Face-to-face with Colin Mackay: Labour leader Anas Sarwar

Anas Sarwar sat down with STV News political editor Colin Mackay to outline the party’s message and vision for the country.

STV News

Over the coming weeks STV will be hosting a series of exclusive interviews with the main political party leaders taking part in May’s Holyrood elections.

Next up is the leader of Scottish Labour Anas Sarwar, who sat down with STV News political editor Colin Mackay to outline the party’s message and vision for the country.

Colin Mackay: Since the start of the Scottish Parliament, Labour has gone from government to the third party. It’s quite a slide. And now you say you’re fighting for second place. It’s not much of a pitch is it?

Anas Sarwar: Look, I’m being honest about the challenge the Labour Party has faced over the last 20 years. In the last few years we haven’t been good enough as a political party. I’ve been honest about that when I took over as leader. Three days before I became leader we were at 14% in the opinion polls. Of course it’s up to the people of Scotland to decide over the next couple of weeks. But I am determined to get the Labour Party back on the pitch, to be arguing what our country should be arguing about, around our national recovery. To make sure we come through this tough year. Probably the toughest year in our lifetime. And use this opportunity to build a stronger and fairer nation.

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CM: Something that has been a mission for the Labour Party is to lift children out of poverty. About a quarter of a million children are living in poverty in Scotland just now. How soon can you tackle that?

AS: Well actually in some parts of Scotland it’s as high as one in two children. In the First Minister’s own constituency for example, the figure is one in two which is not acceptable. I want us to eradicate child poverty by 2030. I think we have the powers in Scotland to start that huge progress straight away. That’s why I want us to immediately double the child benefit from £10 to £20. I want to make sure we have a mass job retention scheme, and a job recruitment scheme as part of our recovery programme. And then also invest in other parts of our economy and other parts of our public services, so we can confront the scandal that is child poverty.

CM: Monica Lennon during the Labour leadership contest called on the child benefit to be increased to £30. That could have lifted thousands more kids out of poverty. Are you just not being very ambitious there?

AS: You’ve seen other Scottish parties suggest that we should double the Scottish child benefit payment by the end of the next parliament… I know other parties are saying that.

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CM: What I’m saying is “are you being ambitious enough”?

AS: I’m the same as the child poverty action group who want us to immediately double the child payment. But alongside that, and this is a crucial difference, I want us to introduce a new disability payment. Because you are disproportionately more likely to live in poverty if you directly have a disability or someone in your household has a disability. And that’s why I want an additional payment so we can support those families, so we can help challenge child poverty.

CM: But there is an interim target of cutting child poverty by 18% by 2023-24. Now the Joseph Rowntree Foundation say that you would have to at least double the child payment. That’s what you’re doing. But all the other parties are doing it as well. So you’re doing the least you have to, to make that target.

AS: In terms of policy package, doubling it is the least we have to do. Other political parties are suggesting we do it over the course of the next parliament. I’m suggesting we do it immediately so we can lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty. But then we have to link poverty with other parts of our economy. So we know coming through the viral pandemic there is a huge crisis facing the jobs crisis that could come. If we choke off supply to the economy too early. So I want to see us supporting businesses through the transition period. I want to make sure we don’t have a cliff edge on furlough. There are 360,000 citizens sitting on furlough at the moment worried about if and when they will have a job to go back to. Also it will help lift people out of poverty.

CM: But the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that if you increased the child benefit payment to £40 now, you could actually get rid of 90% of child poverty. Why aren’t you doing that? Why isn’t that the big thing in your manifesto?

AS: If a proposal comes forward in the next Scottish parliament…

CM: Why aren’t you making that proposal in this election?

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AS: We are putting forward a package of measures in this election campaign around a recovery plan, around jobs…

CM: But you say you could eradicate child poverty by 2030. They are saying you could eradicate it now by doing that…

AS: Look we immediately want to double the child payment. We are happy to work with and engage the Joseph Rowntree Foundation…

CM: But you’re not actually going to do what it takes to eradicate it right now. You could achieve Labour’s mission right now…

AS: I am pleased Colin that you are accepting, and I hope other people accept we have the powers in Scotland to eradicate child poverty.

