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.

Ayr explosion: 35 homes remain sealed-off after blast destroys house

A family of four were seriously injured in the explosion in Gorse Park on Monday night.

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Around 35 homes remained cordoned off after an explosion ripped through an estate in South Ayrshire.

The blast, which happened in Ayr’s Gorse Park on Monday night, razed one home and caused severe damage to several others.

A 43-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy are currently being treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

A 47-year-old man is receiving treatment at the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, while an 11-year-old boy is being cared for at the Royal Hospital for Children.

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On Wednesday, South Ayrshire council confirmed 46 properties were safe to return to, however 35 homes remained cordoned off due to damage. 

It is likely four homes within the cordon will be demolished. 

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The incident took place on Monday evening.

Out with the cordon, four homes were significantly damaged and will require extensive repairs before householders can return. 

Many residents from the Kincaidston housing estate have spent two nights away from their homes following the blast. 

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Leader of South Ayrshire Council, Councillor Peter Henderson said: “I know that council teams, the emergency services and partners have been working tirelessly to help as many people as possible to return to their homes.

“This is no easy task and I am relieved that their painstaking work has allowed some families to get back home today. Of course, it’s still very early days and the devastation caused by this tragic event will take considerable time to rectify.

“We are committed to working alongside our communities and partners to support them through the aftermath of this terrible event.”

A “complex” investigation into the cause of the explosion continues, with police adding gas is “one potential being looked at”. 

Engineers from gas distribution company SGN remain at the scene as they work with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to establish the cause of the blast.

Bradley Barlow, spokesperson for SGN, said: “We’re continuing to assist the emergency services in Gorse Park following an explosion on Monday evening.

“This is a complex incident and we’re supporting several organisations to establish the cause of the explosion.

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“We’ll have an ongoing presence on site at this time, with our engineers continuing to monitor our gas network and the surrounding area.

“We’d like to reassure the Ayr community that the gas network remains safe and secure.

“Our thoughts remain with those injured and everyone in the community impacted by this incident.”

South Ayrshire Council said it had been overwhelmed by donations from the public and offers of help from local businesses.

A hub for residents affected by the incident has been set up at Kincaidston Community Pavilion.

If you have been affected by the explosion and require council support, call 0300 123 0900.


New training centre will make difference to NHS crisis, says Yousaf

The health secretary has warned that Scotland faces a ‘really difficult winter’ ahead.

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A new NHS training centre could make an immediate impact to tackle the staffing crisis in the Scottish health service ahead of a “really, really difficult winter”, Humza Yousaf has said.

The health secretary acknowledged the NHS has “immediate workforce issues”, with the Army being drafted in to assist two struggling health boards and two further boards also calling for help.

Nursing and midwifery vacancies are at an all-time high and A&E waiting times have reached record levels, with 612 patients waiting longer than 12 hours to be seen in the most recent statistics.

But speaking at the official opening of the NHS Scotland Academy at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, Yousaf said he expects the centre to help in the short-term and as the health service recovers from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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During a tour of the new training facility, Yousaf attempted a practice colonoscopy and watched surgical training of a knee replacement, meeting staff and trainee healthcare workers.

The Scottish Government is providing £9m of funding over three years for the centre, which is aimed at training graduates in high-demand sectors of the health service.

Among the courses now running is a programme to qualify nurses to work in theatres after six months, rather than a year, and training community pharmacists to issue prescriptions for specific conditions that would usually require patients to see a GP.

Speaking to the PA news agency after the official opening of the centre, Yousaf said: “It’s a collaboration between NHS National Education Scotland and the Golden Jubilee to deal with some of the immediate workforce issues that we’ve got, but also to bolster the workforce of the NHS for the future, which obviously is going to help with our recovery and remobilisation of the NHS.

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“I saw how they’re training pharmacists in order to become independent prescribers, that’s going to help us right now, particularly with some of the challenges that we’re facing in our clinical care setting.

“They’re also treating – immediately, right now – people in endoscopy which we know we have a big backlog in.”

Yousaf insisted he has “always been upfront and honest with people” about the scale of the challenges facing the health service, when asked about the record A&E waiting times and the use of the Army.

“This is going to be the most difficult winter probably in the NHS’s entire 73-year existence, so what we’ll do is leave no stone unturned – whether that’s reaching out to the military for assistance, whether that’s the £300m of funding we announced,” he said.

“I’ve got to be open, honest and upfront with people that, even with that investment, it will still be a really, really difficult winter and that’s even before the flu season has really come and hit us.”

