Sturgeon: Both votes SNP to secure experienced leadership

SNP leader publishes open letter to thank the public for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on the campaign trail in Perth. Pool/Pool via Getty Images
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on the campaign trail in Perth.

Nicola Sturgeon has urged the people of Scotland to give both votes to the SNP in next week’s election to secure experienced leadership in Holyrood.

In an open letter to be published on the last weekend of the campaign, the party leader thanked the public for their efforts over the last year during the pandemic.

She urged them to vote for the SNP on both the constituency and regional ballots on Thursday.

Sturgeon said: “Over the past year, I’ve done my best every day to steer Scotland through this difficult and heartbreaking time.

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“I have asked a lot of you, and we’ve all asked a lot of each other, to keep the country as safe as possible. I can never thank you enough for the sacrifices you’ve made.

“By working together, lives have been saved and the NHS has been protected. We have made progress and there is now light at the end of the tunnel. Having come this far, it is vital that we stay the course.

“This Thursday, there is one more thing you can do to help keep the country on the right track. To continue our progress and keep Scotland in safe hands, I’m asking you to use both your votes for the SNP.

“The SNP is the only party with a clear plan to support the NHS, protect jobs, help our young people get on, and build a better future for Scotland.

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“And I am the only candidate for First Minister offering tried and tested leadership to guide us through the crisis and into recovery.

“Your votes can give me, and a re-elected SNP government, the strength we need to keep Scotland safe.

“That means voting SNP on the constituency vote. And voting SNP on the regional list vote. Both votes are necessary to secure experienced leadership with Scotland at heart.

“I’m ready to get on with the job. Please help me to do that, by using both your votes for the SNP on Thursday.”

Man dies and woman injured in ‘human swan’ paragliding crash

Sacha Dench and her support staff member Dan Burton were in the final stages of a Round Britain Climate Challenge.

Andrew Milligan via PA Media
Ms Dench is currently in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in a serious condition.

A man has died and a woman has been seriously injured in a paragliding crash in the Highlands.

Emergency services were called around 4:45pm on Saturday to the incident near Loch Na Gainmhich.

Sacha Dench, dubbed the “human swan”, and her support staff member Dan Burton, 54, were in the final stages of a 3000-mile Round Britain Climate Challenge.

Mr Burton died at the scene and Ms Dench is currently in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in a serious condition.

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The PA news agency understands that Ms Dench had been flying earlier in the day with Mr Burton, whose role includes documenting the climate challenge from the air, taking film and photographs.

The pair had landed before taking off again at around 3:30pm.

The ground crew, who communicate with the flyers and pick them up when they land, thereafter lost contact.

In statement, the trustees of the Conservation Without Borders, which was founded by Ms Dench, said: “We are very sorry to have to confirm that Dan Burton, the support paramotorist has died as a result of the accident.

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“Sacha Dench is seriously injured and is being treated in hospital. Her injuries are serious but not life-threatening

“Both highly experienced paramotorists, our thoughts are with the family of Dan Burton to whom we offer our sincere condolences.

“The incident was attended by police and medics and enquiries are underway to establish the details of the accident.”

The statement added that the families of those involved had been informed and that the Round Britain Climate Challenge would now be put on hold.

Ms Dench had begun her climate challenge in June, taking off from Stevenston in North Ayrshire.


Missing seven-year-old Carson Shephard found safe

A helicopter, divers and dog units were deployed to search for Carson.

STV News
Carson Shephard vanished from New Cumnock, East Ayrshire.

A seven-year-old boy who went missing on Sunday night has been found “safe and well” following a major search operation.

Carson Shephard disappeared from Afton Bridgend in New Cumnock, East Ayrshire.

The schoolboy had last been seen in the village at around 7.20pm on Sunday with a public appeal issued later that night.

Carson was still missing on Monday morning with police deploying a helicopter, divers, dog units and receiving aid from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service water support unit.

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Local people also turned out to help look for him.

Shortly after 10am on Monday, police in Ayrshire announced Carson had been found.

A spokesperson said: “We are pleased to report that seven-year-old Carson Shephard, reported missing from New Cumnock has been found safe and well.

“Officers would like to thank everyone who assisted in this inquiry.”


