Sturgeon: Half-measures against coronavirus don’t work

The First Minister defended the latest restrictions as 'tough but necessary' in the fight against Covid.

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The First Minister has said “half-measures often don’t work” against coronavirus as she defended her government’s latest restrictions.

Nicola Sturgeon said recent measures intended to wrestle back control of the Covid-19 epidemic in Scotland are “tough but necessary”.

Private indoor gatherings between households have been banned in Scotland since September 23.

More recently, hospitality venues have been slapped with a ban on serving alcohol inside and a 6pm curfew for indoor premises.

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And in five health board areas in central Scotland – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Lothian, Ayrshire and Arran and Forth Valley – pubs and restaurants have been shut altogether until at least October 25.

It comes as the country recorded 1297 Covid cases overnight – the highest daily total on record – and seven more deaths of patients with the virus, with hospital admissions rising by 40 to more than 500.

Of the new infections, nearly three quarters (941 cases) are concentrated in the Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Lothian regions.

The harsh new regulations to curb the virus are “firmly rooted in scientific advice”, the First Minister said at Tuesday’s daily coronavirus briefing.

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She continued: “This can’t be seen as a contest between health and the economy.

“Keeping people safe from a potentially deadly virus is a prerequisite of a strong economy and of course in turn, a strong economy is vital for our health and wellbeing.

“These are not opposing objectives, even if it sometimes feels like they are – they are instead two sides of the same coin.”

It follows the publication of guidance by the UK Government’s scientific advisory body SAGE on Monday, which revealed advisers had told ministers on September 21 that a short “circuit break” lockdown should be brought in to stem the tide of coronavirus cases.

SAGE also suggested measures like a ban on private gatherings between households; the closure of hospitality businesses, gyms and personal retail like hairdressers; advice to work from home for all that can; and for all university and college teaching to be done online.

The following day, Sturgeon announced the ban on indoor household gatherings – already in place in parts of the west of Scotland – would be extended nationwide, which then came into force on September 23.

She also joined Boris Johnson in introducing a 10pm curfew for all pubs and restaurants.

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The Prime Minister has been criticised for only implementing one SAGE recommendation following the September 21 meeting – switching the UK Government’s advice to people in England to work from home if they can.

That has been the Scottish Government’s guidance to Scottish workers throughout the pandemic.

The First Minister acknowledged she had also not implemented SAGE’s suggestions in full, and said she had to strike a balance between public health and the economy.

She insisted she does not yet believe the virus is “out of control” in Scotland but that the country is at “a very perilous point in this journey”.

Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith added Scotland is “nowhere near” the scale of spread of Covid-19 seen in March but maintained action is now needed to prevent a return to those levels.

Sturgeon added: “Against this virus we sometimes have to be tough.

“Half-measures often don’t work. What you find is that they will still inflict economic pain and harm but they won’t have the required public health impact.

“So these are the tough but necessary restrictions that we’re asking everyone to abide by as we try to make sure the virus does not run out of control.

“In return, the government will continue to strengthen Test and Protect, we will do all we can to encourage and support people to comply with the advice, including the self-isolation advice…

“And we will work with businesses to ensure they can trade safely with as much normality as is possible during a pandemic.”

She said her government is now seeking to combine all of these objectives into a new “strategic framework to guide us through the next phase of the pandemic”, which will be debated by MSPs after the October recess.

Joining the FM and Dr Smith at the briefing, social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville went into further detail about a scheme to support people self-isolating.

The new £500 benefit payment is aimed at ensuring those on low incomes will be able to self-isolate without suffering financially.

The fund, which is being operated by local authorities, opened for applications on Monday, with payments able to be backdated to September 28 for those previously asked to self-isolate.

Somerville said: “It’s vital that we stop the chain of transmission by complying with the requirement to self-isolate.”

She also announced a new service to help those who are self-isolating with a focus on those most in need of support, such as the elderly, people who are shielding and those from poorer households.

New travel rules begin for double jabbed EU and US arrivals

Double vaccinated travellers from the US and the EU can now travel to Scotland without quarantining.

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The rule change for US and EU arrivals came into effect at 4am on Monday morning.

Double vaccinated travellers from the US and the EU can travel to Scotland without quarantining from Monday morning.

The rules changed at 4am following a decision by the Scottish Government earlier this week, hours after UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the relaxation of measures for England.

Subject to countries remaining on the amber travel list, travellers will no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in Scotland.

The change does not apply to people who have been in France in the 10 days prior to their arrival, due to concerns over the Beta variant of coronavirus.

