Sturgeon: I stand ‘full square’ behind trans community

Nicola Sturgeon said 'all of us have a duty to stand up for equality'.

Nicola Sturgeon said it is up to the people of Scotland to make sure the progress of the country is forward. Vladimir Vladimirov via IStock
Nicola Sturgeon said it is up to the people of Scotland to make sure the progress of the country is forward.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she stands “full square” behind transgender people, as she indicated the Government will look to update the protocol for gender reassignment.

During FMQs, Sturgeon expressed her support for the trans community, adding that “all of us have a duty to stand up for equality, however difficult that may be on occasion”.

Sturgeon acknowledged that work is needed on the waiting times for appointments at Scotland’s four gender identity clinics, with patients currently facing a possible two-and-a-half-year wait to be seen.

Following a question from Green MSP Gillian Mackay, Sturgeon said: “I absolutely stand here full square behind trans people in the discrimination and stigma and prejudice that they face and in the ongoing battle for equality for which they have as much of an entitlement as anyone else in our society.

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“There are many things we’ve got to do, not least reducing waiting times for gender identity services… but I think all of us need to realise that progress in our society is rarely all one way.

“We always have to protect and continue to win and re-win the progress we have made.”

The First Minister said it is up to the people of Scotland to “make sure that our progress as a country continues to be in the forward direction and that Scotland is a place where everybody feels valued and respected and able to be who they are”.

She added: “That’s the country I want to not just lead, but the country I want to live in as a citizen, and I think we’ve all got work to do to make sure it is reality and not just rhetoric.”

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Mackay said: “Trans people are our friends, colleagues and family and they deserve to be able to express their identity in peace.”

On what the Scottish Government plans to do to improve gender identity care in Scotland, the First Minister told MSPs: “We’re working with NHS Scotland to improve gender identity services, including reducing waiting times – which I think everybody recognises are far too long – and that causes additional trauma and anxiety.

“We will shortly be writing to the national gender identity clinical network for Scotland to ask them to review and update the gender reassignment protocol.”


Sturgeon and Burnham in war of words over Covid travel ban

The FM said Burnham was seeking to 'generate a spat' in order to position himself in a future Labour leadership contest.

STV News

Nicola Sturgeon and Andy Burnham are engaged in a war of words over the Scottish Government’s decision to impose a Covid-19 travel ban on parts of north west England.

The Greater Manchester mayor continued his criticism of the restrictions, saying he felt people in his region had been “insulted” by the First Minister’s approach and a lack of consultation.

The First Minister defended her decision and suggested Burnham was seeking to “generate a spat” with her in order to position himself in a future Labour leadership contest.

On Friday, Sturgeon said that all non-essential travel from Manchester and Salford would be banned due to rising coronavirus cases.

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This prompted anger from Burnham at the weekend, who said the move was disproportionate and should have been communicated to his administration beforehand.

The First Minister was asked about Burnham’s reaction on BBC News on Monday. She said: “These are public health measures.

“I have a duty, and it’s one I take very seriously, to keep Scotland as safe as possible.

“I’m sure Andy Burnham feels the same sense of duty toward people in the Greater Manchester area.

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“I’ve always got on well with Andy Burnham and if he wants to have a grown-up conversation he only has to pick up the phone.

“But if, as I suspect might be the case, this is more about generating a spat with me as part of some positioning in a Labour leadership contest in future, then I’m not interested.

“We’ve all got a serious job of work to do right now and I’m serious about doing that job in a way that keeps Scotland as safe as I possibly can.”

Earlier, Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, also defended the decision to impose a travel ban.

Swinney also said Burnham’s call for compensation is not “a relevant point”.

He told the Today programme: “We have in place, in Scotland, business support that we have made available to companies to try and sustain them, there will be support in place in England for exactly the same circumstances.

“We have got to take decisions based on the data that presents itself and sometimes that is very uncomfortable data for us.

