Long-Bailey would not stand in way of indyref2 as PM

The shadow business secretary says independence would be for the people of Scotland to decide.

Long-Baily: Hoping to become Labour leader. Getty Images
Long-Baily: Hoping to become Labour leader.

Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey has indicated that she would not stand in the way of a Scottish independence referendum if she ever succeeded in becoming Prime Minister.

The MP for Salford and Eccles, who is hoping to replace Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, said she is “fully committed” to the union but believes that it would be for the people of Scotland to decide.

She said: “I’m fully committed to the union and I don’t think that should be shaken in any way, but ultimately the people of Scotland need to make the case.

“They’ve got their own Parliament to determine whether they want to push that and that will be for me as a prime minister to review and to look at.

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“I wouldn’t want to inhibit the democracy of people because that’s one of the most fundamental pillars that we’re proud of in this country.”

The 40-year-old shadow business secretary also said she would abolish the House of Lords if she made it to Number 10 and would be unveiling a radical package of constitutional measures if she won the contest to succeed Corbyn.

She said: “I do want to abolish the House of Lords and we’ll be rolling out as my campaign progresses how we intend to really shake up that constitutional package,” she told Sky News.

There would need to be checks and balances in place, but to have a set of completely unelected people doing that I don’t think is right.”

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Long-Bailey, who has long been seen as the favourite of the Labour left and secured the backing of the grassroots Momentum group on Saturday, also said she would work “very hard and very robustly” to tackle anti-Semitism in the party and she was unhappy at the way the issue had been dealt with.

Scots students allowed to return home on long-term basis

Updated guidance says that students can return to another home permanently if they self-isolate.

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Students: New guidelines say students can move back home if they self-isolate.

Students have been told they can return home from university accommodation on a long-term basis, as long as they follow rules on self-isolating.

Updated guidance from the Scottish Government sets out what those who are studying higher education can do if they wish to change households.

Students have been asked to follow self-isolating rules and not use public transport if they decide to permanently return to another home, while still saying it is an “offence” to undertake short stays without a “reasonable” excuse.

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “We would encourage students to remain living in their current accommodation where they are able to, so they can continue to benefit from both a blend of digital and in-person learning, where that is possible and the opportunity to engage with others, within the restrictions, to build new networks and to make new friends.

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“However, we know that many students may be struggling with the prospect of not being able to return home to visit family and other support networks, especially if it is the first time in their life they have been away from home.

“Knowing what to consider in deciding whether to return home will help support wellbeing and enable students to make informed choices, but it is important to stress that adjusting to life away from home is always challenging.”

Current guidance states that people should self-isolate at home for 10 days if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive, or 14 days if living with someone who has.

Mr Lochhead has written to principals and student accommodation provider networks to set out the new guidance.

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It has been developed in consultation with NUS Scotland and Universities Scotland.

The guidance sets out that students should “consider how you may benefit from in-person learning” if returning home on a permanent basis.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced measures which came into force on Wednesday which ban indoor visits between households.

Students had previously been asked by university bosses to not visit pubs and restaurants this weekend as part of efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19.

NUS Scotland president Matt Crilly said: “Today’s guidance provides welcome clarity to the students in halls, who will be considering their next steps.

“We welcome that students will be able to return home on a permanent basis.

“However, we are disappointed that the government continues to talk up in-person teaching, which may keep students on campus and increase risks unnecessarily.”

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Gerry McCormac, convener of Universities Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government’s additional guidance about households puts the emphasis on staying within existing households and avoiding overnight stays elsewhere for now, but not at the expense of an individual’s wellbeing.

“It also makes clear that a change of household is possible but offers guidance to limit this to cases where a change then becomes the person’s main or only residence on a long-term basis.”


Court backlog ‘could take a decade to clear’, MSPs warn

Holyrood's Justice Committee said 'unpalatable' steps are needed to address the lengthy delays in the criminal justice system.

