Scotland in ‘deep recession’ as coronavirus bites economy

The country's GDP plummeted during early months of lockdown although it grew by 5.7% in June.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Scotland’s economy has entered a “deep recession” as new figures suggest GDP plunged by a fifth in the second quarter of the year.

Provisional Scottish Government statistics suggest the country’s GDP fell by 19.7% during April to June as the coronavirus lockdown bit.

It follows a 2.5% drop in economic growth in January to March, with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) warning Scotland and the UK’s economies are among the “worst-performing in Europe”.

Over both quarters, output is estimated to have fallen by a total of 21.7%, with the SCC saying the figures should “set alarm bells ringing”. 

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Scotland’s recession is expected to be confirmed by official quarterly figures in September and follows the UK formally entering recession for the first time in 11 years last week.

Scottish economy secretary Fiona Hyslop said the numbers show the “devastating and unprecedented impact” of the lockdown brought about by coronavirus.

But the Scottish economy actually grew by 5.7% in June in the latest sign of the beginnings of a slow recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The “experimental” monthly GDP statistics show output increasing in all of the Scotland’s main industry sectors in June as the country’s reopening began to pick up pace.

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The 5.7% rise in growth followed a 2.5% boost to GDP in May.

But it came after economic output plummeted by 19.2% in April as the lockdown took effect, and by 5.8% in March.

Even with the increases over the last two months, output remains 17.6% lower than pre-pandemic levels in February.

The economy secretary said: “Although the estimated figure for June shows that Scotland’s GDP has increased, the estimate for the quarter shows the devastating and unprecedented impact that the necessary lockdown restrictions have had on the economy.

“We have worked hard to protect Scotland’s economy and ensure that as many people as possible keep their jobs and this is supported by a package of support to businesses that totals over £2.3bn.

“Since May we have started to see our economy open up as lockdown restrictions in Scotland have been eased and in order to help businesses safely restart, we have put in place a £230m economic stimulus package and provided businesses with guidance and support.”

Hyslop repeated her call to the UK Government to extend its furlough scheme to protect jobs.

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But Scottish secretary Alister Jack said the UK Government is “doing all it can” to help workers and businesses.

Jack said: “These figures confirm the significant impact of coronavirus on Scotland’s economy. 

“The UK Government has put in place unprecedented measures to support people, right across the country, through the pandemic.  

“We are supporting almost 900,000 jobs in Scotland through the pioneering furlough and self-employed schemes and have loaned more than £2.3bn to 65,000 Scottish businesses.

“This is on top of an extra £6.5bn of funding for the Scottish Government.” 

The Scottish secretary added: “The UK Government is doing all it can to drive our economic recovery.

“That includes our £1k job retention bonus, a £2bn Kickstart scheme to create thousands of high quality jobs for young people, cutting VAT to restart tourism businesses and boosting hospitality businesses with our ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.” 

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said further intervention is now required, such as a cut to employers’ national insurance contributions, and fresh incentives for firms to retain staff.

She said: “The collapse in Scotland’s GDP in the second quarter sets alarm bells ringing even if the fall was expected.

“The 19.7% decline from April to June makes Scotland’s and the UK’s economies among the worst performing in Europe.

“These figures confirm the Scottish economy is in deep recession and intervention is required now to prevent real and lasting damage to the jobs market.”

Dr Cameron added: “Without rapid intervention in the form of fiscal stimulus packages as well as cost cutting efforts such as rates holidays, we fear that the Scotland’s economic landscape may never recover to previous levels.”

Three households can mix over five-day Christmas period

They will be able to travel between local authorities and across the UK during December 23 and 27 to form a bubble.

Tom Merton via Getty Images

Up to three households will be allowed to mix indoors for up to five days over Christmas.

They will be able to travel between council areas and across the UK during December 23 and 27 to form a ‘bubble’ – but each household must only join one bubble.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was a risk in any relaxation of restrictions during the festive period and asked people to think carefully about the necessity of mixing, given the risk of spreading coronavirus.

