Johnson writes to congratulate Sturgeon on election success

The Prime Minister has invited Nicola Sturgeon to a summit to discuss 'shared challenges'.

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Boris Johnson has written to Nicola Sturgeon to congratulate her on the SNP’s success in the Scottish Parliamentary election.

In a letter, the Prime Minister highlighted the UK response to the coronavirus pandemic and the roll out of the vaccine programme in recent months.

And Johnson invited Sturgeon to a summit meeting to “discuss our shared challenges and how we can work together”.

In the letter, he wrote: “I believe passionately that the interests of people across the UK and in particular the people of Scotland are best served when we work together. We have shown that through the vaccine roll-out.

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“The UK Government’s ability to procure vaccines at scale has benefited people in all parts of our country.

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“The dedicated and hardworking staff of NHS Scotland have ensured jabs have been put into arms from Gretna to John o’Groats.

“This is Team UK in action, and I recommit the United Kingdom Government to working with the Scottish Government in this cooperative spirit.”

The Prime Minister said that overcoming the challenges raised from the pandemic will require a “spirit of unity and cooperation”.

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He wrote: “While the UK’s broad shoulders have supported jobs and businesses the length of the country, we know that economic recovery will be a serious shared responsibility because the pandemic’s damage runs deep.

“Covid-19 has also posed significant challenges for our public services, from hours of lost school learning, to backlogs in the NHS and courts.

“Overcoming them will require us to show the same spirit of unity and cooperation that marked our fight against the pandemic.”

Johnson added: “To that end, and reflecting your commitment to focus on recovery, I would like to invite you to join me, UK Government colleagues and others at a summit meeting to discuss our shared challenges and how we can work together in the coming months and years to overcome them.

“I will be writing in similar terms to the First Minister of Wales, and the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland.

“We will all have our own perspectives and ideas – and we will not always agree – but I am confident that by learning from each other we will be able to build back better, in the interests of the people we serve.”


‘Without young people, there is no future here’

Calls for action to reverse depopulation in the Outer Hebrides.

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The population of the Outer Hebrides is expected to plummet over the next 20 years, prompting calls for action to keep young people on the islands.

A recent report by National Records of Scotland projected that the number of households will have fallen by 11% by 2043.

Those who live there are growing increasingly concerned by depopulation and fear the pandemic may have accelerated the problem.

They want to see a more targeted and intensive campaign to tackle the issue.

‘No future without youngsters’

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Kenny Macleod, who runs a community shop on the Isle of Harris, said his daughter’s nursery has just three pupils.

“It’s a big concern for an area like this,” he told STV News. “A village is nothing without its youngsters. There’s no future for it.

“Currently the school roll is falling and it’s falling all the time. Looking into the future it’s pretty bleak at the moment for youngsters and for the school.”

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Shop owner Kenny Macleod.

Leverburgh Care Home on Harris is also facing difficulties – managers have been forced to recruit agency staff from the mainland and rent a home for them.

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Deputy manager Joanetta Grantley said: “Years ago there was always lots of people around, a lot of young people around and they’d be staying here, but they’re all moving away now because there’s nothing for them here.

“Restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, all these places are looking for staff at the moment, but there just aren’t enough people.”

‘We need opportunities’

Christina Macleod, a student in Dundee, recently returned to her childhood home in Harris for a summer job, but doesn’t know if she’ll be back after she graduates.

“I would like to live away,” she said. “I much prefer the city, but I do like coming home.

“If there were more opportunities for jobs I would definitely come home.”

Teaching in America from Lewis

At the other end of Lewis, Ariana Ayu, David Robb and their five-year-old son, David, have been bucking the trend.

After living in America for ten years, they decided to settle in Ness, where they run a bed and breakfast.

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Ariana Ayu, David Robb and their five-year-old son David.
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Ariana said: “We wanted to find a place to raise our son that had a feeling of community… somewhere we could get to know our neighbours in ways we don’t in a lot of big cities.

“I’m teaching nursing classes in America right now online. So with technology we can really live wherever we want and still be connected to the people that we love and be connected to our jobs.”

‘We need more homes’

A lack of affordable housing is seen as one of the main stumbling blocks when it comes to boosting the population.  

