Ross urges parties to back no-confidence vote in Sturgeon

Scottish Tory leader says bringing forward the votes, against both Sturgeon and John Swinney, was 'the right thing to do'.

Douglas Ross has challenged the other parties to back the motions of no confidence. PA Media
Douglas Ross has challenged the other parties to back the motions of no confidence.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has challenged the other opposition parties at Holyrood to back motions of no confidence in both First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy.

Ross insisted bringing forward the votes, against both Sturgeon and the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, was “the right thing to do”.

The motions have been brought forward in the wake of the Scottish Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment allegations made against former first minister Alex Salmond.

Ross also suggested a number of reforms be made to the way Holyrood operates, saying the probe into how the complaints against Salmond were dealt with showed Holyrood’s ability to scrutinise and hold the government to account had been found “wanting”.

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The Scottish Conservatives hope to hold a vote of no confidence in Swinney on either Tuesday or Wednesday – with Ross saying his party had “no choice but to continue with our plans for a confidence vote” after the Deputy First Minister’s delayed release of legal advice.

The Scottish Tory leader accused the Deputy First Minister of having “suppressed information to help Nicola Sturgeon” adding that he “still withholds information”.

When the legal advice was finally made public, Ross said it showed how the Scottish Government had “discounted” the opinion of lawyers as they continued to defend a legal challenge brought by Salmond, which saw him win a payout of more than £500,000 at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The Conservative said: “The Sturgeon-Salmond scandal has riven the very heart of Scottish politics and undermined confidence in the ability of parliament to hold the government to account.”

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Ross recalled how the current SNP leader had “called for the resignation of Labour first minister Henry McLeish for subletting his office, Conservative leader David McLetchie for expensing party business and Labour leader Wendy Alexander for failing to declare party donations in her register of interests”.

Ross insisted: “The other parties need to show that they have the stomach stand up to this SNP government like we do, to hold the First Minister to the same standards that she has held others to.”

A vote of no confidence needs to take place, he added, to “give parliament the opportunity to have its say on the First Minister’s conduct”.

And he issued a challenge to all other opposition MSPs, urging them to vote with the Tories in the motions of no confidence against both the First Minister and her deputy.

Ross said Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens should “unite with us and stand up for the Scottish Parliament and its fundamental principles”.

Ross, speaking at an online event staged by the think tank Onward, continued: “The testimony of multiple credible witnesses – and even Nicola Sturgeon’s own evidence – makes it clear that she misled Parliament.

“We can all plainly see the evidence against the Deputy First Minister, too. He ignored two votes of parliament until his job was on the line. He suppressed information to help Nicola Sturgeon. He still withholds information. His statements have lurched from insincere to inaccurate.”

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His comments came as he also called for reform of the Scottish Parliament, which he claimed had “become frozen in time, increasingly dated in its 1999 model of operating, despite its expanding remit”.

He also said voters in Scotland should be able to recall MSPs, as can happen at Westminster.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown accused the Tory leader of “playing political games”, adding that Scots want the government to focus on recovering from coronavirus.

“All Douglas Ross achieved with such blatantly transparent tactics was to highlight his own inexperience and lack of political nous,” he said.

“The Tories have always hated devolution and fought tooth and nail to stop our nation’s parliament being established.

“Now, they’re doing everything they can to try to erode confidence in our democracy brick by brick from the inside – no one will trust the Tories to protect Scotland’s Parliament.

“The coming election is a stark choice – and both votes [for the] SNP are needed to put our country’s future in Scotland’s hands and not Boris Johnson’s.”

Travellers from six African countries to self isolate over new variant

The move will affect travellers from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

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Variant: Travellers from six African countries to self isolate upon arrival in Scotland.

Travellers returning from six African countries will be required to self-isolate upon their return to Scotland following concerns over a new strain of coronavirus. 

On Thursday, the Scottish Government announced that travellers arriving in the country from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana will have to self-isolate and take two PCR tests from noon on Friday, regardless of their vaccination status. 

Managed quarantine will be put in place for any arrivals from the six countries from 4am on Saturday.

