Sturgeon ‘forgot’ meeting about Salmond sex allegations

The First Minister has submitted evidence to Holyrood's Alex Salmond inquiry.

The First Minister has claimed she “forgot” about an encounter with Alex Salmond’s former chief of staff in March 2018 in which he mentioned “allegations of a sexual nature” against her predecessor.

Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs she first learned of harassment complaints against the former First Minister when he told her himself at a meeting between the pair on April 2, 2018.

But it later emerged she had met Salmond’s former top adviser Geoff Aberdein four days previously in the Scottish Parliament on March 29.

The First Minister has explained the events in newly-published written evidence to the Holyrood’s Salmond inquiry, while her husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, has also written to the committee.

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Mr Murrell said he had “expressed himself poorly” in texts in January 2019 in which he suggested it was a “good time” to pressurise police over Salmond’s criminal case

But he added: “The messages have been presented in a way that suggests a meaning that they do not in reality have.”

Sturgeon was challenged over her husband’s messages in fiery exchanges at last week’s First Minister’s Questions, while she has also been accused of misleading parliament after pledging her government would fully cooperate with the inquiry.

The First Minister insisted she had personally submitted her written evidence months ago and that the committee had not yet chosen to publish it.

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The inquiry published Sturgeon’s submission on Wednesday as part of a tranche of new evidence, in which she looks to explain her role in the handling of complaints against Salmond that led to her predecessor successfully suing her government for more than £512,000 in damages.

Salmond was then cleared of sexual offences in a separate and subsequent criminal trial earlier this year.

Sturgeon described how the circumstances had caused her “a great deal of personal anguish” and a “breakdown” in her 30-year friendship with Salmond, but that she had “tried to do the right thing”.

And she refuted “in the strongest possible terms” any idea she conspired against her predecessor, adding: “It seems to me that what some want to present as ‘conspiracy’ is in actual fact my refusal to ‘collude’ or ‘cover up’.”

Included in her evidence is a stream of WhatsApp messages between herself and the former first minister dated from April to July 2018 in which they discuss meetings and aspects of the government’s investigation into Salmond.

The First Minister also sought to outline what she knew and when after her meeting with Mr Aberdein was revealed in the media in July and sparked suggestions then that she had misled MSPs.

Sturgeon wrote: “Alex Salmond told me on April 2, 2018 at a meeting at my home that complaints against him were being investigated under (the Scottish Government’s new complaints) procedure.

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“At that meeting, he showed me a copy of the letter he had received outlining the detail of the complaints.

“As has been reported already, four days earlier – March 29, 2018 – I had spoken with Geoff Aberdein (former chief of staff to Alex Salmond) in my office at the Scottish Parliament.

“Mr Aberdein was in parliament to see a former colleague and while there came to see me.

“I had forgotten that this encounter had taken place until I was reminded of it in, I think, late January/early February 2019.”

She added: “For context, I think the meeting took place not long after the weekly session of FMQs and in the midst of a busy day in which I would have been dealing with a multitude of other matters.

“However, from what I recall, the discussion covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature.”

The First Minister said her understanding around this time was Salmond was in “a state of considerable distress” and was considering resigning his SNP party membership.

But she insisted: “While I suspected the nature of what he wanted to tell me… it was Alex Salmond who told me on April 2 that he was being investigated under the procedure – and what the detail of the complaints was.

“It is this meeting – due to the nature of the information shared with me at it – that has always been significant in my mind.”

Sturgeon continued: “I suspected the reason Alex Salmond wanted to see me on April 2 was that he was facing an allegation of sexual misconduct.

“Although my contact with Mr Aberdein on March 29, 2018 may have contributed to that suspicion, it was not the only factor.”

She highlighted that in November 2017 she was aware of the SNP receiving an enquiry from Sky News about sexual misconduct claims against Salmond dating back to an alleged incident at Edinburgh Airport in 2008.

Sturgeon stressed Salmond denied the allegations when she spoke to him about it and, given the party had no knowledge of the complainers, there was “no further action” possible to take.

