Arlene Fraser: Family fears body will never be found

Nat Fraser, convicted of murdering his wife in 1998, has never revealed where Arlene's remains are.

STV

Relatives of murder victim Arlene Fraser feel they are serving their own version of a life sentence because her remains have never been found.

Killer Nat Fraser – convicted of murdering wife Arlene after a retrial in 2012, 14 years after her disappearance – has never revealed her body’s whereabouts.

Arlene’s mother Isabelle Thompson believes he never will.

Speaking to STV’s Scotland Tonight, in an interview which will air on Thursday at 7.30pm, Ms Thompson said Fraser’s refusal to admit his guilt to his own family meant she feared he would never give up Arlene’s body.

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But she said the introduction of so-called “Suzanne’s Law” – which would deny parole to killers who refuse to give up the location of their victim’s remains – would be a “step in the right direction” for all families who find themselves in such a situation.

Named after Edinburgh murder victim Suzanne Pilley, whose ex-lover David Gilroy has never revealed her whereabouts after killing her in 2010, the Scottish Government says it is considering options to change parole rules in this direction.

Arlene’s sister, Carole Gillies, said she would never know closure until her body is found and put to rest.

Arlene Fraser disappeared in 1998 aged 33.

“On the day (Fraser) was convicted for the second time, we just felt absolute relief that the whole trial was over and that we could perhaps get a little bit of normality,” she said.

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“But as the weeks went past and the dust settled, you actually started to think, well, wait a minute, he’s back in jail again but we’re still left with this feeling Arlene is still out there.

“Where is she? Will we ever find out? One day you might think, I’m never going to find out, the next day you think, well, maybe I will.

“This is where you’re fighting with your emotions all the time, so when you ask me about closure: no.”

Arlene’s disappearance from her home in Elgin, Moray, in April 1998 sparked one of the biggest ever police investigations in Scotland.

Last seen waving her two children off to school, then aged ten and five, her husband Nat was initially part of the search to find her, publicly appealing to his wife to come home.

Charged with assaulting her on a previous occasion, Fraser in time became the prime suspect once the police determined it was a murder case.

Then in 2003, he was convicted of hiring a hitman to kill her after he learned Arlene was planning to divorce him.

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In the years following his first conviction, Fraser repeatedly appealed and eventually had his conviction quashed by the Supreme Court.

Then, in 2012, he was again found guilty in a retrial and sentenced to at least 17 years behind bars.

“Nat Fraser’s been put in jail, justice has been done but that’s a different thing altogether,” said Ms Thompson.

“I feel it’s like a three-legged table, really. There’s always something missing in the family.”

One of the detectives at the head of the investigation into Arlene’s death previously described Fraser as a “dark and cunning” killer who thought he had committed the “perfect murder”.

SWNS
Nat Fraser: Convicted for a second time after 2012 retrial.

Alan Smith, a former detective superintendent at the old Grampian Police, said the whereabouts of Arlene’s remains is “the last piece of control that Nat Fraser has” and a “secret that he’ll probably take to his grave”.

Arlene’s mother agrees. “He would need to admit to his family that he was guilty,” said Ms Thompson.

“They’ve never attended any of the trials that he had so they don’t hear the evidence, so naturally they’re going to think that he’s innocent.

“So, if he was to admit to where Arlene’s body is, that’s admitting to his family as well that all these years they’ve thought the wrong thing.

“That’s basically the reason, I think, that he’ll never let us know where she is.”

She believes Fraser knows full well the torture he has put and continues to put Arlene’s family through.

“It helps him. He always believed we put him in prison. We didn’t put him in prison – he put himself in prison.

“But he has this warped way of thinking it was our fault. If we hadn’t turned up and helped with the investigation, he might have got away with it.”

As a result, Ms Thompson feels that while Suzanne’s Law would be “a very good thing”, in their “particular case”, it wouldn’t help.

Disagreeing, Ms Gillies said: “See, I feel differently.

“At the moment I feel the law is helping him because he’ll have served his sentence for murder and he would get out.”

‘Every time I picture Nat Fraser I see him having a wee smirk to himself. You know, here they go again, I’ve still got one up on them. I haven’t got a message for him because he would just laugh.’

