Coronavirus in 2020: A year like no other in Scotland

The country's NHS, economy, government and political system have had to adjust to an ever-changing pandemic.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

It has been a year like no other.

Throughout the course of 2020, Scotland has been changed, disrupted and devastated by the spread of a deadly virus.

Covid-19 has impacted the whole country, causing a crisis that has affected people’s lives, jobs, freedoms and relationships.

Scotland’s health service, economy, government and political system have had to adjust daily to an ever-changing pandemic.

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Attention has turned to leaders’ handling of the key decisions, while frontline workers have not stopped in the fight against coronavirus.

STV News takes a look back at Scotland in 2020, the key moments and decisions that have shaped our experience of a ‘new normal’.

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An empty highway road in Wuhan, Hubei province.

On New Year’s Eve, 2019, Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO) of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology, which had been detected in Wuhan, Hubei province of China.

The WHO closely monitored the situation and the acute respiratory disease was first referred to as 2019-nCoV.

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In January, there was growing evidence of human-to-human transmission and towards the end of the month, the first people in Scotland were tested for the novel coronavirus. They were given the all clear on January 24.

That day saw a meeting of the UK national emergencies committee, Cobra. Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman, who was in Inverness visiting NHS Highland, had to cut the trip short and travel to London. However, at that stage, the Scottish Government said the risk to the public was low.

On February 11, the name Covid-19 was assigned to the virus but it was not until March 1 that the picture changed significantly for Scotland. It was to be the date of Scotland’s first case. The diagnosed patient, who lived in Tayside, was admitted to hospital and received treatment in isolation. They had recently travelled from Italy, where there had been an outbreak.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee. She said in a public statement that people had a “vital role” in containing any outbreak, asking them to follow basic hygiene precautions, such as washing hands frequently, not touching their face and covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Ten days later on March 11, the coronavirus outbreak was confirmed as a pandemic by the WHO – meaning that the disease was spreading in multiple countries across the world at the same time.

Meanwhile, Scotland identified its first case of community transmission – which was unrelated to contact or travel – as the UK Government announced a £30bn economic stimulus package to tackle the effects of Covid-19.

The following day, it was agreed by all governments in the UK to move from the first phase of combating the virus, known as “containment”, to the second so-called “delay phase”.

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On March 13, the first death of a patient in Scotland who had contracted coronavirus was confirmed by then-chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood. The person, who was older and had underlying health conditions, was being treated in the Lothian health board area and died in hospital.

As cases increased, the Scottish Government’s focus shifted to protecting the resilience of public services – namely the NHS and emergency services – to prevent them from being overwhelmed. It was advised, on March 15, that gatherings of 500 or more should not take place.

It was advice that would have ramifications for planned events, such as concerts and festivals, and a slew of cancellations took place in the months to follow. Scottish football authorities had taken the decision to suspend the 2019/20 season until further notice just days before.

The First Minister addressed MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, on March 17, and in a wide ranging speech said the country was on the “cusp of a rapid escalation in the spread of Covid-19”. Steps would be taken to strengthen the capacity of the NHS, Scots were reminded they should isolate if they had symptoms – such as a persistent cough or fever – and avoid crowded areas, use public transport as little as possible and work from home if they could. Those in Scotland considered at highest risk would be asked to shield.

In her own address, health secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed the NHS would be placed on an emergency footing. “Our goal is simple,” she said. “To protect and save lives.” On the same day, the chancellor announces further measures intended to support businesses as an economic emergency is declared.

It was announced on March 18 that schools and nurseries would close at the end of the week. They would not reopen until after the summer holidays.

A day later, the chief nursing officer asked health professionals to return to the NHS to help with the public health emergency. Education secretary John Swinney announced exams were cancelled for high school pupils.

On March 20, a host of businesses – including cafes, pubs, restaurants, theatres and gyms – were ordered to close across the UK. On the same day, the furlough scheme was announced – a move that would see the UK Government step in to help employers by paying 80% of workers’ wages. Support was later announced for the self-employed.

The coronavirus pandemic was described as “the biggest challenge of our lifetime” by the First Minister, who would then hold her first daily media briefing on March 22. By then, 416 people in Scotland had tested positive for Covid-19 and ten had died after contracting the virus.

In an attempt to slow the spread, the UK was put into lockdown on March 23, which meant everyone was told to stay at home – except when shopping for essentials and going out for exercise.

On the third full day of lockdown, an emotional ‘clap for our carers’ campaign began as people across the UK united on their doorsteps and at windows to show their appreciation for those on the front line during the pandemic. The gesture continued for a number of weeks.

Businesses and members of the public became required by law to follow social distancing measures, following confirmation the Scottish Government will use powers to make it a criminal offence to flout public health guidance.

At the end of March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and England’s health secretary Matt Hancock tested positive for Covid-19.

On April 1, coronavirus forced the postponement of COP26, a key climate summit due to be held in Glasgow, until the following year. Emergency coronavirus legislation was passed unanimously at Holyrood. Days later, the global total of confirmed deaths of people with Covid moved beyond 50,000.

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Dr Catherine Calderwood pictured (middle) during her time as Scotland’s chief medical officer.

Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, then resigned, on April 5, after she was photographed visiting her second home in Fife, despite issuing advice for others to stay at home. She apologised and initially intended to carry on but after further conversations with the First Minister quit her post. She was later replaced by Dr Gregor Smith.

