Face coverings could be axed for secondary school pupils in class

Face coverings will still be required when moving through communal areas.

Pupils who want to wear masks in class will still be able to do so. Nenad Stojnev via IStock
Pupils who want to wear masks in class will still be able to do so.

Headteachers have welcomed draft guidance which would see the need for secondary school children to wear face coverings in classrooms dropped.

But teachers have slammed the plans as “premature” saying it is “reckless” a surge in Covid-19 in education settings.

Ending the requirement for masks while in class is among several changes which would see restrictions eased in schools as more than a third of 12 to 15-year-olds in Scotland have received the coronavirus vaccine.

Face coverings will still be required when moving through communal areas and on school transport.

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Pupils who want to wear masks in class will still be able to do so.

Staff will have to continue to maintain 1m physical distancing from other adults and will have to wear face coverings if they are unable to do so, such as when helping children with additional support needs.

The draft guidance, seen by STV News, was issued to stakeholders on Friday and is expected to be published this week.

The changes, which could also see the return of large assemblies and in-person parents’ nights, are to be implemented following the October holidays.

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The requirement for one-way systems, staggered lunchtimes will also be dropped.

In September, Nicola Sturgeon said all current mitigations, including the use of face coverings by pupils in secondary school classrooms and the one-metre distance rule between staff members and adults and pupils would remain in schools until at least the October break.

School Leaders Scotland, which represents headteachers, their deputies and principal teachers, said it welcomed the planned changes having previously called for masks to be kept in place.

Jim Thewliss, the organisation’s general secretary, told STV News that the offering of vaccines to all teaching staff and the momentum in uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine among young people meant it was now possible to ease the mitigations.

“Being able to teach without face masks improves the experience for learners,” he said, “We’re comfortable with that.

“We are moving gently and progressively along the lines of a better learning environment, but working within the realm of cautiousness.”

“We’ve been under the regime of mitigations for quite some time, what were starting to do now is to move to a position… when mitigations are stood down, it’s very easy to put it back in place.

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The changes will also give schools more “professional autonomy to look at what’s best for its young people”, Mr Thewliss said, meaning those with larger assembly halls being able to have more pupils together.

But teaching representatives of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers said Scotland should avoid following in England’s footsteps by dropping the safety measures.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT’s general secretary, said: “It is premature to remove current safety mitigations in schools and reckless to risk a further surge in cases which would cause further disruption to children’s education.

“No evidence has been presented to show that the current mitigations are having a deleterious effect on learning and the focus at this time should be to continue to do everything possible to reduce further disruption to pupils’ education.

“With the further threat of increased respiratory illness during the winter, maintaining caution on covid safety should remain an absolute priority for the government and employers at this time.”

The Scottish Conservatives said the removal of masks in classrooms was a “crucial step” in returning learning to normal.

Shadow education secretary Oliver Mundell MSP said: “Key stakeholders, like School Leaders Scotland will be reassured that the SNP Government finally appear to have realised that wearing a mask in classrooms is disruptive to pupil’s learning, as well as being out of kilter with restrictions in other areas.

“These concerns have been repeatedly raised by the Scottish Conservatives since July.

“The proposed changes to mask wearing, and the return of parent evenings are a welcome move. The SNP must now outline a route map for the removal of the remaining mitigations in our schools, so our young people can return to normal learning as soon as possible.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The government’s decision to ease school mitigations is informed by the views of a number of stakeholders.

“This includes the expert advice and agreement of the Covid Education Recovery Group, which is made up of representatives drawn from across the education sector. In reaching a decision, it is vital that their views are considered.

“The cabinet secretary will consider this advice and intends to make an announcement with further updates on school safety mitigations, as soon as possible – as already set out by the First Minister.”


Holidaymaker dies in Crete while rescuing grandsons from sea

Jonathan Smith, from Carluke, got into difficulty in the water near Gouves as he tried to save the two boys.

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A Scottish man has died after rescuing his two grandsons from the sea off the coast of a Greek island.

It is understood that Jonathan Smith, from Carluke, was on holiday in Crete with family when two boys got into trouble in the water near Gouves, a resort east of Heraklion.

The 61-year-old was able to save the two grandchildren before getting into difficulty himself.

A spokesperson for the National Center for First Aid (EKAB) in Crete told Greek TV that the boys were unharmed but were taken to hospital as a precaution.

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An eyewitness told Greek broadcasters that he and other rescuers threw lifejackets out to the children and Mr Smith.

