Sturgeon set to be re-elected when MSPs vote to choose FM

The formal election of Scotland’s First Minister is scheduled take place at Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

MSPs will vote to choose the First Minister on Tuesday afternoon. Russell Cheyne via PA Media
MSPs will vote to choose the First Minister on Tuesday afternoon.

The formal election of Scotland’s First Minister is set to take place at Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

MSPs will vote to choose the First Minister from 2pm, with the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon expected to continue leading the country following the Scottish Parliament election earlier this month.

Nominees for the position must put themselves forward by 1.30pm, ahead of the vote that is overseen by the new Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone.

Candidates will have five minutes to appeal for support from other MSPs who will each be able to cast one vote.

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In the case of only one candidate, MSPs will be asked to vote for, against or abstain. If that candidate obtains a simple majority, he or she will be declared as the Parliament’s nomination for First Minister.

If there are two candidates, a candidate is selected if they obtain a simple majority of votes in their favour.

Where there are more than two candidates, a winner would be elected if they exceed the total number of votes for all other candidates.

If they fall short of an absolute majority, the candidate with the smallest number of votes is eliminated and further rounds of voting take place until a candidate is selected.

Man facing terrorist charges diagnosed with Asperger’s

Richard Smith is charged with a number of offences alleged to have occurred in Aberdeen.

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Court: Richard Smith is charged with a number of offences.

Lawyers for a man accused of planning to carry out terrorist acts have to examine more than one million pages of documents, a court heard.

Richard Smith is charged with a number of offences said to have occurred between August 2018 and November 2019 at different addresses in Aberdeen.

Prosecutors claim the 28-year-old “with the intention of carrying out acts of terrorism” did “engage in conduct” in the preparation of them.

This includes a claim he allegedly stated “all Muslims must die”.

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A hearing called at the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday. Smith – who denies the charges – was not present.

His QC said he is still not ready for a trial to be set.

Ronnie Renucci, defending, told the hearing: “There is a mountain of evidence – over one million pages of material.

“There are certain matters that need to be investigated.”

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The advocate said a cybercrime expert had been instructed to examine information on 47 discs currently being held by police.

Mr Renucci also said Smith had recently been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum and has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Prosecutor Mark McGuire told the court the Crown remain ready for trial.

Lord Matthews adjourned the case until a further hearing in August.

Smith originally appeared via video link at the high court last December.

It is said Smith possessed and made explosive substances.

He also allegedly had material which did “advance anti-Muslim, Neo-Nazi and other racist causes”.

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Smith is also said to have possessed details on the use of chemical agents as weapons as well as the manufacture of explosives and firearms.

He faces a separate charge of having information on a number of electronic devices and discs linked to terrorism.

This included the “practice of guerrilla warfare and paramilitary survival”.

Both these charges are under the Terrorism Act 2000 or 2006.

Smith is further accused of sending an offensive text to a relative allegedly claiming “all Muslims must die”.

It is claimed he sent Nazi-related images and messages as well as violent videos to another man.

Smith also faces allegations under the Explosive Substances Act and the Poisons Act.


Scottish Government ‘received extra £14.5bn’ during Covid

Figures released by the UK government show that £352bn was spent across the UK on Covid-19 measures.

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Funding: Scottish Government received additional £14.5 to help tackle coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Government has received an additional £14.5bn of funding since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures released by the UK Treasury.

The annual publication of the Block Grant Transparency on Thursday also revealed the Welsh Government received an additional £8.6bn and the Northern Ireland Executive an additional £5.0bn.

The UK Treasury said the funding allowed the Scottish Government to provide support to individuals, businesses and public services in response to the pandemic and will continue to support the recovery through 2021-22.

The report stated that £352bn was spent across the UK on Covid-19 measures.