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Travellers need to show a negative test before departure and produce a negative PCR test result on day two after arrival.

The requirement to take a further PCR test on day eight is being dropped.

Those arriving will be required to show either the EU Digital Covid Certificate or the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s white card – known as a CDC card – to prove they are fully vaccinated

Announcing the changes last week, Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson the change is down to “overwhelming success” of the vaccination scheme in Scotland as well as “successful rollouts” of vaccine programmes in the EU and US.

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He said: “Fully vaccinated travellers will be able to travel to Scotland under this significant relaxation of international travel measures, providing a boost for the tourism sector and wider economy while ensuring public health is protected.”

He urged people to “continue to think very carefully about travelling – especially given the prevalence and unpredictable nature of variants of concern”.

The relaxation of the rules extends to the four European Free Trade Association members – Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein – and the microstates of Monaco, Andorra and Vatican City.

Cleaners and bin collectors urged to reject Covid exemption

Organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation if exposed to coronavirus.

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Bin collector: Workers advised to reject self-isolation exemption.

More than 2000 local authority street cleaners and bin collectors have been advised to refuse to return to work and instead self-isolate if they have been exposed to coronavirus.

The Scottish Government recently announced that organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation.

If the Government deems a critical role can be exempt, the worker still has to prove they have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks prior to any close contact, have a negative PCR test and agree to carry out lateral flow tests for 10 days after the contact.

But following talks with workplace representatives, the GMB union has advised its more than 2300 members in cleansing and waste services in Scottish local government, including Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire and West Lothian councils, to refuse self-isolation exemptions.

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The GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, Drew Duffy, said: “A major underlying factor in the so-called pingdemic is the chronic understaffing in our frontline services after years of cuts, and our cleansing and waste is no different.

“But the Scottish Government’s new guidance has opened the door for employers across the country to heap more pressure on these key workers if they have been exposed to Covid-19. That’s not safe for workers, families, or communities.

“And again, some of the lowest paid are being asked to take the greatest risk in another example of how poorly they are valued by Government. You cannot cut and coerce your way out of a crisis, if you want services to function then you must invest in them.

“That lesson needs to be learned, and it’s why we are advising our members to exercise their right to refuse and instead follow the general self-isolation rules if they are exposed to Covid-19.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Self-isolation rules already state that exemption will only be granted in respect of members of staff who voluntarily agree not to self-isolate, and the employers’ duty of care to all their employees must be respected.”

Laura Muir feeling prepared after sealing 1500m semi-final

European champion clocks four minutes 03.89 seconds to reach the 1500 metres semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Laura Muir in action during round one of the women's 1500m heats.

Laura Muir warned she is saving her best for last after launching her bid for Olympic glory.

The Scot clocked four minutes 03.89 seconds in Tokyo on Monday to reach the 1500 metres semi-finals.

Muir, the European champion, came second in her heat behind Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford but insisted there was plenty in the tank.

“You don’t want to have any disrespect to any of the girls out here, but I want to save as much as I can for the final,” she said ahead of Wednesday’s semis.

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“It’s gone as smooth as it could be – I’ve been out in Japan for a couple of weeks now so feeling really prepared and it’s really good.

“It didn’t feel that fast so that’s good. I just wanted to qualify for the next round as comfortably as possible. So that felt really good out there today and I am looking forward to the semi-final.”

Rival and favourite, the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan, fell at the start of the final lap in her heat but still managed to win after overhauling the field in a stunning final 350m. Hassan is attempting to win the 1500m, 5,000m and 10,000m.

Team GB’s Katie Snowden also progressed in four minutes 02.77secs but Revee Walcott-Nolan missed out by 0.01s.

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Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou took the men’s long jump title with a leap of 8.41m after world champion Tajay Gayle pulled out injured while Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico claimed gold in the women’s 100m hurdles.

In the women’s 200m – without Team GB star Dina Asher-Smith after she pulled out following her battle with a hamstring injury – 100m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah progressed to the semi-finals.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who claimed 100m silver, won her heat in 22.22s but Shericka Jackson missed out after the sprinter completed a Jamaican clean sweep in the 100m on Saturday.

Great Britain’s Beth Dobbin ran a season’s best of 22.78s to reach Monday evening’s semis.

She said: “I can’t ask for much more than that, I ran the bend how I wanted to and the straight felt really controlled. There’s more in the legs later.

“I could see I was in contention so I tried to stay relaxed. There’s a couple of tenths from that run. I need to see how I recover.

“It’s one of the most stacked 200m I have seen for a long time and it’s missing a few names.

