Long-serving ministers depart as Sturgeon reshuffles cabinet

Fergus Ewing and Fiona Hyslop both standing down from their positions in the Scottish Government.

Fergus Ewing and Fiona Hyslop are leaving the Scottish Government. Pool/Pool via Getty Images / Pool/Pool via Getty Images
Fergus Ewing and Fiona Hyslop are leaving the Scottish Government.

Two of the longest-serving ministers in the Scottish Government are leaving their positions, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon carries out a cabinet reshuffle.

Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, and Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for rural economy, are stepping down from ministerial office.

The First Minister will reveal her new cabinet and junior ministerial line-up later on Wednesday. 

Sturgeon said: “I want to pay tribute to the work of both Fiona Hyslop and Fergus Ewing and to thank them for their unstinting public service over many years. 


“Fiona has served in Cabinet since 2007, firstly as Education Secretary, then as Culture and External Affairs Secretary before taking on the Economy and Fair Work portfolio. 

“Her tenure in the External Affairs brief saw Fiona oversee the expansion of the Scottish Government’s international footprint, giving our country a higher profile than it has ever had before on the global stage, and that is a legacy which she can and should be justly proud of. 

“Fergus has also been part of the ministerial team since 2007, and has brought diligence and endeavour to all of the jobs he has held. In particular, he has worked tirelessly with and on behalf of Scotland’s rural sector over the past five years since the Brexit vote, fighting their corner at every turn.

“Fergus has been a champion for Scotland’s farmers and crofters during one of the most difficult, challenging and uncertain periods our agricultural sector has ever faced, and he has the gratitude of many in the industry for his efforts to protect their interests. 

“I want to offer my sincere thanks to Fiona and Fergus for their service, and wish them well as they continue to serve their constituents in the new Parliament.”  


The First Minister also tweeted a photo of her appointing Shirley-Anne Somerville to the cabinet via zoom, but said her portfolio would be revealed later on Wednesday.

A member of Somerville’s household is currently in self-isolation after receiving a text saying they had been in close contact with someone who has recently tested positive for Covid-19.

On Tuesday, Sturgeon reappointed John Swinney as deputy first minister, as well as making him the cabinet secretary for Covid recovery.

It was the first of the new appointments to Sturgeon’s cabinet after she was re-elected as First Minister by MSPs.

Swinney has been deputy first minister since 2014 and held the position of education secretary between 2016 and 2021.

The new role will involve Swinney chairing a cross-party steering group on Covid recovery which is expected to hold its first meeting next week.

MSPs voted to re-elect Sturgeon to the position, which she has held since November 2014, in a vote at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.


The vote formalises the process for the SNP leader to become First Minister, ahead of her name being put forward to the Queen to be confirmed in office.

Sturgeon highlighted the importance of recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, addressing the climate emergency and giving Scotland a choice on its future in making her nomination speech.

The only other candidates for the position were Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross and Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie.

Emergency committee convened over thunderstorm warning

A Met Office amber warning has predicted heavy rain, storms and floods through the centre of mainland Scotland.

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The Scottish Government’s emergency committee has been convened after an amber weather warning was issued for thunderstorms.

The Met Office forecasts heavy rain and storms through the centre of mainland Scotland, with an amber warning, the second most serious alert, in place for thunder until 10pm on Tuesday.

A yellow warning is also in place for a wider swathe of the country, but most coastal areas in the east and west are again expected to miss the worst of the weather.

An amber warning for rain will also be in effect until 6am tomorrow in the north, while a yellow warning for downpours will also last until the same time, taking all but the far north east, far north and far west of the country.


The Scottish Government Resilience Room (Sgorr) has been convened to respond to the alert and ensure preparations are in place.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney warned Scots against flooding, saying: “The decision by the Met Office to issue the amber warning for thunderstorms signals a potentially damaging and dangerous risk of flooding in some areas.

“Flooding could happen quickly, even in areas not usually prone to flooding.

“Some communities might become cut off if roads flood, and power cuts might occur.


“Please take extra care if you are out and about, do not attempt to walk or drive through flood water, avoid camping near watercourses and ensure water conditions are safe if spending time in the water.

“The Scottish Government is in close contact with local authorities and the emergency services to ensure people in the affected areas receive the latest information, advice and support where needed.”

STV meteorologist Sean Batty said: “For weeks most of the country has basked in hot sunshine, but as is usually the case this will go out with a bang.

“This happens because the heat builds under high pressure, which acts like a big lid over the country limiting vertical convection – which basically means only small clouds can form.

“Once this weather starts to shift, the lid comes off and allows all the heat that’s built up bubble up into huge clouds which bring thunderstorms, and that’s exactly what’s happening now.”

