Cruise cancelled as Scottish travel plans remain ‘unclear’

After more than a year of no sailing, hundreds of passengers were due to leave Scotland to visit the Norwegian fjords.

Cruise operator Fred Olsen said the crew and support team had been working hard towards the return to service. Smitt via IStock
Cruise operator Fred Olsen said the crew and support team had been working hard towards the return to service.

A 1350-guest cruise ship due to depart from Rosyth on a scenic tour of the Norwegian fjords has been cancelled because the Scottish Government has yet to confirm plans for the return of international travel.

After more than a year of no sailing, the Balmoral was scheduled to take passengers on the five-night trip at the end of July, but it had to be called off amid the uncertainty.

Operator Fred Olsen said the crew and support team had been working hard towards the return to service, but that a date for the restart of cruising from Scotland had yet to be agreed by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish travel taskforce met on Tuesday afternoon but industry representatives said there was no confirmation of plans for the tourism industry but that a final sign-off by ministers was expected next week – after the election.

‘It can’t be on any four-nations basis, it has got to be on the right four-nations basis. I will not go along with something… if it is something I don’t think is in the interests of Scotland.’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
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Edinburgh Airport warned that if Scotland was to lag behind the rest of the UK and Europe then there would be significant job losses across the country as a result.

Passengers who had booked the Norwegian Fjords cruise on the Balmoral received emails from Fred Olsen apologising for the cancellation.

It read: “It takes months of meticulous planning and organising for us to successfully bring each ship back into service and I am afraid to say, with such uncertainty, we have no choice but to take the difficult and deeply disappointing decision to cancel our summer departures from Rosyth this year.

“I am sincerely sorry to be the bearer of this bad news as I am sure you were looking forward to joining Balmoral for closer-to-home cruises this summer.”

‘We will continue with our restart plans… with a view to bringing Balmoral back into service a little later than originally planned.’

Peter Deer, Fred Olsen managing director
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Peter Deer, the cruise operator’s managing director, said they had a programme detailing the phased return to sailing with dates starting in England on July 5, followed by the Balmoral’s departure from Rosyth on July 28.

He told STV News: “However, with the Scottish Government yet to confirm their plans for the resumption of travel it is still unclear whether it will be possible to operate our sailings from Rosyth.

“We know that the excitement in the build up to a holiday is a big part of the experience, and we want our guests to be able to look forward to their cruises with us with peace of mind.

“As a result, we will continue with our restart plans for new ships Borealis and Bolette, with a view to bringing Balmoral back into service a little later than originally planned, once we have more clarity on the ‘green list’ countries and where we will be able to sail from and to.”

The UK Government announced that non-essential trips abroad from England will get the go-ahead from May 17, but there has been no indication the same will apply in Scotland where a ban remains in place due to Covid-19.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the 12 countries and territories on the green list of the traffic light system on Friday evening

Those travelling to green list countries will not need to isolate on their return but are expected to have to be tested before and after the trip.

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Travellers from England can visit Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, the Faroe Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Ascension Island.

Turkey, Nepal and the Maldives were added to the red list of countries meaning, from next Wednesday, those returning from there will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days at the cost of £1,750.

The Scottish Government’s position on international travel is expected to considered at the next review of coronavirus restrictions and announced next Tuesday.

During a debate between party leaders on the BBC this week, Nicola Sturgeon said she would prefer a UK-wide approach to the easing of travel restrictions but said they would not be relaxed if it was not in Scotland’s interests.

She said: “It can’t be on any four-nations basis, it has got to be on the right four-nations basis.

“I will not go along with something… if it is something I don’t think is in the interests of Scotland.”

Nicola Sturgeon to give Covid update as Army called in to help NHS

More than a thousand people are in Scottish hospitals with recently confirmed coronavirus.

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The Ministry of Defence confirmed it had been requested to support to deal with a crisis in ambulance waiting times.

The First Minister will give an update on the state of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland as the Army is called in to ease pressure on the NHS.

Nicola Sturgeon will speak in parliament on Tuesday afternoon as more than 1000 people remain in hospitals across the country with Covid-19.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed it had been asked to help deal with a crisis in ambulance waiting times.

A total of 1088 people were in hospital on Sunday with recently confirmed Covid-19, a rise of 14 overnight, with 97 patients in intensive care.

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With a shortage of beds and ambulances queueing up across the west of Scotland, closing the NHS Louisa Jordan, Scotland’s temporary emergency critical care hospital, may be “one of the worst decisions” made during the pandemic, a GP has said.

