Secondary pupils ‘should maintain two-metre distance’

The change should also apply on school buses, advisers to the Scottish Government have said.

Experts recommend pupils stay two metres apart on return to school. Jane Barlow/PA via PA Wire
Experts recommend pupils stay two metres apart on return to school.

Secondary school pupils should maintain two-metre social distancing on their return to the classroom, experts have advised the Scottish Government.

The measure is among tougher restrictions recommended by the Scottish Government’s advisory group on education ahead of the phased return to schools.

As well as on school grounds, it should also apply on school buses, the group said.

Education Secretary John Swinney said the latest advice is an “important scientific and clinical update”.

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An updated advisory note, from the group on mitigations to minimise coronavirus transmission during the phased return to in-person learning, states: “As an additional protective measure, two-metre distancing should be put in place at the current time for secondary-aged pupils, in addition to continuing to be in place for staff in secondary schools.

“Physical distancing requirements in primary schools remain unchanged: two-metre distancing between adults not from the same household should be maintained. There should also be two-metre distancing between adults and primary aged children whenever possible.

“In line with the strengthened advice on two-metre physical distancing in secondary schools, it will also be necessary to ensure two-metre distancing on school transport for secondary schools, recognising that this may not be possible in the case of school taxis or planes.”

The group said “appropriate support” should be provided to schools to enable them to take the steps suggested “taking into account local circumstances and the practical constraints faced by different schools in terms of issues such as building design”.

“In reality, universal social distancing will be very difficult for many councils to deliver and SNP ministers will have known that for a long time.”

Jamie Greene MSP
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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said pupils in primary 1-3 could return to classrooms from February 22, along with senior phase secondary students who need school resources to complete coursework.

However, she has maintained that a final decision will be made by ministers on Tuesday and will depend on the prevalence of the virus.

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene said: “Any proposals to accelerate the return to classrooms are welcome but safety guidance must also make sense, be proportionate and backed up with government resources to help councils and schools practically put the measures in place.

“In reality, universal social distancing will be very difficult for many councils to deliver, and SNP ministers will have known that for a long time.

“We need to see what measures they have taken to support schools to introduce social distancing, as this issue has been consistently flagged for months.”

Most Covid restrictions to end next week – but masks remain

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement in a statement to the Scottish Parliament.

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Almost all of Scotland’s remaining Covid-19 restrictions are to end from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the First Minister said that a number of mitigation measures will remain in place.

Sturgeon said that the lifting of restrictions on August 9 would include an end to social distancing and limits on the size of social gatherings.

However, the wearing of face coverings in some public spaces will continue, with Sturgeon saying that they are “likely to be mandated in law for some time to come.”

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Secondary school pupils will be required to wear face masks during lessons when schools return, as well as one-metre social distancing, which will be kept under review.

The requirement to self-isolate after close contact with a Covid-positive person will also be dropped in Scotland if a negative test result is received, whilst the use of vaccine passports for access to some events are under consideration.

Contact tracing of positive cases will remain, pubs and restaurants must continue to collect customer details and home working will continue to be advised.

Sturgeon said that while the Government expects the return of large scale events, for a “limited period”, organisers of outdoor events of more than 5000, and indoor events of more than 2000, will have to apply for permission to their local authority.

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Despite the easing of restrictions, the First Minister urged people to continue to take care and caution.

She said: “This change is significant and hard-earned. The sacrifices everyone has made over the past year-and-a-half can never be overstated.

“However, while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality, it is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.

“Declaring freedom from, or victory over, this virus is premature.

“The harm the virus can do, including through the impact of long Covid, should not be underestimated. And its ability to mutate may yet pose us real challenges.

“So even as we make this move today, care and caution will still be required, and that is why I want to focus now on the protections and guidance that will remain in place after August 9.”

Sturgeon also did not rule out the re-imposition of coronavirus restrictions if needed in order to keep the country safe.

