Sturgeon: There will be public inquiry into care home deaths

The FM was challenged over care homes as new figures showed more than 1700 deaths of residents from Covid-19.

The First Minister has said there will be a formal public inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, including in care homes.

Nicola Sturgeon was challenged over care home deaths as the latest figures showed more than 1700 elderly residents with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 have died since the pandemic began.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw branded the issue a “national scandal” and claimed care home residents had been treated as “second-class citizens”.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said there had been a “rush to discharge” hospital patients to residential care facilities at the start of the outbreak without adequate testing in place.

ADVERT

The First Minister “took exception” to the idea the elderly had been treated as “second-class” and said hospital beds had been cleared out of fears a “tsunami” of new Covid-19 cases might have overwhelmed the NHS.

She said the guidance at the time was clear that people with coronavirus symptoms should not be discharged to care homes, and said care homes, even privately-run, should have adhered to that guidance.

Last week, health secretary Jeane Freeman revealed that 921 “delayed discharge” patients were moved to care homes in March – far higher than initially thought.

However, mandatory testing of all those being moved into care homes only began on April 21.

ADVERT

Demanding a formal public inquiry, Carlaw said: “It is now clear that what happened in our care homes in March and April was a national scandal.”

Sturgeon assured the Scottish Tory leader there would be a public inquiry into the coronavirus crisis which would “undoubtedly include what happened in care homes”, although she did not say when it would begin.

The First Minister said she could see why “with everything we know now” people would ask questions about the approach to discharging to care homes.

But she insisted: “Throughout this crisis I’ve taken the best decisions I can based on the best information and evidence I had at the time.”

The Scottish Labour leader highlighted that the World Health Organisation had been calling for all countries to test on a mass scale since March.

Not doing so until April for those moving into care homes, he said, had resulted in “devastating consequences” for residents.

Sturgeon said if those people had not been moved from hospital, some might have caught coronavirus there as well.

ADVERT

She added: “More than Richard Leonard might know, I regret every person who has lost their life.”

Fewer than one in 20 Scots likely to have had coronavirus

Just 4.3% of people in Scotland have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, according to new data.

Getty Images
Covid: Antibodies research uses random blood samples.

Fewer than 5% of Scots are thought to have been exposed to coronavirus over the course of the pandemic, public health officials have said.

Just 4.3% of people in Scotland have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, a Public Health Scotland report found.

The results came from the random of testing of nearly 5000 blood samples throughout Scotland between the end of April and the end of June.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Nicola Steedman revealed the figure at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday.

ADVERT

As Scotland was preparing for the virus to hit earlier this year, then-chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood warned between 60% and 80% of Scots could catch it.

Researching coronavirus antibodies helps to provide officials with more data on very mild or asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 that may have gone undetected.

Dr Steedman said the antibodies research suggested only “a fairly small” chunk of the population had so far been infected with Covid.

It comes as 11 new cases were reported in the last day, while the Scottish Government estimates around 700 people in the country in total are infectious.

ADVERT

Public health officials continue to put the R number – or reproduction rate – below one in Scotland, meaning the epidemic is shrinking.

Dr Steedman told the briefing: “Only a fairly small proportion of the population have so far likely been exposed to coronavirus in Scotland.

“And it is this low number of people likely exposed that explains and reinforces our ongoing messages to you.

“Firstly, that we need to be careful when we are easing out of lockdown and secondly, this is why we still want you to follow all of the current guidance on physical distancing and all the measures that we recommend in order to protect you, your loved ones and, in fact, protect all of us.”

The interim deputy CMO also sought to reassure the public on the use of personal data to form the new research on antibodies.

The 4751 blood samples tested came anonymously from routine blood checks carried out in healthcare settings across Scotland, she said.

Dr Steedman said data privacy is “a priority for all of us”, adding that personal data is used safely and only for the most important research projects.

ADVERT

Antibodies researchers look for the specific proteins that the human body produces to fight different types of infection.

Unemployment in Scotland ‘could hit 1980s levels’

Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop pledged a new £100m employment support fund, with half set aside for young people.

Getty Images
Joblessness: Latest figures show 15,000 more are unemployed.

Scotland could see levels of unemployment not experienced since the 1980s, economy secretary Fiona Hyslop has warned.