It follows concerns over the emerging B.1.1.529 variant, which has the potential to evade immunity built up by vaccination or prior infection.

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new variant identified in South Africa “may be more transmissible” than the Delta strain and “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective”

He added: “Now to be clear, we have not detected any of this new variant in the UK at this point in time.

“But we’ve always been clear that we will take action to protect the progress that we have made.”

The First Minister tweeted that the variant is “of significant concern” and that the situation is being “monitored closely”.

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Meanwhile Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport said: “International travel restrictions are necessary to protect the greater public health. 

“While many restrictions have been significantly relaxed – largely thanks to the success of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 vaccine roll out – we have always said it may be necessary to quickly impose fresh measures to protect public health in Scotland.”

The variant has been classed as a “variant under investigation” in the UK, with one senior UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) expert describing it as “the worst variant we have seen so far”.

Only 59 confirmed cases have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana.

The variant has over 30 mutations – around twice as many as the Delta variant – which could potentially make it more transmissible and evade the protection given by prior infection or vaccination.

Experts from the UKHSA have been advising ministers on the issue.

Anyone who has arrived on Scotland from any of the six countries in the past ten days will be required to enter managed quarantine on arrival.

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Travellers will require a day two and day eight coronavirus test regardless of their vaccination status. 


Two men and woman charged with schoolgirl Caroline Glachan’s murder

The body of the 14-year-old was discovered on the banks of the River Leven on August 25, 1996.

Police Scotland

Two men and a woman have appeared in court charged with the murder of a teenage schoolgirl 25 years ago.

The body of 14-year-old Caroline Glachan was discovered on the banks of the River Leven, near Place of Bonhill in Renton, West Dunbartonshire, on August 25, 1996.

On Thursday morning, Police Scotland confirmed three people had been charged in connection with her death.

Andrew Kelly, 42, Robert O’Brien, 43, and Donna Brand, 42, made no plea when they appeared at Dumbarton Sheriff Court later on Thursday.

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All three, from Dumbarton in West Dunbartonshire, have been charged with murder.

Police Scotland
Murdered: Three suspects have appeared in court.

The case was committed for further examination, with the trio remanded in custody meantime.

They are due to reappear in court within the next eight days.

Detective chief inspector Stuart Grainger, who is the senior investigating officer on the case, earlier said: “I would like to thank the members of the public who have assisted with our investigation and those who have come forward with important information surrounding Caroline’s death.”

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MSP Monica Lennon quits Scottish Labour’s front bench

Lennon resigned from her position as net zero, energy and transport spokesperson on Thursday.

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Lennon: MSP was the architect of legislation to make period products freely available in Scotland.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon – who was the architect of legislation which made Scotland the first country in the world to make period products freely available – has quit her position on the party’s front bench.

Lennon resigned from her position as net zero, energy and transport spokesperson on Thursday.

Announcing her resignation on Twitter, she said: “I have stepped down as net zero, energy and transport spokesperson. It has been a privilege to serve Scottish Labour in spokesperson roles since 2016.

“I am grateful to Anas for the opportunity. I will continue to work hard as @ScottishLabour @ScotCoopParty Central Scotland MSP.”

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Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, thanked her and said she would always “be welcome back in my senior team”.

“Thank you Monica for all your hard work for our party in multiple senior roles. Yesterday marked a year since your historic Period Poverty Bill,” he said, replying to her resignation tweet.

“You will always be welcome back in my senior team. I know you will continue to be a powerful Labour voice in Parliament.”

The Labour MSP was first elected to Holyrood in 2016 and had gone against Sawar to become its leader.

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She has served a number of senior positions in Scottish Labour, including as its economy and fair work spokeswoman.


Gusts of 80mph expected to batter Scotland as Storm Arwen sweeps in

The Met Office has issued both yellow and amber alerts for Friday and Saturday.

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High winds: The Met Office has issued yellow and amber weather alerts.

Gusts of up to 80mph are expected to batter parts of the country as Storm Arwen sweeps in.

