SNP MP asks Johnson: Have you had a look at your inbox?

Pete Wishart urged Boris Johnson to apologise over the Dominic Cummings scandal.

An SNP MP has asked the Prime Minister if he has looked in his inbox amid public anger over the Dominic Cummings row.

Pete Wishart urged Boris Johnson to apologise over the scandal and said the actions of his top adviser would weaken any future Covid-19 lockdown.

Appearing before the House of Commons’ liaison committee on Wednesday, the PM said he was “sorry” for the pain families around the country have been going through due to coronavirus.

But he said the best way to preserve public health messaging amid the pandemic is to “move on” from the controversy and refocus on tackling the virus.

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Johnson suggested the SNP MP was making “party-political points” and claimed “a lot of the allegations” against Mr Cummings “turned out to be completely false”.

Johnson’s chief No 10 adviser held an extraordinary Downing Street press conference on Monday where he confirmed reports he had taken his wife and child on a 260-trip from London to Durham.

He said he had done this over fears he and his wife would become incapacitated from Covid-19 after she developed symptoms, with family in Durham who had offered to provide childcare to his young child.

And he further admitted to travelling on a 60-mile round trip on April 12 to beauty spot Barnard Castle with his family, on his wife’s birthday, claiming he had done so to test his eyesight for driving.

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The special adviser maintained he had no regrets and had acted within the rules.

However, in the wake of his admissions, Scotland Office minister Douglas Ross resigned from his post, while Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw joined a raft of senior Tories in calling for Mr Cummings’ job.

Speaking on Wednesday, Wishart joked to the Prime Minister he was “brave” to continue to “stand by your man” and “sacrifice the credibility and popularity of your own government”.

The Perth and North Perthshire MP told Johnson: “You’ve done something I’ve never seen done in the 20 years I’ve been in the House.

“You’ve somehow managed to unite a nation in condemnation and indignation of your handling of Mr Cummings.”

Wishart highlighted polling suggesting 80% think the PM’s adviser broke lockdown rules, that 62% think he should be sacked, and 65% think his conduct will make people less likely to obey lockdown restrictions.

“Surely no man is more important than keeping this nation safe?” he asked.

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The Prime Minister answered: “A lot of what was written and said over Saturday and Sunday was false in respect to my adviser.

“It wasn’t correct and I think he’s had the opportunity to clear the matter up, notwithstanding the various party-political points you may seek to make.

“And your point about the message – I respectfully disagree.

“I think, actually, the best way to clarify the message, the best way for people to understand what we need to do next, is for us all to move on and focus on what we’re doing.”

Wishart hit back: “Have you had a look at your inbox? My inbox like MPs across the UK is filled with people listing their sacrifices to follow the instructions you set.

“I have constituents who haven’t been able to see their grandchildren and families for months, people not being able to visit dying relatives or attend funerals.

“Do you know what this looks like for them? One rule for those at the heart of government and another rule for everyone else.

“He won’t say sorry, will you say sorry on his behalf?”

Johnson said: “Of course, I am sorry for the pain, as I’ve said, and the anguish and the heartbreak of so many people in this country.

“And by the way, there are people across government at every level who have been through exactly the same privations and difficulties.”

He called again for politicians to “set aside this row”, repeating that “a lot of allegations turned out to be totally false”.

One report Mr Cummings denied was that he had gone back to Durham again later in April following his return to work at Downing Street.

He claimed metadata on his phone would prove that he had been in London on the day he was claimed to have been elsewhere.

The Prime Minister was repeatedly pressed by Labour MP Meg Hillier on if he had seen this evidence, eventually saying that he had.

But he declined to commit to making it public, or to allow civil service chief, cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, to investigate it.

On April 12, Mr Cummings stated he had not gone into the town of Barnard Castle as reported by an eyewitness to two newspapers.

He said he and his family had merely walked briefly around the woods on the outskirts of the town before driving back to his family’s Durham cottage.

The eyewitness, retired teacher Robin Lees, has been interviewed by police over his claim he saw Mr Cummings and his family walking in the town by the River Tees on the day in question.

Johnson also rejected calls for Mr Cummings to face an inquiry over his actions.

The Prime Minister told the committee: “Quite frankly I’m not certain – right now – that an inquiry into that matter is a very good use of official time.

“We are working flat out on coronavirus.”

