‘Blind people are at the bottom of the pile during pandemic’
Amanda Foster says that blind people are facing new challenges in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
A blind woman has spoken of the difficulties visually impaired people are facing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Amanda Foster from Aberdeen says that life has been especially difficult recently for those who cannot physically see one way systems or judge social distancing.
Blind since birth, Amanda says people in her situation should be considered more before decisions around social distancing are made.
She finds shopping particularly challenging as towns and cities have adapted to suit the new normal.
“We’ve got the going in one door and out another door, you’ve got the hand sanitiser that you know if we were going in ourselves we wouldn’t know unless some kind person said ‘oh you’ve got to use hand sanitiser’,” she explains.
Guided by neighbour Fraya, Amanda recently went shopping in Aberdeen in a bid to remap the world she once knew so well.
“Fraya was telling me there was actually a sign saying ‘be careful, cleaning in progress’,” she say.
“Well we wouldn’t see that, there are just so many different hazards now that makes it really really difficult for a blind person to be going out shopping themselves.
“Especially if you are [someone] that used to go shopping, because it takes your independence away.”
Amanda says people in her situation should be considered more during the pandemic, adding that those with impairment issues should be exempt from social distancing.
“I’ve always believed that we have been totally forgotten about, we’ve been put on the bottom of the pile,” she says.
“Right from the get go, in my view, what they should have done is said ‘if you are blind you can, if you want to, be exempt from social distancing all together.”
Police investigating the murder of a 16-year-old girl are appealing for the public’s help to provide answers to her “devastated” family.
The death of Amber Gibson, also known as Amber Niven, is being treated as murder after her body was discovered in a wooded area of Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, on Sunday morning.
She had last been seen on the town’s Cadzow Street just before 10pm after leaving her home in the Hillhouse area around 9.15pm that night.
Her body was discovered near to Cadzow Glen at 10.10am on Sunday.
Detective superintendent Raymond Brown, from Police Scotland major investigations Team, appealed for the public’s help at a news conference on Wednesday.
He said: “At this time, our primary line of enquiry is to understand Amber’s movements on Friday evening.
“What we are really needing from the community is to understand her movements on Friday night and indeed if we can fill the information from the time she left her home address up until the period she was found.
“We know Hamilton would have been busy at that time of night – anybody who was in the area, whether it be they were pedestrian, shopping, out for the evening or passing by in their car – if they saw Amber to come forward and provide us with information about any sightings.”
Brown also said police launched a murder inquiry following a post-mortem, having previously treated the death as unexplained.
He added: “Amber was a young 16-year-old girl at the start of her life
“Obviously, like every young kid at that age, she was out doing what a young woman would do – what I would say is a 16-year-old death is absolutely tragic and certainly one that is a homicide, so our focus is to understand Amber’s last movements so that we can provide answers to her loved ones.
“Amber’s family are absolutely devastated, as would be expected.”
Anyone with information can call police on 101, quoting incident 1281 of November 28. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Some homes left without power following the “catastrophic damage” caused by Storm Arwen last week may not be reconnected until Friday, an electricity company has said.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has reconnected more than 120,000 customers since Friday’s storm, but 6500 remained without power on Wednesday.
Graeme Keddie, of SSEN, said the main villages have been reconnected but that for “localised faults” power is not expected to be restored until Friday.
He apologised to any customers affected and said the company is doing all it can to restore power “as quickly as possible”.
Mr Keddie said the storm had caused “devastation on parts of the network”, particularly in Aberdeenshire, where 4000 customers remain without power.
He told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “It’s a dynamic situation, we’ve got a better picture than we had yesterday and the day before.
“We’ve got all of the main villages connected; it’s now looking at the rural areas. We’re confident that we have a handle on the situation in terms of what we can restore in the next couple of days.
“We’re looking to make really good progress today and tomorrow and we expect it will be the last final few homes on Friday, and we want to be clear those are our expectations.”
He added: “For those localised faults, those faults that are serving a home or a group of homes, we are looking into Friday for restoration.”
SSEN said it will reimburse all reasonable accommodation costs for any customer unable to make alternative arrangements.
Customers unable to access the company’s welfare facilities for free hot food and drinks can also claim the cost of takeaways or meals from local establishments, up to £15 per person.
SSEN managing director Chris Burchell said: “The impact of Storm Arwen has caused catastrophic damage to the electricity network across the north-east of Scotland and is the most significant event we have ever had to deal with in the area in a generation.
“I would like to thank our customers who have shown great resilience, patience and understanding since the impact of Storm Arwen, and we fully recognise that urgency of the situation for those who continue to remain off supply.
“I would like to personally apologise to all customers who have been impacted and would like to reassure everyone still off supply that our teams are working extremely hard to reconnect them as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, approval ratings for Prime Minister Boris Johnson have hit a record low in Scotland, where four in five said they were ‘dissatisfied’ with his performance.
