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.”

Storm Arwen: ‘Don’t use roads under any circumstances’

Winds of 90mph have 'the potential to bring the most damaging winds we’ve seen for years'.

BEAR NE Trunk Roads via BEAR NE Trunk Roads

Storm Arwen has been given the Met Office’s highest warning level and “has the potential to bring the most damaging winds we’ve seen for years”.

Motorists have been warned to “not travel under any circumstances” while the red warning is in place in eastern Scotland from 3pm on Friday until 2am on Saturday.

Forecasters warned winds as fast as 90mph could damage buildings, bring down power lines and disrupt travel from Friday afternoon.

Since the warning was issued, roads, bridges and railway lines have been closed, with delays to buses, trains, ferry services and flights.

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SSE has reported more than 150 unplanned power outages across Scotland and the Met Office has warned that mobile phone service could be disrupted.

There is a particular threat to sea front homes and businesses, with large waves and debris being thrown on to coastal roads.

The red warning for the first named storm this winter is in place along the eastern coastline and also covers parts of northern England.

Superintendent Simon Bradshaw, from Police Scotland’s road policing unit, said: “The high winds being experienced have led to red weather warnings coming into effect and as such, any motorist within these affected regions should not travel under any circumstances.

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“If you are currently within more in-land areas of these regions, then amber and yellow warnings are also in place and we are asking that you do not journey out unless for essential purposes and if you are doing so, to be mindful of the challenging conditions you will face.

“A number of local road closures and bridge restrictions may also be implemented during this period of adverse weather and we would advise the public to consult the Transport Scotland and Met Office websites for continuous and updated information.”

There is a particular threat to sea front homes and businesses with large waves and debris being thrown on to coastal roads.

STV meteorologist Sean Batty warned that Arwen “has the potential to bring the most damaging winds we’ve seen for years”.

He added: “That’s especially since the strongest gusts will affect the more built up areas of the east coast, rather than the Hebrides and Northern Isles where we do see winds of this strength from time to time in the winter months.

“Red warnings are the highest level of warnings that we have, and are therefore extremely rare. The last red warning that was issued in Scotland was back in February 2018 for snow, but the last time we had a red warning for strong winds was in 2016 for Orkney and Shetland.”

A yellow weather warning has been issued across the rest of the country, where power cuts, road closures and damage to trees and structures are all possible.

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Much of the Highlands has been warned to expect snow and high winds, with a chance that some could be stranded if caught up in blizzards.

The Met Office said it is possible that some communities might become cut off in the latter half of the day, with every school in Orkney closing for the day at 1pm.

BEAR Scotland, which looks after the trunk roads in the north-west, north-east and south-east of Scotland, said it was primed to tackle whatever weather conditions Storm Arwen brings.

Restrictions may be required on bridges such as Skye Bridge, Kessock Bridge, Dornoch Bridge, Cromarty Bridge, Friarton Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge.

The A1 has been closed to high sided vehicles after winds speeds of up to 52mph were recorded near Torness.

Vehicles including motorbikes, caravans and cars with trailers and roof boxes will be diverted via the A68.

Eddie Ross, BEAR Scotland’s operating company representative for the north-west, said: “We are fully prepped and are closely monitoring conditions and will act quickly when required.

“We remind members of the public to check before travelling. Traffic Scotland is a great source of the latest journey information and advice. Drivers of high sided and wind-susceptible vehicles such as caravans and trailers should take particular care and check for restrictions.”

Network Rail said the storm turned out to be “worse than forecasted”, adding there had been several incidents of trains striking trees and branches.

Many travellers were left stranded after routes abruptly stopped due to the weather conditions, with some forced to travel hundreds of miles by taxi after alternative transport was unavailable.

On Friday evening, ScotRail said there would be no trains running on the following routes:

  • Edinburgh – Dunbar/North Berwick
  • Edinburgh – Dundee/Perth
  • Edinburgh – Fife
  • Perth – Inverness
  • Dundee – Aberdeen
  • Inverness – Aberdeen
  • Inverness – Wick/Kyle
  • Dumbarton Ctl – Balloch

Trains travelling in and out of Glasgow Queen Street station were also disrupted after a fallen tree was discovered resting on power lines in Bishopbriggs.

Speed restrictions were put in place earlier in the day on services between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, Aberdeen and Inverness and the Far North line.

The East Coast Mainline and North Berwick branch lines were closed from 5pm until end of service on Friday.

