Sturgeon: I wouldn’t be booking a foreign holiday just now

The First Minister warned Scots planning holidays that they cannot assume measures will not change.

SNS

Nicola Sturgeon has warned she wouldn’t personally book an overseas holiday at present amid “a worrying resurgence of Covid cases” in Europe.

She said quarantine measures could be reimposed on countries at short notice if coronavirus cases spike.

It comes after 14-day quarantine for holidaymakers returning from Spain was reinstated at the weekend just days after the policy had been lifted.

The list of countries with which Scotland has so-called “air bridges” with – which means quarantine-free travel is allowed – is under continual review.

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Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 briefing on Tuesday, the First Minister said she is “increasingly concerned” about new outbreaks in some European countries including Spain.

She told Scots planning foreign holidays that they cannot assume quarantine rules will stay the same in the run-up to or during their trips.

The First Minister was echoing earlier comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said the UK had to stay “vigilant” against the threat of a second wave of Covid-19.

Speaking in Nottingham on Tuesday, the PM said there is evidence the virus is starting “to bubble up again” in other European countries.

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“Clearly we now face, I’m afraid, the threat of a second wave in other parts of Europe and we just have to be vigilant and we have to be very mindful,” Johnson said.

Sturgeon said that globally, the coronavirus pandemic is “still accelerating” even while Scotland reported no deaths of people with the virus for the 12th day in a row.

There are four new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Scotland, which constitute 0.1% of those tested in the last 24-hour period.

A total of 264 Covid patients are in hospital, six fewer than Monday, with just two being treated in intensive care.

The FM said that as the virus continues to be suppressed in Scotland, care should be taken to avoid importing cases from abroad.

She said: “I remain highly concerned, possibly increasingly concerned again, about the Covid risk.

“We are currently seeing a worrying resurgence of Covid cases, not just in far away parts of the world, but also in several countries across Europe right now.”

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Parts of Belgium and Spain, along with Germany and France, have seen recent outbreaks of coronavirus, Sturgeon said.

She warned those planning overseas holidays to be aware that quarantine regulations could be reimposed while they are away – and that the countries they visit could also impose their own rules.

The First Minister added: “You cannot assume the rules applying to your destination will stay the same when you are there or be the same when you travel home.

“My advice to you remains to be very cautious about non-essential foreign travel at this time.”

She said she would not personally want to book a foreign holiday at the moment, and suggested instead going for a “staycation” in Scotland would be safer and also benefit the country’s tourism industry.

‘Right to die when I want would be the greatest gift of all’

Kay Smith is terminally ill and backs a change in the law to allow assisted dying.

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“It would be the greatest gift that the people of Scotland could give to those whose voices are not being heard.”

Kay Smith is talking about the right to die at a time of her choosing, surrounded by her family and having said a proper goodbye.

The 57-year-old used to relish adventure, with a passion for scuba diving in exotic locations around the world, but she is now living with a range of debilitating illnesses and her life has changed beyond recognition. 

Kay’s medical notes describe “multiple comorbidities” – she has an extreme form of lupus, which attacks the immune system and has led to other complicated conditions, including peripheral artery disease and diabetes.

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Also allergic to painkillers, she expects to die from sepsis, or blood poisoning, which can be caused by lupus.

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Kay Smith is passionate about ending her life on her own terms.

Having seen so many deaths in her career as a palliative care nurse, she’s passionate about ending her life on her own terms and is backing a change to the law that would allow assisted dying.

“I have daughters, I have my husband, I have my grandchildren, I don’t want to watch them watch me suffer and die from sepsis, because it’s a horrendous way to die,” Kay, from Kilwinning, tells Thursday night’s episode of STV current affairs show Scotland Tonight.

“The public has to realise that [if] the law’s passed, it doesn’t mean to say you use it. It’s a personal choice, but in choosing, it gives you peace of mind and allows you to live the best life you can until that moment arrives.

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“And that to me is priceless, I could have quality time with my family and be able to say my goodbyes.  

“As a nurse and as a person in my situation [a change in the law] will be sheer and utter relief.” 

A third attempt to legalise assisted dying, this time drafted by Liberal Democrats MSP Liam McArthur, is currently going through its consultation stage.

His proposal argues that terminally ill, mentally competent adults should be able to access “safe and compassionate dying if they choose, rather than face a prolonged and painful death”. It says the proposal aims to “complement palliative care”. 

‘Improve end-of-life care instead’

But opponents say that rather than change the law, palliative care should be improved to help those at the end of their lives.  