However, the First Minister said “even though he assured me to the contrary, all of the circumstances surrounding this episode left me with a lingering concern that allegations about Mr Salmond could materialise at some stage”.

Sturgeon explained the reasons she had agreed to the April 2 meeting with Salmond despite suspecting what it was about were “both political and personal”.

She went on: “I thought Mr Salmond may be about to resign from the SNP and that, as a result of this or other aspects of how he intended to handle the matter he was dealing with, the party could have been facing a public/media issue that we would require to respond to.”

“There is also the personal aspect,” the FM added.

“Mr Salmond has been closer to me than probably any other person outside my family for the past 30 years, and I was being told he was very upset and wanted to see me personally.”

Despite her suspicions, Sturgeon said she was “shocked and upset by the reality of what I read” during the April 2 meeting at her Glasgow home, when Salmond showed her a letter summarising the complaints against him.

She continued: “He gave me his reaction to the complaints – in the main he denied them, though in relation to one matter he said that he had previously apologised and considered it out of order for it to be raised again – and said that it was his intention to seek a process of mediation between himself and the complainers.

“It was also clear – contrary to what I had anticipated – that he did not intend to resign his party membership or do anything to make the matter public at that stage.

“I made clear to him that I had no role in the process and would not seek to intervene in it.”

The pair spoke again by phone later in April, she said, and she declined an invitation to meet at the end of May.

Then, on June 3, the “tone and content” of a text message he sent Sturgeon led her “to conclude that legal action by Mr Salmond against the Scottish Government was a serious prospect”.

Salmond’s message reveals his lawyers had prepared a draft petition for a judicial review, which he tells Sturgeon he has been advised has “excellent” prospects of success.

“You are perfectly entitled to intervene if it is brought to your attention that there is a risk of your government acting unlawfully in a process of which you had no knowledge,” he told the First Minister.

The Court of Session would go on in January 2019 to rule the Scottish Government’s handling of the complaints against Salmond was “unlawful”, “procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias”.

Three days after Salmond’s text, on June 6, Sturgeon wrote to the Scottish Government’s top civil servant – permanent secretary Leslie Evans – to make her aware of the situation and the potential for legal action against them.

The day after that, on June 7, the First Minister met her predecessor again in Aberdeen.

Part of the reason she decided to have this meeting was so she wasn’t “cornered” by Salmond at the SNP’s party conference in Aberdeen, she said, which started on June 8.

Sturgeon said she had not seen Salmond since July 14, when the pair had a “third and final” meeting at her home, and had not been in any kind of contact since July 20.

Concluding her submission to the committee, the First Minister wrote: “In what was a very difficult situation – personally, politically and professionally – I tried to do the right thing.

“Whether I always got it absolutely right is something I still reflect on, and the committee will consider, but I sought all along to act in good faith and to strike the right balance of judgment given the difficult issues I was confronted with.

“In the light of the #MeToo movement, I sought to ensure that the Scottish Government developed a process that allowed allegations of sexual harassment – including allegations of a historic nature – to be fully and fairly considered.”

She continued: “For the sake of the complainers, the Scottish Government and indeed Alex Salmond himself, I acted in a way that I judged would best protect the independence and confidentiality of the investigation.

“However, when I became aware of a serious risk of legal action against my
government, I felt I had a duty to make the permanent secretary aware of it.

“My view throughout was that complaints must be properly and fairly considered, no matter who the subject of them might be, or how politically inconvenient the investigations may be.

“And that remains my view, even though the circumstances and consequences of this particular investigation have caused me – and others, in many cases to an even greater extent – a great deal of personal anguish, and resulted in the breakdown of a relationship that had been very important to me, politically and personally, for most of my life.”

‘As many holes as Swiss cheese’

Opposition party MSPs seized on the First Minister’s written evidence as having “as many holes as Swiss cheese”.

Scottish Conservative spokesman on the Salmond inquiry, Murdo Fraser, said: “The SNP’s excuses are incredible and simply beyond belief. 

“We are expected to accept that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister renowned for her grasp of detail, has the memory of a sieve when she’s told that her mentor of 30 years is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. 

