Climate protesters interrupt first FMQs of the year

Proceedings were disrupted twice by hecklers in the gallery, who were led away by police.

FMQs: Jackson Carlaw interrupted by climate activist.
FMQs: Jackson Carlaw interrupted by climate activist.

First Minister’s Questions got off to a rowdy start in 2020 as the first session of the decade was interrupted by climate protesters.

Proceedings were disrupted twice by hecklers in the public gallery as Nicola Sturgeon faced party leaders and MSPs on Thursday.

The first intervention happened near the beginning of FMQs, as Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw rose to respond to the First Minister.

A man could be heard asking about North Sea oil and gas extraction, shouting: “Will the planet crash and burn? Will my grandchildren have a future?”

Activist group Extinction Rebellion said on social media that the protester was a former North Sea worker.

In the chamber, Carlaw responded: “As always, whilst it’s not something I encourage, I always defend the right of people to express a view if they have the opportunity to do so.”

Later in the session, presiding officer Ken Macintosh briefly suspended proceedings due to a further interruption as Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie was set to ask a question.

The activists were removed from parliament by police.

Issues around climate loomed large in the first FMQs of the year, with Harvie quizzing Sturgeon on improving public transport, while Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie grilled the FM on her government’s position on Heathrow expansion.

In the summer, Extinction Rebellion activists set up a week-long protest camp outside the Scottish Parliament demanding “radical action” to tackle the climate crisis.

The group, which became well known after large-scale civil disobedience in London, says the Scottish Government aim to become net-zero by 2045 are insufficient, calling instead for a target of 2025.

Six more patients die from coronavirus in Scotland

The death toll in Scotland from Covid-19 now stands at 47.

Getty Images
A total of 47 people have died from coronavirus in Scotland.

Another six people have died from coronavirus overnight, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

It brings the Scottish death toll from Covid-19 to 47.

The number of confirmed positive cases in Scotland stands at 1563 – up 179 from Sunday.

However, the chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood repeated her assertion that the number of cases was a “very significant underestimate”.

A total of 108 patients are currently in intensive care, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said during a briefing in Edinburgh.

She also said a number of screening programmes were being suspended to ease pressure on the NHS.

The pause on breast, bowel and cervical tests will be reviewed in 12 weeks. However, Dr Calderwood said anyone with worrying symptoms should still contact their GP and would be seen as soon as possible.

Sturgeon said the decision “was not taken lightly” and was based on recommendations from the chief medical officer Dr Calderwood and NHS National Services Scotland.

The First Minister said the move would “maximise the ability of the NHS to cope in the coming weeks”.

Dr Calderwood said screening for pregnant women and for newborn babies would continue as normal.

More on:

SEC in Glasgow turned into hospital for coronavirus patients

The First Minister confirmed the move on Monday after military figures had been seen at the centre last week.

The SEC in Glasgow will be transformed into a temporary hospital to provide extra capacity during the coronavirus crisis.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the move at the Scottish Parliament on Monday during a briefing on the outbreak.

She said the SEC Centre could become operational as a hospital within a fortnight.

The site will initially provide the NHS with 300 additional beds, but has the capacity for more than 1000 patients.

She said: “It’s important to be clear that we might not need to use the exhibition centre.

“There are currently approximately 13,000 beds in NHS hospitals across Scotland, and using those NHS boards are working to ensure at least 3000 beds are available for Covid-19 patients within our existing hospital network.”

The NHS is currently working to quadruple its intensive care unit capacity to 700.

The First Minister said those steps, along with the continued public response to the Scottish Government’s advice to stay at home, will be enough to ensure that “we have the beds we need”.

However, she added: “But our judgement, my judgement, is that it makes sense for us to act now to increase hospital capacity further.

“Preparing the Scottish Exhibition Centre as a hospital is the best option for doing that.”

The Scottish Event Campus (SEC), based on the Clyde, includes the SEC Centre, SEC Armadillo and the SSE Hydro.

Peter Duthie, chief executive of the SEC, said: “As we navigate the most significant challenge of our generation, we are proud to be in a position to help our NHS with an alternative hospital provision. 