Yousaf also suggested that the deteriorating A&E performance, with 28.7% of patients waiting longer than four hours to be seen, is unacceptable.

He added: “I absolutely regret that anybody doesn’t receive the standard of service that we’d expect.

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“That’s why we’re working to invest, that’s why we’re leaving no stone unturned to assist – whether that’s from the military or elsewhere.

“But I will do everything in my gift to try to get some improvement, but it will be an incredibly challenging winter ahead.”

Chief executive of NHS Golden Jubilee, Jann Gardner, said: “The pandemic has made it clearer than ever the need to offer fast, efficient and effective access to training and education for health and social care staff.

“Drawing on the strengths of the Golden Jubilee’s state of the art facilities, and the educational expertise and technology offered by NHS Education for Scotland, the NHS Scotland Academy will support the workforce, and benefit the people of Scotland for years to come.”

NHS Education for Scotland chief executive Karen Reid added: “Having the right staff with the right skills in the right place is fundamental to delivering the best health and social care outcomes.

“The pandemic has made us think about working in new ways and about making better use of technology.

“Our partnership in the new NHS Scotland Academy allows us to join up educational expertise and technology – enabling faster learning, and a more skilled workforce, for the people of Scotland.”


Police will ‘step in’ when COP26 protests disrupt city life

Around 10,000 officers will be deployed across Scotland during the crunch climate summit.

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Police are prepared to “step in” if COP26 protests “majorly disrupt” life in Glasgow, a senior officer has said.

A massive security operation has been drawn up for the crunch climate summit, which will be attended by the likes of US President Joe Biden and the Queen.

Large protests are expected in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland during the conference, which has been billed by many as our “last best chance” to avoid climate catastrophe.

In recent weeks, campaigners have brought some major UK motorways to a standstill during rush hour, but Police Scotland deputy chief constable Will Kerr told STV current affairs show Scotland Tonight that officers were ready to deal with any problems.

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He said: “Glasgow is a city that’s got a proud tradition of protest and welcoming protest, but there has to be a balance, and there has to be a bit of common sense applied to this.

“If the protest is non-disruptive and doesn’t largely affect the working life of the city, that’s fine, I think people will be largely happy with that. The minute it starts to majorly impact or disrupt the life of the city, we’ll step in.

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Police Scotland deputy chief constable Will Kerr.

“We can give an assurance that if the crowd starts to cause damage to commercial or other premises, we have a significant amount of public order resource available to us and if we need to use it, we’ll use it.

“Our plea to everyone who is going to come to protest at this critically important event in Glasgow is ‘exercise your lawful rights, respectfully and peacefully’. If you do, there won’t be any issues with policing, but if you don’t, we’ll step in very quickly.”

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Around 10,000 police officers will be deployed across Scotland during the two-week summit, which begins on November 1, and the public should expect to see more armed police than usual.

“We’re going to see a number of significant events happening within the city at one particular time,” said DCC Kerr. “There’s the conference itself, of course, there’s a number of ancillary events that are happening in the environs of the Scottish Events Campus, and there’s also a number of movements that people will see from the word leaders.

“There’s a state dinner on November 1 and 120-plus world leaders who are going to have to be moved about the country and be moved about that busy urban environment that is Glasgow.

“Some of the officers will be armed, not them all, certainly not the majority, but there will be some armed officers as you would expect. We want to make sure that it can take place safely and that politicians can hopefully deliver their job and actually create a safe and successful event.”


Warrant issued for arrest of man accused of murdering his mum

Sean Flynn was due to go on trial over the death of Louise Tiffney.

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Louise Tiffney, 43, was last seen leaving her home in Edinburgh in May 2002.

An arrest warrant has been issued for a man accused of murdering his mother after he failed to turn up at court.

Sean Flynn was due to go on trial over the death of Louise Tiffney, who disappeared from her home on Dean Path in Edinburgh in May 2002.

The 38-year-old’s address was given as Berlin, Germany.

The Crown told the High Court in Livingston it did not believe Flynn would be attending court in the near future, having made inquiries.

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Flynn has been charged with murdering Ms Tiffney and of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by concealing her body in the boot of a car, driving it into a wooded area and disposing of it there.

At a previous hearing in January, his lawyer said Flynn denies the charges.

Ms Tiffney’s body was found at stately home Gosford House in East Lothian in 2017 after the 43-year-old was last seen leaving her home in the capital.


Campaigners call for Scottish Government to criminalise paying for sex

Ministers are being urged to introduce legislation which makes paying for sex a criminal offence.

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Charities representing sex workers say they would oppose any move to criminalise the buying of sex.

