Covid recovery ‘may catapult Scots towards net-zero economy’

The Climate Emergency Response Group has released an eight point plan for Scotland’s green recovery.

Whitelee Wind Farm: The Climate Emergency Response Group has released an eight-point plan. Ian Dick
Whitelee Wind Farm: The Climate Emergency Response Group has released an eight-point plan.

A climate crisis advisory group has released an eight-point plan with practical solutions it says the Scottish Government should bring in to move the country towards a net-zero economy post Covid-19.

The Climate Emergency Response Group (Cerg) said that Scotland’s response to Covid-19 should be seen as a massive opportunity to “catapult and prioritise” a just transition to a green economy creating jobs and improving the country’s health. 

The proposals include retrofitting buildings, a rural jobs creation programme and a green scrappage scheme.

In order to reach a climate neutral economy the report says Scotland needs additional resource investment of around £2bn-£5bn per year between now and 2050.

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The four priority areas are; retrofitting buildings for a net-zero Scotland, a rural jobs creation programme, green enterprise support, and a city and town infrastructure transformation programme.

The four strategies are; unlocking private investment with greater policy certainty, a green scrappage scheme, green future skills and an expanded capital investment stimulus.

Organisations supporting Cerg’s work include the Green Investment Bank, the National Farmers’ Union Scotland, Poverty Alliance, Scottish Council for Development and Industry, Scottish Power, Scottish Renewables, the Scotch Whisky Association, the Woodland Trust Scotland and WWF Scotland.

Commenting on the report, WWF Scotland’s head of policy Fabrice Leveque said: “A decade ago, governments around the world responded to the financial crisis with business as usual with only 16% of the UK stimulus going to clean measures. We’re still reaping the consequences.

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“We need to learn the lessons of the past and build back a better, greener and fairer economy that is resilient to the climate emergency accelerating before our eyes.

“A wealth of evidence shows that steps to make our economy lower carbon can secure jobs and bring other benefits like cleaner air, warmer homes and better health.”

Energy: District heating pipes. Picture by Dmitry G

Climate change secretary Roseanna Cunningham said that following the Covid-19 pandemic there is a “chance to re-imagine” Scotland and build a “greener, fairer and more equal society and economy”.

She added: “The Climate Emergency Response Group has demonstrated previously how collaboration across a range of interests can provide a constructive challenge to government and this report is an important next step in that work.

“I welcome this contribution to our discussions as we work to deliver a green recovery and a just transition to net-zero and, alongside the economy secretary, look forward to meeting with members of Cerg this week to explore the new challenges and opportunities we face in more detail.”

Some measures suggested include getting Scotland up to speed digitally so more people can work from home and save money on transport.

Others include the development of ports infrastructure along the North Sea for offshore and floating wind development.

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In order to help businesses be more environmentally friendly, the report also suggests removing or substantially reducing business rates for subsidy-free solar power.

Some of the report’s recommendations include:

Green Scrappage Scheme

This scrappage scheme would provide a cash grant to businesses who are replacing high carbon equipment with low- or zero-carbon alternatives. This includes farm machinery, old buses and old boilers in commercial properties.

Cities

The report recommends a transformation programme of Scotland’s cities which include the reallocation of road space for pedestrians and cyclists and the expansion to the Scottish eBike Loan. It also recommends an amendment of planning rules to allow food/drink retail to use nearby road space.

It also calls for a review and a re-purpose of public land and buildings to create local community hubs to enable those with childcare or home schooling challenges to go back to work. 

It also wants further investment in new and extended district heating projects to help in the fight against fuel poverty.

Oil and gas

The report puts focus on reskilling and retraining people working in the oil and gas sector to work in areas such as offshore wind and floating wind installation and ongoing maintenance. The establishment of a Renewables Transition Training Fund it says will support oil and gas professionals, supply chain businesses, tradespeople, and public servants to acquire the skills to join the renewable energy industry.

Farming

In agriculture they also say there is also a gap to be filled for more diversified skills such as farmers managing woodlands as well as livestock.

School leavers

For school leavers the report suggests introducing Green Modern Apprenticeships in electric car mechanics for example or as boiler engineers able to service heat pumps. The report suggests a package of measures, including opening new educational opportunities for young people as an alternative to unemployment/underemployment and providing reskilling and retraining opportunities for already established workers. 