She said: “We know that for some, contact with friends and family is crucial during this time as isolation and loneliness can hit people especially hard over the Christmas period. The ‘bubble’ approach aims to reduce this impact.

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“But we must be clear, there cannot be any further relaxation of measures for Hogmanay. Even this short relaxation will give the virus a chance to spread.

“Our priority is to suppress the transmission of Covid-19 and reduce the risk to the vulnerable and those who have spent so long shielding – and that involves abiding by the rules.

“Just because you can mix with others indoors over this time, that doesn’t mean you have to. If you choose to stick with the rules as they are, then you will be continuing the hard work to beat this virus and prevent its spread.”

Households have been urged to keep visits to no more than one or two days if possible and bubbles can gather in houses, at an outdoor place or a place of worship.

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In all other settings – such as hospitality – those who have formed a bubble should only socialise with members of their own household.

Households in a bubble will be asked to limit social contact before and after the Christmas period.

Coronavirus: 41 deaths as restriction levels remain unchanged

The First Minister confirmed the outcome of the latest review in the Scottish Parliament.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Another 41 people with coronavirus have died in Scotland, as East Lothian remained the only area to change restriction levels in the latest review.

The local authority moved from level three to level two on Tuesday morning, but Midlothian, where businesses had been hopeful of a change, will stay in level three.

Concern had been expressed about a rise in cases of the virus and test positivity rates there over the last week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in the Scottish Parliament: “With the exception of East Lothian, which this morning moved from level three to level two, I can confirm that the Scottish Government is not proposing any changes to the levels that currently apply to each local authority area.

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“The latest data shows that across the whole country and within most local authority areas, the restrictions in place are having an impact.

“The number of new cases across the country has stabilised in recent weeks… We now have grounds for cautious optimism that numbers may be declining.”

The R number now stands somewhere between 0.8 and one, the First Minister added.

Currently, 11 council areas are at level four – the highest tier of restrictions – and will remain there until December 11.

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Clackmannanshire and Perth and Kinross are being monitored closely due to a rise in cases.

Scotland moved into a five-tier alert system at the beginning of the month in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in high-prevalence areas but allow more freedom in places with fewer cases.

Councillor Derek Milligan, the leader of Midlothian Council claimed that many local businesses are facing ‘devastation’ after the area remained in level three.

Here is a full list of where each council area sits in the system:

Level zero

No local authority has been placed at level zero..

Level one
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highland, Moray, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands.

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Level two

Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lothian, Scottish Borders.

Level three

Angus, Clackmannanshire, Dundee City, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Ayrshire, Perth and Kinross.

Level four

East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian.

Two-year-old boy named as police say death ‘suspicious’

A man has appeared in court in connection with the death of two-year-old Julius Czapla.

Police Scotland
Toddler: Two-year-old died following incident in Edinburgh.

A toddler who died at a home in Edinburgh has been named by police.

Emergency services were called to Muirhouse at around 9.30am on Saturday.

The two-year-old, named as Julius Czapla, died at the scene shortly after.

Police said on Tuesday that his death was now being treated as “suspicious”, following a post-mortem.

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Lucasz Czapla, 40, was arrested and charged with assault and three driving offences in connection with the death.  

He appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday and was remanded in custody.


Nurse mistook child’s fatal meningitis for gastroenteritis

The child suffered a seizure days after being seen by the nurse and later died in hospital.

LDRS
Death: Child died of meningitis after misdiagnosis at Fife hospital.

A health board has apologised after a nurse mistook a child’s fatal case of meningitis for gastroenteritis.

NHS Fife says it has accepted the findings of the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) after the child’s bereaved parent complained about the standard of care.

The youngster, named in public reports as ‘A’, had been taken to Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital feeling unwell.

A nurse practitioner diagnosed the child with gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach, and sent them home.

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Days later, the child suffered a seizure and was admitted to another hospital where it was discovered they had pneumococcal meningitis – a life-threatening condition that inflames the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain. 