A group of campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to criminalise those who pay for sex in order to reduce demand for prostitution.

A group called A Model for Scotland is holding an online event on Wednesday to encourage ministers to introduce legislation which makes paying for sex a criminal offence.

Speaking at the event will be former detective superintendent of Suffolk Constabulary Alan Caton, who led the force’s response to the murders of five women in Ipswich in 2006.

He says outlawing the purchase of sex would help protect women from violence and exploitation.

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In this year’s Programme for Government, ministers committed to “develop a model for Scotland which effectively tackles and challenges men’s demand for prostitution”.

However charities which represent sex workers have said they would oppose any move to criminalise the buying of sex.

Umbrella Lane, which represents sex workers across Scotland, says these laws would hurt consensual sex workers and do nothing for those being exploited.

Ahead of the meeting on Wednesday, Caton said: “There is currently a minority of men in Scotland who feel entitled to sexually exploit vulnerable women by paying them for sex.

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“My experiences in Ipswich taught me that society must never turn a blind eye to the abuses these men are committing.

“Men who pay for sex cause immense harms to the women they exploit, while their demand also drives a brutal sex trafficking trade.”

He continued: “Prostitution is violence against women. Yet the law in Scotland currently gives men license to pay for sex.

“That cannot be right. It is crucial that the law sends out the unequivocal message that paying for sex is never acceptable, and that law enforcement agencies have the powers to hold perpetrators to account.

“At the same time, women exploited through prostitution must be decriminalised and given the support they need to leave sexual exploitation.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government’s definition of violence against women includes prostitution and this is set out in our Equally Safe strategy.

“This year’s Programme for Government commits the Scottish Government to developing a model for Scotland which effectively tackles this behaviour and we are now taking this work forward.

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“We will base our model on fundamental principles which embed equality, human rights and women’s safety at its centre.

“As part of that work, we will learn from other jurisdictions and international approaches and engage with those with lived experience to help shape and strengthen services.”

Dr Anastacia Ryan, founding director of Umbrella Lane, said her organisation and others which represent sex workers oppose the criminalisation approach.

She said: “It is unfathomable that a group of men are calling for laws that have been shown to increase violence against women who engage in sex work.

“Particularly shocking is the weighing in of a male former detective superintendent amidst growing awareness and outrage at the levels of institutional misogyny in police forces.

“Police and former police officers should be there to carry out the law, not campaign for increased criminalisation of an industry steeped in outdated, harmful laws.

“These laws already put women at risk forcing sex workers to work alone indoors or risking arrest through working alone, in hidden and isolated areas on the street to avoid police repression and possible prosecution.”


Woman created ‘blether boxes’ to help children cope with grief

Gabrielle Williamson came up with the idea to help her little sister following the death of their dad in June 2020.

STV News

A young woman who lost her dad to cancer has created special ‘blether boxes’ to help children cope with grief.

Gabrielle Williamson, 20, came up with the idea to help her little sister following the death of their father, Kevin, in June 2020.

The student, from Ayr, told STV News: “It was incredibly difficult and even now, you know, we’re still grieving every single day.

“And I just know that whatever we do, our dad’s up there and he’s guiding us. And he’s giving us the strength to do these things.

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“And these kind of things help us a lot as a family with our grief because it keeps us busy and it keeps us doing something good.”

STV News
Family: Gabrielle Williamson came up with the idea following the death of her dad.

The boxes – which contain toys, books and worksheets designed to help children understand their emotions – are now being delivered to schools in South Ayrshire as part of a pilot scheme.

Little sister Poppy, nine, helped to pick the items that are now in the box, including an octopus which helped her to tell her teacher how she was feeling in the virtual classroom.

The schoolgirl said: “It helped me express my emotions to the teacher because if I was upset or something in the Google Meet, I could just flip over my octopus and she would see.”

STV News
Pilot: The boxes are being delivered to schools in South Ayrshire.
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Ms Williamson, who runs a blog called Let’s Blether to encourage people to talk about difficult subjects like grief and mental health, hopes the ‘blether boxes’ will be adopted across the country.

She said: “It’s not just needed in South Ayrshire, it’s needed everywhere.

“I’d love for it to be picked up across all councils, obviously.

“This is just the beginning and I think, hopefully, as it grows we’ll get more ideas, more things in the boxes.”

More on:

Police to assess scale of spiking at nightclubs amid injection claims

It comes as officers in Scotland investigate alleged incidents in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.

Shironosov via IStock
Spiking: Concerns have been raised after incidents were reported in several areas of the country.