CM: But you’re not willing to use them right now…

AS: No I’m saying let’s double the child benefit payment. I’ll back any other party that makes that proposal. But also alongside that, let’s invest in our economy, get people back to work, invest in new businesses, get people back to well paid work, and lift people out of poverty across the country.

CM: You also want to give shoppers £75 vouchers to spend in shops to help rebuild the high street. Did you not get the Joanne Lamont memo when she was leader, saying that there’s too much offered for free?

AS: That’s a really important policy and I think it’s important to look at the detail of that policy.

CM: But it’s something for nothing, which is what she described…

AS: It’s a really, really important stimulus package for our economy. So what we’re suggesting with that policy is to give every adult in Scotland a £75 pre-paid card that cannot be used online and have to buy non-food retail. And the reason for that is the high streets were facing a huge crisis even before the pandemic. And that has been sped up by the pandemic. Shoppers cultures have changed. They are using more and more online shopping, like Amazon. And that has meant that high streets have been decimated across the country. I want us to make sure we have businesses that continue to grow, businesses staying open, creating new jobs and that is encouraging people to get on the high street when it is safe to do so, change people’s behaviour and create a stronger economy.

CM: But it would cost £340m approximately. Another £90m for your ‘staycation’ scheme to give everyone a holiday. If you combine those costs, that’s the same as the cost of putting the Scottish child payment up to £40. Wouldn’t that be a big thing to offer people in your manifesto?

AS: I think it’s important not to say we have the choice between helping those in poverty and the choice of unemployment going up. They are both connected. If we allow unemployment to exponentially rise due to the outcome of this pandemic, and how we respond to the pandemic, that in itself will lift child poverty levels. Not reduce child poverty. We spent almost £7bn over this pandemic on the furlough scheme. What we are saying in terms of our Scottish ‘staycation’ is it’s about reinvigorating our tourism industry, making sure we have new jobs and making sure we go from strength to strength.

CM: But you are putting those things above child poverty which you could eradicate now…

AS: Let me explain Colin. If we do not do these policies, that’s a £600m package, which is a drop in the ocean compared to the £7bn we have spent on furlough over the last year. That is going to help stop hundreds of thousands of people going unemployed. It’s also in with a job retention scheme and job creation scheme—the largest job creation scheme in the history of the Scottish Parliament. Create a 170,000 new jobs as well as protecting existing jobs in the economy. That in itself will help reduce child poverty and make sure we have an economy that will work for people in this country.

CM: Would you call yourself a socialist?

AS: Absolutely.

CM: And what kind of socialist would send their kids to a private school then?

AS: I’ve accept that’s a fair criticism. It’s a decision me and my wife made for the best of our children. But I think every parent that has looked in their children’s eyes during this pandemic will recognise how challenging this pandemic has been for our children and young people. That’s why I want us to invest in an education come-back plan which includes an individual assessment for every pupil across this country. But not just an educational assessment but also a mental health assessment as well. I want us to back that up with a tutoring programme, with one on one tutoring…

CM: But you’re buying all of that for your kids…

AS: I want every child across the country to prosper…

CM: But you’re buying that privilege for yours…

AS: I’ve accept that’s a fair criticism. It’s a decision me and my wife made for the best of our children. I want every child across the country to have the opportunity as part of that come-back, with a comeback pass when we can use the summer months, the sunshine hopefully coming out in Scotland for young people to rekindle their friendships, make new friendships and support their health and wellbeing and hopefully get raring to go after the school holidays.

CM: Here’s a question that Douglas Ross couldn’t answer the other night. What is the democratic route to independence? Another independence referendum if that’s what the people of Scotland want?

AS: I have been clear from the outset; it’s for the people of Scotland to decide their own future. I don’t dispute that…

CM: But how do they decide that without a referendum? Because you don’t want to give them referendums do you?

