SNP highlights Sturgeon’s ‘serious leadership’ in majority bid

Winning a majority in the Scottish Parliament is something that has so far only been achieved by Alex Salmond.

Sturgeon: Hoping for SNP majority. Russell Cheyne via PA Media
Sturgeon: Hoping for SNP majority.

Despite having been in power for 14 years, there is no doubt that Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP will remain the largest party at Holyrood after Thursday’s election.

For a party to be so far in front of its rivals after such a lengthy spell in government is remarkable – the SNP has been in power in Edinburgh longer than Tony Blair’s Labour government or Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives.

But the party is not just fighting to win this election – Sturgeon wants to win an overall majority at Holyrood, so she can again make the case to Boris Johnson that there should be another independence referendum.

Winning a majority in the 129-seat Scottish Parliament is something that has so far only been achieved by her predecessor Alex Salmond, and Holyrood’s proportional representation system makes it difficult to achieve.

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The SNP will dominate in the 73 Scottish Parliament constituencies, where they are expected to win many of the seats.

But Scots also have a second vote, on the regional list section of the ballot, which will be crucial in determining the make-up of the next Parliament.

With all party leaders pushing hard for these key list votes, Sturgeon’s message during the campaign has been for people to give both their votes to the SNP.

It comes as the campaign has focused on the First Minister’s leadership of the country throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

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But as well as offering voters “serious leadership for serious times”, the SNP is also looking further ahead to when a second vote on independence could take place.

The party’s manifesto commits them to having another vote on Scotland’s place within the UK before the end of 2023.

While her political opponents argue such a ballot would be damage at the country during the coronavirus recovery period, for Sturgeon and the SNP independence is seen as crucial to that recovery.

The SNP leader has frequently said people in Scotland should be able to take charge of that, not Boris Johnson and Westminster.

However even if she succeeds in winning  a majority of MSPs in the election, there is no guarantee the Prime Minister will give the go ahead for a referendum – meaning there could be more constitutional clashes between Holyrood and the UK Parliament in the future.

But campaigning this week the SNP leader insisted she was “optimistic about Scotland’s future”.

She stressed that a referendum would take place only “once the immediate Covid crisis has passed”, as she argued this would mean that “the people of Scotland have the right to choose the kind of recovery they want”.

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She added: “We have had a challenging year, and we are not out of the woods, but I am optimistic about Scotland’s future.

“I know that if we all continue working together as we have done over the last year, we can control Covid, get on with the job of opening our society back up, and build a lasting economic recovery that benefits everyone.”

Footballers ‘suffer in silence to save their careers’

David Cox has suffered abuse on and off the pitch since first talking about attempts to end his life.

STV News

Footballers won’t talk about their mental health problems in case it damages their careers, a striker who suffered abuse following suicide attempts has warned.

David Cox says many professional players are suffering in silence because they fear being released by their clubs or left unable to secure new contracts.

Cox recently announced his retirement after accusing a fellow player of mocking his mental health issues during a game.

He left the match in question at half-time, with an investigation ongoing into the alleged comments.

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Speaking to Scotland Tonight, to be broadcast on STV at 7.30pm on Thursday, the 32-year-old Albion Rovers player said: “If someone feels like they want to come out and speak, it’s going to be in the back of their mind that it will affect their life in football.

“Unfortunately, there are always going to be managers, clubs or staff who look as that as a problem.”

Cox first spoke about his mental health issues in a newspaper interview seven years ago.

Mark Scates via SNS Group
David Cox in action for Cowdenbeath last year.

He revealed he had made attempts to end his life and, since then, has received horrific abuse on and off the pitch.

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“I heard a few things from the stand after I told my story,” he said. “I remember one of the shouts was to ‘do it properly this time’.

“I’m no angel on the park and I’ll say things, but when it comes to personal stuff there needs to be a line.”

The well-travelled striker has played for a number of Scottish clubs and believes some have refused to renew his contracts because of his health issues.

“Some clubs have been absolutely amazing with me, really good,” he said. “But I’ve also been at clubs where I’ve been pushed out because of my mental health.”

Craig Foy via SNS Group
David Cox celebrates scoring against Rangers in the Scottish Cup in 2019.

Scotland Tonight will take a closer look at the darker side of the beautiful game, asking what’s being done to help players who are struggling to cope.

Last week, a charity told STV News that it had helped five players who considered ending their lives over the past year.