Dr Gillian Wright is part of Our Duty of Care, an organisation made up of healthcare workers who are opposed to assisted dying laws. 

The group has written a letter to health secretary Humza Yousaf, outlining their main concerns. 

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“Our principal concerns are for vulnerable members of society, particularly those who are disabled, those who are terminally ill, those who are depressed,” says Dr Wright, a former palliative care doctor.

“It’s a huge thing for doctors to change from preserving life to taking life, and that’s the fundamental objection we have.

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Dr Gillian Wright is among medics opposed to assisted dying.

“We felt it was really important that there was a clear medical voice of opposition against assisted dying.

“And rather than say to people when you’re giving them a terminal diagnosis that the state would help them take their own life, we should as a society be backing really excellent palliative care research.”  

Dr Wright says there are concerns that if a law is passed, the legislation could be extended in the future and believes vulnerable patients would be most at risk. 

“If you look at an example such as Canada, they introduced legislation similar to what he is proposing – for terminally ill, mentally competent adults – but already, within five years, it has been challenged in the courts for being discriminatory,” she says.

“I think the current law [in Scotland] is the safeguard, it is the protection of the vulnerable. I would be really concerned for patients such as dementia, for children, for adolescents that we would be in a situation where we can’t come back from.”

Scotland Tonight is on STV and the STV Player at 7.30pm on Thursday, December 2.


Scotland’s tenth Omicron case has no ‘direct link’ to previous nine

All previous known cases of the latest coronavirus variant were all connected to a single event held on November 20.

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Coronavirus: Ten people have tested for positive for the Omicron variant in Scotland.

Scotland has recorded a tenth positive Omicron case which has no direct link to the previous nine, the government confirmed.

All previous known cases of the latest coronavirus variant were connected to a single event held on November 20.

On Thursday Public Health Scotland revealed a new case has been identified in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region.

All known cases so far have come within the Lanarkshire and Greater Glasgow areas.

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Close contacts of suspected Omicron cases will be advised to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The individual affected is in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area and while there is no direct link with the event on the 20th November which connected the previous nine cases, investigations are ongoing.

“As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told parliament on Tuesday, it was already suspected that some degree of community transmission of this variant was taking place in Scotland.

“However, there is no indication as yet that transmission of the new variant is either sustained or widespread.

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“Public Health Scotland is working hard to identify any and all cases of Omicron in Scotland as quickly as possible.

“This enhanced surveillance gives us the best possible chance of identifying cases quickly, breaking transmission chains and containing spread while we learn more about this variant.”

The Scottish Government said that vaccination is the “most important line of defence” and also urged people to comply “rigorously” with all the protections currently in place to stem transmission.

The First Minister has said she is not asking people to put Christmas plans on hold at the moment following the emergence of the Omicron variant but she urged people to take a lateral flow test before mixing with other households.

Booster vaccinations are being extended to all those aged 18 and the interval between the second and third dose is being cut from six to three months after a recommendation from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.


Drug that could tackle Omicron variant approved by UK regulators

Xevudy has been found to cut hospital admission and death by 79% in those at risk.

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Omicron: New drug could tackle variant.

A drug treatment which, the makers say, works against the new Omicron variant of Covid-19, has been approved by UK regulators.

Xevudy (sotrovimab), made by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has been found to cut hospital admission and death by 79% in those at risk.

The monoclonal antibody has been authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency for people with mild to moderate Covid-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease.

It comes as GSK and Vir Biotechnology said preclinical data shows the drug “retains activity against key mutations of the new Omicron Sars-CoV-2 variant”.

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The UK Government has ordered around 100,000 doses of the drug.

George Scangos, chief executive of Vir, said: “Sotrovimab was deliberately designed with a mutating virus in mind.

“By targeting a highly conserved region of the spike protein that is less likely to mutate, we hoped to address both the current Sars-CoV-2 virus and future variants that we expected would be inevitable.

“This hypothesis has borne out again and again, with its ongoing ability to maintain activity against all tested variants of concern and interest to date, including key mutations found in Omicron, as demonstrated by preclinical data.

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“We have every expectation that this positive trend will continue and are working rapidly to confirm its activity against the full combination sequence of Omicron.”

The drug is the second monoclonal antibody treatment to be approved by the MHRA following Ronapreve.

The body said the drug works by binding to the spike protein on the outside of the Covid-19 virus.

This in turn prevents the virus from attaching to and entering human cells, so it cannot replicate in the body.

Based on the clinical trial data, the drug is most effective when taken during the early stages of infection.