Holiday homes, housing projects concentrated in urban rather than rural areas and inflated property prices due to Covid and Brexit have all had an impact.

Musician Padraig Morrison, who returned to Grimsay in North Uist last year after living in Glasgow, says people do want to return to the islands.

But he said finding a property was a major obstacle; people buying holiday homes has pushed prices up.

“There have been a number of folk who have had really challenging housing situations as soon as they have moved back,” he said.

“They’ve had to go back to the family home or do some couch surfing in order to be in the place that they want to be.”

What is being done?

Western Isles Council said it planned to make a case to the Scottish Government for extra support to provide more diverse jobs and housing.

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It’s hoped various measures can reverse depopulation.

The government said it was looking at options such as an Islands Bond, offering young people and families a financial incentive to stay in or move to the islands.

It added that work was already underway through its National Islands plan to address areas threatened by depopulation.


Euro 2020: Italy light up opening game with 3-0 win in Rome

Italy opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over Turkey in Rome.

Craig Foy via SNS Group
Celebrations: Italy fans in Glasgow fan-zone.

Italy have won the opening Euro 2020 game with a 3-0 win over Turkey in Rome.

The Italian’s dominated for the 90 minutes after a stirring opening ceremony rendition of Nessun Dorma by Andrea Bocelli at the Stadio Olimpico.

Roberto Mancini’s men laid down a marker with three second half goals to extend their unbeaten run to 29 games.

They have won their last nine without conceding a goal and scored more than two goals at a European Championships game for the first time in their history.

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Italy fans celebrate in Glasgow. SNS Group.
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Thousands of fans attended the first Glasgow fan-zone to watch the opening game on Friday night.

Upto 6000 supporters are expected to attend Glasgow Green for every one of the games including Scotland’s three group matches.

Steve Clarke’s men open their campaign against Czech Republic at Hampden on Monday before taking on England four days later.

They return to Glasgow to take on Croatia in their final group game.

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The month-long tournament is being held over several host cities throughout the continent.

More on:

‘Boogie cover has put me on the road to Hampden’

Brooke Combe's version of Scotland's new football anthem went viral after the play-off victory.

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A singer who shot to fame with her cover of Scotland’s new football anthem wants to grace the Hampden turf one day.

But despite being a keen footballer in her schooldays, Brooke Combe isn’t expecting to lace up her boots and pull on the famous dark blue jersey.

Instead, she wants to get fans dancing in their seats by one day headlining a concert at the famous national stadium.

The 21-year-old Edinburgh star’s profile “blew up” after she covered Baccara’s disco classic Yes Sir, I Can Boogie – the song adopted by the Tartan Army and Scotland squad.

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Brooke’s cover went viral on TikTok.
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Brooke recorded her version after footage showing the players dancing and celebrating to the song took over social media following the national side’s qualification for Euro 2020.

Her video went viral on TikTok and even attracted the attention of Scotland captain Andy Robertson.

“My friend texted me ‘if you cover this it’s going to blow up’,” Brooke told Scotland: We Can Boogie, streaming now on the STV Player.

“It blew up, it absolutely blew up.”

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Brooke is now being tipped for big things, having recently released her first single ‘Are You With Me?’, a collaboration with Blossoms bassist Charlie Salt and The Coral.

And she believes her music career will eventually lead her down the road to Hampden.

“To play Hampden one day would be incredible – it will happen, watch this space,” she said.


Supporters gather as Glasgow Euro 2020 fan zone opens

It's the biggest event in the city since the pandemic began despite concerns it could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.

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The official Euros fan zone has opened in Glasgow and for the next 31 days will show every game of the tournament.

It’s the biggest event in the city since the pandemic began despite concerns it could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.

Up to 6000 people each day are going to be able to watch Euros matches in the Glasgow Green area if they have a ticket.

Fans heading to the site were encouraged to take a coronavirus test before arriving, however proof of a negative test is not required before entry.

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Euro 2020 is the first major tournament the Scotland men’s team have qualified for in more than two decades.

Earlier today Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, said “there will have to be a reverse gear” if clusters of virus cases are linked to the fan zone.

He said the fan zone is a “gateway event” as part of the move out of lockdown.

