‘Mental health crisis is not on the horizon, it’s already here’

STV News has been hearing from some of those whose lives have been affected during coronavirus pandemic.

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Over the past year we have become used to hearing about the physical toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the emotional impact on many has also been profound, causing a huge surge in the number of people who are struggling with their mental ill health.

Recent research by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) found more than half of those surveyed with existing mental health problems felt it had worsened during the pandemic.

More than a quarter said their specialist treatment or care had stopped entirely during this time, and Covid led to a reported 55% drop in referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

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So with warnings that a crisis is not just on the horizon, it’s already with us, what should the next Scottish Government’s priorities be when it comes to mental health?

STV News has been hearing from some of those whose lives have been affected by psychological illness.

‘I didn’t want to go through this’

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Long-Covid: Sarah MacDougall said more support is needed.

April 23, 2020, is a day etched in Sarah MacDougall’s mind. 

With nursing staff by her side, she took her first tentative steps outside after surviving coronavirus.

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The care home worker from Inverness knew she was lucky to be alive.

But her mental, as well as her physical battle, was only just beginning.

Sarah, 43, was put in a coma and placed on a ventilator after contracting the virus.

She pulled through, but now suffers from long-Covid and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now the counselling she accessed through her work is about to end.

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Hospital: Ms MacDougall survived coronavirus.

Speaking to STV News, Ms MacDougall said: “It’s the tears, the anger, it’s in your head ‘what did I do to deserve this?’”

Ms MacDougall still walks with a frame due to nerve damage in her foot and leg, and has been unable to return to the job she loves.

‘I’m trying to deal with it, but more support would go a long way.’

Sarah MacDougall
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She wants the next government to set up a specialist support group for long-Covid sufferers.

“It’s as simple as someone saying, ‘yes you’re feeling like this, yes you’re traumatised,” she said.

“I didn’t want to go through this. I’m trying to deal with it, but more support would go a long way.

“I don’t think that’s asking for too much. It’s very hard.”

‘There needs to be an education package to combat stigma’

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Support: Emma Strathdee has received a lot of help from family and friends.

Every morning Emma Strathdee puts on her walking boots and heads for Bennachie.

She’s scaling the hill in Aberdeenshire for 28 days to raise money for SAMH.

There’s passion and purpose behind her pursuit.

Ms Strathdee, 38, has suffered from depression since she was in her early 20s. 

She became an expert at hiding it from those around her, but during lockdown it intensified, becoming so severe that on two occasions she tried to take her own life.

Ms Strathdee says she’s had little support since leaving hospital, and has been told it could be up to a year before she can see a psychologist.

She told STV News: “More money needs to be put into the NHS.

“It should have been put in a long, long time ago – so that we can have more psychologists, more psychiatrists, even just more GPs that can speak to people about their mental health.

“There also needs to be an education package of some sort that the teachers can dish out from primary one, right the way through.

“Because there’s not the education, that’s where the stigma comes in – it’s still not an accepted illness.”

‘I tried to take my own life and I live with the guilt of that on my family every day.’

Emma Strathdee

Ms Strathdee says her family and friends have been a huge help, but outside support is needed.

She added: “I tried to take my own life and I live with the guilt of that on my family every day.

“Why should they have to suffer that when I could have had help a long time ago? And it’s not just me, it’s thousands of people.”

‘Quite simply, we need boots on the ground’

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Tragedy: Greg McHugh took his own life in 2016.

Steve McHugh wishes his son had felt able to talk.

Greg was a fun-loving, popular young man.

He was in his final year studying chemistry at university with a bright future ahead of him.

But instead of celebrating with his fellow graduates, Greg’s first-class honours degree had to be awarded posthumously.

Greg took his own life in 2016. He was 21.

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Family: Steve McHugh said it will ‘never be the same’ following Greg’s death.

Mr McHugh believes young people’s mental health must be the next government’s priority.

He told STV News: “We need to have in the community what you might call medical triage centres, so that young people, when they call in for support, they don’t have to go on a waiting list to see their GP.

“They can go on to receive a mental health evaluation, from which they can then be signposted to counsellors or others as necessary.”

