Outdoor learning centres handed £2m to help survive pandemic
Education minister Richard Lochhead said the funding should allow the centres to provide 'meaningful experiences'.
Outdoor education centres are to receive £2m of Scottish Government cash to help the sector survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
Announcing the financial support, education minister Richard Lochhead said it should allow the centres – which are currently not permitted to have youngsters for overnight stays – to provide “meaningful experiences”.
But those campaigning for support for the sector said a long-term strategy is still “urgently needed”.
Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith, who has been calling for more support for the centres, has previously warned £3m is needed for them to survive the winter period.
Mr Lochhead insisted he is “acutely aware” of the challenges faced by the sector due to coronavirus restrictions.
He added: “Outdoor learning is an important aspect of Scotland’s curriculum. It can play a vital role in supporting children’s wellbeing and attainment and we are fully committed to supporting outdoor education providers.
“I hope this funding, along with third sector and youth work funding streams which are already available, alleviates some of the pressures facing the sector during these challenging times and allows them to offer meaningful experiences to young people.
“Funding on its own will not address all of the challenges that are faced at the current time.
“We will continue to engage with local authorities to support the important role that outdoor education centres and their staff can play during the period when overnight residential stays are not permitted for public health reasons.”
Ms Smith said the funding is “welcome progress brought about by the extensive lobbying of the outdoor education sector and the cross-party group of MSPs who have lobbied the Scottish Government so hard in recent months”.
She added: “There is universal agreement that outdoor education is one of the most precious assets in the whole educational experience and we cannot let centres close.
“£2m for the immediate future will help to cover costs this winter but no-one – including the Scottish Government – should be in any doubt that a long-term strategy, properly funded, is urgently needed to ensure our centres can plan ahead for the post-Covid era.”
Thousands of jobs under threat at supermarket giant Asda
The supermarket giant has launched consultations with around 5000 workers.
Asda has launched consultations with around 5000 staff over a major restructuring which could put around 3000 back office store workers at risk.
The supermarket giant said the restructuring has been driven by the “structural shift” towards online grocery shopping during the pandemic.
The grocery firm said it also plans to create around 4500 separate jobs in its online operations this year and will look to hire staff impacted by the potential cuts.
Nevertheless, Asda said the consultations will impact about 3000 back office store workers, particularly affecting staff with cash and administrative roles amid the continued slump in cash transactions.
The firm said it plans to close its Dartford and Heston home shopping centres, with around 800 jobs affected, as it looks to shift more picking operations into stores.
It added that around 1100 of its store management roles will be changed to support online grocery operations as more picking takes place in stores.
However, the company said this could increase the total headcount in these roles by around 60, as part of the consultations.
Roger Burnley, Asda chief executive and president, said: “The pandemic has accelerated change across the retail sector, especially the shift towards grocery home shopping, and our priority is to serve customers in the way they want to shop with us.
“The last 12 months have shown us that businesses have to be prepared to adapt quickly to change and I am incredibly proud of the way we demonstrated our agility and resilience through the pandemic.
“We know that these proposed changes will be unsettling for colleagues and our priority is to support them during this consultation process.
“Our plans to transform the business will result in more roles being created than those we propose to remove and our absolute aim is to ensure as many colleagues as possible stay with us, as well as creating the opportunity to welcome new people to our business.”
It comes months after the billionaire Issa brothers and private equity backer TDR Capital agreed a £6.8bn deal for the supermarket chain.
The takeover is still awaiting approval from competition regulators, so the new owners are yet to take control of Asda’s operations.
Roger Jenkins, GMB National Officer, said: “Asda workers have had a torrid two years. The failed Sainsbury’s takeover, twelve months working on the pandemic frontline and now the uncertainty of a new take over, sidling the company with huge debts and potential sell-offs.
“This is the last thing they need.
“The scope of today’s announcement means 5000 people have their lives put on hold. It’s not right
“Asda is a profitable company that does not need to enforce redundancies.