Universities

The report also suggest a new requirement for universities and colleges to develop climate skills action plans as a condition of grant funding, such as bursaries ring-fenced to priority climate and green recovery.

In line with just transition values, it says there should be a particular focus on open access courses and those that can be combined with continuing part-time work.

Transport

The reports suggests continuing to bring in zero emission zones that remove fossil fuel vehicles entirely (with minor exemptions) from cities by 2030.

It also calls for scaling up strategic public electric vehicle charging points and for the purchasing of electric vehicles as a public fleet, as well as establishing a publicly owned bus fleet that can be leased to operators. 

Heating

The report also calls for existing government retrofit schemes to be doubled to provide home insulation in an estimated 30,000 properties a year. 

Energy Saving Trust chief executive Mike Thornton said: “Energy efficiency retrofits can be transformative for individual householders, as well as for the economy and the climate on a large scale.

“Thousands of households who have already benefited from warmer, comfier homes will sing their praises.

“The quality of our homes has never mattered more than in lockdown and making them fit for the future can cut emissions today, tackle fuel poverty and create jobs around the country.”

The full report is available to view online here.

Blunder over envelope colour for over 70s vaccine letter

The Scottish Government will now send out white, windowed envelopes after a supply issue for blue ones.

Javier Zayas Photography via Getty Images
Blunder: Blue envelopes swapped for white ones after supply issue.

White envelopes will be used for the first tranche of coronavirus appointments for those aged 70-79 because blue ones were not ready in time, the Scottish Government has announced.

As the inoculation programme moves through priority groups, several health board areas are beginning to send out letters telling those in the age group when they will receive their first dose of the Covid-19 jab.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman urged people to look out for the “very distinctive” blue envelopes, which are being given priority by Royal Mail.

However on Sunday evening the Scottish Government announced that white, windowed envelopes, with a distinctive black NHS logo on the right, will be used as a temporary measure as the blue envelopes are not ready.

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It said the change has no impact on the vaccination programme timetable, with the first appointment letters expected to be delivered on Monday as planned.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The blue envelopes we hoped to use were not ready in time for the first tranche of vaccine appointment invitations so distinctive NHS branded white envelopes are being used as a temporary measure.

“The absolute priority remains the rollout of vaccinations and this temporary change to the envelope colour has absolutely no impact to our timetable.

“We continue to strongly urge everyone in the 70-79 age group to check all their post in the coming weeks and take up the offer of the vaccine when it is received.

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“Patients may receive a phone call invitation from their local health board as part of the appointment process and all patients aged 75-79 in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will be invited via phone. ”

A new booking system is also being used by several health boards to schedule appointments for patients in order of priority.

Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Lothian are among the NHS boards which will use the system.

The Scottish Government has said they are on track for all those aged 80 and over to have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of the first week in February.

This age group will not receive a blue envelope as they are being contacted by telephone or another form of letter.

Ms Freeman said: “I would urge everyone to take up their appointment when they are offered one.

“The vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow.

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“All these measures work to greatest effect when they work together.”

Temperatures set to fall after yellow alert for snow and ice

The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning from 4pm on Sunday to 11am on Monday.

Carlos G. Lopez via Getty Images

Temperatures could fall as low as -13C following a yellow alert for snow and ice across parts of Scotland. 

The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning from 4pm on Sunday to 11am on Monday. 

The worst affected areas will be in the Northern Isles, Moray, parts of Aberdeenshire, the Highlands and the west coast including Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.

Drivers have been warned that the wintry weather could affect the roads.

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STV weather presenter Philip Petrie said temperatures could drop as low as -13C on Monday night – the coldest night of the winter so far. 

He said: ”On Saturday night temperatures dropped to lows of -11.4C in Dalwhinnie, which meant that on Sunday temperatures were slow to rise during the day with many areas struggling to get above freezing. 

“Once again on Sunday night we see widespread frost developing for many central and eastern parts thanks to clear skies and dry conditions, but with further wintry showers expected to move in from the west overnight there is a risk that the rain hitting the frozen ground will turn to ice – possibly causing some travel disruptions through Monday morning. 