‘I think Greg felt he didn’t deserve to live and that people would be better off without him, but if only he’d known how devastated so many people were, and how much love so many people had for him, I think the outcome would have been different.’

Steve McHugh

Mr McHugh stressed the need for action, not just words.

He said: “Boots on the ground – quite simply, we need boots on the ground.

“That’s what must happen if we are going to address this.”

Mr McHugh now wants to help prevent others from the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

He said: “I think Greg felt he didn’t deserve to live and that people would be better off without him, but if only he’d known how devastated so many people were, and how much love so many people had for him, I think the outcome would have been different.

“It will never be the same for me and my family. You adapt, but it doesn’t go back to what it was before. It’s a different level of normality.

“It’s so sad that at 21-years-old you’ve got your whole live to look forward to, and now you’re just left thinking what might have been really.”

‘Some don’t go to their doctor because they don’t feel welcomed’

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Man On: Jason Moore is now a director of the mental health charity.

A year ago the Man On Inverclyde group had six people on WhatsApp.

Now the mental health charity has more than 100 members.  

For Jason Moore it’s been a huge support. In March 2020, the 22-year-old from Greenock tried to take his own life.

Man On was founded by one of Mr Moore’s friends who felt there was a lack of help and wanted to make a difference.

Mr Moore has benefited from the group so much he’s now become heavily involved with the organisation and is one of its directors.

But he says the onus shouldn’t just be on the voluntary sector to step in when times are tough.

He told STV News: “Through Man On we got a private therapist, so I got access to counselling that way. But we had to source it ourselves, it wasn’t through the NHS.

“I think there needs to be more education for doctors. I know a lot of people who don’t go because they don’t feel welcomed – they get the same treatment all the time.

“You would like to see the GPs have more of an education about mental health and go into more conversation and details.

“I also think we need more education in schools, to inform people about speaking out and dealing with emotions.”

‘There’s a sense of worry because you’re hearing of kids of like 12 who are struggling. And that’s really quite terrifying.’

Jason Moore

Man On helps people with a variety of issues including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions and family problems.

Mr Moore added: “We do everything we can at Man On, but it shouldn’t be up to us to kind of play a vigilante kind of role.

“There should be more available, through the NHS and the doctors.”

Mr Moore says he worries about the rising number of young people now needing help.

He added: “There’s a sense of worry because you’re hearing of kids of like 12 who are struggling. And that’s really quite terrifying.”

‘It feels like on the ground we’re firefighting all the time really’

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Experts: Dr Sadia Mohammed and Dr Saman Khan.

Dr Saman Khan and Dr Sadia Mohammed are Glasgow-based psychiatrists who treat children and teenagers with mental health problems.

Alongside their day jobs, they’ve launched their own YouTube channel – Gupshup with Dr Sadia & Dr Saman – to raise awareness of mental health issues among Scotland’s Urdu-speaking communities.

When it comes to young people’s mental health, they say there’s demand like never before with urgent referrals amid the pandemic reportedly pushing the waiting list back to around 18 months.

Dr Khan told STV News: “Specifically amongst ethnic minorities, I think the stigma is a lot more. 

“Unfortunately, we don’t see enough ethnic minorities. We don’t see the same number of presentations reflecting the percentage of population that we have.”

“It feels like on the ground we’re firefighting all the time really,” added Dr Mohammed.

“There’s just been so much mental distress.”

‘We’re also seeing so many acute presentations of suicidal children and young people – people in acute distress.’

Dr Sadia Mohammed

The doctors said lockdown has had a “really significant impact” on children and young people.

Dr Mohammed said: “We’ve seen increased rates of referrals of all psychiatric disorders.

“There’s been an exponential rise in acute and routine referrals for eating disorders.

“We’re also seeing so many acute presentations of suicidal children and young people – people in acute distress.”

She added that before the pandemic around one in every nine young people would be expected to have a mental health disorder. That’s now increased to one in six.

“As we get over the pandemic, there’s going to be a lot more hitting our doors that hasn’t arrived yet,” said Dr Mohammed.

“There’s a really significant rise in mental health problems that are going to come our way.

“We really need a lot more funding. And not just funding that’s short-term, temporary for the next year or so – we needed sustainable funding.”

What are the parties pledging?