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In Scotland this included protecting more than 900,000 jobs through the furlough scheme, £294m in self-employment support, help for businesses and the procurement of vaccines.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay said: “The UK government is fully committed to strengthening the Union and making sure Scotland has the funding needed to get through this pandemic, with £14.5bn of additional spending over the last year.

“We’ve protected more than a million Scottish jobs and businesses with furlough and support schemes, our vaccine rollout is unlocking the economy, and our Plan for Jobs is levelling up opportunity and helping us build back better across the UK.”

Scottish secretary Alister Jack said: “From the very start of the pandemic, the UK Government has taken unprecedented action to help people and businesses right across the country.

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“That includes our furlough scheme, support for self-employed people, help for businesses, and the hugely successful UK-wide vaccine programmes.

“On top of this direct support, the UK Government has provided an additional £14.5bn of funding for the Scottish Government. 

“This extensive support, which now enables us to look towards recovery, shows how Scotland benefits from being part of a strong United Kingdom. Never has the value of the Union been more important or more apparent.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has received confirmation of £13.3bn in Covid-19 consequentials to date based on the Main Estimate Process. This represents Scotland’s share of UK Government spending on the pandemic.

“As there is no guarantee on Covid-19 funding in 2021-22, this may be reduced later in the financial year if Covid-19 spending in England is revised downward.”

Dozens of new shops open after £1bn St James revamp

First phase of the St James Quarter in Edinburgh opens on Thursday after a five-year transformation.

St James Quarter via Contributed

Edinburgh’s revamped St James shopping centre has reopened after five years of construction.

More than 40 stores began welcoming customers on Thursday morning, as did new cafes and restaurants.

The £1bn development – to open in stages over the next 18 months – will also eventually boast hotels, flats, a cinema and spaces to host public events.

Here’s everything you need to know about the St James Quarter.

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What’s inside?

Lots of brands are opening Scottish stores for the first time, such as & Other Stories, Stradivarius, Bershka and Pull & Bear.

There’s also a host of big fashion brands such as Calvin Klein, Carvela, Kurt Geiger and Tommy Hilfiger.

St James Quarter via Contributed
Inside the transformed shopping centre.

And there’s plenty of well known high-street names with H&M, Next, Boots, JD Sport, Superdrug, The Body Shop and Zara all opening new branches.

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Meanwhile, Lego is unveiling an Edinburgh-themed mosaic, while Iolla will offer an “experimental and interactive” showroom.

And the John Lewis department store remains where it’s always been.

Can I have a full list of businesses opening today please?

Of course you can.

Here goes: Artisan Roast, Churros Baby, & Other Stories, Bank of Scotland, Bershka, Boots, Calvin Klein, Carvela, Dune, EE, Five Guys, Goldsmiths, Harajuki Kitchen, H&M, Hotel Chocolat, Iolla, JD Sport, John Lewis, Keihl’s, Krispy Kreme, Kurt Geiger, L’Occitane, Lane 7, Lego, Mac Man, Mango, Miele, Next, O2, Omega/Breitling, Pandora, Peloton, Pull & Bear, Rituals, Russell & Bromley, Salerno, Sky, Sook, Starbucks, Stradivarius, Superdrug, The Body Shop, The Perfume Shop, Three, Tommy Hilfiger, Tortilla, Zara.

St James Quarter via Contributed
The finishing touches were being put together on Wednesday.

What’s that on top?

That’s the ‘golden ribbon’, a walnut whip-style topping to the 244-bedroom W Edinburgh hotel due to open later.

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It’s not been met with universal approval, having been given some rather choice nicknames by those who opposed it.

St James Quarter via Contributed
The ‘golden ribbon’ hotel.

How big is the St James Quarter?

Pretty big – 850,000 sq ft to be precise.

It’s been built using 17,378 tonnes of steel and has taken an estimated 2.8 million working hours so far.

13 cranes have been used to reshape the capital’s skyline, with some towering 88m above the city streets.