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“We all hope – I know I certainly do – that the restrictions we lift next Monday will never again have to be re-imposed. But no-one can guarantee that,” she told the Scottish Parliament.

“This virus remains a threat – and as we enter winter, it may well pose challenges for us again.

“So as we have done throughout, the Government will seek to take whatever action is necessary to keep the country safe.

“But as has also been the case throughout, we all have a part to play in keeping the virus under control.”


FM: Football clubs still need permission to host large crowds

Organisers of outdoor events of more than 5000 and indoor events of more than 2000 will have to apply for permission.

SNS Group via SNS Group / STV News
Clubs will have to continue applying for permission to host major crowds.

Sporting bodies and clubs will have to continue applying for permission to host major crowds despite Scotland moving beyond level zero of coronavirus restrictions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government was temporarily keeping some mitigations in place when most legal Covid-19 regulations are removed from next Monday.

Sturgeon said: “While we expect to see the careful return of large-scale events we will, for a limited period, keep in place the processes through which organisers of outdoor events of more than 5000 and indoor events of more than 2000 will have to apply for permission.

“This is allowing us and local authorities simply to be reassured of the arrangements to be in place to reduce the risk of large-scale gatherings.”

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Current restrictions remain in place for this weekend’s fixtures, which mean clubs need to apply to local authorities for permission to host crowds of more than 2000.

Celtic will host 24,500 fans for their cinch Premiership game against Dundee on Saturday.

Despite Scotland moving beyond level zero on August 9, the pandemic is not over, Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister told MSPs on Tuesday: “This change is significant and hard-earned. The sacrifices everyone has made over the past year-and-a-half can never be overstated.

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“However, while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality, it is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.

“Declaring freedom from, or victory over, this virus is premature.”

Hibernian CEO Ben Kensell said the club wants to get a full crowd back at Easter Road as soon as possible.

“We want to welcome back fans as safely as we can, which is very important, number one priority for us,” he said.

“But actually, we want to get a full crowd back in as soon as we possibly can for obvious reasons, to support the team on the pitch, but actually for financial and commercial reasons as well.

“But there’s no better place than a sold out or packed Easter Road to cheer the lads on.

“So, from my perspective, it can’t come soon enough. But we’ll wait for the guidance and then we’ll act appropriately.”


Police using ‘specialist resources’ to find teen missing for months

Jamie Cannon was last seen in Saltcoats on May 20 and his disappearance has been described as 'out of character'.

Police Scotland / jgshields via IStock
Missing: Jamie Cannon has not been seen for more than ten weeks.

Police are using “all specialist resources” available to them in a bid to find a missing 19-year-old man from North Ayrshire.

Jamie Cannon, from Saltcoats, has not been seen for more than ten weeks, with the last sighting of the teenager at 10am on Thursday, May 20.

He was reported as missing to police several days later on Saturday, May 22.

Jamie’s disappearance has been described as “completely out of character” for him.

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He is described as being 6ft 1in, and when last seen he was wearing grey jogging bottoms, grey trainers, a blue jacket and carrying a camouflage backpack.

Chief inspector Alan Paterson said: “We remain committed to searching for Jamie and are using all specialist resources available to us. We are extremely grateful to the local community who continue to help us locate him.

“Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 1623 of May 22.”

Rock Lomond: When Oasis took Balloch Park by storm

It's 25 years since Oasis played two barnstorming concerts for 80,000 Scots fans.

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Oasis played the first of two barnstorming concerts near Loch Lomond on this day 25 years ago.

Tens of thousands of people squeezed into Balloch Country Park on consecutive nights in what remain among the most memorable outdoor gigs ever held on Scottish soil.

For brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, it was a triumphant return to the country where they were discovered three years earlier, in 1993.

By August 3, 1996, they had released their hugely successful albums Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and the STV News cameras were in Balloch that day to capture the electric atmosphere.

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Fans were in party mood from first light as they packed trains from Glasgow, desperate to see the band who were dominating the airwaves.

