Scots band The Snuts battle Demi Lovato for number one spot

The West Lothian rockers are currently leading the Official Albums Chart race with their debut record, W.L.

Official Charts via Website

By Jenness Mitchell & Polly Bartlett

A Scottish band battling American popstar Demi Lovato for the top spot in the UK albums chart have described it as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.

The Snuts are currently leading the race to number one with W.L.

If the West Lothian indie-rockers hold on to their lead, they will be the first Scottish band in 14 years to top the Official Albums Chart with a debut record since The View in 2007.

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The Snuts’ frontman, Jack Cochrane, 26, told STV News it was a “once in a lifetime chance”.

He added: “This has been our life’s work.

“There’s songs on this record that we wrote when we were 15-years-old. This is a kind of achievement we always wanted to try and work towards.

“We wanted to be able to put guitar music back on the map and hopefully inspire the next generation of young Scottish songwriters and musicians.”

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On Tuesday, The Snuts led the charge with most vinyl and download sales of the week so far.

Lovato – who has the most CD sales of the week so far – was just 1110 sales behind and is on track for her highest-charting album to date in the UK with Dancing with the Devil.

Her previous album, Tell Me You Love Me, peaked at number five in 2019.

Callum Wilson, The Snuts’ bassist, said the band’s battle for number one “shows the power of what core fans can do”.

He added: “See fans that go out there and they buy a vinyl, they buy a record, they buy gig tickets – it really shows that they can kind of go up against these streaming megalodons who just stream millions a day.

“So, I think it’s really inspiring for young bands just to see – if you get that core fanbase, they will always support you.”

The band – Cochrane and Wilson along with guitarist Joe McGillveray and drummer Jordan ‘Joko’ Mackay – have been jamming together since school.

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W.L. refers to Whitburn Loopy – “the troublemakers and the youths” from the band’s hometown – and features numerous themes including mental health struggles and the lasting scars of the country’s damaging drugs culture.

Cochrane said it was great to see the fans enjoying the record.

He added: “How much they’re connecting with the album emotionally is something that’s surprising itself for us.”

When shooting the video for single Somebody Loves You, the band joined forces with the Scottish Refugee Council to showcase some of the stories of those who have been directly helped by the charity.

Wilson described it as ‘humbling’ to see the refugees’ spirit shining through.

He said: “We’re sitting here – everybody was in lockdown, everybody was isolating – but you’re only really a phone call away from friends and family.

“And these people have travelled from one corner of the globe right across, suffered insane hardships and they’re still standing there with a smile on their face to tell their story.

“And I just think that in itself really humbles you and really makes you realise how good you actually do have it.”

If the band take that top spot on Friday, then they will host the “party to end all parties” once it is safe to do so as the fight against coronavirus continues.

Cochrane said the band are “blessed” to have a fanbase that’s got them to this position but joked that waiting to find out is “torture”.

He added: “We kind of started off in pole position, which felt like the worst way we could have started because we’re kind of waiting to have it stolen from us now.

“It’ll be a real achievement for us to take that number one.”


New travel rules begin for double jabbed EU and US arrivals

Double vaccinated travellers from the US and the EU can now travel to Scotland without quarantining.

Andrew Milligan via PA Media
The rule change for US and EU arrivals came into effect at 4am on Monday morning.

Double vaccinated travellers from the US and the EU can travel to Scotland without quarantining from Monday morning.

The rules changed at 4am following a decision by the Scottish Government earlier this week, hours after UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the relaxation of measures for England.

Subject to countries remaining on the amber travel list, travellers will no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in Scotland.

The change does not apply to people who have been in France in the 10 days prior to their arrival, due to concerns over the Beta variant of coronavirus.

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Travellers need to show a negative test before departure and produce a negative PCR test result on day two after arrival.

The requirement to take a further PCR test on day eight is being dropped.

Those arriving will be required to show either the EU Digital Covid Certificate or the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s white card – known as a CDC card – to prove they are fully vaccinated

Announcing the changes last week, Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson the change is down to “overwhelming success” of the vaccination scheme in Scotland as well as “successful rollouts” of vaccine programmes in the EU and US.

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He said: “Fully vaccinated travellers will be able to travel to Scotland under this significant relaxation of international travel measures, providing a boost for the tourism sector and wider economy while ensuring public health is protected.”