The Prime Minister was admitted to hospital as his coronavirus symptoms persisted, although it was described as a “precautionary step” by a Downing Street spokesperson. He was moved to intensive care the following day and discharged six days later.

The Scottish Government announced 12,000 students returning health and social care workers joined the fight against coronavirus on the front line. Construction work on the NHS Louisa Jordan – a £43m emergency hospital – finished on April 19 and it opened the following day.

Around the same time, National Records of Scotland statistics showed more than 1600 fatalities in Scotland linked to Covid-19. The figures were startling but hope was on the horizon as vaccine trials got under way.

Meanwhile, at the end of Scotland’s first full month in lockdown, new daily cases were still fluctuating.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is given a tour of the NHS Louisa Jordan in April.

In May, the Scottish Government ramped up testing after reaching its target of a capacity for 3500 tests day and more personal protective equipment (PPE) began to be manufactured in Scotland.

Daily cases started to drop, prompting a slight change in lockdown rules, which meant people could go outside more than once a day for exercise. On May 12, the Chancellor extended the furlough scheme until October.

Outbreaks in care homes caused particular concern throughout the pandemic and figures in mid-May showed the extent of the worrying situation, with the proportion of fatalities in that setting increasing week on week.

Towards the end of May, the loss of taste or smell was added to the list of coronavirus symptoms and testing in Scotland was opened to everyone over the age of five, who was symptomatic.

On May 20, further emergency legislation passed in the Scottish Parliament – notably giving ministers powers to temporarily intervene and manage care home services, where there is a serious risk to life or health of residents.

A routemap out of lockdown was published, outlining a four-phase plan to gradually bring back “a semblance of normality” to people’s lives, as the First Minister put it. Plans were also confirmed for the phased return of students to university and college campuses in September.

Dominic Cummings, then-aide of the Prime Minister, defended a decision to travel 260 miles with his family during the coronavirus lockdown. He appeared in front of the media at a press conference in Downing Street’s rose garden on May 25.

On May 29, Scotland entered phase one of the routemap and – with new daily cases dropping below 50 – it meant people could sit outside in a public space, travel a short distance for exercise and play non-contact outdoor sport. Two days later, a plan to return the NHS – which had been on an emergency footing – to a more normal capacity was announced.

In June measures were taken to try to stop cases of the virus being brought in Scotland. This meant those entering the country from abroad being required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Statistics were published on June 11 showing more than 628,000 jobs had been furloughed as businesses came to terms with the pandemic.

A major breakthrough in the treatment of Covid-19 patients took place in mid-June as a steroid was found to reduce deaths by up to a third among those suffering the worst effects of the virus.

Scotland entered phase two of the routemap out of lockdown on June 19, with daily cases of the virus down to a trickle. Weekly deaths, which were in the hundreds at the height of the pandemic in April and May, had dropped significantly. Those who had been shielding for months could exercise and meet one other household outdoors. Sturgeon also announced up to three households and eight people could meet outdoors.

Dental practices could resume seeing patients in need of urgent care on June 22 and on June 23, a significant step was taken in planning the return of schools. Education secretary John Swinney updated the Scottish Parliament and said classes would return full-time in August if the virus was suppressed. Before that, plans had been in place for blended learning.

This was followed by a phased reintroduction of care home visiting and, shortly thereafter, high street shops reopened at the end of June, with huge queues forming as shoppers were keen to return to the retail environment. The caveat was that the non-essential businesses had to have outdoor entrances and exits to be allowed to reopen, as well as various safety measures.

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Staff apply social distancing signs to the ground while shoppers walk along Princes Street in Edinburgh.

A number of restrictions eased throughout July, as daily cases plummeted, starting with the lifting of the five-mile travel limit and the reopening of self-catering holiday accommodation. From July 6, pavement cafes and beer gardens were back in action.

Two days later, there was a boost for the travel sector, with the decision to lift quarantine restrictions for passengers arriving from 57 overseas destinations – but crucially not Spain, because of a high level of coronavirus prevalence there. It had to wait 12 more days.

Scotland moved to phase three on July 10 – meaning people from up to three different households could meet indoors once more. Face coverings – already mandatory on public transport at this point – were required in shops.

Those shielding no longer needed to physically distance from people they live with. They could also meet with up to eight people from up to two other households, as long as strict hand hygiene and physical distancing advice was followed.

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Pubs and restaurants reopened on July 15 after being closed during lockdown.

The easing of restrictions didn’t stop there as on July 13, non-essential shops in shopping centres reopened, with pubs and restaurants following suit on July 15. Hairdressers and barbers reopened, as did places of worship.

Daily cases at this point remained low but Sturgeon emphasised the Scottish Government would not hesitate to “reimpose restrictions if we consider it necessary”, should coronavirus spread again.

A stride forward in the development of a vaccine was seen on July 20, as the candidate being developed at Oxford University was considered safe and prompted an immune reaction.

It was bad news for holidaymakers on July 25 as Spain found itself back on the quarantine list. Restrictions had been lifted for travellers from there for just five days.

At the end of July, it was confirmed schools will reopen full-time from August 11 after scientific evidence suggested it would be safe to do so. Around the same time, Scots were urged not to travel to areas in northern England, where a spike in the virus had been seen.

