Poll: Support for independence hits historic high of 58%

STV/Ipsos MORI poll finds record support for independence and puts the SNP on course for a Holyrood majority.

Support for independence has risen to an unprecedented 58% of Scots, according to a new poll.

The Ipsos MORI poll for STV News found just 42% back staying in the union when undecided voters are stripped out, with 58% in favour of a breakaway.

Including undecideds, 55% of people would vote Yes if there was an independence referendum tomorrow, 39% would vote No and 6% said they didn’t know.

It’s the biggest lead in a poll ever recorded for the pro-independence side.

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The STV/Ipsos MORI survey also suggests the SNP is on course for a Holyrood majority in next year’s Scottish Parliament election, with 58% of likely voters planning to back the party in the constituency vote.

And should the SNP win a majority of seats next May, nearly two-thirds of Scots (64%) say the UK Government should permit a second independence referendum within the next five years.

Meanwhile, people overwhelmingly back Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, with 72% saying they are satisfied with the job she is doing compared to 24% dissatisfied, giving her a net approval rating of +49.

The poll was conducted by Ipsos MORI between October 2 and October 9 and spoke by telephone to 1045 Scots.

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The First Minister is the only party leader besides Sir Keir Starmer to enjoy net approval among Scots, with 44% satisfied with the job the new Labour leader is doing compared to 27% dissatisfied and 29% saying don’t know, giving him net approval of +16.

It’s in stark contract to the Prime Minister’s polling in Scotland, with Boris Johnson heavily into minus territory.

More than three quarters of Scots (76%) are dissatisfied with the job he is doing, compared to less than a fifth (19%) who are happy with him, giving the PM an approval score of -58.

The poll’s findings on the constitutional question are the latest to show majority support for independence, with the Yes side consistently leading in the polls for several months.

It also echoes recent surveys in giving Nicola Sturgeon’s party a commanding lead on headline voting intention in the Holyrood 2021 election.

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In the constituency vote, the SNP enjoys nearly a 40-point lead over its nearest rival, the Scottish Conservative party, on 58% compared to the Tories’ 19%, with Scottish Labour on just 13% and the Scottish Lib Dems polling at 8%.

The nationalists’ lead in the regional list vote is only slightly less emphatic, with 47% preparing to give the SNP their second vote compared to 19% for the Conservatives, 13% for Labour and 9% for the Greens, slightly ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 8%.

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According to the website Election Polling’s seat calculator, this result next May would see the SNP win 73 seats, a gain of ten, and four more than in the historic majority the party won under Alex Salmond in 2011, which paved the way for the first independence referendum.

The Scottish Conservatives, meanwhile, would remain the official opposition but be reduced by nine to 22 seats and Labour would fall to a historic low of 15 seats, down from 24 currently.

The Greens and Lib Dems would both make gains, up to ten seats from six and nine seats from five respectively.

Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said: “Our latest poll will put a spring in the step of nationalists but makes grim reading for unionists.

“The Scottish public have shifted even further towards supporting an independent Scotland, with record numbers now saying they would vote Yes.

“Of course we are still a long way out from next May’s Holyrood elections, but SNP support currently looks very strong, buoyed by Nicola Sturgeon’s high satisfaction ratings among Scottish voters.

“Our poll suggests that there will be significant public pressure for the UK Government to transfer powers to the Scottish Parliament to hold a second independence referendum if the SNP win a majority at next year’s Holyrood elections.”

The First Minister has vowed to use a victory next year to reinforce what she sees as the SNP’s mandate to hold indyref2, although the Prime Minister has repeatedly said he will not sanction such a vote.

The STV/Ipsos MORI poll found a majority of people in Scotland (51%) feel Johnson “definitely should” grant a new independence vote if the SNP win a majority of seats in May 2021 – the figure rises to 64% when people who believe the PM “probably should” allow a referendum are included.

Meanwhile, 34% said the UK Government should now permit a second independence plebiscite to take place even if the SNP gain a majority, with 27% of those saying it “definitely should not” and 7% saying it “probably should not”.

A total of 2% said they didn’t know.

Analysis: It’s no wonder politics has shifted

by STV’s political editor Colin Mackay

We’ve all had to make many changes because of coronavirus – we’ve had to change the way we work, the way we meet family and friends, we wear masks and wash our hands more than ever.