The Met Office has issued both yellow and amber alerts for Friday and Saturday, with Scots urged to prepare for flying debris and large waves that could lead to “danger to life”.

The heavy winds are expected to start at 9am on Friday and last until 6pm on Saturday.

Experts have warned of potential damage to buildings and trees as a result of the high winds.

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The strong gusts could also lead to power cuts, road and bridge closures, and cancellations to rail, air and ferry services.

Friday weather warnings

Met Office via Website
Friday: Weather warnings for wind.
  • Yellow weather warning: 9am to 11.59pm
  • Amber weather warning: From 3pm on Friday to 9am on Saturday.

Saturday weather warnings

Met Office via Website
Saturday: Further weather warnings for wind.
  • Yellow weather warning: 12am to 6pm.
  • Amber weather warning: From 3pm on Friday to 9am on Saturday.

STV meteorologist Sean Batty said: “It’s been a while since we’ve experienced stormy conditions, but that’s about to change with the arrival of Storm Arwen on Friday.

“Arwen will bring strengthening winds through Thursday night as it approaches from the north – not our usual direction for storms.

“By Friday morning the strongest winds will be affecting the north Highland coast, as well as Orkney where gusts will be around 60-70mph.

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“The strongest swathe of winds will then move over the east of the country, across Moray, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Fife and East Lothian.

“It’s actually possible the storm will strengthen as it moves over these areas later on Friday and into Saturday, with a risk of wind gusts hitting 80mph along the coasts.”

Sean warned that gusts of that strength could damage built-up areas such as Peterhead, Aberdeen, Montrose, Arbroath, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy, North Berwick and Dunbar.

He added: “Further west, in areas such as mainland Argyll, Glasgow and Ayrshire, areas where we usually get the brunt of approaching storms as they normally come in from the west, it will not be as bad this time round.

“Because Arwen comes in from the north, these areas will be more sheltered than usual, however, as he swings out into the North Sea and the winds change direction late on Friday, even these areas could get gusts of 50-60mph for a time.”

With Storm Arwen blowing in from the north and originating over Greenland, it will bring cold air and snow for higher ground.

Sean said: “Blizzard conditions will be experienced on mountains, with up to 10cm of snow possible above 400m, and perhaps a few centimetres down to 200m for a time in the far north.

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“The winds will slowly ease through Saturday and we’re looking at much quieter conditions by Sunday, although it will stay cold, but also largely sunny.”

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Coronavirus vaccine ‘saved almost 28,000 lives in Scotland’

It is estimated that 86% of deaths have been avoided in Scotland thanks to the uptake of vaccines.

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Vaccines: Thousands still alive today due to Covid jag, study says.

Thousands of people in Scotland are still alive today because of the coronavirus vaccine, a new study has said.

Authors of a World Health Organisation led paper, published on Thursday in Eurosurveillance, estimated that 27,656 people, who were aged 60 or older, have been saved in Scotland because of the rollout of the coronavirus jag from December 2020 to November this year.

Dr Jim McMenamin, the head of health protection infection services at Public Health Scotland, said: “This important study shows that thanks to high vaccine uptake among the people of Scotland, an early implementation, the Covid-19 vaccination programme is estimated to have saved more than 27,000 lives in Scotland.”

So far, 4,342,107 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination in Scotland, 3,942,927 have had a second, and 1,535,623 have been given a third dose or booster.

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Report writers looked at weekly numbers of observed deaths and vaccination coverage, and they estimated that a total of 469,186 deaths – 51% of those expected – had been averted as a result of vaccination in 33 countries.

In Scotland, an estimated 86% of deaths have been avoided.

Dr Nicholas Phin, director of public health science at Public Health Scotland, said: “We know that the Covid-19 vaccine remains the most effective way to protect ourselves. This latest study shows just what an impact the Covid-19 vaccination programme has had in Scotland.”

“When it’s your time to receive a third or booster dose of the vaccine, please do take the opportunity to bolster your protection against Covid-19 at the earliest opportunity.”


Apology after vulnerable adult with cancer died ‘with no dignity’

The 50-year-old died ’emaciated’ days before Christmas 2018.

