Crofters and farmers urged to help protect rare corncrakes

RSPB Scotland’s £738,000 Corncrake Calling project is aiming to boost the bird's numbers.

Corncrake: The birds are now red-listed, which is the highest level of conservation concern. RSPB Images
Corncrake: The birds are now red-listed, which is the highest level of conservation concern.

A project to protect one of Scotland’s rarest and most secretive birds is being launched.

Corncrakes were once widespread across the country until populations fell dramatically with the intensification of farming.

The birds are now red-listed – which is the highest level of conservation concern – and are confined to a few Scottish islands and isolated areas on the north-west coast.

RSPB Scotland’s £738,000 Corncrake Calling project is to work with farmers, crofters and local communities on land management in an effort to boost numbers.


Anne McCall, charity director, said: “Scotland plays host to almost the entire UK corncrake population, meaning we are uniquely placed to help this rare and protected species.

“The work done by communities to provide corncrakes with the habitat they need is a conservation success story.

“Research has shown that nature-friendly farming backed up by science has made a real difference.”

Corncrake: Numbers of the species decreased in 2019.

Populations of the species – which has a distinctive “crex-crex” song – fell dramatically during the 1900s due to mechanisation and earlier mowing of grass crops.


They bred only in the Hebrides, north-west Highlands and Orkney by the 1990s.

Action by the RSPB, other conservation charities and government resulted in a significant increase in corncrakes between 1993 and 2007.

The UK population fluctuated at just over 1000 calling males until 2017 when only 866 were recorded, a drop of 33% since 2014 and the lowest number since 2003.

Numbers recovered slightly in 2018 with 899 males recorded but decreased again in 2019 to 870.

RSPB Scotland’s project – backed by National Lottery Heritage funding – will aim to provide corncrake-friendly habitats.

High, grassy vegetation is perfect for concealing their nests and chicks, so cutting fields late in the summer and from the centre out allows flightless youngsters to escape.

The long-term aim is to build on successful cooperation with the crofting and farming communities to protect and improve on the advances made across the key breeding areas in Argyll and Bute, the Hebrides, north Highlands and Orkney.

SNP criticises Hancock for using Covid to praise the Union

UK Health Secretary says other nations 'stepped forward' to help Scottish Ambulance Service at the weekend.

John Sibley via PA Media
Hancock: UK is 'stronger together' during coronavirus pandemic.

The SNP has criticised Health Secretary Matt Hancock for using the Downing Street coronavirus press conference to argue the “UK is stronger together” in the pandemic.

Amid signs of rising support for Scottish independence, Hancock stressed the importance of collaboration between the nations in the fight against Covid-19 during the health briefing.

He told the press conference in No 10 on Monday that the Scottish Ambulance Service put out an appeal for extra help over the weekend and other nations “stepped forward”.

Hancock said: “Our health systems across the UK routinely work closely together offering support when it’s needed, and from vaccines to ambulance services we are stronger together.


“And the UK is stronger together in the fight against this pandemic.”

The Scottish Government’s Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham accused Hancock of using the briefing to make “overtly political statements about the Union”.

She argued that SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon would face “fury” if she used her briefings to do the same.

An SNP spokesman said: “Covid briefings should be for important public health information only and overtly political statements very much risk diluting the strength of these crucial health messages.


“Nicola Sturgeon strenuously avoids making political points at her daily coronavirus briefings – but the fact the Tories feel the need to try and use this crisis to try and make constitutional arguments shows how deeply rattled they are by the opinion polls, which say independence is clearly becoming the settled will of the people of Scotland.”

Coronavirus vaccine rollout ‘is a seven-day operation’

First Minister defends vaccine programme after significantly fewer jabs took place on Sunday.

Boonchai Wedmakawand via Getty Images
Opposition politicians believe the vaccine programme is moving to slowly.

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted Scotland’s vaccination programme is a genuine seven-day-a-week operation despite a substantial drop in the number of doses administered on Sunday.

Just 11,364 patients in Scotland received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine on Sunday, according to the government’s figures – less than half of the 23,371 people who got one on Saturday.

A further 155 patients also received their second dose of vaccination, down from the 195 carried out the day before.

It is the lowest number of vaccinations administered since the Scottish Government began publishing daily figures, although last weekend’s data only states that 40,151 were carried out across both Saturday and Sunday combined.


