Sturgeon unveils proposals for new ‘Scottish visa’

Immigration is reserved to Westminster but the Scottish Government is calling for powers to be split.

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The First Minister has unveiled proposals to give migrants to Scotland an option to apply for a new “Scottish visa”.

Nicola Sturgeon criticised “disastrous” UK Government immigration policies and said her proposed measures would allow for a new approach “tailored” to Scottish needs.

Immigration is reserved to Westminster under the terms of the devolution settlement, meaning Holyrood cannot pass laws in this area.

But the Scottish Government is calling for immigration powers to be “split” with the UK Government and insists its proposals could work in the current devolved set-up.

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In response, however, the UK Government department said the issue would “remain a reserved matter”.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed plans earlier on Monday for a new fast-track UK visa to attract scientists, mathematicians and researchers into the country.

The “Global Talent visa” would show that even after Brexit, the UK “is open to the most talented minds in the world”, Johnson said.

However, Sturgeon has long called for immigration powers to be devolved to Holyrood, saying Scotland has different requirements to sustain its working-age population.

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On Monday, she launched a new government paper, Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper, aimed at addressing the country’s post-Brexit needs.

Under the Scottish Government’s plan, migrants wanting to live in Scotland could choose to either apply for the Scottish visa or take one of the existing immigration routes offered by the UK Government.

To obtain a Scottish visa, the requirements would be residence in Scotland and maintaining a Scottish tax code.

Scottish ministers say new UK immigration controls and the end of free movement post-Brexit will likely exacerbate the risk of skills gaps and labour shortages in Scotland.

They add that in contrast to the rest of the UK, all of Scotland’s population growth for the next 25 years is projected to come from migration, raising the fear of depopulation if immigration controls are too strict.

The 94-page paper, which the FM said was shaped by a government advisory group along with business bodies across Scotland, laid out five possible methods for the creation of a new Scottish visa system, ranging from total Westminster control to full devolution to Holyrood.

Sturgeon endorsed two of the models, in which the UK Government would be responsible for the final checks on prospective migrants but would offer more input to the devolved administration on the criteria and eligibility assessment.

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The First Minister said: “Scotland has distinctive needs.

“A one-size-fits-all immigration approach particularly when the objective of the UK Government is to cut immigration doesn’t work for Scotland and it will be deeply damaging to Scotland.

“If we have fewer people coming here the danger is our population goes into decline again.

“That’s fewer people to do the jobs that we need done, fewer people paying taxes and therefore less tax to fund our public services.

“It is a disastrous path for any country so we need to make sure that doesn’t happen and therefore having the ability to attract people to Scotland is so important.”

She stressed the proposals were designed to work under devolution but they could be adapted for use in an independent Scotland.

Sturgeon added: “If there is a complete blanket refusal to discuss these things then the view that the Westminster system is incapable of accommodating Scotland’s distinctive interest just becomes more and more of a real thing.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Immigration will remain a reserved matter.

“The UK Government will introduce a points-based immigration system that works in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland.

“We want to understand the specific needs of the whole of the UK, which is why we have engaged extensively with stakeholders across the UK, including the Scottish Government.”

Announcing the “Global Talent visa”, which is open to applicants from February 20, the Prime Minister said the UK “has a proud history of scientific discovery, but to lead the field and face the challenges of the future we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting-edge research”.

He added: “That is why as we leave the EU I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world, and stand ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality.”

Scottish Government to reveal five-tier Covid alert system

The strategic framework - similar to England's three-tiered system - will be published on Friday.

SNS Group via SNS Group
Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

The Scottish Government will publish its strategic framework for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic later on Friday.

It is expected to include a new five-tiered system similar to an expanded version of the three-tier system already in place in England, which has increasing restrictions depending on the designated alert level.

The system is being brought in to curb the rapidly surging numbers of Covid-19 cases.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the framework will set out the different levels of intervention and restrictions, which may be applied locally or nationally depending on how the virus is spreading.