AS: I’m saying we can choose something different. So these aren’t ordinary times. This isn’t an ordinary election. This is a pandemic election where 10,000 of our citizens have lost their lives…

CM: But you’re saying they can’t have a referendum…

AS: I’m not saying that Colin. I’m saying that my view is I am advocating my case in this election campaign. I am trying to persuade people that we can choose something different.

CM: Are you saying you wouldn’t block a referendum in the next parliament?

AS: What I’m saying is I don’t support a referendum. I don’t support independence…

CM: But if the people of Scotland vote for that, you don’t think Boris Johnson should block that?

AS: I am a participant. I am not a commentator. I want to persuade people across the country that we can do something different…

CM: But you don’t seem to want to let Labour participate in this debate or take a stance?

AS: That’s not true. We have a stance.

CM: So no referendum in the next parliament?

AS: We don’t support a referendum. We don’t support independence. We think the next parliament should be a recovery parliament. An important point Colin is, Covid didn’t choose between yes, no, leave or remain. The aftermath is not going to choose between yes, no, leave or remain. I am not willing to say” I am only going to focus on half the population that agree with me on the constitutional question”—that’s not acceptable. I want to focus on everyone across this country. So we can all work in our national interest in the recovery against Covid. Come through this a stronger and fairer nation and focus on the next five years.

CM: The STUC at their meeting today backed a motion stating “the right to hold a referendum should lie with the Scottish Parliament as elected by the people” do you agree with that?

AS: There are some caveats within that. The STUC is talking about a recovery plan of their own. Which I absolutely support and agreed that should be our national focus.

CM: This is part of it. Do you agree with that part of it?

AS: They’re talking about if and when there is a referendum but also have made caveats or in what mandates a referendum. There are different views within the trade union…

CM: But are they right in principle? Should the Scottish Parliament decide, and the people who elect the Scottish Parliament, ultimately get that decision as well?

AS: Fundamentally it’s for the Scottish people to choose their own future. I accept that fundamentally it’s for the Scottish people to choose their own future.

CM: So there could be a referendum in the next parliament?

AS: What I’m saying is, I’m arguing for something different. I’m arguing for the next five years to focus on the Covid recovery

CM: That’s not necessarily what the people want. If the people say they want…

AS: I want to persuade people Colin…

CM: And you’ve got a couple of weeks left to do that. But as the polls suggest, if the majority of people vote for parties who back an independence referendum do you accept that?

AS: Look Boris Johnson is a disaster. And devolution is strong and right for the people of Scotland. Boris Johnson is a disaster.

CM: Is he a threat to the United Kingdom?

AS: Boris Johnson is the biggest threat to the United Kingdom and actually Douglas Ross used to agree with that and argue that himself. I’m not sure if he still agrees with himself on that position. Now the reality is, we have a choice…

CM: Why is Labour’s choice not to offer more power? Devo-max for example? There’s a lot of people in your own party suggesting it and people in the STUC as well…

AS: I’ll come to that second part of Devo-max in a second. What people are voting for is what they want the priorities to be over the next five years. If their priorities change they get to vote for new priorities. I want to focus on what unites us as a country not what divides us. Because these aren’t normal times, this isn’t an ordinary election. But in terms of devolution, I do want greater devolution. If we are true to wanting to build a recovery that works for everyone, then that has to be a recovery that is north, east, south, west. It has to be urban, rural, coastal, island.

CM: What more powers?

AS: For example around employment law. Around drugs deaths…

CM: Not Devo-max then?

AS: Look Devo-max can mean different things to different people. I want greater devolution across the UK. But that also crucially means devolution out from Holyrood to local authorities as well because if we are going to deliver a recovery that works for everyone, we have to push power out from our parliament to the regions from Holyrood to local communities so we can grow the economy right across our country.

CM: You say you want to be the second party of Scotland. The main opposition party. Isn’t the only record you hold in the Scottish parliament in the last few years is a record number of leaders?

