Scotland ‘should have continued mass testing in March’

Professor Harry Burns said continued widespread Covid-19 testing 'could have kept a lid on things much earlier'.

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A former Scottish chief medical officer has said the testing, tracing and isolating of all suspected Covid-19 cases “should have been continued” in March – even if it meant deviating from the four-nation UK approach.

Sir Harry Burns, now a professor of global public health at Strathclyde University, said continuous mass testing throughout the pandemic “could have kept a lid on things much earlier”.

And he questioned the level of involvement the devolved administrations had in forming the UK’s coronavirus strategy, telling STV News: “I don’t think it was a four-nation approach – they (the UK Government) did all the talking.”

Prof Burns said the lockdown should “probably” have been imposed earlier and will be “very difficult” to lift – adding it was “pretty clear England was led to lockdown fairly unwillingly”.

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He suggested moves the Scottish Government announced ahead of the UK – such as the banning of mass gatherings and the closure of schools – may have been because Nicola Sturgeon “was getting a bit fed up with dilly-dallying”.

Prof Burns served as chief medical officer for Scotland from 2005 to 2014, appointed under Labour first minister Jack McConnell then serving successive SNP governments.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it made sense to “align our activity as much as possible” with the other parts of the UK.

She said the approach of ministers had “at all times” been guided “by the best and most up-to-date expert scientific advice”.

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A UK Government said it had worked “closely with all four nations” and “taken the right steps at the right time”.

When the UK moved to the second “delay phase” of its coronavirus response on March 12, all four home nations abandoned the policy of testing every suspected case as officials already considered the virus too “widespread”.

Lacking the capacity to test, trace and isolate all potential Covid-19 cases, advice switched to asking anyone with symptoms to stay at home for seven days, and only to contact the NHS if their condition worsened or did not improve.

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Swine flu: Prof Burns as CMO with then-health secretary Nicola Sturgeon in 2009, during the H1N1 outbreak (file pic).

Speaking to STV News, the former CMO said: “I think the Scottish Government should have continued (mass testing) and said so at the time.

“It might have been a very practical thing – and that would explain why the Scottish Government did it as well – if you simply don’t have the kits, because it’s a complicated test.

“You take cells from someone’s mouth or throat or whatever, and you have to extract the RNA of the virus and measure miniscule amounts of this RNA to prove that people have got it.

“The clever lab people tell me that extraction can be quite problematic.

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“So, it might have been a practical reason, but other countries were doing it: Germany and so on were doing it. I don’t know why the UK dropped mass testing.”

He added: “In Greece and Norway there have been around 100 to 200 deaths. What’s going on here? Why are we so swamped?

“And I suspect it’s because a lot of the virus is out there and we haven’t got to grips with the ‘test, trace and isolate’ approach.”

Proponents of mass testing, tracing and isolating say it helps to suppress the virus by identifying everyone who has it and quarantining them so they can’t infect others.

Germany, which rapidly deployed mass testing, has had fewer than 7000 Covid-19 deaths – a quarter of the UK total – despite discovering its first cases at the same time and having a larger population.

Scottish Government officials previously described the issue of mass testing as “a distraction” and not a “panacea”, saying the tests aren’t always reliable and that social distancing is a more effective way of preventing the disease’s spread.

But had he been advising the First Minister, Prof Burns said: “I would have been in line with the WHO thinking on this: test, test, test, trace and isolate.

“I would have been trying very hard early on to get the classic public health response to an infection, which is find out who’s got it and isolate them before they can spread it.”

The Scottish and UK governments have both made clear that a “test, trace, isolate” policy will be key to lifting lockdown measures, with fresh targets set for testing capacity at the start of April.

Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday that Scotland had exceeded its target for 3500 tests per day, with a capacity for more than 4300 – and said counting drive-through test centres coordinated by the UK Government, total capacity was now more than 8000 per day.

The Scottish Government hopes to raise that total capacity to 12,000 daily tests by mid-May, the First Minister said.

UK health secretary Matt Hancock claimed the target he set for a capacity of 100,000 tests a day across Britain had also been exceeded.

But Prof Burns suggested the UK Government was slow to respond to the crisis at first, borne of “complacency “due to previous coronavirus outbreaks like SARS and MERS having a low impact on Britain.

He said: “The initial things that we saw suggested to me that down south they were thinking, ‘well, this is something in the far-east and it will stay in the far-east and it’s not going to do all of this stuff to us’.

