Social media giants ‘should do more’ to tackle online abuse

The Scottish Conservatives leader was on the campaign trail on Saturday.

Douglas Ross: Calling on social media companies to tackle abuse. Jane Barlow via PA Media
Douglas Ross: Calling on social media companies to tackle abuse.

Douglas Ross has called on social media giants to do more to tackle online abuse.

The Scottish Conservatives leader was on the campaign trail with the party’s Renfrewshire South candidate, Derek Stillie, the ex-Aberdeen, Dunfermline and Dundee United goalkeeper, on Saturday.

He claimed he is boycotting social media until Monday to send a message to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that they need to take stronger action against discrimination.

Ross, who is also a referee, said: “This campaign has united the football and the wider sports community.

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“Across the usual divides, teams and organisations have come together to take a stand.

“In the last Old Firm game, we saw Celtic players stand alongside Glen Kamara after the appalling abuse he suffered and I’m sure that will continue in Sunday’s game and in the future.

“There is a firm consensus across our game that the social media giants need to step up and do more to tackle online abuse. Just this week we heard from David Cox and Marvin Bartley about how devastating it can be for people’s mental health.

“It will only change if we all call it out, and I’m pleased to be able to play my small part in doing so.”

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A social media boycott started on Friday afternoon as athletes, clubs and governing bodies from a range of sports joined forces to send a message that online abuse will not be tolerated.

All those involved – including broadcasters and sponsors with links to sport – have proposed a near-total blackout on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels from 3pm on Friday until 11.59pm on Monday night.

The sport’s authorities kicked off the boycott plans last Saturday night, in response to a rising tide of online hate aimed at players, managers and pundits.

Woman dies after exclusion error from screening programme

Around 430 women were wrongly excluded from the Scottish programme are now being given fast-tracked appointments.

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Todd offered her "heartfelt apologies" to the excluded women who went on to develop cancer.

A woman has died after being incorrectly excluded from the Scottish cervical screening programme.

Women’s heath minister Maree Todd has now issued condolences to the family of the woman, who died from cervical cancer.

In a statement, the Scottish Government said around 430 women who were wrongly excluded from the programme over the last 24 years are now being offered fast-tracked appointments with GP practices or gynaecology services following an urgent review of cases

They also confirmed that a national review is taking place of everyone who has been excluded from the screening programme.

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Todd offered her “heartfelt apologies” to the excluded women who went on to develop cancer.

The Government said that an issue came to light during a routine audit of cervical cancer data in a single NHS Health Board.

This found that a small number of women had been excluded from the programme some years ago following a hysterectomy, but had unfortunately subsequently developed cervical cancer, the Government said.

“I offer my heartfelt apologies in particular to the women who were excluded from the programme who went on to develop cancer, and to their families.”

Maree Todd, women’s health minister

Todd said: “I want to offer my condolences to the family of the woman who we now know died from cervical cancer after being excluded from the screening programme.

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“These exclusions from the cervical screening programme should not have happened and I want to apologise to all those affected by this error. 

“I offer my heartfelt apologies in particular to the women who were excluded from the programme who went on to develop cancer, and to their families.

“Anyone whose records indicate they may have had a sub-total hysterectomy after 1997 and been wrongly excluded from screening will have received a letter or be in the process of receiving one within the next few days and will be offered an appointment appropriate to their individual circumstances.”

Todd said that funding is being provided by the Scottish Government to the charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

“While some exclusions have been wrongly applied across Scotland, the vast majority will have been applied correctly and additional control measures have been put in place to prevent any new exclusions from being applied incorrectly,” said Todd.

“It is important to stress that the overall risk of developing cervical cancer remains low and people should not be unduly alarmed.

“The Scottish Government is providing funding to the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to ensure its helpline is appropriately resourced and available for anyone seeking support or reassurance. 

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“There is no need for anyone who does not receive a letter to take any action but it remains important for everyone, whether affected by this issue or not, to be alert for symptoms of cervical cancer and contact your GP practice if you have any. Further information on symptoms can be found on NHS inform.”

