Furloughed workers can return part-time from July 1

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also confirmed employers must start paying towards staff costs from August.

Rishi Sunak: Chancellor gave update on furlough scheme. Getty Images
Rishi Sunak: Chancellor gave update on furlough scheme.

Furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time from July 1, the Chancellor has announced.

Giving the latest update on the UK Government’s job retention scheme, Rishi Sunak confirmed businesses must start paying towards their staff’s salaries from August – initially just 5% of it.

He also said a final self-employment coronavirus grant is to be made available for freelancers in August.

They will be able to claim up to £6570 from that date, giving those workers access to a total coronavirus grant of up to £14,070 each.

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Businesses will also have to start paying National Insurance and tax contributions for staff in August, ramping up to 10% of furloughed wages in September and 20% in October.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak had previously announced the plan to get businesses to contribute to the scheme but he laid out further details on Friday.

He also said workers can return part-time without losing any furlough payments from July – a month earlier than previously planned, following lobbying from businesses.

But businesses must start bearing the costs and from August all companies using the furlough scheme must start paying NI and employer pension contributions.

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In September and October, overall contributions from employers will rise to 10% and 20% respectively, the Chancellor added, but workers still furloughed will keep getting 80% of their wages up to £2500 a month.

The government will cover 70% of wages up to £2190 in September, the other 10% of wages paid with the employer, along with NI and pension contributions, making up 14% of the gross employment costs.

The following month, the Treasury will pick up 60% of wages up to a cap of £1875, with employers paying tax contributions and 20% of wages, representing 23% of the that worker’s costs.

The government added that only 40% of businesses had claimed the pension contributions since the furlough scheme was launched.

Companies can be flexible with their definition of “part-time” as long as a full-time employee has not returned to normal hours, say officials.

The Treasury said: “Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, so that they can decide on the best approach for them – and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.”

Since it was launched, the job retention initiative has been used by one million businesses to support 8.5m jobs in all four nations of the UK, at a cost of £15bn so far.

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The scheme is expected to cost a total of around £80bn, or £10bn a month, although the Office for Budget Responsibility is set to publish detailed costs next week.

Business groups had asked the UK Government to ensure that those industries suffering hardest were most protected.

But the Treasury said it was not always clear which sector a business was in, insisting it would not rule out future support if required.

The Chancellor said: “Now, as we begin to reopen our country and kick-start our economy, these schemes will adjust to ensure those who are able to work can do so, while remaining amongst the most generous in the world.”

Sunak had faced calls, including from a cross-party group of 113 MPs, to extend the scheme for self-employed workers, which has so far seen 2.3 million claims worth £6.8bn.

The new grant will be worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6570 in total.

To combat fraud, employees will be able to report any concerns to HM Revenue and Customs.

Fewer than one in 20 Scots likely to have had coronavirus

Just 4.3% of people in Scotland have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, according to new data.

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Covid: Antibodies research uses random blood samples.

Fewer than 5% of Scots are thought to have been exposed to coronavirus over the course of the pandemic, public health officials have said.

Just 4.3% of people in Scotland have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, a Public Health Scotland report found.

The results came from the random of testing of nearly 5000 blood samples throughout Scotland between the end of April and the end of June.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Nicola Steedman revealed the figure at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday.

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As Scotland was preparing for the virus to hit earlier this year, then-chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood warned between 60% and 80% of Scots could catch it.

Researching coronavirus antibodies helps to provide officials with more data on very mild or asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 that may have gone undetected.

Dr Steedman said the antibodies research suggested only “a fairly small” chunk of the population had so far been infected with Covid.

It comes as 11 new cases were reported in the last day, while the Scottish Government estimates around 700 people in the country in total are infectious.

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Public health officials continue to put the R number – or reproduction rate – below one in Scotland, meaning the epidemic is shrinking.

Dr Steedman told the briefing: “Only a fairly small proportion of the population have so far likely been exposed to coronavirus in Scotland.

“And it is this low number of people likely exposed that explains and reinforces our ongoing messages to you.

“Firstly, that we need to be careful when we are easing out of lockdown and secondly, this is why we still want you to follow all of the current guidance on physical distancing and all the measures that we recommend in order to protect you, your loved ones and, in fact, protect all of us.”

