Face-to-face with Colin Mackay: SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon sat down with Colin Mackay to outline the party’s message ahead of May's election.

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 the SNP Nicola Sturgeon, who sat down with STV News political editor Colin Mackay to outline the party’s message and vision for the country.

Colin Mackay: Nicola Sturgeon, there is a lot of free stuff in your manifesto. How can you afford it?

Nicola Sturgeon: We set out the medium term financial strategy in January. The Scottish Government published that. That took account of the independent forecast by the Scottish Fiscal Commission, the OBR, and the assumptions about growth in our budget over the next five years. It gave three scenarios: high, medium and low. And we costed our manifesto slightly under the medium forecast. So it is based on the growth principally on the devolved tax revenue as our economy starts to recover.

ADVERT

CM: But you couldn’t do it without the Barnet Formula or the block grant could you?

NS: Interestingly when you look at the medium term financial strategy, and it is published for everyone to see, devolved tax revenues are estimated to grow by about 20%…

CM: But you could do without the extra funding could you?…

NS: The overall budget is expected to grow by 14%. The reason for that is because the Barnet Formula part of our funding is growing more slowly—that’s what’s holding overall budget growth back. But let’s nail this point Colin. The money that we get is not given to Scotland as some kind of favour. It comes from taxes that we pay in Scotland that first send to the Treasury in London only to get back. Or it comes from the massive borrowing that the UK Government is quite rightly taking to help us get through the pandemic.

ADVERT

CM: One of the big free promises is dental care. Dentists are quite concerned about that because they worry it could restrict the free treatments they give. Also they are worried it could be seen as a bit of a middle class giveaway given that people on benefits get free dental care anyway…

NS: We will talk to the dental community as we roll that policy out. It’s really important to stress that those are worries that will not be well founded. We will make sure we talk to the dental profession to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences…

CM: Why haven’t you spoken to them already? They say you have cancelled meetings with them…

NS: If that’s the case then I apologise for that. This is a political manifesto but the Government has ongoing consultation and dialogue with professions in the NHS and other sectors as well. But can I complete this point; it’s partly about completing the restoration of the NHS to its founding principal: providing free health care at the point of need. But it’s also part of a bigger shift here. If we take away barriers to people accessing health care, then they will get that health care earlier and it helps to shift to more preventative care and treatment. In the year before the pandemic, almost 4000 people ended up in accident and emergency departments, because they had dental health problems. Perhaps not all but some of those problems may have been averted if people got to the dentist earlier and perhaps cost was a barrier for many people.

CM: You mentioned the pandemic. We are a year on from the outbreak. 10,000 deaths. Do you think as many people in Scotland would have been vaccinated, if we had been independent?

NS: Yes.

CM: How can you say that, when you look at the other independent countries that you mentioned during your manifesto launch the other day, Ireland, Denmark. We’ve vaccinated almost three times more than them…

ADVERT

NS: Because this notion that the UK has only been able to procure the vaccine and vaccinate so many people because we’re out the EU is not born out, firstly by the reality that the UK was still in the transition period, therefore subject to all of the rules and regulations of the EU, when it procured the vaccine. European countries are able if they so wish, particularly during health emergencies to procure in the way the UK did…

CM: But no other EU country is anywhere close to where Scotland and the UK is…

NS: Scotland could have chosen to procure the way it thought was best. There is absolutely no evidential basis to say Scotland would not have vaccinated as many people as we’ve vaccinated right now…

CM: Except when you look at every other European country. If you look at Ireland for example, they are planning to try and get all their over 70s done by the end of next month. We will have done all our over 40s by then…

NS: Scotland, and a Scottish Government would have chosen to procure the vaccine in the way that they thought was most effective and efficient. Now you’re just basically plucking this out of thin air saying “Scotland had it been independent we wouldn’t have been able to do that”. As long as we had a sensible Scottish Government like the one we’ve got just now and the one that I hope is re-elected come May 6.

CM: So you’re saying that Ireland, other EU countries that you’ve spoken about Denmark, Norway, they’ve done it wrong. They’ve not been sensible?!…

NS: I’m not making a comment on any other country. You’re doing that. I’m talking about Scotland. I’m talking about the decisions we’ve taken the decisions that I think had we been the government as an independent country we would have been able to take. At the heart of your argument, which a lot of politicians who were on the Brexit side of the EU referendum make, is that the UK would have been prevented and therefore by extension, any other country in the EU, would have been prevented from procuring the vaccine in the way the UK did it—had the UK still been in the EU. The point I’m making is the UK was in the transition period, it was still subject to all the rules so that point clearly is completely false.