Shielding was paused on August 1 and Scottish football returned after a considerable hiatus. Aberdeen lost to Rangers in the Premiership opener.

The UK Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, a discount initiative encouraging people to help the hospitality industry bounce back, launched on August 3.

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A general view of Aberdeen city centre during its local lockdown in August.

But recovery from the virus was fragile and a spike in cases was seen in the north east. The first local lockdown was imposed in Aberdeen city, taking effect at 5pm on August 5. Indoor and outdoor hospitality venues – including pubs, cafes and restaurants – were ordered to close.

Meanwhile, school pupils across the country received their results but tens of thousands saw grades – which had been based on teachers’ estimates – downgraded by an SQA moderation process. Young people protested and after a period of pressure, the education secretary apologised in the Scottish Parliament.

The results which had been downgraded were replaced by teachers’ estimates and John Swinney said: “In speaking directly to the young people affected by the downgrading of awards – the 75,000 pupils whose teacher estimates were higher than their final award – I want to say this: I am sorry.” In response to Swinney’s 18-page statement, Jamie Greene, the Scottish Conservatives’ education spokesperson, branded it the “longest resignation speech in history, minus the resignation”.

During the same week – from August 11 onwards – pupils had begun returning to school after five months away from education.

In sport, two Aberdeen football players had tested positive for coronavirus. It emerged that the pair – and six teammates – visited a bar after their clash against Rangers. Their match against St Johnstone, scheduled for the following weekend, was postponed. The First Minister said they “blatantly broke the rules” as she criticised their behaviour in a daily briefing.

Footballers were to remain in the spotlight and Celtic’s Boli Bolingoli was next in line to break Covid rules. The defender travelled to Spain without telling his club and failed to self-isolate upon return, before playing against Kilmarnock. Both Aberdeen and Celtic had matches postponed as a result of the breaches.

As the month continued to unfold, the Scottish Government made it mandatory for pubs and restaurants to collect customers’ contact details for track and trace reasons, while funding was announced for businesses in Aberdeen impacted by local measures. Restrictions began to be lifted from August 24.

At the end of August, police were given powers to break up house parties. Daily cases of the virus had crept up slightly and 160 were recorded on August 31. The increase was “undoubtedly a concern”, Sturgeon said.

On September 1, restrictions on indoor gatherings were reinstated in Glasgow City, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire due to a surge in cases. They were extended to apply to Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire on September 7 and to North and South Lanarkshire on September 11. Around the same time, the NHS launched its contact tracing app.

Rules limiting social gatherings in Scotland, whether indoors or outdoors, to six people from two households were brought into effect on September 14. The measures did not overrule local restrictions.

Just over a week later, visiting other people’s homes was banned across Scotland as new cases kept rising, reaching several hundred on a daily basis. A key theme of September was the return of students to university, with halls of residence seeing outbreaks and young people self-isolating. They were asked not to visit pubs, while pubs and restaurants were told to close their doors at 10pm as a curfew came into force.

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The First Minister said Margaret Ferrier’s actions were “utterly indefensible”.

In October, an SNP MP apologised for travelling by train from London back to her constituency – after testing positive for Covid-19. Margaret Ferrier, who represents Rutherglen and Hamilton West, had already travelled south to attend parliament even though she had developed coronavirus symptoms and taken a test. The First Minister said Ferrier’s actions were “utterly indefensible” and the whip was withdrawn – but the politician did not resign.

Meanwhile, Scotland braced for a second wave of coronavirus as the country recorded 1054 new cases – the highest daily number to date – on October 7.

Days later, pubs, bars and restaurants across central Scotland were closed to stem the spread. Cafes across the affected health boards were exempt from the shutdown as long as they did not serve alcohol. Across the rest of the country, hospitality was only allowed to operate indoors between the hours of 6am and 6pm, and was prohibited from serving alcohol. However, drinks could be served until 10pm in outdoor areas.

Stricter rules on face coverings were introduced on October 16 and restrictions on pubs and restaurants were extended on October 21.

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Face coverings have become a common sight in Scotland in 2020.

On October 28, a key report on discharges from NHS hospitals to care homes, which by this point had seen a number outbreaks, was published. It showed dozens of hospital patients who tested positive for coronavirus were sent to care homes as the pandemic began to grip Scotland. Thousands more were transferred without being tested between March 1 and April 21.

New guidance was issued to schools on October 30, including pupils in S4-S6 in certain areas of Scotland being asked to wear face coverings in classrooms.

At the beginning of November, a new system was put in place in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. The five-tier system ranged from level zero, the minimum number of restrictions, to four, the closest to a full lockdown. Each local authority was allocated a level but none were placed in either the lowest or highest tier.

The furlough scheme, which had proved a lifeline for so many, was extended until March on November 5. This was followed by another breakthrough in vaccine development on November 9. Pfizer and BioNTech announced their jab was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19.

The following day it was announced Fife, Perth and Kinross and Angus would move from level two to level three of the five-tier system.

On November 11, the Scottish Parliament was told students would be offered quick-turnaround Covid tests before they travel home for Christmas. They were also asked not to socialise for two weeks before leaving accommodation and asked to only go outside for essential reasons.

That week, it was revealed more than 5000 deaths linked to coronavirus had been recorded in Scotland. The total included people who had Covid-19 listed as one of the causes on their death certificate.