Asked about the significant drop, the First Minister suggested it could be due to a “lag” in reporting the number of vaccines carried out and that the Scottish Government may trial round-the-clock appointments for the general population.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said: “We have a seven-day programme that will continue to develop as more and larger-scale sites come on stream.

“We were also having discussions about this on Friday; looking at piloting 24/7 arrangements so that people – particularly when we get into the wider groups of the population – have choices about the time that they turn up for vaccines.”

Sturgeon also acknowledged England had vaccinated a higher proportion of its over-80 population but suggested this was because Scotland was prioritising “more labour-intensive” vaccinations in care homes.


Approximately 95% of over-80s in Scottish care homes had received a vaccination while an estimated 90% of all residents have had at least one dose, she said.

Sturgeon also said the rollout of the vaccine to other over-80s who are being prioritised was “picking up pace”, with approximately 46% getting a vaccine – up from 34% on Friday.

“That will grow on a daily basis as we work towards the target, which we are – I would say – well on track to meet for the over-80s population,” she said.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “We’ve warned the SNP’s vaccine rollout has been sluggish for some time but the latest evidence shows it’s a shambles over the weekend.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s claims of a data lag are clutching at straws when this has happened two weeks in a row and the figures are not picking up enough midweek to get back on track.

“They are failing to deliver the seven-day service that was promised, and GPs are still not getting supplies quickly enough from the SNP.”

Edinburgh’s iconic Jenners to close with loss of 200 jobs

Frasers Group says it has been unable to reach agreement over future of iconic store on Edinburgh's Princes Street.

PA Media

Edinburgh’s iconic Jenners department store will close in May.

Some 200 jobs will be lost and the historic building, on the capital’s Princes Street, will be left vacant.

Frasers Group plc said the company had been unable to reach a tenancy agreement with the building’s owner Anders Polvsen.

Jenners opened in 1838 and was Scotland’s oldest independent department store until it was taken over in 2005.


A spokesperson for Frasers Group plc, which runs the store, said: “Despite the global pandemic, numerous lockdowns and the turbulence caused for British retail, the landlord hasn’t been able to work mutually on a fair agreement, therefore, resulting in the loss of 200 jobs and a vacant site for the foreseeable future with no immediate plans.

“Our commitment to our Frasers strategy remains but landlords and retailers need to work together in a fair manner, especially when all stores are closed.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank our Jenners staff for their hard work and dedication.”

Danish billionaire Povlsen and David Chipperfield Architects want to restore the Victorian building to “its original glory and quality”.


The plans include the restoration of the central atrium – a three-storey, top-lit grand saloon.

Anders Krogh Vogdrup, director at Bestsellers, the company owned by Polvsen, said Frasers had decided not to continue its occupation of the building despite being granted a “substantial rent reduction”.

In a statement, he said: “We can confirm that Frasers Group has notified us that they will be exercising their break option, and so will be leaving the Jenners building.

“We have endeavoured to work with tenants during the pandemic and resulting lockdowns; offering rent-free periods, deferrals and payment plans, and encouraging our tenants to utilise Government-funded schemes to save costs and protect jobs.

“Despite the substantial rent reduction already granted to Frasers and rent-free periods to cover all lockdowns, Frasers has made the decision that it does not wish to continue in occupation.

“This will see the end of the 16-year association between House of Fraser and this building, but not of the 180 years of Jenners department store.

“We are in talks with retailer operators and are planning a programme of works to ensure that, when safe and able to do so, Jenners will reopen.


“Our primary goal is to see the department store returned it to its former glory; Jenners of Edinburgh is an institution and, despite the changing face of retail, it is our aspiration that Jenners will continue to be a retail store for as long as we are its stewards.”

Care home investigated over seven coronavirus deaths

Crown Office unit investigating deaths at Tor Na Dee care home in Aberdeen.

© Google Maps 2020
Probe into deaths at Aberdeen care home.

An Aberdeen care home is being investigated by the Crown Office in relation to Covid-19 deaths.

A special Crown Office unit was set up to investigate almost 500 care homes across Scotland to probe coronavirus-linked deaths.

Tor Na Dee care home in Aberdeen will be investigated over seven deaths of residents.