“The worst affected areas will be the Northern Isles, Moray, the north of Aberdeenshire, the Highlands stretching down the western side of the country down to Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Dumbartonshire.

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“After an initially showery start to the day on Monday, the showers will fizzle out through the evening leaving another dry and clear night – giving the potential for our coldest night of the winter so far. Back at the start of January temperatures reached a low of -12.3C in Loch Glascarnoch, but on Monday night there is the potential for temperatures to drop to -13C.”


Boy, 12, struck by train in critical condition in hospital

The boy was hit by a train at Prestwick Town railway station in South Ayrshire on Saturday night.

© Google Maps 2020
Boy was hit by train at Prestwick Town railway station.

A 12-year-old boy is in a critical condition in hospital after being struck by a train at a railway station in South Ayrshire.

The boy, who was not on the tracks at any point, was hit at Prestwick Town railway station just after 7.20pm on Saturday night.

He was taken by ambulance to hospital, where he remains in a critical conditon.

British Transport Police (BTP) officers say the incident is being treated as an accident and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

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BTP said in a statement: “Last night (Saturday 23 January 2021) at just after 7.20pm, BTP Officers were called to Prestwick Town Railway Station, South Ayrshire, after reports of a 12-year-old boy being struck by a train.

“Colleagues from Police Scotland also attended.   The Scottish Ambulance Service took the young man to hospital where he remains in a critical condition.  

“The incident is currently being treated as an accident.  If you have any information about this incident, please contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 432 of 23/1/2021.”


Women rescued from Ben Lomond charged with Covid breach

Two women charged in connection with culpable and reckless conduct after needing assistance from emergency services.

G Kelly & S Tinley via Lomond Mountain Rescue Team (@LomondMRT)
Two women were rescued from summit of Ben Lomond.

Two women have been charged with breaching coronavirus restrictions after being rescued from Ben Lomond in Stirlingshire.

The women, in their twenties, had travelled from Fife to go walking but needed to phone for help after getting into difficulty in poor weather on Saturday afternoon.

Lomond Mountain Rescue Team and emergency services assisted the two walkers from near the summit of Ben Lomond to the foot of the mountains by around 6.30pm.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers were called to assist Mountain Rescue partners on Ben Lomond at around 2pm on Saturday, 23 January, 2021 after two female walkers requested assistance to descend the hill in deteriorating weather conditions.

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“The women were assisted and walked off the hill and both uninjured. They have been charged in connection with culpable and reckless conduct.”

G Kelly & S Tinley via Lomond Mountain Rescue Team (@LomondMRT)

Coronavirus travel restrictions are in place across the whole of mainland Scotland – meaning people should only leave their homes for an essential purpose, including caring responsibilities, essential shopping, exercise and being part of an extended household.

Sturgeon will ‘refute’ allegations of misleading parliament

First Minister says she doesn't accept claims made by her predecessor Alex Salmond that she broke the ministerial code.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon says she doesn't accept claims made by Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will refute accusations she misled the Scottish Parliament – a claim made by her predecessor as first minister Alex Salmond – when she appears before a committee of MSPs.

Asked about Salmond’s claims on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, she said: “I don’t accept that and I will refute that vigorously.”

Sturgeon said she had hoped to appear before the Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints this coming week, but her appearance had been delayed by a “couple of weeks”.

She said: “I will sit before that committee and I will set out my account of what happened, given the very difficult situation that I faced, and people can make their own judgements on that.”

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Salmond has claimed that his successor as First Minister misled MSPs with “false and manifestly untrue” statements about when she first knew of sexual harassment allegations against him.

But Sturgeon said she does not believe she lied to parliament and Deputy First Minister John Swinney says she will use her appearance before the inquiry to dispel the “absolute nonsense” put forward by her predecessor.

Sturgeon initially told Holyrood she first heard of complaints of sexual misconduct against Salmond when they met at her home on April 2, 2018.

It later emerged she had a meeting with Salmond’s chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, in her Holyrood office four days earlier.

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The SNP leader told the Scottish Parliament committee she “forgot” about that encounter.

Asked by Marr if Salmond was “spinning false conspiracy theories”, Sturgeon said: “What I certainly reflect on is that at times I appear to be simultaneously accused of colluding with Mr Salmond to somehow cover up accusations of sexual harassment on the one hand.