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The lower level will represent “the closest to normality that we can reasonably expect to live with until we have a vaccine or a more effective treatment for this virus”.

The highest or strictest level will be “closer to a full lockdown if things got to be that serious”. 

The framework will also outline a new testing strategy that will see results returned faster, as well as detail the “maximum” amount of support available to businesses affected by the pandemic.

It will be subject to parliamentary approval. Should it be given the green light, it will come into force on November 2.

Man who stabbed electrician found guilty of murder

Andrew McCarron died after being attacked by Paul Smith, 43, outside a social club in Edinburgh.

Police Scotland / STV News
Andrew McCarron died after being stabbed outside the Edinburgh City FC social club.

A man who stabbed an electrician in the neck outside a social club in Edinburgh has been found guilty of murder.

Paul Smith, 43, attacked Andrew McCarron, 49, with a blade, following an altercation in Lochend Road South on July 21, 2019.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard how months earlier Mr McCarron’s family member – a man called Jamie Bell – started dating Smith’s former wife Nicola Johnstone.

The court heard how Smith nursed a grudge towards Mr Bell, whose mother Catherine, 52, was engaged to Mr McCarron.

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In the months leading up to the attack, Smith sent a series of text messages to Nicola in which he threatened Jamie.

On the night of the fatal incident, Smith armed himself with a large knife and went to visit Edinburgh City FC’s social club where members of the Bell family were enjoying a night out.

Mr McCarron tried to stop the situation from escalating into trouble. But Smith rammed the blade 15.5 centimetres – more than six inches – into his throat.

Doctors fought to keep Mr McCarron alive. But he later lost his fight to stay alive.

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The story emerged following the end of a three day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh. Smith, also of Edinburgh, admitted stabbing Mr McCarron but denied murdering him.

Smith’s lawyer Brian Gilfedder told jurors that evidence in the case showed his client was guilty of the lesser crime of culpable homicide.

However, jurors found him guilty on a charge of murder.

Judge Lord Burns remanded Smith in custody ahead of a sentencing hearing next week. He told him that he would be imposing a life sentence on him.

Lord Burns added: “There is only one sentence which I can impose in this case.

“Before I can proceed I have to determine what is known as the punishment part of the sentence – that is to say the time in prison you will have to serve before you are eligible to apply for parole.

“I will therefore adjourn sentence for a period of one week and you will be remanded in custody.”

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Mr McCarron worked as an electrician for an Edinburgh based company called David Love Property.

After the attack, Mr Love wrote that his “good friend and irreplaceable employee Andy McCarron” was a “true gentleman”.

Smith will be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on October 29.


Scientists ‘pinpoint fragments of Covid acid in waste water’

Researchers find fragments of ribonucleic acid in samples from 12 health boards.

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Coronavirus: Analysis identified the acid in waste water from 12 of 14 health boards.

Scientists have found fragments of coronavirus’s ribonucleic acid (RNA) in waste water samples from the majority of Scotland’s health board areas, according to an environmental body.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) began exploratory work in May to find traces of the virus’s genetic footprint, similar to DNA.

Analysis of the collected samples has identified RNA in waste water from 12 of Scotland’s 14 health boards, with only Shetland and the Western Isles in the clear.

The results have been shared with Public Health Scotland (PHS) and are consistent with areas known to have confirmed Covid-19 cases.

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Terry A’Hearn, Sepa chief executive, said: “As Scotland’s environmental watchdog and as a public agency, we remain proud to be playing our part in the national effort to combat coronavirus.

“Our scientific capabilities and expertise in designing and implementing monitoring networks made us ideally suited to delivering this trial and the results we are seeing demonstrate its scientific validity.

“Central to the delivery of this project has been our partnership working with Scottish Water and the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, and we will continue to work closely together to refine our techniques and understanding.