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“We have to act quickly to try to make sure we are doing everything possible to suppress the spread of the virus, and that is what members of the public would expect of us.”

Burnham responded to the First Minister’s comments later on Monday, saying he would be writing to her asking for compensation for people affected by the ban.

He said: “I find that insulting, not for me, but for people here who are directly affected by what she announced.

“It’s not just the direct impact on Greater Manchester, it’s on our reputation as a city.

“If the First Minister of a country stands up at a press conference and announces that the UK’s second city is going under a travel ban, it has an impact.

“People elsewhere in Europe, around the world, hear that. So it’s not like it’s just a sort of more localised thing between us and Scotland, it has an impact on our city region.

“I don’t think we’ve been treated with the respect we deserve and I’m talking mainly there of the people of Greater Manchester, not myself.”

He continued: “It’s had an impact with people with holiday cottages booked, people who are having to go for work reasons.

“So to suggest, as the First Minister has done today, ‘Oh, this is all about politics and posturing’, well say that to them, say that to those people.

“Why is Bolton under a travel ban today, when it has a case rate that is quite a lot lower than Dundee? How is that fair?”

Later, Burnham published his letter to Sturgeon on his Twitter feed. It asked her to clarify the criteria for the ban, as Bolton has a Covid-19 case rate of 269 per 100,000, while Dundee has a rate of 318, similar to the rate in Salford and Manchester.

He also asked for compensation for those affected, quoting an email from a local resident who has lost £1000, which read: “My husband and I have been virtually isolated for 18 months. Both fully vaccinated. Test ourselves twice a week. Never had a positive result. But the cottage won’t let us cancel as my daughter booked it and she is allowed to travel.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman was also asked about the travel ban on Monday.

He said: “Health is a devolved matter. It is for the Scottish Government to explain that decision.”

Westminster Watch: The Burnham Barny

By STV News’ Westminster Correspondent Kathryn Samson

Andy Burnham is angry Nicola Sturgeon didn’t pick up the phone first. 

The First Minister accuses him of picking a fight while positioning himself as future Labour leader. 

Boris Johnson is refusing to pick sides. 

Number 10 was trying to steer clear of the cross border clash over the Manchester travel ban at a lobby briefing for journalists this afternoon: ”That is a matter for the Scottish Government to take decisions like that.’

”It is for the Scottish Government to explain that decision.” 

As the first Prime Minister to take on the title ‘minister for the union’, you might have expected a stronger response. 

If the First Minister decides in future that Scots can not make non – essential trips to a part of England represented by a Conservative mayor, perhaps we might get one?

The row also represents a new dynamic in devolution. The First Minister is used to positioning herself against a Conservative government at Westminster. 

Andy Burnham, hailed by some as ‘King of the North’, is a credible opponent from the left who says he’s standing up for his region by calling out double standards. 

The First Minister made her Manchester announcement on Friday. the same day that an estimated 20,000 Scottish football fans crossed the border to travel to London.

The result of that Scotland v England match was another topic Number 10 wasn’t prepared to pick sides on: 

‘The Prime Minister has said before he wants all teams from across the UK to progress as far as possible.’


Fife Amazon centre ‘destroying’ millions of unsold items

Online retail giant branded 'obscene' after ITV News probe finds new and unused goods appearing to be destroyed.

Douglas Barrie via PA Media
The Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Dunfermline.

Amazon has been branded as “obscene” after an investigation at one of its Scottish warehouses suggested the online retail giant is destroying millions of items every year.

ITV News found items, including smart TVs, laptops, drones, hairdryers and thousands of sealed face masks, were sorted into boxes marked “destroy” at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Dunfermline, Fife.

One ex-employee at the site, one of 24 such warehouses across the UK, said their “target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week”.

The anonymous worker added: “I used to gasp. There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed: Dyson fans, Hoovers, the occasional MacBook and iPad; the other day, 20,000 Covid (face) masks still in their wrappers.

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“Overall, 50% of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition.”