Libby Emerson, from BackOnSide, said: “The abuse players get if they talk about their mental health is wrong and it needs to change.”

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She said it was “hard” for the charity to gain access to players, adding: “A lot of clubs don’t realise there is a mental health issue going on.

“If a player broke his leg on a pitch, they’d get support in an instant and doctors to look after them.

“But when someone says their head’s a bit broken, it’s just ignored.”

One Scottish Premiership club told Scotland Tonight that football as a whole was getting better at dealing with mental health, but accepted that more needs to be done.

Motherwell FC chief executive Allan Burrows said: “I think we’ve made improvements, but we’ve got a lot of work still to do.

“We need to continue to talk about it and raise it as an issue. It needs to constantly be the message; you need to constantly push it all the time.

“We will continue to do that as a club. I hope other clubs will continue to do so as well and other sports and other outlets will continue to do it.

“And if we all do that, and we all try and take it more seriously, then hopefully we can stop this other pandemic that is going on in Scotland at the moment.”


Concern over rising number of coronavirus cases in Glasgow

Warnings against large gatherings in Glasgow after the city recorded 58 cases per 100,000 people in the past week.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Coronavirus cases are rising in Glasgow.

Concern is growing over a rise in coronavirus cases in Glasgow, just days before the city is moved under level two restrictions.

Over the last week, there have been 25 cases per 100,000 people across Scotland. Glasgow is more than double that at 58 per 100,000.

Moray, which is expected to remain at level three next Monday following a surge in cases and an increase in hospital admissions, is higher still at 100 per 100,000.

But Pollokshields, in the southside of Glasgow, has the highest transmission rate in Scotland – 575 per 100,000, which is just slightly higher than in Easterhouse, in the east end of the city.

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Scotland recorded 345 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, a third of them in Glasgow.

The Scottish Government has particular concerns over crowds of people gathering to celebrate various events in the city over the coming days including the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was vital to stick to the level three restrictions until they are lifted, as well as the “red list” quarantine rules for those arriving from countries such as India, Pakistan, Turkey and Nepal.

She said: “This is the second Eid to have taken place during the pandemic, which I know has been incredibly challenging.

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“I want to thank community leaders and members for doing an amazing job keeping each other safe during this difficult period.

“I understand how disappointing it will be to have to restrict celebrations.

“However, everyone celebrating Eid must do so safely and in line with the necessary public health restrictions – unfortunately that means not visiting other people’s homes and maintaining a two-metre distance with those from outside your household at all times.”

She was speaking during a visit to Glasgow Central Mosque with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, where they urged Scotland’s Muslim community to celebrate the end of Ramadan safely.

Sarwar said: “Scottish Muslims have made sacrifices during Ramadan.

“But they have also made big sacrifices over the last year to get through this pandemic. Like me, I know you are desperate to be reunited with your loved ones.

“But I would urge everyone to please follow the Covid rules closely in the coming days. This is to keep you and your family safe and well.

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“There is hope and optimism again as the lockdown continues to ease. And if we follow the rules we will soon be able to see and hold our loved ones again safely.”

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said it was vital to maintain restrictions on household visiting and staying two metres apart from others.

He also urged Rangers fans to celebrate at home this weekend, with the Ibrox club set to be presented with the Premiership trophy following their match against Aberdeen.

Police Scotland also warned against large gatherings after a fan group organised a title day march – scheduled to leave the Glasgow stadium once the trophy has been lifted and then making its way to George Square.

Earlier on Wednesday, national clinical director Jason Leitch said there are currently around 20 to 30 cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus in Scotland.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme the cases have been detected in Scotland in a number of locations.

Professor Leitch said: “They are in a few places, some of that is travel, most of it has been connected with inward travel and then of course spread within a group from that initial seeding, more troubles in the north of England, so they’ve got more and it’s spreading faster.

“We’re a little bit unsure about the nature of this individual variant, it’s at least as transmissible as the Kent variant, we hope it’s not worse, but we’re having to do lots of science to find out.

“That’s one of the big concerns, we’ve talked about that for months, a variant worse than Kent would set us back.”

Voters go to the polls in Airdrie and Shotts by-election

Polling stations will open on Thursday for the North Lanarkshire seat to replace incumbent SNP MP Neil Gray.

Simon Lehmann via IStock
Vote: Public go to the polls.

