At a glance: Scotland’s new coronavirus levels system

The Scottish Government's new strategic framework for tackling the spread of Covid-19 has five tiers.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

A new system for dealing with coronavirus will come into effect across Scotland next week.

It involves five levels, zero to four, and will begin on November 2 after parliament approved the framework on Tuesday.

Level zero represents the closest to normal the country can get without effective treatment or a vaccine, whereas level four will be much closer to the full lockdown restrictions seen from the end of March.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday that North and South Lanarkshire council areas are being considered for the highest level of restrictions under the proposed tier system.

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Other areas in the central belt covered by tougher measures would likely move into level three, while the rest of the country would be at level two.

Sturgeon said it was hoped local authority areas including the Highlands, Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and Moray would go into level one, while Dundee could also go into level three.

The Scottish Government framework can be viewed here and at a glance below:

LEVEL ZERO:

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Socialising – Eight people from three households can meet indoors. Fifteen people from five households can meet outdoors.

Hospitality – Pubs, restaurants and cafes are open and can sell alcohol indoors and outdoors. Normal licensing times apply.

Accommodation – Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation such as caravans and campsites are permitted to open.

Travel – No non-essential travel to/from areas of Scotland that are in level three or higher. International quarantine regulations apply.

Transport – Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household wherever possible. Face masks on public transport.

Retail and close contact services – Shops and close contact services – such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians are open.

Public buildings – Buildings such as libraries and museums are open.

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Stadia and events – Outdoor events are permitted and spectators allowed in football stadiums with restricted numbers. Indoor events can go ahead with restricted numbers.

Weddings, civil partnerships and funerals – All allowed but with a 50 person limit.

Places of worship – Open but restricted to 50 people.

Leisure and Entertainment – Open with the exception of adult entertainment and nightclubs.

Workplaces – Open but working from home is the default option.

Schools – Open with standard protective measures in place.

LEVEL ONE:

Socialising – People cannot socialise indoors with another household for now. Level 1 will in time allow for six people from two households to meet indoors and outdoors. You can meet another household indoors in a public place such as a cafe or restaurant.

Hospitality – Pubs, restaurants and cafes are open and can sell alcohol indoors and outdoors. Curfew of 10.30pm, last entry at 9.30pm.

Accommodation – Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation such as caravans and campsites are permitted to open.

Travel – No non-essential travel to/from areas of Scotland that are in level three or higher. International quarantine regulations apply.

Transport – Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household wherever possible. Face masks on public transport.

Retail and close contact services – Shops and close contact services – such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians are open.

Public buildings – Buildings such as libraries and museums are open.

Stadia and events – Outdoor events are permitted and spectators allowed in football stadiums with restricted numbers. Indoor events can go ahead with restricted numbers.

Weddings, civil partnerships and funerals – All allowed but with a 20 person limit.

Places of worship – Open but restricted to 50 people.

Leisure and Entertainment – Open with the exception of adult entertainment and nightclubs.

Workplaces – Open but working from home is the default option.

Schools – Open with standard protective measures in place.

LEVEL TWO:

Socialising – People cannot socialise indoors with another household. Six people from two households can meet outdoors and in hospitality settings.

Hospitality – Pubs, restaurants and cafes are open. Alcohol can only be sold with a main meal indoors – curfew of 8pm, last entry 7pm. Alcohol can be sold outdoors – curfew of 10.30pm, last entry 9.30pm.

Accommodation – Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation such as caravans and campsites are permitted to open. Level 2 hospitality rules apply.

Travel – No non-essential travel to/from areas of Scotland that are in level three or higher. International quarantine regulations apply.

Transport – Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household wherever possible. Face masks on public transport.

Retail and close contact services – Shops and close contact services – such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians – are open. Mobile hairdressing and barbering can continue. All other mobile close contact services will not be able to operate.

Public buildings – Buildings such as libraries and museums are open with protective measures in place.

Stadia and events – Only drive-in events permitted. Stadiums closed to spectators.

Weddings, civil partnerships and funerals – All allowed but with a 20 person limit.

Places of worship – Open but restricted to 50 people.

