Sturgeon slams ‘partisan’ leak as Tories demand FM quits

Douglas Ross says party will push forward a vote of no confidence in the First Minister next week.

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The leader of the Scottish Conservatives says Nicola Sturgeon “has to resign” as First Minister after sources revealed the Alex Salmond inquiry concluded she misled parliament.

The committee’s final report has not yet been published, but Douglas Ross told STV News the evidence submitted to the inquiry “confirmed” that the First Minister “had been untruthful”.

MSPs on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee voted 5-4 that the First Minister gave an “inaccurate” account of a meeting with her predecessor Alex Salmond during the live investigation, STV News understands.

The inquiry is also understood to have concluded it is “hard to believe” Sturgeon did not know of concerns about her predecessor’s behaviour before November 2017, as she claimed.

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Sturgeon has claimed she was informed about a media inquiry relating to Salmond’s alleged behaviour towards female Edinburgh Airport staff in November 2017 and that was the first she had ever heard of his potential inappropriate behaviour.

The committee also believes Sturgeon should have acted upon any information about her predecessor’s conduct and is “concerned” about the meetings Sturgeon had with Salmond after he revealed he was being investigated, and why it took the First Minister more than two months to tell the head of Scotland’s civil service what she knew.

Sturgeon said a “very partisan leak” from the inquiry is “not that surprising”, adding that she stands by the evidence she gave to the committee.

She also said she is awaiting the result of the separate James Hamilton QC investigation into whether she broke the ministerial code.

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Ross told STV News: “We’ll read the full committee report and their findings when it’s published in the next few days but the Scottish Conservatives have been clear for weeks that the evidence submitted to the inquiry confirmed that Nicola Sturgeon had been untruthful, she had misled parliament and, therefore, she has to resign.

“That’s what we’ve been saying for weeks because the evidence has been clear.

“I don’t believe the word ‘knowingly’ makes a big difference because Nicola Sturgeon has misled parliament, she has not been truthful with the people of Scotland and we expect the highest standards of the holder of the highest office in the land.

“The First Minister must have the trust of the people of Scotland and if she has misled, if she has not been truthful to the people of Scotland, she cannot continue in that office.”

The Scottish Conservatives intend to push forward a vote of no confidence in the First Minister next week.

“The Scottish Conservatives as the main opposition party are the only opposition party in Holyrood that have enough MSPs to bring forward a vote of no confidence,” said Ross.

“We will be doing that, we’ve said the evidence has been clear – it’s been growing, it’s been mounting – against Nicola Sturgeon that she has misled Parliament.”

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A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said the committee – which has four SNP members and five from other parties – was still considering its report, which is expected to be published on Tuesday.

Sturgeon told Sky News: “I stand by all of the evidence I gave to the committee, all eight hours’ worth of evidence.

“What’s been clear is that opposition members of this committee made their minds up about me before I muttered a single word of evidence, their public comments have made that clear.

“So this leak from the committee – very partisan leak – before they’ve finalised the report is not that surprising.”

She added that she is awaiting the result of the James Hamilton QC investigation into whether she broke the ministerial code.

The decision is likely to increase pressure on Ms Sturgeon to stand down before May’s election, although it is unclear whether the act was deemed a resignation-worthy offence.

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up after a successful judicial review by Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government’s investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.

The SNP leader has faced questions about when she became aware of the internal government investigation of her predecessor, having originally told parliament it was at a meeting with him at her home on April 2.

It later emerged that Salmond’s former chief of staff had spoken to Sturgeon about – in her words – “a harassment-type issue” four days earlier when arranging the subsequent meeting.

She told the committee she wished her memory of the earlier meeting was “more vivid”, but “it was the detail of the complaints under the procedure that I was given on April 2 that was significant and indeed shocking”.

Sturgeon also defended her decision not to record the meeting, as per the ministerial code, because she initially suspected it was about party business and then wanted to protect the “confidentiality of the process”.

Salmond’s claim there was “no doubt” their meeting was about the government investigation was corroborated by Duncan Hamilton QC – a former SNP MSP – and the SNP’s former communications director, Kevin Pringle.