Addressing MSP, she pledged at least half of a £100m employment support fund will go towards helping young people.

Hyslop promised a “national effort” to tackle rising jobless figures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as official statistics showed the number of people in work in Scotland fell by 47,000 between March and May.

ADVERT

Over the same three months, the country’s unemployment total rose by 15,000 to stand at 120,000, or a rate of 4.3%.

The UK Government’s furlough scheme is due to end in October and experts fear that could mean a further rise in unemployment.

Speaking in parliament on Thursday, Hyslop said: “Today, statistics confirm the scale of the impact the pandemic has had on Scotland’s workers, businesses and communities.

“There is no doubt meeting this challenge will require a national effort…

ADVERT

“There is no monopoly on good ideas and I want to work constructively with parties across this chamber to protect our constituents.”

She added: “We are potentially facing unemployment on a scale not seen for decades as a result of coronavirus.

“Today’s announcements show that we are ready to rise to this challenge with investment to help ensure that people who have lost jobs, those at risk of unemployment and young people entering the labour market can benefit from more and better job opportunities.”

Conservative MSP Maurice Golden claimed comments from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the potential to require visitors from England to quarantine have put further jobs at risk.

He said the hospitality and tourism sectors have seen bookings cancelled from south of the border due to concerns over the issue.

Golden said: “Press reports today show English tourists are cancelling bookings due to fears over Nicola Sturgeon’s quarantine comments.

“These comments are a material risk to Scottish jobs.”

ADVERT

He also condemned the SNP’s “lack of business understanding”.

But the economy secretary replied: “If you want to spread doom and gloom, you have done so.

“We need confidence for our tourism sector, we have reopened fully in terms of hotels and restaurants and pubs as of yesterday, that is good news.”

Meanwhile, the minister also announced the Fair Start Scotland support scheme is being continued for another two years.

The programme helps those who may have struggled to find work because of disability, health problems or responsibilities, and it will now continue until March 2023.

Hyslop said the extension of the initiative will offer “stability and continuity to the most vulnerable and those furthest from the labour market”.

She added that more details of work being done to develop a jobs guarantee scheme for young Scots will be set out next month.

Has Brexit left our disunited kingdom beyond repair?

Upcoming legislation on post-Brexit powers will see the union come under further strain.

Post-Brexit powers have started fresh arguments over the future of the union.

Pandemics are no respecter of borders or discrete political positions.

In the UK, responsibility for combating coronavirus has fallen on a Conservative prime minister, an SNP first minister, a Labour FM in Wales and in Northern Ireland by representatives of a polarised historical enmity, that frequent hate fest where Ulster unionism clashes with Irish republicanism.

If this had all taken place less than 25 years ago, a centralised Westminster strategy would have been fronted by the prime minister with the secretaries of state for Scotland and Wales acting as quasi-plenipotentiaries with the bare minimum of scrutiny afforded by monthly questions in the Commons.

In Northern Ireland, despite a ceasefire in paramilitarism, the politics was still defined by mutual recrimination, all of which meant that direct rule essentially meant a made-in-Westminster solution for the people of Northern Ireland. Scrutiny, let alone a tailor-made response, would have been an afterthought.

ADVERT

The constitutional changes made by the Blair government and the decision on power-sharing in Ulster were genuinely radical at the time. Radical that is for a state that was centralised and seemingly impervious to ‘let go’.

Much of the bespoke strategies on lifting lockdown have never been analysed from the perspective of the 21-year-old newish normal in governance.

Devolution has allowed for that tailored response. The extent to which different parts of the UK moving at different speeds has raised the odd voice in angst only goes to show that some people simply haven’t adjusted to the realities of devolved government.

And yet the very institutions that facilitate that refined response are headed for the mother of all clashes with the mother of parliaments.

ADVERT

The issue is the post-Brexit split in powers between Westminster and the devolved nations when what was exercised by Brussels now has to be decided in the UK.

The new battleground will heighten tensions and do little to project a sense of harmony in this disunited kingdom.

Since the Scottish Parliament assumed legislative competence on July 1, 1999 much has changed. The Calman Commission, recognising Donald Dewar’s view that change was “a process not an event”, redefined Holyrood’s powers.

The Smith Commission led to more powers, too, even if it was not an organic response to constitutional naval-gazing.