“A meeting that would be seared in most people’s memory was immediately forgot all about. 

“She then went on to meet with Mr Salmond again and again, on what was clearly government business, all while pretending it was solely about the SNP. 

“It’s hard to know what’s more shocking – this evidence, the fact they think we’ll believe this pile of nonsense, or that this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

He added: “It’s now a matter of fact that the First Minister misled parliament.

“She did not find out on April 2 and she did not find out from Alex Salmond.”

Committee member and Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The First Minister’s evidence to this committee raises many questions and could be described as having as many holes as a swiss cheese. 

“Despite senior figures in the SNP knowing of the alleged incident at Edinburgh Airport as early as 2008, the First Minister claims to have asked the First Minister about the veracity of the allegations in late 2017. 

“Was this because she ignored the allegations at the time or is it because the information had been sat on by other senior figures in the SNP, including her husband?”

Liberal Democrat committee member Alex Cole-Hamilton said the new evidence reveals there was “an offer on the table of independent arbitration which could have helped to resolve the issues at hand with a fraction of the cost and embarrassment that the Scottish Government eventually endured”.

He continued: “Alex Salmond’s messages are clear that his legal advisors considered his case at the judicial review to be a slam dunk.

“Surely that should have been sounding alarm bells in the Scottish Government. Instead they ploughed ahead at huge cost to the taxpayer.”

The Scottish Lib Dem MSP warned Sturgeon her evidence “leaves the committee with more questions than answers” – adding she will face “more detailed questions in person” when called to give oral evidence to the inquiry.

As well as Sturgeon’s submission, the committee also published on Wednesday written evidence from deputy FM John Swinney, advisers Liz Lloyd and Duncan Hamilton – and from SNP chief Mr Murrell.

The party chief executive, who married Sturgeon in 2010 when she was deputy first minister, said he wished he had “expressed myself more appropriately” concerning text messages about Salmond.

The messages, sent after the former SNP leader had been charged with various offences in January 2019, suggested it was “good time to be pressurising” police over the case, and that the “more fronts” the former First Minister is “having to firefight on the better”.

Writing to MSPs, Mr Murrell said: “The messages were sent the day after Mr Salmond had been charged with a number of serious offences.

“In the aftermath of this, the SNP was contacted by individuals who had specific, personal questions in relation to that criminal case.

“My intention was to advise that their questions should be addressed to the police and not the SNP.

“I acknowledge that I did not express myself well but I suggest that in the context of such a criminal case, directing people to the police was the only responsible thing to advise.”

He continued: “In relation to the second message, this has been presented as following on immediately from the first. That is inaccurate.

“However, my intended meaning was that any and all complaints should be appropriately investigated.

“The tone of it is a reflection of the shock, hurt and upset that I, and so many others in the SNP, felt that day given the events that had unfolded in court the previous day.

“As most people will appreciate, the immediacy of text messages lend themselves to informal, shorthand forms of expression but, even so, I would wish on reflection to have expressed myself more appropriately.”

Celtic protests investigated after three police officers hurt

Hundreds of fans gathered to call for manager Neil Lennon's sacking.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group

Police are investigating after three officers were hurt during a protest at Celtic Park.

Hundreds of fans gathered to call for manager Neil Lennon’s sacking on Sunday evening after a 2-0 defeat by Ross County.

The League Cup exit extended a bad run of form, which sees Celtic 11 points behind Rangers in the league as they chase a historic tenth title in a row.

A barrier was breached before supporters clashed with police officers during the protests.

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Celtic players and staff had to be escorted from the stadium, with the club later condemning the violent scenes. Lennon could hear the angry chants calling for his head from inside the stadium.

Glasgow is currently in level four of the coronavirus alert system, with large-scale gatherings outlawed.

The scenes were condemned by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said: “I don’t care if it’s Celtic fans, Rangers fans, Ayr United fans or if they are not fans of football at all, anyone who attacks a police officer is doing wrong and that is pretty despicable.

“I say that across the board regardless of football or any other sporting affiliation.”

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Police Scotland has now launched an investigation to trace those responsible.