The Scottish Conservatives say they’ll increase the share of health funding on mental health to 10% by the end of the next parliament and develop a self-harm prevention strategy.

The SNP want to increase investment in mental health by at least 25% and ensure GP practices have a dedicated mental wellbeing worker.

Scottish Labour want to set up mental health A&Es in every health board and develop a ten-year suicide prevention plan. 

The Scottish Liberal Democrats want to train more mental health specialists and double the number of people training on counsellor courses.

The Scottish Greens want to allocate 10% of frontline health spend to mental health by 2026.

The party said it will also ensure everyone can access mental health support at their local GP practice with specialist mental health workers. 

The Greens will also invest an additional £161m into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services by 2026, and double the budget for community mental wellbeing services for children and young people to £30m.

The party will also increase focus on prevention, with better access to remedies like cognitive behavioural therapy and social prescribing.

Who’s in charge as Glasgow becomes UN territory at COP26?

Everything you need to know about the law, policing and security during the crunch climate summit.

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Police Scotland officers can only enter the blue zone with UN agreement.

The COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow is being hosted by the United Nations, which means the venue will come under its control.

The summit will take place across two sites – the ‘blue zone’ at the Scottish Event Campus and the ‘green zone’ at Glasgow Science Centre.

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The blue zone is a UN-managed space that hosts the negotiations, bringing together delegations from 197 countries. It will become an international territory subject to international law, in the same way the UN headquarters in New York and its offices in Geneva and Vienna are not subject to domestic law.

The UN will have administrative control of the Scottish Events Campus and will be responsible for security during COP26. While it will be supported by Police Scotland, the UN will remain in charge of all security in the blue zone.

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Police mounted units have been training for COP26.
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Police Scotland may only enter with the consent of the UN secretary general, a standard arrangement for such conferences.

‘Complete freedom of expression’

UN officials, representatives and experts all have immunity from legal process – including prosecution (diplomatic immunity) – inside the blue zone.

Natasha Durkin, a senior associate in Shepherd and Wedderburn’s regulation and markets team, told STV News: “It is a foundational principle of the UN that its property is ‘inviolable’, meaning that UN property is immune from any legal interference wherever it is situated.

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“The main reason for this is to allow the UN full control of its international functions and activities without interference, and reflects the immunities UN personnel have from legal process.

“One important aspect of the blue zone is that it allows the UN to guarantee complete freedom of speech to those participating in UN meetings, regardless of the (possibly restrictive) laws applying in the host state.

“Complete freedom of expression for participants is agreed in Article 2 of the COP26 agreement.”

Year of planning

Police Scotland has been planning and preparing for over a year, alongside the United Nations, UK Government and Glasgow City Council.

Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins said: “We have engaged with the United Nations and this is common practice for UN conferences.

“In consultation with a range of partners, our policing plan takes into account all factors to ensure an appropriate response will be delivered.” 

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Police carry out a training exercise on the ‘Squinty Bridge’ in Glasgow.
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All attendees within the blue zone must be accredited by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Ms Durkin said: “Consistent with having full control of the blue zone, the UN is ‘in charge’.

“However, the COP26 agreement (and again, as is standard) requires the UN to cooperate with UK authorities to ensure the proper administration of justice and to prevent any abuse of the blue zone. 

“In addition to the UN being required to cooperate with the UK in relation to the administration of justice, and to prevent abuse, the secretary general of the UN can waive any immunity applying to the blue zone. 

“As such, if an offence is committed, there are mechanisms for both cooperation between the UK and UN, and the possibility of waiver of immunity. The disposal of an alleged offence committed in the blue zone would ultimately depend on circumstances.”

So what is the green zone?

The green zone is managed by the UK Government and is a platform for the general public, youth groups, civil society, academia, artists, business and others to have their voices heard.

It will host events, exhibitions, workshops and talks promoting dialogue, awareness and education.

Normal domestic law applies there.

Study calls for more tutoring to close school attainment gap

Research by the Poverty Alliance found free tutoring provision for children and young people in Scotland was 'sparse'.

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Report: High-quality tutoring could significantly reduce educational inequalities.

More tutoring and mentoring of pupils should be used in Scotland to help close the attainment gap, a study says.