A series of announcements were made on November 17, with confirmation that level-four restrictions would be placed on 11 areas within days and a ban on travel in and out of four local authorities to be imposed.

With Christmas in sight, the Scottish Government signed up to a UK wide easing of restrictions at the festive period. Up to three households were set to be allowed to mix indoors for up to five days, between December 23 and 27, over Christmas.

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NHS staff and social care workers to receive a one-off £500 payment as a ‘thank you’.

At the end of the month, the Scottish Government announced NHS staff and social care workers would receive a one-off ‘thank you’ £500 payment – although this prompted arguments about tax.

With the arrival of December, came a significant milestone in the fight against coronavirus as the Pfizer and BioNTech was approved in the UK.

The first vaccines arrived in Scotland days later and those who would be tasked with administering the jabs in Scotland were the first to be vaccinated on December 8.

On December 12, 11 council areas moved out of level four coronavirus restrictions. Pubs, bars and restaurants reopened but were still not allowed to serve alcohol.

The rollout of the vaccine in care homes began on December 14. A 90-year-old former carer was the first person to receive it in a Scottish care home. Annie Innes got the jab at Abercorn House care home in Hamilton.

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and East Lothian moved to level three of the five-tier system on December 18 because of concerns of the prevalence of coronavirus there.

A significant change in approach from the Scottish Government was confirmed on December 19. The majority of the country would be put into a full lockdown from Boxing Day, Sturgeon announced. The First Minister said mainland Scotland would go into level four for three weeks amid fears a new variant strain was accelerating the spread of coronavirus. Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles would be moved from level one into level three. The relaxation of rules over the festive season was scaled back to Christmas Day only.

A number of European countries banned flights from the UK in a bid to prevent the spread of the new strain, which was considered more infectious. France closed its border with the UK, causing major disruption to hauliers with cargo bound for mainland Europe.  

Authorities announced journeys from the UK could resume on December 23, lifting the travel ban. An agreement was made that those seeking to travel must have a negative Covid test result. But the deal was “far too late” for many delivering perishable produce, those in the food industry said.

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Nicola Sturgeon apologised after breaching Covid rules by taking off her face mask at a wake.

It emerged the First Minister breached Covid rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral wake. A photograph published in the Scottish Sun showed her chatting to three women in a bar in Edinburgh while standing at a distance but without wearing a mask. Customers in hospitality venues must wear a face covering, except when seated at a table.

The First Minister apologised in the Scottish Parliament, admitting she was “in the wrong”, and said she was “kicking herself very hard” following the incident.

On Christmas Eve, a travel ban on visitors from South Africa was introduced. Restrictions were put in place over concerns of a second new strain of Covid-19, linked to the country.

With mixing rules scaled back to the one day, December 25 arrived and people across Scotland celebrated a Christmas unlike any before. Families were allowed to gather indoors for one day only but the ‘bubble’ could contain no more than eight adults from a maximum of three households.

As soon as Boxing Day hit, the picture changed. The whole of mainland Scotland – and Skye – moved into level four coronavirus restrictions. Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants were shut except for takeaways, drive-throughs and deliveries. Only essential travel was to be allowed.

Meanwhile, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, along with other island communities off the Scottish mainland, moved from level one into level three.

There was another milestone moment on December 30. The Covid vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca was approved for use in the UK, paving the way for mass rollout.

As Scotland prepared to call time on a year like no other on December 31, people were urged to stay at home for Hogmanay.

The advice was not to mix households, with Covid cases still rising because of the new strain – which the First Minister told the Scottish Parliament was “fast becoming” the dominant one in Scotland.

Campaigners march in Glasgow calling for venues to reopen

Hundreds attended a march, organised by activist group Communities Unite Against Closures, in the city centre on Saturday afternoon.

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Campaigners have taken to the streets of Glasgow to urge the reopening of ‘vital’ public services in the city.

Hundreds attended a march, organised by activist group Communities Unite Against Closures, in the city centre on Saturday afternoon.

They are calling for services, including libraries, museums and sports facilities, to be reopened to the community, with several facing threat of indefinite closure.

Banners saying Save Whiteinch Library, Don’t Axe Our Venues and Friends of People’s Palace could be seen among others at the march that started at Cathedral Square and walked from the closed St Mungo Museum to the People’s Palace. 

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A spokesperson for CUAC said the city’s heritage has been “ravaged”.

A statement posted on the event’s Facebook page said: “These services are not a luxury, they are at the heart of any cohesive community.

“Our community assets should not be regarded as a cost to the public purse but an investment in the health and wellbeing of our community for generations to come.”

Glasgow Life say its ability to open more venues is “entirely dependent on more funding becoming available” from the city council.

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A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: “The £100m funding guarantee we received from Glasgow City Council in March has been fully allocated, reopening more than 90 venues across the city in the wake of the global pandemic.

“In May, Glasgow City Council passed a motion resolving that all Glasgow Life venues should reopen as soon as funding and Scottish Government guidance allows but Glasgow Life’s ability to open more venues is entirely dependent on more funding becoming available.

“Unions have been kept up to date with plans for reopening over the last year and the ongoing impact the pandemic would have on Glasgow Life and assessments of the possible impact were published and widely reported in March this year.

“We recognise the strength of feeling there is about venues without reopening dates and, continue to make the case for further income which would allow us to open more.”