Chief superintendent Mark Sutherland said: “I was saddened to see the disgraceful and violent scenes at Celtic Park on Sunday evening, it is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

“Three of my officers suffered injuries, albeit minor as a result of the violent behaviour which took place. The chief constable has made it clear that violence towards officers and staff will not be tolerated and I am wholly committed to that within Greater Glasgow.

“We should not forgot that protest of any type is illegal. While we remain in tier four and beyond, the disorder and violence this gathering presented posed a real risk of coronavirus infection to our officers and the wider community with no social distancing in place.

“We have now launched an investigation to identify those who were involved in the disorder and violence towards police officers, players and officials.

“My message is clear, if you are identified as being involved, you will be arrested. Don’t think just because you weren’t arrested last night that you have escaped justice.

“I would appeal to anyone who has any information that will assist this investigation to contact us through 101.”


Community testing could become more ‘routine’ in new year

Testing trials are being carried out in communities in central and western parts of Scotland.

Andrew Milligan via Getty Images
Coronavirus: Community testing trials under way in parts of Scotland.

Coronavirus testing trials in communities will inform plans to carry out asymptomatic tests “more routinely in the new year”, the First Minister has said.

The scheme is being piloted in a number of locations in central and western parts of Scotland, where Covid rates “continue to be of concern and are higher than the national average”.

Mobile testing units have opened in Alloa in Clackmannanshire, in Dalmarnock and Pollokshields in Glasgow, in Stewarton in East Ayrshire and in Girvan in South Ayrshire.

“The lessons that we learn from these trials will then inform our plans to expand community testing much more extensively and much more routinely early in the new year,” Nicola Sturgeon said at Monday’s coronavirus briefing.

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She added: “We do hope that identifying more people who are positive will help us ensure that they are not spreading the virus and that’s why we are currently focusing these trials – these pilot programmes – on areas with high prevalence.

“So if you live in one of these areas, I would encourage you to come forward for testing.

“You give yourself the chance of finding out if you have the virus if you don’t yet have symptoms but you’re also helping that collective effort to try to break the chains of transmission.”

Scotland recorded three deaths of people with coronavirus and 369 positive cases in the past 24 hours.

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However, Sturgeon said there had been a “technical issue” with the reporting systems overnight meaning the figures reported may be “slightly lower” than expected.

When does Sturgeon decide to start living dangerously?

The First Minister will be under pressure to deliver a second independence referendum after next year's election.

Nicola Sturgeon may need a plan B to hold indyref2.

Today, Nicola Sturgeon addresses the SNP conference. Like so much of life at the moment, even that will be a strange affair. No packed hall, no obligatory standing ovation, no raucous cheering as the backdrop accompanying the bongs on the evening news programmes.

There will be spending announcements, including financial help for poorer families, and an outline of the agenda on which the party will contest next May’s Holyrood election.

With the polls suggesting those elections are a foregone conclusion in terms of who will win, the only real post-pandemic question for the First Minister is what she will do to deliver a second independence referendum if there is a majority for one next year.

Now, of course, that, constitutionally speaking, is not in her gift. Westminster has to consent to such a poll and the Prime Minister has made clear he will say no.

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Which means that come April, when a campaign of sorts will be underway, Sturgeon will spend much of it being dogged by the question, what do you do when the UK Government says no?

She has been here before. The question was posed at the UK general elections in 2017 and 2019 when the SNP was clear about their ambition for a second referendum. How many mandates does the SNP leader need before she decides to live dangerously?

The frustration of Yes supporters is increased by the belief that next time victory will be theirs. The post-2014 narrative has not gone well for the advocates of the status quo.

The Conservatives have won three UK general elections whilst being supported by only one in four Scots who voted in last December’s poll. And Scotland has left the EU despite a convincing majority in favour of remaining.

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In 2014, the debate around the economics of independence and in particular the currency question acted as a break on the surge for Yes as risk averse voters in middle-class areas opted to say ‘better together’.

As I see it, pro-Union politicians have three new problems post-2014.

First, much of the current debate is on whether the devolved settlement is capable of bridging the ‘democratic deficit’ that devolution was meant to straddle. Brexit suggests not.