The child later died in hospital.

The child’s parent, anonymised in documents as ‘C’, complained to NHS Fife, arguing that their child should have been seen by a doctor before being discharged from the hospital, and that the original diagnosis had been unreasonable.

NHS Fife carried out a significant adverse event review that found faults in how the case had been handled.

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However, the parent then referred the case to the SPSO, dissatisfied with its findings.

After taking independent advice, the Ombudsman concluded in November that the original diagnosis had been “unreasonable”.

“We found some additional failings in record-keeping, and highlighted that we would have expected the misdiagnosis to have been identified when the nurse practitioner discussed A’s case with a doctor before discharge.

“We also considered there had been failings in the handling of C’s subsequent complaints,” it said in a written report on the case.

NHS Fife has been told to apologise for its failure to provide reasonable treatment and diagnosis, failing to keep reasonable records and failing to communicate reasonably with A’s parents.

The Ombudsman has also issued the health board with recommendations on how to improve its practice and complaint handling in the future.

Helen Buchanan, NHS Fife’s director of nursing, said: “Our aim is always to provide the best possible care for all of those who need our services.

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“However, we accept that was not the case in this instance and we want to offer our most sincere apologies to the family involved.

“We accept the findings of the Ombudsman and we are in the process of implementing their recommendations in full.”

Reporting by local democracy reporter Jon Brady


Scot Peter Sawkins crowned winner of Great British Bake Off

The 20-year-old accounting and finance student from Edinburgh was named as the victor on Tuesday.

C4/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon) via PA Images
Winner: Peter Sawkins from Edinburgh.

Peter Sawkins has been crowned the first ever Scottish winner of Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off.

The 20-year-old accounting and finance student from Edinburgh was named as the victor after becoming the youngest finalist in the programme’s history.

He saw off competition from Laura Adlington and Dave Friday in Tuesday’s episode of the amateur baking contest.

While Laura’s poor performance in the first two rounds of the final took her out of contention, judge Paul Hollywood said the competition was “as close to a draw that I’ve ever seen”.

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His fellow judge Prue Leith agreed it was “so close” between Peter and Dave, 30, a security guard from Hampshire.

The final saw the trio tasked with making custard slices, walnut whirls and a multi-layered showstopper dessert.

Peter took inspiration from the Scottish pudding Cranachan when making his custard slices, using raspberries, oats and whisky to flavour it.

Leith said they “looked incredible”, adding that he had made a “really lovely custard slice”, while Hollywood complimented their flavour.

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Dave also won praise for his coffee and caramel-flavoured custard slices, with Hollywood praising his “beautiful” pastry.

Bake Off: Full line-up. Channel 4/PA Images.

However, Laura’s final began with a disastrous first round after her custard failed to set and her slices failed to hold their shape.

The 31-year-old digital manager from Kent told the judges she was “embarrassed” to serve her slices to the judges, adding they looked as though they had been dropped on the floor.

Laura also finished bottom in the walnut whirl challenge, which was completed in very hot conditions, after she messed up her timings and failed to have all the components properly cooled in time for the tasting.

Dave excelled in the technical challenge, finishing in first place ahead of Peter.

The three contestants were tasked with creating a multi-layered dessert which reflected on their time on the show in the final showstopper challenge.

Laura decided to recreate some of her previous triumphs in a dessert which featured components including Chelsea buns, macarons and carrot and walnut cake.

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Leith praised her efforts, saying there is “nothing wrong with your baking”.

However, it was not enough to bring her back into contention.

Dave sought to redeem his failings in previous weeks by having a second go at some of the bakes he was criticised for in previous weeks, including brownies, chocolate babka and choux buns.

The judges gave mixed reviews of his attempt to right the wrongs of previous weeks.

Peter’s dessert featured components including a Victoria sandwich, choux buns and Battenberg biscuits and was labelled a “good effort” by Leith.

