of trying to kill two men more than a year apart

Leonard Cole appeared via video link to face the allegations at the High Court in Glasgow.

The 22-year-old is first charged with the attempted murder of Shaun Charles in Greenock, Inverclyde on June 9, 2018.

The accusation includes claims he repeatedly struck the man with a machete.

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Cole is then accused of a second murder bid in Port Glasgow, also Inverclyde, on August 27, 2019.

He is said to have acted with another individual in attacking Reece Warnock with claims the man was punched, kicked and struck with a knife.

The indictment states Mr Warnock has since passed away.

Cole faces further charges of having a machete, a knife, attempting to pervert the course of justice as well as failing to attend a court date in October 2019.

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His QC Thomas Ross pleaded not guilty on his behalf. The advocate also lodged special defences of self defence and incrimination.

Lord Fairley continued the case until a further hearing in May.


Online child sex abuse and fraud soars during pandemic

Police also record a rise in public nuisance, neighbour disputes and noise complaints.

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Online fraud was up more than 43%, the new figures show.

Online child sexual abuse and fraud increased sharply during the pandemic in Scotland, according to latest figures.

Police Scotland said there was a 43.4% increase in fraud between April and December compared to the same period last year and a 13.4% increase in the online abuse.

The statistics are covered in the force’s 2020-21 latest performance report and also show a 1.8% increase in domestic abuse crimes.

This is despite overall recorded crimes reducing from 187,334 during the same period last year to 174,999.

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The number of 999 calls received reduced by 5.1% but 101 calls increased by 3.4%.

A total of 1,993,318 calls were recorded during the period to both numbers.

People contacting the non-emergency line had to wait longer during the pandemic for a response (2 minutes and 37 seconds on average) but Police Scotland said calls to 999 were prioritised, with an eight-second, average response time.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “Officers and staff continue to play a key role in the national effort to combat the spread of coronavirus, while they face the same personal and professional challenges as their fellow citizens.

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“Our service centres are operating successfully with reduced capacity due to physical distancing requirements, while also coping with increased call demand from the public seeking guidance on coronavirus related issues.

“While some callers using the 101 non-emergency number have had to wait longer than normal to have their call answered during this time, emergency 999 calls are prioritised and I am grateful to the officers and staff for their commitment to public service.”

The data also shows large increases in incidents of public nuisance (up from 56,936 to 123,979), neighbour disputes (16,021 to 22,930) and noise complaints (43,288 to 51,277).

Ms Taylor added: “The public health crisis continues to influence the needs of our communities, however it may be years before we fully understand the impact of coronavirus on crime and policing demand in Scotland.”


Towns lose gas supply for second time in month

Properties in Aberdeenshire and Moray have no gas again, supplier SGN said.

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SGN said it didn't know when the problem would be fixed.

Two towns have lost their gas supply for the second time in just over a month.

More than 4000 homes in Hunty, in Aberdeenshire, and Keith, in Moray, were cut off during freezing weather in February.

Gas supplier SGN confirmed properties in the towns were without gas again on Friday, and said it didn’t know how long it would take to fix the problem.

It said another update would be issued at 1.30pm.

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SGN said: “We’re aware properties in Huntly and Keith are without gas. Our engineers are on site investigating the cause of this issue.

“We know it’s not easy being without your gas supply and we’re extremely sorry for this disruption.

“We’ll be doing all we can to restore everyone’s supplies as soon as possible.”


Supergroup forms to back Doddie Weir’s mission against MND

Grammy award-winning violinist Nicola Benedetti and songstress Julie Fowlis are among 40 musicians who feature.

Andy Gotts via Innes and Campbell / My Name’5 Doddie via Innes and Campbell
Nicola Benedetti and Doddie Weir: The former sportsman revealed in 2017 that he has the illness.

A supergroup has formed a ‘musical scrum’ to back a Scottish rugby hero’s mission to tackle a deadly disease.

Grammy award-winning violinist Nicola Benedetti and songstress Julie Fowlis are among 40 musicians who feature on a song to raise money for Doddie Weir’s motor neuron disease charity.

The former sportsman revealed in 2017 that he has the illness.

He created the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation to help finance the research and quest for a cure.

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The emotive and powerful musical piece ‘Doddie’s Dream’ was composed by an old friend, Bruce MacGregor of Blazin’ Fiddles.

Mike Rushby Photography via Innes and Campbell
Bruce MacGregor of Blazin’ Fiddles (Mike Rushby Photography)

Money raised from the single, which is officially launched next week, will go to the foundation.

It was recorded remotely in an array of locations across Scotland, Ireland and the US.

Irish accordion legend Sharon Shannon and fiddle and accordion duo Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham are among the other contributors.

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Mr MacGregor wrote the piece because he was inspired by Doddie’s positivity and by recent fundraising events.

He said: “I was lucky enough to play a bit of rugby and even managed to squeeze into a squad with Doddie at student level.

“I’ve been so inspired by the big man’s approach to dealing with this disease – he’s incredible.

“Whilst cycling by Loch Ness as part of Doddie Aid, I had this idea of doing a charity single with a host of fellow musicians playing along with me and the Blazers.

“The tune has a real positive lift to it and, hopefully, it fits in with that amazing collective spirit that was on display during Doddie Aid.”

Julie Fowlis said: “It’s an amazing line-up, with loads of iconic Scottish bands and players, so it’s a huge privilege to be part of it all.”

The foundation, which was launched four years ago, strives to help fellow MND sufferers and fund research into the currently incurable disease.

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In January, the Doddie Active-Inter District Challenge was launched and attracted more than 30,000 participants – running, walking and cycling to rack up miles for their chosen district and ultimately raising more than £1million.

The song and video will be available online from next week.

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