Labour conference: Is Sir Keir Starmer’s time up?

The Labour leader will need a big performance when he speaks at his party conference on Wednesday.

Sir Keir Starmer is under pressure following a positive start. STV News
Sir Keir Starmer is under pressure following a positive start.

Leading a political party these days is a bit like being a football manager for a top side with a historical pedigree.

A by-election setback is like two points dropped at a key point in the season. The ensuing maelstrom is defined by hysteria. Enemies circle, dealing in the uncharitable currency of absurd over exaggeration as they try and embed a narrative of failure to help grease an end game of resignation.

Sir Keir Starmer is a big Arsenal fan and his tribulations find an echo in those of Gunners manager Mikel Arteta, who is judged to be failing a great institution just as Sir Keir is judged to be gifting a fifth successive general election victory to the Conservatives.

Starmer now finds himself needing a big performance when he delivers his leader’s speech to the Labour conference in Brighton on Wednesday. Not that a great speech will be a game changer any more than a pedestrian one will turbo-charge the reverse gear stakes.

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The central claims against the Labour leader are that he doesn’t know what he stands for and that he has manifestly failed to carve out a clear policy platform behind which he can rally those who yearn for an end to the Conservatives. The latter charge is entirely fair.

After a promising start when he regularly bested Boris Johnson in the House of Commons, the Labour leader has simply failed to define any big picture vision. His responses have smacked more of platitude than thought-through policy.

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Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer.

Labour has a series of problems that will not be easily rectified and which pre-date Starmer’s leadership. The post-New Labour era has seen the party struggle to assert its traditional values in a modern context. What it means to be Labour has appeared to be a question without resolution. The party collectively bears some responsibility for this state of affairs.

Old Labour revived under Ed Miliband and then the party shifted Left under Jeremy Corbyn as it did in the 1980s. Under Starmer, it is simply impossible to determine which ideological anchors are immovable.

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The party’s historical progress was made in part by the rise of the cause of the working class in the century of industrialisation. The Liberals were the casualties of the cause of Labour. The worry for Labourites who watch politics through a historical lens is that a mix of the rise of green politics and a growth of identity-based nationalisms, may send Labour the same way as the Liberals in the last century.

Starmer has an electoral challenge greater than that faced by Hugh Gaitskell in 1959 or Harold Wilson in 1964. It is greater even than Neil Kinnock faced in 1987 and greater than Tony Blair in 1997. His is an attempt to rewrite the election records and he is doing it with absolutely no momentum behind him.

The UK Government are gripped by a series of crises. Inflation is on the rise. Energy bills will cancel out pay rises and usher a heat-or-eat lifestyle for far too many citizens. There is a cost of living crisis. Taxes are going up and they will disproportionately hit poorer workers. And those who are poor will see their Universal Credit cut.

Add to that young people being saddled with student debt, being asked to make their way in a fast-changing economy and facing a housing market which is now the preserve of those with capital and it all adds up to a country with huge areas of unmet social need. There is the cause of Labour right there.

Starmer needs to find a way of channelling the frustration of some and the anger of many more and build a coalition of interests to challenge the Conservatives at the next election. 

He can’t win if he doesn’t revive in Scotland. He can’t win if he can’t harness Green voters behind Labour. And he can’t win if the Liberal Democrats start to revive. There is actually an anti-Conservative majority in England which will forever be a parliamentary majority so long as the anti-Conservative forces are split.

He is not helped by the sniping of the Left, who never wanted him. To be fair, his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn had to put up with that from more mainstream social democrats in the Parliamentary Labour Party. It is what every leader faces because it is hard wired in the culture of the party, who still remain a collection of uneasy bedfellows. The broad church is sometimes too broad for its own good.

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Those who oppose Starmer should answer a simple question. Do they seriously believe there is anyone else who is more likely to propel the party to victory? Of course, there are those who just want a leader of ideological purity and would replace him on that ground alone. These are people who have read every book on socialism but not taken much notice of election results.

He is undoubtedly handicapped by the fact he doesn’t have what is deemed to be star quality in an age of personality politics. It should depress everyone, no matter their allegiance, that an inferior mind is an asset so long as it is camouflaged by performances deemed entertaining.

He lacks Harold Wilson’s skills of party management, Jim Callaghan’s brute toughness, Neil Kinnock’s heart on sleeve positions and Tony Blair’s initial appeal to a broad constituency in the country. 