“Our teams will support the NHS in the build, security and safe operation of the resource, and continue to express our sincere gratitude for all that they are doing to fight Covid-19.”

Military figures had been seen at the SEC on Thursday, with the Army confirming the site was being earmarked as a potential location for a NHS field hospital.

An Army spokesman said: “We were on site to advise NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government on the potential for a NHS Scotland facility at the SEC.”

Earlier, Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said several sites were being considered across the country as Scotland is “on the cusp of that rapid escalation” in Covid-19 cases.

During Monday’s briefing, the First Minister confirmed the number of deaths in Scotland linked to coronavirus had risen to 47.

Coronavirus updates as they happened – Monday, March 30

Latest updates as they happen while Scotland is on 'lockdown' to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Getty Images

Summary

  • SEC in Glasgow to be transformed into coronavirus hospital
  • Six more patients died overnight – bringing the total to 47
  • NHS screening programmes to be suspended
  • A huge nationwide volunteering campaign is being launched
  • Breathing aid developed to keep patients out intensive care
  • Prince Charles out of self-isolation at home in Aberdeenshire

As it happended

More on:

Police fine 25 people for gathering in public places

It comes after images on social media showed people flouting the restrictions including at Strathclyde Country Park in Motherwell.

Police Scotland
Police: Officers issued 25 fixed penalties over the weekend.

Police Scotland issued 25 fixed penalty notices over the weekend to people flouting the regulations introduced in a bid to stop people from spreading coronavirus in public places.

The new powers in the Coronavirus Act make it a criminal offence to flout the public health guidance on social distancing to prevent Covid-19.

On-the-spot fines of £30 can be issued to people who breach social distancing measures, rising to £60 if they are not paid within 28 days and capped at £960 for repeat offenders.

Deputy chief constable Malcolm Graham said despite the small number of cases where fines were issued, the vast majority of the public were complying with the new regulations.

Mr Graham said: “We’ve had high-visibility patrols right across the country since we were given these enforcement powers and it’s clear that the vast majority of people are complying with the measures that are in place.

“We issued 25 fixed penalty notices across Scotland over the course of Saturday and Sunday and I think that is strong evidence of how these extraordinary powers have had an impact in such a short space of time with communities across Scotland.

“We’ve also received a significant number of calls, firstly from people asking how do we comply with these regulations and, secondly, reporting people they felt were breaching them.

“We responded to those calls to make sure we could again explain why it was important, encourage people to comply with them, and in those very small number of occasions use the enforcement powers that we’ve got where that very small minority of people just refuse to comply with what is required.

“There was broadly three situations that happened in. We had a number of house parties still going on; we were called to attend, and people refused to break those up, then notices could be issued.

“We had groups of people outside and again, if people have refused to comply, that was some of the circumstances, and in a very small number of cases we issued fixed penalty notices to businesses that were still operating where it was not appropriate that they should continue to given the regulations that are in place.”

Mr Graham’s comments come after images on social media showed dozens of cars at Strathclyde Country Park in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, on Sunday.

Although the guidelines allow people to take a walk as a form of exercise each day, Mr Graham said the public were still getting used to what the measures mean for daily life.

He added: “We’re working with local authorities and other bodies that run open spaces. People have been encouraged to go out and exercise, it’s very clear it’s taking a little bit of time for people to work out how this is going to operate.

“It’s such a significant change in everybody’s lives. This was made very clear last week by the chief constable – we’re going to do this through policing in Scotland as we always do.

“Engaging with communities, policing by consent and making sure that we do that in a courteous and respectful manner to keep the population safe.

“Of course everybody’s getting to grips with these changes that have come in so quickly.

“If there are repeated instances then the penalties rise very quickly and we’ll see if that has an impact.

“And of course, if people refuse to comply once they’ve been issued with a penalty notice, then a criminal offence has been committed and people can be arrested.”

More on:

‘We value you’: McAvoy sends message to NHS workers

Actor James McAvoy has urged members of the public to join him in donating money to Masks for NHS Heroes.

Getty Images
McAvoy: Donated £275,000 to NHS staff.

James McAvoy has said that he wanted to “start a conversation” so that NHS frontline workers who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic are aware of how much they are valued by the public.