“The two children we got them out, we saved them, but the man we couldn’t save, there’s rocks here so he may have hurt himself,” he said.

“And we couldn’t save him, we didn’t have the time, the water took him in. The children were scared when they got onto the boat, I realised it was their grandad, they started crying, as soon as they got onto the boat they were shaking through fear.

“I’m proud that we saved the children, that was our priority, but the man we didn’t make it to save him. We feel guilty but we did what we could.”

‘The children were scared when they got onto the boat, I realised it was their grandad, they started crying, as soon as they got onto the boat they were shaking through fear.’

Eyewitness
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Mr Smith previously worked for North Lanarkshire Council and was central to developing its Syrian Resettlement Programme in 2015.

The project assisted a number of families who have fled ongoing conflict and provided a safe and secure future for them.

Des Murray, chief executive of North Lanarkshire Council said: “The news about Jonathan has been a terrible shock to everyone who knew and worked with him at the council and beyond over many years.

“Jonathan was held in the highest regard, and the work he did to forge long-lasting links and friendships with communities and partners across North Lanarkshire is testament to the passion and tireless dedication he gave to everything he did.

“He was also pivotal in community engagement and participation, maintaining relationships with many of our local community groups and addressing local needs.

“He was a wonderful, kind and considerate family man, who will be deeply missed and all our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Central Scotland Conservative MSP Meghan Gallacher said: “This is really sad news. Jonathon worked alongside local communities and councillors during his time at North Lanarkshire Council.

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“Thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.”

The UK Foreign Office told STV News it was supporting the family of a British man who had died in Crete and was in contact with the Greek authorities.

The Cretapost website reported life jackets were thrown into the water to assist the man.

A local worker said: “We tried to pull him ashore but the currents were very strong and we could not.”


Queen spends night in hospital for ‘preliminary investigations’

The monarch returned to Windsor Castle at lunchtime on Thursday, and remains in 'good spirits'.

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It is understood the trip to hospital on Wednesday afternoon was expected to be for a short stay for some preliminary investigations.

The Queen spent Wednesday night in hospital for “preliminary investigations”, Buckingham Palace has confirmed.

The monarch, who was ordered to rest by doctors and advised to miss a trip to Northern Ireland, returned to Windsor Castle at lunchtime on Thursday, and remains in “good spirits”.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “Following medical advice to rest for a few days, the Queen attended hospital on Wednesday afternoon for some preliminary investigations, returning to Windsor Castle at lunchtime today, and remains in good spirits.”

It is understood the trip to hospital on Wednesday afternoon was expected to be for a short stay for some preliminary investigations, so was not announced by the Palace at the time, as well as in order to protect the Queen’s medical privacy.

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The overnight stay was said to be for practical reasons.

The Queen’s medical team are understood to have been taking a cautious approach.

The Queen was said to be back at her desk this afternoon, undertaking light duties.

The 95-year-old monarch was said to be disappointed not to be able to travel to Northern Ireland on Wednesday, and reluctantly heeded the advice of her royal physicians.

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She has had a busy schedule since returning from Balmoral at the start of October, and hosted a major Global Investment summit at Windsor Castle on Tuesday evening, where she looked bright and cheerful as she carried out her royal duties.


Clarkston Disaster: ‘The shops were blown to bits’

50th anniversary of the day 22 people were killed when a gas explosion ripped through a row of shops.

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Engineers were trying to find a gas leak when an explosion ripped through a row of shops at Clarkston Toll shortly before 3pm on October 21, 1971.

Twenty-two people – 20 women and two men – were killed as ten shops were blown out and vehicles plunged into the debris from a rooftop car park.

More than 100 others were hurt, including some who were rescued hours later as emergency workers and good samaritans dug desperately through the rubble.

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Vehicles plunged from the rooftop car park into the shops following the blast.

Most of the victims were customers and shop workers, and even though many of them had already complained that week about a smell of gas, no-one was held responsible for the blast.

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The victims of the Clarkston Disaster will be remembered during a 50th anniversary memorial service in the East Renfrewshire town on Thursday afternoon.

‘Shortly after that, it blew up’

Ted Flannigan’s life was saved by chance – he went into a restaurant in Clarkston for something to eat, but changed his mind and left the scene just minutes before the explosion.

“By almost a whim, I saved my own life,” the 75-year-old told STV News as he returned to the scene half a century later.