“This is a serious public health failure.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Labour health and social care spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “This an extremely serious situation and our thoughts are with the women who have been affected.

“The truth is we do not yet know the full scale of this error but it could impact on many more women than the 220 excluded from the screening programme since 1997. 

“It is, of course, critical that women are contacted urgently and offered information and support.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “This is a serious public health failure. It will be deeply alarming news to women across the country and it is a tragic reminder of the importance of robust screening programmes.

“The government must do whatever it takes to quickly identify and contact every woman who may have been affected and guarantee that anyone who is worried can access advice and support without delay.

“We also need to know how these screening errors went undetected for so long and escaped the eye of audit after audit.”

Scottish Greens health and social care spokesperson Gillian Mackay said: “The government has said that women who have received total hysterectomies should not contact health services but wait to see if they are contacted.

“This will be an extremely anxious time for any woman who has received a hysterectomy. It’s therefore essential that this work is carried out at pace and all those affected are contacted urgently.”


Man screamed at wife to ‘lock door’ when neighbour fatally shot

Gary More, 32, was gunned down just yards from his doorstep in Airdrie, South Lanarkshire, on September 6, 2018.

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Murdered: Gary More, 32, was fatally shot in September 2018.

A man recalled slumping to the ground after his neighbour was fatally shot outside his home.

Steven Whitelaw told how he yelled on his wife to “lock the door” as friend Gary More was gunned down in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, on September 6, 2018.

The 35-year-old eventually went to Mr More’s aid, but knew he was so badly hurt, the gym owner would not survive.

Mr Whitelaw also described CCTV footage of a gunman appearing to run towards the 32-year-old’s home that night as “horrific to watch”.

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The funeral director was giving evidence at the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday.

Neil Anderson, 45, is on trial accused of acting with others in murdering Mr More.

Mr Whitelaw said Mr More was a friend and neighbour with both having a shared interest in boxing.

Prosecutor Liam Ewing QC quizzed the witness on the day of the shooting.

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Mr Ewing asked: “What was the first thing that alerted you to the fact the situation was not normal?”

The witness responded: “When I heard the bangs outside the property.”

The advocate depute asked: “What was it you heard?”

Mr Whitelaw said: “I can only describe it like a firework.

“I looked out and just fell to the ground. It was just the noise. I shouted on my wife to lock the door.”

When Mr Whitelaw then decided to go out, he said another man was heading towards him.

Mr Whitelaw said he had seen this individual eating a bag of chips and chatting to Mr More earlier.

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This man then gave Mr Whitelaw a “wee cheap” phone to dial 999.

Asked what then happened, the witness went on: “I remember putting Gary into the recovery position.

“However, due to the extent of his injuries, I knew in myself that Gary was not going to make it.”

Mr Ewing then said: “It must have seemed like a very long time before medical assistance and police arrived?”

Mr Whitelaw responded: “It seemed like a lifetime.”

The prosecutor asked him was he aware the ambulance crew had initially “stayed some distance away” from the scene.

Mr Whitelaw said he was not.

Mr Whitelaw later agreed with Anderson’s QC Donald Findlay what happened was a “scary experience”.

He was shown CCTV footage of the street prior to the shooting.

The court heard this featured a car pulling up, an individual getting out with what appeared to be a gun, heading towards Mr More’s home before going back in the motor.

Asked at one point by Mr Findlay what he saw, Mr Whitelaw replied: “I do not know. I just shut my eyes. This is horrific to watch, to be honest.”

Anderson along with 37-year-old David Anderson is separately accused of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner towards Mr More by attending his home, threatening him and demanding money.

The Andersons further face an allegation of being concerned in the supply of drugs between March and September 2018.

The offences are said to be aggravated by a connection to organised crime.

Both Andersons deny the allegations they each face.

The trial, before judge Lord Mulholland, continues.