CM: 260,000 children living in poverty in Scotland. That’s up 50,000 since you became First Minister…

NS: So child poverty is far too high in Scotland as it is in every other nation in the UK. Of course child poverty in Scotland, is the lowest of the four UK nations. It is up 50,000 because of welfare cuts that have been introduced at Westminster. Most of the independent commentators on child poverty say very clearly that the reason child poverty has risen in Scotland and across the UK is because of welfare cuts. But what we’ve done over the past parliamentary term is put in place a game changing, that’s the word of child poverty campaigners, policy to do something about that. The Scottish child payment, which is already up and running paying £10 a week for children up to age six in low income families about to be extended to children up to the age of 16, and if we are re-elected doubled in the next term of Parliament. So we have a situation in Scotland where we’re trying to lift children out of poverty with the powers we’ve got. But the powers at Westminster are being used in a way that plunge more children into poverty.

CM: You’re going to double it by the end of the Parliament. That misses the interim target set out in the Child Poverty Act by cutting it by 18% by 2023-24. You’re missing your own target…

NS: We said in the manifesto we’ll do it over the term of the Parliament. But of course we’ll set out in budgets…

CM: It actually says in page 28 by the end of the Parliament. Are you going to do it by 18% by 2023-24?

NS: These are statutory targets. I think I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong on this if this has changed in the wee while. We’re the only government in the UK that still has statutory targets. So, we are bound by law, and we will do what it takes to meet those and that’s the point I was going to make. We will set out the phasing of that policy when we put forward a budget and a programme for government, if we are re-elected.

CM: The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that you could actually hit the 90% target of 2030 right now if you put the child payment up to £40. Why don’t you just do that, and actually stop child poverty?

NS: Your first question to me Colin was, “your manifesto’s full of giveaways. How are you going to pay?”…

CM: But wouldn’t that be a good one. To say you’re going to eradicate child poverty.

NS: I think in what we set out we will lift children out of poverty and we will meet our statutory targets.

CM: You’ll lift 47,000 out. But you could lift 240,000 out…

NS: We will set out through as we have done in our manifesto, the action on the child payment, free school meals…

CM: You could lift people out quicker. You’re just not going to do that?

NS: That’s not the case. We’re putting forward a costed, affordable plan that is going to lift children out of poverty. The child payment in its current form, let alone its doubled form, is something that no other government in the UK has in place. And that is the determination we have. To lift children out of poverty, and make child poverty a thing of the past.

CM: You’re going to recruit 3500 teachers and classroom assistants. How many of each?

NS: Again, over the pandemic we recruited 1400 additional teachers…

CM: This is what we are looking at in the future. You’re talking about 3500. How many of each?

NS: We haven’t made that calculation yet.

CM: Have you spoken to the EIS about it?

NS: I was going to try to help you with the answer if you give me a moment. Over the last parliamentary term, we’ve employed 3000 more teachers. In the pandemic 1400 more teachers and 200 classroom assistants. So that’s perhaps a rough idea of the balance we will strike there. But yes we will discuss with teaching unions and local authorities, local authories being the actual employers of teachers and classrooms assistants. But we are making clear the funding is there to build on the 3000 extra teachers we’ve recruited over this parliament, to recruit 3500 teachers and classroom assistants. Now, we also want them to have some flexibility to find the balance that works in their own situations.

CM: In your last manifesto you said you wanted to close the poverty related attainment gap. You could have done better on that, couldn’t you?

NS: We could have done better and I want us to do better. We were making, and are making real progress here. We would have done better had covid not upended every aspect of our lives. But if you look at National Fives we reduced the attainment gap by a third. At level six we’ve redusced it by a fifth. More young people are going from deprived communities to university than was the case five years ago. But I want to do more. I want us to do better. We’ve made progress and if we are re-elected we will continue that forward progress that we’ve already started.

CM: So you could have done better in education. You took your eye off the ball with drug deaths. Hospitals opening years late. Failing to meet waiting times. It’s not a great record to take into this election is it?