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Courts: Backlog due to pandemic could take ten years to clear.

It could take up to ten years for Scottish courts to return to their normal level of backlog unless a number of measures are taken, MSPs have warned.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee said “unpalatable” steps are needed to address the lengthy delays in the criminal justice system.

Most criminal cases were put on hold during the initial stages of the pandemic.

The committee has been investigating the impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s courts.

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It heard that while delays to criminal cases were a problem before the pandemic, simply returning to that level of backlog would take eight to ten years if nothing is done to speed up court business.

While the committee praised the introduction of remote jury centres in cinemas, it said even more digital technology was needed, as well as potentially extending court sitting hours.

Sentencing discounts for accused people who plead guilty at an early stage were also suggested.

Holding criminal trials without juries has been discounted as this was considered to be too fundamental a change to the justice system.

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Committee convener Adam Tomkins said: “The scale of the challenge faced by our courts is not to be underestimated.

“Current delays are not acceptable for the victims, witnesses or those accused of crimes.

“While that point may not be controversial, we need to ensure changes to improve the situation, whether long or short term, have the widest possible backing.

“To that end, we want the Scottish Government to convene a meeting of all interested parties to agree a way forward. Time is of the essence.”

The MSP added: “Although the problems are at their worst in the criminal courts, there is still a mismatch in our civil courts, which are largely functioning, and other services linked to them, such as family contact centres, which are at best partially open.”


Gordon Brown calls for action to avoid ‘Covid generation’

Mr Brown said there were 'fundamental flaws' in the jobs support plans announced by Rishi Sunak.

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Unemployment: Gordon Brown urges Government to avoid threat of 'Covid generation'.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is urging the Government to call a special summit to avoid the threat of a “Covid generation” of unemployed young people.

Mr Brown said there were “fundamental flaws” in the jobs support plans announced last week by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

A UK-wide jobs summit is urgently needed to avoid the threat of at least 500,000 young people being unemployed, he said.

Mr Brown will tell a Communication Workers Union conference on Monday that the Government should “reboot” its plans.

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He will say he had argued for a jobs retention plan, adding: “But I now believe – facing a winter of massive job losses, rapidly-mounting unemployment and a wave of businesses bankruptcies – the Chancellor must go back to the drawing board, call a jobs summit to understand the despair in communities and rewrite his winter plan by fixing its fundamental flaws.

“The newly announced job support scheme offers nothing new for the 1.5 million currently unemployed, nothing new for the 900,000 on Universal Credit who will soon be registered as unemployed, and nothing new for the three million excluded from the furlough scheme as self-employed.

“And, shamefully, nothing additional to the inadequate Kickstart scheme for young people, 500,000 of whom will likely end up on the streets or isolated at home, falling through the net in ‘breadline Britain’ with absolutely nothing to do and becoming this century’s lost generation.

“Nor was there anything new for the struggling town centres and high streets to speed up much-needed infrastructure investment or to expedite a job-creating Green New Deal.”

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Mr Brown will tell conference delegates that the impending “tsunami” of unemployment and a wave of business bankruptcies had driven him to help form the new UK-wide Alliance For Full Employment.

“We must bring all parts of the country – nations and regions – together to demand action to save and create two million jobs.”

The alliance is calling for a UK summit of national and regional leaders, including metro mayors and business and unions, to examine a new jobs plan


Coronavirus: One more death and 344 new cases in Scotland

It is the seventh Covid death in the country this week, taking the confirmed death toll to 2512.

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Coronavirus: Seven deaths in Scotland this week.

Another person has died with coronavirus in Scotland as the country recorded 344 new cases.

It takes the death toll in Scotland among confirmed Covid-19 patients to 2512, including seven this week.

Counting separate weekly figures from National Records of Scotland which also record suspected Covid deaths suggests total fatalities involving the virus of 4254.

The figure of 344 new infections on Sunday has decreased considerably on recent days, down more than half after 714 cases were confirmed on Saturday.