“They’re just unique, honestly,” one reveller said. “There are very few bands now that you can actually enjoy, but this is superb.”

We even caught up with TV personality Chris Evans, who insisted it was impossible to choose a favourite Gallagher brother.

“They’re chalk and cheese – and I like chalk and I like cheese,” Evans told our reporter.

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Local residents had been concerned about the onslaught of Oasis fans to their town, but in the end they seemed to enjoy themselves.

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“They were all very orderly walking down that road, we watched them and there were no problems,” one neighbour said.

We were there!

As told to Laura Boyd, STV News entertainment reporter

Donald Macleod, the promoter behind the sell-out shows.

“It was probably the biggest, most significant gig Scotland’s ever put on. It was fantastic. There was a lot more than 80,000 there – they were pulling down fencing…

“It was an experience like no other. It was really hyper, it was really mad. It was supersonic, as they would say.

“The band took it in their stride, they always did. They had that swagger.

Donald Macleod via Contributed
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“Just before the band came on, there was a tirade of things getting thrown at the stage and we’re looking up the hill and all these police horses start coming down towards us. They charged down. We were like ‘what are they doing?’, then it got quiet. Next moment, they were charging back up the hill with all the bams chasing after them.

“Getting the teams in place, the security, ten miles of fencing, enough power to power the city of Dundee, thousands of barrels of beer getting sold, the crowd loving it – Wonderwall – what a band. I’ve put on Prince and the likes, but this was something special.”

Alan McGee, the Oasis manager who discovered the band at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow.

“The Celtic team were there on the Saturday and the next night was all the Rangers team, and the gig was great, you know what I mean?

“We’ve got a great iconic photograph from that time – when the brothers kissed each other on the lips, we got one of the great Oasis photographs from that time.

“They only talk about it in Scotland, if I’m being honest, cause in England they all talk about Knebworth, but Loch Lomond was a better gig from what I remember.

Oasis fan George Boothe, from Houston, Texas, was at the gig during his honeymoon.

“We got married in Aberdeen and decided to have our honeymoon in Scotland and ended up in Cameron House with tickets to see Oasis at Loch Lomond.

Donald Macleod via Contributed

“Oasis were THE band at the time. At our wedding, we had a ceilidh and a disco, and one of my greatest memories was all our friends singing in a big circle to Don’t Look Back in Anger.

“So we have very special memories of my honeymoon, but also of going to that concert.”

What was on the set list?

We’ve made all 20 tracks available as a Spotify playlist, which can be streamed here:


Scottish Government urged to speak out against new oilfield

The proposed site off the coast of Shetland could produce 132 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, Oxfam Scotland said.

morkeman via IStock
Oilfield: Oxfam Scotland calling on Scottish government to speak out against controversial plans.

The Scottish Government is being urged to speak out against controversial plans to develop a new oilfield off the coast of Shetland.

If given the go-ahead, the proposed Cambo development could yield as many as 255 million barrels of oil over its lifetime, environmental campaigners at Oxfam Scotland said.

And they estimated that the 132 million tonnes of CO2 emissions that could be produced would require an area of land some 1.5 times the size of Scotland to counteract them.

Jamie Livingstone, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said in the run-up to the COP26 climate summit in November, the UK Government must “intervene in the Cambo case and stop its climate credibility going up in smoke”.

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With the global summit taking place in Glasgow, he also insisted that the Scottish Government had a “duty” to press UK ministers to reject the Cambo plans.

He spoke out on the issue as Oxfam published a new report which estimated that for all current net zero plans to be achieved, an area equivalent to all the farmland on earth would need to be converted to forest, putting food production at risk.

The report stated: “Oxfam has calculated that the total amount of land required for planned carbon removal could potentially be five times the size of India, or the equivalent of all the farmland on the planet.”

It stated that net-zero targets “instead of focusing primarily on the hard work of cutting carbon emissions, for example by rapidly ending the use of coal, oil and gas for electricity and oil for cars, rely instead on using other methods to remove carbon from the atmosphere”.