Police have been asked to urgently assess the scale of drink spiking at nightclubs and parties amid a rise in reports and claims some people have been drugged by injection.

Home secretary Priti Patel has asked forces for an update after some said they had seen more spiking incidents in recent months.

Police chiefs have also been tasked by the Commons Home Affairs Committee to urgently provide more information on their assessment of the scale of the problem after reports of incidents in several parts of the country, including Scotland, Nottingham and Northern Ireland.

Groups from more than 30 universities around the UK have joined an online campaign calling for the boycott of nightclubs, with campaigners seeking “tangible” changes to make them safer, such as covers/stoppers for drinks, better training for staff and more rigorous searches of clubbers.

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A petition launched last week to make it a legal requirement for nightclubs to thoroughly search guests on entry has already gained more than 120,000 signatures.

The ‘Girls Night In’ campaign has asked for women to avoid the venues on Thursday, October 28, in protest at safety concerns not being taken seriously.

It has gathered support from across the UK, with campaign groups having been established in cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

It comes as a University of Nottingham student told how she believes she was spiked with an injection during a night-out with friends.

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Zara Owen, 19, from Surrey, said she blacked out soon after arriving at a venue last Monday, telling BBC Breakfast: “I know I didn’t drink as much as I usually would on a night out this night, and the fact that I don’t remember anything is terrifying for me because this is something that is a very rare occasion to me.

“I’ve never suffered with memory loss and then the next morning I woke up with a really painful leg.

“I found a pin prick in my leg which was the epicentre of all pain. It made me unable to walk and I was limping around.

“As a young person who’s at university, I’m hearing stories of people who have been to nightclubs and they have been injected. I have heard stories of someone having it through their hand or through their back, so this kind of gave me an idea this had happened to me.”

Nottinghamshire Police said it has seen a rising number of reports of spiking over recent months and has arrested a man as part of a wider operation.

Superintendent Kathryn Craner, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Over the last few months we have seen an increase in reports where people believe that drugs may have been put in their drink.

“But we’ve also received a small number of reports where people are telling us, as Zara has, that this has been associated with a pain or a mark on a part of their body, scratching sensation, and as though they have been physically spiked.”

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The University of Nottingham said it was “extremely concerned” by the reports and was working with police and venues to “monitor, review and learn from incidents and experiences in the city centre”.

Police Scotland is also looking into similar reports.

A spokesman said: “Officers are carrying out inquiries and a small number of reports from the Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow areas are being investigated. These do not appear to be linked.”

They are also investigating a possible injection incident in Aberdeen.

A spokesperson said: “We are making enquiries into a drug spiking incident, reported to have occurred on Friday, October 15, at a premises in Aberdeen city centre. Our enquiries are at an early stage.”

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “It’s absolutely disgusting that in the past few days a number of students have reported instances of women being spiked on nights out.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds described the reports of the “vile act” as “terrifying”, adding: “This awful crime needs to be clamped down on without delay.”

The chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association Michael Kill said the organisation was “very concerned” about the reports and called on the Home Office to do more to investigate the problem.

Although the industry is working to try to keep customers safe, Mr Kill warned: “The truth is, though, very real challenges still exist.

“We know this is a societal problem, but it is very difficult to say with any real certainty what the scale of this problem is.”

Sarah Crew, temporary Chief Constable for Avon and Somerset Police who leads the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) work on rape and adult sexual offences, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday: “In terms of the injection spiking, I only became aware of that this morning so I know about the reports.

“I think it’s a fair assumption there may be a sexual motive in those, but there isn’t an indication.”

It is “difficult to make an assessment on that particular trend at the moment, in terms of the more general drink spiking we do know that that’s a problem,” she added.

Metropolitan police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she had not heard about the injection spiking incidents but told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee that they sounded “very worrying”.

Reports of women having their drink spiked in London have increased in the past five years from 136 in the year to September 2017 to 473 in the year to September 2021, the committee heard.

The Met’s assistant commissioner Louisa Rolfe said this had coincided with awareness campaigns which may have led to an increase in reporting.

Spiking drinks can lead to up to ten years in prison – or even higher if other offences like rape, robbery or another assault has taken place.


Thousands of rotting salmon ‘stink out’ village after mass death at farm

The Scottish Salmon Company farm off Gigha suffered a 'sudden and unforeseeable bloom of micro-jellyfish'.

Corin Smith via Inside Scottish Salmon Feedlots
Residents of Tayinloan said their village was 'stinking'.

Thousands of salmon have been killed in a mass mortality event at a fish farm off the west coast of Kintyre.