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Sunday’s number amounts to 9.1% of newly-tested Scots, down from 11.5% the day before.

The number of Scots in hospital with the virus has risen by six overnight to 105, with 12 patients in intensive care, up by one.

Of the new cases, 172 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 58 in Lanarkshire and 40 in Lothian.

It comes amid coronavirus clusters on a number of student campuses, including major outbreaks at Glasgow University and Edinburgh Napier.

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In emergency measures to try to contain the immediate spread, all students across Scotland are barred from pubs, restaurants and cafes this week and must not socialise outside their household.

Speaking earlier on Sunday, education secretary John Swinney said ensuring students can go home for Christmas is “at the heart” of government thinking.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has written to a human rights body asking if current restrictions against students breach their rights.

What is going on with coronavirus cases and tests?

Recent Covid-19 case numbers in Scotland have been higher than ever.

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Coronavirus: Testing has gradually ramped up over the months.

Recent daily coronavirus case figures in Scotland have not made for pleasant reading.

Looking at the hard numbers, it would appear as though the country’s Covid-19 epidemic is spreading worse than ever.

Three days so far this week saw new records set for the most coronavirus cases reported in a 24-hour period – 486 on Wednesday, 558 on Friday and 714 on Saturday.

Faced with this barrage of numbers every day, numbers which are so often now very large, it can be hard for the public to know what to make of them and to place them in context.

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A major part of that context is Covid-19 testing – and if cases have risen in recent weeks and months, then so have daily tests, and in a very substantial way.

None of this is simple and these days the Scottish Government’s publicly-available spreadsheets on the epidemic are plastered with notes, caveats and revisions.

Making sense of it, thankfully, is possible.

A brief history of testing

When the pandemic first began in the UK in late February to March, the country did not have the capacity for mass testing and tracing that other nations either had ready or quickly built up.

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Perhaps the UK, and Scotland by extension, could have built up that capacity rapidly as others did – but on March 12, we decided not to.

It was felt the coronavirus outbreak had already spread too widely in the community by then for the conventional public health approach of testing, tracing and isolating all cases to work.

Scotland ‘should have continued mass testing in March’ Read now

At the time, unlike now, people with symptoms were simply told to stay home for seven days to try to get better.

Generally speaking, only those whose condition deteriorated to the point of needing hospital treatment were tested.

This meant that as Scotland’s epidemic peaked during the month of April, in fact the country was only testing an average of about 1300 people per day – and sometimes considerably less.

That’s peanuts compared to the figures posted most days now.

Meanwhile, the Scottish and UK governments were building up their testing capacities, albeit not as quickly as some would have liked.

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Their chief weapon was the new UK Government-managed regional testing network, with Scottish centres predominantly based at the country’s airports.

But this separate branch of testing data caused all sorts of havoc for those updating the Scottish Government’s spreadsheets, with huge gluts of test results dumped on them in mid-June which dated back months.

And then again, in early July, a whole tranche of backlogged data related to home testing kits and care home tests was belatedly added to the daily totals, meaning test figures in Scotland suddenly skyrocketed.

Since then, we’ve been consistently looking at far higher testing numbers than at any previous point in the pandemic.

Testing has fallen back but remains relatively high. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

They peaked in late August and early September, with the country seeing nearly 30,000 tests carried out on a number of days, testing around 16,000 Scots each time.

Since then, however, those figures have fallen back quite a bit, to an average of around 17,000 daily tests in September – or about 7400 people tested per day.

The difference between daily tests and newly-tested people is to do with the amount of individuals who are being repeat-tested, for example, care home workers.

The reasons for the drop-off in testing in recent weeks – given the government’s insistence it is pressing ahead in boosting capacity – aren’t entirely clear, but could be to do with problems the UK test booking portal has been having in meeting rising demand.

But nonetheless, the ramping-up of testing over time is unmistakeable in the statistics.

