Some school pupils back in classroom from next Monday

Nursery children, primary 1-3 pupils and senior high school students will begin phased return to the classroom on February 22.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Some of Scotland’s pupils will resume face-to-face teaching from next Monday as part of a phased return to school.

Primaries one, two and three will return to class full-time from February 22, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Parliament.

Nursery children are also set to go back on that date, along with some senior pupils facing assessments in S4-S6 on a part-time basis.

The First Minister said: “This first phase of the reopening of schools will go ahead as planned on Monday.


“I want to be clear, though, that the need to properly assess the impact of this limited reopening means we think it unlikely, at this stage, that there will be any further return to school before 15 March.

“As we consider these issues, we are of course doing everything we can to ensure that schools are as safe as possible for children, and for the education workforce.” 

The First Minister also said at-home lateral flow tests will be made available to senior phase pupils, teachers and school staff twice a week as part of a wider package of in-school mitigations

She said: “Senior secondary pupils will be required to observe two-metre physical distancing while in school and on school transport in the period immediately after the return and we are also publishing today updated school safety guidance developed with the Education Recovery Group – this sets out a range of additional safety mitigations and to help implement them we will be providing local authorities and schools with an additional £40m as part of a wider £100m package to accelerate school recovery.”


Sturgeon appealed to employers to continue allowing employees to work from home even if their children are back at school, and urged parents not to socialise at school gates for fear of spreading coronavirus.

Speaking to MSPs in Holyrood, she said the return to schools for some pupils from Monday must only be treated as “a return to education for children only, and not as a return to greater normality for the rest of us”.

She said: “If we all do that, then I am hopeful that this return to school will be consistent with our continued progress in suppressing the virus.

“And if that does prove to be the case, I am optimistic that we will soon be able to set out the next phase in the journey back to school for young people.”

Almost all pupils have been learning at home since the Christmas holidays under the current lockdown restrictions.

Only the children of key workers have been able to go to school, while this year’s exams have been cancelled for older pupils.

Other lockdown rules, such as the stay at home law, will remain in place until at least the beginning of March and possibly longer.


Sturgeon said: “If we open up too quickly to meet arbitrary dates we do risk setting our progress back.

“Indeed, because of the new, more-infectious variant, our exit from lockdown is likely to be even more cautious than it was last summer.”

Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said it is “very welcome news that schools will soon be able to start opening again safely in the near future”, adding that it “is important to get all key workers vaccinated as early as we can, while respecting the JCVI recommendations”.

She said: “We asked the First Minister for answers on behalf of key workers, including teachers, who want to know when they will get the vaccine for both their own health and their close contacts.

“The response was short on detail and didn’t clear anything up. We need answers to be outlined soon for the key workers keeping our schools and public services running safely.”

The Scottish Greens echoed those sentiments, saying teachers should be prioritiesed in the next vaccination phase.

Scottish Greens parliamentary co-leader Alison Johnstone said: “While the return to school will be good for our young people’s education and wellbeing, it must be as safe as possible.

“That means ensuring that schools are well ventilated and not overcrowded if safe distancing cannot be maintained. Vitally, if schools are to be the first things to return to normal then it stands to reason teachers and other school staff should be prioritised in the next vaccinations phase after clinical needs are met.”

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers, said significant concerns over school safety remain to be addressed. 

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Everyone is supportive of face-to-face teaching returning as soon as possible – that should not override safety concerns, however, and teachers will be understandably nervous around today’s announcement.

“Community infection levels have fallen but still remain high in areas such as North Lanarkshire and at 6% the test positivity rate in Scotland remains above the level that the World Health Organisation recommends as indicative of the virus being under control.

“Against this backdrop, the EIS continues to believe that a blended learning model, with around half of pupils in classes at any one time to allow for physical distancing, would have provided a more cautious and more appropriate basis for pupils returning to schools.”

Meanwhile, parent group UsForThem Scotland said that while Tuesday’s announcement was partially welcome, it would be of no consolation to parents of older pupils.

Organiser Jo Bisset said: “Now that the green light has been given to the first tranche, we hope the Scottish Government will urgently set out a road map for all other pupils to go back.  