Leisure and Entertainment – Cinemas and amusement arcades can open. The following venues must close: soft play, funfairs, indoor bowling, theatres, snooker/pool halls, music venues, casinos, bingo halls, nightclubs and adult entertainment

Workplaces – Open but working from home is the default option.

Schools – Open with standard protective measures in place.

LEVEL THREE:

Socialising – People cannot socialise indoors. Six people from two households can meet outdoors and in hospitality settings.

Hospitality – Pubs, restaurants and cafes are all allowed to open but cannot sell alcohol indoors or outdoors. Curfew of 6pm, last entry 5pm.

Accommodation – Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation such as caravans and campsites are permitted to open. The guidance encourages non-essential use by locals only – not for tourists.

Travel – No non-essential travel into our out of the level three area. International quarantine regulations apply.

Transport – Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household wherever possible. Avoid non-essential use of public transport. Face coverings compulsory.

Retail and close contact services – Shops and close contact services – such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians – are open. Mobile hairdressing and barbering can continue. All other mobile close contact services will not be able to operate.

Public buildings – Buildings such as libraries and museums are open with protective measures in place.

Stadia and events – No indoor or outdoor events permitted. Stadiums closed to spectators.

Weddings, civil partnerships and funerals – All allowed but with a 20 person limit.

Places of worship – Open but restricted to 50 people.

Leisure and Entertainment – All venues – including cinemas and theatres – closed.

Workplaces – Open but working from home is the default option.

Schools – Open with standard protective measures in place.

LEVEL FOUR:

Socialising – People cannot socialise indoors. Six people from two households can meet outdoors.

Hospitality – Pubs, restaurants and cafes must close.

Accommodation – Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation not open for tourists. Work-related essential use only.

Travel – No non-essential travel into or out of the level 4 area. If necessary, limits on travel distance, or a requirement to stay at home.

Transport – Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household wherever possible. No use of public transport, except for essential purposes. Face coverings compulsory

Retail and close contact services – Non-essential shops and close contact services – such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians – must close. Mobile close contact services not permitted

Public buildings – Buildings such as libraries and museums are closed.

Stadia and events – No indoor or outdoor events permitted. Stadiums closed to spectators.

Weddings, civil partnerships and funerals – A maximum of five people allowed at weddings (six where an interpreter is required). Funerals and wakes subject to 20 person limit.

Places of worship – Open but restricted to 20 people.

Leisure and Entertainment – All venues closed.

Workplaces – Only essential indoor workplaces can open along with outdoor workplaces in sectors such as construction and engineering.

Schools – Open with standard protective measures in place.

NHS and social care staff to get £500 ‘thank you’

The First Minister announced the move during her address to the SNP virtual conference on Monday.

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NHS staff and social care workers are to receive a one-off £500 payment from the Scottish Government as a “thank you” for their hard work during the coronavirus pandemic.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the move during her address to the SNP virtual conference on Monday.

She said the applause and recognition shown to frontline workers earlier in the pandemic “was never enough”.

Negotiations are currently under way to increase pay for NHS staff, but they “deserve recognition now”, Sturgeon said.

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She said: “I can announce today that, on behalf of us all, the Scottish Government will give every full-time NHS and adult social care worker £500 as a one-off thank-you payment for their extraordinary service in this toughest of years.”

Those who work part-time will receive a “proportionate share”.

Sturgeon said: “A payment like this can never ever come close to expressing our full admiration for those who have cared for us so heroically.

“But to our health and care workers, it is a demonstration of what we collectively owe you. And it is a heartfelt thank you for the sacrifices you have made.”

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The First Minister added there were “no strings attached” to the payment, which will be paid during this financial year.

However, she highlighted that the Scottish Government did not have the power to make the payment tax-free.

Calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ensure the “NHS heroes” are not taxed on their payment, she said: “Please allow our health and care heroes to keep every penny of Scotland’s thank you to them.

“Do not take any of it away in tax.”

In response to the £500 payment, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “A one-off payment is no substitute at all for the significant increase in salary that all Scotland’s health and care workers deserve.

“This sum announced by Nicola Sturgeon will not make up for the years of pay restraint and austerity that staff in these sectors have had imposed on them by Tory and SNP ministers. 