Throughout Tuesday afternoon and evening, thunderstorms will develop with the main focus down the middle of the Highlands, Perthshire, western Fife, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Edinburgh, West Lothian and the Borders.

Sean said: “This is where we have an amber weather warning in force.


“One of the reasons intense showers after dry conditions can be a problem is because the sun has spent weeks baking the ground solid.

“This means that it’ll take longer for rain to soak into the ground, so as you can imagine, a huge amount of rain in a short period means the rain has nowhere to go and runs towards low areas.

“This is the sort of situation that brings those images of underpasses flooded and the usual roads blocked by floods.”

Sean added: “On Wednesday it’s not so much thunderstorms, but persistent rain that’ll bring flood issues.

“This is most likely in the amber warning area stretching across Wester and Eastern Ross, Inverness, Nairn and Elgin.

“As much as 50-60mm may fall in some areas of Moray and the Highlands tomorrow and perhaps in excess of this in the hills.

“That means that there is a possibility of some locations getting near a month’s worth of rain on Wednesday alone.

“For those worried that summer is over, well don’t be, because our seasons don’t go through clean transitions, and there’s still several weeks left where hot and sunny conditions can redevelop.

“For now though it is looking changeable, although quieter weather returns for the weekend.”

Tuesday weather alerts

Tuesday: Weather warnings for thunderstorms.

Amber warning: From 12pm until 10pm on Tuesday.

Yellow warning: From 12pm until 11.59pm on Tuesday.

Wednesday and Thursday weather alerts

Wednesday: Weather warnings for rain.

Amber warning: From 6am on Wednesday until 6am on Thursday.

Yellow warning: From 12am on Wednesday until 6am on Thursday.

Stay safe in thunder and lightning

Before the thunderstorm

  • Lightning can cause power surges, so unplug any non-essential appliances if not already using a surge protector.
  • Seek shelter if possible. When you hear thunder, you are already within range of where the next ground flash may occur. Lightning can strike as far as ten miles away from the centre of a storm.

During the thunderstorm

  • Telephone lines can conduct electricity so try to avoid using the landline, unless in an emergency.
  • If outside, avoid water and find a low-lying open place that is a safe distance from trees, poles or metal objects.
  • Avoid activities such as golf, rod fishing or boating on a lake.
  • Be aware of metal objects that can conduct or attract lightning, including golf clubs, golf buggies, fishing rods, umbrellas, motorbikes, bicycles, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, pushchairs, wire fencing and rails. If you are in a tent, try to stay away from the metal poles
  • If you find yourself in an exposed location it may be advisable to squat close to the ground, with your hands on your knees and with your head tucked between them. Try to touch as little of the ground with your body as possible, and do not lie down on the ground.
  • If you feel your hair stand on end, drop to the above position immediately.

After the thunderstorm

  • Avoid downed power lines or broken cables.
  • If someone is struck by lightning, they often suffer severe burns. The strike also affects the heart, so check if they have a pulse.

Driving in a thunderstorm

  • If you are caught out in thunder and lightning it is advised that you wind up the windows and stay inside your car. This is because in the vast majority of cars with a metal roof and frame, the frame will act as a conductive Faraday cage, passing the current around the passengers inside and onto the ground.
  • Soft-top convertibles, with their fabric roofs, are the most at risk and could catch fire if struck by lightning
  • Be aware that current can travel through other parts of many modern cars, including GPS and radio systems. Cars with metal interior handles, foot pedals and steering wheels can also carry current
  • Cars can be damaged both internally and externally by lightning strikes
  • Thunderstorms can also bring a risk of sudden gusty winds. Those most at risk would include cyclists, motorcyclists and high-sided vehicles.
  • Remember to give vulnerable road users including cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians more room than usual. They are more likely to be blown around by side winds – always keep a safe distance.
  • Keep your speed down. Lowering your speed will lower the distance you travel when buffeted around by the wind.
  • Hailstorms can be extremely dangerous to drive in – reducing your ability to see and be seen, as well as causing damage to your vehicle. If hail is severe, stop and pull over to a safe place and remain inside the vehicle.

For more advice, click here.

Free bus travel for under-22s to begin at end of January

The scheme to allow free travel for everyone aged 21 and under will begin on January 31.

Stefan Rousseau via PA Ready
Free bus travel for everyone in Scotland aged under 22 will begin on January 31 2022.

Free bus travel for everyone in Scotland aged under 22 will begin on January 31 2022, the government has announced.

Transport Scotland has set out the timetable for the introduction of free fares, which will cover around 930,000 people.

Around a third of the population are already entitled to free bus travel through schemes for older and disabled people.

