Scottish Government demands Covid-19 help for self-employed

Fiona Hyslop and Kate Forbes have sent a joint letter calling for Rishi Sunak to offer more help to self-employed workers.

Financial plea: Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Getty Images
Financial plea: Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The Scottish Government has called on the chancellor to offer more help to self-employed workers impacted by coronavirus.

In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, economy secretary Fiona Hyslop and finance Secretary Kate Forbes demanded the Jobs Retention Scheme be expanded to the self-employed.

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, UK employers can access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs up to £2500 per month.

The UK Government has also removed the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor to allow those who are self employed to more readily access the state benefit.

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However, the Scottish Government letter says this “does not go far enough”.

The letter states: “The goal should be a more comprehensive version of the Jobs Retention Scheme that encompasses the self-employed.

“The action taken in other countries suggest there are credible mechanisms that can support the self-employed. In Norway and Denmark, wage support schemes have been extended to cover the self-employed by covering their lost incomes based on earnings in previous years.”

The letter also calls for means-testing for Universal Credit to be relaxed to “ensure that the self-employed, whether with savings or other household income, are not denied support.”

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There are 330,000 self-employed workers in Scotland.

The ministers also urged the chancellor to “change the rules so that more people can access Statutory Sick Pay and its value is increased so it provides a far more effective safety net”.

“I welcome the more regular Ministerial contact that is now happening to support our collective response across the economy and public finances,” the letter adds.

“I understand there will be both a Finance Ministers’ and an Economy Ministers’ quadrilateral discussion this week, which we will join for our respective interests. Our officials will also be speaking tomorrow and it is important that additional support for the self-employed is on the agenda for that discussion.

“We stand ready to work with you to develop an effective support package and I will continue to encourage employers to keep staff in their work and take the responsible steps that are critical for our public health and economy.

“I will also continue to encourage business to business prompt payment of invoices, recognising the temptation to improve company cash flow by delaying payment.

“The Scottish Government will of course continue to ensure we pay our suppliers as early as we possibly can.”

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Air bridges with ‘low-risk’ countries likely in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government wants to once again welcome visitors from around the world.

Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland is likely to relax quarantine for people arriving from “low-risk” countries.

But she branded the UK Government’s decision-making process on air bridges “shambolic”.

The First Minister said it had been “challenging” for Scotland to come to a position on proposals to lift quarantine restrictions on those flying into the country from other parts of the world.

The 14-day self-isolation policy for people returning to or visiting England from destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Germany has been lifted by the UK Government.

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But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not agreed to the plans.

Sturgeon said: “When so much is at stake as it is right now we can’t allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of, to be quite frank about it, another government’s shambolic decision process.

“We want to welcome visitors again from around the world and we also want to allow our own citizens to travel.

“We also want, if possible for obvious practical reasons, to have alignment on these matters with the rest of the UK.”

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will also exempt a number of countries from its advisory against all non-essential travel, which has been in place since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The change in travel advice for England comes into force on Saturday, while the quarantine policy will be amended from July 10.

The First Minister said it was “very likely” that the Scottish Government will be able to agree the low-risk countries on the air bridge list over the next few days.

Sturgeon said: “I think I can say now it is likely, very likely, that we will be able to agree the list of countries the UK has categorised as low-risk, although we will need to do a proper assessment of that.

“But we need to take some particular care in our assessment of the risk categorised as medium-risk, because that is where there may be some countries that have a higher prevalence of the virus than Scotland does right now.”

She said she hoped a decision could be made “quickly”.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told STV News he doesn’t blame the Scottish Government following the delay of the UK Government’s release of its full list of countries that will be exempt from quarantine.

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Instead, he believes any issues could be resolved ahead of July 10 when the new rules come into force.

He said: “I wouldn’t blame anybody for it, but I said on Monday that I would be announcing this later in the week and I know every day people are saying ‘when’s the list coming out?’ and I did want to just hold back to see if we could get the four nations all signed up at the same time.

“That may well still happen because the date of this is July 10.

“So although the list is coming out today, from July 10 you won’t need to quarantine for 14 days if returning from any of these countries and territories on the list.

“So, it’s up to Scotland of course to decide – Wales, Northern Ireland – they all have their own processes and decisions to go through.”

It was also revealed at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing that one further person has died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

The official death toll in Scotland stands at 2488, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths suggest the most up-to-date total is now more than 4100.

Sturgeon stated that total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 18,276 – a jump of 12 in the last 24 hours.