Voters are going to the polls in a by-election to choose a new MP for the Airdrie and Shotts constituency.

Polling stations will open on Thursday morning in the North Lanarkshire seat in the race to replace incumbent SNP MP Neil Gray.

Gray stepped down to contest the same seat in the Scottish Parliament election, and became an MSP last week.

The two elections were not held on the same day due to concerns about coronavirus and the possibility of voter confusion because of the different ballot systems used in Westminster and Holyrood elections.

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Gray held the seat for the SNP in the 2019 general election, taking 45% of the vote, with Labour coming second on 32%. This gave the SNP a majority of 5201 votes.

Modern studies teacher Anum Qaisar-Javed is the SNP candidate, facing Labour councillor Kenneth Stevenson.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon campaigned in Airdrie and Shotts with Ms Qaisar-Javed on Wednesday, alongside the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was also on the campaign trail on Wednesday with Mr Stevenson.

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The other candidates standing for the seat are Stephen Arrundale, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Ben Callaghan, Scottish Conservatives, Martyn Green, Reform UK, Donald Mackay, UKIP, Neil Manson, Social Democratic Party and Jonathan Stanley for the Scottish Unionist Party.


MSPs to be sworn in ahead of new parliamentary term

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be first to take her oath, followed by her fellow party leaders.

Mark Scates via SNS Group
Holyrood: MSPs to be sworn in on Thursday.

Scotland’s MSPs will be sworn in on Thursday, kicking off a new parliamentary term.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be first to take her oath, as a result of leading the largest party, followed by her fellow party leaders.

Outgoing Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, who decided not to stand in last week’s election, will run the proceedings, which require MSPs to pledge their allegiance to the Queen before they are allowed to undertake any parliamentary duties or receive their MSP salary. If the oath or affirmation is not taken within two months, they will then lose their seat.

A number of MSPs have signalled they will take their oath in a language other than English, with some expected to speak in Scots, Gaelic, Urdu, Orcadian, Doric and even, in the case of Zimbabwe-born North East Green MSP Maggie Chapman, Zimbabwean Shona.

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The oath will be followed by the election of the new presiding officer, who will take charge of proceedings for the next five years.

No MSP has yet signalled their intent publicly to stand for the position, which requires elected members to renounce their party affiliation and act cross-party for the duration.

Parliamentary arithmetic could prevent some MSPs from putting themselves forward for the position, given the SNP is just one seat short of a majority.

If the SNP puts someone forward, it would drop further away from the 65 MSPs needed to pass legislation on its own – whereas the chamber would be tied if an opposition MSP takes the role.

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Friday will see the election of deputy presiding officers, who do not have to relinquish their party affiliation.


Police launch probe after Rangers fans set off pyrotechnics

Investigation under way after more than 200 Rangers supporters gather on hill to watch their team against Livingston.

Rob Casey via SNS Group
Rangers players and fans celebrate in Livingston on Wednesday night,

Police have condemned the behaviour of Rangers fans who set off pyrotechnics during Wednesday night’s match at Livingston.

An investigation has been launched after a group of 200 fans gathered to watch Steven Gerrard’s team from a hill just outside the ground in West Lothian.

Sergeant Jim Gowling said: “An investigation is under way after several pyrotechnics were let off during the Livingston v Rangers game. 

“The inquiry will involve officers reviewing extensive CCTV footage to identify those involved in this reckless and dangerous behaviour.” 

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Rangers’ quest for an invincible league campaign will go down to the final day of the season after Steven Gerrard’s champions cleared their penultimate hurdle at Livingston.

James Tavernier tucked home his 19th goal of the season from the penalty spot before Ryan Kent and Ianis Hagi sealed a 3-0 win at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

Like the Light Blues’ last visit, the locked-out Rangers supporters launched a barrage of fireworks in the 55th minute to mark their heroes’ title triumph.

Earlier on Wednesday, justice secretary Humza Yousaf urged Rangers fans to celebrate at home this weekend, with the Ibrox club set to be presented with the Premiership trophy following their match against Aberdeen.

Police Scotland also warned against large gatherings after a fan group organised a title day march.

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Supporters plan to leave Ibrox once the trophy has been lifted and then make their way to George Square.

Four new stamps issued in memory of Duke of Edinburgh

The black and white images show Philip, who died last month at the age of 99, at different stages of his life.