Pupils, teachers and parents prepare for schools’ return

Schools are reopening five months after the coronavirus lockdown forced their closure.

By Jenness Mitchell & Ewan Petrie

It will be an anxious week for young people, parents and teachers as schools reopen their doors after nearly five months.

Teachers are back at work to prepare for pupils returning to their desks over the next few days.

Schools in the Borders and Shetland were the first to open to pupils on Tuesday.

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All pupils are expected to be back in class full-time from August 18 at the latest after schools were given the go-ahead to reopen by the Scottish Government.

While visiting West Calder High School in West Lothian on Monday, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said as a country it was “right to prioritise” getting schools back.

She said: “It’s really important and I think really positive that young people are able to return to full-time schooling.

“We know that’s important for their education, that is very obvious, but it’s also important I think for young people’s well-being and a sense of normality coming back into their lives, even though there will be differences to normality as they knew it before lockdown.”

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Sturgeon praised the work local authorities have carried out to make schools safer in the fight against Covid-19.

As well as new physical distancing signage and one-way systems, schools have also implemented hand-sanitising stations.

Newark Primary School in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, has created an isolation room for anyone who starts to display symptoms of the virus.

Headteacher Lynne McGugan is also prepared to stagger entries, exits, lunchtimes and playtimes if needed.

Sturgeon said she understood those returning to the classroom might be feeling concerned.

She said: “I know that this will be an anxious week for young people themselves, for teachers – who themselves are often parents, and parents.

“But we also know that being out of school is doing real harm to young people, so we have to strike the right balance.

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“And where necessary, if it means slowing down on other aspects of getting back to normal in order to prioritise school return, I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Class of 2020: These new teachers will be heading into classrooms on Tuesday.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s largest teaching union, questioned 29,867 teachers over the past week.

A total of 60% supported the decision to reopen, however 66% expressed anxiety and a lack of confidence that sufficient safety measures will be in place.

The First Minister said anxiety was expected and it would be “wrong to expect otherwise” due to the pandemic.

She said: “That’s why it’s been so important that we’ve done this carefully. 

“We are not being complacent, we’ve thought very hard – informed by scientific advice – about the measures that need to be in place, and we’ll make sure that there’s rapid access to test and protect for any staff member or young person who has symptoms.”

Qualified: New teacher Nicole Wylie is ‘confident’ about the return.

Nicole Wylie, a newly qualified teacher in Inverclyde, told STV News that she had a “few worries” but overall felt “confident” about the new term.

She said: “A few worries, but everything’s in place in the school.

“We’ve got lots of hand sanitiser stations, arrows on the floor, one-way systems, staggered entries and things like that, so everything’s been done the way that it should be. 

“I feel quite confident going back, knowing that all the appropriate measures have been put in place.”

Inverclyde: Jim Clocherty hopes parents will be confident enough to send their children to school.

Jim Clocherty, education convener at Inverclyde Council, added: “Once we actually get things going, once things get back to the ‘new normal’, I think parents will see that and hopefully they’ll feel safe enough to send their children to school.”


Swinney to set out plan to ‘rectify’ exam results

The education secretary will outline the government's next steps at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

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Swinney: Facing calls to resign.

Deputy first minister John Swinney will set out a plan to “rectify” the school exam results controversy.

The education secretary, who has faced calls to resign, will outline the government’s next steps in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

With no exams this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) applied a methodology whereby marks estimated by teachers were downgraded based on criteria including the historic performance of the school.

This criteria saw Higher pass rates for pupils in the most deprived areas reduced by 15.2%, in comparison with 6.9% for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds.

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On Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed her deputy as she apologised to pupils affected by the decision.

Both initially defended the system, stressing that the appeals process would allow eligible pupils to challenge their results and arguing that it would not have been “credible” if teachers’ estimates were not downgraded.

But following protests from pupils in Glasgow and cross-party criticism of the system, the First Minister said Swinney would “rectify” the situation.

She said: “We will be taking steps to ensure that every young person gets a grade that recognises the work they have done.

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“Our concern – which was to make sure that the grades young people got were as valid as those they would have got in any other year – perhaps led us to think too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil.”

She added: “Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I’m sorry for that.

“The most immediate challenge is to resolve the grades awarded to pupils this year.”