Covid cases linked to people who ‘travelled to London’

NHS Grampian said it expects the 'number to rise in the coming days'.

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London: Thousands of Scotland fans travelled down south for the England game.

A “small number” of coronavirus cases in the north-east of Scotland have been linked to people who “travelled to London in recent days”.

NHS Grampian said it expects the “number to rise in the coming days”.

The new cases follow the Scotland vs England match at Wembley Stadium in London last week.

Thousands of Scotland fans flocked down south to watch the Euro 2020 game, which ended 0-0, despite warnings to stay away if they didn’t have a match ticket or a safe place to watch it.

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With Trafalgar Square reserved as a fan zone for key workers only, the Tartan Army instead rallied in the likes of Leicester Square and at Hyde Park.

On Thursday it was revealed that five deaths and 2999 coronavirus cases were recorded in Scotland overnight – the second day in a row the case number has hit a record high.

Lothian topped the table with 823 cases, closely followed by 702 in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region.

Two hundred of the cases were in the Grampian health board region.

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A total of 661 cases have been reported in the area over the last seven days, representing 112.9 cases per 100,000 of the population.

A spokesperson for NHS Grampian said: “In Grampian we are aware of a small number of cases of Covid-19 affecting people who travelled to London in recent days.  

“We expect this number to rise in the coming days.” 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said the vaccination programme is breaking the link between cases and the number of serious illnesses from Covid-19.

But she cautioned that a rise in cases will still put “huge pressure” on the NHS and “cause suffering and loss”.


‘My late mum inspired me to take World’s Strongest Man title’

Tom Stoltman from Invergordon won the prestigious accolade in Sacramento, California at the weekend.

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Inspiration: Tom (right) was cheered on by brother Luke (left), who also made the final of the competition.

The first Scot to take the title of the World’s Strongest man says his late mother was the inspiration that pushed him to succeed.

Tom Stoltman from Invergordon is now back home in Easter Ross after winning the prestigious accolade in Sacramento, California at the weekend.

The 27-year-old said: “In 2018 I wrote down that I was going to win the title in three years – my mum Sheila had passed away the year before.

“She was always my biggest fan, I said to her that I would win it. It drove me to be the best. Throughout the competition, I had her in my mind, she gave me that extra drive.

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“She would be over the moon, she was at every single competition, she made us T-shirts when we were competing.

“She will be up there smiling.”

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Tom (right) and Luke (left) are delighted to be the World’s Strongest brothers

Tom, who has autism, says the regular and regimented routine of eating, training and sleeping each day is ideal for him and he is determined to show that nothing can stop people achieving their dreams.

He said: “I want to get autism out there. I used to hold it in and I really struggled, ever since I started training for strongman competitions I wanted to make sure I was not a label. I used it as a superpower.

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“In life, you are going to have hurdles but you will get over them. I wear it on my sleeve and I want to try to be the best ambassador I can for autism.”

The heavyweight consumes around 10,000 calories a day and can lift a weight equivalent to a grand piano. 

He is sharing in his success with his older brother Luke, who also reached the final of the competition, and together they are officially the World’s Strongest Brothers.

It was a pep talk from his older brother that helped gear Tom up for the final moments when he was quickest to lift his last Atlas Stone, with just seconds to spare against his US rival, four-time winner Brian Shaw.

The emotional moment when the brothers embraced after Tom’s historic victory was captured online and watched by sports fans around the world.

Luke said: “I finished my last round and I ran to Tom just before he started the final. I started shouting ‘You are the best in the world, this is your legacy!’  

“Tom said he got scared when he saw me coming in like a juggernaut,” he laughed.  

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“He will always be my baby brother, we have that unconditional love and I couldn’t be prouder of him.

“The instant he realised he won, his face, it took him a couple of seconds – getting to have that embrace, that bond we have it is pretty unique. Not many people in the sporting world can do this with their siblings and I am very blessed.”

Now big things are looming for both brothers.