The investigation also found a leaked document showed more than 124,000 items were marked “destroy” during one week in April – compared to just 28,000 items in the same period labelled “donate”.

However, a Amazon spokesman told the PA news agency that while the investigation followed lorries to a landfill site, no items are disposed of in that way.

The Lochhead Landfill is also part of the Dunfermline Recycling Centre.

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A statement from Amazon said: “We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organisations or recycle any unsold products.

“No items are sent to landfill in the UK. As a last resort, we will send items to energy recovery, but we’re working hard to drive the number of times this happens down to zero.

“We are committed to reducing our environmental footprint and building a circular economy programme with the aim of reducing returns, reusing and reselling products, and reducing disposals.”

Energy recovery is when recyclable materials are stripped from products before the rest is reconverted into energy and put through the national grid.

But the spokesman maintained this was a last resort for the company – and also denied it was cheaper to dispose of the items instead of returning them to the domestic sellers.

Mark Ruskell, Scottish Greens environment spokesman and Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, said: “Amazon’s net profit has soared during this crisis while many people have struggled to make ends meet.

“It’s therefore obscene that this multi-billion corporation finds it more profitable to put unused items in the bin than help people out.

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“It is a damning indictment of our economy that the throwaway culture is put before people’s needs. Even if it is not reflective of wider Amazon policy, the company must answer for why the Dunfermline warehouse has such high levels of waste and so little is resold or given to charities.

“This shocking revelation shows that governments must do more to force companies to design waste out of their systems, with regulation and fines where they are failing to do the right thing.”

Fife Council, who run Lochhead Landfill, has also been contacted for comment.

No sir, we can’t boogie: Wedding planners protest outside parliament

Organisers have hit out at coronavirus restrictions which mean guests at wedding parties and receptions must remain at their tables.

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Wedding industry workers have staged a protest against the current coronavirus restrictions with uncertainty lingering on ceremonies taking place amid changes of the levels.

Pauline Borris, of LBS Event Design & Wedding Planners, organised the protest on Monday outside the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh citing a lack of clarity in the rules.

A few dozen people attended wearing T-shirts and holding banners saying “No sir, we can’t boogie” in a swipe at the Euro 2020 fan zone being held in Glasgow Green for thousands of attendees.

Pauline revealed some couples are putting off their nuptials by two years to 2023 due to the guidance which currently only allows up to 200 people to attend.

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No more than 200 people should attend a wedding in level zero, according to the Scottish Government, with the figure at 100 for level one, 50 for levels two and three, and 20 for those in level four.

Most of Scotland’s islands are in level zero, with much of central Scotland in level two and other areas in level one.

Pauline said: “We got on really well today, we hope we’ve got the message across, we just need to wait and see what Nicola announces tomorrow.

“The main aim is for us to be treated equally with the rest of the events industry and for clarity when you can have the fan zone happen in Glasgow Green for 6000 people non-tested – but you can’t have weddings.

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“Couples are now moving their weddings to 2022-2023 and we just don’t know where we stand with bookings because we don’t know what’s going to happen – couples don’t want to get married when they can’t dance or can’t move from their tables.”

The current guidance states weddings “should only take place in a safe environment” and “face-to-face interaction within two metres should be avoided as far as possible”.

It also recognises a marriage ceremony as a public event meaning that even in levels zero, one and two there should be physical distancing – despite being able to hug friends and family in a social gathering at a private home.

Pauline has also had political backing on the calls for clarity with Labour MSP, Paul Sweeney, among those demanding answers in the Scottish Parliament.

She said: “We’ve got constant contact with politicians, my local MSP Paul Sweeney brought it up in Parliament last week about the inconsistency with events… John Swinney’s response was basically, ‘we need to go down the levels’.

“Even when we go down the levels in level zero we still don’t have any answers because you still can’t dance.

“Some places in Scotland just now are in level zero and the only difference to level three is basically you can have 100 at your wedding or 200, but still have the same restrictions are in place.