Tell me about the flats and cinema

The St James Quarter will eventually feature 152 flats, known as ‘New Eidyn apartments from Native Land’.

Residents have been promised “stunning views” from their ‘gardens in the sky’ and a concierge service.

They won’t come cheap, though, with some flats expected to cost more than £1m.

As for the cinema, once the “boutique” five-screen Everyman opens, film lovers will be able to kick back in “indulgent” sofas to enjoy the latest releases.

St James Quarter via Contributed
The £1bn St James Quarter opened for business on Thursday.

‘A momentous occasion’

The St James Quarter is opening a year later than originally planned – a delay blamed on the pandemic.

Director of development Martin Perry said the reopening on Thursday was “just the beginning”.

He said: “The brands and experience that we have welcomed today demonstrate our commitment to delivering a curated destination for the people of Edinburgh.

“We are now looking forward to continuing on our journey to deliver a truly mixed-use destination of the future as we welcome more brands, leisure, and our new neighbours.”


‘Don’t make children start school when they’re not ready’

Many four-year-olds aren't guaranteed a funded nursery place when parents decide to defer school.

STV News

Four-year-old Emma Murdoch could start school in August, but her parents don’t think she’s ready and want her to spend another year in nursery.

They have a legal right to hold her back because she won’t be five when term starts, but their application for a funded nursery place has been rejected.

Had her birthday been in January or February, funds would be guaranteed, but for those born between August and December, like Emma, it’s up to local councils.

Emma’s parents aren’t alone – many believe forcing youngsters to start school when they’re not ready could have long-lasting and damaging effects.

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Scotland Tonight – to be broadcast on STV at 7.30pm on Thursday – has been exploring the issue.

It’s just not worth it

Emma turns five in November, but mum Sarah believes sending her to school in August would damage her wellbeing.

The mum-of-three said: “Part of me would love to see it, but I don’t think it would be in her best interest.

“I’m thinking about her coming home at the end of the day and what kind of state she’ll be in, and it’s just not worth it.

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Children play at Wester Coates nursery in Edinburgh.
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“Sometimes I need to translate her speech for people – they can’t always understand her and that leads her to become frustrated – and we see lots of temper tantrums at home.

“There’s a question mark over her hearing – we’re waiting for it to be checked again, so I don’t feel I can confidently send her into school with that hanging over her head.

“We know she’s been a wee bit later to meet her developmental deadlines – if she continues to be just a wee bit on the slower side, then how is that going to affect her when she’s older, when it comes to sitting exams, transitioning to high school?” 

Mrs Murdoch’s application to Stirling Council for ‘discretionary deferral’ was rejected, as was an appeal. Despite sending a 2000-word statement, she says she received “generic rejection reasons” which she found “quite offensive”.

She added: “All the reasons we’ve been given focus on how she’ll get support in school. It’s not clear that they’ve taken into account her wellbeing outside of school, which is where our concerns lie. 

“I think they maybe need to demonstrate that they’re taking into account parents’ opinions, and give it maybe more weight. It’s very impersonal – the panel have never met me or my child.” 

Emma does have a nursery place for the next year, but as it stands it will be up to her parents to meet the cost.

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Her mum added: “We are sure of our decision, that it’s the best one for Emma to defer her. 

“But with me being on maternity leave just now, we might have to reduce her hours, which is the complete opposite to what we would hope for.”

A spokesman for Stirling Council told STV that all requests were “carefully considered on an individual basis”. 

He said: “This decision was made in line with council policy and the reasons were clearly set out in the letters sent to Mrs Murdoch.

“We also offered an opportunity for Mrs Murdoch to contact the service manager for Early Years and Education following the initial decision.”

Postcode lottery?

The Scottish Government has tabled new legislation designed to bring councils into line when deferring P1 places. 

From August 2023, any child who is still four at the start of the school year will be entitled to funding for an extra year of nursery. 

The Scottish Government said: “This will allow families to make decisions for their children, based on what they feel is in the best interests of the child, without the financial barrier of additional costs.”