The interim deputy CMO also sought to reassure the public on the use of personal data to form the new research on antibodies.

The 4751 blood samples tested came anonymously from routine blood checks carried out in healthcare settings across Scotland, she said.

Dr Steedman said data privacy is “a priority for all of us”, adding that personal data is used safely and only for the most important research projects.

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Antibodies researchers look for the specific proteins that the human body produces to fight different types of infection.

Term-time childcare to resume in line with schools

John Swinney said childcare and early learning services should be fully up and running by August 11.

Term-time childcare services will resume in line with the return of schools next month, John Swinney has confirmed.

The education secretary laid out the next steps for childcare and early learning ahead of pupils going back to school – expected to be on a full-time basis – on August 11.

Much of Scotland’s childcare sector has been able to resume work in the last week after the country entered phase three of its lockdown exit plan, with various restrictions in place.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing alongside Nicola Sturgeon, Swinney stressed that childcare will “look and feel a bit different” even while the sector reopens.

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He announced a £11m “transitional fund” to help childcare centres reopen safely in Scotland from next month, in line with schools.

The education secretary also said a separate, previously announced support fund for childminders will open today for grant applications.

Current restrictions on the mixing of different childcare settings, such as between childminders and nurseries, are expected to be relaxed by the end of the month provided coronavirus cases in Scotland remain low.

Swinney also said he hopes a “bubble” model of childcare – where staff are designated to look after smaller groups of children – won’t be needed.

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It comes as one more Scot died with coronavirus after seven days with no deaths of confirmed Covid cases.

A total of 11 new cases were reported in the last day, while the Scottish Government estimates around 700 people in the country in total are infectious.

There are 630 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, up 19, and six patients in intensive care, a figure which is unchanged.

The First Minister said more than 500 people have had the “traumatic” experience of being discharged from intensive care in Scotland after having the virus.

She announced that Dr Nadine Cossette, a liaison psychiatrist at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, has been commissioned to develop proposals for the support of those who have had coronavirus.

The FM went on to thank childcare workers, parents and children for how they had responded to the loss of childcare and schooling during the pandemic.

To Scotland’s youngsters, she said: “You have all been brilliant and I want you to know that everyone is really proud of you.”

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Swinney also hailed the country’s “outstanding childcare staff” following the First Minister’s remarks.

He added: “Childcare has carried on during the pandemic.

“Key worker childcare was at the heart of keeping Scotland going during lockdown.

“Without it, Scotland could not have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic the way that we did.”

The education secretary continued: “Looking ahead, I expect term-time childcare settings will reopen in line with schools next month.

“This will be welcome news to parents, families, the childcare workforce and most importantly, to children.

“It is important to remember this reopening is not a return to normal. Childcare will look and will feel a bit different.

“Some public health restrictions will remain in place at that time.”

At the heart of this, he said, would be measures to restrict the number of contacts children and staff have, although strict social distancing is not envisaged.

The focus on childcare and education at Thursday’s briefing came after the group advising the government on the return of schools issued a new report.

It said teachers should not need to wear masks in schools unless they are spending prolonged close contact with a pupil.

The group further confirmed it does not expect pupils will need to socially distance from one another.

Speaking at the briefing, Sturgeon also revealed the policy of shielding for those deemed most vulnerable to Covid could be paused by the end of this month if infection rates stay low.

From Friday, shielding people will be allowed to stay at hotels, visit outdoor markets and gardens and spend time with their partner if they are in a non-cohabiting couple.

Has Brexit left our disunited kingdom beyond repair?

Upcoming legislation on post-Brexit powers will see the union come under further strain.

Post-Brexit powers have started fresh arguments over the future of the union.

Pandemics are no respecter of borders or discrete political positions.

In the UK, responsibility for combating coronavirus has fallen on a Conservative prime minister, an SNP first minister, a Labour FM in Wales and in Northern Ireland by representatives of a polarised historical enmity, that frequent hate fest where Ulster unionism clashes with Irish republicanism.