It’s changed the way we live and it’s even changed the way people die, with Covid claiming more than 4000 lives in Scotland and more than a million across the world. 

So is it any surprise that the Scotland’s politics has shifted during the pandemic? The latest Ipsos Mori poll for STV gives an indication the shifting views of voters.

Last November, just before the Conservatives won a massive majority in the general election on the back of Boris Johnson’s pledge to “Get Brexit Done”, the polling company found support for independence and for the union neck and neck at 48% each with 4% undecided.

Now it finds support for independence at a record high – in response to the 2014 referendum question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” 55% said Yes, 39% said No and 6% were undecided. 

That’s quite a shift in less than a year; but it’s a year which has seen Boris Johnson pilloried and Nicola Sturgeon praised for their handling of the Covid crisis. We’ve seen more of our political leaders than ever before, more up close and personal, not on seemingly abstract issues but on how they deal with life and death matters affecting our everyday lives.

This poll puts Nicola Sturgeon on a +49% satisfaction rating and Boris Johnson on -57. That will be largely based on people’s perception of their handling of the crisis, but it affects their views on other things too.

Emily Gray of Ipsos Mori says the change in support on the constitutional question comes among women removing the gender gap in support for independence; middle aged voters have moved too, leaving the over-65s as the only age group where a majority remain pro-union. 

I’m not putting all the changes down to the pandemic, and the public’s view of the competence or incompetence of their political leaders.

The poll was actually carried out just after the Margaret Ferrier row broke and people will have formed their views on the back of Brexit, education and many other issues. 

There is still more than six months to go before the Scottish Parliament election. Some of this winter might seem darker with uncomfortable social restrictions and rising unemployment, alongside increasing covid cases and deaths.

Next year’s Holyrood election might be like no other, but a lot can change between this poll and the vote.

“We’ve seen more of our political leaders than ever before, more up close and personal, not on seemingly abstract issues but on how they deal with life and death matters affecting our everyday lives.”

STV political editor Colin Mackay

New Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has made clear his intention to try to prevent an SNP majority in May.

He is only around a month into the job, and today’s STV/Ipsos MORI poll suggests he remains an unknown quantity for many voters so far, with 40% saying “don’t know” when asked if he is doing a good job.

Just 22% say they are satisfied with the job Ross is doing, while 39% are dissatisfied, giving him a -17 approval rating.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, in post for nearly three years, and Willie Rennie, who has been Scottish Lib Dem leader for nine years, also scored high in the “don’t know” category on job satisfaction.

Leonard has a net approval of -25 while Rennie is on -1.

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Those polled by Ipsos MORI were also asked about the strengths and weaknesses of arguments in favour of and against independence.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) said they found the argument for independence that “people in Scotland want to take the country in a very different political direction to England” as either very convincing (38%) or fairly convincing (17%).

And 46% of people found very convincing the argument that “Westminster governments cannot be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests” while 17% found it fairly convincing, giving it a total of 63%.

Another 57% thought the point that “the UK is leaving the European Union even though Scotland voted to Remain” was convincing, and 52% were persuaded that “in the long term Scotland’s economy will be stronger outside the UK than within it” – with only 27% reporting being very convinced by that case.

On the pro-union side, 60% found the argument that “in spite of current challenges, the different countries of the UK still have more in common than divides us” convincing, with a 29/31 split between very and fairly convincing.

Some 35% of Scots put “becoming an independent country would be a major risk for Scotland’s economy and jobs” as a very convincing argument against leaving the UK, while a further 20% said it was fairly convincing, adding up to 55% of those polled.

Only minorities found the arguments that “Scotland gets the best of both worlds from having its own devolved parliament and also being part of the UK” and thar “leaving the UK would leave Scotland isolated and weaker on the international stage” to be persuasive.

A quarter of Scots (25%) described the “best of both worlds” argument as very convincing and a further 24% said it was fairly convincing (49% in total).

A total of 26% of those surveyed were very convinced by the argument independence would isolate and weaken Scotland internationally, and just 17% were fairly convinced by it.

FM slams Rangers fans as Glasgow could face longer lockdown

Professor Jason Leitch said the city may be under Level 3 restrictions for more than another week.

Pool/Pool via Getty Images / Euan Cherry via SNS Group
Sturgeon said she had been inundated with messages about the “disgraceful scenes” in Glasgow.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “utterly disgusted” by Rangers fans who “rampaged through the city” as Glasgow’s Level 3 restrictions could continue for more than an extra week.