The figures on daily deaths, produced by Health Protection Scotland, only count confirmed cases, while weekly figures from National Records of Scotland include suspected cases.

As of last Sunday, 4155 people have died where Covid-19 was registered on their death certificate.

Health Protection Scotland has reported a further six deaths of confirmed cases, indicating a total death toll of at least 4161.

More than 43,000 people have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus across the whole of the UK.

Holiday in Scotland to support tourism industry, FM urges

The First Minister said 'staycations' would support the travel industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Islay: Scots are being urged to book 'staycations'.

Nicola Sturgeon is urging Scots desperate for a summer holiday to book ‘staycations’ to bolster the country’s tourism sector.

The First Minister said taking a break in Scotland this year would help the industry at “a time when they have probably never needed that support more” due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily press briefing on Friday, Sturgeon said: “If you are desperate to book a summer holiday – and if you are that would be entirely understandable – why not think about booking it in Scotland this year and giving some support to our own tourism sector at a time when they have probably never needed that support more.”

The First Minister’s suggestion follows the lifting of the five-mile travel limit and after she branded the UK Government’s decision-making process on air bridges “shambolic”.

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Under phase two of the Scottish Government’s routemap out of lockdown, Scots are now free to travel around the country for recreation and leisure.

This will allow people to visit self-catering accommodation such as holiday cottages and caravans.

The five-mile travel limit, however, remains in place in Dumfries and Galloway, where there has been a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

Those planning on hitting the road have been told to “be careful” when visiting other parts of the country.

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Sturgeon added: “As you travel avoid crowded places.

“If you go somewhere and it is already busy go somewhere else, and make sure you don’t leave litter behind.

“And please be sensitive to people living in our rural and island communities, because if you don’t take appropriate care you run the risk of taking the virus to these places.”

Double-decker bus bursts into flames as A90 closed

Three fire engines were sent to the scene on the A90 near Peterhead.

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Blaze: Fire on double decker bus.

A double-decker bus burst into flames, forcing police to close the A90 in Aberdeenshire.

Three fire engines went to the scene in Crimond, Peterhead, after the blaze was reported at around 2.30pm on Friday.

There have been no reports of any injuries as crews remain at the scene.

The southbound carriage way has been closed as a result of the fire.

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A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 2.25pm on Friday, to reports of a double-decker bus on fire on the A90, near Peterhead.

“Operations Control mobilised three appliances to the scene, where firefighters currently remain working to extinguish the fire.

“There are no reported casualties and the southbound carriageway is presently closed.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 2.30pm we received a report of a bus on fire on the A90, Crimond, near Peterhead.

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“Emergency services are in attendance and the southbound carriageway is currently closed.

“There does not appear to be any injuries.”


Hearts and Partick Thistle to take SPFL fight to arbitration

Lord Clark ruled that the dispute over relegation should be dealt with by an SFA -convened panel.

The Scottish FA has to facilitate arbitration.

Hearts and Partick Thistle have been told that their fight against relegation must go to arbitration and will not be heard by the Court of Session.

The clubs were told that an arbitration panel convened by the Scottish Football Association should consider the case.

The clubs had taken legal action after they were relegated when Scottish Professional Football League member clubs voted to cut short the 2019/20 season and decide prizes, promotion and relegation on a point-per-game basis.

Hearts and Thistle sought to cancel that ruling.

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Lawyers for both the SPFL and promoted clubs Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers argued that football rules showed that the clubs were bound to go to arbitration before any court action.

After hearing evidence from all parties over the past three days, Lord Clark ruled that the matter should be heard by a Hampden arbitration panel.

A motion from the promoted clubs to dismiss the court proceedings entirely was dismissed.

Hearts and Thistle’s QC David Thomson was successful in a move to recover documents from both the league and three champion clubs to help prepare their case.

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Lord Clark said in his ruling: “I accept entirely, as Mr Thomson submitted, that the media and the general public have a great interest in this dispute and would prefer to have the issues aired in open court.

“However, as a matter of law, the parties have agreed to the terms of SFA articles of association and to be bound by them.

“Accordingly, SPFL and Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers are entitled to invoke the arbitration provisions within these articles of association of the SFA, which will result in the dispute being dealt with by arbitration.

“I am not entitled as a matter of law to refuse the application to sist on the grounds that the interest of public in the dispute should override the agreement reached by the parties.”

The Premiership season is set to start on August 1 but Lord Clark said he trusted that arbitration could begin quickly.