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“I walked for the bus at 7.30am and it was blisteringly hot, I’m from up north – we’re not used to this weather.”

Restriction easing delay ’caused drop in business confidence’

Business confidence fell 14 points in July to 28%, the steepest among the nations and regions of the UK.

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Restrictions in Scotland were eased in July.

Postponing plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in Scotland may be behind a fall in business confidence, analysts have said.

Business confidence fell 14 points in July to 28%, according to the latest Business Barometer from the Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking.

The fall was the steepest among the nations and regions of the UK.

In late June, Nicola Sturgeon announced that plans to move the whole of Scotland to the lowest level of coronavirus restrictions – level zero – would be postponed from June 28 to July 19.

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Most major legal restriction are expected to be lifted on August 9.

Scottish firms reported lower confidence in their own business prospects month on month, down nine points at 33%.

Combined with their optimism on the economy, down 20 points to 23%, this gives a headline confidence reading of 28%.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends regionally and nationwide.

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The UK as a whole experienced a much smaller drop in confidence month on month, down three points to 30%.

A net balance of 13% of businesses in Scotland expect to increase staff levels over the next year, down five points on last month.

Confidence dipped in broad economic sectors in Scotland, down from 35% to 33% for manufacturing, and 36% to 32% in retail, but was said to remain at “historically strong levels”.

The construction and services sectors also recorded marginal drops in confidence, down two points to 33% and three points to 28% respectively.

However, some subsectors showed particularly strong growth in confidence, with hospitality rising from 38% to 63% and transport jumping from 37% to 53%.

Fraser Sime, regional director for Scotland at Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking, said: “The decision by the Scottish Government to postpone the complete easing of lockdown restrictions until August may have a part to play in the subdued confidence among Scottish firms this month.

“But while business optimism has taken a hit, the overall picture is still positive and we know many firms, particularly those in the hospitality and tourism industry, are gearing up to reopen fully and take advantage of what will hopefully be a busy summer season.”

Electric vehicle rollout ‘could slow due to lithium deficit’

Experts say lithium demand could triple by 2025 to one million tonnes per year as carmakers invest in electric vehicles.

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Experts say electric vehicle sales could slow due to worldwide deficit in lithium needed for car batteries.

The speed in the rise of UK electric vehicle (EV) sales could slow within the next few years due to a worldwide deficit in the lithium needed for car batteries, according to experts.

Since June, car giants GM and Stellantis, which owns Peugeot, Fiat and Citroen, have pledged 30 billion dollars (£21.6bn) and 35 billion (US) dollars (£25.2bn) respectively in electrification investments in the next four years.

But core to this strategy is the need to secure a long-term supply of raw materials including lithium.

As a result lithium demand could triple by 2025 to one million tonnes per year and then double again to two million tonnes per year by 2030 – the year the UK plans to ban new petrol and diesel car sales.

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With the typical lithium mine producing 30,000 tonnes per year of the chemical, this means the market needs approximately four new mines per year to maintain pace with demand.

But experts point out it takes five to seven years to discover, develop and put a lithium mine into production.

Chris Berry, president of Washington DC-based strategic metals advisory firm House Mountain Partners, warned: “The dramatic pace of UK electric vehicle sales growth runs the risk of slowing without a clear pathway to additional supply of lithium and associated battery metals.”

He added: “On top of sales, UK auto manufacturers risk being left behind by their Chinese, US, German, and Japanese auto peers who are in a race to ensure they have their electric supply chain in place for the rest of the decade.”

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The UK is one of the fastest growing EV markets in Europe with plug-in vehicles accounting for 11% of the UK market.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, battery electric vehicle sales rose 186% to 108,000 vehicles.

Mild hybrid electric vehicles grew 184% and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles increased 91%.

But there have been concerns raised in Parliament that the UK’s charging infrastructure needs significant upgrades, especially for households with no off-street parking.

Last week, the Transport Committee of MPs also said charging must be fair, with public charge points significantly more expensive than tariffs for charging at home.

In terms of lithium supply, the UK has no current hard-rock mining operation in commercial production and European supply is several years away.

The bulk of the lithium for UK electric vehicles is currently coming from Australia and South America.

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Lithium producer, Ana Cabral-Gardner, co-chairman of Canada’s Sigma Lithium, said: “The race is on to meet increasing demand for high-quality lithium that is environmentally produced at a low-cost before a potential deficit for the mineral.

“The world is accelerating efforts to go green faster than the mining industry is able to sustainably produce battery quality lithium.

“UK consumers want their products to be green from extraction to production and distribution – not many mining companies can deliver this right now either.”