Coronavirus: Nine more deaths and 1018 fresh cases reported

A total of 445 people were in hospital on Friday with recently confirmed Covid-19.

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Covid-19: The fight to stem the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further nine deaths and 1018 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland overnight, according to official figures.

The daily test positivity rate is 4.9%, down from the 6.2% reported on Friday.

Of the new cases reported on Saturday, 236 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 192 are in Lothian, 174 are in Lanarkshire, and 82 are in Fife.

The rest of the cases are spread out across nine other health board areas.

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A total of 445 people were in hospital on Friday with recently confirmed Covid-19, 29 fewer than the day before. Out of those, 64 patients are in intensive care.

The lab-confirmed death toll of those who tested positive within the previous 28 days currently stands at 7939, however figures including suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now at least 10,324.

It was also confirmed that 4,009,611 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 2034 from the day before.

A total of 3,180,160 people have received their second dose, a rise of 17,498.


PM and wife expecting second child after ‘heartbreaking’ miscarriage

Carrie Johnson revealed the news on her Instagram page on Saturday.

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Couple: Boris and Carrie Johnson expecting second child together.

Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie has announced that the couple are expecting another child.

The 33-year-old revealed the news on an Instagram post on Saturday.

In a caption beside a toy pram she said she feels “incredibly blessed to be pregnant again” but has also felt “like a bag of nerves”.

It comes just months after she suffered a miscarriage, something that she also revealed in the message posted to her private account.

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Ms Johnson said the loss of her unborn child earlier this year had left her “heartbroken”.

The couple, who already have a one-year-old son together, are expecting the new born to arrive by the end of the year.

She said: “Hoping for our rainbow baby this Christmas.

“At the beginning of the year, I had a miscarriage which left me heartbroken.

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“I feel incredibly blessed to be pregnant again but I’ve also felt like a bag of nerves.

“Fertility issues can be really hard for many people, particularly when on platforms like Instagram it can look like everything is only ever going well.

“I found it a real comfort to hear from people who had also experienced loss so I hope that in some very small way sharing this might help others too.”

Boris and Carrie Johnson, formerly Symonds, married two months ago in a secret ceremony at Westminster Cathedral.

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Scot Kathleen Dawson helps Team GB win gold medal at Olympics

The quartet set a world record time in a gripping final of the inaugural mixed 4×100m medley relay.

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Champs: Great Britain's Kathleen Dawson, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Anna Hopkin with their gold medals.

Scotland’s Kathleen Dawson has helped Team GB secure gold in the 4x100m mixed relay at the Olympic Games.

Adam Peaty later revealed Great Britain’s resurgence in the pool is down to tireless commitment behind the scenes after the team equalled their best-ever swimming medal haul at an Olympics.

Peaty and James Guy bagged their second golds of Tokyo 2020 and Dawson and Anna Hopkin their first, as the Team GB quartet set a world record time in a gripping final of the inaugural mixed 4×100m medley relay.

Britain were therefore left celebrating their fourth gold of these Games, to go with two silvers and one bronze, matching the exact haul they achieved 113 years ago in London, and there is the prospect of more to come on Sunday.

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Their achievements represent a massive turnaround from when British Swimming’s funding was slashed after a failure to win a race at London 2012, and Peaty insisted assiduity and diligence has been at the core of their revival.

“I hope this team and the rest of British Swimming get the recognition and the respect that they deserve because it’s been f*****g hard,” said Peaty, who retained his men’s 100m breaststroke title earlier this week.

“It’s the only way to get the emotion across. Honestly people don’t understand how hard it is. Hopefully people back home can understand that.

“I’ve been doing this for seven years since 2014 and I didn’t think the team would be where they are today. You’ve got such amazing talent. It’s just incredible to be part of that and hopefully people back home are pretty pumped.”

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Peaty will be eyeing a fourth Olympic gold and third in Japan this week in the men’s 4x100m medley relay final on Sunday, but he feared the worst on Saturday morning after thinking Guy had jumped in too early at their handover.

Britain jumped from sixth to fourth at the halfway stage after Peaty’s incredible breaststroke split of 56.78 seconds before Guy catapulted them to top spot with an equally astonishing time of exactly 50secs in the butterfly.

But Guy himself worried he had set off a fraction earlier and did not allow himself to get carried away with the celebrations until he knew he would not get disqualified.

“I was just panicking and panicking. I thought I went early. I was like ‘oh no’,” said Guy, with Peaty adding: “I saw his feet leave and I was like ‘you f*****g idiot’.”

Guy added: “As soon as I dived in I’m thinking ‘I’ve gone too early, I’ve screwed it up, I’m going to get a DQ, but you know, it’s too late now, just go for it’. Afterwards I was just waiting and just saying ‘please, please, please, please’.”

This event has been added to the Olympics schedule for the first time – where two males and two females must be selected but the nation can use any combination in the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle splits.

Dawson, from Kirkcaldy in Fife, did not get off to an auspicious starts after slipping in her push off the wall in a leg where she was up against four males, including the 100m and 200m backstroke winner Evgeny Rylov of the Russian Olympic Committee.

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“I had a little bit of an issue,” said the Scot. “I couldn’t quite feel my hands. Somehow I slipped going in.

“I wasn’t quite sure what I did when I did it. I think I managed to keep calm and after that it was about focusing to try and get the best performance I could out of myself.”