Under-fire care home takes action over cleanliness and staffing issues

Earlier this year, a former employee at Nightingale House in Paisley spoke out about worrying conditions.

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Nursing home: Concerns were raised over cleanliness and staffing levels at Nightingale House in Paisley.

Action has been taken over cleanliness and staffing levels at a Renfrewshire care home after serious concerns were raised by inspectors and a whistleblower.

Earlier this year, a former employee at Nightingale House in Paisley spoke out about worrying conditions and quality of care at the Mansionhouse Road facility.

The whistleblower claimed several workers had left which had led to a concerning decline in standards.

The situation was laid bare in a subsequent report from the Care Inspectorate which graded Nightingale House – run by Sterling Care Homes Ltd – as “weak” across all areas.

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Inspectors found the lack of staff was creating issues around the handling of medication and ensuring the home was clean.

But following unannounced check-ups carried out in recent weeks, the latest report from the watchdog confirms improvements have been made.

The report stated: “Staff engaged with people in a warm and caring manner. Sufficient numbers of staff were available to meet the needs of people experiencing care.

“Core and regular agency staff teams were observed to have a helpful impact on outcomes for people.

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“Care was more person-centred and staff demonstrated a commitment to take account of people’s wishes and preferences.

“Medication and wound management had improved, and the service was able to respond to peoples changing health needs. As a result, the support required from external healthcare professionals was seen to be lessening.

“Environmental refurbishments were progressing to improve facilities throughout the care home. Cleanliness of the environment had been maintained with a temporary housekeeper providing support. Improvements to the laundry had been fully completed.

“The service continued to recruit a permanent substantive management team. We will continue to closely monitor potential risks around staffing as further progress is required in this area.”

The home has now been upgraded to “adequate” for all categories including infection control and prevention practices, staffing arrangements and people’s well-being.

Inspectors also said people were being supported to get more out of life with daily planned activities, opportunities to go outdoors and improved mealtime experiences.

The latest report was included in a fortnightly round-up of inspections which was laid before the Scottish Parliament.

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By local democracy reporter Steph Brawn

Children aged 12 to 15 start being offered Covid vaccine

Youngsters can now visit drop-in clinics to receive their jab following recommendation by chief medical officers.

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Youngsters aged 12 to 15 are being offered the coronavirus vaccine from Monday.

Children in Scotland aged between 12 and 15 are now being offered one dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

Drop-in clinics opened for youngsters in that age group on Monday.

Next week, letters will be sent to all 12 to 15-year-olds inviting them to an appointment at a drop-in centre or vaccination clinic.

The move comes after the chief medical officers (CMOs) of the four UK nations advised younger teenagers should be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

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They concluded that vaccination could reduce disruption to education.

The decision to go ahead comes despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) deciding not to recommend mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds.

The JCVI had said Covid-19 presents a very low risk for healthy children and vaccination would only offer a marginal benefit.

But they suggested that the wider issues, such as education, should be taken into consideration and examined by CMOs.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs last week: “We believe that vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds is important and we will, therefore, move to implement the advice as quickly as possible.

“It is, of course, important to stress the importance of informed consent. I know that many young people and their parents will have questions.”

Sturgeon explained that material will be made available to provide “balanced information” to help young people and their parents make informed choices.

She said that parents and carers will be invited to accompany their children for vaccination.

Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner welcomed the advice to offer the coronavirus vaccine to children.

Bruce Adamson said children of this age group have told him over the last few months that they are in favour of having the choice to be vaccinated.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, also welcomed the decision.

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EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Offering the vaccine to young people in the 12 to 15 age group will make secondary schools safer by reducing the risk of the virus spreading through school communities and will help reduce the level of disruption to education.”

But parents have mixed views on whether their children should be vaccinated.

Arlene Dickson, who is a parent to boys aged 12 and 15, said her children already had the vaccine as their dad has an autoimmune disease.

She told STV News: “Yes, there are risks but I think the benefits outweigh them; the person getting the vaccine, it protects them from getting seriously ill and unfortunately there has been cases of 12-15 year-olds who have died and become seriously ill from getting Covid.”

However, Joanne O’Connor says her two children, aged 12 and nine, won’t be getting the jab. They are currently at home after testing positive for coronavirus.