If a second poll is fought predominantly on the alleged dysfunctionality of the governance arrangements of the UK, then that is far stronger ground for Yes than having to explain away how they will plug the financial black hole once Scotland accepts her share of the UKs financial liabilities.

Unless the pro Union parties can reframe the debate, they run the risk of fighting on ground more advantageous to the proponents of change.

Second, the pro-Union position has become predominantly identified with the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, who now form the official opposition to the SNP at Holyrood. Alistair Darling’s leadership of the Better Together campaign does seem a lifetime ago.

With Scottish Labour a much diminished force compared to six years ago, there is an added danger that a second poll becomes a surrogate contest in asking voters to choose between independence and the SNP and the status quo and the Conservatives. The lack of a Labour voice in such a dynamic can only benefit the Yes side.

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And then there is the question, who leads? A Conservative politician leading the No side would reinforce the view that unionism is best identified with the Conservative cause, a proposition many who voted No in 2014 would find hard to accept.

Then there is a simple question for the No side. What are you offering? The Vow in 2014 was an 11th hour response to a surge for Yes. It was not part of a carefully crafted strategy where leaders decided to play a strong hand to maximum advantage. I see no signs of serious thought about crafting a new pro-Union agenda outwith some references to federalism by some Labour figures.

All of the above is not lost on Yes supporters, hence their desire to get on with it. Those in the wider Yes movement, already impatient with the First Minister, will not settle for fighting talk ultimately defined by inaction.

With every passing month of 2021, Covid will diminish as a vaccine programme is rolled out. By the third quarter of next year it might be in the last throes of affecting our lives in the way it has.

Until it is beaten it will remain the SNP leader’s number one priority. However, at that point she needs a Plan B on IndyRef to implement. 

Her instincts are cautious, shying away from organising a Holyrood-inspired plebiscite which may titillate constitutional lawyers and frame the case for change around pursuit of a poll that could be mired in debates about illegality.

Doing nothing in 2021 is not an option and she knows it. Then again the given in this conundrum is that Boris Johnson will continue to say No. Will he?

If his party goes down to a large defeat next May he may be forced to abandon the pre-election rhetoric realising you cannot imprison yet another Holyrood mandate in the safety deposit of Westminster sovereignty.


Couple wed in hospital in ceremony organised by staff

The couple decided to tie the knot after Rory's health worsened, seeking help from his nurses to pull off the big day.

Rebecca Macadam via

A young couple have married in hospital in a ceremony organised by staff in just two days. 

Rebecca Macadam, 23, and Rory Wilson, 24, decided on Wednesday they wanted to wed after Rory’s health began to deteriorate. 

Rory requires a multivisceral transplant and has been waiting in hospital to travel to Cambridge for assessment before he can be placed on the organ transplant list. 

The couple from Falkirk had originally planned to save for a wedding after becoming engaged two and a half years ago, but sought help from Rory’s nurses at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after his condition worsened. 

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“They’ve known Rory for five years because he had two liver transplants back in 2015. He’s like their ward son,” Rebecca explained.

Rebecca Macadam via

“The past couple of weeks have been quite touch and go, he’s had involvement from the palliative pain team and there wasn’t much that Edinburgh could do in terms of his condition.

“One thing that he wanted to do was get married and the nurses and the coordinators and everybody decided to help make that happen.”

Rebecca quickly ordered a wedding dress online which arrived on Friday morning and borrowed her late Nana and Grandad’s rings for the ceremony while the couple’s were being delivered. 

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With just six guests allowed at the wedding, Rory and Rebecca each invited their parents and brothers to witness their union at the hospital.

Meanwhile staff busied themselves decorating a bay for the couple in under 24 hours. 

“The coordinators of the liver transplant team organised everything from balloons to the buffet and decorations. One of them even got me a garter,” Rebecca laughed.

“They did so much in such little time, I honestly don’t know how they did it to be honest, they wouldn’t let me see the room they decorated, I was kept in the dark.”

Rebecca Macadam via

On their wedding day, Rory, dressed in a tartan tie, stood waiting for Rebecca to walk up the aisle as staff looked on. 