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The Tightening the Net report added: “The problem is this removal of carbon either relies on virtually unproven new technologies, or on a level of land use that is completely impossible and would lead to mass hunger and displacement of people across the world.”

Mr Livingstone said: “All of our lives and futures depend on the world’s biggest polluters quickly, drastically and genuinely slashing their emissions, phasing out fossil fuels and investing in clean energy and supply chains.

“Instead, what we’re seeing is too many net-zero strategies being used as smokescreens to mask dirty behaviour: promising unrealistic carbon removal schemes in order to justify the continued plundering of our planet.”

He added: “The proposed new Cambo oilfield is a clear climate contradiction. If the UK Government is to be a credible broker for a deal that can stop the planet overheating when it hosts the COP26 climate talks in November, it must intervene in the Cambo case and stop its climate credibility going up in smoke.

“The Scottish Government has a duty to demand it does just that.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are wholly committed to becoming a net-zero economy by 2045 and, whilst this is ultimately a reserved area, any Scottish Government support for oil and gas businesses operating in the North Sea is conditional upon them contributing to a sustainable and inclusive energy transition, and ensuring a secure energy supply.

“The oil and gas sector can play a positive role in Scotland’s energy transition, helping to design the diverse energy system we need for the future.

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“The knowledge and experience of the oil and gas sector and its supply chain will also be important for developing and investing in essential low-carbon technologies, such as carbon capture utilisation and storage – a technology that is seen by experts such as the UK Climate Change Committee and International Energy Agency as being vital to achieving Scottish, UK and international climate emissions targets.

“In 2020 we launched our £62m Energy Transition Fund to support the oil, gas and energy sectors grow and diversify, accelerating its transition to net-zero emissions.

“Fair Work principles are being applied across projects funded by the Energy Transition Fund, supporting the creation of green jobs and training individuals with the skills they need to ensure a just transition to net zero with people’s wellbeing at its heart.”

Scot Anna Burnet helps Team GB win Olympic sailing silver

Burnet, from Shandon near Helensburgh, triumphed alongside her race partner John Gimson in the mixed Nacra 17 class.

Phil Walter / Staff via Getty Images
John Gimson and Anna Burnet of Team GB competing in the Nacra 17 Foiling class.

Scottish sailor Anna Burnet has won a silver medal for Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics.

Burnet, from Shandon, Gare Loch, in Argyll and Bute, triumphed alongside her race partner John Gimson in the mixed Nacra 17 class. 

The Olympic debutants were guaranteed a medal going into the final race and finished safely in fifth to stay in second place behind Italians Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti.

Louise Burnet, Anna’s mother, said her daughter has “always had this great passion” since she began sailing at the age of five in an Optimist dinghy.

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Burnet told PA “we would never ever have dreamed of this happening”, adding: “I’m a very proud mum.”

She said: “They’ve just been a great team together and it’s a massive passion for them both. They are really good friends and you need that partner you click with.

“When Anna started sailing at the local yacht club she had no fear of the water from an early age.

“There were a lot of long drives at weekends which her father Colin did a lot of, 11 hours down to the south coast at weekends, and it is certainly all worth it now.”

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Burnet, who now lives in Weymouth, Dorset, started sailing at the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club on Gare Loch, Scotland’s oldest yacht club founded in 1824.

She soon won the female national Optimist title and was selected for the British worlds team in 2006 at the age of 14, said the British Sailing Team.

Chief executive of sportscotland, Stewart Harris, said: “Scotland has a proud tradition of successful sailors on Team GB and it’s terrific to see Anna Burnet join that illustrious list.

“To be selected to compete at an Olympic Games is a huge achievement, but to win a silver medal is very special.

“Congratulations to Anna, her partner John Gimson and the whole Scottish and British sailing family.”

Burnet and Gimson’s triumph capped a brilliant day for the British team after Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell claimed the gold medal in the men’s 49er before Giles Scott successfully defended his Finn title.