He urged people to “continue to think very carefully about travelling – especially given the prevalence and unpredictable nature of variants of concern”.

The relaxation of the rules extends to the four European Free Trade Association members – Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein – and the microstates of Monaco, Andorra and Vatican City.

Humza Yousaf reports nursery over ‘racial discrimination’

The health secretary said an application for his two-year-old daughter was refused twice by a Dundee nursery.

STV News / © Google Maps 2020
The health secretary detailed the application process on Twitter.

Humza Yousaf has said he is seeking legal advice after raising concerns that his daughter was discriminated against by a nursery.

The health secretary explained that an application for his two-year-old daughter was refused twice by Little Scholars Day Nursery in Dundee.

However, he said that an application made by a white Scottish friend for a child of the same age was accepted within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, a second application under the name ‘Sara Ahmad’ was rejected.

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An investigation by the Daily Record newspaper also found that an application they made under the name ‘Aqsa Akhtar’ to the nursery was rejected, whilst one under the name of ‘Susan Blake’ was offered a choice of four afternoons.

Yousaf said that he has now reported the nursery to the Care Inspectorate, as well as having sought legal advice.

The nursery told the Daily Record that it is “open and inclusive to all” and said that any claim to the contrary is “demonstrably false”, and that they would refute any such accusation in the “strongest possible terms”.

STV News has also contacted the nursery for comment.

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Detailing the experience on Twitter on Monday morning, Yousaf said the step taken by him and his wife had not been taken lightly.

He said: “After our nursery application for our daughter was refused a 2nd time, my wife asked her white Scottish friend to put in an application for a Child the same age.

“Within 24hrs of refusing our application my wife’s friend’s was accepted. I was sure there must be rational explanation but my wife felt differently.

“She created a profile with a white Scot name & made an application, she also asked her sister ‘Sara Ahmed’ to submit an application on same day. Her sister was rejected but white Scot application accepted.

“At this point we asked @anniebrownword at @Daily_Record to investigate. She created two profiles with kids same age, their requirements the same.

“‘Aqsa Akhtar’ application was rejected while ‘Susan Blake’ was offered a choice of 4 afternoons. No explanation has been forthcoming.”

Yousaf continued: “I cannot tell you how angry I am. As a father all I want to do is protect my girls, yet aged 2 I believe my daughter has faced discrimination.

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“If this had not happened to me I’m not sure I would have believed it could happen in 2021. How many other families has this happened to?

“We are fooling ourselves if we believe discrimination doesn’t exist in Scotland. I believe evidence we have proves our case beyond doubt. As well as reporting the nursery to Care (Inspectorate) we are also seeking legal advice.”


Man’s heartache over Home Office blunder after grandson’s death

Three-year-old Mohamad passed away in a refugee camp while his grandparents fought to bring him to safety.

STV News
Heartbroken: Nidal and family.

A Syrian grandfather has told STV News of his heartbreak after receiving a Home Office letter refusing his request to be united with his grandson – after the child had died.

Three-year-old Mohamad passed away in a refugee camp while his grandparents fought to bring him to safety in Scotland.

Nidal Ali Al Naboulssi never got to meet his grandson Mohamed.

The child was born amid bombing and air strikes – and died at the age of three at the camp in Lebanon.

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Nidal said: “The child used to call us every single morning. And he used to wake us up.

“My daughters were looking forward to seeing him as well.

“We just wanted to live as a family, happily ever after.”

The 57-year-old fled war in Syria with his wife in 2017, making their home in East Dunbartonshire.

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When he applied to the Home Office for his daughter, her husband and two sons to join them the application was refused. By that time Mohamad had died.

He said: “That made us feel even worse. Just now we are receiving mental health appointments. Because if it wasn’t for the war, we would be living as a family.”

The Naboulssi’s are one of many families split across borders.

Nidal is hoping his daughter and her surviving child will now be allowed to travel to Scotland on compassionate grounds.

He said: “All our neighbours, when they heard the devastating news about our grandson, they came to pay their respects. Honestly I don’t feel they are neighbours or friends… I feel like they are family.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “All applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, the evidence provided and in accordance with the immigration rules.

“We apologise for the distress the correspondence must have caused to Mr. Naboulssi and his family, and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”


Cleaners and bin collectors urged to reject Covid exemption

Organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation if exposed to coronavirus.