“And there was some history that showed that had happened, or that view would have been correct, if what was happening in the past was happening now.

“I just don’t think they got to grips with the reality of the situation fast enough.”

He added: “I got the sense that UK Government were a bit slow.

“I suspect the Scots and maybe the Welsh and Northern Irish as well were on the case a bit earlier than when the UK Government turned its mind to this.”

UK health secretary Matt Hancock was first alerted to Covid-19 on January 3, before discussing the issue with health department officials and the Prime Minister in the following days.

The UK’s ‘four-nation’ strategy against coronavirus was announced after a COBRA meeting on March 2, setting out a four-stage approach: contain, delay, research and mitigate.

The approach was heavily informed by SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) along with other advisory groups.

It emerged the Prime Minister’s top political adviser Dominic Cummings had been regularly sitting in on SAGE meetings since February, while devolved CMOs and chief scientific advisers could only listen in on meetings as “observers”.

Therefore, they could not ask live questions, instead having to submit them in writing beforehand.

However, devolved health ministers and officials did attend and give their opinions in COBR sub-committee meetings.

Prof Burns said: “I don’t think it was a four-nation approach – they did all the talking.

“And having the Prime Minister’s special adviser there is puzzling.

“If, as they said at the beginning, it’s all about the science, what’s Cummings doing there?

“It was all about political presentation, I think, and that was a mistake.”

Asked if the country should have locked down sooner, he said: “Probably. I get the sense that Scotland might have locked down earlier.

“But you could see that there would be a lot of discussion at a political level, and it was pretty clear that England was led to lockdown fairly unwillingly.

“Scotland closed schools just before England – perhaps the First Minister was just getting a bit fed up with dilly-dallying.

“Yeah, we might have done it earlier, but hindsight’s a wonderful thing.”

He added: “I was worried people were paying far too much attention to the economic impact and not enough to the fact that this was going to kill thousands of people, which is where my interest lies.

“I absolutely accept the economic problems are going to be serious and you have to balance that, but I really wish tens of thousands of people hadn’t died.”

The Scottish Government said dealing with Covid-19 “is the biggest challenge we have faced in our lifetimes”.

A spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is engaged in a significant expansion of testing capacity to support a test, trace and isolate approach, which will be a crucial part of any moves to lift the lockdown measures in the future.

“At all times, the Scottish Government’s actions have been guided by the best and most up to date expert scientific advice, working closely with Governments across the UK.

“Decisions will always be made in the best interests of people in Scotland. The virus doesn’t respect borders or boundaries and it makes sense to align our activity as much as possible.

“This is the biggest challenge we have faced in our lifetimes. It is right and proper that decisions taken during this process face scrutiny but all our efforts are going towards protecting life and the people of Scotland during this unprecedented crisis.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it, guided by the best scientific advice and working closely with all four nations of the UK.

“At all times throughout the four nations the NHS has had the spare capacity which it needs to respond to the pandemic, with intensive care unit beds and ventilators available to anybody requiring such specialist care.

“The government has been working day and night to battle coronavirus, delivering a strategy designed to protect our NHS and save lives, and take unprecedented steps to support businesses and workers and protect the UK’s economy.”

Rail strikes during COP26 off after deal struck with RMT union

Scottish Government and ScotRail reach settlement with union in dispute over pay and conditons.

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Strike action has been averted during COP26.

A deal has been done to avert ScotRail train staff striking during the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow.

The one-year deal includes a 2.5% pay rise agreed between the RMT union, ScotRail and the Scottish Government.

World leaders and thousands of delegates are set to arrive in Glasgow for the United Nations climate summit, but the 13-day event has been threatened with disruption caused by rail strikes.

The deal will see strike action during the summit averted, as well as the end of long-running strike action that has affected Sunday services.

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The RMT set out its final negotiating position earlier on Wednesday ahead of a 5pm deadline.

In a letter sent to union members after Wednesday evening’s talks, RMT general secretary Michael Lynch said: “I can advise you that subsequent negotiations have been held and that your union made a counter offer to ScotRail.

“By accepting the offer all industrial action is now cancelled and I instruct you all to work normally on the days you had previously been instructed to take action on.”

The new terms accept the union’s call for a 2.5% pay rise backdated to April and a “Cop26 payment” for all staff of £300.