They are planning to host The Stoltman Games in 2022 in their hometown of Invergordon, bringing the top dozen of the strongest men on the planet to the Highlands to create a legacy in the sport.

Both Tom and Luke are also passionate advocates for speaking out about autism and mental health issues and will soon star in their own documentary, due to be shown on Netflix next year.

In the meantime, Tom will need to wait a while before showing off his trophy to those back home, after it broke in transit coming back from the US.

He said: “As soon as I landed the case it was in smashed. It is getting fixed as I speak. I will soon have it with me everywhere I go. I will be sleeping with it!”


COP26 will see 10,000 police officers on the street every day

The massive security operation will involve local policing officers from each of Scotland's 13 divisions and specialist resources.

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Some 10,000 police officers will be deployed each day during COP26 in Glasgow.

Some 10,000 police officers will be deployed in Glasgow each day during the COP26 climate conference taking place in the city later this year.

The massive security operation – one of the largest police operations ever undertaken in Britain – will involve local policing officers from each of Scotland’s 13 divisions and specialist resources including firearms officers, dog handlers, mounted branch, search teams and the marine unit.

Officers from across the UK will support the operation as part of mutual aid arrangements

COP26, the United Nations 26th Conference of the Parties, is an annual summit organised by the UN where world leaders and thousands of delegates come together to tackle climate change issues.

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This year’s event takes place from October 31 to November 12 at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow.

Deputy chief constable Will Kerr said: “COP26 will see world leaders, delegates, businesses, civil society groups and activists from all over the world come to Glasgow to discuss the future of our planet and take action on climate change.

“This is a significant operation for any police service and will involve one of the biggest mobilisation of police assets the UK has ever seen.

“Police Scotland has a long history of policing major events from the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships, to G8 and state visits. COP26 is no exception and we look forward to playing our part in this historic event.”

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Kerr also issued a warning to “the small minority of people who may be intent on violent disorder or causing damage that we will deal with them swiftly and robustly”.

He added: “As part of our operation, we will implement a variety of security measures to ensure that people living in, working in, or visiting Glasgow feel safe.

“Police counter-terrorist security advisors are already assessing venues and other locations associated with the event to consider any risks.“A range of specialist police units will be deployed as part of the security operation, including armed officers, mounted police, the marine unit, road policing and air support.

“We will have visible security measures in place such as CCTV, hostile vehicle barriers, and specialist search officers and dogs will be searching key locations.”

COP26 has been described as the most significant international meeting on climate change since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Discussing the event during Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee in March, assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins said the scale of the summit means officers from other forces in the UK will need to be brought in under Police Scotland’s command.

The potential arrival of world leaders like US President Biden and Pope Francis could escalate the event significantly, he said.

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Man facing terrorist charges diagnosed with Asperger’s

Richard Smith is charged with a number of offences alleged to have occurred in Aberdeen.

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Court: Richard Smith is charged with a number of offences.

Lawyers for a man accused of planning to carry out terrorist acts have to examine more than one million pages of documents, a court heard.

Richard Smith is charged with a number of offences said to have occurred between August 2018 and November 2019 at different addresses in Aberdeen.

Prosecutors claim the 28-year-old “with the intention of carrying out acts of terrorism” did “engage in conduct” in the preparation of them.

This includes a claim he allegedly stated “all Muslims must die”.

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A hearing called at the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday. Smith – who denies the charges – was not present.

His QC said he is still not ready for a trial to be set.

Ronnie Renucci, defending, told the hearing: “There is a mountain of evidence – over one million pages of material.

“There are certain matters that need to be investigated.”

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The advocate said a cybercrime expert had been instructed to examine information on 47 discs currently being held by police.

Mr Renucci also said Smith had recently been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum and has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Prosecutor Mark McGuire told the court the Crown remain ready for trial.

Lord Matthews adjourned the case until a further hearing in August.

Smith originally appeared via video link at the high court last December.

It is said Smith possessed and made explosive substances.

He also allegedly had material which did “advance anti-Muslim, Neo-Nazi and other racist causes”.