“You’ve got an NHS that works, before the pandemic, at maximum capacity, then when you suddenly have the crisis of a global pandemic, you don’t have sufficient beds,” Dr John Montgomery told STV News.

Sturgeon apologised to people who had endure long waits for ambulances, including the family of 65-year-old Gerard Brown, the Glasgow man who died while waiting 40 hours for treatment.

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, shadow cabinet secretary for health and an NHS doctor, said he saw double the amount of patients he would normally have seen in pre-pandemic times last week.

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Children in Scotland aged between 12 and 15-year-olds are now being offered one dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine as drop-in clinics opened on Monday.

Next week, letters will be sent to all children in the age group inviting them to an appointment.

Sturgeon is expected to give her update at around 2.20pm in Holyrood.


Hotel engulfed by ‘extensive’ fire with major road closed

The blaze at the Taynuilt Inn was reported just after 5am on Tuesday.

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Taynuilt Inn

An “extensive” fire has engulfed a hotel near Oban with emergency services closing the A85 as they tackle the blaze.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was alerted to the fire at the Taynuilt Inn at 5.05am on Tuesday.

Local police said the A85 would be shut for some time and urged drivers to find an alternative route.

Three appliances were deployed to tackle the flames with firefighters still on the scene hours later.

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The Inn has recently been refurbished having come under new ownership.

An Oban Police spokesperson said: “Due to an extensive fire the A85 at Taynuilt will be shut for some time. Please find an alternative route”


Dementia patients rediscover zest for life through music

Health and social care workers urged to consider personalised playlists for people living with dementia.

STV News

Carol Tapper says she hit rock bottom when she was diagnosed with early onset dementia.

The 55-year-old thought she was dying and couldn’t stop crying.

But thanks to the power of music she has now done all her ‘greeting’ and is enjoying life again.

Carol is an ambassador for the charity Playlist for Life, which encourages people diagnosed with dementia to create unique, personal music playlists to boost their mood and evoke happy memories.

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“You’ve no idea how happy it makes me,” she told STV News.

“I don’t need to think about anything, I don’t need to remember I’ve got dementia, I can just put my playlist on and I’m singing and dancing.

“It’s made a massive difference to my life.”

Now, on World Alzheimer’s Day, Playlist for Life is calling for health and social care workers to learn how to swap medicine for music to support people living with dementia.

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The charity is working with carers and nurses to encourage the use of personalised playlists with residents and patients living with dementia.

It says staff at one care home near Glasgow using the playlists reported a 60% reduction in the use of medication to calm anxiety for those with the condition.

And that’s something Carol, who is cared for by her husband Malcolm in Carnwath, South Lanarkshire, can relate to.

She said: “I’ve got songs from when I was at primary school and I’ve got songs from my first ever big disco, and right through to my daughter Heather’s first concert, taking her to see the Spice Girls, and all our wedding songs.

“Honestly, it’s such a wonderful thing, it makes you so happy. I’ve got my playlist in my earphones and I can take it out to my shed, Malcolm has built me a pink shed, and I take it out to the shed and I do my art and just sing my heart out.”

STV News
Malcolm and Carol Tapper.

Malcolm, who became depressed while caring for Carol, has made his own playlist and says the initiative has breathed new life into their relationship.

“Carol was very down before we had the playlist,” he said.

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“She just went into a world of her own and we lost a lot of our conversations, it was very difficult to have a conversation with Carol because all I was getting back was one-word answers.

“But as soon as we got the playlist put in, and the memory book as well. We’ve only been married 17 years, so Carol’s got a lot of memories I don’t know anything about, the memory book is for me.

“When the music starts I can then start a conversation about that particular memory and Carol, just like that, comes to life, it’s a lightbulb moment, and for me the playlist is the closest thing for a cure to dementia that you’re going to get.

“If she didn’t have a playlist she would have gone into a deep depression.”

Power of music

Working with care homes, NHS wards and higher education institutions across the UK, Playlist for Life trains health and social care teams to use music as the first line of treatment before medication.

Michelle Armstrong-Surgenor, executive director of Playlist for Life, said the power of music in helping dementia patients was never more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “Everyone has their own story to tell through the music that brings back memories from their life. This is also true for many people living with dementia, and certain songs have the ability to calm anxieties and provide comfort.

“Working with health and social care professionals in particular, we have found that personalised playlists can benefit both the person living with dementia and the care professional.

“Finding the musical soundtrack of someone’s life helps strengthen relationships and allows the caregiver to see the person beyond the dementia diagnosis, through the music that is important to them.”