“We’ve received support from across the public sector, agencies and institutions – including a donation of specialist kit from Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture – demonstrating how Scotland is coming together to find ways of tackling this virus.”

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Samples are collected by Scottish Water and its operators at 28 public waste water treatment works across the country.

The World Health Organisation has said there is currently no evidence Covid-19 has been transmitted via sewerage systems.

But in the Sepa research, analysis of Aberdeen found prevalence of the virus mirroring cases in the population at the beginning of August.

The sampling rate was increased to four times a week to provide more information and there was then a gradual decline to below the level that concentrations can be detected with sufficient accuracy.

Results remained at the same level until the end of September before rising again, reflecting PHS data on known cases.

The Sepa team is also assisting UK government scientific advisers who are investigating how waste water monitoring can be used to track the transmission of coronavirus.

The Scottish Government’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “In order to manage the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that we continue to develop our understanding of it.

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“I welcome this UK-wide programme of research and the development of waste water monitoring to help build our knowledge base.

“Sepa and Scottish Water have translated this experimental programme into a comprehensive, Scotland-wide monitoring network.

“The early data is already providing our public health experts with new information, which complements the wider population testing programme to give a more robust picture of the prevalence of Covid disease in Scotland.

“I look forward to the programme providing further, valuable data over the coming months to support our fight against the pandemic.”

The Sepa data is available online here.


Climate change activists block Grangemouth entrance

The Extinction Rebellion protesters have parked a purple boat at the Bo'ness Road gate in Grangemouth.

Extinction Rebellion

Climate change activists have blocked the entrance to Ineos’ petrochemical plant in Grangemouth.

The Extinction Rebellion protesters have parked a purple boat, draped with banners, at the Bo’ness Road gate.

Another has been parked at the company’s office on Inchyra Road, with a further demonstration planned outside the London office.

Police confirmed they were at the incident near Falkirk and were liaising with organisers. They asked drivers to avoid the area as the roads are blocked. The site is operating as normal.

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Extinction Rebellion members said they were “running out of time” in the fight against climate change and called for a transition to a greener society.

Campaigner Annie Lane, from Glasgow, accused Ineos in Grangemouth of being “Scotland’s largest climate polluter”.

She added: “We are running out of time, with the climate crisis affecting so many in the global south already.

“If Scotland really wants to be the ‘climate leaders’ they claim to be, we need to see a just transition to a greener and fairer society, led by ordinary people.”

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Meg Peyton Jones, from Edinburgh, said: “The government, big oil and big finance companies have outwardly promised for decades to reduce our destruction of the climate, whilst continuing to profit from it.

“We cannot continue to believe they will solve this crisis they created for their own gain: we need a people-led, worker-led solution, made for the people, by the people – not for profit by the profiteers.”

Ineos said between 2009 and 2019, CO2 emissions from the Grangemouth site had reduced by 37% and from the chemicals business by 43%.

A spokesman added: “Ineos products are used in a wide range of every day and essential items, currently protecting frontline healthcare professionals and their patients, whether through the use of PPE or the application of medicines to treat the effects of the pandemic and the development of antiviral drugs. The use of plastics has been invaluable during these unprecedented times.

“Our sites continue to explore ways to reduce our emissions. At the end of September, Ineos announced the largest ever purchase contract of wind energy for heavy industry in Belgium.

“The deal will reduce annual emissions by 115,000 tonnes of CO2 each year starting from next year – the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road each year.

“As more and more energy-intensive manufacturing industries in Scotland close down, then it is inevitable that those which the Scottish economy so heavily rely on will stand out above the rest in terms of their emissions.

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“Observers should be left in no doubt: manufacturing products in the UK we rely on every day, every week, every year reduces carbon footprint from importing such items, ensures compliance with the strictest environmental and safety standards and delivers carbon savings through their applications, ‘light-weighting’ vehicles, components for wind turbines and so on.