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Cars crushed by trees in Banchory, Aberdeenshire

In Aberdeenshire, a number of cars were crushed by falling trees and branches at Banchory Lodge Hotel.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have urged the public not to contact them over fallen trees and debris on roads after being inundated with calls.

A SFRS spokesperson said: “Our Operations Control rooms across the country are receiving a higher number of calls than usual this evening, Friday, November 26 due to the severe weather as a result of Storm Arwen.

“We ask the public for their co-operation at this time and remind them that all non-emergency calls relating to trees and other road debris should be made to the local authority for the area.”

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Fallen tree on the A9

Meanwhile events were cancelled following warnings not to travel, with Disney on Ice at the P&J Live in Aberdeen forced to abandon Friday’s show.

The venue said ticket holders will be issued with a full refund.

The warnings in full:

  • A red weather warning for wind is in place along Scotland’s eastern coast from 3pm on Friday until 2am on Saturday
  • A yellow weather warning for wind is in place across most of the country from 9am on Friday until 6pm on Saturday
  • An amber warning for Storm Arwen is in place across the east coast from 3pm on Friday until 9am on Saturday
  • A yellow warning for snow is in place across much of the Highlands from 2pm on Friday until midnight

Transport minister Graeme Dey said: “The first storm of the winter period, Storm Arwen, is set to impact Scotland on Friday and Saturday.

“The whole country is going to see blustery conditions, but the Met Office is telling us that eastern parts of Scotland in particular are going to see some difficult weather.”

“I would urge motorists to check the Met Office and Traffic Scotland websites and social media before setting out on their journey, particularly in those areas most affected by the predicted adverse weather.”


Sturgeon won’t say if she’ll lead SNP into next election

First Minister also discusses plans for the Cambo oilfield and a second independence referendum.

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Nicola Sturgeon has refused say whether she intends to lead the SNP into the next Scottish Parliament election.

The First Minister said it was “preposterous” to reveal her plans nearly five years before the poll, after rumours began circulating following a magazine interview.

Sturgeon, speaking to STV News ahead of the SNP conference, also discussed her plans for a second independence referendum and the controversial Cambo oilfield expansion.

“I intend to fulfil the mandate I won in the election just seven months ago with a historically high share of the vote,” Sturgeon said.

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“I intend to be First Minister for this term of parliament and, like most people, I’ll think about the next election when we get closer to the next election.”

Speculation began after the First Minister said she and her husband, the party’s chief executive Peter Murrell, may foster children in the future during an interview with Vogue magazine last month.

“The fact that my opponents seem to be incapable of beating me themselves doesn’t mean they should look to me to do their job for them and somehow remove myself from office,” Sturgeon said.

“That ain’t going to happen.”

‘Cambo needs a rigorous assessment’

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The First Minister also eased off on the strength of her opposition to the Cambo oilfield expansion, after saying ten days ago that she did not believe the proposed drilling should be given the green light.

But on Friday, Sturgeon returned her previous point of view – that the plans should undergo a “rigorous climate assessment”.

She insisted that she was “absolutely emphatically not” abandoning the oil and gas industry.

“The science is telling us we have to move away as quickly as possible from fossil fuels, or frankly we don’t limit global warming in the way that we need to do for the sake of the future of our planet,” Sturgeon said.

“No leader should put their head in the sand and ignore that.”

She said Scotland needed to accelerate a “just transition” away from oil and gas that did not leave the 100,000 people working in the sector on the “economic scrapheap”.

‘Indyref2 plans depend on Covid’

The First Minister said she intended to take steps towards a second independence referendum before the end of 2023 – an SNP manifesto commitment.

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But Sturgeon would not be drawn on when Scots can expect the government to publish a referendum bill.

“Exactly at what point next year we will introduce that bill depends on, not least, when we’ve got through the winter and Covid,” she said.

“But I’m very clear, Covid permitting, I intend to take these steps in a timescale that will allow a referendum to happen in that timescale.”

Asked whether those plans take into account potential legal action, she said there was no need if those in political office “simply accept democracy”.

“I’m not planning to take legal action, if the UK Government are planning to take legal action to overturn Scottish democracy, perhaps it’s them you should be asking that question of,” Sturgeon said.


Scotland face Ukraine in World Cup play-off semi-final

Steve Clarke’s side will face Wales or Austria in the final if they win.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Six consecutive wins earned Scotland a play-off place and a home draw in the semis.

Scotland have been drawn to play Ukraine in the World Cup play-off semi-final next year.