Research by the Poverty Alliance found free tutoring provision for children and young people in Scotland was “sparse”.

The report, released on Wednesday, said high-quality tutoring could significantly reduce educational inequalities.

In February the Scottish Government announced a £45m fund for educational recovery, however the report said there was no published information on how much of this went towards catch-up tutoring programmes.

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The Poverty Alliance’s research also found there were geographical gaps in the provision of mentoring for children in poverty.

Dr Laura Robertson, lead author of the report, said: “The Scottish Government has put tackling the poverty-based attainment gap at the heart of its agenda. However, inequalities in education attainment remain stark.

“Covid-19 has not only tightened the grip of poverty on the lives of many children and young people, but has also exacerbated these inequalities.

“Now, more than ever, children and young people need access to additional support.

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“This report reveals that – despite the evidence that it works – young people living in poverty still don’t have equal access to high-quality tutoring free of charge.

“In a just society, all children and young people should have access to support that allows them to reach their potential, so the Scottish Government must – if it wants to end the attainment gap – respond with action.”


Obituary: Ex-Rangers and Scotland manager Walter Smith

Walter Smith was one of the most successful Scottish football managers of all time.

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Walter Smith, the former Scotland and Rangers boss and one of the most successful managers in Scottish football history, has died aged 73.

Smith’s career in professional football spanned 45 years, taking him to international level and cementing a position among the elite of the club game.

As manager of Rangers over two spells, he won ten league titles, five Scottish Cups, six League Cups and guided his side to the UEFA Cup final in 2008.

Smith was also awarded an OBE in 1997 for his services to association football.

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Born in Lanark in 1948, his football career started in earnest when the defender signed for Dundee United in 1966 after a spell in Junior football. Smith played for the Tannadice club over two spells, and also had two years at Dumbarton, the highlight being a Scottish Cup final appearance in 1974.

By the time he hung up his boots in 1980, Smith had already begun a coaching career that would far surpass the success of his playing days.

Starting out at Dundee United under the guidance of Jim McLean, the young coach combined his duties at Tannadice while working with Scotland’s Under-18 team. He was alongside Andy Roxburgh when Scotland won the European Youth Championship in 1982, the country’s first international title at any level.

His growing reputation as a coach grew and he was appointed manager of Scotland’s Under-21 side, and then acted as Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man at the World Cup in Mexico in 1986.

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That year brought another pivotal moment in Smith’s career, when he moved to Ibrox to become assistant manager at the club he supported as a child. Acting as assistant to Graeme Souness, he was a central figure in a dramatic and impactful time at the club and in Scottish football as Rangers brought in high-profile players from England and targeted success at home and abroad.

Smith was alongside Souness as Rangers won three league titles and four Scottish Cups and, when Souness suddenly left Glasgow to return to Liverpool in 1991, the Ibrox club made the decision to elevate the assistant to the top job. It would prove to be a move that delivered one of the most successful spells in the club’s history.

Under ambitious owner David Murray, Rangers spent big and won big. Smith signed a number of the best players from across Scotland and supplemented them with stars from across Europe, including Alexei Mikhailichenko, Brian Laudrup, Basile Boli and Paul Gascoigne.

Rangers had won the previous two titles under Souness, and Smith delivered seven more, dominating the domestic game as Rangers equalled rivals Celtic’s record of nine successive league trophies. Three Scottish Cup wins and three League Cup wins in that time added to the trophy haul, but Smith’s tenure was also marked by some big moments in European football, including a run in the 1992-93 Champions League that saw them beat English champions Leeds United and go unbeaten in the group stage, missing out on a place in the final by a single point.

Smith stepped down in 1998, his final season seeing Celtic win the league title on a dramatic final day, and Rangers lose to Hearts in the Scottish Cup final.

He returned to management shortly after his Ibrox departure, succeeding Howard Kendall at Goodison Park. Though his four years in charge didn’t bring success, Smith was a steady hand at the wheel as spending at Everton was restricted while rival clubs splashed the cash.

After leaving the Toffees, Smith had a brief spell at Manchester United, reuniting with Alex Ferguson as assistant at Old Trafford, but he was soon to return to front-line management.