Britain were six seconds off the pace when Peaty dove in but the 26-year-old from Uttoxeter and Guy helped their nation into a lead of six tenths of a second as Hopkin anchored their race in the freestyle.

Hopkin came into the race knowing she would go head-to-head against the men’s 100m freestyle champion Caeleb Dressel but the American was well back as Britain touched out in three minutes and 37.58 seconds.

“It’s pretty cool to say I’ve beaten Caeleb Dressel,” joked Hopkin.

“To know that he was coming for me, it’s a little bit intimidating. But I knew that the guys ahead of me would get me a good lead.

“And then it was just about me focusing on my own race and keeping my head down, not worrying about where he was. Because that would just distract me, and stay focused on my lane and bring it home for the guys.”

China took silver, finishing 1.28 seconds behind the winners, while Australia collected bronze as the United States settled for fifth.

Elsewhere, Ben Proud qualified for the men’s 50m freestyle final on Sunday, the final day of swimming at the Games.

Commenting on Dawson’s win, Mike Whittingham, director of high performance at sportscotland, said: “Team GB’s performances in the pool at the Tokyo Games have been nothing short of incredible and to see Scottish swimmers at the heart of that success is fantastic.

“Huge congratulations to Kathleen on a well-deserved gold medal and also to her coach, her support team and everyone at Scottish Swimming.

“They have all worked so hard for this moment, which highlights the strength of the sport at all levels here in Scotland. But today is all about Kathleen, she deserves all the plaudits and praise coming her way.”  


What to expect from the 12 Premiership clubs this season

The Premiership gets under way this weekend with hopes high a vintage season could lie ahead.

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The battle for the Premiership title begins this weekend.

The friendlies have finished, the League Cup is on the back burner and the European competitions can be forgotten this weekend – the Premiership is back.

After the strangest season in history, fans are looking for a return to normality, insofar as Scottish football is ever normal.

The numbers may not be at the levels anyone wants yet, but there will be supporters in every stadium on the opening weekend, and they’ll all have hopes and expectations.

The promotion of Hearts and Dundee brings back a couple of city derbies, and clubs across the league have been strengthening.

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We’ve looked at each side and how they are prepared for the challenges ahead.

Aberdeen

Jay Emanuel-Thomas and Christian Ramirez make up a new-look Aberdeen attack. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Stephen Glass may have taken charge towards the end of last season, but this summer feels like the start of something new at Pittodrie. Scott Brown has joined as player-coach, along with a handful of exciting new signings.

The first major test was encouraging, with a 5-1 demolition of Hacken thrilling fans, but there’s a big challenge ahead to finish high in the Premiership and compete for silverware. Last season brought a fourth-place finish and a points tally closer to the bottom than the top.

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Improvement is expected and excitement around the club is high.

Celtic

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Ange Postecoglou has taken on the job of revamping and reviving Celtic’s squad. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

After their domestic dominance ended in spectacular fashion, Celtic start this campaign under a new manager; Ange Postecoglou has vowed to deliver attacking, entertaining football.

He’ll attempt to do so with a new-look squad. Five players have been added and many more are needed as they attempt to mount a title challenge. Kristoffer Ajer – a mainstay in the defence – has gone and striker Odsonne Eduoard is set to follow suit.

A big turnaround of players will present challenges, not least how quickly they settle and gel. The club’s elimination from the Champions League has already put them behind the eight ball.

Supporters’ anger following the defeat to Midtylland is directed towards the board, not Postecogolou, who at his first media conferences warned he needed new signings ‘’yesterday’’.

Unless the Australian gets the backing he needs to win trophies, this could be another long season for the Celtic faithful.

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Dundee

Dundee’s attack will be vital to their survival hopes. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

James McPake’s side earned their Premiership place the hard way, coming through the play-offs after a testing Championship season, and they’ll find no respite on their return to the top flight.

The core of last season’s team remains, with Charlie Adam’s experience and skill a hugely valuable asset. Cillian Sheridan and Luke McCowan have arrived to offer new options in an attack that already features Jason Cummings.

The return of derbies against United will be a welcome addition to the calendar, but in the bigger picture, Dundee’s main task is to steer clear of the drop zone.

Local bragging rights are a bonus.

Dundee United

Dundee United have put their faith in Tam Courts (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

United were a year ahead of their city neighbours in returning to the top division and made a decent fist of re-establishing themselves with a ninth-place finish.

Regardless, the club made a big change, allowing manager Micky Mellon to return to Tranmere and promoting Tam Courts from within. Courts will be expected to showcase the young talent the club has traditionally produced, and deliver attacking football while climbing the table. It’s no small task.

There hasn’t been much in the way of recruitment, but Charlie Mulgrew has returned and his know-how could be crucial. A flawless record in the League Cup group stage was an encouraging start for Courts and the new project, but the pressure could be on if a difficult-looking start sees the team fail to deliver points.

Hearts

Hearts have made a strong start in the League Cup. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Hearts did exactly what was required of them last season, lifting the Championship trophy to ensure their controversial exit from the Premiership lasted just one season. The Tynecastle club returns with greater ambition than just staying up.

Any notion that manager Robbie Neilson came out of promotion as a conquering hero should be set aside, though. Cup exits to Alloa and Brora last year brought anger from fans, and the team’s performances at times throughout the league season means he faces a job to win around the support.