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“Lives matter at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing, but most people that attend a wedding are older people who are probably in the vaccine stage and anyone who’s not had a vaccine, why could they not get a test?”

Mr Sweeney also said: “Pauline’s work to raise the plight of her business and the wider wedding industry has moved me.

“It is completely unacceptable for the Government to continue denying financial support to these businesses, while further restrictions ruin this year’s wedding season.

“To compound matters, big corporate interests have been free to set up huge events for Euro 2020 in Glasgow.

“We have also seen dancing permitted for exercise purposes, but not for weddings, so you can have a ceilidh as part of a club, but not at your wedding.

“The regulations are becoming nonsensical and undermining the credibility of public health advice from the Government.

“The double standard is obvious to most people and it is appalling.

“We urgently need a sanity check on the whole situation.”

Scotland midfielder Gilmour tests positive for coronavirus

Gilmour will self-isolate for ten days and is ruled out of Scotland's crucial match against Croatia at Hampden.

Ross MacDonald via SNS Group
Billy Gilmour is out of Scotland's match against Croatia on Tuesday night.

Billy Gilmour has tested positive for coronavirus and is out of Scotland’s crucial Euro 2020 group match against Croatia on Tuesday night.

Gilmour is now required to self-isolate for ten days.

The Scottish Football Association said in a statement on Monday morning: “We can confirm Billy Gilmour has tested positive for Covid-19.

“Having liaised with Public Health England, Billy will now self-isolate for ten days and therefore miss tomorrow’s UEFA EURO 2020 Group D match against Croatia at Hampden.”

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Gilmour was a standout performer for Steve Clarke’s side in Friday night’s 0-0 draw against England at Wembley.

No other players have been affected or identified as close contacts, meaning all will be available for action on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, England’s 26-man squad have all returned negative Covid-19 results ahead of their clash with the Czech Republic.

Scot says Love Island is ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’

Shannon Singh from Fife will join a host of new contestants when the new series launches on June 28.

Joel Anderson/ITV via ITV
Scot: Model Shannon is delighted to be taking part in the dating show.

A Scot has said being picked for the latest series of Love Island is a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

Former glamour model Shannon Singh from Fife will join a PE teacher with a physical disability, a civil servant and a luxury events host when the new series of the dating show launches on ITV2 on June 28.

The 22-year-old said: “I used to be a glamour model when I was 18/19. I loved those days, I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, they were my glory days. Now I’m more on Instagram/ YouTube. I’ve done a bit of commercial modelling. I can DJ as well.”

She will be joined by Hugo Hammond, 24, a PE teacher from Hampshire, who was born with clubfoot and previously played cricket for the England Physical Disability team.

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Speaking about his cricket career, he said: “I’ve actually played cricket for England PD (Physical Disability). I’ve been to Bangladesh, Dubai, I’ve been everywhere to play cricket.

“I was born with clubfoot. I had lots of operations when I was a kid. You can only really tell when I walk barefoot. I’ve got a really short Achilles heel. I walk slightly on my tip toes”.

He said of his job: “I teach secondary school PE. Absolutely love my job. I love all my sports. It’s great to be able to pass on that enthusiasm to be physically active to the younger generation and hopefully they feel the same about me teaching them.”

Joel Anderson/ITV via ITV
Love Island contestant Hugo Hammond

In 2018, contestant Niall Aslam left the series early, later explaining on social media that he had Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that can make it difficult to cope with change or stress.

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Also hoping to find true love in the villa this year is civil servant Sharon Gaffka, who is taking part because she does not want to be the “only one in the group chat that is single anymore!”

The 25-year-old from Oxford, who was previously an operations lead for the Department for Transport, said of taking part in Love Island: “It’s been a bit of a running joke between my friendship group for a while that I should apply, probably because I’m the most outrageous one out of the group.

“But also because of Covid and the lockdown, I’m the only single one in my friendship group. They’re either married or planning on getting married. I don’t want to be the only one in the group chat that is single anymore!”