“GMB will battle hard to make sure no one leaves their job unless they want to.”
It has been almost a year since 121 junior doctors graduated early to support Scotland’s biggest health board in its response to coronavirus.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde placed the volunteers at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Inverclyde Royal Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital – the biggest teaching hospital in the country.
Junior doctors were also placed at other NHS health boards across the country.
STV News has followed two doctors as they embarked on the start of their careers.
Ruaraidh Campbell’s career started abruptly when he returned from volunteering in Samoa to help the NHS in the fight against coronavirus.
His graduation date was pulled forward by two months, and soon after he started on the wards.
“I thought there’s no point in sitting at home,” the 25-year-old says. “I’ll get there and help if I can.”
Since March, Ruaraidh has worked on the respiratory and orthopaedic wards, and the high-dependency unit.
“We’ve often seen not just one person coming in with Covid, but multiple people close to them.
“It can often mean that multiple family members or friends can all get very sick at the same time. And unfortunately, when people do pass away, that can be really, really tough.
“Sometimes we’re dealing with situations where relatives are passing away in very short time spaces. That can feel very difficult and you come home and you think, ‘well, this could be my mum and dad, this could be my granny and grandad’.
“When you think about that, when you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, it can feel quite heavy at times.”
One of the things that has shocked Ruaraidh the most is the age of some of his patients.
He says: “Another really difficult thing is seeing patients who are approximately our age, who despite being young and fit are very unwell with Covid.
“That always gives you a bit of a shock.”
Senior consultants say it has been the “most challenging year” junior doctors could have had.
“We’ve had to deal with more death and dying than you usually would,” Ruaraidh said. “But more than that it’s dealing with it in a different way.
“With some visiting restrictions that unfortunately had to be in place because of the pandemic, it’s meant you often have to give tough news or deal with patients and families over the phone.
“I always find breaking bad news difficult. It’s an incredibly personal moment and you have to properly prepare for it. Because, however tough it is for you, it’s tougher for the person listening.
“It can be really difficult to speak frankly and honestly and lay out the facts, because you feel like you’ll hurt the person if you do that. But in most cases by being open and honest, that’s an empowering process.
“I remember the first time doing that, having to speak to a patient’s family and say that it’s not good news. I remember caching myself, when they asked me the question ‘is my relative going to die?’.
“It’s a tough question to answer, you need to compose yourself and say ‘unfortunately, yes but this is what we are going to do to make the person comfortable’.
One of the main problems facing junior doctors is staff illness, with many requiring time off to self-isolate while others work extra shifts to fill the gaps in the rota.
Ruaraidh caught the virus at work.
“I had Covid myself and it really took it out of me,” he says. “Especially for someone who is pretty fit and healthy. I take care of myself and work out most days. It hit me much harder than I thought it would. It was quite nasty and I’ve been quite tired and breathless since.”
Having only worked in Glasgow for a matter of months, Ruaraidh is looking forward to getting to know his new colleagues over a beer when restrictions ease.
“Junior doctors work long hours and shifts can be tough emotionally and physically and when you have time off you value that,” he says.
“It’s been hard outside of work. Because you do a difficult job, there’s this old adage about ‘work hard play hard’ – and I don’t think that’s 100% true anymore, but it speaks to a certain truth that we really valued our time off because after a difficult long job, you want to make the most of your time off.
“And, like everyone else, we’ve struggled with not being able to see our family and our friends and to do the usual hobbies we’d enjoy. So I think that’s been quite tough on people. It’s not just the work but it’s when you come home, it’s been difficult to switch off.”
Ruaraidh’s virtual graduation was a proud day for his family. His mum and older sister are also doctors.
Although he hasn’t been able to see them, his family and girlfriend Sophie have been a great support.
“You have days that are tough, and you do see some sad stuff. And that is the nature of being a junior doctor.
“Sometimes you get home and you just need someone to listen and give you a hug if you’ve had a tough day, which we have quite often.