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Bin collector: Workers advised to reject self-isolation exemption.

More than 2000 local authority street cleaners and bin collectors have been advised to refuse to return to work and instead self-isolate if they have been exposed to coronavirus.

The Scottish Government recently announced that organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation.

If the Government deems a critical role can be exempt, the worker still has to prove they have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks prior to any close contact, have a negative PCR test and agree to carry out lateral flow tests for 10 days after the contact.

But following talks with workplace representatives, the GMB union has advised its more than 2300 members in cleansing and waste services in Scottish local government, including Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire and West Lothian councils, to refuse self-isolation exemptions.

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The GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, Drew Duffy, said: “A major underlying factor in the so-called pingdemic is the chronic understaffing in our frontline services after years of cuts, and our cleansing and waste is no different.

“But the Scottish Government’s new guidance has opened the door for employers across the country to heap more pressure on these key workers if they have been exposed to Covid-19. That’s not safe for workers, families, or communities.

“And again, some of the lowest paid are being asked to take the greatest risk in another example of how poorly they are valued by Government. You cannot cut and coerce your way out of a crisis, if you want services to function then you must invest in them.

“That lesson needs to be learned, and it’s why we are advising our members to exercise their right to refuse and instead follow the general self-isolation rules if they are exposed to Covid-19.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Self-isolation rules already state that exemption will only be granted in respect of members of staff who voluntarily agree not to self-isolate, and the employers’ duty of care to all their employees must be respected.”

Injured peregrine falcon unable to fly after being found shot

Police investigating 'unacceptable' shooting of bird of prey at farm near Kirkcaldy last month.

Contributed via SSPCA
Peregrine falcon was found injured at Grange Farm in Fife.

An investigation is taking place into the “unacceptable” shooting of a peregrine falcon.

The Scottish SPCA was contacted after the female bird was discovered injured at Grange Farm near Kirkcaldy, Fife, on July 25.

The bird was unable to fly, and after being taken to the charity’s national wildlife rescue centre in Fishcross, Clackmannanshire, X-rays revealed she had been shot.

A Scottish SPCA special investigations spokesman said: “We were shocked to hear that the peregrine falcon had been shot.

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“This poor bird was extremely lucky to be spotted by the farm worker, who took immediate steps to ensure the falcon’s welfare and survival.

“The shot would have knocked the bird out of the sky almost instantaneously so the incident will have happened close to the farmland the bird was found on.

“Thankfully, due to the expert avian vets we have at our national wildlife hospital, the falcon has a good chance at recovery and release back in to the wild.

“Peregrine falcons are a Schedule One-listed species of The Wildlife and Countryside Act and it is illegal to intentionally harm or kill one of these birds.

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“We are working closely with Police Scotland to establish the circumstances around the bird’s injuries due to the use of a firearm in the incident.”

Police Scotland wildlife crime liaison officer, detective constable Ben Pacholek, said: “The fact that a shotgun has apparently been used in an attempt to kill a bird of prey is of serious concern.

“This incident is sadly another example of the unacceptable persecution of raptors in Scotland.

“I strongly urge anyone within the local and wider community to come forward with details or any information about this incident which can help the ongoing investigation.”

Anyone with information about what happened to the peregrine falcon can contact the Scottish SPCA confidential helpline on 03000 999 999 or alternatively can call Police Scotland on 101.

Laura Muir feeling prepared after sealing 1500m semi-final

European champion clocks four minutes 03.89 seconds to reach the 1500 metres semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Michael Steele / Staff via Getty Images
Laura Muir in action during round one of the women's 1500m heats.

Laura Muir warned she is saving her best for last after launching her bid for Olympic glory.

The Scot clocked four minutes 03.89 seconds in Tokyo on Monday to reach the 1500 metres semi-finals.

Muir, the European champion, came second in her heat behind Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford but insisted there was plenty in the tank.

“You don’t want to have any disrespect to any of the girls out here, but I want to save as much as I can for the final,” she said ahead of Wednesday’s semis.

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“It’s gone as smooth as it could be – I’ve been out in Japan for a couple of weeks now so feeling really prepared and it’s really good.

“It didn’t feel that fast so that’s good. I just wanted to qualify for the next round as comfortably as possible. So that felt really good out there today and I am looking forward to the semi-final.”