If this had all taken place less than 25 years ago, a centralised Westminster strategy would have been fronted by the prime minister with the secretaries of state for Scotland and Wales acting as quasi-plenipotentiaries with the bare minimum of scrutiny afforded by monthly questions in the Commons.

In Northern Ireland, despite a ceasefire in paramilitarism, the politics was still defined by mutual recrimination, all of which meant that direct rule essentially meant a made-in-Westminster solution for the people of Northern Ireland. Scrutiny, let alone a tailor-made response, would have been an afterthought.

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The constitutional changes made by the Blair government and the decision on power-sharing in Ulster were genuinely radical at the time. Radical that is for a state that was centralised and seemingly impervious to ‘let go’.

Much of the bespoke strategies on lifting lockdown have never been analysed from the perspective of the 21-year-old newish normal in governance.

Devolution has allowed for that tailored response. The extent to which different parts of the UK moving at different speeds has raised the odd voice in angst only goes to show that some people simply haven’t adjusted to the realities of devolved government.

And yet the very institutions that facilitate that refined response are headed for the mother of all clashes with the mother of parliaments.

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The issue is the post-Brexit split in powers between Westminster and the devolved nations when what was exercised by Brussels now has to be decided in the UK.

The new battleground will heighten tensions and do little to project a sense of harmony in this disunited kingdom.

Since the Scottish Parliament assumed legislative competence on July 1, 1999 much has changed. The Calman Commission, recognising Donald Dewar’s view that change was “a process not an event”, redefined Holyrood’s powers.

The Smith Commission led to more powers, too, even if it was not an organic response to constitutional naval-gazing.

Rather it enacted the panic strategy of the Better Together parties during the 2014 referendum when ‘more powers’ were offered to shore up a campaign that came relatively close to losing.

Since then Brexit has proved there is no bridge to straddle the realities of the UK as a whole voting to leave the EU with the fact that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.

Brexit may well have been in part a roar of English nationalism. But its consequence has been to embolden the Scottish variety and force people in Northern Ireland into considering the wider dimension of shared economic interests on the island of Ireland.

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The UK is no longer the tight-knit unitary state which periodically has to deal with a little local difficulty in the form of containable demands for changes in how folk are governed.

In a real sense it is now a series of nations defined by different demands for further change.

The SNP will demand another independence poll.

A border poll on Irish re-unification is no longer the stuff of belly laughs. The uber unionists of the DUP are now left to explain how the ‘principle of consent’ is fine for defining Britishness but can be ignored when embracing Europeanism.

The forthcoming stushie over who gets what in the post-Brexit power spoils is not the stuff of pub chat or the kind of easy to understand concept that can be encapsulated in a slogan poking at a raw nerve.

It will, however, play to a narrative that all is not well in Britannia. What it does not do is make anything inevitable.

Politics post the 2014 referendum in Scotland has cemented the SNP’s stranglehold on power and it has seen fluidity in some voters in terms of moving from no to yes. But in the absence of another poll it is all rather academic.

The pandemic parked that awkward question for Nicola Sturgeon about her plan B on indyref2 when Boris Johnson says no, as indeed he will continue to say no. It hasn’t gone away.

The ‘power grab’ debate will bring it into sharper focus but it won’t resolve anything, at least not immediately.

Two decades of devolution have changed the UK beyond all recognition in terms of how decisions are made. Who knows what the next two years hold, never mind the next two decades?


Motorcyclist admits causing pillion passenger’s death

Bret Simpson will still face trial accused of dangerous driving before Bronte Hutchison's death.

Bronte Hutchison: Died in crash.

A biker has admitted causing the death of his 23-year-old pillion passenger.

However, 28-year-old Bret Simpson’s guilty plea to careless driving before the fatal crash was rejected, and he will instead go on trial accused of dangerous driving.

Bronte Hutchison died on August 5, 2018, following a crash on the A6091 Galashiels to Melrose bypass.

It is alleged that Simpson rode his motorbike at excessive speed, allowed Bronte to ride pillion while she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, failed to slow down approaching the Tweedbank roundabout, then braked sharply and lost control of his bike.

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Bronte was thrown from the bike, struck her head on the kerb and died at the scene.