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Scotland needed a change of direction after the tumultuous Berti Vogts era and Smith answered the call, taking the manager’s job in 2004. Though the team missed out on qualification for the 2006 World Cup, the Scot brought marked improvement to the side and a climb up the world rankings was proof of his success.

Smith and Scotland were part-way through the Euro 2008 qualifiers when Rangers asked him to return to the club in January 2007 after Paul Le Guen left Ibrox.

The second spell at Rangers saw Smith underline his iconic status with the Rangers support. Three further league titles, three League Cups and three Scottish Cups added to his formidable trophy haul, but a European run against the odds was the highlight in 2008.

Smith’s side began the season in the Champions League but could only finish third in a group that pitted them against Barcelona, Lyon and Stuttgart. That brought the consolation prize of a place in the knockout stage of the UEFA Cup and Rangers took on that challenge and excelled.

A disciplined side with a miserly defence saw off Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and Frioentina, conceding only one goal along the way, to reach the final.

At the showpiece match in Manchester, Smith’s side came up against Zenti St Petersburg, but fell short in a 2-0 defeat.

Smith retired in 2011, having amassed 21 domestic trophies as Rangers manager, second only to Bill Struth in terms of silverware at Ibrox and with his prominent place in the club’s history books assured.

He later had brief spells as a director and chairman at the club but also offered guidance and advice to those who came after him as Rangers boss.

Rangers chairman Douglas Park said on Tuesday: “It is almost impossible to encapsulate what Walter meant to every one of us at Rangers. He embodied everything that a Ranger should be. His character and leadership was second to none, and will live long in the memory of everyone he worked with during his two terms as first-team manager.”


Forbes calls on Sunak to reinstate universal credit uplift in Budget

Finance secretary wants chancellor to help Scots facing ‘real cost of living crisis’.

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Rishi Sunak will deliver his second Budget of the year on Wednesday.

Scots are facing a “real cost of living crisis”, finance secretary Kate Forbes has said, as she urged the chancellor to reinstate the £20 a week recently removed from Universal Credit.

Forbes made the plea ahead of Rishi Sunak delivering his second Budget of the year to the Commons on Wednesday.

In a letter to the chancellor, she called on him to use the keynote address to “provide certainty to the wider public sector, boost the economy and support our most vulnerable at this challenging time”.

Forbes, who will set out the Scottish Government’s draft budget for next year in December, stressed that ministers at Holyrood were “strongly opposed to any return to austerity”.

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The finance secretary appealed to the chancellor to re-think the Government’s recent decision to end the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

She told Sunak: “A real cost of living crisis is emerging as a result of this cut, combined with the escalating energy costs and upcoming rise in National Insurance contributions.

“The Universal Credit cut alone will push an extra 60,000 people in Scotland, including 20,000 children, into poverty and hundreds of thousands more into hardship, whilst also reducing social security expenditure in Scotland by £461m by 2023-24.”

She insisted it was not justifiable for UK ministers to introduce these “cuts to individual income”.

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Instead, she said, the Budget should “prioritise spending that supports the financial security of low-income households, the well-being of children and young people, and delivers good, green jobs and fair work”.

With the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow getting under way in just a few days, she added that “significant investment is required from the UK Government in reserved areas” to help ensure that Scotland meets its emissions targets.

And here Forbes urged the chancellor to match the £500m the Scottish Government has pledged to spend over 10 years to help the north-east of Scotland transition away from oil and gas.

The finance secretary told Sunak: “Given the UK Treasury has, over decades, benefited from billions of pounds of revenue from activity in the North Sea, I ask that you at least match our commitment to help secure jobs in the north-east of Scotland, support the energy transition, and reduce emissions.”

Scottish Labour finance spokesman Daniel Johnson also demanded the Chancellor use his Budget to deal with the “cost of living crisis” many are facing “due to spiralling prices and the damage done by callous Tory cuts”.

Johnson said: “The pandemic has shaken our economy to the core and if we do not act now to put fairness at the heart of our recovery, thousands of people will be thrown into hardship this winter.

“This Budget must deliver real and tangible support for those struggling to make ends meet.

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“The Tory government must wake up to the cost of living crisis unfolding due to their disastrous governance and act now.”