Neilson hasn’t added extensively to his squad, yet, but the team that came up has plenty of top-level experience and doesn’t lack for leadership. The League Cup has provided a smooth warm-up, with four wins from four, but two games against Celtic and a match against Aberdeen before the end of August mean that Hearts fans will have a clearer idea of their side’s prospects sooner rather than later.

Hibernian

Hibs hope to juggle European football with domestic competition. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

League Cup semi-finalists, Scottish Cup finalists and third in the Premiership last season. On paper it’s a successful season, but the Hibs faithful feel opportunities were missed.

This time around, Jack Ross has the unenviable task of delivering progress on what’s already a reasonably high bar. The manager started his recruitment early, landing Daniel MacKay from Inverness, made Jamie Murphy’s move from Rangers permanent and added Jake Doyle-Hayes from St Mirren.

There will be further additions, most likely, but Hibs’ hopes may also hinge on whether there are departures. Interest in Ryan Porteous and Kevin Nisbet was rebuffed last season and with a new chief executive in place, Hibs aim to build on what they have. That ambition could be tested, especially if progress in Europe means a juggling of priorities.

Livingston

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David Martindale hopes to mastermind another impressive league campaign. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

From the point David Martindale stepped into the manager’s job last season, it quickly became a memorable one for the Livi fans. A long, long unbeaten run helped the team to a top-six finish and the League Cup final.

Now, the work is on to match or better what surprised most of Scottish football last term. Ten new faces have arrived, including Andrew Shinnie and Bruce Anderson, but just as many have left the club. Martindale will have to hope the new signings click if they are to avoid taking a step backwards.

The fixture list has already given Livi a tough task in the early weeks, with matches against last season’s top four within the first six games.

Motherwell

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Graham Alexander will look to deliver an improvement on last season. (Photo by Bruce White / SNS Group)

For the club that finished third in the shortened 2019-20 season, last term was a depressing drop in standards for the Steelmen.

Now Graham Alexander has had a transfer window and a pre-season to put his mark on the squad. Declan Gallagher and Devante Cole are among the departures and leave huge shoes to fill, but Alexander has made nine signings, including the impressive Liam Kelly on a permanent deal. Dutch striker Kevin van Veen worked with the manager before, suggesting he’s far from a gamble.

The side came through the League Cup group stages with nine points, but narrow wins over Queen’s Park and Queen of the South, as well as a surprise 2-0 loss to Airdrie, indicate that Motherwell are far from flying.

Rangers

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Rangers have strengthened as they aim to defend their title. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

After steering Rangers to their first title in ten years, Steven Gerrard is hungry for more success. And supporters want more, too. Unsurprisingly, they are odds-on favourites with the bookies to win the Premiership, but success in the cups will also be a target. By Gerrard’s own admission, one trophy out of nine under his watch is ”not good enough”.  

The big and early test comes in Europe. They must successfully negotiate two qualifying rounds to reach the lucrative group stage of the Champions League, something the club last achieved a decade ago.

The signing of Fashion Sakala looks a tidy bit of business, as does the capture of John Lundstram. Departures? Alfredo Morelos’ future is again a hot topic. In a recent interview, the Rangers manager was unable to answer if the striker would be at the club this season. Glen Kamara may have caught the eye of potential suitors after impressing for Finland at the Euros.

With [just over] a month to go before the transfer window closes, speculation over players’ futures will no doubt continue.

Ross County

County have turned to Malky Mackay to lead the team this season. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

While Rangers are odds-on to win the league, Ross County are the shortest price to finish bottom and it’s easy to see why. John Hughes steered the club to a narrow escape from the drop last year, but promptly left to seek new challenges, leaving the club to lick its wounds.

Enter Malky Mackay, a controversial choice given his past, but also a manager with extensive experience.

Mackay has brought in players, including Ross Callachan from Hamilton, and stated an intent to make an impression on the league, but County look the least well-equipped at this stage and face an uphill struggle. Late signings may make a difference, but a relegation battle looks inevitable.

St Johnstone

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St Johnstone had a season to remember in 2020/21. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

What constitutes success for St Johnstone this season after the incredible heroics that saw them win both cups and finish fifth in the league?

Ever the pragmatist, Callum Davidson’s first aim will be to stay in the Premiership, but the team that played with such assurance last year should have no worries on that score and will make a top-six place a more realistic target. Beyond that, it may be down to how many of the core of that side are prised away before the window closes – and how they are replaced.

On-loan centre-back Hayden Muller looks capable of maintaining Saints’ defensive solidity, while left-back Reece Devine joined from Manchester United for the season and looks to be another shrewd addition

On paper, another solid season, with the capability for another cup run or two, looks in the offing, with the added excitement and demands of European football, where an intriguing tie against Galatasaray will result in either Europa League progress or a Conference League play-off place.

Davidson showed last season he could squeeze the maximum out of a small squad with discipline, attitude and belief, as well as no little talent. Pulling off a repeat with league expectations, defence of two trophies and continental competition would add to his rapidly growing reputation.

St Mirren

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Jim Goodwin believes he can make St Mirren a top-six team. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

After falling short of their publicly stated top-six ambition by the finest of margins, Jim Goodwin and his side are setting out with exactly the same target this time around.

The buzz around St Mirren following the completion of the supporters’ buy-out adds another positive in Paisley and hopes will be high that the new era can start off with success.