“Online learning doesn’t work and blended learning is a farce. Without a full return to normal school, an enormous amount of damage will be done to tens of thousands of Scottish children.  

“We appreciate these aren’t easy decisions for the First Minister to make, but we ask her to consider the balance of harm. Every week that goes by in isolation for young people is causing more damage now and storing up significant trouble for the future.”

Anas Sarwar wins Scottish Labour leadership election

The Glasgow MSP beat Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon to succeed Richard Leonard.

Fraser Bremner via Getty Images
Sarwar said it was the honour of his life to take on the role.

Anas Sarwar has beaten Monica Lennon to become the next leader of Scottish Labour.

Sarwar said it was the honour of his life to take on the role.

Cara Hilton, chair of the Scottish Labour party, announced the result on Saturday.

The ballot closed on Friday, February 26, with Sarwar winning 57.56% of the vote.


The Glasgow MSP won over 61% of votes cast by party members, but received slightly less support from affiliated supporters than Lennon.

Sarwar said: “It is greatest honour of my to be elected leader of the Scottish Labour party.

“Thank you to our members and affiliates for putting your trust in me and giving me the opportunity to serve our movement.

“And thank you to Monica for joining me in what has been positive campaign that has shown the best of our party, not the worst of our politics.


“I want to say directly to the people of Scotland. I know Labour has a lot of work to do to win back your trust because if we’re brutally honest, you haven’t had the Scottish Labour Party you deserve.

“Today we have elected the first ever ethnic minority leader of a political party in the UK.

“That doesn’t say something about me. That says something great about Scotland and its people.”

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “Huge congratulations to Anas on his election as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. I look forward to working with him to secure our economy, protect our NHS and rebuild our country.”

“We will fight the Scottish Parliamentary elections by making the case for a socially just Scotland in a modern United Kingdom. Under his leadership, Scottish Labour will focus on what unites us – not what divides us.

“I know Anas will do the hard work that is necessary to win back the trust of the Scottish people and build for the future as we emerge from this pandemic.“

Lennon thanked Sarwar for the “positive” leadership battle.


She said: “I want to thank Anas Sarwar and his team for making this a positive debate. My own team of volunteers have been awesome. I’m grateful to everyone who has taken part and taken an interest.”

Ms Hilton thanked former leader Richard Leonard, interim leader Jackie Baillie and party staff and volunteers for their work.

She thanked both candidates saying: “At every stage of this election you’ve shown Scottish Labour at its very best.”

“The odds are stacked against us in this election.

“Now is the time, comrades, to come together… Scotland is ready for change, let’s deliver that.”

A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI for STV News this week projected the SNP to increase its share of the vote by nine, winning 72 of the 129 seats, giving the government a majority of 15.

The poll also showed the Scottish Conservatives coming in second second with 26 seats and Scottish Labour third on 17, with the Scottish Greens on nine and the Scottish Liberal Democrats on five.

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “Many congratulations to Anas Sarwar on becoming the new leader of Scottish Labour.

“The SNP remains willing to work with any party to oppose Tory austerity, protect our Parliament from a Tory power grab, and stand up for our place in Europe – however Mr Sarwar has, perhaps, an impossible job on his hands breathing life into a party with no new ideas, ambition or vision for Scotland.”

Sturgeon did not breach ministerial code, Blackford says

Former first minister Alex Salmond said in evidence his successor broke ministerial rules, but stopped short of calling for her to resign.

Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA via PA Wire
The First Minister will give evidence to the inquiry next week.

Nicola Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code, Ian Blackford has claimed, as he refused to say if the First Minister should step down if he is proven wrong.

The SNP leader has been accused of misleading parliament over when she knew about allegations of harassment made against her predecessor, Alex Salmond.

Sturgeon told MSPs she first learned of the claims at a meeting in her home with Salmond on April 2, 2018, but it later emerged she had been told four days earlier by his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein at a meeting in her office, which she claimed to have forgotten.

During a six-hour evidence session before the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints looking into the botched handling of claims made against him on Friday, Salmond repeatedly said, under oath, that Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, but stopped short of saying she should stand down.