If the national side win that match at Hampden, they will play the winner of Wales v Austria for a place at the World Cup finals in Qatar next year.

The final will be played in Wales or Austria.

The play-off draw was conducted at FIFA headquarters on Friday and manager Steve Clarke and his players now know exactly what stands between them and a first World Cup appearance since 1998.

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Scotland finished second in their qualification group to earn a play-off place, winning their last six matches to finish ahead of Israel and Austria and securing seeded status as one of the best runners-up.

As seeds, the team were guaranteed a home draw for the semi-final on March 24, with Hampden expected to be a sell-out for the match.

The final will be played on March 29.

Ukraine

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Ukraine were unbeaten in the group stage and faced France twice without defeat but they only won two of their matches (against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Finland), drawing the other six games and failing to beat Kazakhstan in either match.

The Euro 2020 quarter-finalists have only won six of their last 18 games but seem to have a knack of getting a result when it matters.

Oleksandr Petrakov is in temporary charge after Andriy Shevchenko quit in August and has an experienced squad to draw upon, with a core of Ukraine-based players supplemented by players from top sides, including Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko and West Ham’s Andriy Yarmalenko.


World Health Organisation say new Covid strain ‘variant of concern’

The organisation, which has named the variant Omicron, said the strain has an increased risk of reinfection.

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Variant: WHO say new strain of coronavirus is a 'variant of concern'.

A new strain of coronavirus that has reached Belgium after being discovered in South Africa has been designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation.

The WHO warned that preliminary evidence suggests the variant, which the organisation named Omicron, has an increased risk of reinfection and may spread more rapidly than other strains.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there is “huge international concern” surrounding the strain after banning flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to limit its spread.

He told MPs there are concerns the variant may be more transmissible, make vaccines less effective and may affect one of the UK’s Covid treatments, Ronapreve.

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Ministers were facing calls to go further to prevent a wave of Omicron arriving in Britain while a Delta surge is ongoing, as Belgium became the first EU country to announce a case.

Professor John Edmunds, who advises the Government as part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned that could create a “very, very, very difficult situation”.

The EU, US and Canada all followed Britain’s move to impose travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa ahead of the WHO adding the strain, also known as B.1.1.529, to its highest category for concerning variants.

Experts at the WHO said there is early evidence to suggest Omicron has an “increased risk of reinfection” and its rapid spread in South Africa suggests it has a “growth advantage”.

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No cases have been detected in the UK but its arrival in Belgium – after being found in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel – has heightened concerns.

Marc Van Ranst, a virologist at the Rega Institute in Belgium, said a sample was confirmed as the variant in a traveller who returned from Egypt on November 11 before first showing symptoms 11 days later.

The six African countries were added to the UK’s travel red list on Thursday evening and passengers arriving in the UK from these countries from 4am on Sunday will be required to book and pay for a Government-approved hotel quarantine for ten days.

Downing Street urged anyone who has arrived from those countries recently to get tested.

Javid said discussions are ongoing over the prospect of adding further countries to the red list, telling the Commons the Government “won’t hesitate to act if we need to do so”.

Boris Johnson held a call with South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday afternoon after foreign minister Naledi Pandor said the flight ban “seems to have been rushed”.

The Prime Minister “commended South Africa’s rapid genomic sequencing” and its “leadership in transparently sharing scientific data”, Downing Street said.

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“They discussed the challenges posed globally by the new Covid-19 variant and ways to work together to deal with it and reopen international travel,” a statement said.

Prof Edmunds said the new strain “is a huge worry” and that “all the data suggests” it would be able to evade current immunity.

“Our fears are it would do so to a large extent,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

Prof Edmunds urged ministers to look at extending travel restrictions and to prepare a plan to deal with Omicron because “at some point we’re going to get this variant here in the UK”.

He suggested mass testing and local restrictions must be looked at while other preparations could include making the booster programme more rapid, perhaps by reducing the gap between second and third doses, and widening it to younger age groups.

“Even the vaccines don’t work particularly well against this new variant, they do against Delta, and we’re still fighting a Delta wave and we certainly don’t want to be fighting both at the same time,” he said.

“There are things we can do and we need to get on with it very rapidly.”

South African scientists fear the variant is behind a dramatic rise in cases in some regions, including Gauteng province, which includes the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Pfizer/BioNTech, which has produced a vaccine against Covid-19, is already studying the new variant’s ability to evade vaccines.

Experts have said vaccines can be tweaked to tackle new variants as they emerge.