The First Minister said that the violence, vandalism and anti-Catholic prejudice on display was “selfish beyond belief” amid rising coronavirus cases in the city.

Her statement came as Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, said that restrictions may continue in Glasgow beyond May 24.

An estimated 15,000 Rangers fans amassed outside Ibrox and then in George Square on Saturday. Five police officers were injured after supporters began throwing missiles at them. Police Scotland said that 28 people had been arrested so far for a variety of offences and that more arrests will follow.

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Sturgeon said she had been inundated with messages about the “disgraceful scenes” in Glasgow.

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – MAY 15: Rangers fans celebrate lifting the Scottish Premiership title at George Square, on May 15, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Euan Cherry / SNS Group)

She said: “Police still have a job to do, which restrains my comments to some extent – but to say I’m utterly disgusted by the Rangers fans who rampaged through the city would be an understatement.

“I’m also angry on behalf of every law abiding citizen. In normal times, the violence and vandalism, and the vile anti-Catholic prejudice that was on display, would have been utterly unacceptable. But mid-pandemic, in a city with cases on the rise, it was also selfish beyond belief.

“People across the country still living under the most difficult restrictions – not able to see family or attend weddings and funerals – are rightly furious at the irresponsible actions of a thuggish minority who seem to care little for the risks they pose to other people.”

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She said that there is a need for the government and police to reflect on what more can be done to prevent and tackle such scenes but said that Police Scotland officers had her admiration for the job they did in “difficult and dangerous circumstances”.

Five police officers were injured and more than 20 people arrested after massive crowds of Rangers fans had to be dispersed from George Square in Glasgow. Police Scotland’s assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie said: “Police Scotland, our partners and Rangers Football Club had all asked fans not to gather and to take personal responsibility for their actions.

“But 15,000 people chose to ignore that and took the selfish decision to gather at Ibrox and then George Square.”

The city remains Scotland’s virus hotspot with the latest seven-day rate of positive cases per 100,000 people at 89.4.

The rest of the country will have coronavirus restrictions eased on Monday, May 17, but Glasgow and Moray will remain under Level 3.

Pollokshield and Battlefield remain the most affected neighbourhoods with residents urged to get tested and take up the opportunity to be vaccinated when offered.

Having taken a test herself, Sturgeon said: “If you live in – or have recently spent time in – the Southside of Glasgow, please help get this outbreak under control by taking a test.”

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Speaking on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, Prof Leitch said “it may well be” Glasgow remains under Level 3 beyond the initial one week delay to easing restrictions.

He told the programme: “We’ll give the best advice we can on this – we’ve met all weekend, we’ll meet next week.

“Glasgow are doing an enormous amount of work. The leaders of the public health response in Glasgow are testing everywhere.

“If you haven’t had a test and you’re in Glasgow, you should do it.”

Coronavirus: 292 new cases recorded in last 24 hours

Scottish Government figures showed there had been no further deaths of those who had tested positive recently.

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Covid-19: 292 new cases in Scotland.

Scotland has recorded 292 positive coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

That number represents 2% of all the tests that reported results, meaning the positivity rate increased from 1.6% on Saturday.

Latest figures released on Sunday showed that there were no further deaths of people who had recent tested positive for the virus.

However, three people remain in intensive care with recently confirmed Covid-19.

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Since the start of the pandemic more than 10,000 deaths have been registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Over three million people, around two thirds of adults in Scotland, have received their first dose of the vaccination.

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Woman severely injured after two assaulted by teen at station

Two women were assaulted by a teenager wearing a Rangers flag around her neck on Saturday.

British Transport Police via BTP
British Transport Police are appealing for witnesses.

A young woman has been left severely injured after being assaulted by a teenager at a busy North Lanarkshire railway station.

The victim’s friend was also assaulted by the same woman at Coatbridge Sunnyside station on Saturday night.

British Transport Police are now looking to trace the suspect who is described as being around 18 or 19-years-old, with a heavy build and dark hair.

At the time of the attack she was wearing a Rangers flag around her neck.

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Emergency services attended and the first woman assaulted is currently being treated for severe leg injuries in hospital.

Officers are now appealing for witnesses to the incident that took place at around 7.30pm.