NS: I do not agree with that characterization of it. People have a choice, whether they want a first minister and a candidate for first minister to sit and arrogantly say “there’s no room for improvement, there’s not more that we want to do” or whether they want to first minister says “you know what I’m really proud of our record. Here’s the areas where I want us to do better, this is what we’re going to do to do better” and people will make that choice.

CM: On the economy you say in your manifesto that you’ll set over the first six months of the Parliament, a new ten year strategy for economic transformation. You don’t have one for recovery yet then?

NS: Well you know the Benny Higgins review that took place last year that has already put in place, a strategy that for example a recommendation which is already being implemented for the young person guarantee, giving every young person between…

CM: Well if you’ve already got a ten year strategy why do you need that?

NS: Well others can say, we don’t need that ten year [strategy], but it’s actually a good thing to look ahead. We have recovery from the pandemic. We’ve got the imperative to meet net-zero which is a big obligation but a massive opportunity as well. So we are I think doing the right thing saying that we’re going to bring businesses, trade unions, academic experts together to look ahead and say “what are the goals we want to achieve as a country over the next ten years” and how do you go about doing that. So some people would say that’s not necessary. I think it is necessary and I think it’d be a fantastic opportunity.

CM: In the last Parliament you lost two ministers to sleaze. You were embroiled in court cases. Why should the people of Scotland trust you to be the government?

NS: Because I think we’ve got a good record. I think we’ve done a good job for Scotland.

CM: But you’ve just admitted you could have done better…

NS: I think that any government that has been candid will say “we’ve done well here. But because of circumstances we could have been better here”. But why should people trust the SNP was your question. Firstly because we’ve demonstrated over the last year we are the government with the commitment and the experience to lead the country through the pandemic. We’ve put forward a bold programme for government to kick-start a recovery. And yes we want to give people in Scotland the choice over the country’s future once the pandemic has passed and, you know, that’s what I’m asking people to put their trust in on May 6.

CM: And yet your party has split over the last year of so. How can you claim you can lead the country to be a united Scotland as an independent country when you can’t even keep your own movement united?

NS: I think if you look beyond the headline of opinion polls, and I appreciate opinion polls are not what counts. It’s the election result that counts. But if you look beyond the headline of opinion polls, the underlying statistics, what you see is SNP support is strong. It’s very united…

CM: You must be disappointed it split on your watch…

NS: The SNP hasn’t split. We’ve had a relatively small number of people decide to support another party. That is their right and I respect their right to do that. But to say the SNP is split is a massive, massive overstatement. If you look at the opinion polls and the election result, I take nothing for granted. What is interesting, and this was obvious in the debate you so expertly chaired, was that all of the other parties in this election are vying to be leader of the opposition. It is only me and the SNP that are putting forward a serious programme to be the government and that’s what the country needs.

FM slams Rangers fans as Glasgow could face longer lockdown

Professor Jason Leitch said the city may be under Level 3 restrictions for more than another week.

Pool/Pool via Getty Images / Euan Cherry via SNS Group

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “utterly disgusted” by Rangers fans who “rampaged through the city” as Glasgow’s Level 3 restrictions could continue for more than an extra week.

The First Minister said that the violence, vandalism and anti-Catholic prejudice on display was “selfish beyond belief” amid rising coronavirus cases in the city.

Her statement came as Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, said that restrictions may continue in Glasgow beyond May 24.

An estimated 15,000 Rangers fans amassed outside Ibrox and then in George Square on Saturday. Five police officers were injured after supporters began throwing missiles at them. Police Scotland said that 28 people had been arrested so far for a variety of offences and that more arrests will follow.

ADVERT

Sturgeon said she had been inundated with messages about the “disgraceful scenes” in Glasgow.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – MAY 15: Rangers fans celebrate lifting the Scottish Premiership title at George Square, on May 15, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Euan Cherry / SNS Group)

She said: “Police still have a job to do, which restrains my comments to some extent – but to say I’m utterly disgusted by the Rangers fans who rampaged through the city would be an understatement.

“I’m also angry on behalf of every law abiding citizen. In normal times, the violence and vandalism, and the vile anti-Catholic prejudice that was on display, would have been utterly unacceptable. But mid-pandemic, in a city with cases on the rise, it was also selfish beyond belief.