“Many care home workers are part-time, so the fear is that they will end up with a derisory payment.

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“There must also be a commitment to a generous year-on-year increase in pay for all key workers, who are Scotland’s Covid heroes.”

Sturgeon also announced a £100m fund to help people struggling over winter.

Every family with children in receipt of free school meals will receive a cash grant of £100 to spend on what they wish.

Support will also be available to the homeless. In addition, some of the funding will be used for an initiative to teach digital skills to the elderly, as well as to help people pay their fuel bills.

Businesses are also to receive £5000 for each apprentice they employ.

Sturgeon announced the move for those between 16 and 24, and up to the age of 29 for those who are disabled, from minority communities or care leavers.

For apprentices over the age of 25, the First Minister pledged to pay £3500.

The First Minister also announced a £100 per week allowance along with work-based training for school leavers up to the age of 18.

During her statement, Sturgeon told those who say Scottish independence is a distraction that “they could not be more wrong”.

She said: “If we want to make sure the country we rebuild is the one we want it to be, with kindness, compassion, fairness, equality and enterprise at its heart, and not one built in the image of Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers, we must work to the right plan, with all the tools we need to do the job.”

She added: “Independence is not a distraction from the task of post-Covid reconstruction. It is essential to getting it right.”

The First Minister also said she doubted how many Scots would have trusted the UK Government to govern Scotland through the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “In the depth of crisis, we have looked to and trusted our own government and Parliament to steer us through.”

In response to her statement, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said the SNP is “relying on Rishi Sunak’s spending to make announcements that should have happened weeks ago”.

The UK Government has delivered nearly £10bn to the Scottish budget to tackle the pandemic.

The Tories claim analysis by the Fraser of Allander Institute shows around £1bn of the funding has not been spent with a lack of “transparency” over where the rest of the funds have gone.

Ross said: “This was a series of SNP promises brought to you by Rishi Sunak’s spending.

“It seems the SNP are finally getting around to using the vast sums of UK Government funding to fight the pandemic, although businesses and workers will be left wondering why they held off until the SNP conference to finally get the money out the door on announcements that should have been made weeks ago.

“The rank hypocrisy from the First Minister on all fronts was galling. She now bends the truth on a daily basis.

“Nicola Sturgeon grandstanded about ‘fundamentally undermining’ the Scottish Parliament – the same Parliament that she has disgracefully ignored twice in the last month.

“She grandstanded about social security when the only people tying the Scottish Government’s hands are the SNP. They’ve handed powers back to the UK Government because they can’t deliver.

“She grandstanded about putting ‘independence on hold’, which would be a lot more believable if she didn’t launch a new Referendum Bill in September as a second wave of Covid was beginning.

“And all weekend she’s been talking up another divisive referendum next year while we’re in the middle of a pandemic. It’s completely out of touch with people across Scotland.

“Over the years a litany of SNP conference promises have flopped – from the Scottish Growth Scheme to the infamous Sturgeon Energy company – so I sincerely hope these new commitments materialise but I don’t have much faith that they actually will.”


Four-day working week should be examined, say SNP members

Calls for ministers to review working practices in Scotland, including a possible move to a shorter working week.

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SNP: Calls for a possible shift to a shorter working week.

SNP members have called on ministers to instigate a review that could bring about a four-day working week in the event of independence.

A motion at the party’s annual conference, this year being held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, passed by 1136 votes to 70.

Contained in the resolution was a call for ministers to review working practices in Scotland, including a possible shift to a shorter working week.

The resolution states: “Conference calls on the Scottish Government to undertake a review into how working practices should be adapted to meet the needs of the future economy, including the possibility of a four-day working week and more support for people to work from home or closer to home, with a view to reform when Scotland gains full control of employment rights.”

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Party member Lee Robb made the case for a reduced working week while speaking in favour of the motion on Monday.

He said: “The coronavirus pandemic has upended the way we live our lives but so too has it given us the opportunity to reset and rethink how we work.”

Employees who work a four-day week are “happier, healthier, more productive, less likely to take time off sick and less likely to be burned out by the end of the week”, he said.