A spokesperson woman for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, said: “The Procurator Fiscal has received reports in connection with the deaths of seven people at Tor Na Dee Care Home in Aberdeen.


“The investigation into the deaths, under the direction of the Covid-19 Deaths Investigation Team (CDIT), is ongoing and the families will be kept updated in relation to any significant developments.”

‘Cautious optimism’ hospital admissions starting to slow

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 2016 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

Eric Audras via Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon has said there’s “cautious grounds for optimism” that coronavirus hospital admissions are starting to tail off.

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 2016 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – an increase of five overnight. 

Out of those, 151 patients are in intensive care – six fewer than what was reported on Sunday.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Covid briefing on Monday, the First Minister said: “I don’t want to overstate this because the pressure on our NHS continues to be acute and is likely to be so for some time yet, but we think we may have some cautious grounds for optimism that admissions to hospital are starting to tail off slightly.”


Sturgeon confirmed that a further four people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

The death toll of those who had tested positive now stands at 5709, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is at least 7448.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 172,953 – a jump of 752 in the past 24 hours

The daily test positivity rate is 8.6%, up from the 7.4% reported on Sunday when 1195 cases were recorded.


Of the new cases reported on Monday, 224 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 138 are in Lanarkshire and 87 are in Ayrshire and Arran.

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

Sturgeon said there has been “early evidence” that lockdown measures across the majority of Scotland are working.

She said: “We are seeing some early evidence that these restrictions are working, which is positive.

“We think they are starting to reduce case numbers and while it will take a bit of time yet to feed properly into admissions to hospital and ICU, we also hope that we might be starting to see some early positive signs too.”

As of 8.30am on Monday, 415,402 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government is on track to meet its target for the vaccination of everyone over the age of 70, which has been set for the middle of February.


Sturgeon told the briefing that 95% of residents in adult care homes and 95% of health workers have now been vaccinated, with 46% of all people over the age of 80 given a jab, up by 9% since Friday.

From Monday, Scots aged between 70 and 79 will receive letters inviting them for their inoculation.

The First Minister said: “It’s in your interests and obviously in everybody else’s interest for you to accept the appointment and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge send Burns treat to NHS staff

Royals praise work of NHS Tayside as 200 workers at Ninewells Hospital served celebratory lunch of haggis, neeps and tatties.

Kensington Palace via PA Media
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recited Robert Burns in video message.

The royal family have wished Scots around the globe a happy Burns Night with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charity sending NHS workers a traditional Scottish treat.

Staff from a Dundee hospital enjoyed a celebration lunch of haggis, neeps and tatties thanks to NHS Charities Together, which William and Kate support as patrons, and Tayside Health Fund.

The Prince of Wales toasted those north of the border in a video message after reciting some of the words to Robert Burns’ famous song Auld Lang Syne.

And the Queen’s official Twitter account wished its Scottish followers a Happy Burns night – the annual celebration held on the national poet of Scotland’s birthday, January 25 – and posted lines from his poem My Heart’s In The Highlands.


Kate wore a tartan dress as she joined William in recording a video message praising the work of NHS Tayside, which saw 200 of its staff treating coronavirus patients at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee served the traditional Scottish meal.

In their video message, William said: “Hello to everyone at NHS Tayside. We know Burns Night is a special evening for Scots around the world – a time to come together to eat, drink and to celebrate the life and work of Robert Burns.”

Kate, who also wore her Emilia Wickstead tartan dress in 2019 to the Queen’s Buckingham Palace Christmas lunch for the extended royal family, added: ”Sadly this year is a little different.

“And for many of you working on the frontline, tonight will be a very different occasion, as you work tirelessly through this pandemic to protect the most vulnerable in our society.”


In the message, played over lunchtime to a multi-disciplinary Covid-19 response team who work in the dedicated Covid-19 Intensive Care and High Dependency Units at Ninewells Hospital, William, 38, told staff: “We want to say a huge thank you for all of the work you are doing and the sacrifices you are making.

“As a token of our appreciation, we’ve teamed up with NHS Charities Together to provide you with a Haggis dinner.”

Kate, 39, said: “We hope you enjoy it, and look forward to better times together soon,” and the couple wished good health to the staff, saying: “Slainte Mhath!”

Aides declined to say whether William and Kate normally celebrated Burns Night but Scotland holds a special place in their hearts.