As a result, the MHRA said it should be given as soon as possible and within five days of symptoms starting.

The drug has been approved for people who have mild to moderate Covid-19 infection and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.

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These include obesity, being 60 or over, diabetes or heart disease.

Xevudy is administered by intravenous infusion over 30 minutes and is approved for people aged 12 and over.

The MHRA said it was working with the company to establish effectiveness against Omicron.

Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: “This is yet another therapeutic that has been shown to be effective at protecting those most vulnerable to Covid-19 and signals another significant step forward in our fight against this devastating disease.”

Man arrested after teenage girl Amber Gibson found dead in woods

The 16-year-old's body was found in wooded area of Hamilton on Sunday.

Police Scotland
Police launched an investigation into Amber's death.

A 19-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the death of Amber Gibson whose body was discovered in a wooded area in South Lanarkshire.

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing from Hamilton on Friday, November 26, and was found dead shortly after 10am on Sunday.

Police launched an investigation into Amber’s death and confirmed on Wednesday night that an arrest had been made.

Amber, who also used the surname Niven, had last been seen on the town’s Cadzow Street just before 10pm on Friday after leaving her home in the Hillhouse area around 9.15pm that night.

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Her family are “devastated” by the loss of the 16-year-old who was just “at the start of her life”.

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Amber’s body was discovered near Cadzow Glen in Hamilton on Sunday morning.

The teenager was a pupil at Moore House Academy in Bathgate, West Lothian, a privately run school which cares for children aged 11 to 18-years-old who have faced social and educational challenges.

A spokesperson from Moore House said: “Amber was a well-loved, bright and lively young girl who attended our academy in Bathgate as a day pupil.

“Our children and staff are devastated at the news of this tragedy, and we are all supporting each other through this difficult time.

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“Our deepest sympathies extend to Amber’s loved ones and to everyone who knew her.”

Anyone with information can call police on 101, quoting incident 1281 of November 28. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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Government secures 114 million Covid jabs for future booster campaigns

The deals include access to modified vaccines if they are needed to combat Omicron and future variants of concern.

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Vaccination experts advising the Government have expressed preference for the mRNA vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna.

Covid-19 vaccines for potential booster campaigns in the next two years have been secured by ministers.

Some scientists have suggested that Covid-19 will need to be kept at bay with repeated vaccination campaigns while others have said it is too early to tell whether annual boosters will be needed.

While there is uncertainty over the need for future campaigns, the Government announced that it has signed deals for 114 million Moderna and Pfizer jabs which will be delivered in 2022 and 2023.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the deals “future proof” the country’s vaccine programme.

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They include 60 million additional doses of the Moderna vaccine and 54 million more Pfizer/BioNTech doses.

The Department of Health and Social Care said the deals include access to modified vaccines if they are needed to combat Omicron and future variants of concern.

It said the new deals are in addition to 35 million additional doses of Pfizer/BioNTech ordered in August for delivery in the second half of next year, and the 60 million Novavax and 7.5 million GSK/Sanofi doses expected in 2022.

The department said the Government already has enough supply of both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech for the expanded booster programme.

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It comes after officials announced that all adults in the UK would be offered a booster shot before the end of January amid growing concerns about the Omicron variant.

Vaccination experts advising the Government have expressed preference for the mRNA vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna.

Trial data suggests booster doses are generally well tolerated and provide a substantial increase in vaccine-induced immune responses, in particular, and that mRNA vaccines provide a strong booster effect.

Javid said: “Thanks to the Vaccines Taskforce, we have an excellent track record of securing the vaccines the country needs to keep this virus at bay.

“These new deals will future proof the Great British vaccination effort – which has so far delivered more than 115 million first, second and booster jabs across the UK – and will ensure we can protect even more people in the years ahead.

“This is a national mission and our best weapon to deal with this virus and its variants is to get jabs in arms – so when you are called forward, get the jab and get boosted.”

But the announcement comes as global health leaders have questioned the UK’s booster campaign.

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Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s health emergencies programme, said he is not aware of any evidence that would suggest offering booster jabs to the entire population gives any greater protection to healthy people.

Asked about the acceleration of the UK’s booster programme, he told a press briefing: “It’s tough for some countries who have huge amounts of excess vaccine to decide who to give it to, but that’s not the problem being faced by a lot of countries around the world who can’t get even primary vaccination to their most vulnerable, so it’s a luxurious position to be in if you’re in a position to be able to have enough vaccine to do that.”