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A three-hour book on allowance applied to each rest day worked, applicable for 12 months from the date of the agreement, is also included.

Lynch said the union’s offer was accepted “unanimously” by delegates.

His letter added: “It was noted that it was only through the tremendous determination of you and your colleagues throughout this dispute, through the efforts of your representatives, activists and negotiators that this result was achieved.

“The AGM congratulates you and I congratulate you on achieving this magnificent industrial victory and gaining a one-year pay deal and rest day working agreement without any preconditions and which banishes the previously stated productivity strings attached.”

Earlier this week, Scotland’s transport minister Graeme Dey warned he was “not optimistic” that a resolution would be reached with the RMT before the 5pm deadline.

He was facing calls to quit if a deal could not be reached to prevent the strike during Cop26.

In response to the recent announcement, Dey said: “Following recent discussions we are pleased that all four trade unions have now agreed to accept this very good pay offer on behalf of their members.

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“We are proud to have brokered and funded a deal which gives Scotland’s rail workers a decent pay rise and improved terms and conditions, in contrast to conditions for rail workers under the UK Government.

“We are also pleased that the RMT reached out to restart discussions based on the offer that had been made to them on Sunday. Now an agreement has been confirmed the strike action will thankfully now come to an end.

“As well as getting the pay rise they deserve, railway workers can now go back to delivering rail services for people right across Scotland and as well as for those attending COP26.

Three other unions representing rail workers – Aslef, Unite and the TSSA – had already accepted a deal put on the table.

Ian McConnell, ScotRail chief operating officer, said: “We have reached a pay agreement with the RMT trade union that resolves strike action. We look forward to Scotland’s railway playing its part in delivering a successful COP26 next week.”

More on:

Three children and woman hit by car as ten ambulances sent to scene

Ten ambulances were dispatched to the scene in Carluke, South Lanarkshire.

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The Scottish Ambulance Service said the incident was ongoing.

Ten ambulances have been sent to the scene of a crash in which three children and a woman were struck by a car.

Emergency services were called to Kirkton Street in Carluke, South Lanarkshire, shortly after 3pm on Wednesday.

A woman in her 20s and three children have been taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

The Scottish Ambulance Service said the incident was ongoing.

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Carluke, South Lanarkshire.
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A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We received a call at 3.07pm to attend an incident on Kirkton Street, Carluke and dispatched 10 resources to the scene.

“One female in her twenties and three children have been transported to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow.” 

Inspector William Broatch, from Motherwell Road Policing Unit, said: “Around 3.10pm, police were called to James Street in Carluke, at the junction with Kirkton Street, following a report of a road crash involving a car and four pedestrians – a woman and three children.

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Junction of Kirkton Street and James Street in Carluke.

“The pedestrians are all being conveyed to hospital for treatment. Emergency services remain at the scene and local diversions are in place.

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“Anyone with information on the incident can call police on 101, quoting incident 2110 of October 27.”

More to follow.


Train services cancelled and roads flooded as rain batters Scotland

An amber and yellow weather warning was issued by the Met Office for parts of the country on Wednesday.

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Flooding: Scotland hit by heavy rain following amber and yellow weather warnings.

Heavy rain has flooded roads and cancelled rail services in parts of south west Scotland.

An amber weather warning was issued for Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, starting at 9pm on Wednesday and continuing until Thursday morning.

Around 60 to 80mm of rainfall is expected to build up, with up to 100mm falling in some areas. 

A separate yellow warning extends to South Lanarkshire and will be in place until 3pm on Thursday.

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The Met Office said there could be a “danger to life from fast-flowing or deep floodwater”.

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Flooding in Summerston, Glasgow

The amber alerts also warn of potential damage to homes and businesses from flooding, dangerous driving conditions and travel disruption.

Communities could be cut off by flooded roads and face power cuts, according to the Met Office.

ScotRail said a number of services had been affected by heavy rain, with flooding at Bishoppbriggs and Dalmuir closing two rail lines.

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Speed restrictions have been put in place on services due to surface water and a replacement bus service between Stirling and Alloa has been introduced.

Network Rail advised passengers to travel only if the journey is “absolutely necessary”.

Liam Sumpter, Network Rail Scotland route director, said: “Extreme rainfall can pose a serious risk to the railway, causing landslips or damaging our infrastructure and bridges.