The First Minister referred herself for investigation to James Hamilton QC, an independent adviser on the ministerial code.

Despite calls for the First Minister to stand down if she is found to have breached the code, SNP Westminster leader Blackford has thrown his support behind his party leader.

“She’s made it clear on a number of occasions that she does not believe she has broken the ministerial code,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday.

“I believe that to be the case as well, this will be put to bed, and we will be able to move on from it to make sure we are dealing with the Covid crisis in the right way, and we’re having that discussion about what Scotland’s future is.


“I and my party have full confidence in the First Minister leading us to that destination of Scotland becoming an independent country.”

He added: “Yesterday was supposed to be a seminal day in this inquiry where the former first minister was going to bring forward evidence of a conspiracy – by his own admission, there is no evidence of a conspiracy by the First Minister against him.

“I think we’ve had a number of false dawns in this whole spectacle and I do not believe under any circumstances, under any determination, that the First Minister has broken the ministerial code.”

Blackford also refused to say whether Sturgeon should resign if she is found to have broken the rules, describing the question as “hypothetical”.

“Mud has been thrown around by political opponents over the course of the last few months,” he said.

“There is no evidence that has been brought forward that the First Minister has broken the ministerial code or indeed has engaged in any kind of conspiracy.”

When asked specifically about the accusation she misled parliament over when she knew about the allegations, Blackford said there was “no recollection” of the meeting with Geoff Aberdein and she corrected the record when she remembered.


Blackford added: “I think the public will look upon this and wonder what on earth is going on – we’re talking about a minor difference in dates for that first meeting.

“I think anybody that is in senior office… is holding multiple meetings on a daily basis, and to be able to remember in minute detail the exact date of a meeting…

“The fact is there has been no conspiracy, the First Minister has not sought to mislead anybody over this whole saga, and that will be demonstrated next week when the First Minister appears before the committee.”

Two arrested after injured teen found in critical condition

A 15-year-old was taken to hospital after police found him seriously hurt in the Thornliebank area.

© Google Maps 2020
Boydstone Road, Thornliebank.

Two people have been arrested after a teenage boy was found seriously injured in Thornliebank.

Police were called to a report of a disturbance on Boydstone Road at around 11.10pm on Friday night, where they discovered the hurt 15-year-old.

The teenager was taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) where he is in a critical condition.

ScotRail suspended services at Thornliebank station this morning, with trains running between Pollokshaws West and Giffnock passing through without stopping.


Disruption cause by the police dealing with the incident has now ended and services have returned to normal.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 11.10pm on Friday, February 26, 2021, police received a report of a disturbance in Boydstone Road. 

“Officers attended and found a 15-year-old male seriously injured.

“He was taken to the QEUH where he remains in a critical condition. Two people have been arrested in connection with the incident.”

Trainspotting at 25: Impact of 90s cult classic movie

Trainspotting was released in 1996 and has been hailed as one of the most important 'anti-drugs' movies ever made.

STV News

It’s been 25 years since Trainspotting hit the big screen, in what has been hailed as the “biggest anti-drugs message there has ever been”.

The novel by Irvine Welsh about a group of heroin addicts in Edinburgh made the transition from page to screen thanks to director Danny Boyle, who chose up-and-coming actor Ewan McGregor as the film’s protagonist Mark Renton.

The movie also starred Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Kevin McKidd and Kelly McDonald and went on to become the highest-grossing British film in 1996.

While Trainspotting’s gritty portrayal of drug addiction received praise for its realism, some critics slammed the movie for ‘glamorising’ drug taking.

STV News
Ewan McGregor at the 1996 premiere of Trainspotting in Glasgow

However, star Ewan McGregor disagreed, speaking to STV during the film’s premiere in Glasgow.

He said: “Oh I think it’s undeniably an anti-drugs movie really. It’s certainly not telling people to do drugs.”

Trainspotting quickly became a cult classic and has been regularly thought of as one of the best British films in recent years, with a sequel released in 2017 reuniting most of the original cast. 

However, the social impact of the film has left a lasting legacy for those battling drug addiction in Scotland. 