“And then on the other hand, being part of some dastardly conspiracy to bring him down.

“Neither of those are true.”

She continued: “I, at the time I became aware of all of this, just tried hard not to interfere with what was going on and not to do anything that would see these swept aside rather than properly investigated.”

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had made “mistakes” in its handling of the complaints, which would be the subject of the Holyrood committee’s inquiry.

More than 23,000 given coronavirus vaccine in last 24 hours

The First Minister said on Sunday that 95% of care home residents have now been given the vaccine.

Paul Biris via Getty Images
Covid: Vaccine roll out continues across Scotland.

More than 23,000 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in the last 24 hours, figures have shown.

On Sunday, the latest figures showed 404,038 people have received their first coronavirus vaccination, an increase of 23,371 since Saturday.

The figures also stated that 5383 people have received their second dose.

It follows comments made by the First Minister on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, during which she said 95% of care home residents have now been vaccinated.

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Nicola Sturgeon said: “We took a deliberate decision in line with JCVI advice to focus initially on vaccinating older residents of care homes.”

She continued: “I heard Matt Hancock on the programme earlier say that about three quarters of care home residents in England had been vaccinated, in Scotland that figure right now is 95% of care home residents.”

The First Minister said this approach was more “resource intensive” and Scotland was now “rapidly catching up” on vaccinating over-80s in the community.

She added: “We’re all working to the same targets, overall I think we will see that we all are making good progress through this vaccination programme.”

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Sunday’s figures released by the Scottish Government stated there were 1195 new cases of Covid-19 reported, with 2011 in hospital with the virus.

Of that number, 157 people were in intensive care, a decrease of two from Saturday.

The total number of deaths after confirmed coronavirus in Scotland now stands at 5705 after one death was reported on Sunday.

Reported deaths from coronavirus are typically lower on weekends as register offices are usually closed.


Former postie set to enter charts with viral sea shanty hit

Nathan Evans' sea shanty Wellerman is on course to be the highest new entry on the Official Singles Chart.

PA Media via PA Ready
Nathan Evans has signed a record deal with Polydor Records.

Postman Nathan Evans is poised to enter the top ten on the Official Singles Chart with his viral sea shanty Wellerman.

The song, which has been a smash hit on TikTok, is set to be the highest new entry on the chart, according to the official first look, based on preliminary sales and early streaming reports.

Evans, 26, from Airdrie, Scotland, has quit his job as a postman after kick-starting a new viral craze of sea-shantying on TikTok, dubbed ShantyTok, and signing a record deal with Polydor Records.

Evans previously told the PA news agency: “Back in the day when the shanties were sung, it was to bring everybody together, to keep them all in time, to keep the morale high.

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“Especially in this time when everybody’s stuck at home, they’re doing their remote working – they can join in, and it kind of brings everybody together.

“So I think it’s just kind of brought it into this day and age. It makes it feel like you’re all united. Especially seeing how creative everybody can be with it.”

Wellerman is a cover of Bristol group The Longest Johns’ 2018 song, which also entered the Official Top 40 just last week, debuting at Number 37.

Evans has released his own take on the shanty, plus a dance remix produced by 220 Kid and Billen Ted, which is tipped to enter the charts at number four.

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Wellerman is the most downloaded song of the week so far, two days into the tracking week, the Official Charts Company said.

The Official Chart: First Look, which aired on BBC Radio 1 on Sunday evening, offers a first glance of the top 20 ahead of Friday’s Official Singles Chart Top 100.

Olivia Rodrigo, 17, is poised to spend a third week in the top spot with her smash hit Drivers License.

Teenage girl sexually assaulted at city park

Seventeen-year-old girl was attacked at Tollcross Park in the east end of Glasgow on Saturday night.

© Google Maps 2020
Teenager was sexually assaulted inside Tollcross Park.

A teenage girl was sexually assaulted inside a Glasgow park on Saturday night.

The 17-year-old was attacked at Tollcross Park, in the city’s east end, between 9pm and 11pm.

Police Scotland said: “Police are investigating a report of a 17-year-old girl being sexually assaulted within Tollcross Park, Glasgow, between 9pm and 11pm on Saturday, 23 January, 2021.

