Sturgeon ‘very unlikely’ to ease ban on household visits

The First Minister will update MSPs on measures to control coronavirus later on Thursday.

First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon warned that she is 'very unlikely' to ease the ban on household visits. Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon warned that she is 'very unlikely' to ease the ban on household visits.

The First Minister has warned that she is “very unlikely” to ease the ban on household visits in Scotland ahead of a review of coronavirus restrictions.

Later on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon will update MSPs on measures to stem the spread of the deadly virus via a virtual meeting of parliament.

Speaking about the restrictions, which are reviewed every three weeks, Sturgeon warned: “As you might expect, we are unlikely, very unlikely, to announce any changes or easing of the current rules on household gatherings.”

At the Scottish Government’s briefing on Wednesday, the First Minister said she will provide further detail about tighter rules around the wearing of face coverings.


She also said she will discuss what options are available after the short-term additional restrictions on the hospitality industry come to an end on October 25.

It has been three weeks since Scots were barred from welcoming other people into their homes, with some exemptions.

People are also still allowed to meet up in groups of up to six outdoors and in gardens, as long as no more than two households are present.

Face coverings must also be worn in indoor communal settings, including staff canteens and officer corridors.


The new rules came into force at the same time licensed premises across the central belt were forced to temporarily shut up shop.

Aside from takeaway services, bars, pubs and restaurants in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley will remain closed until October 25.

Across the rest of Scotland, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes are now only allowed to operate indoors between the hours of 6am and 6pm, and are prohibited from serving alcohol. However, drinks can be served until 10pm in outdoor areas.

Announcing a further 15 deaths and record-high 1429 new infections overnight on Wednesday, Sturgeon highlighted that half of the fatalities were people under the age of 80. A small number were also under 60.

She said: “Please do not ever think that this virus only poses a risk to the lives of the very elderly.

“It poses a risk to all of us and I’m asking everybody again to take and treat that risk extremely seriously.”

Following Covid-19 rules is the ‘best gift’ Scots can give

The First Minister said that while restrictions would be relaxed temporarily over the festive period, people should 'think carefully'.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Sturgeon: Following rules 'best gift' Scots can get.

Sticking with coronavirus rules and helping keep people safe is the “best gift” Scots can give this Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister said that while Covid-19 restrictions would be relaxed temporarily for a few days over the festive period, people should “think carefully” before deciding on whether to reunite with relatives and other loved ones.

She made the plea after the UK Government and the three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreed a joint approach that will allow a slight easing of restrictions between December 23 and 27.

Up to three households will be allowed to meet either in a house, outside, or in a place of worship in a “Christmas bubble”.


Sturgeon confirmed this is the only time restrictions can be relaxed, meaning people will not be able to enjoy similar gatherings for Hogmanay.

The plan was agreed following a Cobra meeting chaired by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who said the deal would “offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year”.

Sturgeon said people would be allowed to “meet with friends and family in a cautious and limited way”.

She stressed that “any relaxation of the restrictions does carry an additional risk – a risk to your friends and to your families”.


Sturgeon said: “This year, the best gift you could give is sticking with the rules and protecting your loved ones.”

Speaking about the temporary relaxation of restrictions, the First Minister said: “We will allow ‘bubbles’ of three households to meet from December 23 to 27 in a home, an outdoor place or a place of worship.

“You don’t have to stay together for all five days – in fact you might only meet for one or two days – but importantly, once you’ve formed a bubble, you shouldn’t meet with others outside of that bubble.”

Travel restrictions will also be eased for the period, so people can “cross between protection levels” to join their bubble.

With these plans in place for Christmas, she insisted no relaxation of the restrictions would be brought in for Hogmanay.

“Those are the only rules that will change,” Sturgeon said.

“Sadly, there cannot be any further relaxation of measures for Hogmanay. It is only possible to do this once – and even then, it has risks.


“Before you reach out to friends and family, think carefully about whether you need to form a bubble.

“Just because you can mix with others indoors over this time, that doesn’t mean you have to.

“If you choose to stick with the rules as they are, then you will be continuing the hard work to beat this virus and prevent its spread to the elderly and the vulnerable.

“We have all sacrificed so much since the early days of 2020 in order to keep our friends and families safe.

“So much so, that to throw away the progress we have made on keeping Covid-19 from our doors – just when a way out of this crisis appears to be in sight – would be irresponsible and potentially bring with it tragic consequences.”

Three households can mix over five-day Christmas period

They will be able to travel between local authorities and across the UK during December 23 and 27 to form a bubble.

Tom Merton via Getty Images

Up to three households will be allowed to mix indoors for up to five days over Christmas.