Talking about her job, the former beauty queen and Young Women’s Trust ambassador said she has been a civil servant since the age of 18.

She said: “I’ve worked in lots of different departments. I’ve been doing Brexit policy for the last year, I did a stint during the coronavirus pandemic in the Department of Health so I was helping deliver testing kits and managing the operations. It’s been an intense year!”.

Another contestant in the line-up is 24-year-old Aaron Francis from London, a luxury events host, who said of his job, including ‘working at royal weddings’: “Yeah, Eugenie and Beatrice’s over the summer. I hosted and chatted. It was nice and intimate. Everyone’s chill. In my job you meet a lot of famous people… unless you’re Beyonce, I’m not really interested.”

They are joined by Jake Cornish, a 24-year old water engineer from Weston-super-Mare, who said his celebrity crush is reality TV star Billie Faiers.

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He explained: “She is my dream woman. I think for a laugh once with the boys, I messaged her. I can’t remember what I messaged her. She’s a lady, she’s just lush”.

Joel Anderson/ITV via ITV
Love Island contestant Kaz Kamwi

Fashion blogger Kaz Kamwi, 26, from Essex, said she wants to take part in Love Island because she’s “ready to be in a relationship”.

Nando’s waitress Liberty Poole, 22, from Birmingham, who is also a marketing student, described herself as a “girls’ girl”.

Asked if she had seen any awkward dates while working at Nando’s, she said: “I’ve had people try and rinse me for a date at Nando’s, get the discount and stuff.

“But I’ve never had a date in one. I’ve had a few things happen at work. I’ve had a napkin shaped as a rose given to me which was cute, that was when I first started working there, and then I’ve been proposed to.

“It was a bit unexpected! He was on his own, he’d come into the restaurant every week and he got down on one knee and was like: ‘Will you marry me?’ But in his hand, it was a charity support badge not a diamond ring or nothing. So I was thinking, that’s one way of saying I’m a charity case when it comes to love!”

This year’s series sees Laura Whitmore return as host and it will be the first time the ITV programme has aired since last year’s summer series was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new series starts on June 28 at 9pm and airs on ITV2 and the ITV Hub.


SQA to be scrapped as Scotland’s education system is reviewed

All recommendations in a report into Scotland's education system will be implemented by the government.

arrowsmith2 via IStock
Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scottish education minister, said she intends to scrap the SQA and reform Education Scotland.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority will be scrapped and replaced while the agency tasked with improving Scotland’s education is to be majorly reformed.

The Scottish Government announced it would take the action after agreeing to accept all of the recommendations in a report on Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence published on Monday.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its findings on Scotland’s education system after it was commissioned by the government last year.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, education minister, said she intends to scrap the SQA and reform Education Scotland. The report found that the institutions needed to be simplified with clear roles established.

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In a written answer to parliament, Somerville said: “I therefore intend to replace the SQA with a new, specialist agency and I am minded to make this new body responsible for both curriculum and assessment, to ensure clarity, coherence and alignment as recommended by the OECD.”

Somerville thanked teachers and SQA staff for all their efforts to deliver qualifications in “challenging circumstances” this year.

The agency has faced criticism during the pandemic after its results algorithm used to hand out exam grades last year was scrapped following protests by young people.

The OECD report also found that having the education inspectorate part of the same organisation responsible for policy design and support was an “unusual configuration”.

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Somerville said: “It is therefore my intention to move the inspection function out of Education Scotland.”

The report did not call for the scrapping of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence, introduced in 2010.

The education minister said: “The OECD report is crystal clear – Curriculum for Excellence is the right approach for Scotland.

“In fact, despite all the criticism here at home, the OECD tells us it is viewed internationally as an inspiring example of curriculum practice.

“However, ten years on from CfE being introduced, it is right and proper that we review how it is being implemented. 

 “We accept in full all 12 recommendations from the OECD.”

The education secretary will make a statement before Holyrood on Tuesday where she is expected to outline how the OECD recommendations will be implemented.