He said: “I think they’ve done a good job. It’s not zero risk, the fan zone cannot be zero risk.

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“The only way to take away all of the risk of Covid is to lock the city down, not let any crowds in the fan zone or the stadium.

“That’s not what I think the pandemic stage we’re at suggests.”


Toddler who died after falling into pond named by police

Emergency services were alerted to the incident in Dollar Avenue, Falkirk, at around 6.10pm on Thursday.

Police Scotland
Heartbreaking: Ella-Grace Rimington, who was known as Gracie, died after falling into a pond.

A toddler who died in hospital after falling into a garden pond has been named by police.

Emergency services were alerted to the incident in Dollar Avenue, Falkirk, at around 6.10pm on Thursday.

Ella-Grace Rimington, who was known as Gracie, was taken to Forth Valley Royal Hospital but the 18-month-old died a short time later.

Enquiries into the incident are ongoing, however the death is not being treated as suspicious.

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Detective inspector Craig Faulds, of Forth Valley’s CID, said: “This is a heartbreaking incident in which a young girl has died.

“The family has asked that they be given privacy at this very difficult time and I would like to ask the public and media to please respect the family’s wishes as they deal with their unimaginable loss.”


US raises concerns over Innova Covid test used in UK

The FDA said the performance of the test "has not been adequately established."

UK Government via Gov.uk
In a statement, Innova said that it is 'confident about the quality of its product'.

The UK’s health department has said it has confidence in lateral flow tests – despite concerns being raised by the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) over the use of a test made by Innova.

In a statement, the FDA said that it had “significant concerns” over the Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test.

It said that the performance of the test “has not been adequately established, presenting a risk to health”, and warned the public to stop using it for diagnostic use.

The FDA stated that labelling distributed with “certain configurations of the test includes performance claims that did not accurately reflect the performance estimates observed during the clinical studies of the tests”.

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It also noted that the test has not been authorised, cleared, or approved by the FDA for commercial distribution or use in the United States, as required by law.

The tests have been used in the UK as part of the UK Government’s ‘Operation Moonshot’ as part of efforts to ramp up mass testing.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “The Innova test has already gone through the UK’s rigorous Porton Down assessment process, and we have a robust quality assurance process in place.

“We have confidence in lateral flow tests, which help us identify people without symptoms but who could pass the virus to others – helping break the chains of transmission.”

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In a statement, Innova said that it is “confident about the quality of its product”.

The statement read: “Innova is of course committed in making the most equitable test with the highest quality, and none of the inspectional observations in the FDA letter concern the performance of the test.

“The Innova rapid antigen test has been widely used, studied, tested, scrutinised and analysed with data supporting the efficacy of the test from the largest mass testing programme out of the UK.

“Innova understands the FDA’s health risk concern for the US market as they have not evaluated or authorised the Innova test in the US.

“In simple terms, the regulator won’t confirm a product is safe to use until it has evaluated and authorised a product itself.

“Innova has voluntarily recalled those products that it distributed to its employees, clinical studies and some customers for evaluations purposes. Innova is confident about the quality of its product.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said:

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“There is a robust quality assurance programme in place for Innova tests which are currently used for all lateral flow testing in Scotland and have also already gone through the UK National Testing Programme’s rigorous Porton Down assessment process.

“We have confidence in lateral flow tests which have been available to anyone in Scotland who wants one since April 26 and are vital in helping break the chains of transmission, by helping us identify people without symptoms but who could pass on the virus.

“As we have said consistently from the outset, no test is 100% accurate, and testing on its own, does not reduce transmission. It only helps stop transmission through the actions taken following the result.”


Scotland’s health body accused of ‘conflict of interest’

The Scottish Conservatives have now called for a new independent report on Covid deaths in care homes.

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Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said that public agencies 'do not exist to protect the reputation of ministers'.

Public Health Scotland has been accused of a “blatant conflict of interest” following reports that it had to score research to determine whether papers challenged or criticised Scottish Government policies.

It comes after the Times newspaper said that it had obtained a document showing that the body had agreed a “communications framework” with the Scottish Government and COSLA, the national association of Scottish councils.

The document instructs PHS to manage “risk” when communicating with the media and the public, the newspaper reported.