FM urged to put flagship hospital under ministerial control

Scottish Labour repeated demands following concerns over Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

SNS Group via SNS Group
Concerns: Scottish Labour urge First Minister to put hospital under ministerial control.

Nicola Sturgeon has been told she “must” put a flagship hospital under direct ministerial control and sack senior figures at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar repeated demands for the First Minister to step in, amid concerns about the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

It comes amid ongoing controversy about infections at the hospital, with Sarwar claiming these had been linked to more deaths.

He told Sturgeon that a case of aspergillus had been discovered in a child cancer patient who was being treated in the same ward at the same time as Andrew Slorance – a senior Scottish Government official who died last year after contracting both coronavirus and the aspergillus infection while being treated for cancer in the QEUH.

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Sarwar also said that more recently a child in the paediatric hospital acquired a waterborne infection like the one linked to the death of schoolgirl Milly Main and had also died.

After raising concerns with Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, the Labour leader repeated his calls for action in a letter to her, calling for both the chairman and the chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to be removed from their posts.

Sarwar told her: “You must sack the chairman and chief executive at NHSGCC, sack the oversight board and put the hospital under direct ministerial control.

“More families should not have to pay the price for your government failing to do the right thing.”

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In his letter to Sturgeon, the Scottish Labour leader recalled that previous health secretary Shona Robison had placed NHS Tayside into “special measures”, with the health board chief executive and chair both replaced, amid concerns over improper use of funds.

Sarwar told the First Minister: “My concern is that while your government has seen fit to use these powers over financial mismanagement, you are unwilling to act when they could save lives.”

He insisted: “People are still dying from preventable hospital-acquired infections.

“A culture of bullying and intimidation at the board continues to leave staff fearful of speaking out.

“The leadership at the health board, and the oversight board put in place by your government, have failed.”

Sturgeon has already told the Scottish Labour leader that “sacking a health board does not change overnight the practice in a hospital”.

She stated: “When concerns are raised about the cause of someone’s death, then that has to be properly investigated so that the action that is then taken as a result of that is the right action.”

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While she accepted “these are serious matters”, the First Minister stressed: “We do not do justice to the families concerned if we simply call for action that is not based on proper investigation, proper scrutiny and proper consideration.”

A spokesperson for NHSGGC said: “In the past 24 hours, the QEUH/RHC and specifically the treatment provided to our patients has continued to be called into question.

“Hearing such speculation and allegations has been extremely difficult for our staff and patients alike.”

The spokesperson said the continued claims to be made that NHSGGC is failing to be transparent across all areas of patient care and building safety is “of serious concern”.

“We are deeply saddened by the way in which the commitment and working practices of our staff at the QEUH and RHC are being portrayed,” they added.

“However, it is important that we are not complacent and, when issues or concerns are raised, we will continue to address them in a constructive and robust manner.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The First Minister has received Mr Sarwar’s letter and will respond in due course.

“As NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have made it clear, infection control procedures at the QEUH are rigorous and of the highest standard.

“The Scottish Government has engaged with the health board to ensure that the concerns raised are properly investigated and resolved.”


Family, friends and fans attend funeral for Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld

Funeral service was being shown to supporters on a big screen outside Celtic Park.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group

Family, friends, fans and former teammates of Celtic legend Bertie Auld gathered in Glasgow to bid farewell to the Lisbon Lion as his funeral took place.

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Bertie Auld: Tributes left at Celtic Park ahead of funeral

The European Cup winner, who also won five league titles, three Scottish Cups and four League Cups during during two spells at the Parkhead club, died earlier this month aged 83.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Current Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou arrives at St Mary’s for Auld’s funeral on Friday.

His funeral cortege passed Celtic Park at around 1.30pm on Friday, following a service at St Mary’s Chapel, which was shown on a big screen outside the stadium.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Kyogo: Japan international among current first team in attendance

Auld’s fellow Lisbon Lion, Jim Craig, performed a reading at the service, which was being attended by former Celtic players including Tom Boyd, Stephen McManus, Andy Walker, Davie Hay and John Clark.

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Lisbon Lion: John Clark paying respects to former teammate Bertie Auld
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Other club legends paying their respects included Danny McGrain, Roy Aitken, Frank McAvennie and Joe Miller.

Callum McGregor, Kyogo Furuhashi, Joe Hart and Jota were among the current first team in attendance.

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Neil Lennon arrives at the funeral of former Celtic player Bertie Auld.

Manager Ange Postecoglou arrived at the Chapel with first team coach John Kennedy with predecessors Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers also there to show their respects.