But he is also the victim of a broader malaise. Social Democratic parties have struggled throughout Europe to redefine their values as globalisation busts holy grails. The backlash of the marginalised has found a voice in parties of the right, often reverting to appeals to patriotism.

The German SPD has just won an election but with the support of only just over one in four who actually voted. And that was after 16 years of Conservative-led administrations.

Starmer has to start to flesh out policy. Connect with those who support the Conservatives not out of instinct but because they are seen as the least bad option. He probably needs to play against type and get angry from time to time. There is plenty to be angry about.

Boris Johnson is facing a winter of discontent and a six-month period which could make or break his government. If Starmer has not established a commanding lead for Labour by the middle of next year it will be difficult to see how he survives. The prospect of a fifth defeat will be too much even for those who currently support him.


Man admits raping and murdering pensioner in her own home

Jason Graham killed Esther Brown at her Glasgow home before purchasing cigarettes using her bank card earlier this year.

STV News / Woodlands Community Development Trust via Website

A man has pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of a pensioner who was found dead in her home.

Jason Graham, 30, appeared at the High Court in Glasgow on Friday, where he admitted to assaulting and killing Esther Brown.

The court heard Graham then purchased a packet of cigarettes using the victim’s bank card following the murder.

The 67-year-old’s body was found at her address in West Princes Street in Woodlands, Glasgow, on Tuesday, June 1 after she had been missing for four days.

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A week after the last sighting of her, officers arrested and charged Graham over her death.

The court heard the accused had a previous conviction for attacking and raping an older woman in 2013 and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

He was released in 2018 before his licence expired in 2020 and he has been a registered sex offender since.

Police Scotland
Jason Graham has been convicted of rape and murder.

Ms Brown has been described as a “much loved and active member of the community” and was devoted to St Silas Church.

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In a statement read out in court, friends described her life as “full and rewarding” and “dedicated to helping others”.

Addressing Graham in court, judge Lord Armstrong said: “You now stand convicted of the gravest of crimes involving the most depraved actions on your part, characterised by utter brutality, extreme and sustained violence against a defenceless woman in her own home.”

Defence lawyer Brian McConnachie QC told the court Graham had “no recollection” of the attack, but has “insight” into the impact Ms Brown’s death has had on the community.

He said the accused is on medication for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in relation to a “traumatic childhood event”, and that he had consumed “a substantial” amount of alcohol on the night he broke into Ms Brown’s property.

Mr McConnachie said: “It seems to be clear that the combination of the drugs and alcohol have contributed to the offences.”

After drinking in a nearby pub, Graham accessed Ms Brown’s property through an open door into the building’s stairwell before knocking on her door.

The court heard the two were not known to each other.

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Following the murder, Graham returned to a relative’s property and told his cousin he had “done something bad” and said “they are coming for me”, the court heard.

People in the community known to Ms Brown grew concerned for her welfare after she failed to show up to an organised walk and her regular church service.

Friends visited her home, but called the police before entering the property as they “sensed something was wrong”.

Ms Brown was found dead with multiple lacerations and bruises to her body.

Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC said a postmortem examination showed signs that Ms Brown was “fighting for her life” during the attack and had injuries “consistent with sexual assault”.

He said the victim suffered “sustained beating from pieces of wood from a broken chair” that was damaged during the incident.

Lord Armstrong deferred sentence on Graham until November 12 at the High Court in Edinburgh for reports, including on his psychiatric history.

Graham, who appeared in court wearing a blue jumper and blue jeans, remains subject to Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

Speaking to STV News, detective superintendent Suzie Chow said: “Jason Graham is a dangerous predator and thankfully he has now been arrested and convicted for this crime.

“It’s been a really devastating time for Esther’s family and the community of Woodlands.

“She was a much-loved and much well-respected member of the community there and the family have had a real tough time coming to terms with what’s happened to Esther.

“Esther was a major part in the community.

“She worked for voluntary organisations and helped out in charities and the community garden within Woodlands.

“And the community itself gathered round after this brutal attack. The community came together, they assisted the police in their investigation and supported the police and the family throughout that time, so I’d like to thank the community for their help and assistance.”

Dr Annie Gemmill, a friend of Ms Brown, paid tribute to her ahead of Friday’s hearing.

She said Ms Brown was “a single lady but she had a great love”, adding “no one’s life should ever be ended as hers was, and we miss her so much.”


Military drafted in to help two under-pressure NHS boards

NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders are facing 'significant' strain.

MOD Crown Copyright. via Gov.uk
Military assistance to ease the pressure on two NHS health boards.