Campaigners call for three-mile fishing limit for trawlers

Members of the Our Seas coalition insisted the move would benefit both the environment and coastal communities.

Monty Rakusen via Getty Images
Fishing: Calls to ban trawlers from fishing within three miles of Scottish coasts.

An alliance of more than 100 organisations is demanding that trawlers be banned from fishing within three miles of Scotland’s coasts.

Members of the Our Seas coalition insisted that a “modernised” three-mile limit is “not a radical measure” and would benefit both the environment and coastal communities.

With talks taking place between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens over a formal co-operation agreement, the group is pressing both parties to consider the issue.

While there had previously been a ban on trawling the seabed within three miles of the coast, this was repealed by the UK Government in 1984 – with Ailsa McLellan, Our Seas coalition co-ordinator, claiming this “led to what academics called ‘ecological meltdown’”.

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She said: “There are many marine policy areas where we want to see change, given this country’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to our marine ecology and economy.

“But a return to a modernised three-mile limit is the single measure which we collectively believe would bring the greatest benefits for our waters, our environment, and for this country’s coastal communities.”

Ms McLellan added: “This is not a radical measure – bottom-trawling was previously banned in our inshore waters – and it will make our seas and fisheries more resilient in the future.”

The Our Seas coalition is made up of a range of organisations, including inshore fishing associations, community groups, sea anglers, tourism businesses, and environmental organisations.

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Research for the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) – one of the members of the coalition – found that for every thousand tonnes of langoustine caught by creeling rather than trawling, the Scottish economy would see more than £6.7m in additional benefits, with more than £400,000 additional profit for the sector.

Alistair Sinclair, national co-ordinator of the SCFF, said: “Our members fish in a way which is genuinely sustainable for the long term, but the value of our fisheries are hampered by the activities of a poorly regulated minority.”

He argued: “A return of an inshore limit is really a compromise, and both parties should be persuaded to see it as such. It would bring back a little balance to the way this country manages its seas.

“It’s not an end to dredging and bottom-trawling, but would ensure they only operate in waters where those methods do much less damage.”

Meanwhile Annabel Lawrence, from the Community Association of Lochs and Sounds, told how hand divers, sea anglers, marine tourism businesses and community activists all wanted to see change.

She said: “Being forced to live with the status quo, watching a small number of boats damage the seabed, is painful and frustrating.

“Politicians – both SNP and Green – need to make meaningful decisions now to end this destruction of our seabed. We need change, and that means protecting our most sensitive seas from the most damaging practices.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have made clear that sustainability is at the heart of how we will manage Scotland’s fisheries.

“In addition to our network of Marine Protected Areas, there are fishing controls and a policy of restrictive licensing in place to limit the number of Scottish scallop vessels, the number of days they fish, and technical measures … and minimum landing size of king scallops.

“It should be noted there are fewer nephrops, which includes scallops, being landed than a decade ago and there are fewer nephrop trawlers and more creel fishing vessels.

“Positive discussions between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens on a potential co-operation agreement are ongoing and a further report will be provided to parliament after the recess.”

Mossmorran given permission to install new ground flare

ExxonMobil has been forced to flare gas on a number of occasions in recent years for safety reasons.

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Fife: ExxonMobil has been forced to flare gas on a number of occasions in recent years for safety reasons.

Long-awaited efforts to reduce a controversial petrochemical plant’s impact on the local community have taken a step forward with the approval of a new ground flare.

Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran, operated by oil giant ExxonMobil, has secured permission from Fife Council to install the enclosed ground flare.

Standing at 31m high, the EGF, as it is known, will “significantly minimise” the use of the existing elevated flare to burn off excess gas – an issue that has concerned Cowdenbeath and Auchtertool residents for years. 

Exxon claims it will cut use of the elevated flare by up to 98% – but the stack will remain for use in extraordinary events.