In Denmark, Mr Robb claimed productivity did not drop when the reduced week was trialled.

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He said: “Danish workers work around four hours per week less than we do in the UK yet their productivity is still around 23% higher than ours.

“Now, that tells us a few things, but it certainly tells us that many UK businesses are asking their employees to throw dead time at their jobs – where they’re not adding to the productivity of the company – and it’s to the detriment of mental health, to the detriment of a work life balance that’s healthy.”

A report released by the Autonomy think tank earlier this year found around 500,000 jobs in the UK would be created as a result of a shift to the shorter working week in the public sector.

With workers remaining on full pay despite reducing their hours, the initiative would cost £9bn Autonomy said, equivalent to 6% of the total wage bill.

However the Scottish Conservatives said the move would cost Scottish public services more than £2.5bn each year.

Scottish Tory economy spokesman Maurice Golden MSP said: “I’m speechless that this dangerous and ludicrous policy with a £2.5bn price tag every year has now been given the seal of approval by the SNP and the party’s grassroots.  

“It is just the latest pie in the sky case for independence. The SNP are giving official backing to a policy that risks shutting vital public services unless they find £2.5bn down the back of Kate Forbes’ sofa.  

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“The SNP has serious questions to answer about this new policy that would cut our hospitals, schools and everyday services to the bone.   

“It is time for SNP ministers to wake up and realise that fantasy policies like this simply don’t stack up.”


Community testing could become more ‘routine’ in new year

Testing trials are being carried out in communities in central and western parts of Scotland.

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Coronavirus: Community testing trials under way in parts of Scotland.

Coronavirus testing trials in communities will inform plans to carry out asymptomatic tests “more routinely in the new year”, the First Minister has said.

The scheme is being piloted in a number of locations in central and western parts of Scotland, where Covid rates “continue to be of concern and are higher than the national average”.

Mobile testing units have opened in Alloa in Clackmannanshire, in Dalmarnock and Pollokshields in Glasgow, in Stewarton in East Ayrshire and in Girvan in South Ayrshire.

“The lessons that we learn from these trials will then inform our plans to expand community testing much more extensively and much more routinely early in the new year,” Nicola Sturgeon said at Monday’s coronavirus briefing.

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She added: “We do hope that identifying more people who are positive will help us ensure that they are not spreading the virus and that’s why we are currently focusing these trials – these pilot programmes – on areas with high prevalence.

“So if you live in one of these areas, I would encourage you to come forward for testing.

“You give yourself the chance of finding out if you have the virus if you don’t yet have symptoms but you’re also helping that collective effort to try to break the chains of transmission.”

Scotland recorded three deaths of people with coronavirus and 369 positive cases in the past 24 hours.

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However, Sturgeon said there had been a “technical issue” with the reporting systems overnight meaning the figures reported may be “slightly lower” than expected.

When does Sturgeon decide to start living dangerously?

The First Minister will be under pressure to deliver a second independence referendum after next year's election.

Nicola Sturgeon may need a plan B to hold indyref2.

Today, Nicola Sturgeon addresses the SNP conference. Like so much of life at the moment, even that will be a strange affair. No packed hall, no obligatory standing ovation, no raucous cheering as the backdrop accompanying the bongs on the evening news programmes.

There will be spending announcements, including financial help for poorer families, and an outline of the agenda on which the party will contest next May’s Holyrood election.

With the polls suggesting those elections are a foregone conclusion in terms of who will win, the only real post-pandemic question for the First Minister is what she will do to deliver a second independence referendum if there is a majority for one next year.

Now, of course, that, constitutionally speaking, is not in her gift. Westminster has to consent to such a poll and the Prime Minister has made clear he will say no.

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Which means that come April, when a campaign of sorts will be underway, Sturgeon will spend much of it being dogged by the question, what do you do when the UK Government says no?

She has been here before. The question was posed at the UK general elections in 2017 and 2019 when the SNP was clear about their ambition for a second referendum. How many mandates does the SNP leader need before she decides to live dangerously?

The frustration of Yes supporters is increased by the belief that next time victory will be theirs. The post-2014 narrative has not gone well for the advocates of the status quo.