Rather it enacted the panic strategy of the Better Together parties during the 2014 referendum when ‘more powers’ were offered to shore up a campaign that came relatively close to losing.

Since then Brexit has proved there is no bridge to straddle the realities of the UK as a whole voting to leave the EU with the fact that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.

Brexit may well have been in part a roar of English nationalism. But its consequence has been to embolden the Scottish variety and force people in Northern Ireland into considering the wider dimension of shared economic interests on the island of Ireland.

ADVERT

The UK is no longer the tight-knit unitary state which periodically has to deal with a little local difficulty in the form of containable demands for changes in how folk are governed.

In a real sense it is now a series of nations defined by different demands for further change.

The SNP will demand another independence poll.

A border poll on Irish re-unification is no longer the stuff of belly laughs. The uber unionists of the DUP are now left to explain how the ‘principle of consent’ is fine for defining Britishness but can be ignored when embracing Europeanism.

The forthcoming stushie over who gets what in the post-Brexit power spoils is not the stuff of pub chat or the kind of easy to understand concept that can be encapsulated in a slogan poking at a raw nerve.

It will, however, play to a narrative that all is not well in Britannia. What it does not do is make anything inevitable.

Politics post the 2014 referendum in Scotland has cemented the SNP’s stranglehold on power and it has seen fluidity in some voters in terms of moving from no to yes. But in the absence of another poll it is all rather academic.

The pandemic parked that awkward question for Nicola Sturgeon about her plan B on indyref2 when Boris Johnson says no, as indeed he will continue to say no. It hasn’t gone away.

The ‘power grab’ debate will bring it into sharper focus but it won’t resolve anything, at least not immediately.

Two decades of devolution have changed the UK beyond all recognition in terms of how decisions are made. Who knows what the next two years hold, never mind the next two decades?


Motorcyclist admits causing pillion passenger’s death

Bret Simpson will still face trial accused of dangerous driving before Bronte Hutchison's death.

Bronte Hutchison: Died in crash.

A biker has admitted causing the death of his 23-year-old pillion passenger.

However, 28-year-old Bret Simpson’s guilty plea to careless driving before the fatal crash was rejected, and he will instead go on trial accused of dangerous driving.

Bronte Hutchison died on August 5, 2018, following a crash on the A6091 Galashiels to Melrose bypass.

It is alleged that Simpson rode his motorbike at excessive speed, allowed Bronte to ride pillion while she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, failed to slow down approaching the Tweedbank roundabout, then braked sharply and lost control of his bike.

ADVERT

Bronte was thrown from the bike, struck her head on the kerb and died at the scene.

Defence counsel Edith Forrest said: “He pleads guilty to causing death by careless driving.”

Prosecutor Shirley McKenna refused to accept the reduced plea and said the Crown was ready for trial.

Judge Lord Mulholland said: “I will continue this for another preliminary hearing on September 24.”

ADVERT

The High Court in Glasgow heard that the trial is expected to last five days.


Man denies stabbing teenager to death with scissors

Connor McMath, 20, is accused of killing schoolboy Sean Ford in Wishaw.

High Court: Accused denies murder charge.

A man has denied murdering a 15-year-old by stabbing him in the neck with a pair of scissors.

Connor McMath, 20, is accused of killing schoolboy Sean Ford at Charles Street, Wishaw, on March 7.

At the High Court in Glasgow, McMath’s QC Donald Findlay entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of his client, who appeared via video link.

Mr Finlay asked for bail for McMath, who is on remand awaiting trial as no date can be set due to lockdown measures, but the request was refused.

ADVERT

McMath also faces a further charge along with Derek Paton, 18, from Wishaw.

They are charged with assaulting a 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to the danger of his life at a house in Charles Street, Wishaw, on March 7.

It is alleged they repeatedly struck him on the head with a knuckleduster and kicked and punched him on the head and body, rendering him unconscious.

Paton, who is on bail, was not in court for the hearing.

ADVERT

Both accused deny the charges against them.

A further hearing will take place in September.


Excavation of medieval graveyard begins during tram works

Human remains were unearthed during work on the Trams to Newhaven project.

The excavation of human remains, which could date back as far as 1300, has begun in Edinburgh.

A team of archaeologists are on-site preparing to remove remains that are likely to be affected by the Trams to Newhaven project.