A spokesperson from BTP said: “Several people are believed to have been at the station at the time of the assault and detectives are urging them to come forward with any information.

“Witnesses or anyone with information can contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40.”


Hundreds join Glasgow rally in solidarity with Palestinians

It comes after similar rallies in other major cities across the UK and Ireland this weekend.

George Square Cam via Glasgow City Council
Pro-Palestine supporters have gathered in Glasgow’s George Square.

Several hundred demonstrators have gathered in Glasgow’s George Square for a rally in solidarity with Palestinians.

Protesters shouted “free Palestine” and waved Palestinian flags and placards in the sunshine early on Sunday afternoon, just hours after the area was cleared of a sea of broken glass and debris left by Rangers fans celebrating the club’s league title.

Ahead of Sunday’s rally, civil liberties lawyer Aamer Anwar tweeted that “1000s will gather peacefully with families & no alcohol, to protest the genocide of #Palestinians”.

He added: “We demand total respect by [Police Scotland] and a facilitation of the democratic right to protest, we will not tolerate any double standards or excuses”.

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It comes after similar rallies in other major cities across the UK and Ireland in solidarity with the people of Palestine this weekend.

In London on Saturday, nine police officers were injured and missiles were thrown amid efforts to disperse crowds outside the Israeli Embassy.

Thousands of people had earlier marched through the capital to the gates of the embassy in Kensington.

Nine people were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder in London, the Metropolitan Police said.

Adel Hana via AP
Gaza City was targeted by in a fresh Israeli air strike on Sunday (Adel Hana/AP)
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Scotland Yard said small pockets of disorder had followed a largely peaceful demonstration.

Thousands of Palestinians have been forced to flee their homes after a week of sustained conflict.

Since last Monday night, Palestinian militant group Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, whose military responded by barraging the Gaza Strip with tank fire and air strikes.

At least 145 people in Gaza and eight in Israel have been killed since the fighting erupted.

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Five police injured and 28 arrested after Rangers title party

Scenes of celebration became 'ugly' after officers tried to disperse the crowds.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group

Five police officers have been injured and almost 30 people arrested after massive crowds of Rangers fans had to be dispersed from George Square in Glasgow.

The thousands of football supporters were celebrating their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph with many gathering outside Ibrox and then marching through the city on Saturday before scenes turned “ugly”.

The First Minister said she was “utterly disgusted” and hopes that Rangers FC will reflect on what must be done to counteract behaviour of fans as there is concern that Glasgow will have to remain in Level 3 for even longer amid increasing cases of coronavirus.

There was a large police presence throughout the day, with increasing numbers deployed to George Square as the singing, dancing, and lighting of pyrotechnics continued for hours.

George Square was littered with broken glass, alcohol containers, spent flares and other rubbish.
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But police said some fans became “increasingly disorderly” with property damaged and people being assaulted in “ugly scenes”. Officers were targeted by the crowd, with missiles and flares thrown at them.

Glasgow’s police chief condemned the “disgraceful behaviour” and thanked the officers who put themselves in harm’s way to bring the “violent and disorderly gathering to an end”.

Although most of the crowd dispersed, a number remained and confronted the police with “violence and aggression” with officers coming under direct attack.

Nicola Sturgeon said that she had been inundated with messages about the “disgraceful scenes” in Glasgow.

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She said: “Police still have a job to do, which restrains my comments to some extent – but to say I’m utterly disgusted by the Rangers fans who rampaged through the city would be an understatement.

“I’m also angry on behalf of every law abiding citizen. In normal times, the violence and vandalism, and the vile anti-Catholic prejudice that was on display, would have been utterly unacceptable. But mid-pandemic, in a city with cases on the rise, it was also selfish beyond belief.

“People across the country still living under the most difficult restrictions – not able to see family or attend weddings and funerals – are rightly furious at the irresponsible actions of a thuggish minority who seem to care little for the risks they pose to other people.”

She said that there is a need for the government and police to reflect on what more can be done to prevent and tackle such scenes but said that Police Scotland officers had her admiration for the job they did in “difficult and dangerous circumstances”.

The mass of fans left George Square littered with smashed glass, alcohol containers, plastic bags, and spent flare and firework casings.

Scaffolding around the Walter Scott Monument in the centre of the square had been scaled during the celebrations.

There was a large police presence throughout the day.