The Scottish Salmon Company farm off the shore of the Isle of Gigha has suffered a major loss of life after a “sudden and unforeseeable bloom of micro-jellyfish”.

Jellyfish can sting fish leading to gill and skin injuries and eventually killing them.

Residents of Tayinloan, which sits on the coast of the Kintyre peninsula in Argyll and Bute opposite Gigha, said their village was “stinking” with lorries “spilling rotten fish fluid as they come up the hill”.

Corin via Inside Scottish Salmon Feedlots
Fish removed from the pens at the Scottish Salmon Company farm off Gigha.
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The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is investigating, while the Scottish Government said the Fish Health Inspectorate had inspected the fish farm.

A spokesperson for the Animal and Plant Health Agency said it does not comment on ongoing investigations.

The Scottish Salmon Company operates two sites in the Sound of Gigha, East Tarbet Bay and Druimyeon Bay.

The latter has received five “unsatisfactory” classifications in seabed surveys by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

Corin Smith via Inside Scottish Salmon Feedlots
The pens of the Scottish Salmon Company farm off the Isle of Gigha.
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Results for 2020 have yet to be evaluated.

East Tarbet Bay received “unsatisfactory” and a “borderline” reports in 2006 and 2007, but has had “satisfactory” classifications since then, apart from in the latest survey in 2019 which is still to be evaluated.

Images of dead salmon being removed from the farm nets were and then inside open-topped trailers were captured by Corin Smith, founder of Inside Scottish Salmon Feedlots.

He said: “Hundreds of thousands of dead and rotting fish, many more suffering a long lingering death, and tonnes of rotting fish dispersed into the sea.

Corin Smith via Inside Scottish Salmon Feedlots
The pens of the Scottish Salmon Company farm off the Isle of Gigha.

“As usual the Scottish Government seems to be the last to know and powerless to do anything about this company’s appalling environmental and welfare record.”

The Scottish Salmon Company said the fish were disposed of in accordance with regulations.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government takes fish welfare and health very seriously.

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“We recently refreshed the focus of our 10-year Farmed Fish Health Framework to concentrate on areas that make a direct difference to farmed fish health and welfare including analysis of causes of mortality and the development of treatments, which will help us to better understand and prepare for these environmental events. “

Corin Smith via Inside Scottish Salmon Feedlots
Dead fish from the Scottish Salmon Company farm off Gigha fill two trailers.

A spokesperson for The Scottish Salmon Company said the health and welfare of fish was fundamental to responsible salmon farming.

“However, as with any farmer, operating in the natural environment brings unique biological challenges such as the sudden and unforeseeable bloom of micro-jellyfish which occurred recently at our Gigha site,” she said.

“Unfortunately, this has caused fish mortalities which we are disposing of in line with regulations and reporting as standard practice in the industry.”


Brewdog’s ‘solid gold’ beer can competition ruled as misleading

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld 25 complaints from customers over the 'misleading' promotion.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Brewdog: Ellon-based brewery launched a 'solid gold' beer can competition in 2020.

A Brewdog competition which claimed customers could win “solid gold” beer cans was misleading, a watchdog has said. 

The Ellon-based brewer launched the promotion in 2020, which initially stated customers could find one of ten gold cans hidden in packs of beer purchased from its online store. 

In social media posts published in February 2021, the company claimed there were five gold wrapped cans to be found, which could be swapped for a “solid gold, 24-carat” beer can.

However it was revealed the cans were actually gold plated and worth significantly less than a “solid gold” version, which would be worth $500,000 at the current gold price. 

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Brewdog said the “solid gold” claim was an error due to a “miscommunication” between its marketing and social media teams.

The company stated the prize was worth £15,000 and stood by the evaluation, adding that it “could not see that any reasonable consumer who entered the competition would assume they were going to win over half a million dollars of gold”.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld 25 complaints over the competition, ruling three adverts were misleading.

The watchdog said it “understood the prize consisted of 24 carat gold-plated replica cans” but added “because the ads stated that the prize included a ‘solid gold’ can when that was not the case, we concluded the ads were misleading.”

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The ASA added: “We told BrewDog plc not to state or imply that consumers would receive a solid gold can when that was not the case.”

On Wednesday, Brewdog said the company had “messed up” over the promotion and added it would offer all the winners from the first round of the contest the cash equivalent of the gold cans. 

It has also now launched a new gold can competition where customers can win a “diamond encrusted gold plated can” or a £25,000 cash equivalent. 

The company added “clear T&C’s” would be provided to customers. 


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