The couple, who are known as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn north of the border, met at the University of St Andrews and are regular visitors to the Queen’s Balmoral estate in the Highlands.

The Cambridge’s gesture comes after William and Kate’s royal train trip to Scotland before Christmas, to thank key and frontline workers, provoked veiled criticism from the Scottish Government about its timing while Covid cases were still prevalent and many parts of the UK were subject to strict Covid rules.

Two royal warrant holders, Edinburgh-based food and wine emporium Valvona and Crolla, and the Fisher and Donaldson bakery in Cupar, Fife, donated Burns biscuits and gift boxes to hospital staff at the request of Kensington Palace.

Singer’s online show interrupted by police after complaint

Marion Tillbrook was in the middle of singing Rainy Days and Mondays by The Carpenters when officers chapped on her door.

Marion Tillbrook via Facebook / SNS Group via SNS Group
Police: Officers interrupted Marion Tillbrook's online show.

Police called to break up a house party instead interrupted a one-woman online show.

Marion Tillbrook was in the middle of singing Rainy Days and Mondays by The Carpenters when officers chapped on her door in Edinburgh on Friday night.

Ms Tillbrook, who was streaming her performance on Facebook Live, said she got a “fright” when she opened her door to find six officers waiting outside.

Police checked the flat for partygoers in response to a complaint, but soon left after concluding Covid restrictions had not been breached.


Ms Tillbrook told STV News: “I have to say they were really nice. 

“They took a look round the house to make sure I wasn’t having a party then left.

“The police were happy enough to let me continue as long as I turned it down a little.”

Ms Tillbrook, who has lived in the Leith flat for more than a decade, has been performing on Facebook Live since last May.


She said: “It helps my mental health and cheers people up in these dark times.

“I’ve been a singer for 20 years. Covid has turned my life upside down and these lives give me a purpose.”

Ms Tillbrook, who previously asked her neighbours for permission to perform at home, said this is the first police complaint.

She added: “I did have some woman come screaming at my door in July, but she was gone by the time I got outside to see who she was. 

“That was during my Sunday show which I stopped as I didn’t want to upset anyone.”

Following Friday night’s incident, the singer contemplated stopping her shows completely but has since decided to carry on after speaking with her neighbours and online viewers.

Ms Tillbrook said: “I understand people may find it loud, although I do monitor the volume throughout but I’m very approachable. 


“I do these lives to give folk a wee boost. 

“I have elderly parents who watch. My dad in particular is very ill and housebound so this is the only way he gets to watch me perform. 

“I do 90 minutes on a Friday night. I’ve picked a time slot – 7pm until 8.30pm – earlier in the evening so as to try and not disturb people. 

“I just want to bring a smile to people’s faces for a bit because let’s face it, there really isn’t much to smile about right now.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 7.30pm on Friday, police received a report of a potential Covid breach at a property in Dickson Street, Edinburgh.

“Officers attended, however no restrictions were being breached.”

‘We’re not coping’, say parents of children with special needs

Parents call for schools for pupils with additional needs to be reopened.

STV News

Parents of children with special needs are having to deal with increasing levels of violence in their home because of a lack of support during lockdown. 

Charities are calling for Scotland’s additional needs schools to be reopened fully, as they are in the rest of the UK.

They also want staff to be given the Covid vaccine as a matter of priority to help relieve stress on families.

For ten-year-old Dillan, the loss of routine has meant his world has collapsed. He has Down’s Syndrome and no understanding of lockdown.


His parents are juggling work with caring for him and their four-year-old, meaning their daughter has had to find her own way around home schooling.

The changes are already having an impact on Dillan’s behaviour.

His mum Maya said: “He is just not understanding and not coping well with the situation.

“We are trying not to focus on that behaviour when it happens and we just try to keep him safe and reassure him that things are going to change back to normal.”


Ross is attending school just two days a week. The break in routine has led to bursts of violence and he recently kicked three holes in his bedroom wall.

“It’s really really tough and it’s really tough for Ross too,” his mum Carol said. “It’s just tough for all of us. He needs routine, familiarity. He needs his things back that he knows.”

Special schools have remained open in the rest of the UK, but the picture is patchy in Scotland, where they mostly closed until at least the middle of February.

The Scottish Government said pupils with additional needs could return in the first phase of reopening.