AS: I accept the hardest job in British politics is being the leader of the Scottish Labour party. We don’t normally come with a good shelf life. I’m trying to change that. I’ve already been honest about the scale of the challenge facing the party. This is a process. If I was coming on this programme and saying to you Colin “you know in two weeks I’m going to be first minister” you’d probably be asking for someone to see me on the way out. And people at home would probably think I wasn’t being honest. I’m being honest with people. I want to take the Labour party on a journey and I believe that we can, over the course of the next five years go from the position we were in to having a Labour Government and a Labour First Minister.

Glasgow Covid cases rise is ‘red flag’, says health expert

Professor Linda Bauld said the surge in coronavirus cases in Glasgow 'needs to be dealt with'.

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Warning: Rise in coronavirus cases in Glasgow.

The rise in coronavirus cases in Glasgow is a “red flag that needs to be dealt with”, a senior health expert has warned.

It comes after a third of the 345 new cases of Covid-19 recorded in Scotland on Wednesday were found to be in the city.

Pollokshields, in the southside of Glasgow, has the highest transmission rate in Scotland – 575 per 100,000, which is just slightly higher than in Easterhouse, in the east end of the city.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the situation in Glasgow is being monitored “very closely”, amidst concern over the so-called Indian variant.

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Lockdown restrictions are set to be eased for most of Scotland from Monday, with Glasgow due to be moved into level two.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said that a “robust response” is needed to the rise in cases.

Asked if she would advise the Scottish Government against moving Glasgow to level two, she said: “I’m not privy to all the information that they are, it’s for them to make that decision.

“But we do need a robust response and I suppose we’ll hear from them in the next few days what that decision is.”

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Professor Bauld continued: “We need to benefit from the progress that we’ve made and not put it at risk.

“And in the past, and this is just a historical point, we perhaps have not acted early enough to get on top of outbreaks.

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Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh.

“So, as I say nationally, I remain optimistic, but I think this is just a red flag that needs to be dealt with.”

Professor Bauld said that a local approach to identify cases should be the first step in tackling cases in the city.

“I would say it’s for policy colleagues to decide what happens,” she explained.

“There’s over 600,000 people living in Glasgow City local authority, it seems perhaps premature to say – once again remember Glasgow has been hard hit with restrictions in the past – okay the whole city can’t move.

“I think a localised approach really, as I say, concentrated identification and support of cases is the first step.

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“But obviously others will be making those decisions.”

Professor Bauld indicated that her message to people would be to use caution as more is opened up from next week.

She said: “We’re moving completely in the right direction, we want to keep moving in that direction.

“We don’t want to take a step back and that means that we all need to try and follow the guidance and when more things open next week, do that really, really cautiously and just make sure that we don’t have more community transmission.”


Protesters block van in bid to stop immigration removals

Around 200 protesters are at the scene in Pollokshields, with chants of 'these are our neighbours, let them go'.

Protesters have gathered in Glasgow to demonstrate their opposition to a raid by the Home Office.

Immigration officials for the UK Border Agency had moved on a property on Kenmure Street in Pollokshields on Thursday morning before protesters blockaded an enforcement van.

Police were called in to provide support and surrounded the van, while the gathered crowd could be heard chanting: “These are our neighbours, let them go.”

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Around 9.55 am this morning, Thursday, 13 May, 2021, police were called to support colleagues at the UK Border Agency at an address in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, Glasgow.

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“A number of protesters are now at the location. Officers are at the scene and enquiries are continuing.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is the MSP for Glasgow Southside, wrote on Twitter that she is “deeply concerned” by the action taken by the Home Office.

She said: “As constituency MSP, I am deeply concerned by this action by the Home Office, especially today in the heart of a community celebrating Eid.

“My office is making urgent enquiries and stands ready to offer any necessary assistance to those detained.”

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SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who represents Glasgow Central, tweeted that she would be taking the matter up with UK Government ministers.

She wrote: “This is absolutely awful, but heartened to see local residents in Pollokshields standing up for their neighbours and refusing to accept the brutality of the @ukhomeoffice.