The moderation process has been widely criticised by opposition parties.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack described it as “disgraceful” and called the system as a “postcode lottery”

The Conservative MP said Swinney had shown “a lack of judgement”.

Scottish Labour are set to mount a no-confidence vote against Swinney in Holyrood with the Conservatives saying they will support it.

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Presiding officer Ken McIntosh explained that the motion would have to be debated if it is backed by 25 or more MSPs, but it would be an “expression of parliament’s opinion” and not legally binding.

Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories have a combined 54 MSPs.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens are yet to state whether they will support the motion.

The motion was tabled on Monday morning, meaning a debate is not likely to take place before Wednesday as MSPs are normally given two days’ notice ahead of a no-confidence vote.


Red Card: Football season at risk after Celtic violation

Boli Bolingoli travelled to Spain and failed to self-isolate upon return, before playing against Kilmarnock on Sunday.

Scottish Government in talks with Celtic over apparent Boli Bolingoli breach.

The Scottish Government warned it could halt the football season after Celtic player Boli Bolingoli breached quarantine rules.

The defender travelled to Spain and failed to self-isolate upon return, before playing against Kilmarnock on Sunday.

Spain is currently on the Scottish Government’s quarantine list, meaning those who travel to Scotland from the country have to self-isolate for 14 days.

The government is holding talks with Celtic and football authorities “to establish the facts”, but added if protocols have been broken “at the risk of wider public health” a pause on the game will be considered.

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The player himself, who was a late substitute in the 1-1 draw at Rugby Park, said: “I have made a huge mistake. I want to apologise to my manager, my team mates, the supporters, everyone at Celtic and so many others for letting them down so badly.

“I am guilty of a major error of judgement. I know what I did was wrong and I know that I must now deal with the consequences.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said it was “aware of reports of a Celtic FC player having broken quarantine rules last week”.

He added: “We are currently in discussion with the club and football governing bodies to establish the facts.

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“If confirmed as another serious incident within Scottish football, where protocols have been breached at the risk of wider public health, then the Scottish Government will have little choice but to consider whether a pause is now needed in the resumption of the game in Scotland.”

Bolingoli joined Celtic on a four-year deal from Rapid Vienna last summer but has struggled to force his way into the first team on a regular basis.

The Parkhead club said “a full investigation” will take place following the breach but added Bolingoli has recorded two negative tests since his return.

A spokesman said: “Celtic Football Club has taken its response to Covid-19 extremely seriously and we are pleased that, to date, we have recorded no positive tests.

“Our staff have given so much in this area, working tirelessly to ensure that all players and other club personnel are safe, fully aware of their own responsibilities and familiar with all guidance and protocols.

“Safety must always be our priority. Clearly, a full investigation will now take place and the Club will take all appropriate action.

“Subsequent to the player’s return he has recorded two negative tests in the past week.”

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Justice secretary Humza Yousaf described the player’s behaviour as “utterly unacceptable”.

He said the Scottish Government was “left with little choice but to consider whether pause is now needed in resumption of the game”.

Yousaf added: “Operational matter for Border Force and Police Scotland, I support whatever enforcement action they deem necessary.”

The breach comes after two Aberdeen players tested positive for Covid-19 – and a further six having to self-isolate due to close contact – following a visit to a bar in the city last Saturday.

The First Minister said the group “blatantly broke the rules” agreed by the Scottish FA, SPFL and Scottish Government.

Sam Cosgrove, Scott McKenna, Craig Bryson, Jonny Hayes, Bruce Anderson, Dylan McGeouch, Michael Devlin and Matty Kennedy, said they made a “huge error of judgement” in a statement.

Scotland loses 15,000 workers in three months of lockdown

A total of 124,000, 16-64 year-olds are now unemployed in Scotland.

The coronavirus lockdown has cost thousands of jobs so far in Scotland.

The number of workers in Scotland fell by 15,000 in the first three months of lockdown.

Around 11,000 of those who left their jobs between April and June are currently looking for work.

A total of 124,000 people aged 16-64 are now unemployed in Scotland – 4.5% of the workforce – according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Scotland shut down at the end of March in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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Large and small companies across the country have announced job losses in recent weeks.

A UK Government scheme which has helped pay wages while businesses are closed is due to end in October

The Scottish Government want it to be extended in a bid to save more jobs.

