Scottish Conservatives launch manifesto to ‘rebuild Scotland’

Douglas Ross said recovery would be crippled by another independence referendum at his party’s manifesto launch.

Scottish Conservatives: Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson. Jane Barlow/PA via PA Wire
Scottish Conservatives: Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson.

The Scottish Conservatives have launched their manifesto for the Holyrood elections, pledging to “rebuild Scotland” and stop another independence referendum.

Leader Douglas Ross said creating jobs would be his party’s priority in the next parliament but warned the country’s efforts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic would be “crippled” if the SNP continue to focus on independence.

The manifesto contains plans for £500 grants to help unemployed Scots to retrain.

He also announced plans to abolish Scotland’s higher rate of income tax “when public finances allow”, increasing the threshold from £43,663 to match the UK Government’s level of £50,270.

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The revised income tax threshold would increase the take-home pay for 1.1 million of Scotland’s highest earners, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

A total of 15 proposed Bills have also been unveiled, including a “Victims Bill” to end automatic early release, introduce whole life custody sentences and end the not proven verdicts that are unique to the Scottish justice system.

Speaking at the launch of the manifesto in Glasgow, Ross said: “Independence will be the SNP’s priority.

“If they are elected with a majority, they will take that mandate as free rein to drive forward their obsession at the earliest opportunity.

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“We cannot trust the SNP to deliver our recovery.

“We cannot rebuild Scotland, while we are crippled by the threat of an independence referendum.

“So we need to take that threat off the table.”

On the health service, the Tories said they would guarantee the NHS Scotland budget would increase either by the level of Barnett consequentials or 2% more than inflation every year – whichever figure is higher.

According to current estimates, this would increase the health service’s annual funding by more than £2bn by 2025-26.

A further £600m should also be allocated this year for “tackling the backlog of operations and treatment” exacerbated by the pandemic, Ross said.

The Scottish Conservatives have also pledged to increase mental health funding to 10% of the frontline health budget during the next parliament alongside expansions of community-based programmes such as cognitive behavioural therapy, social prescribing, exercise referral schemes and peer support.

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Outlining education policies, Ross said: “We would invest £120mn this year into a catch-up premium for every school child and set up a national tutoring programme for those children in most need of support.

“And over the Parliament we will give £1bn directly to schools for tackling the attainment gap.

“To end the SNP’s cuts to teacher numbers, we will recruit an additional 3000 teachers.

“We would allow every primary school child a free school lunch and breakfast because – as the son of a school cook – I know the importance of nutritious meals to a child’s learning.

“And we would roll out wraparound childcare, to allow kids to take part in exciting out-of-school activities and support their parents to keep a full-time job when their child starts school.”

The Prime Minister’s aides have refused to confirm whether Boris Johnson will campaign in Scotland ahead of the Holyrood elections.

As Ross set out the party’s manifesto, Downing Street advisers said coronavirus restrictions made campaign visits more “challenging”.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said: “The key thing here is that because of Covid, the pandemic is making these visits more challenging than they would be otherwise.

“But rest assured we will update you in the usual way as and when a campaign trip is going to be made by the Prime Minister.”

Commenting on the Scottish Conservatives’ proposals, SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “Today’s Tory manifesto shows that behind their rhetoric, these are the same-old Tories – completely out-of-touch, planning tax cuts for the rich and austerity for everyone else, and only interested in widening the gap between rich and poor in our society.”

All 16 and 17-year-olds to be offered coronavirus vaccine

The JCVI have advised the vaccine rollout should be extended.

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Sixteen and 17-year-olds in Scotland are to be offered the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible, Nicola Sturgeon has said, with the rollout to begin from Friday.

Young people will be invited to register their interest this week, with everyone in the age group expected to have been offered an appointment by the end of September.

The move follows a decision by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to advise that the vaccine rollout should be extended.