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“I came out of a restaurant and drove up the road a little bit – shortly after that, it blew up.

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Two passengers were killed after getting off this bus just before the explosion.

“The roof had come down, crashed through the shops, the front and back of the shops were blown to bits and poor people who were either shopping or working lost their lives.

“As an engineer, I’ve seen various things in my life, but nothing quite as horrendous as this.

“I spent three nights working there, trying to do anything that I could do. People were all mucking in, everybody was trying to help.”

What happened in Clarkston?

Shopworkers had reported a smell of gas in the six-year-old shopping centre on Busby Road, but engineers were unable to find out where it was coming from.

Unbeknown to them, gas was actually leaking through a crack in a pipe three feet below the road surface into empty, unventilated cellars beneath the shops.

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Engineers were still on the scene when the gas was ignited by a spark, causing an explosion so fierce that it killed two people who had just got off a bus – and injured passengers still in their seats.

A fatal accident inquiry reached its conclusions within just four months of the explosion, a jury deciding that no one was to blame.

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This car was left covered in rubble following the blast.

Remembering the victims

A special 50th anniversary service will take place for victims’ families and survivors on Thursday at the memorial tree in the Clarkston Halls car park.

There will also be a minute’s silence across East Renfrewshire at 2.50pm.

The full story of the Clarkston Disaster was also told in an episode of The People’s History Show, which is available on the STV Player.


Two arrested after man injured in ‘altercation’ outside Central Station

An area at Glasgow Central's Union Street entrance was taped off by police on Thursday.

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The incident took place at around 1.10pm on Thursday, October 21.

A man has been taken to hospital after an altercation involving three people outside Glasgow Central Station.

Police taped off an area at station’s Union Street entrance following the incident on Thursday afternoon.

Officers have confirmed that a man and woman have been arrested, whilst enquires are carried out.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers were called to Union Street, outside Glasgow Central Station, at around 1.10pm on Thursday, October 21, 2021, following an altercation involving three people.

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“A man and a woman have been arrested in connection with the incident, and a second man taken to hospital for treatment.

“A police presence remains while enquiries are conducted at the scene.”


Bar implements new measures following alleged spiking by injection

Nice N Sleazy, in Glasgow, has unveiled a number of new measures to help improve safety.

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It comes after police said they are investigating a number of reports at different venues in the UK.

A bar where a woman was allegedly spiked by injection has vowed to carry out random body searches.

Cops launched an investigation into the alleged spiking at Nice N Sleazy, on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, last Thursday.

Club bosses said they are implementing precautionary measures ahead of the weekend, including body searches, bag searches and ensuring no drinks are left unattended.

It comes amid reports of young women being injected during nights out in cities across the UK – including Nottingham, Edinburgh and Dundee.

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Victims say they have been pierced with a needle in their leg, hands and back and woke up to no recollection of the night.

They are left with a pinprick mark surrounded by a giant bruise with risks of shared or unclean needles being used, posing threats of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

A spokesperson for Nice N Sleazy said: “We are very concerned about the incident which came to light on social media this week.

“Unfortunately, the incident was not reported to our staff on the night and we were not able to offer support and help.

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“We hope that anyone who might be a victim of these crimes in the future will communicate all concerns they have to our staff should anything occur inside or indeed outside our venue.

“We will give the best support we can to any individual in distress, but would also urge any victim subjected to attacks of this kind to report it immediately to the police for investigation.

“It is also crucial to report to NHS services as soon as possible so that they can be properly treated for substance effects and given blood screenings for any viruses.”

They continued: “We have updated signage throughout the premises in regards to spiking and the processes that should be followed if someone is thought to have been spiked.

“We have implemented random body searches to our entrance policy and continue to be vigilant with bag searches and ensuring no drinks are left unattended.

“We are in contact with multiple organisations over this issue including Police Scotland, the Night Time Industry Association (NTIA), the Scottish Music Industry Association and the Music Venue Trust as well as Good Night Out.”

The spokesperson added: “We have excellent CCTV cameras in operation throughout the premises and as such, Police Scotland and ourselves would urge anyone connected with said incident to step forward.

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“We can use any information gained to aid in the investigation and catch the assailant.”

Owner of the Garage nightclub Donald MacLeod urged revellers to report a suspected spiking urgently to members of staff on nights out.

MacLeod, who is the convener for Glasgow’s Licensing Forum, said: “If you suspect that you or any of your friends have been spiked, we want to be the first people to know about it.