Rival and favourite, the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan, fell at the start of the final lap in her heat but still managed to win after overhauling the field in a stunning final 350m. Hassan is attempting to win the 1500m, 5,000m and 10,000m.

Team GB’s Katie Snowden also progressed in four minutes 02.77secs but Revee Walcott-Nolan missed out by 0.01s.

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Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou took the men’s long jump title with a leap of 8.41m after world champion Tajay Gayle pulled out injured while Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico claimed gold in the women’s 100m hurdles.

In the women’s 200m – without Team GB star Dina Asher-Smith after she pulled out following her battle with a hamstring injury – 100m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah progressed to the semi-finals.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who claimed 100m silver, won her heat in 22.22s but Shericka Jackson missed out after the sprinter completed a Jamaican clean sweep in the 100m on Saturday.

Great Britain’s Beth Dobbin ran a season’s best of 22.78s to reach Monday evening’s semis.

She said: “I can’t ask for much more than that, I ran the bend how I wanted to and the straight felt really controlled. There’s more in the legs later.

“I could see I was in contention so I tried to stay relaxed. There’s a couple of tenths from that run. I need to see how I recover.

“It’s one of the most stacked 200m I have seen for a long time and it’s missing a few names.

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“I walked for the bus at 7.30am and it was blisteringly hot, I’m from up north – we’re not used to this weather.”

Restriction easing delay ’caused drop in business confidence’

Business confidence fell 14 points in July to 28%, the steepest among the nations and regions of the UK.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Restrictions in Scotland were eased in July.

Postponing plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in Scotland may be behind a fall in business confidence, analysts have said.

Business confidence fell 14 points in July to 28%, according to the latest Business Barometer from the Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking.

The fall was the steepest among the nations and regions of the UK.

In late June, Nicola Sturgeon announced that plans to move the whole of Scotland to the lowest level of coronavirus restrictions – level zero – would be postponed from June 28 to July 19.

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Most major legal restriction are expected to be lifted on August 9.

Scottish firms reported lower confidence in their own business prospects month on month, down nine points at 33%.

Combined with their optimism on the economy, down 20 points to 23%, this gives a headline confidence reading of 28%.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends regionally and nationwide.

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The UK as a whole experienced a much smaller drop in confidence month on month, down three points to 30%.

A net balance of 13% of businesses in Scotland expect to increase staff levels over the next year, down five points on last month.

Confidence dipped in broad economic sectors in Scotland, down from 35% to 33% for manufacturing, and 36% to 32% in retail, but was said to remain at “historically strong levels”.

The construction and services sectors also recorded marginal drops in confidence, down two points to 33% and three points to 28% respectively.

However, some subsectors showed particularly strong growth in confidence, with hospitality rising from 38% to 63% and transport jumping from 37% to 53%.

Fraser Sime, regional director for Scotland at Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking, said: “The decision by the Scottish Government to postpone the complete easing of lockdown restrictions until August may have a part to play in the subdued confidence among Scottish firms this month.

“But while business optimism has taken a hit, the overall picture is still positive and we know many firms, particularly those in the hospitality and tourism industry, are gearing up to reopen fully and take advantage of what will hopefully be a busy summer season.”

STV Children’s Appeal donates £152,000 after mental health drive

The campaign received celebrity backing from a number of famous Scots including James McAvoy and Douglas Stuart.

STV News
STV Children’s Appeal: More than £150,000 has been distributed to projects across the country.

The STV Children’s Appeal has distributed £152,000 to 50 projects throughout Scotland following a recent campaign to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people across the country.

The campaign was launched in May in response to concerns among the appeal’s charity partners over the damaging lasting effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on young minds.

For the one in four children living in poverty in Scotland, the impact has been acutely felt.

Forty-six projects have received awards to the value of £2000, which will be used to provide children and young people with opportunities to improve their mental health through counselling sessions, peer support groups and leisure activities.

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The remaining four projects – based in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Greenock and Perth – all focus specifically on child counselling and have received special funding awards to the value of £15,000 each.

Starting in mid-May, the STV Children’s Appeal ran regular adverts on STV’s broadcast channel and social media platforms which highlighted the impact of a year of lockdowns on youth mental health and encouraged donations from viewers to support the recovery phase.