Legislation to bring in the changes will be debated at the Scottish Parliament later this summer.


A proposal for free travel for under-19s was lodged at Holyrood in January this year.

Extending this to under-22s was part of the budget deal agreed in March.

Transport Minister Graeme Dey said: “It’s crucial to embed more sustainable travel behaviour from a young age if we are to achieve our world-leading goal of reducing the number of kilometres travelled by car by 20% by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2045.

“We also know that young people have been disproportionately impacted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s never been more important that we support them to achieve their fullest potential.


“Reducing barriers created by transport costs is one really positive action we can take.

“Our National Transport Strategy commits to a fairer, greener transport system which will reduce inequalities and take action to protect our climate.

“I’m really pleased to be taking decisive action on both of those points by setting out this timetable to provide free bus travel for all under-22s living in Scotland.”

Man once branded a ‘savage’ jailed for nurse attack

Scott McClymont, 22, turned on the 21-year-old woman at Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary on December 28, 2020.

Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service via Website
Glasgow: Scott McClymont pleaded guilty on Tuesday.

A man once branded a “savage” by a judge has admitted assaulting a nurse at a hospital.

Scott McClymont, 22, turned on the 21-year-old woman at Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary on December 28, 2020.

McClymont struck her on the body with his shoulder, forcing the nurse into the corner of a cubicle.

He later shouted and swore at officers as well as spat in a police van.


McClymont is currently serving a six-year sentence after pleading guilty to attempted murder at the High Court in Glasgow.

McClymont and co-accused George Murray, 33, recorded themselves torturing and slashing two terrified victims.

The pair pounced on Ryan Murray and a 15-year-old boy at a flat in Glasgow’s Springburn days after Christmas last year.

Lord Mulholland told them: “I have to say I have watched the most horrendous footage. You behaved like savages.”


On Tuesday, McClymont pleaded guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to assaulting the nurse and a male police officer.

He also admitted behaving in a threatening or abusive manner towards officers.

He was sentenced to 18 months in jail by Sheriff Iain Fleming, which will run concurrently with his current jail term.

The court heard he was taken to the hospital on an unrelated matter and was being observed by the nurse.

McClymont demanded illegal drugs before stating he was “going to go tonto”.

Prosecutor Mark Allan said: “He jumped towards [the nurse] and struck her to the body with his shoulder.

“He forced her into a corner of the treatment cubicle at the accident and emergency.”


McClymont was taken to the police van where he continued to shout and make threats.

Mr Allan said: “At one point he struck the walls of the cell area with his head and was repeatedly spitting.

“He tried to bite [the police officer] on the arm while he was trying to calm and remove him.”

Leon Kendol, defending, told the court: “Mr McClymont is embarrassed and remorseful for his conduct.”

Seven more Covid deaths but Scotland ‘in much better place’

The FM says there 'are grounds for optimism' that Scotland can further ease coronavirus restrictions from August 9.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Seven more coronavirus deaths have been recorded in Scotland as the First Minister confirmed she will announce next week whether the country is in a position to further ease restrictions.

The whole of Scotland is currently under level zero restrictions and Nicola Sturgeon said the Government hopes to lift remaining Covid measures from August 9.

Cases have more than halved in the past two weeks while the weekly figure of patients in hospital with the virus has fallen to 421 from 577 the previous week.

Speaking at Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said: “What we’ll be doing between now and then is weighing up the different factors that will inform that decision.


“Several of these factors give us really strong grounds for hope and that is positive, although others remind us for the need of continued caution.

“There is no doubt we are in a much better place than we were last March, at the start of the pandemic, or at the beginning of this year, or even at the start of this month.

“In short, we have seen some very positive developments recently, and that does give us grounds for optimism that we will be able to continue progress, out of restrictions.

“That said, we do still need to be cautious.”


As well as a further seven deaths, the First Minister also announced 1044 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

It means the death toll under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 7866.

The daily test positivity rate was 5.6%, down from 8% on Monday.

Meanwhile, there here were 472 people in hospital on Sunday with recently confirmed Covid-19, down three on the previous day, with 63 patients in intensive care, down two.

Sturgeon said vaccination was the key reason that high case numbers in recent months had not resulted in the same number of deaths or hospitalisations as in previous waves.

So far, 4,000,658 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 3,108,928 have received their second dose.

“I’m pleased to say that firstly, as of this morning, a new milestone has passed,” said Sturgeon.


“More than four million people – 4,000,653 to be precise – have now received a first dose of vaccine. All adults have now been offered a first dose of the vaccine and 90% have taken up that offer and had the first dose.