This latest development comes after Conservative MP David Davis used parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons to read out messages that he suggested showed a “concerted effort by senior members of the SNP to encourage complaints” against the former first minister.

According to Davis, the messages disclosed by a whistleblower “demands serious investigation”, with one alleging the investigating officer in the case complained of interference by Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff.

The message is alleged to have been sent by Judith Mackinnon to the government’s communications director on February 6, 2018, almost two months before the First Minister claims to have first known about the investigation of her predecessor.

A spokesman for the First Minister said: “The First Minister told the truth to the committee in eight hours of evidence, and stands by that evidence.

“It is clear from past public statements that opposition members of this committee had prejudged the First Minister at the outset of the inquiry and before hearing a word of her evidence, so this partisan and selective briefing – before the committee has actually published its final report – is hardly surprising.

“The question of the First Minister’s adherence to the ministerial code is being considered independently by James Hamilton, and we expect to receive and publish his report soon.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “I am not going to prejudge the outcome of the committee report and we await its findings, but if it does conclude that the First Minister has misled parliament and potentially breached the ministerial code then that is incredibly serious.”

The party’s UK leader also criticised Sturgeon as he visited Scotland on Friday.

Sir Keir Starmer said: “By making those comments before she’s seen the report, she’s doing the very thing that she’s accusing others of.

“The right thing for her to do is to wait for the report and to read the report – as we all will.

“But to say now, several days beforehand, what she said about the outcome is to do exactly what she’s accusing other people of doing.

“So I think the right thing to do is to wait for the report. If the report does come to serious findings then they have implications.”

Patrick Harvie, leader of the Scottish Greens, criticised committee members and said they had broken the MSP code of conduct by giving interviews before the report is published.

He said: “The Scottish Greens have said throughout that we will examine both the committee report and the Hamilton ministerial code inquiry before drawing any conclusions.

“Despite the indefensible behaviour of members of the committee we are still willing to do so, but their actions have clearly destroyed the credibility of their own report before anyone has had the chance to read it.”

Husband tells of loss of wife, son and friend in loch tragedy

Waris Ali tried to save Edina Olahova, Rana Haris Ali and Muhammad Asim Riaz from drowning at Loch Lomond on Saturday.

Contributed via Waris Ali

A widower has told how he tried in vain to save his drowning wife in a tragedy that also claimed the lives of his nine-year-old son and a family friend.

Edina Olahova, 29, and Rana Haris Ali, nine, and Muhammad Asim Riaz, 41, died after getting into difficulty in the water near Pulpit Rock at Loch Lomond on Saturday evening.

Waris Ali said they had stopped at the beauty spot as they headed home from Skye.

The children were on a pier and went into the water thinking it was shallow but it was “too deep” and they “went under”.

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He told Sky News his wife saw the children drowning and the adults jumped in to save them.

He spoke of trying to save his wife: “I managed to stay afloat and head towards the shallow water, but when I got out, I saw my wife’s hands outside and just her eyes out of the water.

“I took my shirt off and threw it to her so she could grab it, but she couldn’t.

“I then went to go and get help.”

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He said a Scottish man saved Mr Riaz’s son but could not rescue the other three from the water.

“I was trying to save my wife for some time, took my shirt off but realised I couldn’t do anything to save her.

“And the guy who came couldn’t save anyone else, just Asim’s son,” he said.

The seven-year-old boy was was taken to hospital.

Three further people died in separate incidents in Scotland’s waters at the weekend, making it one of the worst in memory for the fire service, according to a senior officer.

An 11-year-old boy died in a river at Stonehouse, a 13-year-old boy lost his life in water at Hazelbank in Lanark while a 16-year-old boy died at Balloch at the south end of Loch Lomond on Friday.

Speaking about the deaths on Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “These are just heartbreaking human tragedies.

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“Like everyone else across the country my thoughts are with the families of those who are grieving loved ones right now.”

She added: “These tragedies are a reminder that the beauty of some of our waters often belies the dangers they hold.

“Even if you think you’re a good, strong swimmer, if you don’t understand the current or the depths or the impact of sudden cold water on the body, then you can be putting yourself in real danger.

“I think we’ll want to reflect on what more can be done to educate young people about the dangers as well as the beauties of water.”