Sunak, meanwhile, is expected to announce details of a new £150m fund aimed at helping smaller businesses in Scotland.

The fund, to be delivered through the British Business Bank, will be similar to existing schemes in England and Northern Ireland, which have provided investment and loans for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Sunak said it would show the UK Government was “continuing to support businesses across the UK”.

More on:

Inquest set to open into death of MP Sir David Amess

The MP was stabbed to death in Essex on October 15.

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David Amess: Attacked at constituency surgery.

An inquest into the death of MP Sir David Amess, who was stabbed to death during a constituency surgery at a church, is due to be opened and adjourned.

Sir David, 69, was attacked at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex on October 15.

The father-of-five was pronounced dead at the scene at 1.10pm and a preliminary postmortem examination report gave the cause of death as multiple stab wounds to the chest.

An inquest into the death of the Conservative MP for Southend West is due to be opened and adjourned at County Hall in Chelmsford on Wednesday.

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A 25-year-old man is charged with the terrorist murder of Sir David.

Ali Harbi Ali appeared before the Old Bailey last Friday, where he was not asked to enter pleas to charges of murder and preparing acts of terrorism between May 1 2019 and September this year.

He faces a trial in March next year.


No return of Covid restrictions as NHS ‘faces more pressure than ever’

The First Minister was giving an update on the state of the pandemic in Scotland in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

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There will be no immediate return of Covid restrictions despite health care being under more pressure than ever, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister was giving an update on the state of the pandemic in Scotland in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

She said that the health and social care sector was “arguably under more pressure now than at any stage of the pandemic” with NHS boards across the country in high alert.

NHS Lanarkshire has confirmed it is at the highest risk level (black) due to “critical occupancy levels”.

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The health board along with NHS Borders and NHS Grampian has called in the British Military to ease pressure on services.

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Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood on Tuesday.

Sturgeon said that the Cabinet had agreed not to make any changes to current coronavirus mitigations but that the situation “remains fragile”.

She warned that pressures on the NHS and social care were likely to increase in the coming months.

The prospect of healthcare workers facing another winter under a state of emergency is “exceptionally frightening”, representatives said this month.

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Sturgeon said: “Across the country, hospitals are at, or close to, capacity.

“The social care system is also under pressure and reporting an increase in the number of people requiring care packages.

“These pressures are, of course, likely to intensify during the winter.”

The First Minister announced an investment of £482m in the NHS and care sector.

More than £120m of the funding will go towards bolstering Test and Protect with another £130m supporting the vaccination programme – 87% of all those over-18 fully vaccinated in Scotland.

On Sunday, October 31, the UN climate summit officially begins with 30,000 delegates expected to visit Glasgow along with thousands more protestors and activists.

Professor Devi Sridhar, who sits on the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 advisory group, said coronavirus restrictions may have to be reimposed in the aftermath of the climate conference.

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Prof Sridhar’s comments echoed those of another Scottish Government adviser, Professor Linda Bauld, who said last week that holding the large-scale event was “risky”.

But health secretary Humza Yousaf previously said he believed the government could take the necessary steps to counter a potential spike caused by COP26.


£2.2m campaign launched to double size of new nature reserve

The Langholm Initiative charity hopes to buy 5300 acres of Langholm Moor and three residential properties.

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An initial crowdfunder on Go Fund Me aims to raise at least £150,000.

A £2.2m fundraising campaign has been launched to double the size of a nature reserve in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Langholm Initiative charity created the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve after raising £3.8m to buy 5200 acres of land and six residential properties.

The campaign was launched last year and the group took ownership of the land in March.

It now hopes to buy 5300 acres of Langholm Moor and three residential properties from Buccleuch Estates.

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This would increase the size of the nature reserve to 10,500 acres.

The community said it needs to raise the funds by May 2022 as the offer from Buccleuch is time limited.

An initial crowdfunder on Go Fund Me aims to raise at least £150,000.

Applications will also be made to grant-funding bodies and a private donor has already pledged £500,000.

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Jenny Barlow, the reserve’s estate manager, said: “We’re aiming to repeat the impossible and open a new chapter in this inspiring story of hope and community by doubling the size of Tarras Valley Nature Reserve – and so doubling the benefits for people, nature and climate.