Isabelle Thompson, Arlene Fraser’s mother

Arlene’s sister continued: “This is where I think we need help from the government.

“If he was up for parole next week and they said, oh, you know, you’ve been a model prisoner, you’re released, have a nice or life or whatever, where does that leave us?

“We’re no further forward. We continue to live the sentence whereas he doesn’t.

“And I also feel if you’re withholding information, something really important, a body, surely when he’s released from prison he’s continuing to commit a crime against us?

“He’s continuing to lie to his family, lie to the police, and this is where I think there needs to be a change in the law.”

Asked if she had a message for Fraser, Ms Thompson replied: “Every time I picture Nat Fraser I see him having a wee smirk to himself. You know, here they go again, I’ve still got one up on them.

“I haven’t got a message for him because he would just laugh.”

“He will have seen us suffering. He knows,” said Ms Gillies.

She added: “I think he would get a little bit more respect if he actually was to do the right thing.

“At the moment, everybody knows that he’s lying – so stop playing games.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it had recently consulted on parole reforms “informed by engagement with victims and their families”.

He added: “While not part of the consultation the Scottish Government has considered the point raised in the Suzanne’s Law campaign about failure to disclose the location of a victim’s body and the justice secretary has met with the family of Suzanne Pilley on two occasions.

“The Scottish Government will consider options to specifically provide that the failure to disclose the location of a victim’s body is a matter the parole board may take into account when determining release.

“The cabinet secretary has met with the Pilley family to convey these proposals to them.

“The Scottish Government will now be engaging with the parole board on this proposal and will provide more details this year.”

A spokesman for the Parole Board for Scotland said: “Our primary role is to determine whether it is safe for an individual to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under the supervision of a social worker.

“It is not the responsibility of the board to consider the questions of punishment and general deterrence.

“The Scottish Government have indicated they intend to make it explicit in the parole board rules that failure to disclose the location of a victim’s body may be taken into account, along with other factors and relevant information, when deciding if parole should be granted.

“While we continue to liaise with the Scottish Government across its wider work on parole reform, any proposal to change the parole board rules is a matter for Scottish ministers.”

For more from this interview, and a wider discussion of Suzanne’s Law, tune into Scotland Tonight on STV at 7.30pm on Thursday.


Coronavirus: 44 deaths and 788 new cases in past 24 hours

Another 77 people with recently confirmed Covid-19 are in intensive care and 1077 are being treated in hospital.

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Coronavirus: 44 people die of virus in past 24 hours.

Scotland has recorded 44 deaths from coronavirus and 788 positive cases in the past 24 hours.

The death total has now risen to 3,720 people who died having tested positive for the virus, with 5,380 deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

There are 1077 people with recently confirmed Covid-19 in hospital, with 77 in intensive care. 

Meanwhile there were 21,494 new tests for coronavirus that reported results, with 4.4% of these positive.

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NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the highest number of new cases with 221, followed by NHS Lanarkshire at 166, NHS Lothian with 122, NHS Fife at 59 and NHS Ayrshire and Arran with 58.

No cases were recorded in the Western Isles, Shetland or Orkney.

A total of 1,170,888 people in Scotland have been tested at least once since the start of the outbreak and of these, 93,943 have tested positive.


Sturgeon: I’ve never been so certain independence will happen

The First Minister addressed delegates at the virtual SNP conference on Saturday.

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Scotland is a “nation on the brink of making history”, Nicola Sturgeon declared, as she insisted the country’s people have the “right” to choose their own future in a second independence referendum.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vetoed SNP calls for a fresh vote on the issue, the First Minister has said she hopes another ballot could be held in the early part of the next term of the Scottish Parliament.

The question is set to dominate next May’s Holyrood elections, with Sturgeon’s party using the campaign to step up their demands for another referendum.

Recent opinion polls have suggested that a majority of Scots now support the country becoming independent.

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And Sturgeon, addressing the SNP annual conference, told party activists that “the people of Scotland have the right to choose their future”.

She stated: “Scotland is now a nation on the brink of making history.

“Independence is in clear sight – and if we show unity of purpose, humility and hard work, I have never been so certain that we will deliver it.”