“We do our utmost to do this as efficiently (and environmentally responsibly) as possible – because this is how we will remain in business.”

The latest incident follows a number of stage protests from Extinction Rebellion, including dumping mounds of manure outside BP’s Aberdeen headquarters and scaling the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh.


Council told to say sorry for ignoring abused family

For more than five years, Elizabeth Hume, 72, from Edinburgh was a victim of intimidation and threats.

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Apology: Elizabeth Hume (left) and Alexander Hume (right).

A watchdog has forced Edinburgh City Council to apologise to a family after years of neighbours’ antisocial behaviour and abuse were ignored.

For more than five years, Elizabeth Hume, 72, was a victim of intimidation and threats, as well as alleged assaults against her family.

Despite being made aware of the behaviour, the council failed to record incidents or take appropriate action.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) told the council to apologise to Ms Hume’s son, Alexander Hume, after he complained his mother’s case was neglected.

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Mr Hume, 47, said the abuse began in 2014, when the neighbours first moved in. He explained: “It started off with low-level stuff, directed towards my mum. My dad died about seven years ago, just before these neighbours moved in.

“My mum would sit out in the garden, just trying to enjoy her time after my dad had died, and it started with them saying things like ‘we’re coming to get you’ to try and upset her, and to antagonise her.

“My sister attempted to speak with them but then my sister became the target of their attention. They would shout abuse at her and then it shifted to me.

“I eventually had to get a non-harassment order against the neighbours and my mum was in the process of getting one when they moved out.

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“It all culminated in a family barbeque in 2019 where they attacked my brother with a glass bottle, my sister and my sister-in-law were assaulted as well, and police attended with multiple vans.

“We’ve had threats to torch my mum, they threatened to torch her garden, and to put stones through her windows.

“My other sister ended up moving to live with my mum to make sure she was okay because the neighbours had threatened to ‘send people through her door’.”

Ms Hume lives in a ground-floor flat, which was adjacent to the property inhabited by the antisocial pair.

Mr Hume said the family was in constant contact with Edinburgh City Council’s adult support team, who did little to help.

‘We’ve had threats to torch my mum, they threatened to torch her garden, and to put stones through her windows.’

Alexander Hume, Elizabeth’s son

He added: “We contacted them sometimes daily, sometimes twice a day, three times a day.

“There was always some point within a week where we made contact with the council.

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“The council would get in touch with the police, who would say they couldn’t do anything because there was no crime currently being committed, and that it was matter for the council.

“Because the council didn’t keep accurate records, when it came to push things forwards they’d say there wasn’t enough evidence to go on.”

Mr Hume alleged the council moved out other neighbours who were terrorised by the pair and even asked his mother if she would consider moving from her family home, rather than moving the problematic neighbours.

Last year, a change of staff at the council culminated in a change of fortunes for the family, as accurate records began to be taken by council officers.

However, the ordeal only ended for the family when the abusive neighbours were finally moved to a new apartment elsewhere in the capital.

After complaining to the SPSO, the ombudsman ruled the council must apologise to the Hume family, after the local authority admitted “there had historically been a failure to appropriately record and take action on reports of antisocial behaviour, and we considered this failing to be unreasonable”.

The apology, addressed to Mr Hume, reads: “We wish to sincerely apologise to yourself and your family for failing to appropriately record and take action on reports of antisocial behavior; and acknowledge the impact this has had on you as a family.

“We acknowledge that had appropriate recording taken place, this may have resulted in earlier action being taken.

“Please be advised that as a result of the SPSO investigation and subsequent recommendations, Family and Households Support Service procedures and practices have recently been reviewed and revised.

“The specific matters highlighted by your complaint have been discussed and reviewed with the officers involved to ensure we are able to learn and improve the way in which we respond to residents and families.

“In summary, please accept my apologies on behalf of Family and Household Support for the inadequate level of service you feel you received in response to the complaints you and your family made against your neighbour and their family.”