Laura and Colin

Laura McConnell’s uncle, Colin McDowall, had an industrial accident when he was 26-years-old. He was electrocuted twice while working on railway lines in London.

He was taken to the city’s Royal Free Hospital and underwent brain surgery. The prognosis was not good but Colin survived and he has learnt how to walk, talk and recognise people once again.

He eventually moved in with his sister and her family. Colin doesn’t have an official dementia diagnosis but many of the symptoms of his condition are similar.

“My parents took him, my mother is Colin’s sister, so he became our wee brother really even though he was older,” Laura told STV News.

STV News
Colin McDowall and his niece Laura McConnell.

“He’s come on leaps and bounds – the big problem is the memory and he’s partially blind, he’s got tunnel vision.

“Colin loves music, it changes him when he hears music. When he hears something he starts dancing, even if you’re in Tesco.

“It’s wonderful as a carer to see him so happy. It’s not just his mood, it’s his whole being, the way he walks after it, he’s more talkative, it’s wonderful.”

Colin says he enjoys every minute of creating his musical playlists

He said: “Every little thing I do in there I love to do because it’s great, I really love it.

“I keep trying to think of who sung it and where I was. I can remember who sung it but I can’t remember their name, I can see them. It really does boost my mood.”

Stagecoach and National Express in merger talks

National Express would own around 75% of the combined group and Stagecoach shareholders around 25% under terms of the possible deal.

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Stagecoach has confirmed talks over a potential all-share takeover by rival National Express.

Stagecoach has confirmed talks over a potential all-share takeover by rival National Express in a move that would bring together two of the UK’s biggest transport groups.

Under the terms of the possible all-share tie-up, National Express would own around 75% of the combined group and Stagecoach shareholders around 25%.

It comes after both firms have been hit hard by the pandemic, with passenger numbers slumping during the crisis.

The groups have outlined plans to slash costs as part of the potential merger, with National Express saying it expects to find annual savings of at least £35m, with around 25% by the end of the first year.

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If the talks lead to a deal, the combined group would see Stagecoach chairman Ray O’Toole become chairman of the board.

National Express boss Ignacio Garat would be chief executive of the enlarged group.


No money paid into abuse survivor scheme despite looming deadline

Redress Scotland would offer financial payments to those subject to abuse in care before December 2004.

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Care: The scheme will issue payments to abuse victims.

No money has been paid into a financial redress scheme for abuse survivors despite the Scottish Government claiming it will be ready to start by the end of the year.

Redress Scotland was set up following the passage of legislation in March, and would offer financial payments of up to £100,000 to those subject to abuse in care before December 2004.

To help fund the scheme, legislation passed earlier this year said funding packages would be negotiated with organisations “who, in making or agreeing to make such a contribution, acknowledge the wrongfulness of, and the harm caused by, the historical child abuse which took place in relevant care settings”.

But the Scottish Government has said it remains confident of opening applications by the end of this year, and negotiations with contributors are in “advanced” stages.

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The Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Act 2021 included a controversial waiver which meant those who paid into the scheme could not be subject to legal action from recipients of payouts in relation to past abuse allegations.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney – who proposed the Bill and shepherded it through parliament – said the waiver was a way to ensure organisations would contribute, by protecting them from further financial reparations in the future.

However, a freedom of information request shows no payments have yet been secured, despite the Bill being passed six months ago and a goal of opening for applications by the end of the year.

The response from the Scottish Government said: “No money has yet been contributed towards the funding of redress payments under the Act by any authority, organisation or person.”

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A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Discussions regarding participation in the scheme have been ongoing for some time and are at an advanced stage.

“No money has been received from contributing organisations yet as discussions are about securing contributions to the scheme in advance of it opening to applications.”

She added that there were no concerns around the funding of the scheme, which would be bankrolled primarily by public funds, with contributions from outside organisations being supplementary.

“The scheme will be funded by the Scottish Government with support from the contributions received from organisations,” she said.

“Redress payments to survivors are not dependent on contributions from any organisations.”

Some payments have already been made by the Scottish Government through a precursor scheme aimed at older survivors.

As of April 2021, more than 580 payments of £10,000 had been made to survivors over the age of 68 or terminally ill, in a bid to ensure they are compensated in their lifetime for abuse suffered while in the care system in Scotland.

Scottish Government to double climate fund for poorest countries

The announcement comes ahead of a debate on climate change policy in Holyrood on Tuesday.

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The fund will rise from £3m per year to £6m.

The Scottish Government is set to announce the doubling of a climate fund aimed at benefiting the poorest countries in the world.