“I don’t know how often people in a normal job shed a few tears, but it’s not uncommon here.
“I also have my lovely girlfriend, who’s a massive support as well, she brings me back down to earth, she’s fantastic. It’s been tough at times, but that’s experience shared by many people throughout the UK.”
Annie Evans moved 400 miles from her family home in Sheffield to start as a junior doctor at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
“It’s always going to be difficult to start as a doctor, but when you have to start in a new city, in the middle of a pandemic, when you don’t really know anyone… it was difficult,” she says.
Living so far away from home, Annie hasn’t been able to spend time with her family.
“I think my parents are proud. When I speak to my extended family as well, it’s always quite shock if you’re telling them stories.
“I don’t think anyone realises how difficult it can be.”
Annie also works as a representative for her year of junior doctors. She says an extra focus is being placed on support.
“When the number of deaths goes up, then there are more people that do die in the hospital. And sometimes that can be quite difficult, if you’re having to go in and see that, just because that’s not really why you go into medicine.
“So it can be kind of demoralising when you have to experience lots of death all at the same time.”
Doctors have raised concerns over access to training. Pressures of the pandemic have meant lectures can only take place online, and senior consultants can only do so much to mentor their junior colleagues.
Dr Colin Perry, head of education at NHSGG, agrees that there has been less access to training.
But he believes the experience of the past year will shape an entire generation of junior doctors.
“It’s been the most challenging year that they could have had,” he says.
“A global pandemic of a new disease none of us had ever seen before. And so normally when they would look to us for guidance, and I suppose advise on how to treat these diseases, we’ve had to learn with them about how this disease is developed and in the midst of all of that, this is unfortunately a disease that’s associated with a higher mortality than perhaps they would have seen in the wards.
“Certainly they have had to have deal with perhaps more difficult situations than they may normally have encountered.
“I think they will come out of this having learned a great deal very quickly. And I think that might be one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic.
“And I think that has also changed the way we look at junior doctors. We’re very aware of their needs to training and education, but we do look at them more now as able colleagues, and a great resource within the system.”
Scotland’s Six Nations Rugby match against France has been postponed after a coronavirus outbreak in the French camp.
The whole team and backroom staff have been forced into isolation following the outbreak.
The game, which was due to take place on Sunday, will now be rescheduled for a later date.
Scottish Rugby confirmed the news on Twitter.
Organisers ordered daily testing before announcing on Wednesday that this weekend’s Stade de France clash would go ahead following a full sweep of negatives results.
But less than 24 hours later they have been forced to shelve the Saint-Denis showdown, with the entire Les Bleus squad placed into quarantine after the French Rugby Federation reported an 11th player had contracted the virus.
The news will come as a major blow to Gregor Townsend’s Scots, who fear they will be without 10 of their biggest stars if the game is moved to a date outside of the international window.
The Six Nations said in a statement: “The Six Nations Testing Oversight Group met today to review the situation in the French camp.
“They unanimously recommended the postponement of the France v Scotland match. This will be ratified later today by the Six Nations council.
“We will be working on the rescheduling of this fixture and will communicate the date in due course.”
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said: “While we fully accept the decision of the Testing Oversight Group to recommend postponing our match against France on medical grounds, it is disappointing not to be able to play this fixture on Sunday.
“We have had a good week with our players who were focused and ready to represent their country in Paris and continue our progress in this year’s Guinness Six Nations.
“Throughout this tournament, and the previous Autumn Nations Cup, we have worked hard to maintain strict Covid protocols which have enabled us to select our strongest possible teams for these important international fixtures.
“We will wait to see what options are available to play this match against France, but it remains our position that we want to have all our eligible players available to us for that fixture, so we can compete to the level we would have done this weekend.
“We wish all the French players and staff affected by Covid well in their recovery and look forward to playing them at a future date.”
Businesses in Aviemore are calling for more clarity on reopening dates following the Scottish Government’s latest plans to ease Scotland out of lockdown.