Business minister Jamie Hepburn said: “These statistics cover a full three months of lockdown measures before some businesses started to re-open, but still do not reflect the full impact of the pandemic on the labour market as the Job Retention Scheme is continuing to help support many people remain in employment.

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“We continue to call on the UK Government to extend the Job Retention Scheme, particularly for those hardest-hit sectors, for example travel, tourism and hospitality, which face significant long-term challenges likely to remain when the scheme ends in October.”

The UK-wide employment rate is now 3.9%, with around 730,000 fewer people in work since lockdown began.


Everyone Home: Organisation aims to end rough sleeping

Almost 30 charities and organisations will meet on Monday to discuss a route map designed to permanently end rough sleeping.

Homeless: Organisations aim to end rough sleeping.

Almost 30 organisations are coming together to help end rough sleeping in Scotland.

The groups, including several charities, will meet on Monday to discuss a route map designed to permanently end rough sleeping and destitution as the country emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The group, named Everyone Home, has agreed three priorities to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on homelessness. These are more homes, no return to rough sleeping and no evictions into homelessness.

The route map considers issues facing people who do not have access to the welfare benefits and housing options that are available normally in Scotland for people at risk of homelessness.

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This is described as having no recourse to public funds and most commonly affects people seeking asylum.

There are around 1600 destitute asylum migrants in Scotland, of whom around half are in Glasgow. A further group of 2050 destitute EEA migrants in Scotland are also at severe risk of destitution.

Chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC), Sabir Zazai, said: “People in the asylum system are forced into destitution due to the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) policy, a deliberate decision by the Home Office.

“Today’s route map provides a clear solution to prevent destitution. It is essential that the issues facing people with NRPF are part of mainstream housing policy.

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“For Scotland to eliminate rough sleeping, everyone, no matter their immigration status, must be protected and have access to a safe place to stay. Scotland has a proud history of welcoming and supporting people.”

The route map highlights how many people in Scotland are struggling due to UK legislation.

This can mean little or no money to meet basic needs, such as food, medicine or access to washing facilities.

Unesco chairwoman Alison Phipps said: “The death rates attributable to destitution and poverty are rising and well-documented. The voluntary sector is stretched to the limit financially and emotionally.

“This report from the collective is timely and urgently needed. It is time to value the analyses and to implement the deep structural change which will move vulnerable populations out of repeated crisis, and volunteers and workers out of emergency response mode.

Chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, Maggie Brunjes, added: “When the pandemic began to unfold in March rapid emergency support was provided to everyone who was destitute regardless of their immigration status.

“As we move into autumn there is a significant risk of people once again being forced onto the streets or into unsafe living arrangements, experiencing extreme poverty and at risk of exploitation and abuse – all the problems we were trying to deal with previously.”


Blockbuster: Engineer’s long road for Scotland’s first Lego kit

Michael Dineen was inspired to create the Forth Bridge from Lego after seeing it every day at work.

SWNS
Building block: Michael wants to create Scotland's first Lego kit.

As Michael Dineen worked on the new Queensferry Crossing, he would often look across the Forth to the rail bridge and wonder what it would look like as a Lego model.

The 42-year-old civil engineer from Clarkston, Glasgow says he thought it would be an interesting challenge to recreate the iconic Scottish structure using thousands of modelling bricks.

“When I first saw it, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to design it and build it to a reasonable scale,” he explains.

After discovering that the bridge hadn’t been made into an official Lego set before, Michael spent some time researching his idea.

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He discovered that if he managed to crack the design, he could pitch it to Lego and it could become an official set distributed by the company. 

With no other official Scottish kits on offer, Michael was determined to make his dream a reality.

“I spent three months buying countless pieces and trial and error of trying to get something to work,” he explains.

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“Because the bridge is essentially the same thing three times over, I had to get it right once then repeat it two more times.”

Michael used a unique approach to building the model by applying the same principles the original contractors would have taken when it was built in the 1880s.

This meant he had to build the model outwards from the main pillar equally on both sides to avoid it toppling over.

“Because it’s a balanced cantilever bridge, it does teach anyone building it the basic principles of why some bridges stay up,” he explains.

During the fourth month of construction, Michael discovered his model had even more in common with the real Forth bridge than he thought – as he had to hand paint hundreds of tiny Lego bricks to ensure everything was the same shade of dark red.