He added: “The primary objective, I think of all governments, now must be, in the face of Delta and Omicron and others, is to ensure that all vulnerable individuals, people of older age, people with underlying conditions, are immediately offered the vaccine to ensure that everyone has had at least a primary course of vaccine.

“There are others here who can better answer than me regarding the benefits of a booster regarding other variants, but right now there is no evidence that I’m aware of that would suggest that boosting the entire population is going to necessarily provide any greater protection for otherwise healthy individuals against hospitalisation or death.

“The real risk of severe disease, hospitalisation, and death lies in particularly at risk and vulnerable individuals who do require protection against all variants of Covid-19.”


Plan to revive former fabrication site to create 4500 jobs

Ardersier Port, near Inverness, could become a hub for manufacturing offshore wind turbine parts.

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The plans include a floating wind manufacturing hub for concrete foundations.

Plans to build floating wind turbines by recycling redundant oil platforms could create 4500 jobs in the Highlands.

The project would breathe life into the former fabrication yard at Ardersier near Inverness.

Work is due to get underway in the next fortnight beginning with dredging along the 400-acre site’s banks on the Moray Firth coastline at a cost of £20m.

Some 2.5 million cubic metres of sand – equivalent to 1000 Olympic swimming pools – will be removed.

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Ardersier Port co-owner Steve Regan.
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A new slipway will be created along with a £300m steel mill and a concrete production plant.

The plans include a floating wind manufacturing hub for concrete foundations.

About 300 people will be employed locally for early construction work on the UK’s largest brownfield port.

Ardersier Port co-owner Steve Regan acknowledged that a disproportionate number of jobs connected with UK renewables construction contracts had previously gone abroad.

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He said: “The UK, and it’s been widely documented, missed the last opportunity. We have another opportunity now.

“As a country, we have our ten-point plan for industrial revolution. We’re developing the right projects, the floating wind projects as an example. And, in Ardersier, we have a place where we can physically undertake the work.”

The project is a joint initiative by Ardersier Port’s joint owners, Mr Regan and Tony O’Sullivan, and floating wind specialists BW Ideol.

The partners will recycle dredged sand as aggregate for concrete production, recycle steel from decommissioned oil rigs as reinforcement for concrete floating wind foundations and generate energy from waste.

The steel mill – the UK’s first for 50 years – will be powered by energy from existing offshore wind turbines.

Mr Regan said the initial outlay is private finance but that public funding would be sought at a later stage.

The site – previously McDermott’s – employed more than 4000 people in the 1970s and 80s.

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Senior Highland councillor Jimmy Gray, a union leader who worked at the yard as a welder between 1975 and 2000, is optimistic the fresh investment will result in Scotland getting a bigger slice of the renewables cake in terms of jobs and financial return.

He said: “We have the yard, we’ve got the skills base. And we’re seeing many of the structures that are going now for renewables offshore and all the structures onshore being done elsewhere.

“It’s quite incredible to think that opportunities are being missed.”

Community leaders in the area are watching closely.

Local Highland councillor Trish Robertson said: “It’s badly needed. It will mean good, well paid jobs.

“They’re telling me that they won’t be short-term contracts, they’ll be full-time contracts. It all sounds very, very positive.

“Their aim is to have nothing moved off-site, so there will be no waste from the site. Everything will be re-used. That’s a huge ambition and I’m all in favour of it.”


Nearly two-thirds say mental health funding should rise, poll finds

Most respondents said funding for both physical and mental health should be equal.

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Ministers say 10% of frontline NHS spending will go towards mental health during the current session of the Scottish Parliament.

Nearly two-thirds of Scots think there should be more funding for mental health services in the country, a poll has found.

It also showed 70% said funding for both physical and mental health should be equal.

The poll was carried out by YouGov for the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, who say there is a looming mental health crisis in Scotland which must be taken seriously in next week’s Scottish Budget.

A total of 1080 adults in Scotland were surveyed between November 5 and 9.

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Asked about funding for mental health services, 65% said there should be more, 3% said there should be less, 12% said the current amount was about right and 20% did not know.

Ministers say 10% of frontline NHS spending will go towards mental health during the current session of the Scottish Parliament.

Dr Linda Findlay, chairwoman of the royal college, said: “We very much welcomed the Scottish Government’s 10% target, but on its own it’s unlikely to change spending priorities.

“It’s crucial that there is clear information about how this money is being spent and what benefits people who use our services are experiencing.

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“Our poll clearly shows mental health spend is very much on the minds of the public and how and where services are funded must be taken seriously when considering finance priorities for the year ahead and beyond, as we have a looming mental health crisis on our hands.”