“People across the country still living under the most difficult restrictions – not able to see family or attend weddings and funerals – are rightly furious at the irresponsible actions of a thuggish minority who seem to care little for the risks they pose to other people.”

ADVERT

She said that there is a need for the government and police to reflect on what more can be done to prevent and tackle such scenes but said that Police Scotland officers had her admiration for the job they did in “difficult and dangerous circumstances”.

Five police officers were injured and more than 20 people arrested after massive crowds of Rangers fans had to be dispersed from George Square in Glasgow. Police Scotland’s assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie said: “Police Scotland, our partners and Rangers Football Club had all asked fans not to gather and to take personal responsibility for their actions.

“But 15,000 people chose to ignore that and took the selfish decision to gather at Ibrox and then George Square.”

The city remains Scotland’s virus hotspot with the latest seven-day rate of positive cases per 100,000 people at 89.4.

The rest of the country will have coronavirus restrictions eased on Monday, May 17, but Glasgow and Moray will remain under Level 3.

Pollokshield and Battlefield remain the most affected neighbourhoods with residents urged to get tested and take up the opportunity to be vaccinated when offered.

Having taken a test herself, Sturgeon said: “If you live in – or have recently spent time in – the Southside of Glasgow, please help get this outbreak under control by taking a test.”

ADVERT

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, Prof Leitch said “it may well be” Glasgow remains under Level 3 beyond the initial one week delay to easing restrictions.

He told the programme: “We’ll give the best advice we can on this – we’ve met all weekend, we’ll meet next week.

“Glasgow are doing an enormous amount of work. The leaders of the public health response in Glasgow are testing everywhere.

“If you haven’t had a test and you’re in Glasgow, you should do it.”

Coronavirus: 292 new cases recorded in last 24 hours

Scottish Government figures showed there had been no further deaths of those who had tested positive recently.

LeArchitecto via IStock
Covid-19: 292 new cases in Scotland.

Scotland has recorded 292 positive coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

That number represents 2% of all the tests that reported results, meaning the positivity rate increased from 1.6% on Saturday.

Latest figures released on Sunday showed that there were no further deaths of people who had recent tested positive for the virus.

However, three people remain in intensive care with recently confirmed Covid-19.

ADVERT

Since the start of the pandemic more than 10,000 deaths have been registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Over three million people, around two thirds of adults in Scotland, have received their first dose of the vaccination.

More on:

Caution urged as Covid-19 restrictions set to ease

Professor Leitch indicated that Glasgow may have to stay in level 3 restrictions for longer than a week.

STV News
Leitch: Urging caution as restrictions set to ease.

Scots should be “cautious and careful” when Covid restrictions ease across most of the country on Monday, national clinical director Jason Leitch has said.

Professor Leitch said the decision to keep Glasgow in Level 3 restrictions went “down to the wire” and indicated the city may have to stay at the current level for longer than a week.

With the exception of Glasgow and Moray, which are dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks, all mainland areas will move from Level 3 to Level 2 restrictions.

Changes to the rules include the ability to hug loved ones again and indoor socialising in homes.

ADVERT

Many island communities will move to Level 1.

Nicola Sturgeon announced on Friday that Glasgow and Moray would have to stay at Level 3, with the situation being reviewed at the end of next week.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, Prof Leitch said initial signs suggested the Indian variant was “part of the challenge” in Glasgow.

Discussing the decisions to keep Scotland’s largest city in Level 3, he said: “Certainly the toughest we’ve had to give advice about for months and months.

ADVERT

“It was really down to the wire on what was the right thing to do, but we’ve learned in Scotland and around the world that acting fast and hard always works.

“Delay rarely works and that is why we gave the advice we did.”

Asked if the outbreaks were likely to spread to other areas, he said: “I think we should watch and be cautious and careful.

“We have decided, with advice, that on Monday the rest of the country is safe to move to the next stage.

“But we all said the hugging, the increased hospitality, that should all be done very cautiously.

“So don’t go crazy but we think it can be kept under control.”

Prof Leitch said it “may well be” the case that Glasgow stays in Level 3 for longer than a week, as he urged people in the city to take tests for the virus.

ADVERT

On Monday in the Level 2 areas, up to six people from three households can socialise indoors in a private home or garden without physical distancing.