A major clean-up operation took place overnight with the area intended to host an organised demonstration on Sunday.

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Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: “My full support to police officers who put in an incredible shift [yesterday] in very difficult circumstances. Absolutely disgraceful that they were subjected to the kind of thuggery we saw last night. Incidents of violence, disorder, anti-Catholic and any other hatred will be followed up.”

Fans had been urged to celebrate in accordance with coronavirus restrictions and avoid gathering in numbers. Glasgow is currently the nation’s coronavirus hotspot, with the highest prevalence of the virus per head of population. The city will remain in Level 3 lockdown, along with Moray, while the rest of the country enjoys the easing of restrictions.

Figures published on Friday showed Glasgow recorded 80.4 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to May 11.

Chief superintendent Mark Sutherland, Police Scotland’s divisional commander for Greater Glasgow, said: “As celebrations continued sections of the crowd became increasingly disorderly, property was damaged and people were assaulted. Our officers became the focus of the crowd’s attention with missiles and flares being thrown at them. Our policing response has been proportionate. We have responded appropriately and consistently to the behaviour of those gathered.

“I strongly condemn the behaviour of these supporters who have not only placed our officers at risk but have sought to damage the image and reputation of this great city, especially during this critical period of the pandemic.

“I would like to place on record my thanks to the police and partners who manged this incident, especially those officers who put themselves in danger to bring this violent and disorderly gathering to an end.

“So far we know that three officers have been injured and more than 20 people have been arrested.

“We will be continuing our enquiries and my message is clear that if you have been involved in these ugly scenes then we you will be identified and arrested.”

Scottish cinemas set to reopen after months of dark screens

Vue boss says there is ‘huge pent-up demand’ for the big-screen experience.

Vue Cinemas via Handout/PA
Vue have revamped their cinemas in readiness for reopening on Monday, putting in new Covid-safe features.

There is a “huge amount of pent-up demand” for cinemas and confidence in the industry is “unshaken”, the general manager of Vue in the UK and Ireland has said, as thousands of multiplexes reopen their doors.

The cinema chain will open its venues in Scotland and the rest of the UK on Monday with new releases including Peter Rabbit 2, featuring the voice of James Corden, and Spiral: From The Book Of Saw, starring Chris Rock, and classic films such as The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, Taxi Driver and Grease.

Odeon cinemas will also reopen as will Curzon chains. Cineworld, which announced the closure of 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse sites last October, will begin reopening from Wednesday, May 19.

Cinemas will not be able to reopen in Glasgow or Moray which remain in Level 3 lockdown amid higher prevalence of the virus, meaning Scotland’s only Everyman venue will be closed until restrictions are eased.

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Toby Bradon, general manager of Vue entertainment in the UK and Ireland, said: “There’s a huge amount of pent-up demand out there, and we want to get that out there and meet that pent-up demand.

“We know that our customers are really keen to get back into the cinemas and we’ve got a great line-up of films.

“We do know from the customer research we’ve done that people believe you can’t recreate that big-screen experience at home. It’s a point of differentiation.

“People want the big screen, they want the sound, the seats, the whole experience, the popcorn that goes with it, and they recognise you can’t get that from your sofa.

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“We’re in some unprecedented times, so it’s quite difficult to judge exactly what it’s going to look like but our confidence in the industry is unshaken.”

Discussing the rise of streaming over the past year, and the move by some film studios to make films available at home on the same day as in theatres, Mr Bradon said he believed audiences still need cinemas for blockbuster experiences.

Warner Bros has announced its entire slate of 2021 films, including anticipated blockbuster Dune, will arrive on the HBO Max streaming service at the same time as in cinemas in the US.

Disney will also launch a number of films on its streaming service Disney+ on the same day as cinema releases, including Marvel film Black Widow, villain origin story Cruella and Dwayne Johnson’s new movie Jungle Cruise.

However, the release of likely box office hits such as Bond film No Time To Die, Top Gun: Maverick and Fast And Furious 9 have all been delayed so they can be shown only in cinemas.

Mr Bradon said: “If you look at what the studios have done with the big films, they’ve delayed them, they pushed them back, they haven’t pushed them to the home and streaming, which tells you that cinema exhibition is an economic powerhouse for them.