Scaling the small lithium-producing industry will require tens of billions of dollars in capital.

This is likely to result in a lithium market shortage by 2023 to 2024 given that lithium demand should grow at a 20% compound annual growth rate through at least the middle of this decade.

Mr Berry added: “Clearly the horse is out of the barn and the UK auto industry has realised that its future rests with the successful electrification of their vehicle fleets.

“Success with this transformation rests with ensuring a secure supply of battery raw materials including lithium.”

Through The Looking Glass coin released by Royal Mint

The £5 crown is based on Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations of Lewis Carroll's book.

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New coin features Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

A new coin commemorating 150 years since Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass has been launched by The Royal Mint.

The £5 crown is based on Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations of the book, which was the sequel of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It shows the moment protagonist Alice runs into mischievous characters Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

The Royal Mint collaborated with EL&N Cafe in London to create a limited-edition Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland cake selection to celebrate the new design.

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The cake selection includes designs based on the Queen of Hearts from the original book.

It comes after a coin depicting the scene where Alice meets the Cheshire Cat was released last month.

Both coins were created by the mint’s designer Ffion Gwillim and sculptor Emma Noble.

Clare Maclennan, a director at the Royal Mint, said after the last release: “Inspired by Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations, the beautiful £5 crown has been crafted to the finest quality, combining traditional minting skills with innovation in design technology.

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“I’m sure the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland range will become a popular choice for collectors, capturing the imagination of people of all ages, and to launch at the awe-inspiring Victoria and Albert Museum during the 150th anniversary of Through the Looking-Glass is a fitting celebration.”

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Swimmer Duncan Scott makes history at Tokyo Olympics

The Scot is the first British athlete to win four medals at a single Olympics.

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Superstars: Luke Greenbank, Duncan Scott, James Guy and Adam Peaty.

Swimmer Duncan Scott is the first British athlete to win four medals at a single Olympics.

While Scott made history, Adam Peaty and James Guy were unable to collect their third golds of Tokyo 2020 after the United States secured top spot in the men’s 4×100m medley relay.

Peaty said the “pain” he feels at settling for silver shows how much progress Great Britain has made in the pool in the last decade.

It took a world record time to beat the 2019 world championship-winning Team GB quartet of Luke Greenbank, Peaty, Guy and Scott as the Americans clocked 3:26.78 seconds at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

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Britain finished 0.73secs adrift at 3:27:51 in a new European record time as they claimed a record eighth swimming medal – four golds, three silvers and a bronze – beating their previous best haul from the 1908 London Games.

They were unable to win a race at London 2012 while Peaty was their only gold medallist at Rio four years later, so the 26-year-old from Uttoxeter admitted to feeling bittersweet by the result of the final swimming event in Japan.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the American team,” Peaty said.

“They stepped up big time. They knew they had to step up big time. It’s an Olympic silver, people would die for that.

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“We will enjoy it but there is a little bit of pain there. Maybe you need that. Maybe you need that going to Paris (2024).

“Ten years ago we were happy making finals. We aren’t happy making finals any more.

“We are happy doing silver and medalling – that’s the culture that is different now – and that’s part of our success. We are aiming for gold, we are aiming to be the best in the world and dominate the world.

“By the time Paris comes around we are going to develop. A lot of teams are going to look at us. We are always looking for gold and for world records, I’m incredibly proud to be part of this team – it’s history-making.”

Peaty swam the fastest breaststroke split ever in 56.53s to vault Britain from seventh after the backstroke to first by the halfway point, but the vaunted Caeleb Dressel seized the initiative with the best-ever butterfly leg.

Dressel, who bagged his fifth gold of these Games in this race, put in a time of 49.03s to set the stage for Zach Apple to complete the job, with Scott unable to make any inroads in the last freestyle leg.

Dressel, said: “I was telling Adam that I think they bring out the best in us, it’s so fun racing with those guys because you don’t know what you’re going to get. There’s no guaranteed winner.”

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Scott has won gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay and silver in the solo event, as well as finishing runner-up in the 200m individual medley, and it was another second spot on the podium as he made British history on Sunday.

He said: “It’s not really hit me what’s happened. Each race I’ve tried to park when it’s done and look forward to the next one. It was important I didn’t bring in any disappointment or get too excited about what’s happened.

“I think the relay culture in Britain is great. There are great medal opportunities. I’ve got to give a massive credit to my teammates.”

A period of rest and recovery now awaits. Asked how they will unwind, Guy joked “a burger and some chips will do me” while Peaty offered a more sobering reflection at how important time away from the pressures of the sport is.