Physical contact such as hugs with loved ones will be allowed again, though the government says people should use their judgment around how often this takes place.

Pubs can open and sell alcohol indoors until 10.30pm in two-hour booked slots. Local licensing laws will apply outdoors.

On Sunday, a total of 292 cases of coronavirus and no new deaths were recorded in the Scottish Government’s daily figures.

A total of 3,020,335 people have received the first dose of a Covid vaccination and 1,621,031 have received their second dose.

Hundreds join Glasgow rally in solidarity with Palestinians

It comes after similar rallies in other major cities across the UK and Ireland this weekend.

George Square Cam via Glasgow City Council
Pro-Palestine supporters have gathered in Glasgow’s George Square.

Several hundred demonstrators have gathered in Glasgow’s George Square for a rally in solidarity with Palestinians.

Protesters shouted “free Palestine” and waved Palestinian flags and placards in the sunshine early on Sunday afternoon, just hours after the area was cleared of a sea of broken glass and debris left by Rangers fans celebrating the club’s league title.

Ahead of Sunday’s rally, civil liberties lawyer Aamer Anwar tweeted that “1000s will gather peacefully with families & no alcohol, to protest the genocide of #Palestinians”.

He added: “We demand total respect by [Police Scotland] and a facilitation of the democratic right to protest, we will not tolerate any double standards or excuses”.

ADVERT

It comes after similar rallies in other major cities across the UK and Ireland in solidarity with the people of Palestine this weekend.

In London on Saturday, nine police officers were injured and missiles were thrown amid efforts to disperse crowds outside the Israeli Embassy.

Thousands of people had earlier marched through the capital to the gates of the embassy in Kensington.

Nine people were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder in London, the Metropolitan Police said.

Adel Hana via AP
Gaza City was targeted by in a fresh Israeli air strike on Sunday (Adel Hana/AP)
ADVERT

Scotland Yard said small pockets of disorder had followed a largely peaceful demonstration.

Thousands of Palestinians have been forced to flee their homes after a week of sustained conflict.

Since last Monday night, Palestinian militant group Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, whose military responded by barraging the Gaza Strip with tank fire and air strikes.

At least 145 people in Gaza and eight in Israel have been killed since the fighting erupted.

More on:

Woman severely injured after two assaulted by teen at station

Two women were assaulted by a teenager wearing a Rangers flag around her neck on Saturday.

British Transport Police via BTP
British Transport Police are appealing for witnesses.

A young woman has been left severely injured after being assaulted by a teenager at a busy North Lanarkshire railway station.

The victim’s friend was also assaulted by the same woman at Coatbridge Sunnyside station on Saturday night.

British Transport Police are now looking to trace the suspect who is described as being around 18 or 19-years-old, with a heavy build and dark hair.

At the time of the attack she was wearing a Rangers flag around her neck.

ADVERT

Emergency services attended and the first woman assaulted is currently being treated for severe leg injuries in hospital.

Officers are now appealing for witnesses to the incident that took place at around 7.30pm.

A spokesperson from BTP said: “Several people are believed to have been at the station at the time of the assault and detectives are urging them to come forward with any information.

“Witnesses or anyone with information can contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40.”


Five police injured and 28 arrested after Rangers title party

Scenes of celebration became 'ugly' after officers tried to disperse the crowds.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group

Five police officers have been injured and almost 30 people arrested after massive crowds of Rangers fans had to be dispersed from George Square in Glasgow.

The thousands of football supporters were celebrating their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph with many gathering outside Ibrox and then marching through the city on Saturday before scenes turned “ugly”.

The First Minister said she was “utterly disgusted” and hopes that Rangers FC will reflect on what must be done to counteract behaviour of fans as there is concern that Glasgow will have to remain in Level 3 for even longer amid increasing cases of coronavirus.

There was a large police presence throughout the day, with increasing numbers deployed to George Square as the singing, dancing, and lighting of pyrotechnics continued for hours.

George Square was littered with broken glass, alcohol containers, spent flares and other rubbish.
ADVERT

But police said some fans became “increasingly disorderly” with property damaged and people being assaulted in “ugly scenes”. Officers were targeted by the crowd, with missiles and flares thrown at them.