“The safety of our passengers and colleagues is our main priority during periods of poor weather, and slowing services down and running fewer trains will help us manage these conditions for everyone.”

Meanwhile GlasGlow announced that its light show at Glasgow Botanic Gardens had to be cancelled last minute due to blocked drain at its entrance.

A post on the GlasGlow Facebook page said: “In the last 45 minutes the drain at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens has been overwhelmed and half a foot of water is blocking the entrance and road.

“The council have been alerted but unfortunately the entrance will be inaccessible to allow us to open safely. Inside the gardens, the show is fine and ready to go, the problem unfortunately is on the roads and out with our control.

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“We’re so sorry for the short notice however this situation has just arisen. If you’re a ticket holder for this evening a full refund will be processed and an email is on its way.”

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency tweeted: “A band of persistent and heavy rain in the south may lead to localised flooding from surface water and watercourses on Wednesday causing disruption to travel and flooding of low-lying land, especially in built up areas.”

The agency issued a flood warning for Ettrick Valley, while three flood alerts were in place in the Scottish Borders.


Celtic move within two points of Rangers with win at Hibernian

First half goals gave Celtic a 3-1 victory at Easter Road.

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Anthony Ralston opened the scoring for Celtic.

Celtic produced a rampant first-half performance as they moved within two points of cinch Premiership leaders Rangers with a 3-1 victory over Hibernian at Easter Road.

Tony Ralston, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Kyogo Furuhashi all struck before the break to earn Ange Postecoglou’s resurgent side a fifth consecutive win in all competitions. Hibs, meanwhile, were left licking their wounds after a fourth consecutive defeat.

Home manager Jack Ross made four changes to the side beaten at Aberdeen last weekend as Darren McGregor, Chris Cadden, Jamie Gullan and Lewis Stevenson dropped out and were replaced by Ryan Porteous, Alex Gogic, Jamie Murphy and Josh Doig.

Celtic made just one alteration from the side that beat St Johnstone on Saturday. Mikey Johnston came in for his first start of the season, with Georgios Giakoumakis dropping to the bench.

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Ralston had the first effort of the match in the fourth minute but his low shot from 25 yards ran harmlessly wide of the Hibs goal.

The right-back fared better six minutes later, however, when he found space at the back post to nod in a David Turnbull free-kick from six yards.

Hibs almost responded two minutes later when Martin Boyle threaded a pass across goal for Joe Newell who was bursting in at the far post but the midfielder’s shot from close range was superbly saved by goalkeeper Joe Hart.

A minute later Celtic scored from another set-piece when Carter-Vickers got in front of Porteous to stab in Turnbull’s corner from 10 yards.

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There should have been more reason for the visitors to celebrate in the 20th minute when Johnston dummied a pass by Jota into the path of Turnbull but the former Motherwell player blazed high and wide from a great position just inside the box.

Celtic were well on top and the third goal arrived on the half-hour when, after good work by Tom Rogic, the ball broke to Jota wide on the right and the Portuguese squared for Kyogo to tap in from close range.

Hibs were in disarray and Matt Macey had to make a brilliant save to stop Kyogo netting again after the Japanese got in behind.

The hosts pulled one back against the run of play in the 36th minute when Newell’s corner was nodded in, with both Boyle and Porteous claiming they had got the final touch.

Celtic suffered a blow just before the break when Rogic was forced off by injury and replaced by Nir Bitton.

Hibs spent much of the second half probing to try and find another goal but the closest they came was in the 75th minute when Jamie Murphy got in behind and was denied by a brilliant save from Hart.


Man found guilty of terrorism after online mosque attack plot

Sam Imrie, 24, posted messages on social media claiming he was planning to attack Fife Islamic Centre in Glenrothes. 

Police Scotland / STV News

A man has been found guilty of terrorism and other offences after he threatened to set fire to an Islamic centre in Fife.

Sam Imrie, 24, was arrested after detectives discovered in July 2019 that he had been posting messages on social media claiming he was planning to attack Fife Islamic Centre in Glenrothes. 

Police who searched his home at Colliston Avenue in Glenrothes also made a number of other discoveries.

Officers found Imrie had acquired an arsenal of weapons, which included a combat knife, nunchucks, an axe, a knife, a hammer, a rifle scope and a wooden-handled lock knife.  