O’Connor said: “Covid is rife at schools just now so ultimately a great majority of kids are catching it, so they are going to get their immunity from that.

“I just don’t see the need to force vaccination, there is no evidence to say children get extremely ill or unwell or get hospitalised, so for me it’s just the risk of the vaccine is not worth taking.”

More than half of all schools in Scotland reported at least one positive case of Covid-19 among pupils in the first two weeks of term, new figures show.

A freedom of information request submitted to Public Health Scotland (PHS) shows that 1455 schools in Scotland recorded a positive case between August 16 and August 27, the first two weeks of term – 58.7% of all schools.

According to Scottish Government figures released in December, there are 2476 schools registered in the country.

While it is not clear how many of the cases in schools were contracted there as opposed to the community, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly said the return of schools in Scotland contributed to the spike in Covid-19 cases seen in recent weeks, which she said this week has shown signs of dissipating.

Dr Sarah Chan at the University of Edinburgh “Children may not be getting as sick with Covid but they’re nevertheless suffering the impacts of the pandemic.

“And so the more we can do to slow and stop that the better.”

Meanwhile, Scotland’s rollout of Covid booster vaccinations for elderly care home residents is also to get under way this week.

The Scottish Government has confirmed older residents in care homes are the first to be offered both flu and coronavirus booster vaccines from Monday.

Frontline health and social care workers will able to book an appointment for a booster jab online at NHS Inform from Tuesday this week.

Adults aged 70 and over and those aged 16 and over who are on the highest risk list (previously known as the shielding list) will begin to be contacted by letter or by their GP from the end of September.

People on the highest risk list who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of their last Covid vaccination will be offered a third primary dose instead.

Three vaccines have been approved as safe and effective as boosters, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, but experts have decided to opt for Pfizer as a preference after studies showed it is well tolerated and works well as a booster.

Dad gets new heart just in time to see first child born

Ross Peters spent months in hospital waiting for a heart transplant while his wife was pregnant.

Ross Peters via Contributed
Ross, Shauni and Louis are now loving life at home in Dundee.

A young dad who spent months in hospital waiting for a heart transplant got home just in time to see his son arrive into the world.

Ross Peters was too sick to leave the Golden Jubilee in Glasgow as he waited for a donor – while his pregnant wife Shauni was preparing to give birth for the first time.

After eight weeks in hospital, he was woken by a nurse who gave him the life-saving news that a suitable heart had been found.

That meant 27-year-old Ross – telling his story to mark Organ Donation Week – could be at his wife’s side when their first child, Louis, was born.

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‘Motivation to keeping going’

“Everything worked out perfectly, timing wise,” he told STV News. “It couldn’t have been timed any better.

“I was absolutely terrified I was going to miss the birth, it was a motivation to keep going and make sure I stayed as physically fit as I could for the operation, so I would recover quickly.

“But there was a part of me that genuinely didn’t think I would be there [at the birth]. I was told I could watch it through a webcam, but I said that wasn’t happening.”

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No other cure

Ross, from Dundee, was just 21-years-old when he suddenly felt unwell while out with friends, and the next morning found himself struggling to catch his breath.

After being taken by ambulance to Ninewells Hospital, he was soon transferred to the Scottish National Adult Heart Failure Service at NHS Golden Jubilee, where he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body.

Ross was fitted with a defibrillator but was told there was no cure – other than a heart transplant.

Ross Peters via Contributed
Ross Peters recovers in hospital after his heart transplant.

In January 2020, the heart-starting device activated twice, and by the summer, Ross’s health had deteriorated so much that he was placed on the urgent transplant list and told he was too sick to leave hospital.

Over the next two months, coronavirus restricted the amount of time he could spend with his family, including his pregnant wife.

He said: “I went into the Golden Jubilee thinking it wouldn’t be that bad and was then told I was so ill I couldn’t leave the hospital and actually needed a heart transplant.

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“It was during lockdown, my wife was pregnant, it was awful and all I could think about was being well enough to be at my wife’s side at the birth of our son.”

Ross Peters via Contributed
Ross holds a newly born Louis.

Ross is now at home and loving life with his young son Louis and wants others to discuss organ donation with their families.