It involves a ranking system, with communications which could cause “sustained or widespread criticism of the Scottish Government” allocated as being of very high/severe risk.

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Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf has said that the claims are “not true”, and that PHS “functions entirely independently of ministers”.

PHS has also stated that it “discharges its duties with integrity” and is “committed to work that is both open and transparent”.

The Scottish Conservatives have called for a new independent report on Covid deaths in care homes to be published after suggesting that the document produced by PHS “may have been compromised”.

The party’s shadow health secretary Annie Wells said: “There is a blatant conflict of interest in Public Health Scotland judging SNP ministers, who the agency has a duty to protect from criticism.

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“The Public Health Scotland report on Covid deaths in care homes was controversial from the start. It was delayed and when it was finally released, the SNP set about spinning lines and downplaying its findings.

“Grieving families were furious at the lack of answers it gave.”

Wells continued: “This news calls into question if the findings of that report were compromised. The revelation that Public Health Scotland must protect SNP ministers may well explain why key information was omitted.

“We now need a new, truly independent report on what went wrong in Scotland’s care homes, where more than 3000 people tragically lost their lives. Families deserve comprehensive analysis they can trust.”

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said that public agencies do not exist to protect the reputation of ministers.

“Scots believed PHS was an independent voice subjecting life or death decisions during the pandemic to serious scrutiny,” said Baillie.

“But these reports raise serious questions about a conflict of interest that need to be resolved. It is just another example of the micromanagement and control freakery which defines the SNP. 

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“Public agencies don’t exist to protect the reputation of ministers and a competent government has nothing to fear from honest accountability. 

“On vital matters of public health, Scotland deserve answers, not nationalist spin.” 

Responding to a request for comment by STV News, PHS said that as a provider of official statistics, it takes its responsibilities under the UK Statistics Code of Practice seriously.

The body outlined that the Office for Statistics Regulation regulates the production of official statistics, and that this includes the work of PHS.

PHS said that this included the production of the Hospital Discharges to Care Homes Report, which was produced independently by PHS working in partnership with the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

It also stated that it has a head of profession for statistics to ensure the organisation meets its obligations under the code for objectivity, integrity and transparency. 

In a statement, the body added: “PHS discharges its duties with integrity and is committed to work that is both open and transparent.

“A risk assessment for all publications is undertaken only to inform the supporting communications approach, and for the awareness of sponsors. It does not change the substance, content or independence of those publications.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said that no one should call the integrity of PHE into question.

He said: “These claims are not true. Public Health Scotland functions entirely independently of ministers – as of course is right and proper – and any suggestion to the contrary is absolutely wrong.

“Throughout the pandemic PHS staff have been working tirelessly to provide data that has been vital for decision making and no one should call their integrity into question.”


Scotland players to ‘take the knee’ before England match

Andy Robertson and Steve Clarke reaffirmed the team's stance against racism but changed their plans.

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Scotland players have been 'taking a stand' against racism before recent games.

Scotland players will “take the knee” before their Euro 2020 match against England – but plan to continue to “stand up against racism” in their other games at the tournament.

The national team decided to “stand up against racism”, rather than taking the knee, in March following a series of racist incidents in the Scottish game this season.

Ahead of the European Championships, the Scottish FA had announced that the players would continue with the stance throughout the tournament, including group games against Czech Republic, England and Croatia.

The announcement reignited debate around the issue, which has become a polarising topic in England in particular.

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England staff and players have continued to take the knee as part of their own action against racism in sport, and were booed by some fans during Euro 2020 warm-up games, prompting manager Gareth Southgate to insist that his squad would continue during the tournament.

Scotland have now amended their plans, with manager Steve Clarke and captain Andy Robertson saying that the team will kneel before they play England to show unity with their opponents, while continuing their own approach to the issue in other matches.

Clarke said that he felt there had been an effort from some to “politicise or misinterpret” his players’ decision and reaffirmed the squad’s opposition to racism.

The national team boss said that the response had been agreed earlier this year after considered discussion and in conjunction with clubs including Rangers and Celtic after high-profile racist incidents.

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“I explained in March the rationale behind the squad decision,” he said in a statement released on Friday.