Before the movie began shooting, the cast would visit Calton Athletic Recovery Group in Glasgow to learn more about addiction from service users.

Davie Main, who overcame addiction with the help of the group and is now director, said the cast were surprised by the honesty of service users who spoke of their experiences with them.

He said: “Danny appeared with Ewan McGregor, we had a self-help meeting where people share their experiences getting involved in drink and drugs and they also talked about their story coming back out of that to help inspire other people. 

“They couldn’t believe the honesty of people sharing their experiences, not just with addiction but with alcoholism, what it had done to their families, what it had done to their communities and that’s what Trainspotting went on to illustrate when the movie eventually came out.”

STV News
Director Danny Boyle joined the cast at Calton Athletic Recovery Group to hear service users experiences.

The Calton Athletic football team also appeared in the opening scene, playing against the main cast members, although Davie recalls the cast weren’t particularly good at the sport.

“We used to play football, in the opening scene that was a wee thing to introduce Calton Athletic but none of them could play football, apart from Bobby Carlyle. 

“A lot of the people involved in the clubs started to become extras in the movie.”


A number of service users were invited to the premiere of the film, which raised £20,000 for the recovery group.

Davie said the money has helped to save thousands of lives.

Davie added: “You think of all the people of Calton Athletic and their backgrounds, to be involved in something that went on to be, in our view, the biggest anti-drug message there has ever been and I don’t think anything has come near that. 

“It allowed people to realise that there is life after addiction. Without the help of Trainspotting, this would never have been achievable.”

Man in hospital after serious assault near high school

A 38-year-old remains in a stable condition after police responded to the incident in Grangemouth.

Tinto Drive, Grangemouth.

A man has been seriously injured in an assault on a street in Grangemouth.

At around 4am on Saturday, police responded to a report of a serious assault near Grangemouth High School on Tinto Drive.

A 38-year-old man was found to have suffered a serious injury and an ambulance took him to Forth Valley Hospital where he remains in a stable condition.

Police said that officers are continuing their enquiries into the incident.


A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 4am on Saturday, 27 February, we received a report of a serious assault in Tinto Drive, Grangemouth.

“A 38-year-old man suffered serious injury and was taken by ambulance to Forth Valley Royal Hospital, where he remains in a stable condition.

“Enquiries are ongoing.”

Staff set to strike at nuclear bases over pay dispute

The rolling industrial action at Faslane and Coulport will begin every day from 10am on March 12.

Royal Navy via MOD
Three groups took part in the ballot: Babcock Industrial, Babcock Non-Industrial and ISS Facility Services staff.

Union members at nuclear bases on the Clyde have balloted to strike as disputes over pay continue.
Unite the union announced on Saturday that workers at the Coulport and Faslane naval bases are set to take part in rolling industrial action following “overwhelming” support from its 1,000-strong membership.

Three groups took part in the ballot this month; Babcock Non-Industrial workers, covering engineers, supervisors, administrative staff and managers, Babcock Industrial staff, which includes plumbers, electricians, joiners and mechanical fitters, and ISS Facility Services workers who are cleaning and catering staff at the bases.

Of the 65% of Unite members who turned out, 95% voted in support of strike action after they rejected Babcock Marine’s pay offer.

“Unless Babcock Marine management get back round the negotiating table and start to behave responsibly then a wave of industrial action is set to strike the bases from the middle of March.”

Stephen Deans, Unite regional coordinating officer

The rolling strike action, set to begin at 10am on March 12, will also be held in conjunction with a continuous call out ban and ban on all overtime.


The industrial workforce rejected a pay offer of 1.1% for 2020. For 2021 and 2022, the offer was based on the consumer price index plus 0.5%.

A pay settlement was imposed on the non-industrial side without any involvement or consultation from the trade union.
Stephen Deans, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “The overwhelming support for industrial action from Unite’s membership at the Clyde naval bases should be seen as a strong signal of the frustration and genuine anger felt by the workforce.

“Until this point, Babcock Marine have refused to meaningfully engage with us on pay and the future workplace relations at the bases following the outcome of the Ministry of Defence’s Future Maritime Support Programme.”