“I take 15 tablets every day, but I roll out of bed – I can do anything I want,” he said. “Nothing stops me.

“I can raise my son and none of that would have been possible without a heart transplant. I’m so grateful and so lucky.”

‘We all celebrated’

For staff at the Golden Jubilee – who have performed 36 heart transplants since the start of the pandemic – getting Ross home in time to see Louis being born was a special moment.

Consultant transplant cardiologist Dr Jane Cannon told STV News: “With Ross, I know his partner was pregnant and we all felt part of that journey.

“So for him to get home and see the birth of his son – we all celebrated in that.”

‘So many people waiting’

Organ Donation Week – which runs from Monday, September 20 – aims to encourage people to speak with their families about their wishes once they die.

Scotland has moved to an opt-out system, which means it’s assumed organs will be donated unless people state otherwise or are in an “excluded group” – under 16s, adults who lack capacity and those who have lived here less than a year.

Dr Cannon said: “Organ Donation Week is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation and transplant in general.

“This is an important topic which may not come up in everyday conversation, but it’s important to discuss with family and friends so your wishes are known.

“Despite best efforts, there are so many people waiting for a life-saving operation.”


Inquiry to begin into problems at two flagship hospitals

Probe into problems at hospitals in Glasgow and Edinburgh that contributed to the death of two children.

SNS Group via SNS Group
Inquiry is investigating the construction of Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

An inquiry will begin hearing evidence on Monday into problems at two flagship Scottish hospitals that contributed to the death of two children.

The Scottish Hospitals Inquiry is investigating the construction of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.

The inquiry was ordered after patients at the Glasgow site died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and the water supply, and the opening of the Edinburgh site was delayed due to concerns over the ventilation system.

Earlier this year, an independent review found the death of two children at the QEUH were at least in part the result of infections linked to the hospital environment.

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The review investigated 118 episodes of serious bacterial infection in 84 children and young people who received treatment for blood disease, cancer or related conditions at the Royal Hospital for Children at the campus.

It found a third of these infections were “most likely” to have been linked to the hospital environment.

Two of 22 deaths were, “at least in part”, the result of their infection, it said.

Kimberly Darroch, the mother of 10-year-old Milly Main who died in the QEUH in 2017 after contracting an infection, has led calls for further investigation into issues at the hospital.

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The opening of the Edinburgh children’s hospital – due to take place in 2019 – had to be delayed after the Scottish Government was alerted to safety issues there shortly before it was due to start receiving patients.

It finally opened in March of this year.

The inquiry will aim to determine how issues at the two hospitals relating to ventilation, water contamination and other matters impacted on patient safety and care and whether this could have been prevented.

It will begin hearing from affected patients and families on Monday.

Lord Brodie, who will chair the inquiry, said: “No other group has been more affected by these issues than the patients and families from whom we will be hearing in the next few weeks.

“Their experiences will help inform future lines of investigation as we turn our attention to subsequent phases of the inquiry.

“This first diet of hearings is the culmination of a year of preparation, providing us with a foundation to ensure that the inquiry is led by the evidence it uncovers during the course of its lifetime.

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“Ultimately, our role is to understand what went wrong with the construction of these hospitals so lessons can be learned to prevent the recurrence of such issues in the future.”

The hearings will take place at offices near Edinburgh’s St Andrew’s Square and will be streamed online.

They will run for three weeks before a two-week break. They will resume on October 25 for a further two weeks.

Martin Compston to voice drug adverts urging public to order naloxone

The medication can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Jeff Spicer via Getty Images
The ads featuring the actor will begin airing on Monday.

Actor Martin Compston has voiced a series of television adverts encouraging people to order the naloxone medication which can reverse the effects of a drug overdose.

The ads, which begin airing on Monday, aim to raise awareness of the problem and encourage people to intervene.

It is the latest stage of a campaign that launched in August, backed by the Scottish Government.

It encourages the public to visit a website – www.stopthedeaths.com – which gives tips on how to recognise a drug overdose and what steps to take.

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And it urges people to order the freely available medication naloxone, which can be given as a nasal spray and can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

The public are being encouraged to order Naloxone (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Opioids, like heroin and methadone, were implicated in 89% of Scotland’s 1,339 drug-related deaths in 2020.