At present, children over the age of 12 are only eligible for a vaccine if they have certain medical conditions which put them at risk from Covid-19 or teenagers who live with people who are immunocompromised.

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The First Minister described the move as a “step forward”, and said it was one that she had been hoping for.

Responding to the announcement by the JCVI, Sturgeon wrote on Twitter: “This is good news and a step forward that I’ve been hoping for.

“I also hope evidence will allow JCVI to recommend vaccine for wider groups of young people in future – but in meantime [the Scottish Government] will get on with offering it to all 16/17 yr olds ASAP.”

It is understood officials are not ruling out vaccinations for otherwise healthy 12 to 15-year-olds but want to look at more information first.

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In making its decision, the JCVI said that a number of factors have been considered but the most important element was the risk/benefit of vaccination to the individual.

The Scottish Government said the rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 16 and 17-year-olds will begin on Friday and is expected to be complete by the end of September.

The young people will be invited to register their interest through the online portal at NHS Inform, and will then be sent an appointment via SMS or email.

Those in Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles will be contacted by their health board.

Drop-in clinics will also soon be available.

Anyone who does not register or attend a drop-in clinic will be sent an appointment invitation through the post.

Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said the expert advice from the JCVI will continue to be followed.

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“In line with the latest JCVI advice we will now be offering a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination to young people aged between 16 and 17,” he said.

“The programme has always carefully assessed all the benefits and potential risks and offered vaccine to groups where this benefit is clear.

“The research and evidence shows that is the case for this age group and they should now be called forward for an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccine.

“We will continue to follow the expert JCVI advice and will await the outcome of analysis of data on second doses for this age group and any additional future advice on vaccination for those in the 12-15 age group.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf encouraged those who are eligible to take up the offer of a vaccine.

“Getting vaccinated has never been easier and from Friday, 16 and 17-year-olds in mainland Scotland will be able to book an appointment through the online portal,” said Yousaf.

“We know drop-in clinics are a convenient way for young people to get vaccinated and will announce shortly when these clinics will be open for this age group.

“Vaccination continues to be the best way to protect yourself and those around you and I urge anyone who is eligible to take up the offer of the vaccine.

“The national vaccination programme has been a huge success and without doubt, represents our best way out of the pandemic.”


Face coverings ‘do not need to be worn on dance floors’

Jason Leitch said that rules will be relaxed when nightclubs are allowed to reopen from Monday.

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Nightclubs: Face coverings 'not needed' when on dance floor.

Scotland’s national clinical director has said that from Monday, face coverings will not need to be worn on dance floors.

In a radio interview posted on Twitter, Jason Leitch said that while he would advise people to avoid crowds and be cautious in indoor social settings, that rules will be relaxed. 

It follows confusion over the rules on ‘vertical drinking’, with the deputy first minister saying in an interview on BBC Radio Scotland that people could order drinks at a bar “but not stand there and drink it”.

In an interview with Bauer Media, Leitch said: “We’ve engaged with those night time industries throughout the day today and clarified that when you’re standing or sitting, eating or drinking, there is an exemption from wearing a face covering 

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“So that means, strictly speaking, you can drink at the bar.”

On Tuesday, the First Minister announced that nightclubs would be allowed to reopen on August 9 for the first time in more than a year. 

However venues were left confused over the lack of clarity over the issue of wearing face masks. 

Leitch added: “You will not need to wear a face covering on a dance floor and you won’t need to wear a face covering if you’re drinking at the bar. 

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“I would still ask you to be cautious and careful, particularly in groups indoors where you are drinking at the bar.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are encouraging the hospitality sector to consider retaining safety measures that are currently in place to help protect the public and staff.

“While wearing of face masks is not required while eating or drinking (whether seated or standing), in order to avoid crowding in hospitality venues it may be sensible to keep measures such as table service or operate a queuing system.”

She added: “We are currently engaging with the nightclub sector on guidance to ensure they can safely reopen on 9 August. It is due to be published in the coming days.”