The Conservatives have won three UK general elections whilst being supported by only one in four Scots who voted in last December’s poll. And Scotland has left the EU despite a convincing majority in favour of remaining.

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In 2014, the debate around the economics of independence and in particular the currency question acted as a break on the surge for Yes as risk averse voters in middle-class areas opted to say ‘better together’.

As I see it, pro-Union politicians have three new problems post-2014.

First, much of the current debate is on whether the devolved settlement is capable of bridging the ‘democratic deficit’ that devolution was meant to straddle. Brexit suggests not.

If a second poll is fought predominantly on the alleged dysfunctionality of the governance arrangements of the UK, then that is far stronger ground for Yes than having to explain away how they will plug the financial black hole once Scotland accepts her share of the UKs financial liabilities.

Unless the pro Union parties can reframe the debate, they run the risk of fighting on ground more advantageous to the proponents of change.

Second, the pro-Union position has become predominantly identified with the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, who now form the official opposition to the SNP at Holyrood. Alistair Darling’s leadership of the Better Together campaign does seem a lifetime ago.

With Scottish Labour a much diminished force compared to six years ago, there is an added danger that a second poll becomes a surrogate contest in asking voters to choose between independence and the SNP and the status quo and the Conservatives. The lack of a Labour voice in such a dynamic can only benefit the Yes side.

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And then there is the question, who leads? A Conservative politician leading the No side would reinforce the view that unionism is best identified with the Conservative cause, a proposition many who voted No in 2014 would find hard to accept.

Then there is a simple question for the No side. What are you offering? The Vow in 2014 was an 11th hour response to a surge for Yes. It was not part of a carefully crafted strategy where leaders decided to play a strong hand to maximum advantage. I see no signs of serious thought about crafting a new pro-Union agenda outwith some references to federalism by some Labour figures.

All of the above is not lost on Yes supporters, hence their desire to get on with it. Those in the wider Yes movement, already impatient with the First Minister, will not settle for fighting talk ultimately defined by inaction.

With every passing month of 2021, Covid will diminish as a vaccine programme is rolled out. By the third quarter of next year it might be in the last throes of affecting our lives in the way it has.

Until it is beaten it will remain the SNP leader’s number one priority. However, at that point she needs a Plan B on IndyRef to implement. 

Her instincts are cautious, shying away from organising a Holyrood-inspired plebiscite which may titillate constitutional lawyers and frame the case for change around pursuit of a poll that could be mired in debates about illegality.

Doing nothing in 2021 is not an option and she knows it. Then again the given in this conundrum is that Boris Johnson will continue to say No. Will he?

If his party goes down to a large defeat next May he may be forced to abandon the pre-election rhetoric realising you cannot imprison yet another Holyrood mandate in the safety deposit of Westminster sovereignty.


Scottish Labour MSP to step down after 22 years in Holyrood

Lewis Macdonald will not be seeking re-election next year but said he will remain 'active' in politics.

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Stepping down: Scottish Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald to leave Holyrood.

Scottish Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has announced he will be stepping down after 22 years in Holyrood.

Macdonald will not be seeking re-election next year but said he will remain “active” in politics.

He has served in Holyrood since its creation in 1999, first as the member for Aberdeen Central then as a regional MSP for North East Scotland since 2011.

During that time, he spent six years as a minister between 2001 and 2007 and is now a deputy presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament and convener of the health and sport committee.

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On Twitter, Macdonald wrote: “It has been an honour to represent the north east as a Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament for over twenty years.

“The time has come for others to take on that role, but I will continue to be active in other ways after next year’s election.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said Macdonald will be “much missed” in Parliament.

He tweeted: “@LewisMacdMSP has served @scottishlabour, @ScotParl, Aberdeen and north east Scotland with distinction over more than two decades.

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“I’m wishing Lewis a very happy retirement – you will be much missed at Holyrood.”

Macdonald’s announcement comes after fellow Scottish Labour North East Scotland MSP Jenny Marra said she will be stepping down at the next election.

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 due to the role meaning she spends too much time away from her family.


Sturgeon to announce £100m fund to help hard up Scots

First Minister will say that problems with poverty and inequality are not "inevitable or insoluble".