On Tuesday, the First Minister set out the route out of lockdown at Holyrood, prioritising getting children back into education.
Non-essential shops, bars, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers could reopen in parts of the country from the last week of April under the new guidelines.
Nicola Sturgeon added that the localised ‘levels’ system would return from the last week of April, which could see varying rules in different parts of the country depending on the number of local cases.
However hospitality businesses have called for further clarity on the rules, as they feel they cannot adequately plan to reopen under the new measures.
Mike Gale owns adventure business G2 Ziplining and says work that needs to be done to maintain the business has been put on hold as he cannot afford to bring staff back from furlough.
He said: “At this time of year we need to be doing maintenance, safety checks and getting back to work.
“But at the moment I need my staff to be on furlough because that’s the only income I’ve got, whereas they need to be back working.
“Whereas in England they can plan and they, as in the tourist industry, they can be up and running before us.
“Yet Scotland, up here in Aviemore, it’s based on tourism. We need to know.”
“Hospitality has been ignored,” added Scott Burns-Smith, owner of Ravenscraig Guest House.
“We’ve been working through this pandemic for the last 12 months now and we’re not seeing a clear road map out of this.
“Hospitality is in desperate need of more support, but essentially people in hospitality just want to be open.”
The SNP remain on course for a majority at the Scottish Parliamentary election in May, according to a new STV News/Ipsos MORI poll.
However, support for the party has slipped slightly, with the ongoing Alex Salmond inquiry making some voters think twice.
Backing for Scottish independence has also fallen in the latest poll – although 52% of the most likely voters said they would back separation from the rest of the UK.
Scotland goes to the ballot box on May 6, with the poll projecting that the SNP will win 72 of the 129 seats – nine more than now and giving them a majority of 15.
The Scottish Conservatives would be the second biggest party on 26 seats, with Scottish Labour on 17, the Scottish Greens on nine and the Scottish Liberal Democrats on five.
Ipsos MORI polled a base of 1031 voters in Scotland between February 15-21.
Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said: “This latest poll from Ipsos MORI and STV News shows a fall in support for independence, and a corresponding increase in support for staying in the union – though Yes still has a four-point lead over No.
“That’s important for Scotland’s political parties, since independence is the top issue voters say will help them make up their minds about which party to vote for in May’s Holyrood elections.
“At this point the SNP look on course to win a majority of seats, but the next few weeks are set to be challenging for the party, with the Salmond inquiry ongoing.”
• SNP: 52% (-3 compared with November 20-26) • Scottish Conservatives: 23% (+1) • Scottish Labour: 15% (+1) • Scottish Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1) • Scottish Green Party: 3% (+2) • Other: 2% (unchanged)
The ongoing inquiry into how the Scottish Government botched its investigation into harassment claims against the former first minister Alex Salmond is affecting some voters’ thoughts.
Among a number of claims, Salmond says his successor Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code. If that’s proved in a separate investigation due to conclude in the coming weeks, the First Minister would be under huge pressure to resign.
The poll found that 36% of all voters and 21% of those who voted SNP at the 2019 general election felt ‘less favourably’ towards the party as a result of the Salmond saga.
There’s been a four-point reduction in support for Scottish independence since the last STV News/Ipsos MORI poll in November.
Backing for separation from the UK now leads 52-48 – a shift from 56-44 in the previous projection.
And while 56% believe an SNP majority in May should lead to a second referendum within the next five years, that’s down eight points from the previous poll.
Nicola Sturgeon retains a sizeable lead in the satisfaction stakes, although her approval rating has fallen from 72% to 64% since November.
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross’ popularity has increased, with 28% satisfied with his performance, up from 22%.
Willie Rennie of the Scottish Lib Dems and Patrick Harvie of the Greens both leave 35% of voters satisfied.
What matters to voters?
Voters were asked what issues they considered ‘very important’ when deciding which party to support.