When approached, Edinburgh City Council refused to comment, adding the case is still ongoing.

Story by local democracy reporter Joseph Anderson


Harvie to kick off Greens conference with workers’ rights call

The conference is being streamed online and takes place between Friday and Sunday.

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Scottish Greens: Patrick Harvie will kick off the party’s conference with a call to improve workers’ rights.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie will kick off the party’s conference with a call to improve workers’ rights.

At the launch of the conference in Edinburgh on Friday, he will set out his vision for a “green New Deal for Scotland’s workers”.

Harvie will call for all companies who receive public grants in Scotland to recognise trade unions, eliminate precarious contracts and pay at least the real living wage.

The conference is being streamed online and takes place between Friday and Sunday.

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Harvie will say: “As we rebuild from the pandemic, and as we approach our last chance to avoid a climate catastrophe, we need to tackle poverty and build an economy that supports people and planet, not those who hoard their wealth in tax havens.

“To do that, we need to ensure workers get their fair share. We need to create and retain skilled and high-quality jobs in Scotland.

“Our New Deal for workers would rebuild the public sector to reverse the erosion of rights, restore wages and the dignity of work and end zero-hour contracts.

“It would put workers and unions centre stage in driving a transition to a zero-carbon economy and creating quality, unionised and well-paid green jobs.”


Sturgeon: Sunak’s new Covid-19 measures are ‘unacceptable’

First Minister says it is 'intolerable' that coronavirus funding in England will not lead to extra cash for the Scottish Government.

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Nicola Sturgeon has criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak's latest support announcement.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted it is “intolerable and unacceptable” that coronavirus funding in England will not lead to extra cash being given to the Scottish Government.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced billions of pounds of extra help for firms and workers affected by Covid-19 restrictions in England.

Scottish Tories hailed the “blockbuster support” from the UK Government, but Sturgeon said the Chancellor has told the Scottish ministers that the new measures “won’t deliver any upfront extra cash for Scotland” beyond £700 million of funding that has already been pledged.

The First Minister hit out on Twitter, saying: “Businesses in England have been given, rightly, an open ended commitment to support for as long as needed.

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“And @scotgov will be expected to match that for Scottish businesses – with no confirmation that the money will be there to pay for it (& no borrowing powers to raise it)”.

She added: “It is an intolerable and unacceptable position – and deeply unfair to Scottish businesses who deserve the same open ended commitment given to counterparts in England.”

Her comments came after Sunak announced that the Job Support Scheme, a replacement for the furlough scheme which is due to end this month, will be made more generous, with less expected from employers and fewer hours needed to be worked by staff.

Grants of up to £2,100 have also been announced for businesses in the second tier of the English alert system.

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Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes also hit out, saying: “The Chancellor has written a blank cheque for business support grants in England, but is refusing to do the same for Scotland.”

She too described the situation as “unacceptable and unsustainable”, before claiming that the Scottish Government was “being kept in the dark on future funding and denied the ability to borrow if we need to”.

Forbes urged the Chancellor to provide more funding for Scotland, saying: “It is utterly wrong for Scottish business to not have the same level of certainty on financial support that is available to businesses in England.

“The Chancellor must urgently commit to providing the Scottish Government with the funding we require to support Scottish businesses thorough this pandemic.”

She has already claimed the additional £700 million of UK Government funding coming to Scotland is “insufficient” to meet the needs of Scottish people and businesses during the remainder of the pandemic.

But Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “The UK Government has been clear we will continue to support jobs and businesses in Scotland through the difficult months ahead.

“The Chancellor has today announced a further increase in support through the Job Support and Self-Employed schemes. That additional support for businesses and jobs is very welcome.”

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Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Throughout this pandemic, whenever jobs are on the line and businesses are struggling, Rishi Sunak has delivered.

“With this latest increase in financial support, he has gone the extra mile to protect Scottish jobs and businesses.