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Prosecutor Lisa Gillespie QC told the court how the police also recovered a “manifesto” entitled the “Great Replacement” by far right terrorist Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 51 people when he attacked two mosques in New Zealand in March 2019.

They also recovered a manifesto written by Anders Breivik, another fascist who slaughtered 77 people in attacks in Norway in 2011. 

Detectives found computer equipment containing thousands of images glorifying far-right terrorism attacks and Nazi ideology. 

Some of the images referred to Tarrant and Breivik as “saints” and one image was of pop star Taylor Swift, which had been photoshopped – the lenses of sunglasses she was wearing had been doctored to include swastikas.

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They found he possessed copies of Adolf Hitler’s work Mein Kampf, indecent images of children and extreme images that showed dead mutilated women being subjected to sexual acts. 

Imrie also possessed copies of the video that Tarrant had made of himself carrying out the shootings.

The 24-year-old was caught after officers in the Metropolitan Police tipped off Police Scotland counterparts. 

English officers had been scrutinising a group called ‘FashWave Artists’ on Telegram, an instant messaging app. 

The group hosted images and memes glorifying fascism but Imrie posted a series of messages in which he said he was planning to “burn down” a mosque. 

He also said he had written to Breivik. 

Detectives found CCTV footage of Imrie trying the door at the mosque before driving away. 

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A jury heard how armed police officers swooped on Imrie’s home at 2am and took him into custody. 

On Wednesday, Imrie, who denied any wrongdoing, was convicted on two charges of breaching the terrorism act, wilful fireraising, possessing child and ‘extreme’ indecent images and drink driving.

Moments after Ms Gillespie said the Crown were considering seeking a Serious Crime Prevention Order against Imrie, Lord Mulholland remanded the first offender in custody.

Imrie was told that the judge needed a background report before he could be sentenced.

Lord Mulholland also warned Imrie: “Be under no illusion – you have been convicted of very serious offences including gathering information about terrorism and encouraging terrorism, child pornography and extreme pornography. 

“You will not be surprised to know that you will be receiving a sentence of some length.”

Lord Mulholland spoke moments after jurors returned guilty verdicts to two terrorism charges. 

The first terrorism charge stated that Imrie made statements on Telegram and Facebook that encouraged acts of terrorism. 

The second charge he was convicted of stated that Imrie made a “record of information” that would be useful to somebody who was committing acts of terrorism. 

He was acquitted of a terrorism charge that stated he engaged in conduct in “preparation” of terrorism acts. 

Following his conviction, Pat Campbell, Police Scotland’s assistant chief constable for organised crime, counter terrorism and intelligence, said: “Sam Imrie was a socially-isolated-individual who displayed hateful intentions and the potential consequences of his actions do not bear thinking about. Police Scotland welcomes the outcome of the trial, which brings to a close what was an extremely complex investigation.

“I am grateful for the hard work and diligence of the officers who carried out the fast moving inquiry, as well as the support of our colleagues in the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

“It should be stressed that cases such as Imrie’s are rare in Scotland and our officers remain absolutely committed to working with our partners to protect our communities.

“I want to take this opportunity to appeal directly to the public that if you become aware of anyone, including a family member or friend, displaying extremist views, or are concerned that they could be radicalised or involved in extremist or terrorist activity, not to hesitate to contact the police.

“Advice is available at the ACT Early Counter Terrorism Policing website and anyone with concerns should contact Police Scotland or the confidential anti-terrorist hotline 0800 789 321.”


COP26 lodging crisis: Thousands of delegates without somewhere to stay

Thousands of delegates and even more activists have not found accommodation for the UN climate conference.

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There are no campsites or camping facilities in Glasgow and the council is not setting any up for COP26.

There is no backup plan to provide shelter to thousands of people who have not found a place to stay during the UN climate conference.

Those coming to Glasgow to take part in events around COP26 have been warned not to travel to the city without securing accommodation, while even official UN badge holders are still struggling to secure somewhere to stay.

The UN climate conference has been facing a lodging crisis after only 15,000 hotel rooms were secured in advance despite more than 25,000 delegates, 10,000 police officers, and thousands more campaigners and activists expected.

The official housing bureau for the event only pre-booked 5000 rooms within 20 miles of the Scottish Exhibition Centre where COP26 will take place, a third of what was available.

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There are fewer than 15,000 hotel rooms within 20 miles of the SEC where COP26 is taking place.
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Even though environmental organisations have urged Glasgow City Council to work with them to open up gym halls as mass emergency accommodation or set aside designated campsites, no backup has been put in place.