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Plans: Mossmorran has secured permission from Fife Council to install an enclosed ground flare.
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ExxonMobil has been forced to flare gas on a number of occasions in recent years for safety reasons. Both it and Shell, which operates the adjacent Fife Natural Gas Liquids plant, were served with final warnings by environment watchdog Sepa in 2018.

Last year, incidences of flaring were referred to the Crown Office for potential prosecution under environment laws.

“The EGF is designed to enclose the flames which reduces visibility and provides acoustic insulation,” agents for ExxonMobil said in a statement.

“This technology has been identified as best available to minimise noise, vibration and smoke associated with flaring and whilst there may be some light emission from the top the effects will be less than the existing Shell ground flare technology or the elevated flare.”

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Assessments carried out by independent analysts suggest a “very significant reduction” in noise levels and “negligible” other effects from the ground flare.

Fife Council planners agreed, noting the flare would “limit the adverse environmental impact” of elevated flaring. They approved the application with a handful of conditions to ensure safe construction and operation.

Approval of the flare comes weeks after ExxonMobil completed £140m of upgrades to the plant that bosses promise will reduce flare-related disruption in the interim as installation of the new facility takes place.

These upgrades include a new tip for the elevated flare that uses internal steam tubes to reduce the amount of noise emitted by the flare. However, reliance on the elevated flare will fall dramatically once the EGF is in place.

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Reported: Last year, incidences of flaring were referred to the Crown Office for potential prosecution under environment laws.

Plant manager Martin Burrell said in a statement issued last month that over 48,000 parts had been installed over the course of 500,000 people-hours to improve reliability at the plant and reduce the need to flare.

Addressing locals directly, Mr Burrell said: “We thank you and our communities for your patience while we completed our major upgrade project and plant restart.

“We hope that the actions we took to minimise elevated flaring, as well as the benefits of the new flare tip helped to reduce disruption to local communities.

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“While we are confident the project will help to improve operational reliability and reduce unplanned flaring, FEP is a complex operation with our flare remaining a vital operational and safety system.”

However, locals in the surrounding towns remain hostile to Mossmorran’s continued operation.

Last weekend saw residents and climate activists gather outside the plant to call for a green transition at the plant, ensuring workers keep their jobs while progress is made towards clean energy production.

ExxonMobil says it is committed to reducing carbon emissions. However, unlike other firms in the sector such as Shell and BP, the firm is yet to commit to a solid net-zero target.

By local democracy reporter Jon Brady


Pupils asked to name new pedestrian bridge over motorway

The main span of the new Sighthill bridge over the M8 was installed over the weekend and is expected to open in 2022.

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Councillor David McDonald visiting the new bridge.

Pupils and residents in Sighthill are being asked to help name a new bridge being created over the M8.

The main span of the new Sighthill bridge was installed over the weekend, with the bridge expected to open in the early months of 2022.

Pupils already using the new school in the area will also be asked for their suggestions to create a sense of local ownership of a new Glasgow landmark.

Both the bridge and the school are part of the £250m City region city deal agreed by the council.

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Deputy leader of Glasgow City Council, David McDonald, announced via social media on Monday that the search for a suitable name is now on. 

Councillor McDonald visited the overpass before telling the public they could decide on its new name.

And after posting a request on Twitter for suggestions, along with a picture of the distinctive structure, followers were quick to provide a few early ideas, including The Rusty Bridge, the Irn Bruidge and the Shoehorn – as well as the obligatory Bridgey McBridgeface suggestion.

He said: “It was great to visit the site of the bridge today following its installation over the weekend.

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“The new bridge will deliver new connections and new opportunities for the north of Glasgow but it will also deliver a plethora of new nicknames.

“The Clyde Arc and Tradeston Bridges got nicknames that have stuck and I’m sure this new bridge will be the same.”

The main span of the new cyclist, pedestrian and wheeler bridge was installed over the weekend, with a section of the M8 closed while construction took place.

It is the biggest project of its kind in the UK outside of London and will form an active travel route between Sighthill and the city centre.

Story by local democracy reporter Catherine Hunter

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