So far, Saints have held on to the stars of last season, and made it clear that anyone coming for Jamie McGrath will be paying a good price, and paying early enough that a quality replacement can be found. It’s not just about the goal-scoring midfielder, though, a dependable defence remains together for now and the club’s young talents like Ethan Erhahon and Jay Henderson will only get better.

Goodwin has also added wisely, bringing in players with experience of the league. Greg Kiltie and Alan Power joined from relegated Kilmarnock, while Charles Dunne arrived from Motherwell and Curtis Main has bolstered the attack.

Last season showed real progress from a club that had been accustomed to a relegation battle and, even given the increased competition in the league, Goodwin and his players will be focused on taking that next step and a top-half finish.


Street locked down after man found seriously injured

Emergency services were alerted to the incident in Paisley’s Shuttle Street late on Friday night.

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Paisley: Officers taped off the street.

Police have launched an investigation after a man was found seriously injured in a Renfrewshire street.

Emergency services were alerted to the incident in Paisley’s Shuttle Street late on Friday night.

A 37-year-old man was taken to the town’s Royal Alexandra Hospital for treatment.

The street was taped off for investigation works, with officers pictured still at the scene shortly after 6am on Saturday morning.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a report of a 37-year-old man found seriously injured in Shuttle Street, Paisley, around 11.50pm on Friday.

“Officers attended and he was taken to Royal Alexandra Hospital for treatment.

“Enquiries to establish the full circumstances are ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101.”


In pictures: Giant colourful hares on the loose

Art sculptures raise money for charity which helps people with neurological conditions.

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Ten giant colourful hares are on the loose in East Lothian – but there’s no need to call for help.

They’re all part of an art sculpture trail dotted through North Berwick to raise money for the charity Leuchie House, which provides respite for people with neurological conditions.

Here’s a look at some of the pieces on display.

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Motorway speed limits ‘should be slower when it rains’

Drivers would like the standard 70mph limit reduced in wet conditions, survey for RAC finds.

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The motorway speed limit is currently 70mph, regardless of the weather conditions.

Most drivers want a lower motorway speed limit in wet weather, a new survey suggests.

The RAC poll of 2100 motorists indicated that 72% would like the standard 70mph limit cut in wet conditions to boost safety and encourage better driving habits.

Some 78% of respondents who supported a reduced motorway speed limit in the wet felt it would encourage some drivers to slow down, while 72% believed it was worth trying as it might save lives.

Nearly two-thirds said it could improve visibility due to less spray from moving vehicles.

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Department for Transport figures show 246 people were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s motorways in 2019 when the road surface was damp, wet or flooded.

The Highway Code states that stopping distances in wet weather are at least double those on dry roads as tyres have less grip.

In France, motorway speed limits are reduced from 130km/h (80mph) to 110km/h (68mph) during inclement weather.

Of the UK drivers surveyed, 17% wanted the maximum legal speed in wet conditions cut to 65mph.

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Some 33% wanted it to be 60mph, 8% were in favour of a 55mph limit, and 9% supported a reduction to 50mph.

A further 14% would like the limit reduced but are not sure by how much.

RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Statistically the UK has some of the safest motorways in Europe but it’s also the case that there hasn’t been a reduction in casualties of all severities on these roads since 2012, so perhaps there’s an argument for looking at different measures to help bring the number of casualties down.

“Overall, our research suggests drivers are broadly supportive of lower motorway speed limits in wet conditions, as is already the case across the Channel in France.

“And, while most drivers already adjust their speed when the weather turns unpleasant, figures show that ‘driving too fast for the conditions’ and ‘slippery roads’ are still among the top 10 reasons for motorway collisions and contribute to significant numbers of serious injuries and even deaths every year.

“The overall success of any scheme would of course depend on sufficient numbers of motorists reducing their speed, but even just a proportion reducing their speed in the wet would be likely to improve the safety of the UK’s motorways.”


Woman caught with scissors in jacket pocket jailed

Danielle Fowler was snared by police in Glasgow’s Hope Street at 4.30pm on October 14, 2020.

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Court: Danielle Fowler was jailed on Friday.

A convicted attempted murderer was caught in a busy city centre street with scissors in her jacket pocket.

Danielle Fowler was snared by police in Glasgow’s Hope Street at 4.30pm on October 14, 2020.

The 36-year-old had passed out and was searched by officers who were warned by members of the public.

Fowler had recently been released from an 11-year sentence for attempting to murder a vulnerable man.

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Fowler and co-accused Mark Scobbie ambushed the man with punches, kicks and weapons at his flat in the city’s Lambhill in 2011.

The victim would have died from a blood clot to his brain without medical attention.

On Friday, Fowler pleaded guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to having scissors without a reasonable excuse or lawful authority.

The court heard Fowler was receiving medical attention from paramedics when officers went to assist.

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Prosecutor Alasdair Knox said: “Officers were told by a member of the public that she was in possession of a knife.

“Due to her being unconscious, she was conveyed to an ambulance and in her jacket pocket a grey handled pair of scissors were recovered.”

Fowler was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary for treatment before she was arrested.

Her lawyer told the court Fowler was released from prison in April 2020 and was out on licence at the time.

Sheriff Tony Kelly jailed Fowler for ten months.

He said: “The court takes a dim view of offences such as this and only a custodial sentence is appropriate.”


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