The campaign – titled We Can Prevent Drug Deaths – also includes ads on radio, billboards, buses and trains and will run until November.

David Liddell, CEO of policy and information organisation Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “This is a significant campaign not only in raising the issue of drug related deaths and how they can be prevented, but in terms of the stigma suffered by people who have a drug problem.

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“The public health emergency around drug related deaths in Scotland has continued partly because of that stigma.

“The investment in this high-profile campaign by government is a clear indicator of a change in public attitudes and the government has shown leadership on this.

“SDF have been delighted to shape this campaign and to deliver it across Scotland.”

Kirsten Horsburgh, strategic co-ordinator in drug death prevention at Scottish Drugs Forum, added: “Time is of the essence when someone becomes unresponsive after an overdose and can be crucial in terms of avoiding death or serious brain injury. We need everyone to be able to recognise an overdose, intervene and call 999.

“Naloxone helps buy the person time while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

“If a person is not breathing or there is not enough oxygen supply to the brain then that person is obviously in very real danger. We encourage everyone to visit www.stopthedeaths.com to learn more and to carry naloxone.”


Gordon Brown given ambassadorial role at World Health Organisation

Former prime minister has been appointed ambassador for global health financing at the UN agency.

Duncan McGlynn / Stringer via Getty Images
Brown has been campaigning to ensure equitable distribution of Covid vaccines.

The World Health Organisation has appointed former prime minister Gordon Brown an ambassador for global health financing.

Brown has been campaigning tirelessly in recent months for wealthy nations and the private sector to ensure the equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

He is calling for a concerted global effort to save lives, especially in poorer countries, to help end the pandemic and restore livelihoods the world over.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: “I am delighted and honoured that Gordon Brown has agreed to serve as WHO ambassador for global health financing.

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“In this role, he will elevate and support WHO’s work to raise awareness internationally on the great need for sustained global health financing, particularly from G20 and G7 countries.

“As a longtime friend of Gordon’s, I know that he will bring his sharp intellect, firm commitment and deep sense of justice to this ambassadorship.”

Brown said: “I have a tremendous personal regard for Dr Tedros with whom I first worked two decades ago, and I am delighted to be able to help his and WHO’s work raising global finance to ensure everyone has access to health.

“Our immediate task is to work together to finance the vaccination of the whole world and protect the poorest countries from the terrible effects of Covid-19 and other diseases.”

Four celebrities to explore Scottish wildlife in Channel 4 show

Actors Martin Clunes and Ben Miller, politician Baroness Warsi and the Reverend Richard Coles will all participate.

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Presenter Hamza Yassin will guide his celebrity companions on Scottish Wild Escapes.

Actors Martin Clunes and Ben Miller, politician Baroness Warsi and the Reverend Richard Coles will immerse themselves in Scottish wildlife for a forthcoming Channel 4 show.

Scottish Wild Escapes, the four-part series’ working title, will see wildlife cameraman and presenter Hamza Yassin guide his celebrity companions on journeys through west and eastern Scotland and the Highlands.

Show bosses say it will allow the guests to “escape the pressures of their daily life and with nature as their tonic, learn something about themselves while rediscovering their appreciation for the outdoors”.

Clunes, 59, is best known for playing Martin Ellingham in ITV series Doc Martin and Gary Strang in Men Behaving Badly, while Miller, 55, found fame as part of a comedy duo with Alexander Armstrong.

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Martin Clunes (Ian West/PA)
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Coles, 59, is a broadcaster and former member of the band The Communards, while Lady Warsi, 50, was co-chairwoman of the Conservative Party from 2010 to 2012.

The celebrities will spend time cooking outdoors, stargazing and spotting British wildlife such as otters, deer, sea eagles, osprey and red squirrels.

Yassin will also teach his guests about the local wildlife and each area’s natural history.

Ian West via PA Wire
The Reverend Richard Coles (Ian West/PA)

He previously worked on Channel 4 documentary Scotland: My Life in the Wild, serving as both presenter and cameraman.

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Commissioned for More4 by Harjeet Chhokar, Scottish Wild Escapes is produced by Hello Halo.


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