Rebecca said there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as they became man and wife. 

“It wasn’t the wedding we had planned, but it was definitely something really special for us.” she said.

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“Our whole relationship, the hospital has kind of third wheeled it, so it was very fitting to have all his nurses who have looked after him for a good five years be there as well.

“It was very emotional, I don’t think there was a dry eye.”

Rebecca Macadam via

Following their wedding, the couple hope Rory can travel to Cambridge in the coming days before being placed on the organ donor list for the liver and small bowel transplant he desperately needs. 

Rebecca is thankful they were able to celebrate their special day together and are hoping for a brighter future as man and wife. 

“Two weeks ago we didn’t think he would still be here. You never know what’s around the corner.”


Four-day working week should be examined, say SNP members

Calls for ministers to review working practices in Scotland, including a possible move to a shorter working week.

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SNP: Calls for a possible shift to a shorter working week.

SNP members have called on ministers to instigate a review that could bring about a four-day working week in the event of independence.

A motion at the party’s annual conference, this year being held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, passed by 1136 votes to 70.

Contained in the resolution was a call for ministers to review working practices in Scotland, including a possible shift to a shorter working week.

The resolution states: “Conference calls on the Scottish Government to undertake a review into how working practices should be adapted to meet the needs of the future economy, including the possibility of a four-day working week and more support for people to work from home or closer to home, with a view to reform when Scotland gains full control of employment rights.”

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Party member Lee Robb made the case for a reduced working week while speaking in favour of the motion on Monday.

He said: “The coronavirus pandemic has upended the way we live our lives but so too has it given us the opportunity to reset and rethink how we work.”

Employees who work a four-day week are “happier, healthier, more productive, less likely to take time off sick and less likely to be burned out by the end of the week”, he said.

In Denmark, Mr Robb claimed productivity did not drop when the reduced week was trialled.

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He said: “Danish workers work around four hours per week less than we do in the UK yet their productivity is still around 23% higher than ours.

“Now, that tells us a few things, but it certainly tells us that many UK businesses are asking their employees to throw dead time at their jobs – where they’re not adding to the productivity of the company – and it’s to the detriment of mental health, to the detriment of a work life balance that’s healthy.”

A report released by the Autonomy think tank earlier this year found around 500,000 jobs in the UK would be created as a result of a shift to the shorter working week in the public sector.

With workers remaining on full pay despite reducing their hours, the initiative would cost £9bn Autonomy said, equivalent to 6% of the total wage bill.


Woman to send hundreds of Christmas cards to care homes

Andrea Fraser aims to brighten up Christmas Day for elderly people who may not have visitors.

SWNS via SWNS
Andrea is wanting to brighten up Christmas Day for elderly people.

A woman is planning to send hundreds of Christmas cards to care home residents facing loneliness due to coronavirus restrictions.

Andrea Fraser, 28, aims to brighten up Christmas Day for elderly people who may not have visitors.

The trainee lawyer, from Leith, Edinburgh, usually collects presents for children in need during the festive period.

But this year she has turned her attention to care home residents – many of whom have been at direct threat from Covid-19 and have had to self-isolate.

SWNS via SWNS
Andrea is planning on sending hundreds of Christmas cards to care home residents.
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Andrea is also looking to send cards to elderly people living alone across the city and has had more than 3000 requests – and offers to help from as far away as Australia.

She has organised seven collection and drop-off points around Edinburgh for those wishing to take part in writing and donating cards for the elderly this Christmas.

The card stations are currently at the post box on Leith Walk, Morrisons in Portobello Road and the little book cupboard St Mary’s School on Leith Links.

‘This year, more than ever and due to the extraordinary measures care homes are having to take to limit visitors, I believe more people than ever will be experiencing loneliness.’

Andrea Fraser

Andrea said: “This year, more than ever and due to the extraordinary measures care homes are having to take to limit visitors, I believe more people than ever will be experiencing loneliness.

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“So I have been determined to be better organised and try to beat my previous record of 300 Christmas cards.

“I got posting again in local Facebook groups and it really just took off. The community response has been incredible.