“I am taking this matter up with Ministers. Not in our name.”

Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, was one of what he said were hundreds of neighbours protesting against the action.

The 54-year-old said: “We’re here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state.

“The same people who run from the British and American bombs put at the back of the van right now. And they are about to be deported.

“And it’s on Eid you know… the guys are not even allowed to pray. How do you do that in a democratic society? It’s a sad day.”

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Mr Asif, who left Afghanistan as a refugee himself in 2000, said the atmosphere amongst the protesters was peaceful.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “It’s horrific that people have been forced to take such action to defend their most vulnerable neighbours from the brutality of the UK Home Office.

“The current regime, presided over by the institutionally racist Home Office, is inhumane. Scotland needs an asylum system worthy of the name, and asylum support provided to a standard that our communities can be proud of.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar tweeted: “I am disgusted by the Home Office raids in Pollokshields. It is particularly unacceptable that this is happening during a pandemic, in an area that has a spike in cases and on the day of Eid.

“We need an immigration policy that is based on human dignity & human rights.”


Party leaders sworn in at start of new Holyrood term

Returning and new members are being sworn in following last week’s Scottish Parliament election.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scotland’s other party leaders have been sworn in as MSPs.

Returning and new members of the Scottish Parliament were sworn in on Thursday morning following last week’s Holyrood election.

Outgoing Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, who decided not to stand in the election, ran proceedings, which require MSPs to pledge their allegiance to the Queen before they are allowed to undertake any parliamentary duties or receive their MSP salary.

If the oath or affirmation is not taken within two months, they will lose their seat.

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The First Minister made an affirmation, followed by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar taking the oath.

Beforehand, Sturgeon said the SNP “pledges loyalty to the people of Scotland in line with the Scottish constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people”.

Ahead of his affirmation, Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said he wanted to reassert that his party’s “allegiance lies with the people of Scotland who elected this Parliament and who are sovereign, and we look forward to the day when they can choose their own elected head of state”.

His fellow Greens co-leader Lorna Slater also chose to affirm.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was the last party leader to be sworn in and he took the oath.

The rest of the MSPs are being sworn in in alphabetical order.

Ariane Burgess, who gave her affirmation in Gaelic, said beforehand she believes “the people of Scotland are sovereign”.

A number of MSPs will take their oath in a language other than English, including Scots, Gaelic, Urdu, Orcadian, Doric and even, in the case of Zimbabwe-born North East Green MSP Maggie Chapman, Zimbabwean Shona.

The oath will be followed by the election of the new Presiding Officer, who will take charge of proceedings in Parliament for the next five years.

No MSP has yet signalled their intent publicly to stand for the position, which requires elected members to renounce their party affiliation and act cross-party for the duration.

Parliamentary arithmetic could prevent some MSPs from putting themselves forward for the position, given the SNP is just one seat short of a majority.

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If the SNP puts someone forward, it would drop further away from the 65 MSPs needed to pass legislation on its own – whereas the chamber would be tied if an opposition MSP takes the role.

Friday will see the election of deputy presiding officers, who do not have to relinquish their party affiliation.


Footballers ‘suffer in silence to save their careers’

David Cox has suffered abuse on and off the pitch since first talking about attempts to end his life.

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Footballers won’t talk about their mental health problems in case it damages their careers, a striker who suffered abuse following suicide attempts has warned.

David Cox says many professional players are suffering in silence because they fear being released by their clubs or left unable to secure new contracts.

Cox recently announced his retirement after accusing a fellow player of mocking his mental health issues during a game.

He left the match in question at half-time, with an investigation ongoing into the alleged comments, which are strongly denied by the other player.

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Speaking to Scotland Tonight before quitting the game, the 32-year-old said: “If someone feels like they want to come out and speak, it’s going to be in the back of their mind that it will affect their life in football.

“Unfortunately, there are always going to be managers, clubs or staff who look as that as a problem.”

Cox first spoke about his mental health issues in a newspaper interview seven years ago.