About 14% of Scots have now been tested for Covid. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

On August 4, fewer than 375,000 people in Scotland had been tested for coronavirus.

As of Friday, three quarters of a million Scots (about 14% of the population) have been tested – doubling the figure in just seven weeks.

The positivity rate

As that first testing graph above showed, total tests conducted as well as the number of people tested can vary quite dramatically day-to-day.

Nicola Sturgeon says she now looks first each morning at a different measure to gauge Covid’s prevalence in Scotland: the positivity rate.

This relates to the percentage of positive tests compared to the number of newly-tested people.

US president Donald Trump, with his tendency to say the quiet part out loud, once said he wanted to see less testing in America because it would catch fewer cases.

But the flipside of that is, if you’re testing a lot less but still finding a lot of cases, your positivity rate is going to go through the roof.

For example, when Scotland was still conducting only limited testing on April 18, and it saw 411 positive tests out of just 1596 people tested, the positivity rate was an eye-watering 26%.

Cases were a much higher proportion of overall tests back in April. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

That’s why looking at the positivity measure is only useful if you have robust and consistent testing in place which aims to catch all suspected cases.

Provided such a system is in place, the World Health Organisation says a country is broadly keeping its epidemic under control if its positivity rate is under 5%.

Even when cases began to rise again in August, starting with the Aberdeen pubs cluster, Scotland’s positivity rate was keeping comfortably in the ballpark of 1%.

But that has started to change and change quickly in September as new outbreaks in the west of Scotland and around universities have gathered pace.

Scotland’s positivity rate keeps rising. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

Last Saturday (September 19), the rate hit 5.3% and it has kept jumping all this week to reach 11.5% as of this Saturday.

That, as much if not more than the hard case numbers, will be of great concern to the First Minister and her advisers.

Second wave, or did it ever really go away?

Despite cases rising again in Scotland, the UK and indeed Europe after a spell where infections had been falling, some scientists are resistant to using the phrase a “second wave”.

A second wave, they argue, is when a virus returns, having perhaps mutated into a new strain.

The first wave of Covid-19, it is argued, never really left – we simply had it under lockdown along with the rest of us.

On first glance, this daily cases graph would suggest we’re dealing with a second wave, or a second spike, or whatever you want to call it, that is spreading more virulently than the first.

Cases have soared in September. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

But the truth is, it’s far too early to say that with any certainty.

For starters, comparing September to April, we’re testing nearly six times more people on average than we did then.

It stands to reason that at the peak of the first wave of coronavirus in Scotland, we were missing hundreds, perhaps thousands of daily cases due to the more limited testing regime.

And at the spring peak, it is believed the R number of Covid-19 in Scotland – the number of people each infected person was infecting – could have been anything from four to as high as six.

At the moment, the government estimates the R number in Scotland is between 1.2 and 1.6.

Anything above one is grounds for concern, because it means the epidemic is growing rather than shrinking.

But it indicates officials do not – yet – think the virus is spreading in quite the same exponential way as it was five or six months ago.

‘Badly parked cars’ delayed mountain rescue on Ben Lomond

Lomond Mountain Rescue said inconsiderate parking and heavy traffic delayed their response to an incident on the Munro.

Alan O'Dowd
Rescue: Team slam hillwalkers for badly parked cars.

A mountain rescue team have called on hill walkers to park their cars responsibly after facing “significant delays” during an emergency call out. 

Lomond Mountain Rescue were called to an incident on Ben Lomond in the Trossachs on Saturday, following reports that a hillwalker was lapsing in and out of consciousness.

The group say they were delayed in responding to the incident due to inconsiderate parking and heavy traffic, with the road to Rowardennan reduced to a single lane.

They added vehicles had blocked the emergency access track that allows rescue teams to reach incidents higher on the hill. 

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The group have warned the delays could have been life threatening for the hillwalker if the incident had been more serious.