She continued: “As we face an increase in demand for services – it’s now time that the Scottish Government takes stock of how money is being spent for the benefit of our patients.”

Mental wellbeing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We know the pandemic has had a substantial impact on people’s mental health and will continue to do so.

“Mental health expenditure has risen from £651m in 2006-07 to £1.077bn in 2019-20 – a 65% increase.

“We expect total spend on mental health in 2021-22, including by NHS Scotland, to be in excess of £1.2bn.

“Our £262.2m direct programme budget for mental health and autism in 2021-22 is more than double compared to last year.

“As well as ensuring that at least 10% of frontline NHS spend goes towards mental health and 1% goes on child and adolescent services, our Programme for Government commits to increase direct mental health investment by the Scottish Government by at least 25% over this Parliament.

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“This will maintain and build upon the additional £120m in direct programme funding provided this year.”


Johnson ‘branded a clown and a knucklehead’ by French President

A French newspaper Le Canar reported that Macron called Johnson a 'clown' and a 'knucklehead'.

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Macron: Reportedly called PM a 'clown'.

A Cabinet minister said she was “surprised” and “disappointed” at reports French President Emmanuel Macron had branded Boris Johnson a “clown”.

Work and pensions Secretary Therese Coffey was responding to a suggestion in the French media that Macron privately made disparaging comments about the UK Prime Minister as tensions ran high over the migrant crisis in the Channel.

According to the Times and the Telegraph, satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné reported that Macron called Johnson a “clown” and a “knucklehead”.

Asked on ITV’s Peston programme about the comments, Coffey said they were “news to me”.

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“I’m surprised to hear that. I’m conscious that we have a shared mission in trying to make sure that the people smuggling gangs are really brought to justice,” she said.

When it was put to her that the development was “troubling”, Coffey added: “As I say, I’m surprised to hear that and disappointed, openly. I’m sure that we can continue to try and work together to tackle this. But the Prime Minister wrote formerly to the President last week and… I hope that we’ll get a formal response back.

“People smugglers, they don’t care if people live or die. They just want their money. And we’ve got to try and work this through, not only between our two shores, but actually tackling this in the first place. And I’ve got confidence that Priti [Patel] is trying to make those inroads right across not just Europe, but also in our more international communications as well.”

The Times reported that a senior UK Government source said: “The Prime Minister continues to be a staunch advocate for the strength of the UK-French relationship.”

Gamekeeper fined for killing birds of prey that died ‘suffering’

The remains of an owl and a goshawk were found in the Scottish Borders on September 13 last year.

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The court heard both animals would have experienced considerable suffering.

A gamekeeper has been fined after admitting recklessly killing two birds of prey in the Scottish Borders.

Peter Givens, 53, from Stow in Galashiels, was given a £300 fine at Selkirk Sheriff Court on Monday, November 29.

The remains of the owl and goshawk were found at Cathpair Farm near Stow on September 23, 2020.

The birds had become stuck inside a multi crow cage trap on the edge of woodland.

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The court heard both animals would have experienced considerable suffering.

The trap identification number attached to the cage was registered to Givens.

The court heard the animals had been dead for a significant length of time.

Trap licence conditions state that when in use, all traps must be checked at least once every day, with a gap of no more than 24 hours between checks.

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Any dead or sickly bird must be removed immediately from the trap.

The owl and goshawk died, after becoming trapped in the cage, from a combination of dehydration, starvation and exposure to the weather elements – experiencing considerable suffering.

Fiona Caldwell, procurator fiscal, wildlife and environment, said: “Peter Givens’ reckless actions and his failure to release these birds unharmed led to their suffering and deaths.

“Wild birds are given strict protection under our wildlife laws and COPFS will continue to prosecute such cases where appropriate to ensure that offenders are brought to justice.”

Wildlife Crime Officer, police constable Steven Irvine, said: “These birds had been dead for some time when they were found inside a cage trap normally used to control crows.

“Individuals who are responsible for setting these style of traps, which are legal when set correctly and the conditions met, should be checking them regularly as part of the General Licence conditions and at least once every 24 hours to free any birds of prey or other non-target species trapped.

“In this case when enquiries were carried out, including forensic testing, it was found they died from severe dehydration as a result of a lack of food and water.

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“We will always carry out an investigation when a dead bird of prey is found and I would urge anyone who comes across anything suspicious to call us on 101. Members of the public have an important role to play in helping us to combat all types of wildlife crime.”


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