He said: “You’ve got to celebrate, it’s been hard for everyone. We’re not allowed to touch the water for a month now because it is going to be a war of attrition over the next three years.

“You’re seeing it in all sports now. You’re seeing it with Simone Biles, with Ben Stokes, mental health matters and it is about getting the balance right at that elite level. We love to celebrate, and why shouldn’t we?”

Ben Proud earlier finished fifth in the men’s 50m freestyle final won by Dressel in an Olympic record time of 21.07s, while Daniel Jervis also placed fifth in a 1500m freestyle race where Robert Finke of the USA triumphed in 14:39.65.

Commenting on Scott’s historic win, Mel Young, chair of sportscotland, said: “What a sensational result.

“Duncan Scott is now one of the most decorated British Olympians of all time having won four medals in Tokyo – an unparalleled achievement in modern history. He has made the entire country proud.

“His achievements will take a while to sink in but what is clear is this did not happen overnight.

“Duncan is one of the most dedicated athletes around and has put so much hard work into his training along with his coach, his wider support team and everyone at both Scottish Swimming and British Swimming.

“He deserves all the success and praise he is now rightfully receiving.”


Felicity Jones not interested in films without women

British actress says it is only in recent years that opportunities have opened up for women in the film industry.

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Felicity Jones at the UK premiere of "The Last Letter From Your Lover".

Felicity Jones has said she is not interested in watching films that do not have women in them.

The British actress, 37, best known for roles in Star Wars spin-off Rogue One and her Oscar-nominated turn in The Theory Of Everything, said it is only in recent years that opportunities have opened up for women in the film industry.

Jones stars alongside Shailene Woodley in new film The Last Letter From Your Lover, based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, which was directed by female filmmaker Augustine Frizzell and on which both actresses also served as executive producers.

She told the PA news agency: “It’s just extraordinary, when you look back at the history of cinema, just how much of that has been dominated by a male perspective.

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“Even the idea – which I think is total rubbish – the idea of the director and the cult of the genius. Therefore it was seen that only men could fulfil that role.

“But in history we see that most things aren’t achieved just by one individual. That’s absolute rubbish.

“There’s often a group of people or two people. Even Hitchcock had amazing support from his wife, which is why he was so brilliant. It was the two of them, but they sort of just got written out of history.

“So now to be starting to open up with this female viewpoint, it’s just fantastic.

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“I remember reading an interview with Sofia Coppola (the director of films including Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette and The Virgin Suicides) and she was saying she just hates watching films that don’t have women, and I’ve been saying that for so long.

“My husband (director Charles Guard) will suggest something and I say, ‘Well, either there’s not enough women or there aren’t any women in it and I’m probably not going to be interested’.

“I remember a few years ago you literally only had the choice of male directors, there were only a handful of men in the world who could even tell female stories, so your options was kind of that narrow.

“Then to see, in the last few years, I mean, it’s really recently that the opportunities have just opened up dramatically.”

Jones said she hopes her new film, which will be released in cinemas later this week, gives people a reason to return to theatres that is not based on stunts and explosions.

She said: “It’s amazing how I think what we want from the cinema has probably changed through the pandemic, and actually, coming out of it, I personally feel desperate to see a romantic story and go out for the evening and be cheered and have a feelgood film. I do think our appetites will be different.

“I feel like, particularly with what we’ve been seeing at home, and seeing so much more grown-up drama, I hope that does translate to the cinema because I think the cinema just became a little bit of an amusement arcade.

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“But I think there’ll be a great desire to get out there and particularly if you can have some nice chocolate and a glass of wine while you’re watching, and go with some friends, I mean, what could be better?”

The Last Letter From Your Lover is released in UK cinemas on August 6.

Woman raped in city lane in early morning sex attack

The 29-year-old was attacked in the early hours of Sunday.

© Google Maps 2020
Lane: Woman attacked in Edinburgh.

Police are investigating after a woman was raped in a city lane.

The 29-year-old was attacked in Edinburgh in the early hours of Sunday morning.

She was at the Union Street end of Broughton Street Lane when the serious sexual assault took place.

A full investigation is now under way as police appeal for anyone with any information regarding the incident to contact them.

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A spokesperson for the force said: “We received a report of a serious sexual assault against a 29-year-old woman at the junction of Broughton Street Lane and Union Street, Edinburgh.

“The incident was reported around 8.45am on Sunday, August 1, and is believed to have happened in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“Enquiries are at an early stage and ongoing. Anyone with information should contact Police Scotland on 101.”


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