Police Scotland deputy chief constable Will Kerr urged people to be aware of the “float for your life” campaign, which urges swimmers who find themselves in difficulty to float as much as possible and call for help.

He said: “We’re realistic and practical, we’re not going to stop everybody going into the water in this beautiful weather.

“Please, please, we want to avoid any more of these terrible tragedies.

“Just be very, very careful when you do so and make sure you know the advice on how to protect yourself and save yourself if you do get into trouble.”

Alasdair Perry, a deputy assistant chief officer for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “This is the worst weekend in relation to incidents of this nature I can remember and I’d like to offer my condolences and those of everyone at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to all those affected by this weekend’s tragic events, and in particular to the friends and families of all those involved.”

Simon Jones, the executive lead for water safety at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, added: “It’s been a terrible week in the park and across other parts of Scotland as well for tragic events.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to friends and family.

“We can’t remember a period like this, many of our staff were closely involved and it’s been very traumatic for people involved.”

Mr Perry urged those swimming in open water to adhere to safety advice, not to leave young people unattended and to ensure they do not swim after consuming alcohol.

Holidaymaker hopes dashed for summer trips to the USA

It is not possible for most European travellers, including those from the UK, to enter the US due to coronavirus fears.

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Most European nations have relaxed restrictions on visitors from the US who are fully-vaccinated.

Hopes that UK holidaymakers could visit the USA this summer have been dashed after a White House official said existing restrictions on international travel will be maintained.

It is not possible for most European travellers, including those from the UK, to enter the US due to coronavirus fears.

The Associated Press reported that the policy will not be lifted due to the prevalence of variants of the virus in Europe.

Last week, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans against travel to the UK in light of the country’s surge in cases.

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Most European nations have relaxed restrictions on visitors from the US who are fully-vaccinated.

But the UK has kept the US on its amber list, meaning most arriving travellers must self-isolate for 10 days.

Ahead of last month’s G7 summit in Cornwall, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden launched a taskforce to make recommendations on safely restarting international travel.


Thunderstorms and floods to hit Scotland as heatwave ends

The Met Office said yellow weather warnings are in place for most of the country this week.

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The Met Office said a yellow thunderstorm warning is in place for most of the country.

Scotland warned of thunderstorms and rain over the next four days following weeks of hot weather.

The Met Office said a yellow thunderstorm warning is in place for most of the country for 12 hours from noon on Tuesday

Yellow rain warnings also follow for all of Wednesday and the early hours of Thursday morning.

Experts have warned of potential damage to buildings as a result of floodwater, lightning strikes, hail and strong winds.

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The Met Office also warned of delays and cancellations to public transport as well as potential disruption on roads.

It comes after areas across the central belt were hit with close to 30C heat last week.

STV Weather reporter Philip Petrie said: “Unfortunately the fine dry and sunny conditions many of us experienced last week and over the weekend are taking a bit of a turn this week as low pressure takes control of the weather. This will keep things feeling changeable and unsettled for the rest of the week.

“Already today the Met Office have issued a couple of weather warnings to start the new week. Tomorrow we have a warning for Thunderstorms – this is due to the fact we are retaining the warm conditions from last week but adding the effects of low pressure, so we are likely to see some heavy, persistent and thundery downpours.

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“The warning area covers a large part of the country, stretching down from the Highlands to Dumfries and Galloway and parts of the Borders. We could see some local transport disruption and flooding.

“Come Wednesday a rain warning comes into effect as the rainfall totals begin to top up – again we could see some localised flooding and travel disruption but the warning area covers a smaller part of the country.

“Of course the rain may be welcome by some, after all the dry and humid conditions lately it may be some relief for farmers and those who struggle in the heat.

“The unsettled conditions look set to continue for the rest of the week, and it is likely the Met Office will issue further warnings, so we will be keeping an eye out.”


What should you do if you’re struggling in water?

Advice to stay safe in open water after a spate of deaths in Scotland over the weekend.

Loch Lomond Rescue Boat via Facebook

Six drownings in Scotland over the weekend have highlighted the risks of swimming in open water.

High temperatures in recent weeks have tempted many to go wild swimming despite warnings of unpredictable waves, rip currents and much colder water than people were expecting.