The campaign received celebrity backing from a number of famous Scots including James McAvoy, Gail Porter and Douglas Stuart, with the latter recording a video message in which he recounted his own experience as a child living in poverty in Scotland.

Simon Pitts, chief executive of STV and STV Children’s Appeal trustee, said: “Now more than ever, it’s crucial that Scotland’s young people are provided with opportunities to feel engaged, connected and, most importantly, hopeful.

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“Many of our charity partners find that, even when the opportunities exist, some children still face barriers to accessing them.

“That’s what we hope to change with these grants and I’m delighted that every penny donated by our generous viewers has already been distributed to charities across the length and breadth of the country.”

Sandra Boyle, director of Mind Mosaic Child and Family Therapies in Greenock, which has received a £15,000 grant, said: “We’re extremely grateful to the STV Children’s Appeal for this fantastic donation.

“The money will provide much-needed mental health support to a growing number of children and young people in Inverclyde affected during lockdown by anxiety, trauma, self-harming, suicidal thoughts, grief and loss, poor self-esteem, domestic violence, and the challenges of being a young carer.

“Our specialist play therapy and young people’s counselling will help them make sense of their world, and heal and recover as they make their way back to an improved daily life and wellbeing.”


Electric vehicle rollout ‘could slow due to lithium deficit’

Experts say lithium demand could triple by 2025 to one million tonnes per year as carmakers invest in electric vehicles.

Extreme Media via IStock
Experts say electric vehicle sales could slow due to worldwide deficit in lithium needed for car batteries.

The speed in the rise of UK electric vehicle (EV) sales could slow within the next few years due to a worldwide deficit in the lithium needed for car batteries, according to experts.

Since June, car giants GM and Stellantis, which owns Peugeot, Fiat and Citroen, have pledged 30 billion dollars (£21.6bn) and 35 billion (US) dollars (£25.2bn) respectively in electrification investments in the next four years.

But core to this strategy is the need to secure a long-term supply of raw materials including lithium.

As a result lithium demand could triple by 2025 to one million tonnes per year and then double again to two million tonnes per year by 2030 – the year the UK plans to ban new petrol and diesel car sales.

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With the typical lithium mine producing 30,000 tonnes per year of the chemical, this means the market needs approximately four new mines per year to maintain pace with demand.

But experts point out it takes five to seven years to discover, develop and put a lithium mine into production.

Chris Berry, president of Washington DC-based strategic metals advisory firm House Mountain Partners, warned: “The dramatic pace of UK electric vehicle sales growth runs the risk of slowing without a clear pathway to additional supply of lithium and associated battery metals.”

He added: “On top of sales, UK auto manufacturers risk being left behind by their Chinese, US, German, and Japanese auto peers who are in a race to ensure they have their electric supply chain in place for the rest of the decade.”

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The UK is one of the fastest growing EV markets in Europe with plug-in vehicles accounting for 11% of the UK market.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, battery electric vehicle sales rose 186% to 108,000 vehicles.

Mild hybrid electric vehicles grew 184% and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles increased 91%.

But there have been concerns raised in Parliament that the UK’s charging infrastructure needs significant upgrades, especially for households with no off-street parking.

Last week, the Transport Committee of MPs also said charging must be fair, with public charge points significantly more expensive than tariffs for charging at home.

In terms of lithium supply, the UK has no current hard-rock mining operation in commercial production and European supply is several years away.

The bulk of the lithium for UK electric vehicles is currently coming from Australia and South America.

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Lithium producer, Ana Cabral-Gardner, co-chairman of Canada’s Sigma Lithium, said: “The race is on to meet increasing demand for high-quality lithium that is environmentally produced at a low-cost before a potential deficit for the mineral.

“The world is accelerating efforts to go green faster than the mining industry is able to sustainably produce battery quality lithium.

“UK consumers want their products to be green from extraction to production and distribution – not many mining companies can deliver this right now either.”

Scaling the small lithium-producing industry will require tens of billions of dollars in capital.

This is likely to result in a lithium market shortage by 2023 to 2024 given that lithium demand should grow at a 20% compound annual growth rate through at least the middle of this decade.

Mr Berry added: “Clearly the horse is out of the barn and the UK auto industry has realised that its future rests with the successful electrification of their vehicle fleets.

“Success with this transformation rests with ensuring a secure supply of battery raw materials including lithium.”

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