‘Human remains’ found at scene of fire next to park playground

Emergency services responded to reports of a fire in Househill Park, Pollok, at around 7.35am on Wednesday.

STV News

Detectives have launched an investigation after what is believed to be human remains were found at the scene of a fire next to a children’s playground in a Glasgow park.

Emergency services responded to reports of a fire in Househill Park, near to Hartstone Road in Pollok, at around 7.35am on Wednesday.

Police then made the grizzly discovery at the site of the blaze.

The death is currently being treated as unexplained and “extensive enquiries are ongoing”.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers, supported by specialist forensic teams, are still at the scene which is cordoned off and is likely to remain so for some time.

“Additional officers are on patrol in the area and anyone with concerns can speak to them.”

If you have any information that could help with the investigation, call 101.


Sturgeon says PM’s failure to meet is ‘missed opportunity’

Boris Johnson is travelling to Scotland for a two-day visit.

Pool via Getty Images / Peter Summers via Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon has said she does not feel “snubbed” by the Prime Minister’s failure to meet her on his two-day visit to Scotland but believes it is a “missed opportunity”.

The First Minister earlier this week extended an invitation for Boris Johnson to meet with at her Bute House residence in Edinburgh during his visit to the country.

In a letter in response, Johnson did not accept the invitation to meet, however said that he is keen to meet the First Minister in-person to build on the “constructive discussions” that they had earlier in the summer.

The Prime Minister also stated that there is “much for us to discuss” regarding the UK’s recovery from the pandemic, as well as underlining his intention to work closely on the vaccination booster campaign.

‘I stand ready to work with whoever, however I can to get Scotland through Covid and into recovery.’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
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During a visit to a nursery in Stirling on Wednesday, Sturgeon told broadcasters: “I don’t feel snubbed.

“I think most people will think it’s a bit odd, and a bit strange, that we’ve got a Prime Minister visiting Scotland who talks a lot, rightly, about the need – despite our political differences – for us to work together where we can on getting through Covid and into Covid recovery but doesn’t take the opportunity when in Scotland to come and talk to me directly about how we might co-operate and work together.

“I think people will just find that strange and it’s for Boris Johnson to explain, I suppose, why.

“This would be the first opportunity, given Covid, for us to sit down, appropriately socially distanced and have a face-to-face chat. I think it would have been a good opportunity.

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“I was getting ready to welcome him to Bute House today. There’s lots that Boris Johnson and I fundamentally disagree on but we both lead governments that are trying to get our countries through Covid and so there’s a lot for us to co-operate on.

“So, you know, missed opportunity but that’s on him. I stand ready to work with whoever, however I can to get Scotland through Covid and into recovery.”


Drag queen with cystic fibrosis praises ‘wonder drug’

Jordy Deelight was one of the first patients to receive Kaftrio after it was made available in Scotland last year.

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A drag queen who was bedbound and had to rely on oxygen to breathe for years due to cystic fibrosis has spoken of how a ‘wonder drug’ has changed their life.

Jordy Deelight was one of the first patients to receive Kaftrio after it was made available in Scotland last year, and in the year since it has proved to be transformational in their fight against the life-threatening disease.

Speaking to STV News, Jordy said: “Within four weeks [of taking Kaftrio in February 2020] I really started to feel much better.

“I’d went from struggling to breathe to all of a sudden breathing with no issue, and I didn’t even need to cough to bring up mucus that cystic fibrosis causes.

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“I’ve been very lucky that I haven’t had an antibiotic course or been in hospital since February 2020 and it’s now August 2021.

“I went from having a lung function of 24%, which is why I needed a lung transplant, to now 37%.

“For me, that became a lifeline.”

Cystic fibrosis affects around 1000 people in Scotland. Since Kaftrio was made available in the country, more than 90% of people living with the condition have been able to access the medication.

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Thanks to the drug, Jordy’s lung function has increased and they are now well enough to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Edinburgh-based Jordy said: “I feel really quite overwhelmed.