Sturgeon remains the highest-rated party leader, but while Scots are overwhelmingly positive about the Scottish Government’s handling of the Covid vaccine rollout, they are less pleased with its performance in health and education.
What did the poll tell us?
Scottish Government performance
Vaccine rollout: 84% believe the Scottish Government has done a good job
Health: 48% say the government has done a bad job of improving the NHS; 40% think it has done a good job
Education: Bad job – 46%; Good job – 35%
Handling Brexit implications: Bad job – 43%; Good job – 37%
‘Far from over’
Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said: “This latest poll from Ipsos MORI and STV News indicates that the argument for Scottish independence is far from over, with a slight improvement for the Yes side.
“Given the margins of error around polling estimates, however, neither the Yes or No camps should be confident of victory at this point.
“The Yes camp may be benefiting from what has been a very bad week for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives at Westminster, with fieldwork taking place after heated debate about MPs’ second jobs.
“This is certainly reflected in Johnson’s own ratings, which have fallen to a new low.”
Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1107 adults aged 16 and over across Scotland by phone between November 22-29.
Niki Smith had been enjoying a night out with her sister in 1997 when she unknowningly accepted a lift from someone who had been drinking.
The vehicle was involved in a collision and Niki was left paralysed after breaking her neck. Her sister broke her collarbone and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now, 24 years later, Niki is urging people to take care this festive period and reminding drivers that drink-driving can have devastating consequences.
The 48-year-old has thrown her support behind this year’s drink and drug driving campaign, which was launched by the Scottish Government and Police Scotland on Wednesday.
Recalling the day of the collision, Niki said: “It was a Friday evening and my sister and I were having a great night out. I enjoyed letting my hair down in between working as a carer and being a busy mum.
“We accepted a lift from someone we knew, although we had no idea he’d been drinking. It was a small decision that changed my life irreversibly.
“It must have been heart-breaking for my family and partner to be told I’d broken my neck and was paralysed. My sister, who was in the car with me, broke her collarbone and was later diagnosed with PTSD. I’m glad it was me, as I would have struggled to accept her having my injury.”
Niki, from Aberdeenshire, got involved with Spinal Injuries Scotland last summer and became a peer support volunteer. She says their workers have inspired her to come forward and share her story in the hope of raising awareness of the dangers involved in driving while under the influence.
“There has definitely been years of stress, physical pain and frustration for me and everybody involved in my life,” she said.
“I have now found ways to enjoy special moments and not just sit at home and dwell on the difficult times. I’ve had to become a more confident person so people see me and not just the wheelchair. If I hadn’t had my kids I don’t think I’d be the person I am today.
“I hope that by sharing my own experience I can help raise awareness of the devastating consequences drink-driving can have on so many lives. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through the same as me and my family.”
With Christmas parties returning this year, the festive enforcement campaign warns motorists of a zero-tolerance approach to drink and drug-driving.
In the last two months, 852 roadside drug tests have been carried out across Scotland, resulting in 395 positive tests.
Police Scotland and transport minister Graeme Day launched this year’s festive enforcement campaign to tackle drink and drug-driving on Wednesday, highlighting the criminal and personal consequences of being found guilty of driving under the influence.
Dey said: “The consequences of drink and drug-driving can be devastating and those found guilty of breaking the law could face a criminal record, a large fine, and up to six months in prison.
“Driving while under the influence puts not only the driver, but passengers and other road users at risk of serious injury, or even worse. Our message is clear, if you’re having a drink, leave the car at home and if you’re driving, the best approach is none.”
More than 20,000 drivers are stopped by the police in Scotland every month.
On average, specialist road officers encounter 40-50 motorists a week who have taken drugs. Drivers who provide a positive roadside drug test are arrested and taken to a police station where a blood sample is obtained and sent for further analysis. In the same time period, 600 drivers were arrested for drink driving related offences.
The campaign draws attention to the significant consequences – criminal as well as personal – of being found guilty of driving while under the influence of alcohol or with drugs in your system.
Chief superintendent Louise Blakelock, Police Scotland’s Head of Road Policing said: “We want everyone to enjoy this festive season for all the right reasons and so we are urging motorists to help us keep the roads safe for all. We continue to see motorists put others at considerable risk by driving under the influence of alcohol or after taking drugs, despite repeated warnings about the dangers of drink or drug driving.
” As we approach the festive season, our officers will be focused on targeting drivers who recklessly put others at risk by driving after consuming alcohol or drugs.
“Driving under the influence reduces reaction times and continues to be a factor in serious and fatal collisions. The fact you could kill or injure yourself or another member of the public should be reason enough not to risk it.”
A total of 97 coronavirus-linked deaths were recorded in Scotland in the week to November 28, the latest statistics show.
This is an increase of one on the previous week and takes the total number of people in Scotland who have died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus to 12,127, according to National Records of Scotland (NRS) data.