Glasgow’s police chief condemned the “disgraceful behaviour” and thanked the officers who put themselves in harm’s way to bring the “violent and disorderly gathering to an end”.

Although most of the crowd dispersed, a number remained and confronted the police with “violence and aggression” with officers coming under direct attack.

Nicola Sturgeon said that she had been inundated with messages about the “disgraceful scenes” in Glasgow.

ADVERT

She said: “Police still have a job to do, which restrains my comments to some extent – but to say I’m utterly disgusted by the Rangers fans who rampaged through the city would be an understatement.

“I’m also angry on behalf of every law abiding citizen. In normal times, the violence and vandalism, and the vile anti-Catholic prejudice that was on display, would have been utterly unacceptable. But mid-pandemic, in a city with cases on the rise, it was also selfish beyond belief.

“People across the country still living under the most difficult restrictions – not able to see family or attend weddings and funerals – are rightly furious at the irresponsible actions of a thuggish minority who seem to care little for the risks they pose to other people.”

She said that there is a need for the government and police to reflect on what more can be done to prevent and tackle such scenes but said that Police Scotland officers had her admiration for the job they did in “difficult and dangerous circumstances”.

The mass of fans left George Square littered with smashed glass, alcohol containers, plastic bags, and spent flare and firework casings.

Scaffolding around the Walter Scott Monument in the centre of the square had been scaled during the celebrations.

There was a large police presence throughout the day.

A major clean-up operation took place overnight with the area intended to host an organised demonstration on Sunday.

ADVERT

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: “My full support to police officers who put in an incredible shift [yesterday] in very difficult circumstances. Absolutely disgraceful that they were subjected to the kind of thuggery we saw last night. Incidents of violence, disorder, anti-Catholic and any other hatred will be followed up.”

Fans had been urged to celebrate in accordance with coronavirus restrictions and avoid gathering in numbers. Glasgow is currently the nation’s coronavirus hotspot, with the highest prevalence of the virus per head of population. The city will remain in Level 3 lockdown, along with Moray, while the rest of the country enjoys the easing of restrictions.

Figures published on Friday showed Glasgow recorded 80.4 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to May 11.

Chief superintendent Mark Sutherland, Police Scotland’s divisional commander for Greater Glasgow, said: “As celebrations continued sections of the crowd became increasingly disorderly, property was damaged and people were assaulted. Our officers became the focus of the crowd’s attention with missiles and flares being thrown at them. Our policing response has been proportionate. We have responded appropriately and consistently to the behaviour of those gathered.

“I strongly condemn the behaviour of these supporters who have not only placed our officers at risk but have sought to damage the image and reputation of this great city, especially during this critical period of the pandemic.

“I would like to place on record my thanks to the police and partners who manged this incident, especially those officers who put themselves in danger to bring this violent and disorderly gathering to an end.

“So far we know that three officers have been injured and more than 20 people have been arrested.

“We will be continuing our enquiries and my message is clear that if you have been involved in these ugly scenes then we you will be identified and arrested.”

Scottish cinemas set to reopen after months of dark screens

Vue boss says there is ‘huge pent-up demand’ for the big-screen experience.

Vue Cinemas via Handout/PA
Vue have revamped their cinemas in readiness for reopening on Monday, putting in new Covid-safe features.

There is a “huge amount of pent-up demand” for cinemas and confidence in the industry is “unshaken”, the general manager of Vue in the UK and Ireland has said, as thousands of multiplexes reopen their doors.

The cinema chain will open its venues in Scotland and the rest of the UK on Monday with new releases including Peter Rabbit 2, featuring the voice of James Corden, and Spiral: From The Book Of Saw, starring Chris Rock, and classic films such as The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, Taxi Driver and Grease.

Odeon cinemas will also reopen as will Curzon chains. Cineworld, which announced the closure of 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse sites last October, will begin reopening from Wednesday, May 19.

Cinemas will not be able to reopen in Glasgow or Moray which remain in Level 3 lockdown amid higher prevalence of the virus, meaning Scotland’s only Everyman venue will be closed until restrictions are eased.

ADVERT

Toby Bradon, general manager of Vue entertainment in the UK and Ireland, said: “There’s a huge amount of pent-up demand out there, and we want to get that out there and meet that pent-up demand.