“And to be honest, it’s just going to be amazing to sit in a room full of people, socially distanced and safe, entertaining people which is what I was born to do.”


Police chief welcomes PM confirmation of COP26 funding

Iain Livingstone met with Boris Johnson on Wednesday ahead of the climate conference in November.

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Funding: Police chief welcomes funding confirmation from PM.

The head of Scotland’s police force has welcomed confirmation from Boris Johnson that the Government will cover the cost of policing the COP26 climate.

The climate change conference will see thousands of delegates, heads of state and environmental organisations descend on Glasgow in November in what is expected to be one of the biggest and most challenging events for Police Scotland.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone met with the Prime Minister at Police Scotland’s Tulliallan training college in Fife to discuss how the summit will be policed and to insist that there should be “no detriment” to the force as a result of the 13-day event.

Following the meeting, Johnson said: “We are totally committed to funding the police and to making sure that they have the resources that they need to do what’s necessary.”

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Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Livingstone said: “I was outlining to the Prime Minister the detailed plans that we’ve been working on for many months now.

“It was also underlining to him that, as well as policing COP26, I’ve obviously got a key responsibility to continue to police all the communities of Scotland during this period.

“It was a very positive visit and he also extended his thanks for the work of police officers and police staff right throughout the period of the Covid crisis.”

Mr Livingstone added: “We outlined the fact that there’s going to be significant financial cost and, right from the outset of planning for COP26, I was very clear that there could be no detriment to Police Scotland in terms of funding because if there was a detriment to Police Scotland that would mean there was a detriment to the people of Scotland.

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“But we’ve been working very closely with colleagues in the UK government, colleagues in the Scottish Government and I’m very clear that we understand what the costs are and those costs will be met in full.”

An estimated 7000 police officers from other UK forces will assist Police Scotland during the climate summit, although Mr Livingstone stressed the arrangements were “flexible” and numbers could increase or decrease “depending on the specific threat and the specific circumstances that are there”.

Approximately 10,000 officers will be involved daily during the conference, he added.

Asked about how the force would deal with protests at the summit, Mr Livingstone said: “We recognise that environmentalism and the threat to the climate is probably the most dominant global issue that we currently face and therefore people will rightly be protesting.

“I think the United Nations actually encourages protest to raise the prominence and the significance of the issue.

“So our responsibility as a police service – just as we policed the pandemic, just as we police Scotland day in and day out – is to ensure that people have that right of protest, that people’s voices can be heard, but they do so in a way that doesn’t cause harm to others and doesn’t disrupt the safe activity and conclusion of this critical international event.”


Boris Johnson denies Sturgeon snub on Scotland visit

The Prime Minister spoke out at the start of his two-day visit to Scotland on Wednesday.

STV News

Boris Johnson has denied snubbing Nicola Sturgeon during his visit to Scotland.

The First Minister had written to the Prime Minister inviting him to her Bute House residence in Edinburgh.

However, Johnson declined the invitation, with Sturgeon later describing it as a “missed opportunity”.

The Prime Minister also praised people in Scotland for the high rate of Covid vaccination in the country.

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“We work together, the government of the UK, the Scottish Government, at all levels, work together on the things that matter to the people of our country,” Johnson told STV News when asked about the invite.

“Particularly, rolling out vaccinations and generally, making sure that we bounce back and build back better from the pandemic and we’re going to continue to do that”.

‘Really fantastic achievement by the people of Scotland coming forward to get vaccinated.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

He continued: “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government, and will do so getting ready for COP26.

“But above all, completing our rollout of the vaccines, which has been a pan-UK effort, a fantastic effort by our National Health Service, by the armed services, by the volunteers, a wonderful tribute to the efforts of the whole country.

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“And I thank the Scottish Government for what they’ve been doing. A really high rate of vaccination here in Scotland, really fantastic achievement by the people of Scotland coming forward to get vaccinated.