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Club legend: Danny McGrain arrives at St Mary’s

Respect was also coming from the blue-side of Glasgow through Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson.

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Rangers Managing Director Stewart Robertson paying respects to Bertie Auld.
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Rangers legend Willie Henderson was also representing the Ibrox club in paying respects to his former rival.

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Rival: Rangers legend Willie Henderson attending service for Bertie Auld.

Thousands of fans gathered at Celtic Park to watch the service.

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Big screen: Fans gather at Celtic Park for Bertie Auld’s funeral service.

Auld was part of the Celtic team which lifted the European Cup after beating Inter Milan in Lisbon in 1967 and also played in the 1970 final when Jock Stein’s men lost to Feyenoord in extra-time.

No other Scottish team has reached the final of Europe’s top competition since.

‘He defined the notion of a diehard’

Obituary by STV special correspondent Bernard Ponsonby

If Billy McNeill is the never to be forgotten icon of Lisbon 1967, Jimmy Johnstone the irrepressible entertainer, Bobby Murdoch the beating heart of this country’s greatest ever club side, then Bertie Auld is the enduring spirit.

As everyone who walks Kerrydale Street or has attended a supporter’s function or drank in a Celtic pub will know, there was no greater ambassador for remembering the magic of that night or of honouring the memory of his departed brothers than Bertie Auld.

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It was Auld who led the singing of the Celtic song as the players emerged from the tunnel in the Estadio Nacional, no doubt to the bemusement of the sculpted, tanned athletes of Inter Milan. 

Although his own legendary status was assured as a result of the events of May 25, 1967, to the day he died he redefined the notion of a diehard. Wherever there was a Celtic party, the wee man was never far away.

Read the full obituary here.

I’m a Celebrity to be pre-recorded due to Storm Arwen

The show will be pre-recorded from Gwrych Castle in Wales over fears the live satellite link could be affected.

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Pre-recorded: Hit TV show to be pre-recorded over safety fears.

I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! will be broadcast as a pre-recorded show rather than live as Storm Arwen batters the UK with winds as strong as 90mph.

Co-hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly will record their links early in the evening as part of “precautionary measures” being put in place by ITV following severe storm weather warnings, it is understood.

Storm Arwen is due to hit the area surrounding Gwrych Castle in North Wales at 9pm on Friday and it is understood there are concerns the satellite link could be affected by the predicted high winds.

A spokesperson for I’m A Celebrity said: “Tonight’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! will be broadcast as a pre-recorded show rather than live due to the developing Storm Arwen and precautionary measures we’re putting into place on production.

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“Our celebrities will remain inside the castle, which is secure, and we have contingencies in place to cover all weather scenarios to ensure the safety of our cast and crew.”

Most of the UK is blanketed by weather warnings as the storm approaches.

The Met Office has issued a rare warning for wind as Storm Arwen is set to batter the country, with gusts forecast to be as high as 90mph and waves as high as ten metres.

The red warning stretches along the east coast from Middlesbrough to beyond Aberdeen and is the first maximum alert to be issued since Storm Dennis in February 2020.

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The warning, which is the highest the Met Office issues, means the impact is likely to be severe, with the potential for damage to buildings and homes, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down.

I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! airs at 9pm on Friday evening on STV and is available on the STV Player.


Dangerous driver jailed for six years after fireball death crash

Ednilson De Ceita's BMW X5 collided with Jonathan Smith’s Peugeot 206 on May 25, 2018.

Police Scotland
Jailed: Ednilson De Ceita was convicted of the fatal crash.

A dangerous driver who killed another motorist in a horrific crash after speeding and going onto the opposite carriageway has been jailed for six years.

Ednilson De Ceita’s BMW X5 collided with Jonathan ‘jonny’ Smith’s Peugeot 206, resulting in the 29-year-old victim suffering a serious head injury and his car going up in flames.

During sentencing at the High Court in Edinburgh on Friday, judge Lord Beckett said: “You gave Mr Smith no chance of surviving the collision.”

The judge said Mr Smith was “a wholly innocent young man” who had spent much of his last day caring for a brother who was recovering from illness.

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Lord Beckett said he had read “harrowing statements” from the victim’s relatives and was given information about “Jonathan’s life and work and hopes and dreams”.

He said: “They explain the devastation brought on them.

“I am left in no doubt that a number of his close relatives have suffered grievous consequences for their physical and mental health.

“I have reached the conclusion there is no alternative to a custodial sentence because of the gravity of the crimes you have committed.”