“During the hearing I raised questions about whether the arbitration procedure will be able to determine this matter before August 1,” he said.

“While, for obvious reasons, I have not been given any absolute assurances on this matter, senior counsel for the SPFL and for Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers have each submitted that there is no reason to conclude that the matter cannot be dealt with in arbitration before August 1 and indeed, as I understood it, that their clients are reasonably confident that it can be.”

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A spokesman for the SPFL said: “We welcome today’s decision at the Court of Session that this case should be dealt with under the Scottish FA’s arbitration process.  We will now prepare for the Scottish FA arbitration.”

Hearts and Partick Thisle issued a joint statement after the ruling.

It read: “After three days of detailed and complex submissions, Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle today learned the outcome of our preliminary hearing in the Court of Session, presided over by Lord Clark.

“It is important to note that this was only to determine how to proceed.  

“Lord Clark found in our favour in two motions while we were unsuccessful in one. While denied the opportunity for a public hearing in Court this simply means we now pursue the same outcome in a different forum.

“Importantly, we were successful in the motion to get access to a number of documents that will be key to support our case in arbitration.

“Both clubs are also pleased to have received a fair hearing and feel it important to point to Lord Clark’s words that: “I do not blame the petitioners for not raising proceedings or seeking arbitration whilst that important and potentially crucial alternative [of reconstruction] was available and was actively being facilitated by the SPFL.”

“We promised our supporters that we would fight for them and we shall continue to do so.

“Neither club will be making any further comment today. “

PM’s resprayed plane joins military response to Russian jet

Voyager plane and RAF Lossiemouth jets scrambled after Russian aircraft approaches UK air space.

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RAF Voyager joined Quick Response Action.

A resprayed plane used to transport the Prime Minister and the royal family has been called out to support military aircraft in Scotland, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

A week after returning to the skies after being painted with the Union flag, the RAF Voyager joined the Quick Response Action (QRA) with jets from RAF Lossiemouth early on Friday morning.

A spokesman for the MoD confirmed the plane was involved in the call as Russian aircraft approached UK air space.

But no interception was required during the operation and the Voyager made a return to its base at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

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An RAF spokesman said: “Typhoon fighters from RAF Lossiemouth were scrambled today in response to Russian military aircraft approaching the UK.

“However, the aircraft did not enter our area of interest and no intercept was made.”

A Lossiemouth spokesman said the Voyagers can be tasked to “provide air-to-air refuelling or they can be tasked to transport personnel or freight”.

The cost of the respray, confirmed by Downing Street at “around £900,000” and undertaken at an airport in Cambridgeshire, was condemned by opposition politicians when it was revealed last month.

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The SNP criticised it as an “utterly unacceptable use of public funds”.

Shoppers urged not to smoke or vape while waiting in queues

Interim chief medical officer wants traders to put up no-smoking or vaping signs outside shops.

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Concerns raised over impact of smoking in queues.

Customers are being urged to not smoke or vape while queuing to enter shops.

Scotland’s interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith has written to retail industry bodies asking for signs to be erected outside shops.

He pointed to public concerns over the spread of coronavirus, however acknowledged there was no evidence to suggest Covid-19 could be transmitted through smoking or vaping.

Dr Smith wrote: “The Scottish Government would like to request that retailers take steps to discourage people from smoking or vaping whilst waiting in queues to enter premises.

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“This request follows a significant volume of correspondence received by ourselves from concerned members of the public around the practice by a minority of people.”

The letter acknowledges there is no scientific evidence to suggest that Covid-19 can be spread through smoke and vape drift.

But Dr Smith said a response was necessary as the issue has been raised as a public concern, over and above the fact that many find the passive inhaling of tobacco or vape drift unpleasant.

Huge queues formed outside retailers in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen this week after non-essential shops were allowed to reopen for business.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged shoppers to act responsibly and not to “squander” virus progress as more shops reopen.

She tweeted: “If you plan on visiting shops today, please do so responsibly.”

Dr Smith said the Scottish Government was working with Scottish Trading Standards, the Scottish Retailers Consortium, and Scottish Grocers Federation.

He wrote: “I, therefore, ask for your support to consider placing signs or notices outside your premises to encourage individuals not to smoke or vape whilst waiting in queues, for the consideration and comfort of others.”

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Failed by the system? Asylum seekers wait to call Scotland home

Glasgow stabbing attack puts a spotlight on the experiences of asylum seekers in Scotland.