They have so far exhumed more than 10 bodies, dating from between 1300 and 1650, and have uncovered a cannonball, as well as the apparent remnants of the original medieval graveyard wall.

Previous investigations have shown that in the medieval period the South Leith Parish Church graveyard extended across the road with graves surviving beneath the current road surface.

ADVERT

In some cases, the skeletons which have been discovered can be seen lying in rest mere centimetres beneath pipelines.

Archaeology: Excavations have ‘provided important new evidence’.

After the excavation, the remains will be examined to reveal information on the origins, health, diseases and diet of the people of medieval Leith.

City archaeologist John Lawson said: “The historic port and town of Leith is one of Scotland’s most significant urban archaeological sites with evidence of occupation going back over 900 years.

“Although only just started, the excavations by our team have already provided important new evidence regarding the history of the graveyard and earlier town with the discovery of what we believe are the remains of its original medieval graveyard wall.

ADVERT

“It is hoped that further new discoveries will be made and that we will learn important new evidence for the lives of Leith’s medieval inhabitants so that we can tell their story to modern Leithers.”

The city council approved a £207m plan to extend the line to Newhaven in the north of the city last year.

‘Important’: Work allows a small piece of heritage to be conserved.

Following a two month shutdown as a result of coronavirus, the contractors working on the tram extension began work again this week.

Transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes said: “The Trams to Newhaven project is now up and running again and progressing well, as the main works get under way on Leith Walk.

“This element of the scheme is just as important as track-laying or landscaping and allows us to conserve a small piece of the area’s heritage for generations to come.”

Last month the archaeologists shared images of discoveries made during initial investigations on Constitution Street, which included rare whalebones and a cannonball thought to date back to the 17th century.

Project: Discoveries made during initial investigations on Constitution Street last month.

During the first phase, the team took down part of a wall surrounding Constitution Street Graveyard, dating back to 1790, ahead of excavation of the historic graveyard.

ADVERT

Preparatory work led archaeologists to discover what appears to be a large charnel pit which may contain the remains of some burials recovered from the laying of 19th century services in Constitution Street.

The main construction works on Leith Walk from Elm Row to Crown Place are currently under way, with traffic management involving Leith Walk being reduced to one city bound lane between London Road and Crown Place for the duration.


From scaffolder to Premiership footballer in two years

The new Livingston striker is taking lessons from the rapid rise of Scotland captain Andy Robertson.

SNS
Kouider-Aissa has risen from the amateur game to the Premiership.

Salim Kouider-Aissa says he is taking lessons from Scotland captain Andy Robertson as he continues his rapid rise through football’s hierarchy.

The striker – who was working as a scaffolder just two years ago – has joined Livingston after prolific spells with Kilsyth Rangers and Queen’s Park gave him a springboard to the top flight.

Liverpool star and national team icon Robertson famously played for Queen’s Park before rising to become a European and Premier League champion and his influence is still being felt at his old club.

“You’re training at Lesser Hampden and can see Andy Robertson’s face up on Hampden,” Kouider-Aissa said. “So you train and think ‘Could that be me one day?’.

ADVERT

“If you train and work hard, that’s what he did and look where he is now.”

The 24-year-old had unsuccessful spells in the lower league and Junior game and admits he was immature before finding his focus at Kilsyth.

Now he is set on making the most of his chance to impress with Gary Holt’s side and show he can cut it in the Premiership.

“It’s only two years ago I was still playing amateur for my local team while working as a scaffolder,” he said.

ADVERT

“That was my wake-up call. Without being big-headed, I realised I was better than the level I was playing at and that I can do better.

“I thought I would give it another crack and see where it takes me, give my full concentration to football.

“I just take a season at a time now. There’s no point in saying you’re going to be at Real Madrid next season. I said to myself a few years ago ‘Juniors next year’. Then it was my aim to get interest from the seniors, then to go full time.

“Sometimes when I’m coming in here I have to drive past the sites I had been working at. You need to pinch yourself.

“But I’m here for a reason and I just need to get the head down and work like I have been doing.”


Term-time childcare to resume in line with schools

John Swinney said childcare and early learning services should be fully up and running by August 11.

Term-time childcare services will resume in line with the return of schools next month, John Swinney has confirmed.