The showstopper round was watched by the entire crew for the 11th series of the programme, who formed a “bubble” in Down Hall Hotel near Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, throughout the duration of filming, after being tested for the virus and self-isolating.

Production of the series initially had to be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, however filming of the programme finished around the end of August.


MSPs pass Scotland’s ‘landmark’ sanitary products bill

Scotland will become the first country in the world to offer universal access to sanitary products.

STV News
Bill: MSPs pass legislation which aims to tackle period poverty.

Scotland will become the first country in the world to offer universal access to sanitary products.

On Tuesday, MSPs unanimously voted to pass the landmark Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill following a three-year campaign by Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon.

It’s hoped the new measures will go some way towards tackling period poverty, as well as addressing the stigma and taboo which has traditionally surrounded menstruation.

Sanitary products are currently free at schools, colleges and universities across Scotland. 

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However, the new bill places a legal duty on ministers to ensure anyone can access them at many different locations.

The bill faced initial opposition, with ministers arguing the cost could greatly exceed the estimated £9.7m a year.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Lennon said: “We are in the final miles of a long journey and I am heartened by the support for the Period Products Bill.

“I am optimistic that we will complete that groundbreaking journey today.

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“Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history – but it now has a chance to be the first.

“This law will ensure no-one has to go without essential period products.”


Care home inquiry plans revealed by health secretary

Holyrood's opposition parties passed a motion for the government to hold an 'immediate public inquiry'.

Andrew Bret Wallis via Getty Images
Care homes: Inquiry plans revealed.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman has announced plans to set up an inquiry about the impact of coronavirus on Scotland’s care homes but warned it will not be done quickly.

Holyrood’s opposition parties passed a motion on November 4 calling for the Scottish Government to hold an “immediate public inquiry” to look into why so many care home residents with Covid-19 had died during the pandemic.

Freeman initially rebuffed Parliament’s demands and instead suggested a UK-wide inquiry should be carried out at a later date.

But during Topical Questions on Tuesday, Freeman revealed her calls for a four-nations approach had been ignored and indicated the Scottish Government “will now begin the steps” to set up an inquiry.

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Despite an insistence she “would never disrespect the will of this Parliament”, Freeman said there were “significant steps” required to set up an inquiry and it could not be done immediately as the motion stated.

She told MSPs: “I have sought to see if it is possible to have a public inquiry that is at least in part rests on the four nations, I think that makes a great deal of sense.

“I regret I’ve not had a response so we will now begin the steps.
“But members should not be under any illusion that it is a quick exercise to set up a public inquiry.

“There are significant steps that need to be undertaken that involve the Lord President or Lord Advocate, and others.”

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Before the Scottish Government’s defeat over the Scottish Conservatives’ motion, Freeman had argued a coronavirus public inquiry should be held “once the country is through the immediacy of dealing with the pandemic”.

She had said the Scottish Government “wants and will welcome a public inquiry”, telling MSPs it could be “critical” in helping learn lessons from Covid-19.


Son spots late dad on STV archive footage days after death

Darran Robertson almost 'jumped off the couch' when he saw his late dad William on STV News.

STV News

A son who lost his father to coronavirus says he’s overjoyed to have discovered archive news footage of his dad that he never knew existed.

Darran Robertson has been reminiscing with his family after spotting his dad William – who died on November 9 – in pictures of the 1984 miners’ strike, which were shown on last Friday’s STV News.

The archive images were shown during a report on Booker prize winner Douglas Stuart and his portrayal of growing up in 1980s Scotland.

When scenes from a coal miners’ protest came on screen, there was a familiar face in the crowd for the Robertsons.

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Darran said: “I practically jumped off the couch and said to my mum, ‘that’s my dad’.”

His mum didn’t believe him at first.

Darran added: “And I paused it and I rewound it, and sure enough there he was, and it was just an incredible moment.

“Five minutes after we saw it on the television, my phone went ping, ping, ping with family members and friends.”