“Last-minute” agreements have brought two cruise ships to the Clyde to provide 3300 berths between them.

With 100,000 activists due to take part in a climate march, there is fear that some will be left outside in the cold November weather with nowhere to shelter.

There are no campsites or camping facilities in Glasgow and the council is not setting any up for COP26.

“That’s where our concern lies, there isn’t a backup plan.”

Dr Kat Jones, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland
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Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a coalition of environmental organisations, said at least 2000 people are on the waiting list of the Homestay Network – a not-for-profit response to the accommodation crisis.

The network was set up to help civil society and community representatives from the Global South attend the climate talks, but it has found itself swamped with requests from official delegates.

Around 1000 Scots have opened their homes to visitors through the scheme but the organisation’s COP26 project manager said it has not been possible to absorb the numbers left without a place to stay.

“We have been in conversation with the council over a number of months about opening gym halls for emergency accommodation and setting up safe camping spaces where we can put portaloos, but they haven’t really helped us with that,” said doctor Kat Jones.

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Dr Kat Jones and Janice Fisher at the Scottish Affairs Committee.

“That’s where our concern lies, there isn’t a backup plan.”

MCI Group was appointed by the UK Government and the UN as the official housing bureau for COP26.

Janice Fisher, joint chair of Greater Glasgow Hoteliers Association, told a government committee that within two miles of the exhibition centre there are only 9750 hotel bedrooms and that within 20 miles this only increased to 14,399 – but MCI only secured a third of these.

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Ms Fisher said MCI had been asked to secure accommodation in other parts of the country as well to encourage a range of offers and pricing.

She said there were alternative ways of booking somewhere to stay including the Homestay Network, campsites outside the city and Airbnb.

An Airbnb host was banned from taking bookings during COP26 after attempting to hike a delegate’s room rate by £2000.

Dr Jones urged those who have not secured a place to sleep to take part in the conference in their local areas.

“There are all sorts of activities not centred around Glasgow, in London, many cities around England and a few others in Scotland,” she said.

“We’d encourage people to go to their local place rather than travel to Glasgow.”

A UK Government COP26 spokesperson said it had been working with MCI to make sure there was a balance of available lodging.

They said: “As hosts of COP26 it is of huge importance to the UK there is a wide range of fairly-priced accommodation options available which suit the budgets of delegates attending from around the world.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council warned the weather in November in Glasgow can be very cold and changeable.

They said: “As we, and others, have been saying over the last few weeks, Glasgow will be extremely busy with delegates and visitors as COP26 gets underway.

“We would ask people wishing to stay in the city not to travel to Glasgow without first securing accommodation.”


‘Scotland should open consumption rooms without law change’

The campaigners were speaking before the Criminal Justice Committee at Holyrood.

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The facilities were first suggested after an HIV outbreak in Glasgow.

Scotland should open drug consumption rooms without waiting for a change in the law, campaigners have said.

The Scottish Government has long been in favour of the facilities, which would provide a safe area with medical supervision for people struggling with addiction to take drugs.

But the UK Government has stood against the idea, refusing to grant a waiver to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 that would allow for the users and staff to be protected from prosecution.

The first facility was planned by Glasgow City Council but other local authorities have expressed an interest.

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Campaigner Peter Krykant ran a safe consumption room from a converted minivan in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)
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Campaigner Peter Krykant, frustrated with the legal wrangle over the facilities, created his own in the form of a converted minivan that would go to different areas of the city.

Both Mr Krykant and Scottish Drugs Forum chief executive David Liddell OBE said the fact no prosecutions have resulted from the van shows the Scottish Government could give the go-ahead for the facilities.

“When I ran the safe consumption facility in Glasgow, there was no police intervention apart from a meaningless allegation of obstruction in the course of a search, so we could go ahead and open these facilities with a simple divert scheme into those facilities,” Mr Krykant told Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday.

“I already know Police Scotland officers were seeing people injecting in alleyways and diverting them to my ambulance to come and inject in a safe, supervised environment to reduce the risk of HIV.”

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Mr Liddell said: “As Peter has alluded to in terms of the drug consumption room he ran, there was no public interest in prosecuting Peter and no prosecution followed.

“It’s a ridiculous state of affairs that he could run a service like that and not be prosecuted but Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board that want to run a service like that can’t.