“This new, blockbuster support is a major upgrade that shows the UK Government will take decisive action to protect Scottish jobs wherever necessary.”

Halloween light show allowed to go ahead by council

GlasGLOW, an outdoor event at the Botanic Gardens, has been given the licence to run in a Covid-safe manner.

itison via Itison
GlasGLOW: Popular event set to go ahead.

A popular light show is set to return to Glasgow for a third year for the Halloween season, despite coronavirus related safety concerns.

GlasGLOW, an outdoor event at the Botanic Gardens, is due to go ahead after a temporary public entertainment licence was granted to organisers Itison.

Critics had felt the event should be scrapped but the company behind the event said it will be Covid-safe and “controlled”.

Proposals were discussed at the licensing committee on Wednesday, where councillors were informed of the extra safety measures put in place.

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Oli Norman, who organised the event, said: “These are anxious times for everybody and we have 100 people currently working in the creative industries for GlasGLOW. This is year three of a highly successful event.

“As well as a public health crisis there is a rising mental health crisis.

“The Covid-19 anxiety is something that is very real.

“We have been planning this event since January. This will be a very controlled walk around the Botanic Gardens and there is huge availability for social distancing.

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“We have technology that tracks everyone from coming in. We have increased our stewarding and provision for social distancing.

“This is a very family friendly event, and we will have a significantly lower amount of people in the gardens. There will be a maximum of 12 to 15 people coming through the gates at any one time.

“This year GlasGLOW will be fully outdoors. We have removed any touch points and pinch points. Many people who have purchased tickets have been to GlasGLOW before, so they know what to expect.”

Visitors will be asked to wear masks when the queue outside and the width of the pavement will be doubled to allow people to pass by. People will go into the park in a controlled fashion.

Licensing chairman Alex Wilson said: “We are all for having events, but Glasgow is suffering because we are in one of the high risk areas of coronavirus.

“It is good to see you are engaging with the appropriate services to ensure it is safe.”

GlasGLOW is expected to run from October 29 until November 15.

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Story by local democracy reporter Catherine Hunter


Coronavirus: 17 more deaths and 1712 new cases in Scotland

Latest figures revealed at the First Minister's daily coronavirus briefing.

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Coronavirus has claimed another 17 lives in Scotland with 1712 new cases recorded.

The latest daily figures were revealed at the First Minister’s daily briefing.

The death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – has risen to 2670.

Nicola Sturgeon said 52,615 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 50,903 the previous day.

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The daily test positivity rate is 9.2%, down from 9.7% on the previous day.

Of the new cases, 584 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 457 in Lanarkshire, 192 in Lothian, and 151 in Ayrshire and Arran.

There are 928 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, up by 55 in 24 hours. Of these patients, 74 are in intensive care, a rise of one.

The R number in Scotland – the average number of people each person with Covid-19 goes on to infect with the virus – is “perhaps as high” as 1.5, Sturgeon said.

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The First Minister said this, coupled with the latest daily statistics, showed why temporary restrictions on the hospitality sector had been extended for another week.

Speaking about the Scottish Government’s plans for tackling Covid-19 through the winter, which will be published on Friday, Sturgeon said this would outline a new testing strategy as well as a new regional tiered approach to tackling the virus.

Scotland already has the target of increasing testing capacity to 65,000 a day by the end of this year.

Sturgeon said to achieve that at least 10,000 more Scottish tests would need to be analysed by UK Government Lighthouse labs while the NHS laboratory capacity will increased by an additional 22,000 tests a day.

To achieve this, Sturgeon said three new regional hubs were being set up in Grampian, Lothian and Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Sturgeon said: “Contractors are already carrying out building work for these hubs, installation of equipment is progressing at pace and so is staff recruitment.

“We expect these to be up and running in the next few weeks.”

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She said the new hubs would undertake all of the routine testing for care homes and that would help get results back “more quickly then we sometimes do now”.


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