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The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers, welcomed the announcement that the SQA would be scrapped but said the report highlighted other issues with the system.

The union’s general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “There is massive assessment overload in the senior phase (15-to-18-year-olds), which squeezes out the time needed for both depth and breadth of learning – two of Curriculum for Excellence’s big ambitions. This overload is also the driver of excessive workload, and that has been exposed clearly during the pandemic.”

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for education Oliver Mundell called the OECD report “damning”.

He said it highlighted systemic problems including a lack of accountability, excessive bureaucracy, and a lack of data to measure performance.

He said: “When we fix the flaws, we must be wary of losing any more hallmarks of Scottish education. Our schools have always been proud of their strong exam system and abandoning that would be a mistake.

“The opportunity to finally restore Scotland’s schools after 14 years of decline must be grasped before another generation of pupils are let down.”

The SQA’s chief executive said Monday’s announcement was an “opportunity for significant change… which has the support of all”.

Fiona Robertson said: “We will make a full and positive contribution to the process that lies ahead… Whatever outcome eventually emerges, it is critical that we all commit to maintaining the high standards that have long been the hallmark of Scotland’s qualifications.”

Killer jailed for life after rape and murder of mum

David Hose preyed on Kirsty Robertson in Ayr during 2019.

© Google Maps 2020
Jailed: David Hose raped and murdered Kirsty Robertson.

A killer has been jailed for life with a minimum of 18 years for the rape and murder of a mother in her own home.

David Hose, 30, preyed on Kirsty Robertson at the property in South Ayrshire in the early hours of October 20, 2019.

The 29-year-old was discovered that morning lying on a couch by neighbours.

On Monday, Hose was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow.            

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He was found guilty last month of the rape and murder of Ms Robertson after a trial.

Prosecutors stated Hose pressed Ms Robertson’s neck, forced her head into a couch leaving her face down causing her breathing to be restricted.

Judge Simon Collins QC told Hose: “You assaulted and raped Kirsty Robertson in the living room of her home while she was intoxicated with alcohol.

“If that was not appalling enough, her children have suffered the loss of their mother.”

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Hose had been separately convicted of raping a second woman at another house in Ayr in June 2017.

Judge Collins sentenced him to five years for that attack to run concurrently to the 18 years.

Hose and Ms Robertson had been drinking with friend Shona Harbison, 36, the night before her death.

He had been due to stay the night there.

Ms Harbison stated Ms Robertson was “passed out” on the sofa when she left the house at 1.30am.

Ms Harbison was later woken up by Hose later that day at her own house.

The witness told jurors: “He told me that Kirsty was dead and I did not believe him.

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“I was trying to take it in and understand as I saw her a couple of hours ago and she was fine.”

Jurors were shown a text message Ms Robertson’s friend Stephanie King, 27, was sent by Hose on the morning of her death.

Hose stated: “When I left this morning, I thought she was sleeping but maybe she was dead, I don’t know.”


FM pledges to ‘learn from mistakes’ over staff complaints

Nicola Sturgeon said the aim was to 'embed a culture where bullying and harassment is not tolerated'.

Fraser Bremner via Getty Images
Complaints: Scottish Government to 'learn from mistakes'.

The First Minister has pledged that the Scottish Government will learn from its mistakes in the handling of complaints by staff.

On Monday, the First Minister said the Scottish Government’s aim was to “embed a culture where bullying and harassment is not tolerated and where there is trust in how matters will be handled if things go wrong”.

The pledge comes as reports by Laura Dunlop QC, James Hamilton and the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on harassment complaints, which covered various aspects of the Scottish Government’s complaints procedure and associated issues, have been published. 

In response, an external, independent procedure to oversee formal complaints about former and current ministers’ behaviour will be introduced, alongside a propriety and ethics team to ensure the highest standards of propriety and integrity across the civil service in Scotland.

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Action will also be taken to improve how the Scottish Government use, store and retrieve information and records, following an internal review of information governance.