“We know that our customers are really keen to get back into the cinemas and we’ve got a great line-up of films.

“We do know from the customer research we’ve done that people believe you can’t recreate that big-screen experience at home. It’s a point of differentiation.

“People want the big screen, they want the sound, the seats, the whole experience, the popcorn that goes with it, and they recognise you can’t get that from your sofa.

ADVERT

“We’re in some unprecedented times, so it’s quite difficult to judge exactly what it’s going to look like but our confidence in the industry is unshaken.”

Discussing the rise of streaming over the past year, and the move by some film studios to make films available at home on the same day as in theatres, Mr Bradon said he believed audiences still need cinemas for blockbuster experiences.

Warner Bros has announced its entire slate of 2021 films, including anticipated blockbuster Dune, will arrive on the HBO Max streaming service at the same time as in cinemas in the US.

Disney will also launch a number of films on its streaming service Disney+ on the same day as cinema releases, including Marvel film Black Widow, villain origin story Cruella and Dwayne Johnson’s new movie Jungle Cruise.

However, the release of likely box office hits such as Bond film No Time To Die, Top Gun: Maverick and Fast And Furious 9 have all been delayed so they can be shown only in cinemas.

Mr Bradon said: “If you look at what the studios have done with the big films, they’ve delayed them, they pushed them back, they haven’t pushed them to the home and streaming, which tells you that cinema exhibition is an economic powerhouse for them.

“Of course other films have gone to streaming and but generally they’re not the big ones. So No Time To Die, Fast And Furious 9, the big tentpole stuff, has just been delayed and I think that’s a sign of confidence from the studios as well that the customers will return.”

Nurses map road to recovery for those living with addiction

The Parish Nurses have created the Dundee Recovery Roadmap to bring support services together.

STV News

The road to recovery for people affected by drugs in Dundee is being mapped out by a group of nurses.

The Parish Nurses run drop in services to support those experiencing addiction and homelessness.

Now, they have created the Dundee Recovery Roadmap mobile phone app, bringing together a raft of services that have sprung up in the city to help halt record drug deaths.

“Over the last few years the services that have sprung up have been quite encouraging and we see that in the app,” explained Kirsty Nelson, one of the Parish Nurses.

ADVERT

“It’s full of these amazing services that are there to support, encourage and help people get into the recovery stage of their life.”

Demand for addiction support has never been greater. 72 people died from drugs in Dundee in 2019, earning the city the unenviable title of Europe’s drug death capital per head of population.

Stefan Ward knows only too well the importance of support services. He arrived in Dundee eight years ago addicted to drugs and credits his recovery to the grassroots groups that helped him.

“I was really broken, hitting rock bottom, at that stage of giving up,” said Mr Ward.

ADVERT

“Finding out that Dundee had this unfortunate name for itself as the drug death capital, I thought this was my dead end, this was it and it didn’t look good as that’s where I struggled also.

“But it actually turned out to be the place where I found hope, I found recovery.”

Mr Ward now volunteers at the drop-in centre run by the Parish Nurses at the city’s Steeple Church, helping others find the support he says saved his life.

“I discovered these services, the church, they’ve just played a huge part in my recovery and I really am here by the grace of god,” said Mr Ward.

He has helped develop the app – highlighting all the services in the city offering support. One of the services featured is the Safe Zone Bus.

Before coronavirus came along, the bus helped vulnerable people or those leaving pubs and clubs worse for wear.

At the start of the pandemic it was repurposed to help those struggling to access help.

ADVERT

It parks up in the Stobswell and Lochee areas on a Friday and Saturday night, when other services are closed.

Kathryn Baker, Tayside Council on Alcohol chief executive said: “We’ve had people over the winter who have come onto the bus and they’ve had no food, no warm clothing, they’ve had no money for electricity, they’ve had no heating so we’ve been able to provide that crisis help.”

Volunteers on the bus have discovered the power of the pot noodle is a surprising ice breaker.

Neil Sneddon, of Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “It takes four minutes to make so it gives us four minutes to engage with people.” 

“People come here for a pot noodle but they have multiple issues, potentially that we can support them with and if we can’t support them on the bus we know multiple agencies that can and that’s what the cup of tea, the pot noodle allows.”

Denise Fitzsimmons volunteers on the bus and uses her own experience of addiction to help others.