“We should proceed with drug consumption rooms in Scotland under the current legislation.

“If that requires a letter of comfort from the Lord Advocate – that is what we’ve previously advocated and pushed for.”

The Scottish Government has said as recently as this month that work continues to find a way to open the facilities.

In a meeting with UK policing minister Kit Malthouse, drugs minister Angela Constance said “we will leave no stone unturned in working to overcome existing legal barriers to implement safe consumption rooms in Scotland”.

The calls for the facilities began in the middle of the last decade following a major HIV outbreak in Glasgow, but these have now morphed into a response to the drugs death crisis, which figures show killed 1339 people in 2020.


Meet the climate activists fighting for change at COP26

Protests have been planned during the COP26 climate conference.

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With days to go until COP26 in Glasgow, climate activists have pledged to increase the pressure on world leaders.

Several days of protest have been planned over the next few weeks and police have warned of possible disruption.

But do public protests lead to political change? In this video report, STV News has been meeting those on the frontline of climate action to find out more.


Ministers not obliged to order ‘McMafia orders’, court hears

A judicial review is looking into why the Scottish Government did not try to place an unexplained wealth order on former US President Donald Trump.

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The order allows for an investigation into how a person or company earned money.

Ministers have a “discretion” rather than an obligation to order unexplained wealth orders to investigate individuals’ finances, a court review of a Scottish Government decision relating to Donald Trump has heard.

A judicial review at the Court of Session is considering the Scottish Government’s decision not to investigate the former US President ‘s finances in Scotland.

The US-based Avaaz Foundation petitioned Scotland’s highest court, the Court of Session, to grant a judicial review after ministers in Edinburgh declined to place an unexplained wealth order (UWO) – sometimes described as a “McMafia order” – on Trump.

The order allows for an investigation into how a person or company earned money.

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Ruth Crawford QC, representing Scottish ministers, said the challenge from the petitioners is rooted on there being a duty to seek a UWO.

However, referring to S396A of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Poca), she said ministers did not have an obligation to do so.

She told the virtual hearing: “S396A1 provides that the Court of Session may, on an application made by the Scottish ministers, make an unexplained wealth order.”

She added: “The ministers have a discretion rather than an absolute obligation to make an application to the Court of Session.”

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Crawford said that UWOs have at the very least the “taint of criminality” and that one of the “limbs” of another section of the act is that the property has been funded by illegitimate sources of income.

She told the court: “The petitioners are not coming to this court saying we are unable to make a challenge.  Indeed, its challenge is firmly rooted on there being a duty to seek a UWO.

“Unexplained wealth orders are not just investigatory tools or as an aspect of good housekeeping, UWOs as my Lord is aware from S396a etc, give rise to a presumption, if they are not complied with, that presumption being that the property has been obtained through unlawful conduct and that the civil recovery order requirements have been met.”

Lord Sandison QC said he was being asked to decide whether Scottish minsters had acted unlawfully.

He said: “The actual declarator I’m being asked to make, F, is that by failing to seek an unexplained wealth order in relation to Mr Trump the Scottish ministers have failed in their duty and have therefore acted unlawfully.

“I don’t for the moment see that as me being asked to make any order equivalent to saying that had an application been made it would have been granted.

“The question is simply I’m being asked effectively to determine the lawfulness of the failure to make an application.”

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The judicial review, which began on Tuesday, previously heard that there is a dispute over whose responsibility it is to apply to a court for a UWO, particularly between the Lord Advocate – the head of Scotland’s prosecution service – and Scottish ministers.

The inquiry heard that the Scotland Act permits Scottish ministers, including the Lord Advocate, to exercise functions with a collective responsibility.

It also permits the Lord Advocate to exercise “retained functions”, to which collective responsibility would not attach.

Crawford said: “Parliament when passing the Poca in 2002, when passing the Extradition Act in 2003 and when passing the Criminal Finances Act in 2017, which sought to amend Poca by inter alia introducing unexplained wealth orders (UWOs), must be presumed to have known that the Lord Advocate exercises statutory functions as a member of the collective Scottish ministers entity and also that she exercises retained functions independently.

“That being so, in my submission, there is nothing unlawful about the fact that the Lord Advocate is the minister with portfolio responsibility for part eight of Poca, including seeking an unexplained wealth order.”

The hearing before Lord Sandison continues.


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