The education secretary laid out the next steps for childcare and early learning ahead of pupils going back to school – expected to be on a full-time basis – on August 11.

Much of Scotland’s childcare sector has been able to resume work in the last week after the country entered phase three of its lockdown exit plan, with various restrictions in place.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing alongside Nicola Sturgeon, Swinney stressed that childcare will “look and feel a bit different” even while the sector reopens.

ADVERT

He announced a £11m “transitional fund” to help childcare centres reopen safely in Scotland from next month, in line with schools.

The education secretary also said a separate, previously announced support fund for childminders will open today for grant applications.

Current restrictions on the mixing of different childcare settings, such as between childminders and nurseries, are expected to be relaxed by the end of the month provided coronavirus cases in Scotland remain low.

Swinney also said he hopes a “bubble” model of childcare – where staff are designated to look after smaller groups of children – won’t be needed.

ADVERT

It comes as one more Scot died with coronavirus after seven days with no deaths of confirmed Covid cases.

A total of 11 new cases were reported in the last day, while the Scottish Government estimates around 700 people in the country in total are infectious.

There are 630 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, up 19, and six patients in intensive care, a figure which is unchanged.

The First Minister said more than 500 people have had the “traumatic” experience of being discharged from intensive care in Scotland after having the virus.

She announced that Dr Nadine Cossette, a liaison psychiatrist at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, has been commissioned to develop proposals for the support of those who have had coronavirus.

The FM went on to thank childcare workers, parents and children for how they had responded to the loss of childcare and schooling during the pandemic.

To Scotland’s youngsters, she said: “You have all been brilliant and I want you to know that everyone is really proud of you.”

ADVERT

Swinney also hailed the country’s “outstanding childcare staff” following the First Minister’s remarks.

He added: “Childcare has carried on during the pandemic.

“Key worker childcare was at the heart of keeping Scotland going during lockdown.

“Without it, Scotland could not have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic the way that we did.”

The education secretary continued: “Looking ahead, I expect term-time childcare settings will reopen in line with schools next month.

“This will be welcome news to parents, families, the childcare workforce and most importantly, to children.

“It is important to remember this reopening is not a return to normal. Childcare will look and will feel a bit different.

“Some public health restrictions will remain in place at that time.”

At the heart of this, he said, would be measures to restrict the number of contacts children and staff have, although strict social distancing is not envisaged.

The focus on childcare and education at Thursday’s briefing came after the group advising the government on the return of schools issued a new report.

It said teachers should not need to wear masks in schools unless they are spending prolonged close contact with a pupil.

The group further confirmed it does not expect pupils will need to socially distance from one another.

Speaking at the briefing, Sturgeon also revealed the policy of shielding for those deemed most vulnerable to Covid could be paused by the end of this month if infection rates stay low.

From Friday, shielding people will be allowed to stay at hotels, visit outdoor markets and gardens and spend time with their partner if they are in a non-cohabiting couple.

Finnieston Crane visitor plans include trip to the top

Visitor centre, museum and restaurant lined up as part of £7m Clydeside plans.

SNS
The Finnieston Crane has towered over the River Clyde for nearly 100 years.

People could be taken to the top of the famous Finnieston Crane in Glasgow under plans for a new visitor centre.

A museum and restaurant are also being lined up for the 152ft landmark on the banks of the River Clyde.

The £7m plans have been revealed by community interest group Big Cran’ Co, which hopes to create 50 jobs.

A 122-seat restaurant – provisionally named Glasgow Fare – would open in the shadow of the crane’s jib.

ADVERT

Profits made from diners would then fund a visitor centre and museum.

A way of taking people to the top of the crane is still being explored.

Big Cran’ Co chairman Allan Wilson, a former Scottish Government minister, said: “We believe this plan would have enormous benefit to the local community and would preserve a unique and iconic part of Scotland’s heritage.

“The crane played an important part in Glasgow’s industrial past and we want to make sure it remains relevant. It would be great for future generations to understand its story.

ADVERT

“The project can also provide hope as we emerge from lockdown and give a significant economic boost to the area.”

The crane, in use from 1932, was one of last giant cantilevers built on the Clyde and was used to load heavy cargo such as locomotives on to ships for worldwide export.

The Big Cran’ Co has leased the structure, also known as the Stobhill Crane, from owners Peel Ports.


You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?