Royal Mail via PA Media / Royal Mail via PA Media
New stamps issued in memory of Duke of Edinburgh will be on sale from June 24.

Four new stamps are being issued by the Royal Mail in memory of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The black and white images show Philip, who died last month at the age of 99, at different stages of his life.

The first, a portrait of the duke as a young man, was taken by the photographer Baron, while the second is of Philip attending the passing out parade of his son, the Duke of York, at Dartmouth Naval College in Devon.

Another stamp is of Philip at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, while the last and most recent image is a portrait taken by photographer Terry O’Neill.

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Simon Thompson, chief executive of Royal Mail, said: ”Throughout adulthood, the Duke of Edinburgh dedicated himself to the service of this country, the Commonwealth and to the many causes he was involved with.

“For more than seven decades he was at the centre of our national life. His passing is a key moment in our history which we mark with this set of commemorative stamps.”

The four stamps are presented in a miniature sheet at a cost of £6.65.

They will be on sale from June 24

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TV chef Kitchin says Scottish hospitality sector ‘disregarded’

The restaurant owner believes some of the lockdown easing measures - coming into effect next week - 'dont' make any sense at all'.

STV News

The owner of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Edinburgh has called for more support to be given to the hospitality sector, saying it has been “disregarded” as coronavirus restrictions continue to ease.

Tom Kitchin, who opened The Kitchin restaurant in Leith with his wife in 2006, said the relaxation of rules coming into effect from Monday doesn’t go far enough.

He particularly criticised the restriction that means customers have to be off the premises, rather than placing last orders, by 10.30pm – a measure he said “didn’t make any sense at all”.

Venues can open and sell alcohol indoors until 10.30pm or outdoors until 10pm from next Monday, when most of mainland Scotland moves under level two restrictions.

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Kitchin said: “I totally feel that we’ve been left behind in the hospitality sector. I totally feel that we’ve been disregarded and I totally feel that we don’t have the support of the people who should be supporting us.

“For me, personally, to make it more viable for the business is ‘allow us to operate properly in a controlled and safe manner’, the way all hospitality businesses have been doing and let us make sure that people are well-spaced, we have proper documentation and we’re doing it as licensees.

“We need to get this economy moving because this not about Tom Kitchin, this is about other businesses, other restaurants and our suppliers – they are on their knees. We need to get this economy moving. Enough is enough.”

Kitchin was speaking as new research published by the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), the representative body for tourism business in Scotland, painted a stark picture for the sector.

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The STA surveyed 271 businesses directly and found that 30% took the decision to remain closed following the last easing of restrictions on April 26; of those, 31% have said that they do not plan to reopen next week when restrictions ease further.

The organisation’s research also highlighted an extremely slow start to accommodation bookings; between 41 – 45% of accommodation providers who responded indicated that over the course of May, June and July, occupancy is sitting at below 20%.

According to the STA, the sector could be in a worse position now than it was a year ago, with the occupancy rate for city hotels sitting below 20% in the coming months.

Marc Crothall, the organisation’s CEO said: “The Scottish Tourism Alliance is very concerned at some of the suggested media reporting (in recent weeks) that staycations are booming and that there are bookings coming in their abundance – the fact of the matter is that is not the case.

“We are hearing and have seen from the survey results that we have had back, and other data that has been gathered by member groups, that the occupancy levels for the coming months are well below what they need to be and in some cases significantly low.

“In our cities, the average hotel occupancy is around 14-15% in Glasgow over the coming months and as low as 20% in Edinburgh.”

Edinburgh Art Festival set to return with new exhibits

The 17th edition of the festival will include new commissions in visual art spaces and an online programme of events.

Isaac Julien via PA Media
Edinburgh Art Festival will run July 29 to August 29.

The Edinburgh Art Festival is to return after coronavirus forced the cancellation of last year’s event.

Organisers said the 17th edition will include over 35 exhibitions and new commissions in visual art spaces across the city.

This will be alongside an online programme of events and digital presentations.

Sorcha Carey, director of Edinburgh Art Festival, said: “Festivals have always offered a space for gathering, and this year more than any, we are proud to come together with partners across the city to showcase the work of artists from Scotland, the UK and around the world.

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“Some exhibitions are newly made in response to the seismic shifts of the past year; others are the result of many years of planning and careful research – but all are the unique, authentic, and thoughtful products of our city’s extraordinarily rich visual art scene.