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William, from Larkhall in South Lanarkshire, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, died in hospital 13 days after testing positive for Covid-19.

Ahead of Monday’s funeral service, his family reflected on the 73-year-old’s life.

William, who previously worked in the Cardowan Colliery in Stepps, had moved his family to Fife to take up a job at the Frances Colliery in Dysart, near Kirkcaldy.

He had followed his own father down the pit and worked as a coal miner for around a decade.

Darran recalled growing up during the miners’ strike.

He said: “I remember my dad going out to the picket lines. 

“To be honest, my main memory of that time is living in poverty. Local shops would donate food to social clubs and that is how we got fed because we had no money. 

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“It was a horrible time during the strikes but my dad loved working the mines. It was the one job in his life he really did love.“

William died at the University Hospital Wishaw. Relatives were unable to visit and relied on video calls with the grandfather-of-three as his health declined.

William’s granddaughter, Veronica Robertson said: “The nursing staff really did go above and beyond to get my papa’s phone working. 

“I did get to see him and hear him, and it was so nice to have that. He knew we were there.“

His family say those last video calls along with the STV News footage give them some comfort.

Darran added: “He would have loved [the footage] because he loved his telly.

“He loved watching the news and the quiz shows, so he would have been in his element.

“It really put on a smile on my face. It was like he was saying hello to me, that he’s okay, you know.”


Demand for urgent action after rise in probable suicides

Samaritans Scotland said every one of the deaths was 'a devastating loss', after 833 probable suicides in 2019.

Basak Gurbuz Derman via Getty Images
Mental health: Samaritans said action 'here and now' can help reduce future risk.

There were 833 probable suicides in Scotland last year, figures show, as a prevention charity called for urgent action.

Samaritans Scotland said every one of the deaths was “a devastating loss”, as the figure rose from 784 in 2018.

Of the total, 620 were men and 213 women, with the overall suicide rate increasing to 15.5 deaths per 100,000 – the highest rate since 2013.

Suicide rates peak among those aged 45 to 54 but the rate among young people, aged 14 to 25, increased for the second consecutive year.

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Samaritans Scotland, who provide free 24/7 help to those in distress, said the data was a powerful reminder of the urgent need to continue to improve suicide prevention support.

Rachel Cackett, executive director of Samaritans Scotland, said: “Every single one of the 833 deaths by suicide in 2019 represents a devastating loss with far-reaching consequences for family, friends and communities.

“It’s particularly concerning to see rates of suicide increase for almost all age groups and for rates among young people under 25 continuing to rise this year.

“And, as in previous years, people living in the most deprived communities in Scotland continue to be around three times more likely to take their own life, compared to those living in the wealthiest communities.”

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The data published on Tuesday covers 2019 only, with the charity saying it is still “too early” to know the long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Cackett added: “By taking action, here and now, to renew and redouble their commitment to suicide prevention, government and services can help to reduce future risk.”

Rose Fitzpatrick, chair of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, said: “Suicide is a complex issue and one which, as the 6% increase reported today (following a 15% increase in 2018) shows all too clearly, continues to challenge us in Scotland and elsewhere to do more to support the wellbeing, mental health and life circumstances of those at risk.”

Ms Fitzpatrick added: “Today’s news shows that now more than ever we need to encourage people of all ages to talk about suicide, to be able to ask for help and to feel confident to give help when it is needed”

Over the last five years in Scotland, 3697 people took their own life.
Samaritans provides free anonymous and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said the figures for 2019 were “devastating”.

He added: “More than two people a day, young and old, are dying by suicide. Hundreds of families have had their world turned upside down.”

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Scottish Greens health spokeswoman Alison Johnstone said: “These distressing statistics reveal that more than two people took their own lives each day in 2019.

“My thoughts go out to all those whose lives have been impacted by this tragedy, but of course condolences are not enough. This devastating loss of life shows the urgent need for the Scottish Government to improve access to mental health services.”

You can contact Samaritans by phone on 116 123 or visit here to find your nearest branch.


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