The Scottish Government has requested military assistance to ease the “unprecedentedpressure on two NHS health boards.

NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders are facing “significant” strain due to a rise in Covid-19 admissions and a backlog in care.

NHS Lanarkshire will receive three nurses, 45 military medics, 12 general duties troops and three drivers who will be working in acute settings.

NHS Borders will receive 14 military medics, two nurses and four additional military personnel will provide assistance in acute settings.

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Two military medics will oversee operations from the army’s headquarters in Scotland at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh.

The support personnel will be from the Royal Navy but the medically qualified staff will be from the Army.

Judith Park, director of Acute Services at NHS Lanarkshire, said the “very welcome” assistance would be in place across the board’s Monklands, Hairmyres and Wishaw hospitals.

The 86 personnel in total will arrive in Scotland on Sunday, October 17, and are currently set to begin work on Tuesday, October 19.

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The Ministry of Defense said support would initially be provided until November 10, but this will be reviewed nearer that date.

The military is already providing 114 personnel as drivers for the Scottish Ambulance Service and 111 at Covid-19 Mobile Testing Units.

Brigadier Ben Wrench, commander of Joint Military Command Scotland, said: “The Armed Forces in Scotland as always stand ready to support civil society in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“The ability of trained military healthcare professionals and their support team to deploy at short notice and provide short term support to cover a critical gap shows the utility of the Armed Forces and the strength of the ongoing relationship with partner civilian organisations.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said the NHS was experiencing unprecedented pressure due to coronavirus admissions and a backlog in care.

“In the NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire areas, staff shortages because of Covid-19 are affecting bed capacity and temporary military assistance has been requested to support the boards at this time,” he said.

“With increasing levels of social mixing and close social contact it is expected that this winter COVID-19 will circulate alongside respiratory viruses, such as flu, adding to the winter pressures usually faced by the NHS.


Film exploring Tiree teen’s passion for surfing set for UK premiere

Ride the Wave charts Ben Larg’s life tackling some of the biggest and most dangerous waves in the world.

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A documentary about a Tiree teenager’s passion for surfing is set to have its UK premiere at the London BFI Film Festival.

Ride the Wave charts Ben Larg’s life from 12-year-old surfing champion to just a few years later embarking on a journey to tackle some of the biggest and most dangerous waves in the world.

Film maker Martyn Robertson spent four years capturing Ben’s incredible talent and quickly his idea of a documentary about Scotland’s surfing sensation grew into a film.

Taking it all in his stride, Ben told STV News: “I’ve been surfing from two on the front of my dad’s board then when I was seven, I began surfing every day.

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“After I had done a few comps I wanted to do big wave surfing – it’s a bit more extreme and I enjoyed that. 

“We went to Ireland and we surfed a wave called Mullaghmore. It was about 30ft.”

The now 16-year-old says that casually but as you see from the film, it’s not such a relaxing sport for the onlookers, particularly Ben’s family.

All keen surfers themselves, running the Blackhouse Watersports business in Tiree, Ben’s mum Iona said: “We all got pulled into the film too. The change in him doing competitions to wanting to surf big waves and how that impacted us as a family.

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“We support his passion but when you see him paddling out, you just become a mum and you want to pull him back, but you can’t do that.”

Ben’s proud dad, Martin, said that it was emotional to watch his family on screen but praised the opportunities the filming has given Ben and the places they have been able to visit and surf off the back of it.

The film will be released in February.

Meanwhile, in Uig, on the Isle of Lewis, another film about surfing is currently being made, although this one is a little different.

Producer Chris Young, who previously produced the Inbetweeners Movie, describes Silent Roar as “an adolescent film about surfing, sex and hellfire.”

It tells the story of a young surfer struggling to come to terms with the death of his father and although shooting on Uig hasn’t always been easy, with extreme weather conditions taking their toll, Chris said he wouldn’t have wanted to make it anywhere else, insisting “part of what makes the film special is the landscape.”

Actor Derek Horsham, who plays a character called Bonco in the film, said: “It’s time for another film like this. I mean Local Hero was one, Gregory’s Girl another, but they gave that sort of quirky side to Scottish life and this is another one.”

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Two very different films both centred around surfing in Scotland; surely destined to cause a splash.


‘Guide Dogs gave me my life back’: Charity celebrates 90th birthday

At 23-years-old, Scott Cunningham thought his life was over until he met his first guide dog.

STV News

In the space of three weeks in 1993, Scott Cunningham lost his sight.