“The past year has revealed how precarious things can be for artists and creative freelancers, as well as for the institutions and organisations that support the production and presentation of their work.

“As galleries begin to reopen across the city, and we look forward to welcoming audiences safely back to the festival and our city, now more than ever we need the space for community and reflection that art and artists can provide.”

The festival is due to return from July 29 to August 29.

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It will see a series of festival-led commissions and premieres created in partnership with visual arts organisations.

There will also be a specially invited programme of new commissions curated in partnership with an associate artist.

Among the works will be the UK and European premiere of Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour, presented in partnership with National Galleries of Scotland.

This new 10-screen film installation by the celebrated British artist looks at the life and times of Frederick Douglass, the visionary African American writer, abolitionist and a freed slave.

He spent two years in Edinburgh in the 1840s campaigning across Scotland, England and Ireland for freedom and social justice.

McVitie’s workers ‘left in shock’ over factory closure

Almost 500 people work at the brand's last remaining site in Scotland.

STV News
The factory’s operations to cease in the latter half of 2022, with production moving to one of six sites in England.

Workers at the McVitie’s factory in Glasgow have said they were left in shock following the news that its owner plans to shut it down.

Almost 500 people are employed at the Tollcross site which makes Hobnobs and Rich Tea biscuits and is the only operation left in Scotland owned by global snack giant Pladis.

Joanne Fyall’s mum has worked at the factory for 19 years but was off when the announcement came on Tuesday. She said the news was totally unexpected.

Ms Fyall told STV News: “There were no rumours going about the factory or anything. I think it’s disgusting how they have been treated.

STV News
Inside the Tollcross McVitie’s factory now scheduled for closure next year (STV News)
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“I saw it on Facebook and then sent it to my mum. She was just shocked because it wasn’t something she knew was going to happen.

“It’s terrible, I feel for all the workers to be honest.”

The factory’s operations would cease in the latter half of 2022, with production moving to one of six sites in England.

An agency worker employed at the factory told STV News: “The people who work at Tollcross are the hardest working people I have ever seen. They work 12 hour shifts and never show fatigue.

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“The managers, and this is the first time I have ever said this about a job, are the kindest funniest and most hard working managers I’ve ever worked for. Pladis are making a great mistake”

Pladis said the company’s UK and Ireland managing director David Murray announced the redundancy consultation at meetings with staff on Tuesday.

Some areas of production at the Tollcross site have ceased for the rest of the week to allow workers time to digest the news.

John Mason, SNP MSP for Shettleston, told STV News: “This is a major employer in the East End of Glasgow and we don’t want to lose any jobs and we certainly don’t want to lose 500 jobs.

STV News
John Mason, SNP MSP for Shettleston (STV News)

“It was a surprise when it came, however, we have worried about this site for quite a long time. It’s not been invested in, the building is dilapidated.

“I’ve spoken to the Pladis management over the years, locally, nationally, and the trade unions, and everyone has been concerned about it. So, I don’t think it’s a big surprise but it’s incredibly disappointing.”

Pladis said the factory’s closure is subject to a “full and meaningful” consultation with employees. Unions Unite Scotland and GMB Scotland have said urgent action is needed to save jobs at the site.

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GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith said: “There is no levelling-up agenda for workers in the East-end of Glasgow today. It’s back to ‘business as usual’ for pladis, having made staff work throughout this pandemic to increase sales and maximise profit, all while pocketing public money.

“GMB will explore every avenue to save jobs and bring investment into this business and the community, but every politician should take a long and hard look at Tollcross because it is typical of what’s left of a once thriving manufacturing sector.

“We can fix this, but the road to recovery must run through workers and communities like those in Tollcross. They can’t be forgotten.”

The Scottish Government said the announcement was “a huge blow to the company’s staff, their families and the local area” and that support has been offered to Glasgow City Council.

The Turkish owner Pladis, formed in 2016, is behind some of the UK’s best known snack brands including McVitie’s, Jacob’s, go ahead! and Carr’s. With its headquarters in the UK, the firm operates seven factories and a research and development hub, with another 19 factories in ten different countries around the world employing more than 16,000 people.

Mr Murray, Pladis MD, said on Tuesday: “We know this news will be difficult for our colleagues at Tollcross. Our priority now is to provide them with the support they need during the consultation process.”

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