Of the latest deaths, 18 were people aged under 65, 34 were aged 65-74 and 45 were 75 or older.
Fife was the council area with the highest number of deaths at 11, followed by Glasgow with ten and South Lanarkshire with eight.
The majority of the deaths – 82 – occurred in hospital, with nine at home or in a non-institutional setting and six in care homes.
The statistics are published weekly and cover all deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
They differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish Government because the NRS figures include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.
Pete Whitehouse, NRS statistical services director, said: “The number of deaths from all causes registered in Scotland in this week was 1270, which is 140, or 12%, more than the five-year average.”
Among the higher than average deaths in the week to November 28 were those from cancer and circulatory causes, which each accounted for 24 more than five-year-average.
Figures released on Wednesday show 19 new deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours.
The Scottish Government’s daily Covid update also showed that 2796 people had tested positive for the virus.
There are currently 702 people in hospital who have recently tested positive for coronavirus and 54 of those are in intensive care.
School bus services are being put at risk by pupils refusing to wear face masks and use hand sanitiser, East Lothian Council’s head of education has warned.
Nicola McDowell has urged parents and carers to speak to young people amid reports of increased incidents of non-compliance during bus journeys.
She has warned the council only has a “finite number of drivers”, with home-to-school transport facing disruption if they are forced to self isolate or catch Covid.
Ms McDowell, who took on the role in June, also defended the decision not to allow families to attend nativity plays and Christmas concerts this year.
The decision, which follows Scottish Government guidance against allowing additional people into schools, has sparked some anger from parents.
However, Ms McDowell insists the council’s strict approach will keep schools open as well as avoiding families risking having to self isolate over Christmas itself.
She said: “I make no apologies for saying we are taking a very strict approach, we have to do that.
“We would love to be celebrating not holding back the celebrations, for the staff as well as families, this is something everyone looks forward to so we are doing what we can in the classrooms.
”Schools are allowed to have Christmas parties within their own classrooms so we will be having that type of event and ensuring there is lots of festivities for our pupils.”
Parents and carers across East Lothian are being sent letters this week by Ms McDowell explaining the nativity decision.
In a separate letter also due to go out, she appeals for help keeping school bus services on the road.
She said: “The risk of not having transport is that the staff are not well. The incidents of non-compliance has increased with some pupils taking off their face masks and not using the hand sanitiser on the buses.
“It increases the risk of transmitting Covid and we only have a finite number of drivers.”
A proposed new benefit payment would give 400,000 households in Scotland £50 each every winter to help with heating bills.
The Scottish Government is aiming to replace the current UK-wide Cold Weather Payment in the winter of 2022.
It has opened a consultation on Low Income Winter Heating Assistance, which is expected to cost £20m annually.
The current benefit pays £25 for each seven-day period where the temperature is forecast to be below freezing.
Under the new scheme, households receiving income-related benefits would automatically receive £50 every winter.
Social security minister Ben Macpherson said: “Although Cold Weather Payments have been a valuable support for some during periods of very cold weather, there have been some years when hardly any payments have been made at all by the UK Government.
“If winters, as predicted, are due to become generally wetter and warmer then this may also reduce the numbers of Cold Weather Payments in the future. We want people to have certainty about receiving a payment.
“Our proposed new benefit will be the equivalent to two payments of Cold Weather Payment and should ensure that most people will be better off.
“Significantly, it will also enable us to provide assistance to more households that are at risk of fuel poverty.”
Last week, experts told MSPs around 100,000 more households are expected to go into fuel poverty as a result of rising energy bills.
More than 600,000 households are currently estimated to be in fuel poverty.
An investigation has been launched by Westminster’s standards watchdog into Douglas Ross.
It comes after it emerged he failed to declare thousands of pounds in outside earnings while serving as an MP.
Last month, Ross said he was “deeply sorry” and admitted he had made a “huge mistake”, having also referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone.
The Herald newspaper reported that Ross had failed to declare £28,218.57 in outside earnings from his second job as an MSP and third job as a football referee.
After he realised his mistake, Ross explained, he contacted the Office of the Register of Interests and made them aware of the situation.
He added that all payments had now been declared, including those from his MSP salary which are donated to charities.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg is also set to be investigated by the Commissioner.
Labour had previously demanded an investigation into a £6m loan they said the MP did not declare properly.
The commissioner does not confirm what claims she is investigating once a probe has been declared.
According to the commissioner’s website, Rees-Mogg and Ross are both being investigated over “registration of an interest under category one of the Guide to the Rules (Employment and Earnings)”, and it refers to paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct.
The relevant paragraph in the code states: “Members shall fulfil conscientiously the requirements of the House in respect of the registration of interests in the register of members’ financial interests.
“They shall always be open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its committees, and in any communications with ministers, members, public officials or public office holders.”