“In addition, approximately 70% of adults have now had both doses of the vaccine – that includes 92% of those who are aged 40 or older.”

The First Minister also criticised people who were “deliberately spreading misinformation” about the vaccine.

She said: “If you’re an anti-vaxxer who is going around deliberately spreading misinformation about this vaccine then yes I would accuse you of anti-social behaviour because you are putting people at risk by doing that and I would ask you to think very carefully about that.

“If you are doing it deliberately, definitely, or if you are just blithely retweeting or sharing on social media information about the vaccine that has not got any basis in evidence or fact then you are not helping at all; in fact you are doing the opposite of helping.

“But if you are someone who is genuinely worried about vaccination because you might be reading about some of this stuff then I would say to you ‘pleas just take a bit of time to find out the facts about the vaccine’.”

Covid outbreak in care home as 18 positive cases confirmed

Eighteen people have tested positive at the home as of Tuesday morning.

© Google Maps 2020
Covid: Outbreak at care home.

There has been a Covid-19 outbreak at a care home in the Western Isles.

The NHS and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar confirmed that a number of positive cases have been identified at the Dun Berisay Care Home in Stornoway.

Eighteen residents and staff from the home have tested positive as of Tuesday morning.

Non-essential visiting to the site has been suspended and Test and Protect is under way to identify their close contacts.


Residents’ families have been informed of the current situation and will be kept up-to-date on an ongoing basis.

Teams from NHS Western Isles, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Public Health Scotland are supporting the care home with their arrangements for infection prevention and control to help prevent spread of the infection. 

An Incident Management Team has also been formed to help support Dun Berisay staff, residents and residents’ families at this challenging time. 

A number of individuals have been identified as close contacts of positive cases and have been required to self-isolate to help prevent further spread of the virus.


An NHS Western Isles spokeswoman said: “Following nine positive tests on Monday, there has now been a total of 18 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among staff and residents at the Dun Berisay Care Home.”

Mike Cowsill’s 90-year-old mother Mariegold is one of the residents at the Dun Berisay care home.

“The home phoned me at the weekend to let me know there was an issue with a couple of residents and a couple of members of staff, and that’s obviously escalated to 18 people,” he said.

“My mum isn’t positive, she had a negative PCR test come through this morning.”

He added that it was a worrying time for his mum as well as residents and staff at the home.

“I believe all the residents would have been vaccinated some time ago and the staff as well, but obviously with the new variants, not everyone who has even been double jagged will be protected,” he continued.

“It’s unfortunate and worrying that 18 cases in one cluster have occurred. But our important job as a community at the moment is to support those who are involved in the best way that we can.


“I feel very fortunate that not only has my mum has excellent care there and is continuing to get that.

“The hardest part is when you bring in isolation because you have to keep the residents apart. That side of it can be quite difficult and I think that side of it is what’s going to be the most difficult thing for her.”

Teenager killed and three others injured in crash on A96

The crash happened between Keith and Huntly at around 7.35pm on Monday.

Jasperimage via Email
Police: The crash happened between Keith and Huntly at around 7.35pm on Monday.

A teenager has been killed in a crash on the A96 in which three other people were injured.

The 18-year-old man was driving a lime green Ford Fiesta which was involved in a collision with a yellow Ford Transit van.

The crash happened between Keith and Huntly at around 7.35pm on Monday.

The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene.


Three people, aged 23, 28 and 29, who were in the van were taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where the 23-year-old is in a critical condition.

The road was closed for nine hours but has since reopened.

Police are appealing for witnesses.

Sergeant Craig McNeil said: “Inquiries are ongoing and we’re appealing for people with any information, dashcam footage and who perhaps saw either vehicle shortly before the crash to contact us.”


Police Scotland can be contacted on 101.

Priest attacked in cathedral by man with bottle as he prayed

The 35-year-old victim was sitting alone in prayer when the attack took place.

© Google Maps 2020
St Mary's Cathedral: Priest attacked with glass bottle.

A priest has been attacked by a man with a glass bottle at a cathedral in Edinburgh.

The priest was forced to use a chair to fight the man off during the incident that took place at St Mary’s Cathedral on the capital’s York Place at around 9.35am on Monday.

The 35-year-old victim was sitting alone in prayer when he was approached by the man who asked him if he was a priest.

When he replied that he was, the man attempted to strike his head with a bottle before using it to chase him through the cathedral.


The attacker made off from the scene after the priest was forced to protect himself with the chair.

Police are now appealing for information as they look to trace the man responsible

A spokesperson for the force said: “Around 9.35am on Monday, police were called to a report of a 35-year-old man being assaulted within a church in York Place, Edinburgh.