They will be able to travel between council areas and across the UK during December 23 and 27 to form a ‘bubble’ – but each household must only join one bubble.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was a risk in any relaxation of restrictions during the festive period and asked people to think carefully about the necessity of mixing, given the risk of spreading coronavirus.

She said: “We know that for some, contact with friends and family is crucial during this time as isolation and loneliness can hit people especially hard over the Christmas period. The ‘bubble’ approach aims to reduce this impact.


“But we must be clear, there cannot be any further relaxation of measures for Hogmanay. Even this short relaxation will give the virus a chance to spread.

“Our priority is to suppress the transmission of Covid-19 and reduce the risk to the vulnerable and those who have spent so long shielding – and that involves abiding by the rules.

“Just because you can mix with others indoors over this time, that doesn’t mean you have to. If you choose to stick with the rules as they are, then you will be continuing the hard work to beat this virus and prevent its spread.”

Households have been urged to keep visits to no more than one or two days if possible and bubbles can gather in houses, at an outdoor place or a place of worship.


In all other settings – such as hospitality – those who have formed a bubble should only socialise with members of their own household.

Households in a bubble will be asked to limit social contact before and after the Christmas period.

One in five North Sea oil companies ‘expect job cuts in 2021’

The study found 22% of contractors laid off more than 10% of their workforce in 2020.

Michael Saint Maur Sheil via Getty Images
North Sea: A survey found more job cuts are expected in 2021.

Around one in five British oil and gas companies expect to cut more jobs in 2021 after a bruising year for the sector in which half of contractors said their workforce had declined, according to a survey.

The figures from research by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Fraser of Allander Institute and KPMG cast new light on the problems being faced by the UK’s North Sea industry.

The study found 22% of contractors laid off more than 10% of their workforce in 2020.

While not as bad as the downturn in 2016, caused by a cratering oil price, the decline is significant for the companies and the basin.


More than three-quarters of the firms surveyed said they had tapped into some form of government support during the pandemic, with many of those taking advantage of the furlough scheme.

Shane Taylor, of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “Although government support has had clear value in supporting firms and jobs through this challenging period of suppressed demand, the only sustainable way to give businesses and workers clarity is a clear route to heightened levels of activity in the future.”

Earlier this year, the price of a barrel of oil dropped to levels not seen in more than two decades.

Brent crude, the standard most commonly referred to in the UK, briefly dipped below $19.


The decline was caused in part by an argument between Saudi Arabia and Russia, two of the world’s three biggest oil producers, which increased production and flooded the market.

Meanwhile, demand fell because of the pandemic.

Brent has since recovered somewhat and is trading at around $46 per barrel.

The survey, which asked 100 companies for their opinions, also found 23% were not at all optimistic about the future of Aberdeen as an energy hub, while a further 27% were only slightly optimistic.

In last year’s survey, only 9% of companies reported not being at all optimistic.

North Sea companies are concerned about an uncertain future as the UK is slowly putting itself on a course to drastically reduce emissions.

The UK Government has set a target that the country will have net-zero emissions by the middle of the century.


But experts say there can still be a role for the offshore oil and gas industry in this new world, which will require major investment in offshore wind, among other things.

“The declining trend in the positive outlook for the future of the Aberdeen city region as an energy hub also emphasises the need to see rapid progress in some of the key projects which will underpin the region’s ability to transition successfully, such as the Energy Transition Zone,” Mr Taylor said.

He said the expertise and skills in the communities that power offshore oil and gas can be “key contributors” on the road to net-zero.

Coronavirus: 41 deaths as restriction levels remain unchanged

The First Minister confirmed the outcome of the latest review in the Scottish Parliament.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Another 41 people with coronavirus have died in Scotland, as East Lothian remained the only area to change restriction levels in the latest review.

The local authority moved from level three to level two on Tuesday morning, but Midlothian, where businesses had been hopeful of a change, will stay in level three.

Concern had been expressed about a rise in cases of the virus and test positivity rates there over the last week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in the Scottish Parliament: “With the exception of East Lothian, which this morning moved from level three to level two, I can confirm that the Scottish Government is not proposing any changes to the levels that currently apply to each local authority area.


“The latest data shows that across the whole country and within most local authority areas, the restrictions in place are having an impact.

“The number of new cases across the country has stabilised in recent weeks… We now have grounds for cautious optimism that numbers may be declining.”

The R number now stands somewhere between 0.8 and one, the First Minister added.

Currently, 11 council areas are at level four – the highest tier of restrictions – and will remain there until December 11.


Clackmannanshire and Perth and Kinross are being monitored closely due to a rise in cases.

Scotland moved into a five-tier alert system at the beginning of the month in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in high-prevalence areas but allow more freedom in places with fewer cases.

