Forbes calls for social care staff to be on immigration list

Scotland's finance secretary has written to home secretary Priti Patel in regards to the shortage occupation list.

Letter: Kate Forbes has written to home secretary Priti Patel. Fraser Bremner via Getty Images
Letter: Kate Forbes has written to home secretary Priti Patel.

Scotland’s finance secretary has urged the Home Office to include social care staff on a list of under-filled jobs in its new immigration system.

A recent report from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended that senior social care workers should be added to the shortage occupation list (SOL) but Kate Forbes said that “does not go far enough”.

The SOLs outline a number of jobs where shortages have been identified and it will be easier for employers to look overseas to fill posts, under the new points-based immigration rules to come into force after the end of the Brexit transition period.

A salary threshold of £25,600 will be enforced on workers arriving from overseas under the new rules, but if social care staff were added to the list that would drop to £20,480.

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In a letter to home secretary Priti Patel, Forbes has pushed for care staff to be placed on the list, saying the recommendation of the MAC “does not go far enough”.

Forbes added that the push from the Scottish Government was not due to a “general” shortage of staff but to mitigate negative effects on health as a result of leaving the EU at the beginning of next year, particularly on the response to the pandemic.

She said: “The economic and public health impacts arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the need for further restrictions in response to rising infections, are placing a great deal of stress upon the health and social care sector.

“I trust that you agree that as winter approaches, we need to anticipate that this pressure will rise even further, and that therefore we should be doing all we reasonably can to reduce that pressure to ensure appropriate standards of care are given to the most vulnerable.”

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Forbes also called for the Scottish Government to be more involved in setting the SOLs, particularly the list that only applies north of the border.

She said: “We remain of the clear view that if the shortage occupation lists are to continue to play a meaningful role in the future immigration system then the Scottish Government should have the ability to influence and determine what is on the Scotland Shortage Occupation List.”

In January, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon proposed a separate visa system for Scotland, claiming a UK-wide immigration system has not worked in Scotland’s favour “for some time now”.

The proposals were rejected by the UK Government within hours and described as “fanciful and deranged” by the Prime Minister.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are delivering a firmer, fairer, points-based immigration system from January 2021, based on what people have to offer, rather than where their passport is issued.

“We’re supporting the social care sector in a number of ways, including more funding and a national recruitment scheme, but we want employers to focus on investing in our domestic workforce.”


Coronavirus: Two more dead as cases rise by 746 in Scotland

According to information reported by NHS boards across Scotland, more than 1000 people are in hospital with Covid-19.

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Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further two people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 94,689 – a jump of 746 in the past 24 hours.

The official death toll in Scotland now stands at 3722, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is at least 5380.

Of the new cases reported on Sunday, 229 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 159 are in Lanarkshire, 78 are in Lothian, and a further 78 are in Ayrshire and Arran.

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The remaining cases are spread across seven other health board areas.

According to management information reported by NHS boards across Scotland, 1049 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – a decrease of 28 overnight. Out of those, 76 patients are in intensive care.


Blackford: Government in a panic over support for independence

SNP's Westminster leader urged members to come together and focus on pushing to leave the UK.

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The UK Government is in a “panic” over recent support for Scottish independence, the SNP’s Westminster leader has said.

Ian Blackford told party faithful to “keep the faith” at the annual conference – this year being held virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic – urging members to come together and focus on pushing to leave the UK.

Blackford compared the record of Westminster in the past 20 years, citing the Iraq War, Brexit and the bedroom tax, with the history of the Scottish Parliament, with free prescriptions, tuition fees and the upcoming Scottish Child Payment raised as examples of Scotland being a “fairer and more equal place to live”.

In recent months, polls shifted to show support for independence, with survey results rising as high as 58% when undecided voters are removed, according to an Ipsos Mori poll for STV in October.

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“That diverging tale of two parliaments has led to an inevitable conclusion – poll after poll shows that a settled majority now believes that all decisions and all powers should now be trusted to the people of Scotland,” he said in an address from his home in Skye.

“That is why the Tories are in a panic, they are unwilling to accept the truth that a majority of Scotland’s people now want an independent future.

“Instead of listening to the will of the Scottish people, the Tories are attempting to deny democracy and destroy devolution.”

Blackford insisted that no prime minister or UK government will be able to force Scotland to stay in the union “against our will”.

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He added: “Denying democracy is a political position that can’t and won’t hold.

“It’s a position that will crumble under the weight of votes in next year’s Scottish election.”

The Westminster leader also issued a call for unity and focus among party members, the day after one of his MPs questioned the handling of internal debates within the party.

In an interview with the Times on Saturday, Joanna Cherry called for an end to the “cult of leader” within the SNP and pushed for a more “collegiate” approach to policy decisions.