The response confirms the Scottish Government will report progress to parliament by the end of 2021.  

Work will continue to be informed by engagement with trade unions and staff, including those with lived experiences of bullying and harassment.

The First Minister said: “At the heart of the three reports are the complaints from two women who spoke of unacceptable behaviour in the course of performing their duties as civil servants. 

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“These complaints could not be ignored. Everyone should be able to expect a respectful and safe working environment. This is both a legal right and core to the values of the organisation.

“Our goal is to embed a culture where bullying and harassment is not tolerated and where there is trust in how matters will be handled if things go wrong. This work is informed by engagement with our recognised trade unions and by staff, including those with lived experiences of bullying and harassment.”

“We are determined to learn from and apply the insights from these reports to build a culture in Government where concerns are addressed early, and where all those involved with a complaint have confidence and can engage constructively and fairly in the process.”


Travel workers plan to protest industry ‘being banned’

Scottish Passenger Agents' Association publishes open letter calling for greater government support for the sector.

Leon Neal / Staff via Getty Images
Scottish Passenger Agents' Association has published open letter.

Travel workers are planning to protest outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday to show their anger at international travel effectively being “banned”.

The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SCAA) has published an open letter, calling for greater government support for the sector.

The Scottish Government says travel abroad is not advisable at the present moment. A traffic light system is in place with countries ranked either red, amber or green.

People arriving from red list countries have to enter managed isolation at a designated hotel for ten days while amber list arrivals have to self-isolate at home.

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People coming to Scotland from any of the 12 green list countries and territories have to take a test when they arrive, but are otherwise free not to self-isolate.

Joanne Dooey, president of the SCAA, wrote: “We, the travel industry in Scotland, will be outside Holyrood at 1230 on Wednesday, June 23, and we challenge you to meet us, face to face over our respective facemasks, to tell us why travel has been given the red card, while football is permitted to boogie with mass fan zones. And we’ve got plenty more questions for you too.

“Come and meet our members and tell them why you have effectively banned travel.”

The planned protest comes just months after the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) announced plans to launch legal action against the Scottish Government over the country’s coronavirus restrictions.

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The NTIA said the move was being made with an “extraordinary sense of disappointment and frustration”, but that the hospitality and late-night sector, in particular, had been “driven to the edge of insolvency”.

Earlier this year, the boss of Edinburgh Airport warned the new Scottish government must meaningfully engage with airports and airlines to ensure the aviation sector bounces back from the pandemic.

Dooey wrote that pilots, cabin crew, tour operators, airport workers and travel agents all needed support and would be attending Wednesday’s protest.

She said: “The government is duty-bound to support businesses which cannot trade due to restrictions – travel agencies may remain technically open – but with nothing to sell and no one to sell to.

“On the other hand, level two support has been granted to other businesses which are able to trade in a reduced capacity such as hospitality businesses and taxi drivers.

“How can we get the message through to you that you may allow us to physically open our doors, but there is absolutely no income for us?

“You have allowed us to open in name only – officially open but not actually capable of trading.”

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The Scottish Government said the travel restrictions currently in place are necessary to avoid new variants being imported into the country.

A spokesperson said: “We do not underestimate the significant impact the pandemic continues to have on the tourism sector, both outbound and inbound. International travel restrictions are important in limiting the importation of further cases of the virus, in particular new variants, which could undermine the rollout of our vaccine programme.

“Scotland is offering the most comprehensive non-domestic rates relief in the UK for retail, hospitality and aviation and this includes travel agents. We were the first country in the UK to extend 100% non-domestic rates relief into 2021-22.

“Eligible travel agents benefited from sectoral grants of up to £25,000 per premises this year in addition to other support including strategic framework business fund grants, restart grants, furlough payments for staff, and non-domestic rates relief for retail premises.

“We are working with airports on route recovery, to help rebuild connectivity for business and inbound tourism once we are able to safely lift travel restrictions.”

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