David Dodson, Team Leader for Lomond Mountain Rescue Team, said: “Getting along the road is really quite difficult at the best of times, but it was particularly bad yesterday because of the sheer volume of traffic and cars which were parked pretty inconsiderately. 

“I think all we would ask folk to do is to use their common sense and try and think of other road users and not park in such a way is to prevent our vehicles going along the road.”


Misery for Murray as Wawrinka thrashes Scot at French Open

Stan Wawrinka beat the Scot during the first round of the French Open, winning 6-1 6-3 6-2.

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Murray: Scot beaten by old foe Wawrinka at French Open.

Andy Murray’s return to clay was a chastening one as he was brushed aside by old foe Stan Wawrinka in the first round of the French Open.

Much had been made of the pair being drawn together again three years after a brutal semi-final at Roland Garros proved the end of Murray’s right hip.

The cold and damp conditions were the same but the similarities ended there as 2015 champion Wawrinka took just an hour and 37 minutes to ease to a 6-1 6-3 6-2 victory.

It was so cold that Murray was wearing leggings under his shorts and there was sluggishness about the 33-year-old’s movement and particularly his serve.

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He won just 11 points on serve during the first set as Wawrinka reeled off six games in a row.

There were a few more positive signs in the second set but Murray, who was unusually reserved, was still left motionless far too often as Wawrinka bulldozed the ball into the corners.

A break of serve right at the start of the third set brought the finish line closer, and Murray was unable to take any of his first three break points when he had Wawrinka at 0-40 in the next game.

The Scot looked underpowered compared to his opponent and he was left rooted to the spot once more as Wawrinka drilled a backhand winner into the corner to break for 5-2 before serving out the victory with an ace.


Mother suing NHS board over daughter’s death at super-hospital

Milly Main died in 2017 aged 10 at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital after contracting an infection.

Milly, pictured with mum Kimberly, was in remission from leukaemia.

The mother of a child who died in a flagship hospital is seeking compensation from the health board.

Kimberly Darroch, whose 10-year-old daughter Milly Main died in 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow after contracting an infection, has launched legal action against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Ms Darroch believes that Milly, who was recovering from leukaemia treatment, died as a result of contaminated water at the £842m hospital.

However, an independent review published in June found there were no avoidable deaths caused by the design and maintenance of the building.

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Ms Darroch told the Scottish Sun on Sunday: “We still feel in the dark about what happened to our beloved daughter.

“It’s incredibly painful to relive our ordeal, but we are determined to deliver justice for Milly and answers for all affected patients and parents.

“Our hope is that by taking action we can ensure no other family ever has to go through what we did.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “We continue to offer our sympathies to Milly Main’s family for their loss.

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“We remain keen to meet with Milly’s family and we would be happy to arrange this if they would like to discuss Milly’s care.”

An inquiry was launched by health secretary Jeane Freeman last year after the deaths of two adults and a child from infections at the hospital.

The investigation started last month and is chaired by Lord Brodie.

Delays to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh will also be scrutinised, after Freeman stepped in to halt the move of patients between sites over fears around the ventilation system.

Three women involved in attempted murder, say police

A 31-year-old man has suffered serious injuries following the attack and is in a stable condition in hospital.

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Attack: Man in stable condition following attempted murder.

A man has suffered serious injuries following an attempted murder involving three women.

The incident happened outside a property on Florence Street around 10.30pm on Saturday.

Police say three women got out of a car and a disturbance happened at the front door of the property. 

A 31-year-old man suffered serious injuries to his upper body and was taken to Inverclyde Royal Hospital where he is in a stable condition.

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The only description available is of one of the women, who is described as heavy set with blonde hair. 

Detective Inspector David Wagstaff, of Greenock CID, said: “We don’t know where the women or the car went after the attack and we’re appealing for anyone with information to contact us.

“We believe it was a targeted attack and additional patrols are being carried out in the area.”

Anyone with any information should contact Police Scotland on 101 quoting incident number 4385 of September 26 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


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