Blackford said: “We have all come a long way – and we are now within touching distance of independence. But just as we have travelled all this way together – we can only complete this journey together.

“My message to all of us is this: Keep heart, keep the heid and keep the faith. A new Scotland – fairer, greener and European – is now ours to win.”


Sturgeon refuses to say if she would welcome Salmond back to SNP

A Holyrood committee is investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of allegations against the former first minister.

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SNP: Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to say if she would welcome former first minister Alex Salmond back into the SNP.

She was challenged on the issue as Scotland’s deputy first minister insisted ministers have “not closed the door” on handing MSPs legal advice from the court case Salmond won against the Scottish Government.

A Holyrood committee is investigating the government’s botched handling of allegations against Salmond, and the Scottish Parliament has twice voted for the legal advice to be handed over to the MSPs.

Sturgeon said the committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints inquiry, and a separate investigation into whether she breached the ministerial code, must be allowed to be completed.

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On The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Sturgeon was asked if she would like to see Salmond back in the party.

She responded: “I’m not going to get into these issues today.

“There is a parliamentary inquiry under way, there is an inquiry into my conduct in terms of the ministerial code.

“I think it is important to allow these inquiries to take their course.

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“There are important issues of political scrutiny and accountability, I have no issues with that, but I think it is important to allow those processes under way to take their course.”

Sturgeon succeeded Salmond as SNP leader and First Minister when he stood down after losing the 2014 independence referendum.

But her relationship with her former mentor has since soured, with Salmond successfully challenging the way the Scottish Government handled sexual harassment complaints against him.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that to be “unlawful” and Salmond was awarded more than £500,000.

Meanwhile, deputy first minister John Swinney said “active consideration” is being given to the issue of handing over the legal advice.

He told Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News that it is against the ministerial code for him to release the legal advice other than in exceptional circumstances, and law officers must give their consent.

However he said no decision has yet been taken on the issue.

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He told the programme: “The government’s original position was that we do not release legal advice and no government releases legal advice except in very exceptional circumstances.

“What I’ve said is that we will consider the fact that the Parliament has voted in that way. That consideration is ongoing at the present moment and that work is being undertaken to determine what approach we should take to responding to what Parliament has undertaken.

“So the issue is not closed, it’s very much under active consideration within the Scottish Government and I will be updating Parliament as soon as I’ve got a conclusion on the handling of that issue.”

Asked whether the advice might be published, he replied: “There is a possibility that we might do that because Parliament has asked us to do that and I’m now reflecting on that particular issue.

“At no stage have I closed the door on that issue, I’ve simply set out the fact that ordinarily governments don’t publish their legal advice.”


Celtic’s cup run ends in shock defeat to Ross County

Pressure increases on Neil Lennon after his side's 2-0 home defeat.

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Ross Stewart put Ross County ahead from the penalty spot.

Celtic’s 35-match unbeaten run in domestic cup competition has been brought to an end with a shock 2-0 home defeat to Ross County in the Betfred Cup.

Ross Stewart put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot in the 39th minute and Alex Iacovitti sealed the win with a header from a corner seven minutes from full time.

The result will increase pressure on Celtic manager Neil Lennon, who has seen his position questioned after a run of only two wins in ten games.

County were without a win against a Premiership side since September but now find themselves in the draw for the quarter-finals after knocking out the side that has held the trophy since November 2016.

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Celtic boss Lennon had made changes following his side’s 4-1 defeat to Sparta Prague on Thursday, bringing back goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas for Scott Bain but also replacing Callum McGregor, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Olivier Ntcham with Tom Rogic, Nit Bitton and Albian Ajeti. Ross County’s Stuart Kettlewell was able to bring back Callum Morris, Keith Watson and Iain Vigurs.

Celtic had the better of the early chances, with Odsonne Edouard testing County keeper Ross Laidlaw with a free kick before Tom Rogic shot wide.

The visitors struck first though. Agyer Josh Reid put a low cross into the box, Stewart dashed ahead of Christopher Jullien and was caught on the heel by the French defender. Kevin Clancy pointed to the spot and Stewart put the penalty past Barkas with ease.

Celtic looked to bounce back immediately and went close when Ajeti hit the post after being found by Rogic but the holders found themselves behind at the break.

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County dug in to defend their lead, restricted to counter attacks as Celtic threw what they could forward in search of a leveller.

Mohamed Elyounoussi and Edouard had chances but Celtic couldn’t make the breakthrough and were stunned further as the clock ticked down.

County won a corner and Iacovitti found space to thump in a header and end Celtic’s run while putting his side in the last eight of the competition.


UK secures two million more doses of coronavirus vaccine

It brings the total number of jabs on order from Moderna to seven million – enough for around 3.5 million people in the UK.