When a Sudanese asylum seeker stabbed six people before being shot dead by police one week ago today, the horror put a spotlight on those who dream of calling Scotland home.

Badreddin Abadlla Adam, 28, was one of 100 asylum seekers temporarily placed in Glasgow’s Park Inn hotel at the start of coronavirus lockdown in March.

His victims – who include 42-year-old police officer David Whyte – survived.

But delays to the asylum process are being blamed for causing additional strain on vulnerable people, many of whom are fleeing war, violence and persecution in their homelands.

Badreddin Abadlla Adam stabbed six people before he was shot dead by police.
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Adam’s death came two months after a 30-year-old Syrian man’s suspected suicide in another central Glasgow hotel.

Campaigners say the Home Office must deal with cases more quickly. The process was already prone to delays but, like so much else, has virtually stopped due to lockdown.

Immigration lawyer Andy Bradley told STV News that “a sizeable minority are failed by the system”, blaming Home Office “maladministration” and red tape.

This can leave asylum seekers in a state of limbo for years — often isolated and impoverished; unable to work or begin building a new life.

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He added: “If there are lengthy delays this can be sometimes very stressful. Now during that period where they are awaiting a decision, their ability to integrate into Scottish society or Glasgow society is very limited.

“Many asylum seekers just now, they’ve not been able to get any interviews for the past three months or so and that does appear to be adding to the problem.”

Asylum seekers have held huge protests about their treatment.

When someone seeks asylum in the UK, they undergo an initial screening with an immigration official. They are photographed, have their fingerprints taken and given an asylum registration card.

This is followed by a “substantive” interview in which they must prove why they can’t live in their own country due to persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political views or other criteria such as sexuality.

If successful, the applicant is given leave to remain in the UK for five years, which can become permanent.

Around 40,000 people apply for asylum in the UK each year with just under half of those being successful. The Home Office says a decision is usually made within six months. However, many asylum seekers wait much longer.

One such hopeful is a woman from Namibia. She says she fled from her violent father who was trying to force her to marry one of her cousins.

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The woman, who we are calling Venu to protect her identity, has been in Scotland for more than two years but has not had a substantive interview – possibly due to a lack of translators who speak her Otjiherero language.

Wellwishers left donations for asylum seekers after the horror attack.

Venu is heartbroken at being forced to leave behind her seven-year-old daughter. She also feels guilty as she can’t open a UK bank account to send money to the friend caring for her daughter.

In broken English, she told STV News: “I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I’m really stressed. I’m suffering from depression.

“You have to support your child, you have to support yourself. It’s very hard, I’m telling you. I want to bring my baby and my friend, I miss them very much.”

Another asylum seeker we have spoken to says that if she was forced to return home, it would likely result in her being murdered due to her political activity.

The woman, who we are calling Leena, fled after she and her son were allegedly targeted by armed gunman in her home nation in south-east Asia.

They have been in the UK for more than three years while their lives have been at a standstill — unable to get a job or contribute to society.

They are appealing against a Home Office decision to reject their asylum bid, on the grounds they could not provide sufficient evidence.

She said: “So I don’t know what to do in that situation. I can’t be filming, I can’t be taking photos. That kind of evidence the Home Office want.

Huge emergency response during last week’s incident. Pic: Getty Images

“We quickly pack everything and we run away and flee to Scotland. We can contribute a lot to the country and also can help to lift up the economy by paying tax, by helping I don’t know why the Home Office does not want to consider all these things.”

Others experience hostility and racism — with the Park Inn attack heightening tensions.

Hekma Yagoub, from Sudan, has been in Glasgow for more than two years and has won the right to remain. Since last week’s attack she and her friends avoid going into the city centre.

She added: “Personally I don’t feel safe. Normally I cycle around Glasgow and I feel I need to take extra precautions just to do that. Normally, for example, I don’t take my phone with me.

“But now I think twice before I plan to go out and obviously this is because of this incident.”

While the Park Inn remains a crime scene, the 100 asylum seekers who were staying there have been placed in another hotel by Mears Group — the company that was paid by the Home Office to house and support those seeking asylum. Mears Group declined to comment.

Asked about asylum delays, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Due to the coronavirus outbreak, some decisions have been delayed but we are continuing to make decisions where we have sufficient information.

“We have put in place a range of measures to support asylum seekers during this time.”