Five councils – Angus, Argyll and Bute, Falkirk, Scottish Borders and Shetland – have already put this policy in place, fuelling concerns about a postcode lottery. 

‘Kindergarten would suit all children

Alison Hawkins, who runs Wester Coates Nursery School in Edinburgh, believes the transition from nursery to primary is too abrupt.

She wants a major revamp of early years education and the introduction of a Scandinavian-style kindergarten stage up to the age of seven. 

“To parents, I would say ‘look at your child, can your child throw a ball and have fun with you, can they catch that ball and if they can’t, why on earth is there a pencil in their hand?’,” she said. 

“Can they climb upside down on a climbing frame and get an idea of their own space around them, and if they can’t then why are you expecting them to sit still?

“Schools are trying to introduce a play-based pedagogy but they’re not supported with the correct number of staff. 

“Children need to be independent, they need to respond to their own motivation, not because somebody instructs them, and sadly that’s how school has been… I think it can move beyond that.” 

STV News
Children play at Wester Coates Nursery School in Edinburgh.

Alison believes investing in kindergartens now would also act as a long-term preventative health measure.

She said: “You don’t need many resources – you need good outside places, good waterproofs and qualified staff being paid a good salary. 

“If they don’t spend the money on the early years, then that money’s often needed later for mental health intervention.”

‘Break with tradition’

Developmental psychologist Suzanne Zeedyk agrees – she thinks “tradition” is the only reason children in Scotland start school so early.

She said: “It’s absolutely true that some children will cope fine with the system we have, but there are lots of children who don’t. 

“Their self-regulatory system – which means how you manage strong, big feelings – is immature, it’s fragile.

“Experiences that you have of play, social interaction, of hanging out with friends, settling disputes – if you have time doing that earlier in life then your stress system is more robust, you’re ready to sit down and focus.”

Suzanne believes the introduction of kindergartens would take the pressure off parents who struggle to make such an important decision.

“Some councils will argue that we have enough play in P1 and P2 that we don’t need deferrals, and if that’s true that’s something we need to consider,” she said.

“The point of a kindergarten stage is that parents wouldn’t have to choose.

“[It] would meet the needs of all the children, children would have the play experiences, the free-flow experiences, the time with peers, the ratio between adults and children that would have the best impact on their biological development. 

“We see the cost, the changes, without also seeing the opportunities, so part of this is a cultural shift about our understanding of the importance of childhood and how human development works.”


William and Kate’s royal train tour cost almost £48,000

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Edinburgh during the three-day trip shortly before Christmas.

Chris Jackson via Getty Images
Trip: Royal tour cost taxpayers almost £48,000.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s country-wide tour on the royal train cost the taxpayer almost £48,000, royal accounts have revealed.

William and Kate travelled 1250 miles by rail after setting off from London a few weeks before Christmas last year, to thank communities, outstanding individuals and key workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

The couple made stops in Edinburgh, Manchester, Berwick, Batley, Cardiff and Bath Spa and ended their three-day tour by visiting the Queen at Windsor Castle.

The cost of the train is met by the taxpayer and has long been controversial, with the service nearly scrapped in 2013 when it was feared the rolling stock would have to be replaced.

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During the Golden Jubilee year of 2002, the train’s journeys cost £872,000.

Royal accounts revealed the Cambridges’ journey cost £47,965 and the monarchy only made a handful of major royal trips due to the pandemic.

The most expensive was the Prince of Wales’ charter flight in October to Kuwait to pay his condolences following the death of the country’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, at a cost of £58,993.

The overall cost for royal travel during 2020-21 was £3.2m, down by £2.1m on the previous financial year, but despite the reduced number of trips a significant amount of the funds was used for leasing payments for the transportation.