Defence counsel Edith Forrest said: “He pleads guilty to causing death by careless driving.”

Prosecutor Shirley McKenna refused to accept the reduced plea and said the Crown was ready for trial.

Judge Lord Mulholland said: “I will continue this for another preliminary hearing on September 24.”

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The High Court in Glasgow heard that the trial is expected to last five days.


Man denies stabbing teenager to death with scissors

Connor McMath, 20, is accused of killing schoolboy Sean Ford in Wishaw.

High Court: Accused denies murder charge.

A man has denied murdering a 15-year-old by stabbing him in the neck with a pair of scissors.

Connor McMath, 20, is accused of killing schoolboy Sean Ford at Charles Street, Wishaw, on March 7.

At the High Court in Glasgow, McMath’s QC Donald Findlay entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of his client, who appeared via video link.

Mr Finlay asked for bail for McMath, who is on remand awaiting trial as no date can be set due to lockdown measures, but the request was refused.

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McMath also faces a further charge along with Derek Paton, 18, from Wishaw.

They are charged with assaulting a 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to the danger of his life at a house in Charles Street, Wishaw, on March 7.

It is alleged they repeatedly struck him on the head with a knuckleduster and kicked and punched him on the head and body, rendering him unconscious.

Paton, who is on bail, was not in court for the hearing.

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Both accused deny the charges against them.

A further hearing will take place in September.


From scaffolder to Premiership footballer in two years

The new Livingston striker is taking lessons from the rapid rise of Scotland captain Andy Robertson.

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Kouider-Aissa has risen from the amateur game to the Premiership.

Salim Kouider-Aissa says he is taking lessons from Scotland captain Andy Robertson as he continues his rapid rise through football’s hierarchy.

The striker – who was working as a scaffolder just two years ago – has joined Livingston after prolific spells with Kilsyth Rangers and Queen’s Park gave him a springboard to the top flight.

Liverpool star and national team icon Robertson famously played for Queen’s Park before rising to become a European and Premier League champion and his influence is still being felt at his old club.

“You’re training at Lesser Hampden and can see Andy Robertson’s face up on Hampden,” Kouider-Aissa said. “So you train and think ‘Could that be me one day?’.

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“If you train and work hard, that’s what he did and look where he is now.”

The 24-year-old had unsuccessful spells in the lower league and Junior game and admits he was immature before finding his focus at Kilsyth.

Now he is set on making the most of his chance to impress with Gary Holt’s side and show he can cut it in the Premiership.

“It’s only two years ago I was still playing amateur for my local team while working as a scaffolder,” he said.

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“That was my wake-up call. Without being big-headed, I realised I was better than the level I was playing at and that I can do better.

“I thought I would give it another crack and see where it takes me, give my full concentration to football.

“I just take a season at a time now. There’s no point in saying you’re going to be at Real Madrid next season. I said to myself a few years ago ‘Juniors next year’. Then it was my aim to get interest from the seniors, then to go full time.

“Sometimes when I’m coming in here I have to drive past the sites I had been working at. You need to pinch yourself.

“But I’m here for a reason and I just need to get the head down and work like I have been doing.”


Finnieston Crane visitor plans include trip to the top

Visitor centre, museum and restaurant lined up as part of £7m Clydeside plans.

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The Finnieston Crane has towered over the River Clyde for nearly 100 years.

People could be taken to the top of the famous Finnieston Crane in Glasgow under plans for a new visitor centre.

A museum and restaurant are also being lined up for the 152ft landmark on the banks of the River Clyde.

The £7m plans have been revealed by community interest group Big Cran’ Co, which hopes to create 50 jobs.

A 122-seat restaurant – provisionally named Glasgow Fare – would open in the shadow of the crane’s jib.

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Profits made from diners would then fund a visitor centre and museum.

A way of taking people to the top of the crane is still being explored.

Big Cran’ Co chairman Allan Wilson, a former Scottish Government minister, said: “We believe this plan would have enormous benefit to the local community and would preserve a unique and iconic part of Scotland’s heritage.

“The crane played an important part in Glasgow’s industrial past and we want to make sure it remains relevant. It would be great for future generations to understand its story.