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'No dignity': Healthcare bosses have apologised for failings.

Healthcare bosses have apologised for failings after a review found a vulnerable adult with cancer died “with no dignity”, in pain and soiled with faeces in a home said to be “uninhabitable”.

The 50-year-old, who is not being identified, also had multiple sclerosis and died “emaciated” days before Christmas 2018, weighing only 6st 8lb, according to a significant case review.

Care at home staff had to wear PPE – including white suits, gloves, masks and goggles – as the person, named as P19 in the report, was doubly incontinent, struggled to move themselves and their home was heavily soiled.

Despite the protective equipment some staff vomited due to the “unbearable” smell while others were left in tears at the situation.

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Two days before dying the 50-year-old was said to be “constantly soiled with faeces, has poor mobility, sore skin, is in a lot of pain and is eating and drinking very little, not getting enough fluids and often can’t sleep”, with staff having to use a basin for personal care.

Managers of the care at home service withdrew care on December 19, the day of death, due to the impact on staff.

No contingency plan was in place – there were no vacancies in nursing homes across the council area and hospital admission was refused – although further options were being explored.

Angus Adult Protection Committee, which carried out the review, said the person was identified as an “adult at risk” in August 2018 and had significant involvement from 19 services in the four months before death.

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The review said: “The health care team failed to recognise and reach an agreement that P19’s death was expected and imminent. This resulted in P19 dying with uncontrolled physical, emotional, social and spiritual symptoms.

“P19 died with no dignity and none of their needs anticipated or managed.”

It concluded: “P19 had an advanced bowel cancer and there is no one identifiable action that would have changed matters.

“The interconnection of diagnosis of bowel cancer, management of associated symptoms, capacity assessment, understanding the impact of alcohol use in identifying risk, delivering multi-agency risk management plans together with P19 and information sharing all played a part on the overall experience and outcomes for P19.”

The review found the person, said to have a history of binge drinking, had been “asking for help” and was willing to cooperate with support and interventions on many occasions, while refusing them on others.

The committee praised the efforts of the care at home staff, saying they continued as long as they could, adding: “The physical, emotional and psychological impact of seeing someone die in front of their eyes with no palliative care in place, no pain management, no dignity and feeling that nothing was being done despite their repeated escalation was clearly a traumatic experience for staff of the care at home provider.

“Staff shared they felt helpless and some have required ongoing counselling and support.”

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The review makes a series of recommendations which have been accepted by the the organisations involved, including the committee, NHS Tayside and Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, and notes progress has already been made in some areas.

Gail Smith, Angus Health and Social Care Partnership chief officer, said: “I have written to P19’s family to unreservedly apologise for our failings.

“I have assured them that we are taking immediate steps to act upon the learning of this case and be relentless in our efforts to improve the quality and consistency of our care as a result of this.

“I acknowledge that this was a very complex situation for all staff involved but we let P19 down and they did not receive the care they had a right to expect.”

Claire Pearce, NHS Tayside nursing and midwifery director, said: “On behalf of NHS Tayside, I would like to apologise to P19’s family for the failings identified in the care provided to P19 and our thoughts remain with them.

“We fully accept all recommendations in the report and will continue to work with Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, Angus Council and Police Scotland to ensure all learning from the issues raised is shared across agencies and together we continue to make the necessary improvements to services supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities.”


Sarwar: Two more child deaths ‘linked to hospital infections’

The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) has been at the centre of controversy in recent years.

SNS Group via SNS Group
Glasgow: The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital has been at the centre of controversy in recent years.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has urged the Scottish Government to step in after he claimed that two more children have died after contracting infections at a Glasgow hospital.

The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) has been at the centre of controversy in recent years, with a number of people dying after contracting infections linked to the water and atmosphere and sparking a public inquiry being established to – in part – investigate the conditions at the hospital.

Last week, the widow of Scottish Government employee Andrew Slorance, who was being treated in the hospital last year, linked his death to aspergillus, an infection linked to a type of mould.