Her comments on unity came after SNP MP Joanna Cherry used an interview with the Times newspaper to hit out at the “cult of leader” in the party, insisting it is damaging to “put all your faith on one person”,

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Cherry said a “more collegiate leadership” style is needed, as she also criticised the “no debate mentality” as being “really unhealthy”.

The MP said: “It’s an unfortunate tendency in modern political discourse, which I’ve labelled #nodebate.

“It typifies a small minority in my party and has bled through from the debate about reform of the Gender Recognition Act, to include alternative plans for an independence referendum. I think it’s very unhealthy and I don’t think it represents the majority view in the party.”

SNP leader Sturgeon said that, in order to win independence, the party must “reach out to all of Scotland like never before”.

Speaking at the start of the online event, she said: “Let us demonstrate, with cool heads and patient persuasion, that Scotland is ready to take its place in the global family of independent nations.”

Support for independence has risen to become the “sustained and majority view in public opinion this year,” Sturgeon said.

And she stressed that, while the “primary focus” must currently be on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, “Scotland must also be ready for what comes next”.

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She told the conference that Covid-19 had “taken thousands of lives” and “upended our society”, with businesses and the economy “severely” damaged.

But she claimed that with independence Scotland could have a “resilient economy, with job creation and fairness at its heart” and would be able to “protect and invest in public services like our NHS”.

Sturgeon continued: “We can overcome poverty, inequality, and we lead the way in tackling the climate emergency.

“The question for all of us as we look ahead to the election next May is this – who should be taking the decisions that shape our futures?

“We know that it is the people who live here, wherever they come from, who can best harness Scotland’s immense human and natural resources to the benefit of everyone.”


Lewis Capaldi and Texas among Scottish Music Awards winners

The virtual ceremony, hosted by Edith Bowman, featured a number of special performances by Scottish stars.

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Awards: Capaldi scoops Scottish Music Award.

Lewis Capaldi, Biffy Clyro and Texas were among the winners at the Specsavers Scottish Music Awards, which has taken place virtually for the first time.

Hosted live by Edith Bowman from SWG3 in Glasgow, the online broadcast featured a special at-home acoustic performance from Capaldi, as well as new, socially distanced performances from Amy Macdonald, Texas, Wet Wet Wet, Dougie Maclean, Luke La Volpe, HYYTS and more.

The event on Saturday raised vital funds for music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins, which expects to lose 50% of its income in 2020 due to Covid-19.

Biffy Clyro won the Best Album Award for their latest record A Celebration Of Endings and recorded a special video message.

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In it they said: “Hello everybody, we hope you’re well! Thank you so much for the Scottish Music Award Album of the Year, it means a lot to us.

“When we started recording this record last year, I guess like everyone else, we had no idea what 2020 held in store, but you know what, the power of music and art feels more important than ever this year.

“We’ll all be back together soon I hope, we love you guys, we miss you guys.”

Texas received the Icon Award and recorded an exclusive set for this year’s ceremony.

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Sharleen Spiteri sent a virtual message to the audience, saying: “This really is something very, very special, especially after the amount of years as a band that we’ve been together.

“To be given this and for everybody to think that we deserve it, it means a lot. To be relevant, still making records and be successful this far down the line, for over 30 years, we feel very very lucky.

“Stay safe and hopefully I will see you all very soon in real life, at a safe distance! I’m going to keep this and say I’m the iconic one!”

The Best UK Award went to Capaldi, who played an acoustic rendition of two of his biggest tracks Before You Go and Someone You Loved, from his home.

He said: “I just want to say a massive thank you to the Scottish Music Awards, for giving me the award for SSE’s Best UK Artist this year.

“I know people haven’t been releasing music or anything this year, so that’s kind of an award just for existing, I guess, but… I’ll take it!”

Amy Macdonald won the Women in Music Award and the Songwriting Award went to Young Fathers.

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Wet Wet Wet collected the Outstanding Contribution Award and gave a performance of some of their biggest hits.

The Best Breakthrough Awards went to Luke La Volpe (Male) and kitti (Female) while HYYTS took the Best Pop Act Award and Dougie MacLean the Special Recognition Award.