“Of course other films have gone to streaming and but generally they’re not the big ones. So No Time To Die, Fast And Furious 9, the big tentpole stuff, has just been delayed and I think that’s a sign of confidence from the studios as well that the customers will return.”

Nurses map road to recovery for those living with addiction

The Parish Nurses have created the Dundee Recovery Roadmap to bring support services together.

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The road to recovery for people affected by drugs in Dundee is being mapped out by a group of nurses.

The Parish Nurses run drop in services to support those experiencing addiction and homelessness.

Now, they have created the Dundee Recovery Roadmap mobile phone app, bringing together a raft of services that have sprung up in the city to help halt record drug deaths.

“Over the last few years the services that have sprung up have been quite encouraging and we see that in the app,” explained Kirsty Nelson, one of the Parish Nurses.

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“It’s full of these amazing services that are there to support, encourage and help people get into the recovery stage of their life.”

Demand for addiction support has never been greater. 72 people died from drugs in Dundee in 2019, earning the city the unenviable title of Europe’s drug death capital per head of population.

Stefan Ward knows only too well the importance of support services. He arrived in Dundee eight years ago addicted to drugs and credits his recovery to the grassroots groups that helped him.

“I was really broken, hitting rock bottom, at that stage of giving up,” said Mr Ward.

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“Finding out that Dundee had this unfortunate name for itself as the drug death capital, I thought this was my dead end, this was it and it didn’t look good as that’s where I struggled also.

“But it actually turned out to be the place where I found hope, I found recovery.”

Mr Ward now volunteers at the drop-in centre run by the Parish Nurses at the city’s Steeple Church, helping others find the support he says saved his life.

“I discovered these services, the church, they’ve just played a huge part in my recovery and I really am here by the grace of god,” said Mr Ward.

He has helped develop the app – highlighting all the services in the city offering support. One of the services featured is the Safe Zone Bus.

Before coronavirus came along, the bus helped vulnerable people or those leaving pubs and clubs worse for wear.

At the start of the pandemic it was repurposed to help those struggling to access help.

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It parks up in the Stobswell and Lochee areas on a Friday and Saturday night, when other services are closed.

Kathryn Baker, Tayside Council on Alcohol chief executive said: “We’ve had people over the winter who have come onto the bus and they’ve had no food, no warm clothing, they’ve had no money for electricity, they’ve had no heating so we’ve been able to provide that crisis help.”

Volunteers on the bus have discovered the power of the pot noodle is a surprising ice breaker.

Neil Sneddon, of Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “It takes four minutes to make so it gives us four minutes to engage with people.” 

“People come here for a pot noodle but they have multiple issues, potentially that we can support them with and if we can’t support them on the bus we know multiple agencies that can and that’s what the cup of tea, the pot noodle allows.”

Denise Fitzsimmons volunteers on the bus and uses her own experience of addiction to help others.

“In June, that’s me six years sober. When I was a kid I never thought I would be a drop-out alcoholic, but I did. But I got better and everybody can get better but only they can do it,” she said.

“Family members are tortured by this. Everybody is affected. It’s heartbreaking. We need to listen to the people and find out what’s going on because we’re getting polluted by drugs. It’s taking over this town.”

The Reconnection Project is also included on the app. Through a series of gardening, woodwork and art workshops they try to get to the root of people’s problems.

“Over 50 people I knew have died, young, younger than me,” said volunteer John ‘Taffy’ Barrington, who never used drugs but witnessed the devastation they caused when he was homeless ten years ago. 

“I try to encourage a lot of people that there are things for them, there wasn’t so much when I was on the streets. There’s so [many] positives, I try to encourage people that if I can do it anyone can do it.”

The Reconnection Project’s manager Dave Dyson, a former drug user himself, wants to set up a rehab centre on the outskirts of the city.

“We would run it the way we see it would run better without any medication, without methadone. It would be what you would call cold turkey,” he explained.

“We’re lacking in Scotland with people being able to go into rehab, so that’s important. People need to feel they’re not going to be judged. People need to feel loved. There is so much hurt out there and we’re seeing it all the time. Until you find the root cause the problem is always going to be there. There is so much trauma,” said Mr Dyson.

There are plans to roll the roadmap out to other parts of Scotland in the hope more people can find the help they need where they live and less lives will be lost.


City planners set for ‘more relaxed approach’ to festivals

Edinburgh City Council has previously faced heavy criticism for its planning enforcement of the city’s festivals.