“Officers attended and the victim did not require hospital treatment.


“Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident and anyone with information is urged to contact Police Scotland through 101.”

Munro-bagging parrot joins owner on mountain hikes

Lara Mitchell gets loads of attention as she hikes up peaks with African grey Piper perched on her shoulder.


A Munro-bagging parrot enjoys accompanying his owner on mountain hikes across Scotland.

Lara Mitchell, from Dundee, gets loads of attention as she hikes up peaks with her five-year-old African grey – Piper- perched on her shoulder.

Together they have climbed six Munros – with the chatty bird demanding to know ‘where’s the birds?’ to the astonishment of other mountaineers.

The cheeky pet has even tapped into the Old Firm rivalry and goads his Rangers-fan owner by yelling “C’mon the Hoops”.

Lara Mitchell with Piper, her five-year-old African grey parrot.

Lara, 51, hopes to climb the UK’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, accompanied by Piper this summer.

So far the pair have scaled six, including Ben Macdui in the Cairngorms, Highlands, Ben Lomond, also Highlands, Ben Chonzie, near Crieff, Perth and Kinross, and Mount Keen, Aberdeenshire. 

Healthcare assistant, Lara, began taking Piper out on a harness when she went to the shops three years ago.

She realised he loved being outdoors, and that Munro-bagging prompted Piper to talk more.


Now he has learned to call her from the Amazon Alexa leaving five minute voicemails – and Lara said he ‘never shuts up’ about adventures.

Together they have climbed six Munros.

But the weather has to be good for a hike otherwise Piper vocally objects.

Lara said: “I always wanted a parrot, but Piper never shuts up – especially since I took him up a Munro.

“He just loves the outdoors. I think he is just so content when he is up a hill and up in the air. 

“I got him a harness and started taking him out walks and to the supermarket when I was doing my shopping. 

“Then I thought ‘I’ve never seen a parrot up a Munro’ so once I got him used to his harness I took him up with me. 

“The harness is about 80 feet long, so he can fly about if he likes, but he just sits on my shoulder as we go up. 


“Now he loves it.

“When he sees my getting the harness ready he starts shouting ‘adventure, adventure’.

“It’s hard work for him going up the hill, he needs strong upper body strength. 

“He sleeps all night after a Munro.”

Medical cannabis clinic ‘making sick people smile again’

More than 1000 people with chronic pain have asked Scotland first medical cannabis clinic for help.

STV News

More than 1000 people have asked Scotland’s first medical cannabis clinic for help in the three months since it opened.

Sapphire Medical Clinics, in Stirling, is the first surgery of its kind approved by regulators to offer patients safe access to medical cannabis.

It works with patients who have exhausted all other treatment options for diagnosed conditions causing chronic pain or anxiety.

‘Cannabis is my saviour’


Shonagh Soutar, 44, from Tayport, Fife, was one of the clinic’s first patients. She vapes cannabis-based medication to ease the symptoms of ME and Fibromyalgia.

“It’s instant relief for my health conditions,” said Shonagh, who’s suffered chronic pain for more than seven years.

“Cannabis is my saviour – my go to.”

Shonagh told STV News that before she could get prescribed cannabis-based medication through the clinic, she bought the drug illegally.


She said: “It made you feel like a criminal, having to look for it elsewhere.

“Now I feel like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s just what I’ve got to do to get a better quality of life.”

‘People are smiling for the first time in years’

NHS doctor Wendy Holden, who works with Sapphire Medical Clinics, said the products – in the shape of flowers, oils and capsules – had proven transformational for many patients.

She said: “Every single day of my NHS life, I see people with chronic pain and the NHS has very little to offer them, unfortunately, because conventional medicines are often not very effective.

STV News
Patients can be prescribed medical cannabis as a last resort.

“Being able to prescribe medical cannabis, I’ve just seen a completely different side to medicine really, and I’m seeing people with chronic pain who are smiling for the first time in years.”

Medical cannabis was legalised in 2018, but isn’t given out on the NHS, meaning patients need to be prescribed privately at a cost of around £130 per month.


Sapphire Medical Clinics told STV News it had been contacted by around 1200 people since it opened.

Regulatory body Healthcare Improvement Scotland said medical cannabis should only be prescribed to people with genuine conditions as a last resort.

“After careful consideration and assessment of their application, Healthcare Improvement Scotland has registered Sapphire Medical as an independent clinic,” it said in a statement.

“Our registration process is stringent and there are strict requirements which clinics must meet in order to complete the process.

“When a clinic is registered with Healthcare Improvement Scotland, it is also then subject to regular inspection, which helps to reassure the public that they are maintaining high standards of care.”

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