The 23-year-old lay in pain in a bed at what was then the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

“My optic nerves had died away suddenly due to this condition that I’ve got,” he told STV News.

“Basically, my world had caved in because there was no future. There was no real reason to continue on with life, to be fair.

Guide Dogs via Handout
Then and now – development of services showing My Sighted Guide.
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“You know, I had a car in the driveway I had a job, I had everything to live for and then all of sudden I had to try and accept being a member of the blind community.”

Now 51-years-old, Mr Cunningham remembered how he struggled to come to terms with the loss of his sight.

He was living like a “hermit”, too scared to leave his home and drinking heavily to deal with how he felt.

But in 1995 something changed.

“I started building up trust, confidence in this amazing creature who became my best friend.”

Scott Cunningham
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One of only two Guide Dogs charity centres in the country was ten minutes from his parents’ home and he had been invited to come and train with them.

“I remember vividly the first walk, with the harness on, Debbie the trainer let go of her lead, my right arm went out rigid, I was beyond petrified”, he said.

“I grew a bit of a backbone, and I started building up trust, confidence in this amazing creature who became my best friend, gave me the confidence, gave me the mobility, gave me my independence back.

“I was able to go to shops, be able to go to pubs, restaurants myself, be able to get fit again, lose that massive amount of weight I’d put on.”

Guide Dogs via Handout
Then and now – road crossing

Thanks to his first guide dog Ike, Mr Cunningham was able to go back to full-time education and he completed an HND course.

He went on to return to employment and said it was all thanks to Guide Dogs.

Mr Cunningham has just completed a twelve marathon challenge and to date has raised more than £350,000 for the charity.

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The organisation began 90 years ago, initially helping soldiers blinded in the first world war.

Guide Dogs via Handout
Historical shot of guide dog training

Now in the 21st Century, roads are a lot busier but the basic principles remain.

With new services, new technologies, staff, dogs, and supporters, Guide Dogs plans to double the number of people it helps by 2023.

As the charity marks its birthday, it is asking for the public’s support to help people with sight loss live the lives they choose by joining its Guide Dogs 90 Appeal.

For more information click here.


Excitement but some fears as Glasgow businesses get set for COP26

Leaders from across the globe will take part in the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

ChrisHepburn via IStock

A restaurant owner whose business is located beside the COP26 blue zone says she feels like they are going into another lockdown ahead of the climate conference. 

India Quay is one of the closest establishments allowed to stay open during the two-week event. 

But Spinder Purewall-Johal believes the road closures in the area will mean they will lose business and they’ve been told they will not be compensated.

She told STV News: “It’s just a case of wait and see and that’s the biggest worry especially having gone through everything with Covid and being closed for so long.

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“You’re just back up and running and effectively this feels to us like we’re going into a lockdown again.”

STV News
India Quay: Spinder Purewall-Johal.

At the moment India Quay has just two bookings during COP26 and their regular customers haven’t made reservations during the summit.

Ms Purewall-Johal believes they would have been better off if they had been told to close.

She added: “We probably would have preferred that because at the moment it’s not just ‘are we going to have customers coming in here?’, it’s going to be ‘what if there are protests outside our door and we’ve got customers sitting, how do we deal with that?’

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“Just a lot of uncertainty and not knowing how things are going to go.”

‘We’re really excited’

STV News
Gallus Alice: Jennifer Lemon.

Gallus Alice is located slightly further away from the conference in Finnieston.

Bosses have ordered plenty of stock ahead of the summit and are hopeful for an “influx” of customers.

Jennifer Lemon, Gallus Alice co-owner, said: “We’re really excited.”

She highlighted that it’s been a difficult year due to the pandemic, but especially for the retail sector.

She added: “Without people being in-store we’re having to depend on the online side of things.

“I’m really hoping with the influx of a new potential global customer that even after COP26 that they will continue to shop with us online afterwards.”

More on:

Manhunt after takeaway delivery driver ‘threatened with knife’

The victim was sitting in a car when the suspect leaned into the window on Thursday evening.

© Google Maps 2020
The takeaway driver was sitting in his black Ford Focus on Magdalen Way, in Paisley.

A hunt is underway after a man allegedly demanded a delivery driver hand over cash while brandishing a knife.

The takeaway driver was sitting in his black Ford Focus on Magdalen Way, in Paisley, at around 6.30pm on Thursday when the suspect leant into the car window.

The man allegedly threatened the victim with a knife and demanded money from him.