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Smith is also said to have possessed details on the use of chemical agents as weapons as well as the manufacture of explosives and firearms.

He faces a separate charge of having information on a number of electronic devices and discs linked to terrorism.

This included the “practice of guerrilla warfare and paramilitary survival”.

Both these charges are under the Terrorism Act 2000 or 2006.

Smith is further accused of sending an offensive text to a relative allegedly claiming “all Muslims must die”.

It is claimed he sent Nazi-related images and messages as well as violent videos to another man.

Smith also faces allegations under the Explosive Substances Act and the Poisons Act.


Sturgeon pressed for answers over future of school exams

Nicola Sturgeon said there is a ‘debate’ about the role of exams and continuous assessment systems in determining qualifications.

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Douglas Ross said the assessments are ‘the best and fairest way for young people to show what they know and what they can do’.

Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire at Holyrood after she refused to say if schoolchildren will sit exams next year – or whether her Government could scrap the traditional assessments.

Exams were cancelled this year and last due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the First Minister said ministers will monitor the situation with the virus over the summer before announcing in August if they will take place in 2022.

She added that experts at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will submit a report to ministers that same month, which will “help to inform” decisions on the future of exams.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Sturgeon said “there is a debate in Scotland right now about what the correct balance between traditional exams and continuous assessment is”.

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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross challenged her on that issue, saying: “After being in government for 14 years, First Minister for seven, and having pledged education would be her number one priority, I think people across Scotland will expect the First Minister to be able to say if she is for or against exams.”

Sturgeon stressed there is a need to “get all of this right” as she said ministers have to carefully consider the place of “traditional exams” within the “future of qualifications”.

She added: “No decisions have been taken around that.”

Ross cited comments from education expert Professor Lindsay Paterson that it is “unlikely that a system that relied wholly on coursework would ever command public confidence”.

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The Scottish Conservative leader urged the First Minister not to ditch traditional school assessments.

“Scottish Conservatives firmly believe that traditional exams are the best and fairest way for young people to show what they know and what they can do,” he said.

“Her Government no longer seems to value the traditions that have served us well, that helped the First Minister and I get from a great local school to this Parliament.

“Our education system has always been distinct, it is uniquely our own, a cornerstone of what makes us Scottish.

“If the SNP remove the focus on fundamentals, if they stop valuing core knowledge, if they ditch exams, isn’t her Government abandoning the very things that made Scotland’s schools great?”

Sturgeon said exams “are important”, but the “most important principle” is for the country to “have a robust and respected system for awarding qualifications to young people”.

She added: “We have asked the OECD to do further work, they will report to us in August, we will take account of all of that and this Parliament then will have the opportunity to debate this.”

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The exchanges came as youngsters across Scotland are preparing to find out what grades they have been awarded for qualifications based on teacher assessments.

While the Scottish Qualifications Authority is to be scrapped, Sturgeon said she still has “confidence” in the work it is currently doing “around the certification of national qualifications”.


Dozens of new shops open after £1bn St James revamp

First phase of the St James Quarter in Edinburgh opens on Thursday after a five-year transformation.

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Edinburgh’s revamped St James shopping centre has reopened after five years of construction.

More than 40 stores began welcoming customers on Thursday morning, as did new cafes and restaurants.

The £1bn development – to open in stages over the next 18 months – will also eventually boast hotels, flats, a cinema and spaces to host public events.

Here’s everything you need to know about the St James Quarter.

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What’s inside?

Lots of brands are opening Scottish stores for the first time, such as & Other Stories, Stradivarius, Bershka and Pull & Bear.

There’s also a host of big fashion brands such as Calvin Klein, Carvela, Kurt Geiger and Tommy Hilfiger.

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Inside the transformed shopping centre.

And there’s plenty of well known high-street names with H&M, Next, Boots, JD Sport, Superdrug, The Body Shop and Zara all opening new branches.

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Meanwhile, Lego is unveiling an Edinburgh-themed mosaic, while Iolla will offer an “experimental and interactive” showroom.