According to Sarwar, a clinician has come forward, telling him that another such infection was found at around the same time period as Mr Slorance’s in a child cancer patient who later died.

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A separate medic, the Labour leader claimed, has also told him of another infection just two months ago in the paediatric hospital where the patient later died – four years on from the death of ten-year-old Milly Main, who died after contracting a waterborne infection.

In quotes sent to the media by the Labour leader, the clinician, who warned of the infection at around the same time as Mr Slorance, said: “A child cancer patient died after contracting the infection in November 2020.

“It begs the question – if there was a case as far back as November 4 what did the health board do to investigate it? Did they look for an environmental source and could future infections have been prevented?

“In cases like this, where two patients have died of aspergillus in short order, a HIIAT (Healthcare Infection Incident Assessment Tool) Red report should have been filed and therefore the health secretary informed.

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“Why was this then not acted on? We could have lost the chance to prevent subsequent infections and deaths.”

The Labour leader refused to confirm the identity of the clinicians, whom he claims fear “retribution”.

The second staff member said there was a “culture of bullying and intimidation”, adding: “The result is inaction with potentially fatal consequences.

“Within the last few months there has been at least one death in the paediatric hospital where a child was infected by a bacteria linked to water and the environment.

“We can’t hide behind a public inquiry. We need urgent action now so we can make it safe and provide the necessary reassurances about the risk from environment and water supply.”

Sarwar urged the First Minister to use emergency powers to allow ministers to take control of the hospital and fire the heads of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“The health board has failed, the Scottish Government oversight board has failed and frankly the First Minister continues to fail,” he said at First Minister’s Questions.

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“Staff are being bullied and intimidated now. I have been raising this in this chamber for years and I’ve heard the same answers and the same excuses.

“Infections are happening now, patients are dying now.”

He added: “Sack the leadership of the health board today, sack the oversight board today and use your emergency powers to take control of this hospital.

“First Minister, how many more families will have to be devastated before you do the right thing?”

In response, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Sacking a health board does not change overnight the practice in a hospital, that is why the actual work has to be done.

“When concerns are raised about the cause of someone’s death, then that has to be properly investigated so that the action that is then taken as a result of that is the right action.”

She added: “These are serious matters – they are serious matters all of us should take seriously but we do not do justice to the families concerned if we simply call for action that is not based on proper investigation, proper scrutiny and proper consideration.

“That is the duty of government and that is the duty we will continue to take seriously.”


Thomson: Too little has changed since I revealed teen rape trauma

In 2016, Thomson gave a speech in the House of Commons revealing she had been raped as a teenager.

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Ordeal: Michelle Thomson says 'too little has changed' in the five years since she revealed her teen rape trauma.

MSP Michelle Thomson has said “too little has changed” since she spoke publicly about being raped at the age of 14.

In 2016, while an MP, Thomson gave a speech in the House of Commons revealing that, 37 years previously, she had been attacked in a wooded area by someone she knew.

She later contacted the police, and Thomson now says the perpetrator was identified and charged but not prosecuted due to the passage of time.

The SNP MSP spoke during a debate on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at Holyrood on Thursday.

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She said: “In 2016, then an MP, I spoke in the House of Commons about being raped at the age of 14.

“Too little has changed.

“In the immediate aftermath I received thousands of cards, letters, and emails.

“Simultaneously, I received extensive abuse on social media, almost always from men.

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“After my speech, I made a complaint to Police Scotland.

“The perpetrator was identified and charged but not prosecuted due to the passage of time. It was never reported in the press.

“Making a police report was difficult. I learned why some facets of my adult character were as they were.”

She continued: “When I described my varied career to Police Scotland, they explained to me that my workaholic habits were entirely understandable.

“When someone like me starts running, they keep running. For many women, however, it is into the arms of an abusive partner, drugs, or drink.”

With her voice breaking, she said: “Disclosure was me finally standing my ground.

“I was naked from the inside out and all I had was my small internal voice that whispered, ‘hear me’.”

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Thomson was praised for her bravery in speaking out in 2016 and some other MPs were moved to tears by her speech at Westminster.