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The cost of helicopters was £2.1m, including operating lease payments of £600,000, large and small fixed wing aircraft cost £100,000 each, rail travel was £700,000, which included lease payments of £200,000, and vehicles £200,000.


Anton Du Beke joins Strictly Come Dancing 2021 panel

Bruno Tonioli unable to participate due to uncertainty over international travel restrictions due to Covid-19.

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Anton Du Beke will join Strictly Come Dancing panel as a full-time judge this year.

Anton Du Beke will join the Strictly Come Dancing panel as a full-time judge this year with Bruno Tonioli unable to participate due to uncertainty over international travel restrictions due to Covid-19.

The professional dancer joined the judging panel during the 2020 series for a two-week stint, but will now become a permanent fixture during the 2021 series.

He said: “My loves I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be stepping into Bruno’s brogues for the next series of Strictly. It’s a dream come true to be judging alongside the best of the best and I promise to be kinder to all the couples than any of them have ever been to me.”

Du Beke joins the returning judging panel of Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas.

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Tonioli is based in the US as a judge on American series Dancing With The Stars, and “will be unable to take part in the series this year”, due to the “ongoing uncertainty regarding international travel restrictions caused by Covid-19”, the BBC said:

He said: “Whilst I am gutted to not be on the show this year, there is one person and one person only that could take my place – it’s just a shame they weren’t available… haha! Darlings I’m kidding, I’m kidding!

“Seriously though, I have to tell you, Anton IS Mr Strictly and if anybody is filling in for me, it has to be him. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way and I am so excited to see him waggle his paddle.”

Du Beke is the longest-serving professional dancer having been a fixture on the BBC One series since it began.

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The BBC said further details regarding the upcoming series of Strictly Come Dancing would be announced in due course.

Murray going for gold again after being selected for Olympics

Andy Murray selected as one of six players to represent Team GB at the rearranged Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.

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Andy Murray won gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Andy Murray is seeking to win a third Olympic gold medal after being selected to compete for Team GB at this summer’s rescheduled Tokyo Games.

Murray won gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016, making history as the first men’s player to win two Olympic gold medals in the singles event.

As well as competing in the singles in Japan, Murray will also team up with Joe Salisbury in the men’s doubles. Salisbury, a two-time Grand Slam winner, is making his Olympic debut.

Murray said: “The Olympics means a huge amount to me, it’s a massive honour to be able to compete at a fourth Games. Leading Team GB out at the Opening Ceremony five years ago in Rio was one of the highlights of my career.  Going to a second Olympics as defending champion is exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

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Team GB on Thursday named the six athletes that will compete in the Olympic tennis tournament at the Olympics.

Heather Watson and Johanna Konta will both compete in the women’s singles and women’s doubles events.

Competing at their maiden Games, Dan Evans and Neal Skupski complete the line-up for Team GB.

Evans, currently GB’s number one ranked men’s singles player, achieved his highest ATP ranking to qualify for Tokyo this summer. He lines up alongside Murray in the men’s singles as well as teaming with Skupski in the men’s doubles.

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Team GB Chef de Mission, Mark England said: “It’s a huge privilege to announce our tennis players for Team GB. The calibre of the team gets stronger with every Games and it is great to see a mix of returning and first time Olympians.

“Two-time Olympic Champion Andy Murray was our flag bearer in Rio and he continues to lead by example through his commitment to the Olympic Games and Team GB in what will be his fourth Olympics.

“We are also delighted to welcome back Heather and Johanna as returning Olympians, and I am sure they will all pass on the best of their insight to Dan, Joe and Neal.”

Team GB Tennis Team:

Men’s Singles: Dan Evans, Andy Murray

Women’s Singles: Johanna Konta, Heather Watson

Men’s Doubles: Dan Evans and Neal Skupski, Joe Salisbury and Andy Murray

Women’s Doubles: Johanna Konta and Heather Watson

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Mixed Doubles: TBC once the ranking cut off is known

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One in ten products at Poundland no longer priced at £1

Poundland owner Pepco has seen success with new clothing ranges offered in 300 of its larger stores.