“You couldn’t make it up,” he laughs.

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“There’s a little piece that is four studs long and one stud wide which form the bridge deck.

“There are 240 of them and they don’t come in dark red.

“So I had to sit down with a tin of model paint and a very finely tipped paint brush and paint 240 individual pieces, which was painful.”

Once complete, the 30cm tall and 4.7 metre-wide model made of 3000 bricks took up most of his living room.

“I had to go into my lounge and move the furniture out of the way to build it.

“I was quite astounded at the size of it, I wasn’t expecting that.”

After completing the project, it went on display at Silverburn shopping centre and Central Train Station in Glasgow, featuring on the STV Productions programme Inside Central Station.

Now he’s campaigning for the model to become a piece of Lego history, by being the first official Scottish set.

“One of the most important things for me would be to be behind the first official Scottish Lego set,” Michael explains.

“Any Lego shop around the world doesn’t have anything that represents Scotland and it would be an incredible achievement to be the person behind the very first one.”

Michael has submitted his design to the company and needs 10,000 backers for Lego to look at his proposal.

With almost 7,000 backers so far, he’s keen for people to help support his ambition and achieve his goal. 

To support Michael’s Lego ambitions, head to the Lego Ideas website.


Woman, 91, arrested over crash that killed three-year-old boy

Xander Irvine died after being struck by a car in Edinburgh on June 30.

Police Scotland
Xander Irvine: Three-year-old died in hospital.

An elderly woman has been arrested after a three-year-old boy died in a crash.

Xander Irvine died in hospital after he was struck by a car in Edinburgh.

His 37-year-old mum Victoria was also injured in the collision outside St Columba’s Hospice shop on Morningside Road on June 30.

Police confirmed a 91-year-old woman was arrested on Monday in connection with the incident.

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A report will now be sent to the procurator fiscal.

In a statement released through Police Scotland at the time of his death, Xander’s family said: “Xander was a very happy, bubbly, intelligent little boy who was very dearly loved by his parents Victoria and Paul. 

“Xander was a real chatterbox who just loved books, playing with all sorts of vehicles and his Lego. 

“He really enjoyed life and he enriched the lives of everyone he met.

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“Xander will be so very sorely missed by them both and all his family and friends in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”


Girl, 12, who died in River Leven named by police

Ava Gray was pronounced dead at the scene on Sunday.

Ava Gray: Died in the River Leven on Sunday.

A young girl who died after getting into difficulty in the River Leven has been named.

Ava Gray, from Alexandria, was pronounced dead after being recovered from the water in West Dunbartonshire on Sunday.

The 12-year-old aspiring dancer was with two friends when the three of them got stuck in the river near Balloch Bridge at around 6.45pm.

Two of the youths, one boy and one girl, managed to get themselves out of the water and an extensive search for Ava was launched.

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She was discovered by emergency services just before 10pm.

Tributes have been paid to the Lennox Primary School pupil who has been described as a kind and popular child.

The school’s headteacher said: “The school and whole community are completely devastated by this tragedy and our thoughts are with Ava’s family and friends.

“Ava always had a smile and kind words to say and was popular with staff and fellow pupils. She will be greatly missed by us all.”

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And a spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council said: “We would like to extend our sincere sympathy to Ava’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

“Help and support will be offered to any pupils in our schools who need it following this tragic event.”

Her dance teacher Holly Douglas paid tribute on Facebook.

She said: “Words can’t describe the way I feel, Ava we all love you so so much you will never be forgotten at Full Out you will always be part of our team and our family.

“The world is a cruel place thinking of all the family right now.”

Police say there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.


Cyclist dies in hospital following collision with lorry

Rikki Gault died in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he was taken after the crash on Friday.

Rikki Gault: Died following crash.

A cyclist has died in hospital following a collision with a lorry in Aberdeenshire.

Rikki Gault was pronounced dead at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he was taken after the incident that took place in Banff on Friday.

The 30-year-old was on his bicycle when it collided with a lorry on Low Street at around 2.20pm.

Rikki’s family have requested privacy at this time however wished it known that “Rikki lived life to the full and will be sorely missed”.

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A report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.

Low Street was closed for around eight hours to allow for collision investigation work.

Police have asked anyone who witnessed the crash or seen either the lorry or the cyclist prior to the crash is asked to contact them on 101.


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