Children’s minister Maree Todd said: “We are now thinking about how quickly and how soon can we get children and young people back into school settings and how many can we get in.

“Children with additional support needs are at the forefront of our thinking there because we recognise just how hard it is for them not to be in school.”

Support for Livi boss Martindale ahead of Hampden hearing

Scottish Football Association set to determine whether David Martindale passes criteria for fit and proper club officials.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
David Martindale faces Hampden hearing on Tuesday.

By Kevin Scott and Sheelagh McLaren

An abrupt end to David Martindale’s tenure as Livingston manager would be “grossly unfair”, the club’s chief executive said on Monday.

John Ward was speaking to STV News ahead of Martindale’s Hampden encounter on Tuesday with the Scottish FA, who are yet to determine whether he passes their fit-and-proper test.

The 46-year-old Livingston boss was sentenced to a six-year jail term in 2006 following drug and money-laundering charges.


But Martindale has enjoyed the best introduction to management imaginable since stepping up to replace Gary Holt as Livingston boss in November.

Livi won their first eight games under his charge before drawing twice with Celtic.

The West Lothian side are also just 90 minutes away from winning silverware following their 1-0 League Cup semi-final win over St Mirren on Sunday.

Livingston face St Johnstone in the final at Hampden on February 28.


Ward said: “Football can be fickle and fans can be quite harsh with each other but I’ve barely seen a post that wasn’t supportive.

“We’ve put what we think is a pretty good submission together and, you know, hopefully tomorrow the impetus will keep us going and it would be very difficult if it went the wrong way, how we would handle it, what we would do about it.”

Ward says the club also wants to send a message to children in the local area that they can turn their life around if they get into difficulty.

He said: “The club represents an area that is socially deprived, there are issues around education, so if we’re going to be telling 20 per cent, or 25 per cent, of our young people that if you get into trouble or if you make some wrong choices there’s no hope for you, you’re never going to be able to develop what your initial plans were, or what your goals were when you were a kid – that’s a powerful message to be sending to kids.

“If we’re showing it the other way round and we have David as an example of what focus and changing your life can do, I think that’s a very strong message to kids.

Hannah Bardell, MP for Livingston, has submitted a letter to the SFA, urging them to look positively upon Martindale at the hearing.

She said that allowing him to continue in his role as manager of the West Lothian club would send a “very strong message about what is possible and that there is life and opportunity after crime”.


Bardell wrote: “I hope you and those at the SFA considering David’s ability to undertake his role will consider that he stands out as a figure who is proof that it is possible to turn your life around, be rehabilitated and move forward positively.

“Rehabilitation is a vital part of a civilised society and I know the SFA try to be a positive force in that regard.”

Meanwhile, a professor renowned for his work on the Hillsborough disaster has also written an unsolicited letter to SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell, which has been published by Livingston.

Phil Scraton, of Queen’s University Belfast, said he felt compelled to enter a submission after watching television coverage of Martindale’s impending case.

Ahead of the hearing, Scraton wrote in his submission: “Granted remission, it is clear in David Martindale’s case that the punitive element of his sentence had been realised.

“He admitted his guilt and in prison he took the opportunity to gain a university degree.

“His release laid the foundation for continuing rehabilitation, which clearly has been successful. Almost a decade on, his progress at Livingston FC and his appointment as the club’s interim manager demonstrates the board’s confidence in his employment as a ‘fit and proper person’.”

Scraton, whose work on the Hillsborough disaster spanned three decades, says much of his research, teaching and publications have focused on prisons, penal reform and prisoner rehabilitation including in-depth research in Scotland’s prisons.

He wrote: “Throughout my work, I am aware of the institutional difficulties faced by prisoners leaving prisons unscathed by the difficulties they face inside and the uncertain futures they experience in the community.

“I expect that Livingston’s confidence is based not only on the success of the club under his management but also on how he has adjusted to working with players, all involved with the club and the media.

“His media statements have been contrite and show humility in the face of exceptional public scrutiny.

“I believe that within its grasp the Scottish FA has the opportunity to acknowledge David Martindale’s remarkable personal and professional transition.

“By accepting he passes the ‘fit and proper person’ test, the SFA not only, rightfully, would recognise his transition but also demonstrate to other authorities and employers that those who have committed serious offences, through their own efforts and with the support of others, can turn their lives around.”

You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?