“The sooner we know something is going on, the sooner we can provide help and get these people off the streets – there is a maximum 10-year prison sentence for this offense.

“We take this very seriously – it is a real threat to our customers, our staff and our livelihoods.

“We want our venues to be as safe as they possibly can be for our nightclubbers. The only way we can tackle this is by standing together, reporting it and talking about it.

“The venue is there to help you. We want to catch these people who are doing this to our customers for whatever reason.”

Their pleas come as clubs across the city face a boycott after the spiking reports.

Students from Girls Night In Glasgow are leading the campaign – which urges revellers to snub major city bars for a night in or for a flat party on Thursday, October 28.

A spokesperson from the group said: “The violation of anyone’s body should strike a chord with everyone, which is why we are trying to make our movement as inclusive as possible.

“Drink spiking and rape culture must be addressed at a systematic level, by both clubs/organisers and government.

“We demand serious reforms and accountability for the unsafe environment that the ignorance and evil certain groups of people are causing.”

Police Scotland said the alleged incidents across Scotland do not appear to be linked.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who raised the matter in Scottish Parliament, said: “Reports of spiking incidents in Glasgow and elsewhere are deeply troubling.

“We know these wicked crimes are mostly perpetrated by men who feel entitled to harm and abuse women. It’s unacceptable and must be stamped out.”

A spokesperson for the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said: “In response to recent reports, operators across the UK have been working with the police, local authorities and key stakeholders, focusing on safeguarding customers – particularly women, at night.

“Many cities already have well-established networks among operators and community support representatives and work very closely with authorities, communicating on a regular basis to highlight increases in crime or disorder.

“The truth is though, very real challenges still exist.

“We know this a societal problem but it is very difficult to say with any real certainty what the scale of this problem is.

“Drink spiking is currently criminalised under an offense which encompasses many other types of incident and it is also not possible to ascertain whether an incident occurred within a licensed venue or in some other setting.

“The result is that police data revealed through Freedom of Information does not give an accurate picture of what’s happening, or lend itself to specifically categorising this particular crime.”

A spokesman for Rape Crisis Scotland said: “Reports of spiking by injection are obviously deeply concerning and are having a very real impact on how safe particularly women are feeling entering bars and clubs.

“We agree with all those calling for venues to do better and ensure that they are taking every possible measure to prevent abusive men from having access to their premises and being able to perpetuate harm, and in responding robustly to reports when this does happen.

“The extent to which women are simply expected to navigate the world with such an acute and credible fear of men’s violence is deeply unjust.

“This violence is not inevitable and it’s not something that we should accept as such. Women deserve to feel and be safe – venues have a responsibility to make this a reality.”

By Ellie Forbes and Ruth Suter, SWNS


TSSA union ends dispute with ScotRail as members accept pay increase

The union said its members have voted to accept an improved pay offer.

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Scotland’s railways have been crippled for months by strikes, with most Sunday services cancelled.

A union has ended its dispute with ScotRail and will no longer take part in industrial action after accepting a pay deal.

The TSSA represents managers in the conductor and revenue teams at Scotland’s train operator.

The union said its members have voted to accept an improved pay offer.

Scotland’s railways have been crippled for months by strikes, with most Sunday services cancelled.

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The RMT union currently plans to strike during the COP26 climate conference being staged in Glasgow.

In September it launched a campaign with TSSA, Aslef and Unite to “save” the railway, protesting outside Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister in Edinburgh.

TSSA said it has now accepted an offer that amounts to a 2.5% pay increase backdated to April 1, 2021, and a 2.2% increase effective from April 1, 2022.

There will also be a one-off £300 payment for staff working during COP26.


One house demolished as work continues to make Ayr blast scene safe

A family of four were taken to hospital following the blast on Monday evening in Gorse Park, which could be heard for miles around.

Katielee Arrowsmith via SWNS

One house has been demolished as work continues to make an area safe following an explosion which ripped through a property in Ayr.

South Ayrshire Council said 35 homes remain cordoned off in the Kincaidston area and one or two other houses may also need to be demolished.

A family of four were taken to hospital following the blast on Monday evening in Gorse Park, which could be heard for miles around.

The council’s building standards team is carrying out individual inspections of all homes in the affected area to assess them for safety.

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As of 11.30am on Thursday, 303 properties in Kincaidston have been inspected and deemed suitable for people to return to.