“I have lots of boxes of blank cards that people can fill out, so I will drop them off at different collection points around the city.

“It’s impossible to tell at the moment how many I have, but it’s a lot. It’s amazing how generous the community is.

“I have had offers to make cards, crochet cards, have children make cards and even an offer from a Portobello resident who is currently living in Australia. It has been amazing.

‘I will make sure to come up with a certain way to quarantine the cards before they are handed to residents for safety reasons.’

Andrea Fraser

“I will make sure to come up with a certain way to quarantine the cards before they are handed to residents for safety reasons.”

She came up with the idea of delivering cards to the elderly last year while she was making shoeboxes of gifts for children.

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With some of the money left over from fundraising for young people in need, she decided to buy cards for those in the older generation who are prone to loneliness.

Andrea said: “It was a bit last minute last year, but with the little money I had left from the children campaign I managed to get around 300 cards delivered.

“I was delivering them to homes up until 6pm on Christmas Eve, I felt like Santa.”

Andrea is currently focusing on delivering cards just in Edinburgh, but plans may change depending on how much momentum the project gathers.

She said: “It may be that we stretch further afield, or that people in other towns and cities take on a similar idea for their areas.

“Either way, it’s lovely to be able to do something that puts a smile on someone’s face this Christmas.”


More than 80 women sexually exploited by trafficking gangs

Nine of the victims were aged under 18 years, the youngest was 13 and the oldest, 56 years old.

Kamionsky via Getty Images
Scotland: 84 women sexually exploited by trafficking gangs this year.

Police have confirmed 84 women were identified as victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation in Scotland this year.

Nine of the victims were aged under 18 years, the youngest was 13 and the oldest, 56 years old.

Officers say criminal gangs are continuing to force women into prostitution despite the travel restrictions and border closures in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Women are being trafficked from within the UK and from countries including Romania, Vietnam, China and a number of African nations.

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Last year saw an exponential increase in potential victims of trafficking, particularly from Vietnam. Around 104 female victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation were identified.

Trafficking has reduced in 2020 but the proportion of those trafficked to be sexually exploited has increased slightly.

In 2019, four people were jailed for a total of over 36 years for the trafficking and exploitation of ten victims for sexual exploitation and sham marriages in Scotland. One victim was sold in a busy city centre street in Glasgow for around £10,000.

‘We know there are many more victims.’

Detective chief superintendent Sam McCluskey

Several major sexual exploitation focused operations have taken place in Scotland this year.

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Three in Glasgow resulted in 13 arrests and the recovery of 25 victims.

A Police Scotland led joint operation with Romanian police resulted in 24 arrests, ten in the UK and the remainder in Romania.

Detective chief superintendent Sam McCluskey said: “Despite Covid-19 health risks and the global travel restrictions, traffickers are still plying their despicable trade in human beings.

“We believe the number of women, and girls, identified as being trafficked and sexually exploited is under-estimated. We know there are many more victims.

“Not all victims see themselves as victims. They may have made a choice to come to Scotland on a promise of a better life, fallen into the hands of traffickers and then found themselves victims of horrific deception and exploitation.

“Sexual exploitation is highly lucrative for criminal gangs. They can potentially make millions forcing people into prostitution or into sham marriages.

“Many of those being sexually exploited are advertised on websites including adult services websites.

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“People who pay for sex need to think about what they are doing. They may be responsible for the continued sexual exploitation of a woman and for directly funding organised crime.

“Landlords need to consider who is renting their property and how that property is being used.

“Local communities often provide key information to identifying potential victims and through them the traffickers.

“It’s up to all of us to spot the signs, to help those being exploited, to stand against the traffickers and to protect our communities.”

‘Commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution and trafficking are all forms of male violence against women.’

Bronagh Andrew, operations manager for TARA

Bronagh Andrew, operations manager for Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), said: “Commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution and trafficking are all forms of male violence against women.

“Traffickers, and others, profit from this abuse of women – women being sold on, only to exist in poverty, fear, poor health, trauma and isolation. This objectification and commodification of women’s bodies for financial gain is not only a consequence but a cause of female inequality.