The Hollywood star, who donated £275,000 to a campaign to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for health service staff, urged members of the public to follow suit and donate as much as they could to the crowdfunding initiative Masks For NHS Heroes.

X-Men actor McAvoy told Good Morning Britain: “One of the main reasons I wanted to give money, and why I upped the amount of money, was not just to get PPE across there, which is so important, but secondarily I’d say it was more to show a sign of support to the frontline staff.

“I’ve heard that morale is incredibly low and they’re feeling exposed and vulnerable and like they haven’t been supported properly.

‘I’ve heard that morale is incredibly low and they’re feeling exposed and vulnerable and like they haven’t been supported properly.’

James McAvoy

“They’ve got to protect their families, and I just wanted to help start a conversation that says to the NHS, we value you so much.

“They’ve saved my life and the lives of my family multiple times, and they probably will be doing it at some point in the near future again, so please please please know we value you.”

Glaswegian actor McAvoy, 40, described Covid-19 as “an invisible enemy that (NHS frontline staff) are fighting every day on our behalf”.

He said: “It’s an absolute war zone and we’re asking them to go and fight that war with no weaponry, no armour, and I’m sure it’s going to get fixed in the coming weeks and months, but in that interim, what is happening right now, the threats that they face and the threat of them passing it onto their patients and their patients’ families is huge, so you know every day that goes by without the correct PPE is an opportunity lost to save someone’s life.

“The sooner that we can get PPE in there, even donating £10, that might mean you might potentially save a life because you provided essential PPE to a healthcare provider in this essentially important time to get it done.”

He added: “These incredible doctors that have set this amazing initiative up, you can give money to that, but I think also we’ve got to protect those incredible doctors and surgeons and porters and the lady that fills the vending machine at the hospital, and we’ve got to protect all of those people by staying indoors, we’ve got to protect all of those people by social distancing and by taking it seriously, and I think people are starting to take it more seriously.”

The campaign Masks For NHS Heroes was set up by a group of four doctors, and has raised more than £900,000 so far.

Their mission is to “purchase certified PPE to donate directly to the NHS front line and protect staff and patients”.

Dr Mona Barzin, one of those behind the campaign, told the programme that McAvoy’s donation has helped them to raise a larger amount than they first thought.

She said: “We thought we’d get a small amount of donations, then James gave us his first initial amount, which was also incredible, but then he upped it and it took us to a completely different level.”

McAvoy also discussed how those in the acting community are feeling amid the pandemic, which has seen the UK and other countries put in a lockdown-style situation to adhere to social distancing measures.

He said: “A friend of mine, whilst we were social distancing, he came to borrow something and I chucked it out the window of our flat.

“I said, ‘How you doing, man?’ and he said, ‘You know it’s great, I’ve got no anxiety about my career, right now I’ve got the exact same career as Benedict Cumberbatch.”

Donations can be made at: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/masks4nhsheroes

More on:

Coronavirus: Cancer screening programmes suspended

A number of elective surgeries - including knee and hip replacements - have also been cancelled.

Getty Images
Coronavirus: Several NHS screening programmes have been suspended.

Several NHS screening programmes have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As well as screenings for breast, cervical and bowel cancer, a number of elective surgeries – such as knee and hip replacements – have also been cancelled to create more capacity within Scotland’s hospitals for Covid-19 patients.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the move at the Scottish Parliament on Monday during a briefing on the outbreak.

She said the “difficult” decision “was not taken lightly” and was based on recommendations from the chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood and NHS National Services Scotland.

The First Minister said the move would “maximise the ability of the NHS to cope in the coming weeks”.

She added: “It’s not an easy decision, I want to repeat that, but the balance of risk supports the approach that we are taking.”

Screening for pregnant women and for newborn babies will continue as normal.

Meanwhile, those that detect any symptoms of the conditions that are normally screened for are being urged to contact their GP immediately.

The First Minister stated: “We will restart the screening programmes that we have paused as soon as we can.

“This is a temporary suspension and it will be reviewed after 12 weeks or earlier if evidence suggests that restarting the programme is feasible.

“However at this moment, pausing these programmes is an important way of allowing the NHS to deal effectively with the impact of Covid-19.”