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Several properties have been destroyed after an explosion in Ayr.

The council said a “complex exercise” is under way as it works with emergency services to inspect homes and make as many as possible safe.

A 43-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy were taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, a 47-year-old man to the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and an 11-year-old boy to the Royal Hospital for Children following the explosion.

Inquiries are ongoing to establish the cause of the blast.

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South Ayrshire Council said: “There are 35 homes which remain cordoned off following the explosion in Kincaidston. They have been cordoned off because some have been damaged, others have varying degrees of debris on or around the property and some are in close proximity to the site of the explosion, which is currently under the control of the emergency services and the utility companies.

“One of the properties within close proximity of the explosion had to be demolished last night to allow work to progress to make the area safe.

“It is likely that another one or two properties in this area may also need to be demolished. Affected householders have been advised.

“There are properties out-with the cordoned off area which have also been damaged by the blast or by debris and where householders have been displaced.”

The local authority said it is making direct contact with residents who are now permitted to go back to their homes, but urged people not to return unless the council has been in touch to say it is safe to do so.

The gas distribution company SGN said it will continue to work with “expert parties” in the coming days to establish the cause of the explosion.

A temporary above-ground gas pipeline has been installed for homes in Kincaidston.

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In a statement on Wednesday, SGN said: “We’d like to reiterate our reassurance to the local community that the gas network across the area remains safe and secure to use.

“Our engineers have carried out full safety checks in the area to ensure the safety of all the homes close to the damaged properties.”

The council said anyone affected by the incident in Kincaidstion who needs information or support should call 0300 123 0900.


Smiles all round as gentle alpacas pop in on elderly care home residents

Sid, Eric and Chester took a tour of Advinia Health Care’s Hill View care home in Clydebank on Thursday.

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The animal visits are said to help alleviate stress and depression, as well as combat loneliness.

Residents at a care home in Glasgow had their spirits lifted by some unusual visitors – alpacas.

Sid, Eric and Chester took a tour of Advinia Health Care’s Hill View care home in Clydebank on Thursday.

The three fluffy alpacas, from Larch Green Alpacas, visited residents in their rooms and in the care home’s garden.

The animal visits are said to help alleviate stress and depression, as well as combat loneliness.

Alpacas Sid, Eric and Chester from Larch Green Alpacas meet Isabella Scot, 85 (left) and Maureen Wysoski, 66 (right) during a visit to the Hill View Care Home (Jane Barlow/PA)
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Agnes, 82, who has been at the home for 14 months, said: “ This really made my day, they’re so lovely and friendly.

“It’s a shame they can’t move into the garden here permanently.” 

Alpacas, which originate from South America, have become increasingly popular as therapy animals due to their gentle nature and soft fur.

The three fluffy alpacas met Mary Leslie, 92, during a visit to Hill View (Jane Barlow/PA)

Kirsty Goldie, who manages Hill View, said: “Because of the Covid pandemic, it’s been such a tough year for our residents.

“Now that all our residents and staff are vaccinated and we can open up a bit to the outside world, we’ve been doing loads of activities to try to make up for it.

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“Elderly people, particularly those living with dementia, benefit greatly from the therapeutic nature of these animals.

“It has also been a lot of fun for the staff, too.”

Advinia Health Care, which has care homes across the UK, has also provided ‘virtual holidays’ for its residents during lockdown for families who were unable to visit their loved ones.


Man charged with murdering Conservative MP David Amess

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has also been charged with preparing terrorist acts, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

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Sir David Amess: A man has been charged with murder.

A man has been charged with murdering the Conservative MP Sir David Amess.

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has also been charged with preparing terrorist acts, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday afternoon.

Sir David, the MP for Southend West, was fatally stabbed on Friday during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.

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In a statement, Nick Price, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The CPS has authorised charges against Ali Harbi Ali for the murder of MP Sir David Amess on Friday October 15, 2021.

“We will submit to the court that this murder has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations.

“He has also been charged with the preparation of terrorist acts. This follows a review of the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police in its investigation.

“The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Ali are active and that he has a right to a fair trial.”

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On Monday, parliament paid tribute to Sir David as it was announced that Southend would be granted city status, in recognition of his decades-long campaign for the seaside town to be given the honour.

Matt Jukes, assistant commissioner for specialist operations at Scotland Yard, said: “Today’s charge is a significant milestone in the case, but the work from my colleagues in the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command will continue apace.”


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