The Nordoff Robbins Legend Award was awarded to DJ George Bowie, while Graeme Park’s Hacienda Classical Orchestra took the Innovation Award and Gun the Ambassadors of Rock Award.

Donald C MacLeod, chairman of the Nordoff Robbins Fundraising Committee Scotland, said: “Like so many charities, Nordoff Robbins have been severely impacted by Covid-19 and we truly can’t thank everybody who came together to make this event happen enough.

“From Scottish music legends like Dougie MacLean and Wet Wet Wet, superstars like Lewis Capaldi and Biffy Clyro, and not to mention rising stars like Stephanie Cheape and Luke La Volpe – music has been a lifeline for so many of us during these unprecedented times and their support is so appreciated.

“And to our audience who joined in from their own homes tonight and so generously donated to Nordoff Robbins – your ongoing support ensures we can provide music therapy to those who need it most, particularly in these trying times when more people than ever are facing social isolation. Congratulations to all our winners!”


‘Puppy farms’ raided with 80 animals taken into care

On Friday, officers raided two properties in East Ayrshire as part of an operation targeting the low-welfare puppy trade.

Police Scotland
Police: Officers raided two properties in East Ayrshire.

Police and the Scottish SPCA have seized 80 animals as part of an operation targeting the low-welfare puppy trade.

On Friday morning, officers raided two properties in East Ayrshire following a multi-agency briefing at Kilmarnock police station.

Dogs, puppies, cats and kittens were seized in the search.

A spokesperson from the Scottish SPCA said: “This raid was part of Operation Delphin, a multi-agency taskforce set up to tackle the low-welfare puppy trade. 

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“Investigations are ongoing.”

A force spokesperson said Police Scotland is “absolutely committed” to  disrupting those involved in serious and organised crime in Scotland.

They added: “The low-welfare trade of animals is just one example where criminals seek to profit from the misery of others.

“Thousands of puppies are born into the illegal puppy trade each year. Many are kept in horrendous conditions, are often removed from their mothers too early – causing distress, harm and health problems, all in the name of a quick profit.

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“We work closely with a variety of organisations to detect and disrupt illegal activity.”

If you have any concerns about the welfare of animals in your area, call the Scottish SPCA’s confidential helpline on 03000 999 999.

For more information on the campaign against the illegal puppy trade, click here.


Higher exams decision to be made before February deadline

National 5 exams have already been cancelled in Scotland due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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School: Higher and Advanced Higher exams have been given the provisional go-ahead.

A decision on the holding of Higher and Advanced Higher exams will be made before the February deadline, the education secretary has said.

National 5 exams have already been cancelled in Scotland due to the Covid-19 pandemic but a decision on the more advanced tests have been given the provisional go-ahead by John Swinney.

However, despite a final decision being expected by mid-February, for the exams usually held in May, the education secretary has said an announcement will be made earlier.

The topic will be up for discussion this week by the Covid-19 Education Recovery Group – a body set up by the Scottish Government in response to the pandemic – but the final decision will be for Swinney.

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Speaking at a fringe event of the SNP conference on Saturday, hosted by teaching union EIS, Swinney said: “I’m not going to leave it until February.

“I’ve said that’s the backstop but I appreciate that’s too late in the year for that.”

The most important issue when making the decision is the impact coronavirus has had on pupils and the inequalities it could cause, he said.

“The key issue, and we’re gathering data about this, is what’s the degree of disruption to a candidate’s learning because that’s the crucial point in whether I can be assured there can be the fair delivery of a diet to all candidates.

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“If you’re in an area where one child has not had any period of self-isolation but another child has had three periods of self-isolation, there’s big equity issues around that.”

The news comes after a recent survey by the National Parent Forum of Scotland found that more than half (50.6%) of the 4196 parents or carers asked wanted the exams cancelled.

Just over a quarter (26.6%) said they wished the assessments to go ahead, while 22.8% were undecided.

Swinney was less clear when asked if teachers would be considered a priority group for the Covid-19 vaccine, when it was made available.

Responding to a question from an SNP member at the event, he said the vaccination programme outlined by health secretary Jeane Freeman in Holyrood earlier this month prioritised health care workers, vulnerable people and those most likely to be exposed to the virus.