Ahead of a debate on climate change in Holyrood on Tuesday, net zero secretary Michael Matheson has said the climate justice fund will increase from £3m to £6m until the end of this parliamentary term.

The fund was set up in 2012 and has, among other initiatives, provided £3.2m to rural communities in Malawi to help them mitigate the impact of climate change.

Ahead of the debate, Matheson said: “With COP26 coming to Glasgow, this is a pivotal year for making sure countries in the global south have the support they need to tackle climate change.

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“That’s why we are doubling our financial support for some of the world’s most vulnerable nations.

“We have committed to ending our contribution to climate change within a generation and we are making great progress – Scotland is already more than halfway to net zero.

“To play our full role in supporting the aims of the Paris agreement, we must also be an ally to the nations most urgently impacted by climate change.

“By doubling our funding for those countries, we will provide much-needed support for those that, while making up only a fraction of the world’s emissions, are already feeling the effects severely.”

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Jamie Livingstone, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “Right now, across the world, people are losing their lives and homes to climate change.

“This announcement by the Scottish Government is a very welcome and timely acknowledgement that faster action to reduce our emissions must  be accompanied by an urgent scaling up of the financial support given to vulnerable countries that are not only the least responsible for the climate crisis, but also the least equipped to cope with it.

“The detail of where this extra money comes from is important too; with only weeks to go until crunch Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland should bolster its global leadership by signalling its intent to tax the high emitters that are making the climate emergency worse.

“Doing so would send a powerful message to the rest of the world that climate change isn’t just a matter of science, technology or economics, it’s a matter of justice.”


Man, 46, dies at scene after falling from motorcycle

The man was part of a group of motorcyclists when the crash took place.

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Ambulance: Man pronounced dead at scene.

A man has died after crashing and falling from his motorcycle in Argyll.

The 46-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene of the incident that took place on the A816 road at around 9.55am on Monday.

He was riding a BMW motorcyle as part of a larger group before the crash.

Police and emergency services were in attendance but the man could not be saved.

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Officers are now appealing for witnesses.

Sergeant Paul Macpherson of Police Scotland’s Road Policing Unit said: “Our thoughts are with the man’s family and friends at this time. 

“We are working to establish the full circumstances which led to this crash and would urge anyone who can help to come forward. 

“The man was riding north on the A816 as part of a group of motorcycles before the crash and we would urge anyone who witnessed the incident or who may have dashcam footage to get in touch. 

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“Anyone who can help is asked to call 101.”


Zoo visitor warning after chimp spotted with her stillborn baby

Edinburgh Zoo keepers have apologised for any distress caused as they give the primate time to grieve.

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Zoo keepers have apologised to visitors for any distress.

Edinburgh Zoo has issued a warning to visitors after one of its chimpanzees was spotted clutching her stillborn baby.

Keepers say Lianne, the 32-year-old primate, is not letting go of the baby chimp due to her “strong maternal instincts”.

Zoo staff have apologised to visitors for any distress and said they are waiting for the chimp to leave her baby naturally or for any opportunity to safely retrieve it.

David Field, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland chief executive, said: “Sadly one of our chimps recently had a stillborn baby which she is holding onto due to her strong maternal instincts.

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“While this is natural behaviour which you would find in the wild, we understand it may be upsetting to see and have placed warning signs for visitors at the entrances of our chimpanzee viewing areas.

“It could take some time for our keepers to safely retrieve the baby and we are sorry for any distress this may cause.”


Pedestrian dies after being struck by police van

The vehicle did not have blue lights or sirens activated at the time of the incident.

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The woman was taken to hospital, but died shortly after.

An investigation has been launched after a woman died having been hit by a police van.

The incident took place at around 8.20pm on Merry Street in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, on Sunday.

The woman, 58, was hit by a marked Ford Transit, which was on routine duties at the time.

It did not have blue lights or sirens activated, police have said.

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Following the collision, the woman was taken to the University Hospital Wishaw, but was pronounced dead shortly after.

Neither of the two police officers who were in the car at the time of the incident were injured.

Police Scotland say that the woman’s next of kin have been made aware and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation into the circumstances is being carried out by Police Scotland’s Road Policing Unit and the incident has been referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc).

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Sergeant John Tait, of the Road Policing Unit in Motherwell, said: “Our enquiries into this incident are ongoing and I would urge anyone who may have witnessed the collision or who has any other information to come forward. 

“We would be particularly keen to speak to anyone who may have dashcam or private CCTV footage from the area. 

“Anyone with information can call 101, quoting incident 3309 of September 19.”


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