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David Cox in action for Cowdenbeath last year.

He revealed he had made attempts to end his life and, since then, has received horrific abuse on and off the pitch.

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“I heard a few things from the stand after I told my story,” he said. “I remember one of the shouts was to ‘do it properly this time’.

“I’m no angel on the park and I’ll say things, but when it comes to personal stuff there needs to be a line.”

The well-travelled striker has played for a number of Scottish clubs and believes some have refused to renew his contracts because of his health issues.

“Some clubs have been absolutely amazing with me, really good,” he said. “But I’ve also been at clubs where I’ve been pushed out because of my mental health.”

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David Cox celebrates scoring against Rangers in the Scottish Cup in 2019.

Scotland Tonight – on STV at 7.30pm on Thursday – will take a closer look at the darker side of the beautiful game, asking what’s being done to help players who are struggling to cope.

Last week, a charity told STV News that it had helped five players who considered ending their lives over the past year.

Libby Emerson, from BackOnSide, said: “The abuse players get if they talk about their mental health is wrong and it needs to change.”

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She said it was “hard” for the charity to gain access to players, adding: “A lot of clubs don’t realise there is a mental health issue going on.

“If a player broke his leg on a pitch, they’d get support in an instant and doctors to look after them.

“But when someone says their head’s a bit broken, it’s just ignored.”

One Scottish Premiership club told Scotland Tonight that football as a whole was getting better at dealing with mental health, but accepted that more needs to be done.

Allan Burrows, chief executive of Motherwell FC, who have experienced suicide among former players and fans, said: “I think we’ve made improvements, but we’ve got a lot of work still to do.

“We need to continue to talk about it and raise it as an issue. It needs to constantly be the message; you need to constantly push it all the time.

“We will continue to do that as a club. I hope other clubs will continue to do so as well and other sports and other outlets will continue to do it.

“And if we all do that, and we all try and take it more seriously, then hopefully we can stop this other pandemic that is going on in Scotland at the moment.”


Rangers ask fans to follow Covid guidelines when celebrating title

The club has urged supporters to be "safe and sensible" this weekend.

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Rangers will lift the Premiership trophy on Saturday at Ibrox.

Rangers have asked their supporters to make sure that they follow Covid guidelines and restrictions when they celebrate the club’s league title win this weekend.

Steven Gerrard’s side will lift the Premiership trophy on Saturday after the conclusion of their match against Aberdeen at Ibrox, and the team could complete an unbeaten league season.

Police Scotland has already warned against large gatherings after a fan group organised a title day march from Ibrox to George Square, while justice secretary Humza Yousaf urged Rangers fans to celebrate at home this weekend.

In a statement on the club’s website, Rangers warned that the dangers of Covid-19 were still present despite some restrictions being lifted across the country, and asked the team’s fans to behave accordingly.

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It read: “It’s a day to enjoy and to celebrate the achievements of our club, and the title win by Steven Gerrard and his team. However, we are cognisant that the battle against Covid-19 is far from over and that the virus is still live. It hasn’t gone away.

“Please celebrate this historic day for our club in a safe and sensible manner, respecting public safety- adhering to the current government guidelines and restrictions which are still in place.

“In particular, please be mindful of the government guidelines regarding gathering in large numbers. If possible, please celebrate within your own community.”

The request comes a day after Police Scotland launched an investigation into the lighting of fireworks outside Livingston’s Tony Macaroni Arena while Rangers played there on Wednesday night.

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A group of 200 fans gathered to watch Steven Gerrard’s team from a hill just outside the ground in West Lothian.

Sergeant Jim Gowling said: “An investigation is under way after several pyrotechnics were let off during the Livingston v Rangers game. 

“The inquiry will involve officers reviewing extensive CCTV footage to identify those involved in this reckless and dangerous behaviour.” 


Woman in critical condition after attempted murder bid

The 45-year-old was rushed to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary with life-threatening injuries.

Police Scotland
Critical: Woman in hospital after being struck by car.