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On order: The Government has purchased two million more doses from US firm Moderna.

Another two million doses of a coronavirus vaccine which trials suggest is 95% effective have been secured by the Government.

It brings the total number of jabs on order from the US firm Moderna to seven million – enough for around 3.5 million people in the UK.

The vaccine has yet to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), but doses could begin being delivered next spring if it meets the standards.

Interim data suggests the jab is highly effective in preventing people getting ill and may work across all age groups, including the elderly.

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The UK has placed orders for 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine – enough to vaccinate most of the population – with roll-out expected in the coming weeks if the jab is approved by the MHRA.

It also has orders for 40 million doses of the jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, which has been shown to be 95% effective.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Every week, we are getting more positive news about the range of vaccines in development, and thanks to the work of our taskforce the UK has pre-ordered more hundreds of millions of doses from those companies most advanced in their work.

“This includes buying a further two million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, on top of the five million we’ve already secured.

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“With a wide range of vaccine candidates in our portfolio, we stand ready to deploy a vaccine should they receive approval from our medicines regulator, starting with those who will benefit most.”


Men fined for breaching Covid restrictions to go for a sunbed

Police caught the pair after stopping a vehicle in Greenock’s High Street on Wednesday night.

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Fined: Two men travelled from Glasgow to Greenock for a sunbed.

Two men have been fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions to go for a sunbed.

Police caught the pair after stopping a vehicle in Greenock’s High Street on Wednesday night.

It was then officers discovered that the 32 and 33-year-old had travelled to Inverclyde from Glasgow, a tier four restricted area.

Greenock remains under tier three rules. Under level three and four lockdown measures, Scots are banned from travelling into or out of other local authority areas except for essential reasons.

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Due to the breach, both men were issued with a fixed penalty notice.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers carried out a routine vehicle stop on High Street, Greenock, around 8.30pm on Wednesday, November 25.

“During the routine stop, it became clear two men within the vehicle were in blatant breach of current coronavirus restrictions. 

“A fixed penalty notice was issued to both men, aged 32 and 33.”


Firefighters tackling large blaze at former bingo hall

Emergency services were called to Forfar's Queen Street on Sunday afternoon.

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Firefighters are battling a large blaze at a former bingo hall in Angus.

Emergency services were alerted to the fire at the old Pavilion building in Forfar’s Queen Street on Sunday afternoon.

Police said a number of neighbouring properties have been evacuated as a precaution whilst fire crews work to extinguish the flames.

Road closures have also been put in place.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We are currently in attendance at a building fire on Queen Street in Forfar along with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

“Local road closures are in place and we would ask people to avoid the area at the present time.

“Some neighbouring properties have been evacuated as a precaution while emergency services deal with the incident.”


Holy statue smashed during break-in to Catholic church

St John Ogilvie’s Church in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, is believed to have been targeted on Friday night.

St Joseph's Parish Blantyre via Facebook
Damage: A statue was smashed during the break-in.

A holy statue was smashed during a break-in to a Catholic church.

St John Ogilvie’s Church in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, is believed to have been targeted on Friday night.

During the break-in, a statue of St Anthony was “toppled and destroyed”.

Posting a picture of the damage on Facebook, a spokesperson for St Joseph’s RC Church, which is linked to St John Ogilvie’s, said: “Regrettably we had intruders at St John Ogilvie’s Church [on Friday night]. 

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“Thankfully there was nothing of value to take.”

Many parishioners branded the vandalism a “disgrace” and that those involved should be “ashamed of themselves”.

Another added: “Sad day when they pick a place of worship. Pray for them and their needs.”

Police were alerted on Saturday morning and are appealing for anyone with information to get in touch.

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A force spokeswoman said: “Around 8.05am on Saturday, officers were called to a report of a theft and vandalism at St John Ogilvie’s Church on Broompark Road, Blantyre.

“Enquiries are ongoing and anyone with information should contact 101.”


Arrest made after man ‘attacked with weapons in murder bid’

A 35-year-old man was taken to hospital following the alleged attempted murder in Linwood on Friday afternoon.

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Linwood: Police were called to Blackwood Avenue on Friday.

A man has been arrested in connection with an alleged attempted murder in Renfrewshire.

Police said they received a report about a man being attacked with weapons near a car park in Blackwood Avenue, Linwood, at around 3.20pm on Friday.

A 35-year-old man was found to have suffered serious injuries and was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley for treatment.

On Sunday, the force said a man had been arrested in connection with the incident and further enquiries are ongoing.

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Detective sergeant Chris Hughes said: “We are treating this incident as an attempted murder.

“One person has been arrested and we are following further positive lines of enquiry.

“However we would appeal to anyone who may have been in the area at the time and witnessed the attack to come forward.”

If you have any information, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


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