Six further people in Scotland diagnosed with coronavirus have died, taking the total to 47.

The number of confirmed positive cases stands at 1563 – up 179 from Sunday.

To provide extra capacity during the Covid-19 crisis, the SEC Centre in Glasgow will be transformed into a temporary hospital.

It is expected to become operational within the next two weeks and will initially provide the NHS with 300 beds, but has the capacity for more than 1000 patients.

Responding the announcement Tom Berry, Head of Scotland at Breast Cancer Now, the research and care charity, said: “The difficult decision to suspend breast screening in Scotland in light of the coronavirus outbreak may cause significant concern for many women and we now need to do all we can to support them through the coming months. This is not a decision that will have been taken lightly, but it is a necessary step in both limiting the risk of infection for women of screening age and helping free up emergency resource for the NHS to respond to the crisis.

“Until this vital service is able to resume, we would encourage women not to be alarmed but to check their breasts regularly, and to report any unusual changes to their GP. Anyone concerned about not being able to attend breast screening can call our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000. Our expert nurses are always just at the end of the telephone line.”

Firefighters tackle large blaze near Arthur’s Seat

Smoke can be seen billowing from the fire at the popular Edinburgh beauty spot.

Arthur's Seat: Large blaze.

Firefighters are tackling a large blaze near Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

Smoke can be seen billowing from the fire with two fire engines and three police cars are in attendance.

At this stage it is unknown how the fire was started.

A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We are currently in attendance at a fire in the open at Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh.

“Two appliances are on scene and crews are working to make the area safe.”


Driver dies after crashing into bin and parked car

The 56-year-old man’s car collided with the large bin and silver Ford Fiesta at 'low speed' in Edinburgh.

Google 2020
Edinburgh: The crash happened on Spottiswoode Road on Sunday.

A driver has died after crashing into a bin and parked car in an Edinburgh street.

The 56-year-old man collided with the large bin and silver Ford Fiesta at “low speed” on Spottiswoode Road in Marchmont at around 9.20pm on Sunday.

Two members of the public found the man in his car and administered first aid until the arrival of paramedics.

He was then taken by ambulance to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where it was confirmed he had died. No one else was injured in the crash.

The road was closed for almost two hours for investigation works.

The man’s family has been made aware and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Inspector Roger Park said: “Officers are carrying out enquiries at the moment to trace a route for the car prior to the collision.

“However, we would be keen to hear from anyone who has not already spoken to officers, who saw the car in Spottiswoode Road prior to the crash, or anyone with information that may assist with the enquiry.”

If you have any information, call 101.


Billy McNeill’s daughter appeals for help to find missing son

Matthew McCombe, 21, disappeared in Amsterdam during the early hours of March 14.

Missing: Matthew McCombe, 21, disappeared in Amsterdam more than two weeks ago.

The daughter of late Hoops legend Billy McNeill has made an emotional appeal to the club’s “Celtic family” for help in tracing her missing son.

Matthew McCombe, 21, disappeared in Amsterdam during the early hours of March 14.

After leaving a Novotel in the city, he was last seen at 8.15am on the Berlagebrug bridge heading east.

Posting on the Billy McNeill Commemoration Committee Facebook page, his mum, Paula McCombe, said: “I’m reaching out to you, the Celtic family, begging for your help to find my son, Matthew McCombe. 

“He has been missing in Amsterdam for over two weeks now and we are desperate to find him and bring him home. Our hearts are broken.”

I am the daughter of Billy McNeill.I'm reaching out to you, the Celtic family, begging for your help to find my son,…

Posted by Billy McNeill Commemoration Committee on Sunday, 29 March 2020

Ms McCombe, who previously asked for businesses and residents in the Amsteldijk area to save their CCTV footage, asked for her post to be shared far and wide.

She added: “Words cannot explain how desperate we are to find our son. Please, please help us.”

Celtic previously issued an appeal for help.

Posting a picture online, the club stated: “Celtic FC great Billy McNeill’s grandson, Matthew McCombe, 21, is currently missing in Amsterdam.

“Have you seen Matthew? Please share this, it may reach someone who has.”

You're up to date

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