Police said it had been a “frightening experience for a man who was simply doing his job”.

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No cash was taken and the suspect ran off.

He is described as a white man with a local accent, of slim build, with his face sunken around his eyes and he may have had some facial hair.

He was wearing a navy blue jacket with the hood up and dark coloured trousers.

Detective constable James Campbell, of Paisley CID, said: “Thankfully no-one was injured as a result of this but it was a frightening experience for a man who was simply doing his job.

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“I’m appealing to anyone who may have witnessed this incident or has any relevant information to contact us.”

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 quoting incident 2738 of October 14 Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be called anonymously on 0800 555 111.


Review into child’s care following death of ‘smiley’ baby girl

The Glasgow Child Protection Committee has published a Significant Case Review into the child's death.

deng qiufeng via IStock
Death: Both parents have since been charged in connection with their daughter’s death.

A severely disabled baby girl found dead at her home was not properly cared for by her parents, according to a significant case review which also found opportunities to intervene were missed.

Child D was found “lifeless” by her father in the Glasgow family home at 2am – before she reached the age of one. She was taken to hospital but staff were unable to resuscitate her.

In the weeks leading up to her death, medical staff had raised concerns that she was not “her normal smiley self” and was losing weight.

Her complex needs included having to have her bladder emptied four times every day – but the care review found this was only being done “intermittently” by her parents. It concluded, “the child ultimately dies due to a poor care regime by the parents.”

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Both parents have since been charged in connection with their daughter’s death. They and Child D cannot be identified for legal reasons. 

The Glasgow Child Protection Committee has published a Significant Case Review into the death, which happened in July 2017. 

It said “early intervention opportunities” were missed to help Child D and there was “a lack of coordination of services resulting in insufficient communication and information sharing.”

Problems in the system leading up to her death included three different health visitors being involved with the family. And there was no single health lead professional being made responsible for coordinating her health care. 

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It also found a GP had failed to flag up relevant details about the family history while filling out information for other health professionals and raised concerns about a pre-birth care assessment.

And it highlighted seven priorities that needed to be looked at in the wake of the child’s death.

The family had been known to social workers for a number of years. The baby’s father had drug addiction problems while the mother suffered from “long standing” mental health problems.

But they were judged to have made significant progress before the birth of Child D. 

The review found that even before the birth of Child D there were concerns that she may not survive childbirth, and it was highlighted that if she survived she would have multiple health needs.

Despite this, a pre-birth meeting did not have any representation from acute health specialities involved in Child D’s care.

Child D underwent surgery after being born with spina bifida, which is when the baby’s spine and spinal cord do not develop properly in the womb.

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She spent seven weeks in the neonatal high dependency unit before being taken home. Her health condition meant she needed to attend medical appointments regularly. 

The review said there was “limited discussion around the child’s complex medical needs and what is expected of the parents with regards to the child’s daily health and care needs.”

This included the need for her to be catheterised four times every day to empty her bladder to stay healthy. 

From August to December 2016 the child was seen by 13 health professionals. Parents promised health workers they were catheterising the baby four times daily, but no members of staff saw them do it at home.

At one point her dad told an addictions worker he was not “comfortable” catheterising his daughter.

The case review reported that in the hours beforehand Child D’s father had texted her mum begging her to come home as the baby was being sick and he didn’t know what to do. 

Police were concerned about the state of the family home when they attended after Child D’s death. A stockpile of catheters was found in the home – suggesting it was not happening enough. 

The case review said: “There are indications that the parents are not catheterising Child D four times daily as is necessary to ensure her health and well-being. They would appear to have been intermittently undertaking this procedure and the child ultimately dies due to a poor care regime by the parents.”

The case review identified seven priority findings when looking at the circumstances of her death including lack of communication and information sharing between agencies.

The review called for changes across the city including setting up a “process for identifying early in pregnancy vulnerable women and unborn babies who may require additional support.” 

It also said it is necessary to have a “consistent approach” in the completion of GP SCI gateway information across the city – in light of a GP not filling in a form comprehensively about Child D’s family. Additionally, the review pointed out there is a need to ensure that all relevant agencies are represented at child protection meetings.

Findings included three different health visitors working with the family during Child D’s short life. It resulted in a lack of knowledge of the family and child’s needs. There was a shortage of health visitors at that time nationally but more have now been hired. 

Another outcome showed a GP clicked ‘not known’ when asked were they aware of any vulnerability or child protection in relation to this pregnancy? while filling in information for maternity services. That happened despite the family being registered with the practice since 2013.