“Enquiries are at an early stage to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.”

Burns in the Covid era: Tributes to National Bard go virtual

Traditional gatherings are unable to take place this year so Robert Burns' birthday is being celebrated online instead.

Bachelors of Tarbowton

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!

The immortal words of Scotland’s National Bard – reverberating around the world this year like never before as thousands log-on to celebrate virtual Burns Night suppers.

Traditional gatherings – filled with poetry, song and whisky – are unable to take place in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But that hasn’t stopped Scots raising a glass and celebrating the life of Robert Burns on his birthday.

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And the University of Glasgow has set out to chronicle the many Burns Suppers taking place online in Scotland and across the globe in 2021.

A research project led by academics from the university includes an interactive world map – featuring 2500 Burns suppers across five continents and giving an inventory of their menus, settings, entertainment and orders of ceremony.

It is the broadest, most detailed record of Burns Night activities ever made by the university’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies.

Researchers are calling on Scots to join in their #VirtualBurnsNight – by posting photos and videos of their event on social media – to help expand the map and their research project even further.

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Dr Paul Malgati, a research assistant on The Burns Supper in History and Today project at the University of Glasgow, said: “This January is an unprecedented moment in the 220-year long history of Burns Night.

“We’re expecting to see thousands of people tuning into hundreds of Burns celebrations held virtually all over the world.

“At the University of Glasgow, we’ve just released a giant world map of Burns suppers and we’ll be following this year’s situation very closely.

“We have already sent out invitations to join us for our #VirtualBurnsNight 2021 to 2000 addresses, across more than 140 countries.

“These include Scottish societies, pipe bands, Burns clubs, Scottish country dance group, rotary clubs, British embassies, libraries, museums, schools and universities, which all hosted a Burns Supper or a Burns Night celebration in recent years.

“Considering the effects of the global pandemic, we realised that by bringing together all our contacts, we had a unique opportunity to hold a substantial, virtual event, making up for the cancellation of many Burns suppers across the world.”

The University of Glasgow says it is estimated that more than nine-and-a-half million people around the world take part in a Burns Supper every year.

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This year’s project will be part of the celebrations to mark the 220th anniversary of the first Burns Supper – held in Burns Cottage, Alloway on July 21, 1801, commemorating the date of the bard’s passing rather than his birth.

One group that has already celebrated Burns Night virtually is the Ayrshire-based Bachelors of Tarbowton, who live-streamed their celebrations on Zoom.

Organiser Cameron Goodall said people tuned in from countries across the world, including the United States and New Zealand.

He said: “Because our Burns Club is made up of very serious Burns people, we traditionally have our suppers very late – typically around March.

“We usually have to go that late to ensure everyone will be available. Most are the backbone of several Burns Suppers around Scotland.

“We already had to forego our 2020 Burns Supper and we had rescheduled at that stage for the end of 2020. As it became clear even that was going to be impossible I started seriously looking at Zoom to enable us to get together as a group. 

“We managed a dress rehearsal, of sorts, to coincide with St Andrew’s Day and I wanted to let the world at large get a peek under the curtain, as it were.”

Cameron said he decided to live-stream their Zoom Burns Night on YouTube, adding that such a move was not without its teething problems.

“A few of our members are still somewhat challenged by technology but we still managed to have a grand night,” he said.

“Our suppers at The Bachelors Club would usually last about five hours and our online one was only a half-hour short of that, but it’s since been edited down to a slightly more manageable three hours!”

Some of the biggest Burns Night suppers are taking place right here in Scotland. Here are the details of some of the major online events planned this year:

  • WORLD’S BIGGEST BURNS – Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus, a charity that supports people with spina bifida, hydrocephalus and related conditions, says it is hosting the “world’s biggest Burns Supper”. The celebration, taking place on Monday at 7pm, features comedy from Fred MacAulay and music from Travis frontman Fran Healy.
  • BURNS&BEYOND – Burns&Beyond is a free programme of events and performances running across Burns weekend. It features a series of online music performances, poetry and even a cocktail-making class.
  • BIG BURNS SUPPER – Hosted by comedian Janey Godley, an online broadcast featuring musicians, comedians, actors, aerialists and historians from across the world. The event will be broadcast from 7pm on January 25 via Facebook.

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