“Unless Babcock Marine management get back round the negotiating table and start to behave responsibly then a wave of industrial action is set to strike the bases from the middle of March. This is at a time when contracts worth up to £200m will be decided upon.


“This situation is not irretrievable or inevitable but a change is solely dependent upon the company meaningfully engaging with Unite, and we hope they take up this final opportunity before action starts.”

Unite has previously raised concerns over the looming outcome of the Ministry of Defence’s Future Maritime Support Programme (FMSP).

It warned that splitting national security contracts into smaller work packages endangers the country’s military power and nuclear response capabilities.

The trade union has also criticised Babcock Marine management for refusing to engage with Unite on the future shape of the bases following the contract decision, which is expected to be decided upon in April 2021. The contracts are anticipated to run until March 2026.

The union said the work from the FMSP is estimated to be worth between £175-£200m for the Clyde bases, based on a Ministry of Defence projection that the scheme will deliver a 30% saving on the previous framework which had a five year operating figure of £250m on the Clyde.

A Babcock spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that our Unite trade union members at HMNB Clyde have chosen to vote for industrial action.

“Having agreed a 2020 pay deal with part of our organisation, we remain keen to continue to engage with our Unite trade union representatives, to try and find a mutually acceptable resolution for their members.


“Keeping people safe at HMNB Clyde remains our top priority and we will continue to work closely with our customer to deliver our commitments and ensure a safe and secure environment.

“On the matter of future bargaining arrangements, we are engaged in a competitive confidential procurement process on the FMSP with the Ministry of Defence. Only once the outcome of this competition is known can we have an informed discussion with Unite.”

Salmond has ‘no doubt’ Sturgeon broke ministerial code

Former first minister says there was a 'malicious scheme' to damage his reputation.

STV News

Alex Salmond claims there is “no doubt” Nicola Sturgeon has broken rules governing the behaviour of ministers, but stopped short of saying she should resign.

Giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims against him, Salmond said Scotland’s “leadership has failed”.

The Court of Session ruled the Scottish Government’s investigation into complaints against him was “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the women who made complaints.

Salmond called for the Lord Advocate and the head of Scotland’s civil service, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, to resign over the handling of the complaints against him.


He alleged a “malicious scheme” among senior SNP figures to damage his reputation, but said he had no evidence the current first minister was part of this.

Salmond contradicted evidence from Sturgeon over key meetings on the complaints against him, and added: “I have no doubt that Nicola broke the ministerial code, but it’s not for me to suggest what the consequence should be.”

He said he did not believe she was involved in covering up complaints against him, but criticised her for using a Covid press conference to “effectively question the result of a jury”.

STV News
Alex Salmond gave evidence under oath.

He declined to directly apologise for his own behaviour when asked.


In his opening statement to the committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints on Friday, he told MSPs he believes the government’s actions are no longer true to the principles of openness, accountability and transparency.

He said the failures of leadership surrounding the investigation into his conduct are “many and obvious”.

He added: “The government acted illegally but somehow nobody is to blame. Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.

“The importance of this inquiry is for each and every one of us to help put this right.

“This inquiry is not about me, I have already established the illegality of the actions of the Scottish Government in the Court of Session, and I have been acquitted of all criminal charges by a jury in the highest court in the land.

“The remit of this inquiry is about the actions of others, whose investigation into the conduct of ministers, the Permanent Secretary, civil servants and special advisers.

“It also requires to shine a light on the activities of the Crown Office.”


He went on to claim the committee has been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought” in its inquiry, later adding there was “deliberate suppression of information inconvenient to the government”.

He said his ability to give evidence has been “severely hampered” by the Crown Office, adding the “threat of prosecution made to me if I offered that evidence is, in my estimation, both extraordinary and unwarranted”.

The committee redacted parts of his written evidence previously published after the Crown Office raised concerns – something he said would not have happened at the House of Commons.

He said the previous two years and six months – during his investigation and criminal trial – had been a “nightmare”, but “we can’t turn that page, nor move on, until the decision-making which is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed”.

Questioned by Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, Salmond said he did not believe Sturgeon had been involved in a “cover-up” of complaints against him.