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Sturgeon: Set to announce £100m funding.

A £100m fund will be set up to help hard up Scots this winter.

Nicola Sturgeon will announce, with the support including direct payments of £100 to all families with children in receipt of free school meals.

The First Minister will say the coronavirus pandemic has shown that it should no longer be accepted that problems with poverty and inequality are “inevitable or insoluble”.

The action comes in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, which has seen many lose their jobs or have their incomes cut.

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The new £100m winter fund for low income households will provide those in need with cash to help “pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry”, Sturgeon will tell the SNP annual conference.

In addition to this, it will help pay to get older people connected online and provide help for the homeless.

While the First Minister will stress Scotland does not have to be independent for the SNP government to “start doing the right things”, she will complain that Westminster’s control over much of the social security system north of the border makes it harder for ministers to act.

Following Covid-19, Sturgeon will insist her party wants to rebuild the country “with kindness, compassion, fairness, equality and enterprise at its heart – and not one made in the image of Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers”.

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She will state: “We must make sure we are working to the right plan, with all the tools we need to do the job.”

In February, the Scottish Government is bringing in a £10 week a payment for children in low income families – with Sturgeon to say that Scotland is the “only part of the UK” to take such action.

But she will add: “I know that for families struggling now, February is still a long way off.

“So I am announcing today a £100m package to bridge that gap, and help others struggling most with the impact of Covid over the winter months.

“It will include money to help people pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry.

“It will offer additional help for the homeless, and fund an initiative to get older people online and connected.

“And, most importantly of all, it will provide a cash grant of £100 for every family with children in receipt of free school meals.

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“The money will be paid before Christmas and families can use it for whatever will help them through the winter. That could be food, new shoes or a winter coat for the kids.

“Families will know best what they need. That’s not for government to decide.”

She will declare: “Initiatives like this are not just about providing practical help to those who need it most – they are an expression of our values and of the kind of country we are seeking to build.”


Football stadiums ‘ready to help with Covid vaccine roll-out’

SPFL chief Neil Doncaster said the facilities at club stadiums would be made available to the NHS and other public bodies.

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Hampden Park: Football clubs could be used in the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines.

Neil Doncaster has said Scotland’s football clubs are “ready, willing and able” to assist with the roll-out of coronavirus vaccinations.

The SPFL chief said club stadiums spread throughout the country could be utilised by the NHS and other public bodies to ensure a fast national roll-out of any mass-vaccination scheme.

Doncaster, who has called for a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, said: “All the arguments in favour of bringing back fans safely, outdoors and socially distanced, are exactly the same reasons why our clubs are uniquely placed to help with the roll-out of the national vaccination programme.

“We have 42 stadiums spread throughout the country, with transport links, parking facilities, expertise in handling crowds and plenty of space to ensure social distancing. 

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“Everyone knows where their local stadium is located and, with five million attendances each season, people are very familiar with how the grounds function.

“We are still awaiting a response from the First Minister to our request for an emergency meeting, and this is one of the topics we would be very keen to discuss.

“Having taken soundings from club chairs, I can tell you there is enormous enthusiasm to play our part in this vital national effort. 

“Football clubs are at the very heart of their communities and are already doing so much, despite their own enormous financial pressures, to support health and wellbeing programmes locally.

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“It makes perfect sense for us to have dialogue with the First Minister on this topic, as well as the overwhelming arguments for bringing back fans in a safe and secure manner, as they have announced in England.”

Aberdeen FC chairman Dave Cormack echoed the message.

He said: “The club’s very close partnership with Aberdeen FC Community Trust is one of the most vital initiatives we undertake and makes an enormous contribution to the lives of tens of thousands of local people each year.

“Health, wellbeing and educational programmes are at the heart of the Community Trust’s work, which is now more vital than ever and, as a club, we would unhesitatingly support the use of our facilities for the vaccine programme.”


Blackford: Government in a panic over support for independence

SNP's Westminster leader urged members to come together and focus on pushing to leave the UK.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

The UK Government is in a “panic” over recent support for Scottish independence, the SNP’s Westminster leader has said.