“Not only is it consistent with the collective approach from Scottish football above but the purpose of taking the knee, to raise awareness and help eradicate racism in football and society, has been diluted and undermined by the continuation of abuse towards players.

“For the avoidance of doubt: me, my coaching staff, my players and my backroom team take a stand against racism and all forms of unacceptable and discriminatory behaviour across society. We do so to raise awareness of the ongoing problem but also as a reminder to those who have the ultimate power and responsibility to implement meaningful change. 

“In light of divisive and inaccurate comments being perpetuated by individuals and groups, whose views we denounce in the strongest terms, we have reflected today as a group. We remain committed to our principles of taking a stand but we must also be unequivocal in condemning the opportunistic false narrative being presented by some.

“We have therefore agreed that we will show solidarity with our counterparts in England, many of whom are teammates of our own players, and who have found themselves on the receiving end of abuse from fans in recent international matches. 

“We will continue to take a stand – together, as one – for our matches at Hampden Park. For our match at Wembley, we will stand against racism and kneel against ignorance.”

Scotland captain Andy Robertson added: “Our position was – and remains – that the focus must be on meaningful change to fight discrimination in football and wider society.

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“In Scotland, the football family has stood against racism all season. It was our collective view that the national team would do the same.

“Our stance is that everyone, players, fans, teams, clubs, federations, governing bodies and governments must do more. Meaningful action is needed if meaningful change is to occur.

“But it is also clear, given the events around the England national team, taking the knee in this tournament matters as a symbol of solidarity.

“For this reason, we have collectively decided to again take the knee as a team for the fixture against England at Wembley Stadium.

“The Scotland team stands against racism but we will kneel against ignorance and in solidarity on June 18th.”

Scotland play Czech Republic at Hampden on June 14 before travelling to face England at Wembley four days later. The last group game is at Hampden against Croatia on June 22.


Yousaf ‘inaccurately presented’ Covid data, says watchdog

It comes after Humza Yousaf cited a figure on child Covid cases in the Scottish Parliament.

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Health secretary Humza Yousaf used the figure at the Scottish Parliament.

The UK’s statistics watchdog has ruled that Humza Yousaf “inaccurately presented” coronavirus data relating to children.

Last week, the health secretary made a claim in the Scottish Parliament suggesting that ten young children had been hospitalised because of Covid-19.

However, the UK Statistics Authority has now indicated that the figure used by Yousaf was not correct.

In a letter, Ed Humpherson, the director general for regulation, said that “the figure used was not available publicly at the time the statement was made, and it was inaccurately presented.”

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He added: “Whilst we understand that on this occasion, it was a genuine mistake, which was quickly corrected, I would like to reiterate the importance of ensuring ministers are appropriately briefed and any figures referred to publicly must be made available.”

The body also said that Humpherson had written to the Scottish Government’s chief statistician to “reiterate our expectation that when statistics are used publicly to inform parliaments or the media they should be published in an accessible form with appropriate explanation”.

Scottish Conservatives shadow health secretary Annie Wells has now urged Yousaf to apologise for the mistake.

“This is a humiliating slap-down for Humza Yousaf,” said Wells.

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“Top statisticians have confirmed his child Covid claims, which left thousands of parents worried for their kids’ safety, were inaccurate.

“It’s a disgrace that the SNP Government wouldn’t just come clean and admit Humza Yousaf got this wrong. Instead, they danced around questions about his dangerous scaremongering.

“The health secretary alarmed parents but once again, just like when he made false accusations of sectarian singing, he didn’t hold his hands up and admit the mistake.

“For once, Humza Yousaf should drop the arrogance, show some humility and finally apologise for getting this so badly wrong.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The health secretary has already expressed his regret for any alarm his remarks may have caused – and the Statistics Authority has acknowledged this was ‘a genuine mistake’ made shortly after the health secretary had taken on his new role.

“The Scottish Government responded swiftly and published the figures quoted with clear definitions and notes to help understand the data.  

“The health secretary was answering a question about whether a parent in level two should take their child to a soft play in level one and was simply highlighting the risks of people breaching Covid restrictions.

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“The age group currently showing the second highest number of confirmed Covid cases is children under 14 – and we need to be extremely careful to avoid giving the impression that there is no risk to children from COVID.”


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