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“The project can also provide hope as we emerge from lockdown and give a significant economic boost to the area.”

The crane, in use from 1932, was one of last giant cantilevers built on the Clyde and was used to load heavy cargo such as locomotives on to ships for worldwide export.

The Big Cran’ Co has leased the structure, also known as the Stobhill Crane, from owners Peel Ports.


Royal Bank of Scotland plans name change

Branches will still be called RBS, but the bank's official name will be Natwest Group.

RBS: Changing name to NatWest Group.

Royal Bank of Scotland is officially changing its name to Natwest Group from next week.

Branches will continue to trade as RBS and the name will still be heavily associated with the business.

But the lending giant wants to move away from the brand tarnished by a £45bn government bailout in 2008.

New boss Alison Rose unveiled the planned name change in February and it will come into effect from Wednesday, July 22.

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Chairman Howard Davies said earlier this year: “As the bank has evolved from the financial crisis and the bailout, we have focused on the NatWest brand.

“We have exited a lot of the international business which were not profitable. That was branded RBS and that’s gone.

“It really makes no sense for us to continue to be called RBS. It was designed for a global group of brands, which we no longer are.”

RBS – still majority-owned by the taxpayer more than a decade since the financial crisis – became one of the biggest banks in the world through aggressive acquisition.

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But this unravelled in the financial crisis when it was forced to turn to the government for bailout cash to avoid collapse.

It has since shed much of its international operations and once mighty investment banking arm.


Nuclear submarine almost struck ferry carrying 200 people

The two vessels came within 50-100 metres of each other in November 2018.

Stena Line (MAIB)
'Serious risk': Submarine could be seen from ferry.

A nuclear-powered submarine almost collided with a ferry taking more than 200 passengers to Scotland.

The two vessels came within 50-100 metres of each other in the incident on November 6, 2018, a Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report said.

Crew on the Stena Superfast VII ferry, which was travelling from Belfast to Cairnryan in Wigtownshire, “took immediate action to avoid collision” after spotting the submarine’s periscope nearby.

Ferry passengers and the crew on both vessels were placed “in immediate danger” the report found.

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The nuclear-powered submarine, based at Faslane, was patrolling an area south of the ferry route when it came close to the Stena vessel, which had 215 passengers and 67 crew on board.

The report said: “This incident happened because the submarine’s control room team overestimated the ferry’s range and underestimated its speed.

“This combination meant that the submarine’s commanding officer and its officer of the watch made safety-critical decisions that might have appeared rational to them at the time but were actually based on inaccurate information.”

The report found that when the submarine’s control room team initially detected Stena Superfast VII visually, they estimated it to be at a range of 9,000-10,000 yards.

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At a speed of 21 knots, Stena Superfast VII would cover 6000 yards in eight minutes and 34 seconds, which was an estimate of the time available for the submarine’s officer of the watch (OOW) to take avoiding action.

However, the report found the OOW had estimated the ferry’s speed as 15 knots, so would have “incorrectly calculated” it would take the ferry 12 minutes to travel 6000 yards and “almost certainly assessed that there was significantly more time to take avoiding action than was actually the case”.

Following the incident, the master of the ferry notified the coastguard, saying the submarine’s periscope had passed down the starboard side of the vessel at a range of 50-100 metres.

The report said: “During safety training in the North Channel, the command team of a submerged submarine did not take sufficient action to prevent the ferry, Stena Superfast VII, passing inside its go-deep range.

“This was an unsafe event and placed the ferry’s passengers and crew, as well as the submarine and its crew, in immediate danger.”

It said the ferry’s OOW showed “great presence of mind and strong conviction” in altering course to port to avoid a collision, and warned that “without this alteration, there was a serious risk of collision”.

Andrew Moll, chief inspector at the MAIB, said: “I have today recommended that the Royal Navy undertakes an independent review of the actions that have been taken in order to ensure that the risk of similar collisions has been reduced to as low as possible.”

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A Royal Navy spokesman said: “Ensuring safety at sea is a top priority for the Royal Navy, which is why we welcome this report and have already taken action to tighten our training and procedures.”

The Royal Navy said there were no nuclear safety issues during the incident.


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