“Covid-19 has not stopped the demand from men for sex.  The only thing that will is by taking robust action against those who choose to pay for sex and those who profit from the harm while we all continue to strive for gender equality.

“Throughout the pandemic, TARA and Routes Out have continued to offer safe accommodation, financial support, health services, legal advice, advocacy and emotional support to those women who need it, while they recover and heal from their experiences. 

“We continue to work closely with our partners in Police Scotland to meet the needs of this diverse group of women and help them feel believed, safe and protected.”


Dig aims to uncover the original Hampden Park

An initiative to uncover the original Hampden Park built in 1873 has been launched.

Craig Foy via SNS Group
Hampden Park: The current stadium renovated in 1999.

A dig to uncover the original Hampden Park will take place in Glasgow.

Built in 1873, it was the first international stadium in world football and remained home to Queens Park FC and the Scotland national team until 1884.

The site, which witnessed some of Scotland’s greatest ever victories, including a 5-1 victory over England in 1882, was closed due to the Cathcart Circle Railway Line being built

A mural depicting the win, featuring the world’s first black international footballer Andrew Watson, was recently unveiled.

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Watson captained Scotland on his debut a year earlier in against England in London. Scotland won the match 6-1 in what remains the Auld Enemy’s biggest ever defeat.

‘First Hampden’ is also the football ground where the modern passing game, now played or watched by billions of people around the world, was invented and was the blueprint for other stadiums.

The exact location had been lost over the years but was rediscovered in 2017, when Graeme Brown, Hampden Bowling Club secretary, discovered a railway map.

Archaeology Scotland has now been able to draw up a plan to carry out investigations, including geophysical surveys and excavations.

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Director Eila Macqueen: “This is an incredible opportunity for Archaeology Scotland to contribute to a project with real local, national and international significance, especially as it is the home of Scottish and arguably world football”.

The work will be carried out by the summer of 2021 to coincide with the National men’s football team returning to their first major tournament in 22 years, with matches coincidently taking place in the current Hampden Park.

Mr Brown said: “First Hampden is one of the secrets of the sporting world, and our partnership with Archaeology Scotland is a key step in ensuring everyone understands the importance of this site.

“We need to preserve First Hampden for future generations to enjoy.”


Criminal cash courier leaves £10,000 in bag on Glasgow train

Weijie Shi accidentally left the bag of money behind after alighting the Glasgow to Manchester service at Carlisle.

SNS group via SNS Group
Jailed: Wejjie Shi left a bag of criminal cash on a Glasgow to Manchester train.

A cash courier for a criminal gang has been jailed after he accidentally left a bag containing £10,000 onboard a Glasgow train.

Weijie Shi, 25, left the bag of money behind after alighting the Glasgow to Manchester service at Carlisle train station on November 20 last year, a court heard.

Passengers tried to attract his attention after spotting the unattended bag and phone which he had left on board.

After the train pulled away, Shi told a staff member he’d been separated from his belongings. He then boarded a train back to Glasgow.

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Carlisle Crown Court heard that the bag that he had mislaid was found by staff onboard the train.

When a conductor opened it to check for something that may identify the owner, he found that the bag was crammed full of cash.

British Transport Police later confirmed that the there was a total of £10,000 inside.

Shi, of no fixed address, was traced from CCTV footage and initially gave a fake name which matched a false passport in his possession.

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He later admitted charges of having an identification document with improper intention, and possessing criminal property.

Judge Nicholas Barker said Shi was clearly a “courier’ moving cash linked to crime.

However, there was no indication of who the defendant was working for and it was not revealed how the money was raised.

The court heard Shi was in the UK illegally and had not lodged an asylum claim because he was awaiting the outcome of his case.

Imposing an immediate jail term of 11-months, the judge said: “You are not of settled status.

“You have no previous convictions recorded against you in this country.

“Those who possess false identity documents in this country can expect a custodial sentence.”

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As Shi had already spent six months in custody while waiting for his case to come to court, Judge Barker told him: “It seems likely from what I have been told that your release will either be today or very soon.”


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