The Scottish Government has said up to 320,000 doses of the vaccine could be distributed around the country by the second week in December, while up to a million people may be inoculated by the end of January.

“There’s essentially a combination between the approach to the vaccine which will be clinically driven judgments and the expansion of the testing regime,” Swinney said.

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“Given the scale of the rollout of the vaccination programme, which will be significant from December onwards, there will obviously be a very intense focus on making sure we get that vaccination programme carried out across the population and that will, of course, include teachers.”


Labour MSP Jenny Marra to step down at next election

Ms Marra wrote to her local party branch to inform them of her decision not to stand in next year's election.

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MSP: Jenny Marra to step down at next election.

Labour MSP Jenny Marra has announced she will step down at the next election.

Ms Marra, who gave birth to her second child in April, wrote to her local party branch to inform them of her decision not to stand in next year’s Holyrood election.

She said her job as MSP for the North East means she spends too much time away from her family.

Elected in 2011, Ms Marra went on to become the convener of the Public Audit Committee.

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According to the Courier, Ms Marra said: “It has been the privilege of my life to represent the people of north east Scotland and to speak on behalf of the citizens of Dundee in many campaigns over my ten years in parliament.”

She added: “I learned so much from my parliamentary role: chairing the audit committee for the past five years, taking the human trafficking bill to the statute book and standing up for women’s sex-based rights in the face of aggressive challenge.

“For all these opportunities I am grateful to the Labour voters in Dundee and north-east Scotland and to local party members for their trust, advice and support.”

In recent months, the MSP has called for Labour leader Richard Leonard to stand down, claiming if the party does not “change now, we risk catastrophe”.

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Despite the souring of the relationship between the two, Mr Leonard said: “I’d like to thank Jenny Marra on behalf of Scottish Labour for all the hard work and commitment she has shown to the cause of labour.

“She will be missed in the Scottish Parliament.”

Daniel Johnson, another of the MSPs who called for the leader’s resignation, expressed his sadness at Ms Marra’s decision, saying on Twitter: “I’ve known @JennyMarra since we were both members of @StAndLabour 20 years ago.

“You have political friends and friends who happen to be in politics. The latter are rare and precious.

“So sorry that she is standing down from parliament.”


Whisky auction for Doddie Weir’s foundation raises £50,000

The auction has become one of My Name’5 Doddie Foundation's biggest fundraising events amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

My Name’5 Doddie Foundation via email
My Name’5 Doddie Foundation: A whisky auction raised more than £50,000.

Rugby legend Doddie Weir is toasting the generosity of whisky lovers across the country.

Supporters of his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation have raised more than £50,000 through an online auction of rare bottles and brands.

The auction – organised and run by The Whisky Shop – has become one of the foundation’s biggest fundraising events amid the Covid-19 pandemic as it continues to fund and support drug trials and research into motor neurone disease (MND), which Doddie was diagnosed with almost four years ago.

Jill Douglas, the foundation’s chief executive, said: “We are absolutely blown away by the generosity shown by the bidders in this very special whisky auction.

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“It has been a tough few months for all charities and we are also very conscious that people are experiencing uncertainty and hardship so we want to thank everyone involved.

“A great many people worked so hard to make this a success and a huge thank you goes to the distilleries and individuals who donated this very special selection of whiskies – they have given collectors and whisky lovers a chance to buy some unique bottles while supporting our foundation.”

The foundation, which recently celebrated its third anniversary, has donated £5.8m towards MND research, as well as a further £1m to support people with the disease.

Ms Douglas added: “This is only possible through your wonderful and continued support. And we have big plans for 2021 so watch this space.”


Man seriously assaulted in early hours at block of flats

A 31-year-old man was taken to Ayr Hospital where he was treated for head injuries.

SNS group via Police Scotland
Assault: Man treated for head injuries following assault.

A man has been seriously assaulted in the early hours of the morning in Ayr.

Around 12.05am on Saturday, police were called to a report of a man assaulted at the entrance door to a block of flats in Princes Court.  

Officers attended and the injured man was found within a flat.

The 31-year-old was taken to Ayr Hospital where he was treated for head injuries then later released.

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The suspects were wearing dark coloured clothing.