The Social Justice Secretary, Shona Robison, also spoke in the debate, saying the Government’s Equally Safe strategy for preventing violence against women and girls was to be updated.

She told MSPs that this “refresh” of the strategy would build on its achievements.

“Since we published the delivery plan in November 2017, we have made real progress in delivering the 118 actions it included,” she said.

She continued: “Whilst we have achieved a lot, there remains much work to do. A world without violence is possible.

“I urge all of us to work collaboratively from constituency to committee and across this chamber to do all we can to eradicate it from Scotland.”

Speaking for the Liberal Democrats in the debate, Beatrice Wishart raised the issue of spiking by injection.

She said: “The relatively new phenomenon of needle spiking hit the headlines recently.

“It’s shocking but rather than lessen its impact by giving it the term – almost a jokey phrase – of spiking, let’s call it for what it actually is.

“It’s the intention of a perpetrator to render someone incapable so that they can sexually assault and abuse them.”

Scottish Conservative MSP, Alexander Stewart, spoke about domestic violence, describing the impact his father’s abusive behaviour had on his mother.

He said: “As a three-year-old child I witnessed the devastation, and traumatic impact of violence subjected to my mother by my father, and that has never left me.”


Teaching union backs vaccination for primary school pupils

EIS general secretary said vaccination would be an ‘easier and safer route’ than waiting for herd immunity.

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Vaccines: Currently only offered to children over the age of 12.

The head of Scotland’s biggest teaching union said children over the age of five should be offered the Covid-19 vaccine to tackle the spread of the virus in schools.

Currently, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommends only those over 12 are offered a jab.

But Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the EIS, said he wanted vaccines to be offered to younger school pupils.

The vaccine is not currently recommended by the JCVI for children between five and 12, however, the US has started to offer the jab to younger people.

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Speaking before the Covid-19 Recovery Committee at Holyrood, Mr Flanagan said: “We are in favour of young people being offered that vaccine and we’ve said so at Serg (Scottish Education Recovery Group).

“I was surprised to discover at Serg that that there is apparently no licensed vaccines by age group in the UK at the moment, although clearly the USA have started vaccinating that particular group.

“Hopefully, there’s some work going on to make sure that a decision is taken to allow that age group to be vaccinated.”

He added: “Ultimately, we think offering the vaccination is a quicker and safer route than just allowing for herd immunity to develop over a longer period of time because that will be more disruptive to school education.”

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While Mr Flanagan said he wanted to see offers of vaccination made, he said the ultimate decision would be made between young people and their families.

But Margaret Wilson, the chairwoman of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said there were “quite huge concerns” from parents about the vaccine.

“Luckily, we work in partnership with Public Health Scotland to answer the parent’s concerns,”  she said.

“But as Larry’s just said, it’ll be down to personal choice.

“As a forum will try and get clear communication for parents on their behalf, but I can’t see that there’s going to be any right answer to that.”

Mr Flanagan also said he would like to see face coverings remain in place in schools throughout the winter.

“The majority of our members feel that face coverings should be in place over the winter period,” he told MSPs, previewing a survey of teachers due to be released next week.

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Mr Flanagan suggested that the face covering mandate in secondary schools could also be lifted when vaccination rates reach 90% in pupils.

Meanwhile, MSPs were told schools would be put in an “invidious” position if vaccine passports were required to access school events such as concerts and nativity plays.

Currently, only large events and nightclubs are required to verify vaccine status – after the First Minister announced this week the scheme would not be extended but would allow for a negative lateral flow test result to be used as a substitute.

All of those who appeared in front of the committee on Thursday, which also included Gary Greenhorn, the co-chairman of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) and School Leaders Scotland general secretary Jim Thewliss, rejected the idea.

Mr Flanagan questioned if it would lead to schools becoming “gatekeepers” to events, adding: “I think you’d be placing schools in quite an invidious situation.”

He added: “Whilst I can see the validity in what you’re suggesting, it may actually be quite divisive, because some parents could get in and some would have to be turned away and I don’t think school leadership teams at this time really need that additional headache.”

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