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Poundland has revealed one in 10 products on sale in stores are no longer priced at its traditional £1 price point.

Poundland has revealed one in 10 products on sale in stores are no longer priced at its traditional £1 price point.

The shift away from being a single-price retailer comes as the company behind the brand said sales continued to grow in the past six months, despite the Covid pandemic, and the rollout of chilled and frozen food is winning over customers.

Poundland owner Pepco added it has also seen success with new clothing ranges offered in 300 of its larger stores and has increased sales of products with higher profit margins.

The news comes as bosses said they also managed to reduce rents by around 50% on 44 stores and look set to cut rental fees on a further 211 stores within the next two years.

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Poundland and its European equivalent Dealz saw a like-for-like sales increase of 1.4% during the six months to the end of March compared with the same period a year earlier.

This was despite bosses saying stores, which remained open as “essential” retailers, were hit hard by the various pandemic restrictions.

Shoppers shunned its stores primarily due to their locations typically being in covered shopping centres or busy high street locations where the perceived risk of infection was higher, the company said.

But bosses remain confident for the future and highlighted that the introduction of frozen food in 50 stores, following a deal with Fultons Frozen Food last October, was working well.

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Its frozen food offering is now available in 129 stores, with the intention to have it available in 700 within the next two years.

Profit margins increased by 60 basis points, with customers having stocked up on lower margin products the previous year, bosses added.

Poundland now has 917 stores in the UK and Ireland, with its Pep&Co clothes lines in 300 larger stores.

The parent company Pepco, which recently listed on the Warsaw stock exchange, said total sales across the business were up 4.4% to two billion euros (£1.7bn), with pre-tax profits in the period up from 64 million euros (£55m) to 96 million euros (£82m).

Pepco chief executive Andy Bond said he expects to see improvements as customer behaviour returns to more normal shopping patterns.

He added: “We anticipate that the environment in which we operate will remain changeable and challenging in the short term.”

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New law to reimburse women for private mesh removal surgery

Health secretary Humza Yousaf has spoken about the 'serious distress' that mesh implant surgery has caused.

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It was announced last July that a specialist Complex Pelvic Mesh Removal Service was being set up as part of NHS Scotland.

The Scottish Government is bringing forward new legislation to allow women who have paid to have vaginal mesh removed privately to get their money back.

It comes as health secretary Humza Yousaf spoke about the “serious distress” that controversial mesh implant surgery has caused, as he said some women had been “let down by the NHS”.

The NHS in Scotland has had a moratorium in place which prevents mesh implant surgery since 2018, but some women have used their own cash to fund its removal after being left with painful and debilitating complications.

These operations cost between £16,000 and £23,000, and the Transvaginal Mesh Removal (Cost Reimbursement) (Scotland) Bill proposes a scheme to reimburse those who have paid for private treatment.

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The Scottish Government is also working on a procurement process to “allow appropriately qualified surgeons” from outside the NHS to bid to perform removal for patients in Scotland.

This work is already under way and should be completed shortly, ministers said.

It was announced last July that a specialist Complex Pelvic Mesh Removal Service was being set up as part of NHS Scotland, with the Scottish Government committing more than £1.3m to it.

Speaking about the proposed new law, Yousaf said: “I absolutely recognise the serious distress that may have led women to using their own funds to seek mesh removal surgery privately.

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“This legislation aims to help those who have undergone private treatment by allowing these past costs to be refunded.

“We recognise that some women have been let down by the NHS when they presented with complications and that is simply unacceptable.

“We are working to build confidence in our Scottish services and the various projects under way, including the case record review and our work with the Health and Social Care Alliance, will support this.

“Nonetheless, alternative options will be available to those who feel unable to be treated in Scotland, achieving the ultimate objective of ensuring all people get the treatment and care that they need.”


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