He said: “I’ve seen it pursued on the committee that somehow Nicola Sturgeon was covering up – that’s not the case, my charges against Nicola Sturgeon don’t include that.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “I want to ask, laying aside the charges of which you have been acquitted, and the allegations that you deny, of the behaviours that you have admitted to, some of which are appalling, are you sorry?”

Salmond replied: “In my statement I pointed out the Government’s illegality has had huge consequences for a number of people, and specifically mentioned the complainants in my opening statement.

“Over the last three years, there have been two court cases, two judges and a jury, and I’m resting on the proceedings of these cases.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie asked the former first minister if the name of one of the complainers had been shared at a meeting his then chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had been present at.

Salmond said it had, adding: “My former chief of staff told me that.”

The former first minister also claimed a leak to the Daily Record newspaper, which broke news of the allegations against him, was “politically inspired”, as he called for police to act.

He added: “I think it does require further police investigation – I do believe I know the identity but I’m not here to speculate on individuals that I cannot substantiate.”

He will later face questions about his claims Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament and breached the ministerial code.

Salmond, who was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in a criminal trial, was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government investigation into harassment claims made against him.

Sturgeon has previously insisted there is “not a shred of evidence” that there was a conspiracy against Salmond and she has denied lying to parliament.

She is scheduled to appear before the committee to give evidence next Wednesday.

The Scottish Conservatives said “devastating evidence” had left the SNP leadership “on the ropes”.

Party leader Douglas Ross said: “Devastating evidence has revealed SNP cover ups, costly mistakes and terrible errors of judgement.

“The number of accusations of misleading parliament and breaking the ministerial code are extraordinary.

“The entire leadership of the ruling party of government are on the ropes.”

This is the biggest split I have ever seen in Scottish politics

The dispute between Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon is about personality and some in the SNP think it is about destruction.

STV News
Alex Salmond gave evidence to Holyrood committee on Friday.

Alex Salmond is one of the biggest figures in modern Scottish politics – he is the country’s longest-serving First Minister and led the SNP for 20 years.

Nicola Sturgeon served her political apprenticeship during his first term as leader and was his deputy for a decade before taking over as First Minister herself.

So this is the biggest split I have ever seen in Scottish politics.

The SNP split in the 1980s when the 79 Group including Alex Salmond was expelled – but that was about ideology and direction.

This is a much bigger split – it is about personality and some in the SNP think it is about destruction. They think Salmond is trying to bring the house down. He thinks it is about an attempt to destroy him.

Salmond finally had his say on Friday, giving evidence to the committee investigating the Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment complaints against him.


Among the key exchanges at the Holyrood committee, Salmond said the name of one of the original complainers was shared at the first meeting with Sturgeon – she denied that yesterday at FMQs.

The First Minister will face further questions on this when she is at the committee on Wednesday.

Salmond made it clear he felt there should have been resignations – specifically the Permanent Secretary, the Lord Advocate, and those who he believes were part of a malicious scheme against him including the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.

He believes the First Minister has broken the ministerial code – that is the biggest threat to her through the independent investigation being led by former Irish director of public prosecutions James Hamilton.


Senior figures in Government admit privately that could force her to quit just before the Holyrood election – they don’t think it will. But there is still a doubt, to the extent that it’s difficult for the SNP to plan their election leaflets for example.

And we saw in that STV News/Ipsos MORI poll yesterday – this row might not have hit the SNP’s poll ratings, or boosted the opposition much so far, but more than a third of those questioned last week did say that it made them less favourable towards the SNP. So this week it’s a story breaking out of the political bubble.

And politically – everything is at stake here.

Sturgeon will be at this committee on Wednesday to tell her side of the story.

She says it’s her chance to set the record straight.

Medics exhausted during ‘relentless’ Covid second wave

Staff at University Hospital Crosshouse believe it will take several months before they see any reduction in their workload.

STV News

In the corridors and intensive care units of Kilmarnock’s University Hospital Crosshouse, staff are fatigued and stressed.

Coronavirus case rates may be falling across Scotland but the pressure on medical workers remains intense.