“In June, that’s me six years sober. When I was a kid I never thought I would be a drop-out alcoholic, but I did. But I got better and everybody can get better but only they can do it,” she said.

“Family members are tortured by this. Everybody is affected. It’s heartbreaking. We need to listen to the people and find out what’s going on because we’re getting polluted by drugs. It’s taking over this town.”

The Reconnection Project is also included on the app. Through a series of gardening, woodwork and art workshops they try to get to the root of people’s problems.

“Over 50 people I knew have died, young, younger than me,” said volunteer John ‘Taffy’ Barrington, who never used drugs but witnessed the devastation they caused when he was homeless ten years ago. 

“I try to encourage a lot of people that there are things for them, there wasn’t so much when I was on the streets. There’s so [many] positives, I try to encourage people that if I can do it anyone can do it.”

The Reconnection Project’s manager Dave Dyson, a former drug user himself, wants to set up a rehab centre on the outskirts of the city.

“We would run it the way we see it would run better without any medication, without methadone. It would be what you would call cold turkey,” he explained.

“We’re lacking in Scotland with people being able to go into rehab, so that’s important. People need to feel they’re not going to be judged. People need to feel loved. There is so much hurt out there and we’re seeing it all the time. Until you find the root cause the problem is always going to be there. There is so much trauma,” said Mr Dyson.

There are plans to roll the roadmap out to other parts of Scotland in the hope more people can find the help they need where they live and less lives will be lost.


City planners set for ‘more relaxed approach’ to festivals

Edinburgh City Council has previously faced heavy criticism for its planning enforcement of the city’s festivals.

georgeclerk via IStock
If the proposals are approved, festival organisers will not need permission for the use of a new space for up to 28 days.

Edinburgh City Council is set to take a “more relaxed approach” to planning enforcement of the capital’s festivals.

Councillors are being asked to approve plans which will allow planning officers to be more lenient during the summer festivals.

Edinburgh City Council has previously faced heavy criticism for its planning enforcement of the city’s festivals, particularly the Christmas Markets in 2019, which went ahead despite not having planning permission, and which caused £150,000 of damage to Princes Street Gardens.

If the proposals are approved, festival organisers will not need permission for the use of a new space for up to 28 days, excluding the erection and removal of any structures, and where that use is not similar to an existing, nearby business.

STV News
Edinburgh International Festival is planning two tents.
ADVERT

The same rule will apply to the city’s public green spaces. Similarly, individual structures smaller than 3,500m-squared will not be subject to planning enforcement.

A report, set to go before councillors at the council’s planning committee on May 19, reads: “The Edinburgh Festivals are key to the city’s international reputation, its economy and its recovery.

“Festivals were not held during 2020 as a result of the coronavirus emergency.

“In 2018, festivals contributed £280m to the local economy.

ADVERT

“The Scottish Government’s chief planner has written to planning authorities in Scotland to encourage a relaxation of planning control, through not taking enforcement action, in a range of circumstances to help businesses and services diversify and continue to operate within our communities during the pandemic.

“Operators have been exploring options for how the summer festivals could be held in 2021 on a limited basis and subject to Scottish Government public health guidelines.

“The timescales for preparing and determining applications, coupled with the uncertainties over what public health requirements will be in place when the festivals will be held mean that it is difficult for the festivals to plan.

“If planning applications are required, the timescales are such that it could stop the reintroduction of core elements of the summer festivals this year, for example the Edinburgh International Festival.”

Edinburgh’s festivals have previously brought high numbers and concentrations of people to the city. In 2018 attendance at major festivals was 4,604,520.

According to council officers, the summer festivals create thousands of seasonal jobs during July and August as well as supporting hundreds of full-time roles.

The report further states that the festivals’ attendees have contributed £280m to the local economy and the 11 Edinburgh Festivals have together delivered £313m to the Scottish economy.

ADVERT

There are currently three proposals for the summer festivals, which under the council’s current planning guidelines would need planning permission, but would now be free to go councillors approve the relaxation of planning enforcement.

Edinburgh International Festival is planning two tents, a 100m by 30m structure in Edinburgh Park, and a 55m by 20m structure in the Old College Quadrangle, while the Edinburgh Tattoo is planning on constructing small stands.

Story by local democracy reporter Joseph Anderson

You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?