“We need all the help we can get to achieve a big win for wildlife, climate action and community regeneration – and a legacy for future generations.

“Scotland is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries and it desperately needs projects like this.”

She added that if the land goes onto the open market there is a risk it “will be bought by corporate investment firms, which are currently banking large amounts of land in the area”.

Benny Higgins, Buccleuch’s executive chairman, said: “We were delighted that The Langholm Initiative was able to purchase the initial area from Buccleuch last year, having shown such tenacity and vision.

“Having reached agreement on timeline and value, we wish them every success with this next exciting phase, both for the initiative and the community.”

Langholm said the land is home to wildlife such as black grouse, short-eared owls and merlin, and is a stronghold for hen harriers.


Queen will miss COP26 climate conference on doctors’ orders

The monarch has said she is 'disappointed' that she will no longer attend the climate event in Glasgow.

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Queen: The monarch has been advised to rest.

The Queen has pulled out of hosting a major reception for world leaders at the COP26 climate change summit, Buckingham Palace has confirmed.

The 95-year-old monarch was due to travel to Scotland for the high-profile engagement on Monday November 1.

A palace spokesman said: “Following advice to rest, The Queen has been undertaking light duties at Windsor Castle.

“Her Majesty has regretfully decided that she will no longer travel to Glasgow to attend the evening reception of COP26 on Monday, 1st November.

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“Her Majesty is disappointed not to attend the reception but will deliver an address to the assembled delegates via a recorded video message.”

The head of state faced preliminary tests in hospital on October 20 during her first overnight stay at a medical facility in eight years.

She has been resting following medical advice to cancel her two-day trip to Northern Ireland.

But she returned to work on Tuesday, carrying out virtual audiences from Windsor Castle – her first official engagements in seven days since she was ordered to rest by doctors.


Drug guidance change has ‘no bearing on spiking’ incidences

Crown Office says new warning scheme does not apply to possession of controlled drugs with intention to supply.

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Police forces across the UK are investigating reports of 'spiking' at nightclubs.

New powers for police officers to hand out warnings to people in possession of drugs have not had a bearing on increased incidences of “spiking” in recent months, according to the Crown Office.

It said new guidance introduced last month “does not apply to possession of controlled drugs with intention to supply them to another”.

Dorothy Bain QC, who was appointed Scotland’s most senior law officer in June, told MSPs last month she had decided to implement an extension of recorded police warning guidelines.

That means people found in possession of Class A drugs for personal use can now be issued with a recorded police warning instead of facing automatic prosecution, following a review of guidance by the Lord Advocate.

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The Crown statement released on Tuesday comes amid reports of young women being injected during nights out in cities across the UK – including Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.

COPFS posted on Twitter: “The Lord Advocate’s guidance that police officers may choose to issue a warning for simple possession of drugs has no bearing on ‘spiking’.

“The warning scheme does not apply to possession of controlled drugs with intention to supply them to another. Such behaviour constitutes a specific, separate offence under S.5(3) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

“Under the warning scheme police officers always retain the ability to report appropriate cases to the Procurator Fiscal for consideration of prosecution.”

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Victims of spiking say they have been pierced with a needle in their leg, hands and back and woke up to no recollection of the night.

They are left with a pinprick mark – surrounded by a giant bruise – with risks of shared or unclean needles being used, posing threats of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

Club bosses in Scotland say they are implementing precautionary measures, including body searches, bag searches and ensuring no drinks are left unattended.

A campaign by the group ‘Girls Night In’ is calling for a boycott of nightclubs and bars in a demand for the ‘epidemic’ of drink spiking to be tackled.

The group has asked women to avoid major city bars on Thursday, October 28, in protest at safety concerns not being taken seriously.

The recorded police warning scheme enables officers to deal with a wide range of low level offences by issuing a warning on the spot or retrospectively, in the form of a notice.

Bain said last month the move does not amount to decriminalisation for the possession of Class A drugs, which include crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone and methamphetamine (crystal meth).

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The guidelines previously permitted the police to issue such warnings for possession of Class B and C drugs.

Officers retain the ability to report appropriate cases to the procurator fiscal, while accused persons retain the right to reject the offer of a warning.

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