Detective Constable Janet Ferguson of Ayr Police Station said:  “We are still speaking to the injured man to gather the exact circumstances of this incident.  We are also gathering local CCTV footage to gain information that will help our enquiry.

“At this time, I would ask anyone who was in the area of Princes Court around midnight, who witnessed anything suspicious, or who has information on this attack that will assist our investigation, to contact us.”

Ayr Police Station can be contacted through 101 quoting reference number 0071 of November 28.  

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Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111, where anonymity can be maintained.


SNP pledge free breakfast and lunch for children if re-elected

Education Secretary John Swinney made the pledge during the SNP conference on Saturday.

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Pledge: Free breakfast and lunch for primary school children if SNP re-elected.

The SNP will provide free breakfast and lunch to primary school children in Scotland all year round if re-elected next May, Education Secretary John Swinney has pledged.

He made the commitment as he warned that Scotland was facing a “tsunami of child poverty” if UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak imposes a “second wave of austerity”.

In response, Mr Swinney promised free breakfasts and lunches for every primary school pupil in Scotland.

The policy would be implemented from August 2022, making Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals.

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The Scottish Education Secretary said: “Just as we extended free meals through the holidays this year and next, if re-elected we will extend free school meals through every school holidays.”

The commitment came as he told the SNP conference how the Westminster Government had “ignored” Scotland during the coronavirus crisis, rejecting pleas from Scottish ministers for the furlough scheme to be extended, with this only happening “when the economic problems of Covid hit the south of England”.

Mr Swinney, also Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, said the coronavirus pandemic had “shown us just how little financial security some families have”.

He spoke about the plight of “families not entitled to many benefits, families in work”, saying that “they are already hard pressed and Tory austerity will hit them harder”.

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While he said the Scottish Government had acted – citing the introduction of next year’s £10 a week Scottish Child Payment to poorer families – he also said more must be done.

He told the conference that if re-elected in May, the SNP would make free breakfasts and lunches available to “all primary school pupils,” stressing this would apply to “all classes, all year round”.

Mr Swinney said: “That is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty.”

While children already receive free school meals in P1 through to P3, he said: “We will not leave a child at the mercy of a Tory Chancellor just because they are in P4, P5, P6 or P7.

“If elected next May, from 2022 we will extend universal free school lunches to all primary school pupils, P1 to P7.”

He continued: “We want every child to have every chance to learn every minute of every school day, starting from the moment they arrive in class.

“A child arriving at school hungry cannot learn as well as they should. So, we will also extend free provision of a healthy breakfast to all primary school pupils as well.

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“Breakfast and lunch for every pupil every school day.

“But another lesson of 2020 is term-time isn’t enough. Hunger doesn’t take a holiday and so neither can we.

“Just as we extended free meals through the holidays this year and next, if re-elected we will extend free school meals through every school holidays.”

The promise comes as footballer Marcus Rashford continues his efforts to lobby the UK Government to extend the provision of free meals south of the border.

Mr Swinney went on to tell SNP supporters the coronavirus pandemic had brought about a “seismic shift in the psyche of Scotland”, saying people now routinely looked to the First Minister rather than Westminster for leadership.

He praised Nicola Sturgeon, describing her as having “bared her soul almost every day… as she shared the agonising decisions Government has had to make over the last eight months”.

He added: “We have not got every decision right but the people of Scotland have seen who places their interests – sometimes their very safety – at the heart of decision making.”

Mr Swinney said that one “lesson of Covid” was “not just that you can trust the SNP, but that Scotland can trust herself”.

He told people: “We can have faith in ourselves as a nation, as capable, talented and ready to face life’s challenges as any other country.

“As this pandemic has continued, the people of Scotland have seen the truth of that argument with every passing day.

“We have always said that the solution to Scotland’s problems do not lie in London. Never was that more obvious than in 2020.

“In the moment of crisis, our nation’s eyes did not turn to Westminster. It was not the Prime Minister who people looked to. It was the Government here in Scotland and our First Minister.”

Mr Swinney added: “It is deeply telling that even those people yet to be convinced by the merits of independence did not look to London, to Westminster or to Boris Johnson.

“When it mattered most, we all looked to Scotland’s own leader, our own Government, and our own Parliament.”


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