Ian Blackford told party faithful to “keep the faith” at the annual conference – this year being held virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic – urging members to come together and focus on pushing to leave the UK.

Blackford compared the record of Westminster in the past 20 years, citing the Iraq War, Brexit and the bedroom tax, with the history of the Scottish Parliament, with free prescriptions, tuition fees and the upcoming Scottish Child Payment raised as examples of Scotland being a “fairer and more equal place to live”.

In recent months, polls shifted to show support for independence, with survey results rising as high as 58% when undecided voters are removed, according to an Ipsos Mori poll for STV in October.

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“That diverging tale of two parliaments has led to an inevitable conclusion – poll after poll shows that a settled majority now believes that all decisions and all powers should now be trusted to the people of Scotland,” he said in an address from his home in Skye.

“That is why the Tories are in a panic, they are unwilling to accept the truth that a majority of Scotland’s people now want an independent future.

“Instead of listening to the will of the Scottish people, the Tories are attempting to deny democracy and destroy devolution.”

Blackford insisted that no prime minister or UK government will be able to force Scotland to stay in the union “against our will”.

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He added: “Denying democracy is a political position that can’t and won’t hold.

“It’s a position that will crumble under the weight of votes in next year’s Scottish election.”

The Westminster leader also issued a call for unity and focus among party members, the day after one of his MPs questioned the handling of internal debates within the party.

In an interview with the Times on Saturday, Joanna Cherry called for an end to the “cult of leader” within the SNP and pushed for a more “collegiate” approach to policy decisions.

Blackford said: “We have all come a long way – and we are now within touching distance of independence. But just as we have travelled all this way together – we can only complete this journey together.

“My message to all of us is this: Keep heart, keep the heid and keep the faith. A new Scotland – fairer, greener and European – is now ours to win.”


Sturgeon refuses to say if she would welcome Salmond back to SNP

A Holyrood committee is investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of allegations against the former first minister.

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SNP: Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to say if she would welcome former first minister Alex Salmond back into the SNP.

She was challenged on the issue as Scotland’s deputy first minister insisted ministers have “not closed the door” on handing MSPs legal advice from the court case Salmond won against the Scottish Government.

A Holyrood committee is investigating the government’s botched handling of allegations against Salmond, and the Scottish Parliament has twice voted for the legal advice to be handed over to the MSPs.

Sturgeon said the committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints inquiry, and a separate investigation into whether she breached the ministerial code, must be allowed to be completed.

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On The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Sturgeon was asked if she would like to see Salmond back in the party.

She responded: “I’m not going to get into these issues today.

“There is a parliamentary inquiry under way, there is an inquiry into my conduct in terms of the ministerial code.

“I think it is important to allow these inquiries to take their course.

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“There are important issues of political scrutiny and accountability, I have no issues with that, but I think it is important to allow those processes under way to take their course.”

Sturgeon succeeded Salmond as SNP leader and First Minister when he stood down after losing the 2014 independence referendum.

But her relationship with her former mentor has since soured, with Salmond successfully challenging the way the Scottish Government handled sexual harassment complaints against him.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that to be “unlawful” and Salmond was awarded more than £500,000.

Meanwhile, deputy first minister John Swinney said “active consideration” is being given to the issue of handing over the legal advice.

He told Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News that it is against the ministerial code for him to release the legal advice other than in exceptional circumstances, and law officers must give their consent.

However he said no decision has yet been taken on the issue.

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He told the programme: “The government’s original position was that we do not release legal advice and no government releases legal advice except in very exceptional circumstances.

“What I’ve said is that we will consider the fact that the Parliament has voted in that way. That consideration is ongoing at the present moment and that work is being undertaken to determine what approach we should take to responding to what Parliament has undertaken.

“So the issue is not closed, it’s very much under active consideration within the Scottish Government and I will be updating Parliament as soon as I’ve got a conclusion on the handling of that issue.”

Asked whether the advice might be published, he replied: “There is a possibility that we might do that because Parliament has asked us to do that and I’m now reflecting on that particular issue.

“At no stage have I closed the door on that issue, I’ve simply set out the fact that ordinarily governments don’t publish their legal advice.”


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