Crosshouse has been one of the busiest hospitals in Scotland during the second wave of the pandemic – its ICUs have been stretched to capacity for months.

There are currently 11 patients in the hospital’s 17-bed unit, a decrease of three in recent days and the first time in weeks that the number has reduced.


But staff remain just as busy as patients are staying in hospital longer – some for as many as two months.

Medics believe it will take several months before they see any reduction in their workload.

Gemma Blair, deputy charge nurse in the hospital’s intensive care unit, said the cracks were starting to show among staff who have been dealing with Covid patients for almost a year.

She said: “There are days in here when you feel that the ship has capsized and we are manically trying to get to the shore.

“I have seen what I would say are the strongest of my colleagues crying within the unit because it really is so tough. That’s really the important message to get across that it is still very busy and this is still happening in your local hospitals. “


“We are so tired, we are exhausted. You feel some days that you don’t know how you’re going to make it to the end of the day but then a patient who has been with you for 40 days will wave to their family for the first time on a video call or take their first drink of juice.

“That is why we get out of our bed in the morning, that is why we show up, it’s for these patients.”

Gemma feels she is can switch off from work easier these days compared to the start of the pandemic, but is now worried about the impact the last 12 months has had on staff.

“The first wave I lived it, worked it, breathed it, watched it every day on the news,” she said.

“Now I worry about after – what happens once the Covid unit closes? What will staff do then? Will there be a PTSD element?

“We are used to looking after critically unwell patients but we are not used to this and there is also a worry about the staff who have redeployed from other areas and the strain on them. “

The area that now houses the covid ICU unit was previously used for day surgery – it was converted during the summer months when Crosshouse had no new coronavirus admissions.


Then one Friday night in October, a call came through from accident and emergency.

One of those on shift was ICU consultant Dr Peter O’Brien, who recalls feeling uneasy at what was to come.

He said: “From June we had no new Covid admissions. I was on shift that Friday night in October when we got the call from A&E that we had the first patient of the second wave and the words in our mind were ‘well here we go again’.

“In Scotland, there appeared to be a peak of the second wave and then we took a second superimposed peak on top of that – I didn’t expect that. That second increase in that wave around Christmas going into January felt like a kick when you are down. “

Dr O’Brien says his biggest hope is the vaccine rollout will relieve some of the pressure.

“You never know what’s around the corner,” he said.

“We were always advised when the first wave was over that we had to in a state of readiness for 200, 300, 400 percent capacity. I would say for the next year, our minds will always be in that state of awareness. “

Scotland recorded a further 27 people coronavirus deaths n the past 24 hours.

That means the total number of deaths of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days now stands at 7111.

There are currently 924 patients in hospital with coronavirus, a decrease of 43, with 80 of those in intensive care, a fall of nine from Thursday. 

Although the number of Covid hospital admissions is falling across the country, Dr John Allan, critical care clinical director at Crosshouse, said the second wave has been “relentless”, adding that ICU capacity at the East Ayrshire hospital has been two to three times over capacity for many months.

He said: “The volume of patients and the duration for which we have had to deliver this high level of intensive care is the most striking aspect of this second wave.

“We have certainly seen a lot more younger patients than we did in the first wave. Another difference is that we using CPAP machines as a therapy more so than we did in the first wave.”

Dr Allan says it is also important for hospitals to catch up on elective surgery as Covid rates continue to fall.

He said: “We do need staff to get a chance to decompress and physically rest but we also have this big unknown about what Covid will look like in three months, a years time.

“I guess we all hope that it’s not going to look anything like this but it will change how we work for years to come.

“Even though we have now vaccinated a large section of the population, we are not that much quieter than we were at the peak. It could take several months before our numbers start to come down so we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet.”

Pauline Murray, a deputy charge nurse with 30 years of experience, said medical staff are resilient but tired.

She said: “We have not had as many patients recover, unfortunately, so we have not had that boost that we got with the first wave when patients were discharged; that helped us keep going the first time when we saw these wins but this time it’s been tougher.

“We are a resilient bunch of people, although we are tired. We all just want a holiday to be honest. The support staff are maybe finding it a bit more difficult but we are trying to support them as much as we can. “

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