Cold water shock can leave swimmers short of breath and struggling to use their arms and legs properly.

The RNLI and Royal Lifesaving Society are among the organisations to have issued advice on staying safe and what to do if you get into trouble.

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Here’s their top tips:

Plan ahead

If you’re looking for a safe place to swim, try to pick somewhere that has a lifeguard on site and don’t go alone.

If that’s not possible, make sure you know where you can enter and exit the water and that you’re aware of any potential hazards at your location.

Find out what the tides and currents are doing and learn how to spot rip currents – a strong surge of water heading away from the shore.

Have the right equipment

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Wear a wetsuit to help you stay warm and increase your buoyancy – that will help you stay in the water for longer.

You should also wear a brightly coloured swimming hat and take a float, ideally one you can attach yourself to.

A mobile phone in a waterproof pouch can also prove extremely valuable in a crisis.

Float to live

Rip currents in open water can be very strong – if you find yourself struggling, avoid the temptation to fight against it.

If you have an inflatable, try to hold on to it, but if not, relax and float on your back until you’re out of the current.

If can you can stand, try to wade out of the water, but if you have to swim, stay parallel to the shore to avoid drifting further away from dry land.

In an emergency

Always call 999 and ask for the coastguard.


Former Rangers skipper Ally Dawson dies aged 63

Dawson made 315 appearances for Rangers during a 12-year spell at Ibrox.

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Dawson made 315 appearances for Rangers during a 12-year spell at Ibrox.

Former Rangers captain Ally Dawson has died at the age of 63, his family have announced.

Dawson made 315 appearances for Rangers during a 12-year spell at Ibrox.

His family said in a statement: “It is with much sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Ally Dawson following a long battle with illness.

“To us, Ally was a loving husband, father, son and brother but we know he meant a lot to so many others.

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“We will remember the impact he had on our family with affection, inspired by the courage with which he fought his illness and the way he lived his life and grateful that Ally spent his final days with those he loved and who loved him.”

Dawson joined Rangers at the age of 16 in 1975 after leaving Johnstone High School in Renfrewshire.

The full-back suffered a fractured skull on a club tour of North America in an incident which many felt prevented him reaching his true potential.

However, he went on to captain Rangers and won two Scottish Cups and four League Cups while gaining five Scotland caps under Jock Stein in the early 1980s.

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Rangers said they were “extremely saddened” to hear of their former player’s passing.

“The thoughts of the directors, staff and players of Rangers are today with the family and friends of Ally,” the club added in a statement.

Dawson moved to Blackburn in 1987 and spent three years at Ewood Park before spells with Limerick and Airdrie and a stint as a player/manager in Malta. He later spent three years as Hamilton manager, leading Accies to the Third Division title in 2001.

The former defender was later a youth coach with Rangers and then worked for charity Street Soccer Scotland.

Dawson was a founder member of the organisation and coached Scotland to the Homeless World Cup title in 2011.

David Duke, founder and chief executive of Street Soccer Scotland, said: “The Street Soccer family is deeply saddened by Ally’s passing. We have all lost a father figure and a brilliant man whose positive impact on those he worked with and those he supported will never be forgotten.

“Ally was humble, kind-hearted and gifted. There are many Street Soccer people today who have lost a great friend and mentor and somebody who changed their lives for the better, and our thoughts are with Ally’s family and friends at this difficult time.

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“In due course, we will consider how best to reflect Ally’s legacy in Street Soccer Scotland but for now we are all reflecting on a profound contribution to our collective journey and missing Ally immensely.”


Scotland records 1000 new Covid cases and zero deaths

The latest figures were published by the Scottish Government on Monday.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged caution as the country seeks to move out of the pandemic.

Scotland recorded 1000 new cases of coronavirus and zero deaths in the last 24 hours.

Official statistics showed that as of Sunday, 475 people were in hospital and 65 people were in intensive case.

The figures, published by the Scottish Government, also showed that close to 4m people have had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, whilst just over 3m have had their second dose.

It comes one week after Scotland was moved to level zero – the lowest level of coronavirus restrictions in Scotland.

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The move means that hospitality venues are able to stay open until midnight, and up to eight people from four households can enter homes and stay overnight, amongst other changes.