A further discovery revealed specialist health services staff didn’t attend a post birth planning meeting for Child D. The review said that had led to “the needs of the child not being fully understood and multi-agency assessment and decision making compromised.“

The review also highlighted no single health lead professional was assigned to the child.

The case review said: “If there is no health lead professional, there is no holistic understanding of a child’s Personal Data needs and there is no coordination across health specialities to ensure robust information sharing and care planning.”

It pointed out there was no consideration around “respite to support the parents to provide long term care to ensure a sustained high level of care for Child D.”

It also found there was “no multi-agency child’s plan in place and therefore no regular reviews of the plan involving key professionals.” 

It showed concerns around Child D’s weight, mum’s mental health and the parents’ separation were not addressed along with other issues. 

The review also raised concerns about NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board having multiple information systems.

Child D’s information was recorded in different records. 

It said: “Where health professionals do not have access to all relevant information this impacts on the quality of assessment, decision making and robust child’s planning.”

A spokeswoman for Glasgow’s Health & Social Care Partnership said: “This is a tragic case and our sympathies are with everyone affected.

“We welcome the findings of the Child Protection Committee’s report and have implemented an action plan to address the points raised – particularly in relation to information sharing between health and social care services.”

Story by local democracy reporter Sarah Hilley


Man in wheelchair dies after being struck by lorry on busy road

The 36-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene and his next of kin have been informed. 

MarioGuti via IStock
Crash: Man dies following HGV crash.

A wheelchair user has died after being hit by a lorry in Ayrshire.

The incident occurred around 3.10pm on Thursday on the A76 at Castle, New Cumnock.

The 36-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene and his next of kin have been informed. 

Sergeant Craig Beaver of the Road Policing Unit said: “Our thoughts are with the man’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

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“Enquiries are continuing into the full circumstances surrounding the crash and the road was closed for around five hours whilst collision investigation was carried out.

“I would ask anyone who may have witnessed the incident or who may have dash-cam footage, and has not yet spoken to or provided this information to officers, to contact us as soon as possible.

“Anyone with information should call Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident number 1939 of October 14.”


School cleaners and cooks set to join Glasgow strikes during COP26

A total of 1500 Glasgow City Council staff in the refuse, cleansing, school janitorial and catering sectors are set to strike.

Ben Birchall via PA Ready
Workers plan to strike in Glasgow during COP26 over a pay dispute.

School cleaners and cooks are set to join refuse workers on strike in Glasgow during COP26 over a pay dispute.

Cleansing workers and schools support staff who are members of the GMB union voted in favour of industrial action that could disrupt the climate summit starting next month.

A total of 1500 Glasgow City Council staff in the refuse, cleansing, school janitorial and catering sectors could strike because of the ongoing pay dispute, with 96.9% of returned ballots backing industrial action.

GMB members rejected a £850-a-year increase for staff earning up to £25,000 a year from local authority umbrella body Cosla, with the union – along with Unison and Unite – all calling for a £2000 pay rise.

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Cosla said negotiations are ongoing.

GMB Glasgow organiser, Chris Mitchell, said: “Over the past 18 months throughout this awful pandemic, essential services across Scotland have been held together by an army of low paid workers.

“We were called key workers, even Covid heroes, but while politicians were happy to applaud us on Thursday nights, they’ve never put their hands in their pockets to pay us properly.

“The eyes of the world will be on Glasgow during COP26, and our politicians now have a choice – will they fairly reward the frontline workers who got the country through the pandemic, or will they risk embarrassing the city and the country on an international stage?

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“The message that our members have sent with this ballot result is clear. We are taking a stand for what we deserve, and we believe the people will stand with us.”

The call for industrial action comes after Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken was criticised for saying the city needs a “spruce up” before the COP26 conference.

Her comments received a backlash from politicians and members of the public who claimed she was “out of touch” with the city.

A Cosla spokesman said: “We appreciate everything that Local Government workers have been doing, and continue to do, to support people and communities during the pandemic and as we begin to recover.

“We continue with ongoing, constructive negotiations.”

Rail workers will also go on strike during COP26, the RMT union confirmed on Thursday, over a separate dispute over pay and conditions.

ScotRail staff will strike from Monday November 1 until Friday November 12.

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Staff on the Caledonian Sleeper will hold two 24-hour strikes: one from 11.59am on Sunday October 31 and one on Thursday November 11, also from 11.59am.


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