And the John Lewis department store remains where it’s always been.

Can I have a full list of businesses opening today please?

Of course you can.

Here goes: Artisan Roast, Churros Baby, & Other Stories, Bank of Scotland, Bershka, Boots, Calvin Klein, Carvela, Dune, EE, Five Guys, Goldsmiths, Harajuki Kitchen, H&M, Hotel Chocolat, Iolla, JD Sport, John Lewis, Keihl’s, Krispy Kreme, Kurt Geiger, L’Occitane, Lane 7, Lego, Mac Man, Mango, Miele, Next, O2, Omega/Breitling, Pandora, Peloton, Pull & Bear, Rituals, Russell & Bromley, Salerno, Sky, Sook, Starbucks, Stradivarius, Superdrug, The Body Shop, The Perfume Shop, Three, Tommy Hilfiger, Tortilla, Zara.

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The finishing touches were being put together on Wednesday.

What’s that on top?

That’s the ‘golden ribbon’, a walnut whip-style topping to the 244-bedroom W Edinburgh hotel due to open later.

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It’s not been met with universal approval, having been given some rather choice nicknames by those who opposed it.

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The ‘golden ribbon’ hotel.

How big is the St James Quarter?

Pretty big – 850,000 sq ft to be precise.

It’s been built using 17,378 tonnes of steel and has taken an estimated 2.8 million working hours so far.

13 cranes have been used to reshape the capital’s skyline, with some towering 88m above the city streets.

Tell me about the flats and cinema

The St James Quarter will eventually feature 152 flats, known as ‘New Eidyn apartments from Native Land’.

Residents have been promised “stunning views” from their ‘gardens in the sky’ and a concierge service.

They won’t come cheap, though, with some flats expected to cost more than £1m.

As for the cinema, once the “boutique” five-screen Everyman opens, film lovers will be able to kick back in “indulgent” sofas to enjoy the latest releases.

St James Quarter via Contributed
The £1bn St James Quarter opened for business on Thursday.

‘A momentous occasion’

The St James Quarter is opening a year later than originally planned – a delay blamed on the pandemic.

Director of development Martin Perry said the reopening on Thursday was “just the beginning”.

He said: “The brands and experience that we have welcomed today demonstrate our commitment to delivering a curated destination for the people of Edinburgh.

“We are now looking forward to continuing on our journey to deliver a truly mixed-use destination of the future as we welcome more brands, leisure, and our new neighbours.”


William and Kate’s royal train tour cost almost £48,000

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Edinburgh during the three-day trip shortly before Christmas.

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Trip: Royal tour cost taxpayers almost £48,000.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s country-wide tour on the royal train cost the taxpayer almost £48,000, royal accounts have revealed.

William and Kate travelled 1250 miles by rail after setting off from London a few weeks before Christmas last year, to thank communities, outstanding individuals and key workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

The couple made stops in Edinburgh, Manchester, Berwick, Batley, Cardiff and Bath Spa and ended their three-day tour by visiting the Queen at Windsor Castle.

The cost of the train is met by the taxpayer and has long been controversial, with the service nearly scrapped in 2013 when it was feared the rolling stock would have to be replaced.

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During the Golden Jubilee year of 2002, the train’s journeys cost £872,000.

Royal accounts revealed the Cambridges’ journey cost £47,965 and the monarchy only made a handful of major royal trips due to the pandemic.

The most expensive was the Prince of Wales’ charter flight in October to Kuwait to pay his condolences following the death of the country’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, at a cost of £58,993.

The overall cost for royal travel during 2020-21 was £3.2m, down by £2.1m on the previous financial year, but despite the reduced number of trips a significant amount of the funds was used for leasing payments for the transportation.

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The cost of helicopters was £2.1m, including operating lease payments of £600,000, large and small fixed wing aircraft cost £100,000 each, rail travel was £700,000, which included lease payments of £200,000, and vehicles £200,000.


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