However, masks will continue to be compulsory on public transport and in shops “for some time” in Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged caution and urged people to get vaccinated as the country seeks to move out of the pandemic.

Under the current route map, most major legal restrictions will be lifted in Scotland on August 9, but Sturgeon has made clear that decisions made will be kept under review.


Cruise ship docked since June 2020 sets sail on the Clyde

Amazara Quest sailed out onto the Clyde on Monday.

STV News

A cruise ship mothballed and docked in Glasgow since June 2020 has once again set sail.

Amazara Quest sailed out onto the Clyde on Monday after leaving the King George the fifth dock near Braehead.

Two other liners currently remain at the site, with the cruise industry slowly restarting after the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazara Quest set sail on Monday. (Joe Miller)

The industry was suspended last year as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, with restrictions being put in place.

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Earlier this month, the first cruise ship to visit a Scottish port since lockdown restrictions began arrived at Lerwick harbour in Shetland.

Sixty-six people were on board the MS Island Sky, with all passengers coming off-shore travelling in ‘bubbles’ of up to 15.


Doune The Rabbit Hole festival postponed until 2022

The festival had been due to take place between August 12 to 15 at the Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire.

Doune The Rabbit Hole
The announcement was made by organisers on Monday.

Doune The Rabbit Hole festival has been postponed, organisers have announced.

In a statement, bosses said they were “heartbroken”, citing uncertainty over Covid regulations.

The festival had been due to take place between August 12 to 15 at the Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire.

It has now been re-scheduled to be held between July 14 to 17 next year.

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Most legal coronavirus restrictions are due to be lifted on August 9 in Scotland, with people being urged to get both doses of their vaccination.

In their statement, organisers said: “We are heartbroken to announce the postponement of Doune the Rabbit Hole 2021 due to continued uncertainty over the regulations for events that will be in place in Scotland by August 12.

“We realise that this will be enormously disappointing to a great many people, principally our audience, but also the musicians and artists, traders, volunteers, the hundreds of people who we employ at the festival itself, and the businesses and residents local to the festival who will be missing out for yet another year. 

“The decision has been taken after every possible effort to put the festival on. This included a meeting on July 20 with Kate Forbes MSP, Scotland’s finance secretary, who has been most helpful.

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“Since then, her officials from the Scottish Government’s Major Events Team, have been working with us and Stirling Council to try to save this year’s festival.

“However, while we firmly believe we could hold the festival safely, the areas of uncertainty over this summer’s public health regulation in Scotland remain too great.”

Earlier this month, it was announced that this year’s Edinburgh Summer Sessions would also be postponed.

It had been due to take place ahead of all legal restrictions are lifted on August 9, but has now been scheduled for August 2022.


BP fined £50,000 over licence breach in North Sea

The Oil and Gas Authority said the oil giant did not meet reporting requirements.

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BP: The Oil and Gas Authority said the oil giant did not meet reporting requirements.

BP has been fined £50,000 by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) for breaching a licence condition in the North Sea.

The OGA said that BP failed to report the progress and results of two extended well tests in the Vorlich field, and has also served it with a sanction notice.

Having previously consented to the drilling of two development wells, the OGA granted further consent for BP to conduct extended well tests (EWT) on two wells in August 2019.

Those consents included the need for the licensee to provide regular reports during EWT operations (the reporting requirements) and BP was also required to submit a full report of the results and conclusions within 90 days of completion of the EWT operations.

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The OGA said that in November 2020, following an inquiry by the authority, BP admitted that it had failed to report as required.

The authority said that by failing to comply with the reporting requirements, BP unintentionally created an “unregulated environment in which the OGA was unsighted of BP’s actions”.

Jane de Lozey, OGA acting director of regulation, said: “We are committed to maintaining a strong regulatory regime to uphold standards and ensure a level playing field for licensees and operators in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

“On this occasion BP has fallen short of our expectations but, since becoming aware of the breach, BP has engaged positively with the OGA to investigate the cause of the failure and reaffirmed its commitment to compliance with its regulatory obligations in future.

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“We will continue to work with industry to improve compliance, and we are currently considering other matters within the UKCS that may result in further regulatory action.”

BP has been asked for comment.


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