“Working with them to finish that, but also making sure that we have a very strong economic recovery and I think the country is well placed to do that.”

The Prime Minister was speaking in Scotland after it was announced that coronavirus vaccines will be offered to those aged 16 and 17, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Asked if the vaccination programme could be extended to those under the age of 16, Johnsons said politicians should take their lead from the JCVI.

He said: “I think it’s very important that everybody in politics listens first to the clinicians and the medical experts.

“And I would just urge all families thinking about this across the country to listen to the JCVI… they are extremely expert, they’re amongst the best, if not the best, in the world.

“They know what’s safe and I think we should listen to them and take our lead from them.”


Rangers and Celtic set for approval on full capacity crowds

Glasgow City Council ready to grant permission for clubs to have maximum attendances at Ibrox and Celtic Park.

SNS Group via SNS Group
Rangers and Celtic are set to play in front of capacity crowds following the easing of restrictions.

Glasgow City Council is set to give Rangers and Celtic the go-ahead to play in front of capacity crowds at Ibrox and Celtic Park, STV News understands.

The local authority is ready to grant permission for full attendances if either club makes an application.

The news comes after the Daily Record newspaper cited a source close to the council as saying it would be unlikely that a request by Rangers or Celtic for a full-house would be rejected.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said almost all of Scotland’s remaining Covid-19 restrictions – including an end to social distancing and limits on the size of social gatherings – are to end from Monday, August 9.

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Rangers’ first match after the easing of restrictions is the second leg of their crucial Champions League qualifier against Swedish side Malmo at Ibrox next Tuesday.

The club has previously said it expects Ibrox to be filled to its 50,000 capacity for the match.

Celtic are due to face Jablonec, of the Czech Republic, at Parkhead in the second-leg of their Europa League third round qualifier next Thursday, and then welcome Hearts to Glasgow’s east end in the League Cup on August 15.

Sturgeon said on Tuesday that while the Scottish Government expects the return of large scale events, for a “limited period”, organisers of outdoor events of more than 5000, and indoor events of more than 2000, will have to apply for permission to their local authority.

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STV News has learned that Glasgow City Council will grant permission for maximum attendances at both Ibrox and Celtic Park.

Thieves using hi-tech methods to steal from Scotland’s farms

A Nairnshire farmer had £14,000 worth of equipment stolen earlier this year.

STV News

Thieves are using hi-tech methods to target Scotland’s farming sector, with equipment and goods stolen in the past year.

The pandemic’s seen a 25% drop in rural theft but there was still theft and offences to the cost of £1.7m in 2020.

Nairnshire farmer, Willie Lean, had £14,000 worth of equipment stolen earlier this year.

He told STV News: “I looked around and realised that all the power tools, all the hand tool’s chargers had disappeared and then obviously I phoned the police and had a good look around, phoned my neighbours to check with them only to find out that five of us in a row had all been hit on the same night.

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“We were hit nine months previous and we upgraded the doors, we’ve put in what we thought was a pretty secure building and they’ve just gone the next level to get in.”

Willie believes those responsible were staking out his premises before returning to carry out the robbery and that had an upsetting effect on the family.

He said: “The children all of a sudden wouldn’t go out and do the horses on their own, wouldn’t want to play on the quad, they needed an adult there the whole time.

“It was just the fear factor that there was someone there.

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“Any noise it was as if there was someone there.

“It definitely took them about three, four weeks to get over it.”

Farmers and the authorities say they’re determined to work together to help protect their livelihoods and keep the countryside safe.

Ian Donaldson, Rural Insurance Specialist at NFU Mutual said: “What we are continuing to do is work with the partnerships across the UK, these are national, regional and local partnerships and they provide funding and advice in order to drive down the rural crimes increase the awareness around it.

“Thieves are getting more innovative in the way that they commit crimes.

“We need people to be more vigilant.

“We need farmers to be talking to each other and we need the public to be aware.”

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