A woman is in a critical condition in hospital after being hit by a car in an attempted murder bid. 

On Wednesday around 8.15pm, the 45-year-old was struck by a car on Whitesands, Dumfries. 

Emergency services attended and the woman was taken to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary with life-threatening injuries, where she remains in a critical condition.

A 26-year-old woman was also struck by the car but did not sustain any serious injuries.

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A 35-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident and enquiries are ongoing.

Anyone with information or dash-cam footage that could assist the investigation is asked to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 3169 of May 12.


Painter and decorator caught with £2m of cocaine in van

Richard Eadie was caught with the drugs on the M74 near Abbington, Lanarkshire in 2019.

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Drugs haul: Cocaine worth £2m seized from van.

A painter and decorator was caught with £2m of high-purity cocaine after a motorway swoop by police.

Richard Eadie was caught with the drugs on November 15, 2019 on the M74 northbound near Abbington, Lanarkshire.

Prosecutor Lindsey Dalziel told how police were “suspicious” when they clocked boxes in the front of the hired Ford Transit van given the space in the back.

They had already received a tip-off that drugs were on board.

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Police went on to discover 20 taped blocks inside each holding 1kg of cocaine.

The drugs had a purity as high as 76% with a potential value of between £1.6m and £2m.

On Thursday, Eadie of Garthamlock, pled guilty at the High Court in Glasgow to being concerned in the supply of cocaine.

His QC Thomas Ross told the hearing: “In terms of the value, he understands that prison is inevitable.”

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Eadie had been on bail, but, deferring sentencing for reports, judge Lady Stacey told him: “You will be remanded in custody.”

The case was adjourned until next month.


Appeal after man found seriously injured near busy road

The 56-year-old was discovered at around 5.45am on Thursday in Grangemouth

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Injured: Man rushed to hospital after being found near busy road.

A man is in a critical condition in hospital after being found seriously injured in Grangemouth.

The 56-year-old was found on Abbots Road at the junction with Newlands Road and Newhouse Road in the town at around 5.45am on Thursday. 

He was taken to Forth Valley Royal Hospital where he is in a critical condition. 

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 5.45am on Thursday May 13, we received a report that a 56-year-old man had been found with injuries on Abbots Road at the junction with Newlands Road and Newhouse Road, in Grangemouth. 

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“He was taken to Forth Valley Royal Hospital where he is described as being in a critical condition.

“Enquiries to establish the full circumstances are ongoing. Anyone who was walking or driving in the area and saw the man between 4pm yesterday and 5.45am this morning is asked to contact police with information on 101, quoting reference number 0417 of May 13.”


Voters go to the polls in Airdrie and Shotts by-election

Polling stations will open on Thursday for the North Lanarkshire seat to replace incumbent SNP MP Neil Gray.

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Vote: Public go to the polls.

Voters are going to the polls in a by-election to choose a new MP for the Airdrie and Shotts constituency.

Polling stations will open on Thursday morning in the North Lanarkshire seat in the race to replace incumbent SNP MP Neil Gray.

Gray stepped down to contest the same seat in the Scottish Parliament election, and became an MSP last week.

The two elections were not held on the same day due to concerns about coronavirus and the possibility of voter confusion because of the different ballot systems used in Westminster and Holyrood elections.

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Gray held the seat for the SNP in the 2019 general election, taking 45% of the vote, with Labour coming second on 32%. This gave the SNP a majority of 5201 votes.

Modern studies teacher Anum Qaisar-Javed is the SNP candidate, facing Labour councillor Kenneth Stevenson.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon campaigned in Airdrie and Shotts with Ms Qaisar-Javed on Wednesday, alongside the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was also on the campaign trail on Wednesday with Mr Stevenson.

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The other candidates standing for the seat are Stephen Arrundale, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Ben Callaghan, Scottish Conservatives, Martyn Green, Reform UK, Donald Mackay, UKIP, Neil Manson, Social Democratic Party and Jonathan Stanley for the Scottish Unionist Party.


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