The Home Office also reject some campaigners’ accusations that putting asylum seekers in hotels during lockdown is similar to being imprisoned, saying they would be “destitute” but are provided with  “free, fully furnished accommodation while applications are considered”.

They added: “Like everyone else in the country during the coronavirus outbreak, asylum seekers have been asked to stay where they are and to follow social distancing to help fight the spread.

“As such, throughout the coronavirus outbreak, we have put in a range of measures to support asylum seekers who are affected, including standing up accommodation.”


Brother to the rescue after boiling water tips over baby

Ryan, 15, used safety skills learned at his local fire station to help his one-year-old brother.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
Family: Ryan and Alfie.

A teenager leapt into action after his baby brother was doused in boiling water.

One-year-old Alfie pulled a freshly boiled kettle of water over himself after mum Janet’s attention was distracted for a brief moment at their home in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire.

Ryan, 15, used the skills he learned from a course at Coatbridge fire station to remain calm in a crisis.

He now wants to be a firefighter when he leaves school. 

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His mum said: “I actually have no idea what I’d have done without Ryan there – I’m so proud of him.”

Injuries: Alfie was left with burn marks.

The incident unfolded in June when the family dog, a pug named Peanut, dashed into the kitchen. 

Janet took hold of the puppy and turned just in time to see Alfie grabbing the kettle.

She said: “I looked away for a split-second and Alfie had managed to get a hold of the kettle, he’s not allowed in the kitchen and I’ve got safety gates up but they were open on this one occasion.”

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Alfie was left screaming in pain. 

Janet said: “I started panicking. I had no idea how it happened and I went into complete shock. I was told later that I’d phoned my sister. I can’t even remember doing that.”

But teenager Ryan heard the screaming from his bedroom and immediately took Alfie into the shower to apply cool water to his burns. 

Janet added: “He was unbelievably calm and completely took control of the situation.

“I had tried to take Alfie’s t-shirt off of him which Ryan said I shouldn’t have done. I actually have no idea what I’d have done without Ryan there – I’m so proud of him.”

Training: Ryan took a course at his local fire station.

St Andrews High School pupil Ryan knew that the water should not be too cold when applied to burns and also that he should not remove any more clothing as this can peel off skin.

Ryan said: “I was nervous but I knew I had to keep calm and take control of the situation. I just calmly took Alfie to the shower and put the water on.” 

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He also briefed paramedics from the Scottish Ambulance Service when they arrived.

Ryan learned his skills from a FireSkills employability course he attended at his local fire station back in February. 

The course uses fire service drills and emergency scenarios to equip teenagers with practical safety knowledge and a teamwork ethic.

He explained: “The course was good, I would recommend it to anyone. I enjoyed everything and it taught me how to do CPR and take control of a situation while remaining calm. 

“Being a firefighter was something I thought I would like to do – but now I know I want to.”

The course helped Ryan so much that he said it felt “natural and confident” when he stepped in to help his brother.

Martin Blunden, chief officer at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Ryan has stepped into an extremely stressful and emotional situation and handled it like a true professional.

“His mum is right to be proud of him and I’m extremely happy that we were able to equip Ryan with the skills to be able to help his family at their time of need.

“It’s a moment that Ryan can be extremely proud of, accidents happen and to be there for your brother and mum like he was shows a real level of confidence and bravery.”


Banned driver fled from police with axe in his car

Mark Boyle was found with the weapon in his BMW after being caught speeding on the wrong side of the road.

Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
Jailed: Man fled from police with axe in his car.

A banned driver who fled from police with an axe in his car has been jailed for more than two years.

Mark Boyle raced his BMW from Glasgow’s Possilpark area to the city’s Lambhill in April this year.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard the 29-year-old was banned from the road in August 2017 until November 2028.

Boyle’s car was “playing loud music and causing a disturbance”.

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Police clocked him speeding and on the wrong side of the road.

The car was eventually halted and officers detected a ‘strong smell of alcohol’.

Bottles of Buckfast and rose wine were initially discovered inside.

Boyle refused to provide his details to the officers and denied drinking alcohol.

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A small axe was then found on a seat. 

The father-of-one refused to provide a breath sample.

He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and without insurance.

Boyle also admitted failing to provide a specimen of breath at a police station, reset and possession of an axe.

David Kinloch, defending, told the court Boyle was having a problem with alcohol at the time.

Sheriff Martin Jones said: “Custody is necessary and is appropriate in this case.”

Boyle was also disqualified from driving for five years and two months.


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