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If the proposals are approved, festival organisers will not need permission for the use of a new space for up to 28 days.

Edinburgh City Council is set to take a “more relaxed approach” to planning enforcement of the capital’s festivals.

Councillors are being asked to approve plans which will allow planning officers to be more lenient during the summer festivals.

Edinburgh City Council has previously faced heavy criticism for its planning enforcement of the city’s festivals, particularly the Christmas Markets in 2019, which went ahead despite not having planning permission, and which caused £150,000 of damage to Princes Street Gardens.

If the proposals are approved, festival organisers will not need permission for the use of a new space for up to 28 days, excluding the erection and removal of any structures, and where that use is not similar to an existing, nearby business.

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Edinburgh International Festival is planning two tents.
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The same rule will apply to the city’s public green spaces. Similarly, individual structures smaller than 3,500m-squared will not be subject to planning enforcement.

A report, set to go before councillors at the council’s planning committee on May 19, reads: “The Edinburgh Festivals are key to the city’s international reputation, its economy and its recovery.

“Festivals were not held during 2020 as a result of the coronavirus emergency.

“In 2018, festivals contributed £280m to the local economy.

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“The Scottish Government’s chief planner has written to planning authorities in Scotland to encourage a relaxation of planning control, through not taking enforcement action, in a range of circumstances to help businesses and services diversify and continue to operate within our communities during the pandemic.

“Operators have been exploring options for how the summer festivals could be held in 2021 on a limited basis and subject to Scottish Government public health guidelines.

“The timescales for preparing and determining applications, coupled with the uncertainties over what public health requirements will be in place when the festivals will be held mean that it is difficult for the festivals to plan.

“If planning applications are required, the timescales are such that it could stop the reintroduction of core elements of the summer festivals this year, for example the Edinburgh International Festival.”

Edinburgh’s festivals have previously brought high numbers and concentrations of people to the city. In 2018 attendance at major festivals was 4,604,520.

According to council officers, the summer festivals create thousands of seasonal jobs during July and August as well as supporting hundreds of full-time roles.

The report further states that the festivals’ attendees have contributed £280m to the local economy and the 11 Edinburgh Festivals have together delivered £313m to the Scottish economy.

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There are currently three proposals for the summer festivals, which under the council’s current planning guidelines would need planning permission, but would now be free to go councillors approve the relaxation of planning enforcement.

Edinburgh International Festival is planning two tents, a 100m by 30m structure in Edinburgh Park, and a 55m by 20m structure in the Old College Quadrangle, while the Edinburgh Tattoo is planning on constructing small stands.

Story by local democracy reporter Joseph Anderson

Charity aims to make sure every child has their own book

Footballer Marcus Rashford said: 'Enjoying reading can't just be a privilege.'

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Reading: New initiative aims to ensure every child has access to a book.

The National Literacy Trust has teamed up with WH Smith, Macmillan Children’s Books and England footballer Marcus Rashford for an initiative aimed at ensuring every child has access to their own book at home.

WH Smith shops will act as donation points for customers to donate to the scheme, with funds going to the National Literacy Trust reading charity.

The retailer will also gift a copy of Manchester United star Rashford’s book You Are A Champion: How To Be The Best You Can Be for every one that is sold.

The National Literacy Trust will distribute the books to “tackle literacy issues in communities at a local level across the UK”, according to a statement from WH Smith.

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Rashford said: “Enjoying reading can’t just be a privilege; all children should be able to access books, no matter what their background.

“Having good literacy skills supports children to succeed in life and everyone should have the opportunity to discover a love of reading.

“This last year has shown us just what we can achieve when we work together.

“By joining forces with WH Smith and the National Literacy Trust we are giving everyone the best opportunity to get involved in supporting getting every child reading.

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“There’s a WH Smith on nearly every high street in the UK, they’re online and also in major travel hubs so we’re making this really accessible and would encourage everyone who is able to, to get involved.

“Everyone can play a role, big or small.”

National Literacy Trust chief executive Jonathan Douglas said: “Marcus Rashford is an extraordinary campaigner of the societal imbalances that can have a lifelong impact on disadvantaged children.

“We hope this brilliant WH Smith initiative, in partnership with Macmillan Children’s Books and the National Literacy Trust, will make essential steps in addressing one of the key barriers to literacy and learning.”

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