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De Ceita, 29, had earlier denied causing the death of Mr Smith by driving dangerously on May 25, 2018, on the A902 Maybury Road, Edinburgh, by driving at excessive speed, onto the opposite carriageway and into the path of oncoming vehicles before colliding with the Peugeot and another vehicle, but was found guilty by a jury.

He was also convicted of driving at the time of the fatal collision without a valid licence or insurance.

The court heard that De Ceita, a property firm manager from Edinburgh, was a first offender who had never previously served a jail sentence.

Advocate depute Michael Meehan QC told the trial: “At the time of the impact the BMW X5 was being driven at 63mph.”

The prosecutor said there was evidence that the vehicle was driven into an area of hatched marking on the roadway prior to it taking a deviation to the right.

He said De Ceita had given differing accounts to the police of going to the left and right and stated that he saw an Audi coming towards him and into his lane and took evasive action.

But he also said that the phone of a female passenger in his vehicle sounded as if it had received a notification and he turned to her for “about half a second” to ask who the message was from, before turning back.

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He claimed that when he turned back, he saw a set of headlights which appeared to be on full beam directly in front of him.

But Mr Meehan said there was clear evidence of “driver distraction”.

“He turned his head away and turned his head back,” he told jurors.

The prosecutor said that failures to move to the near side, to observe the speed limit and road markings amounted to dangerous driving.

Defence counsel Ronnie Renucci QC said De Ceita now accepted that he was aware at the time that a licence he had was not valid.

He said: “At the time he didn’t believe he had been speeding or think he was, but now accepts that he was.”

Mr Renucci said: “These cases are particularly tragic and that is not lost on De Ceita.

“It is a personal tragedy for him and his family, but of course he recognises and accepts that is really nothing to the impact of his actions on Mr Smith and Mr Smith’s family.

“He totally regrets his actions. He has expressed genuine remorse over the death of Mr Smith. He recognises that is something he will have to live with for the rest of his life that he is responsible for the death of another.”

De Ceita was banned from driving for nine years and until he passes an extended driving test.

Following the court case, detective chief inspector Graham Grant said: “There were a number of complexities to this investigation but officers remained determined and committed to establish what caused this crash and cost Jonny his life. 

“Ednilson Ceita failed to admit that his actions resulted in this catastrophic event.

“We found that he was driving at excessive speed, ultimately swerving into oncoming traffic, which led to his BMW colliding with the Peugeot being driven by Mr Smith and another vehicle. 

“Jonny’s family have had to wait over three years for justice. They have been dignified and resolute throughout and I hope that today’s verdict offers them some form of comfort. 

“I’d like to thank my investigation team, our colleagues in the Road Policing Unit and other elements of the organisation who contributed to the outcome, but most importantly to Jonny’s family, friends, and the wider community he was an integral part of, for their support during our investigation.”


Murdered disabled man was choked and stabbed in Glasgow flat

Patryk Jasinski attacked Tomasz Lipiec at a flat in Glasgow's Townhead last September 4 or 5.

STV News
Murder case: Tomasz Lipiec was killed last year.

A 32-year-old has admitted to the murder of a disabled man.

Patryk Jasinski attacked Tomasz Lipiec, 33, at a flat in Glasgow’s Townhead last September 4 or 5.

Jasinski had been due to go on trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

However, at a hearing on Friday, his QC Mark Stewart pled guilty to the murder charge on his behalf.

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Prosecutors stated Jasinski compressed Mr Lipiec’s neck and tried to choke him.

The victim was also said to have been punched, suffered blunt force injuries by means unknown and had been repeatedly stabbed with a knife.

Jason McInally, 51, had also been accused of murder, but his not guilty plea was accepted by prosecutor Greg Farrell.

Both Jasinski and McInally had faced other charges in connection with the killing.

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It was alleged they stole items from the flat including holdalls, a money tin, mobile phones, clothes and a television.

The indictment further stated they attempted to defeat the ends of justice by trying to avoid detection, arrest and prosecution.

This included disposing of a knife and covering faces to avoid being clocked on CCTV.

Not guilty pleas to all those accusations were also accepted on Friday.

Lord Mulholland adjourned the case until next month when it is expected further details will be heard about the killing.

Jasinski showed no emotion as he was returned to the cells.

It was reported after the death that Mr Lipiec’s heartbroken family had launched a fundraiser to bring his body back to his home country of Poland.

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Relatives stated they wanted to “bury him with dignity”.


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