Councillor Derek Milligan, the leader of Midlothian Council claimed that many local businesses are facing ‘devastation’ after the area remained in level three.

Here is a full list of where each council area sits in the system:

Level zero

No local authority has been placed at level zero..

Level one
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highland, Moray, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands.


Level two

Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lothian, Scottish Borders.

Level three

Angus, Clackmannanshire, Dundee City, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Ayrshire, Perth and Kinross.

Level four

East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian.

Two-year-old boy named as police say death ‘suspicious’

A man has appeared in court in connection with the death of two-year-old Julius Czapla.

Police Scotland
Toddler: Two-year-old died following incident in Edinburgh.

A toddler who died at a home in Edinburgh has been named by police.

Emergency services were called to Muirhouse at around 9.30am on Saturday.

The two-year-old, named as Julius Czapla, died at the scene shortly after.

Police said on Tuesday that his death was now being treated as “suspicious”, following a post-mortem.


Lucasz Czapla, 40, was arrested and charged with assault and three driving offences in connection with the death.  

He appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday and was remanded in custody.

Nurse mistook child’s fatal meningitis for gastroenteritis

The child suffered a seizure days after being seen by the nurse and later died in hospital.

Death: Child died of meningitis after misdiagnosis at Fife hospital.

A health board has apologised after a nurse mistook a child’s fatal case of meningitis for gastroenteritis.

NHS Fife says it has accepted the findings of the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) after the child’s bereaved parent complained about the standard of care.

The youngster, named in public reports as ‘A’, had been taken to Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital feeling unwell.

A nurse practitioner diagnosed the child with gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach, and sent them home.


Days later, the child suffered a seizure and was admitted to another hospital where it was discovered they had pneumococcal meningitis – a life-threatening condition that inflames the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain. 

The child later died in hospital.

The child’s parent, anonymised in documents as ‘C’, complained to NHS Fife, arguing that their child should have been seen by a doctor before being discharged from the hospital, and that the original diagnosis had been unreasonable.

NHS Fife carried out a significant adverse event review that found faults in how the case had been handled.


However, the parent then referred the case to the SPSO, dissatisfied with its findings.

After taking independent advice, the Ombudsman concluded in November that the original diagnosis had been “unreasonable”.

“We found some additional failings in record-keeping, and highlighted that we would have expected the misdiagnosis to have been identified when the nurse practitioner discussed A’s case with a doctor before discharge.

“We also considered there had been failings in the handling of C’s subsequent complaints,” it said in a written report on the case.

NHS Fife has been told to apologise for its failure to provide reasonable treatment and diagnosis, failing to keep reasonable records and failing to communicate reasonably with A’s parents.

The Ombudsman has also issued the health board with recommendations on how to improve its practice and complaint handling in the future.

Helen Buchanan, NHS Fife’s director of nursing, said: “Our aim is always to provide the best possible care for all of those who need our services.


“However, we accept that was not the case in this instance and we want to offer our most sincere apologies to the family involved.

“We accept the findings of the Ombudsman and we are in the process of implementing their recommendations in full.”

Reporting by local democracy reporter Jon Brady

Scot Peter Sawkins crowned winner of Great British Bake Off

The 20-year-old accounting and finance student from Edinburgh was named as the victor on Tuesday.

C4/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon) via PA Images
Winner: Peter Sawkins from Edinburgh.

Peter Sawkins has been crowned the first ever Scottish winner of Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off.

The 20-year-old accounting and finance student from Edinburgh was named as the victor after becoming the youngest finalist in the programme’s history.

He saw off competition from Laura Adlington and Dave Friday in Tuesday’s episode of the amateur baking contest.

While Laura’s poor performance in the first two rounds of the final took her out of contention, judge Paul Hollywood said the competition was “as close to a draw that I’ve ever seen”.


His fellow judge Prue Leith agreed it was “so close” between Peter and Dave, 30, a security guard from Hampshire.

The final saw the trio tasked with making custard slices, walnut whirls and a multi-layered showstopper dessert.

Peter took inspiration from the Scottish pudding Cranachan when making his custard slices, using raspberries, oats and whisky to flavour it.

Leith said they “looked incredible”, adding that he had made a “really lovely custard slice”, while Hollywood complimented their flavour.


Dave also won praise for his coffee and caramel-flavoured custard slices, with Hollywood praising his “beautiful” pastry.

Bake Off: Full line-up. Channel 4/PA Images.

However, Laura’s final began with a disastrous first round after her custard failed to set and her slices failed to hold their shape.

The 31-year-old digital manager from Kent told the judges she was “embarrassed” to serve her slices to the judges, adding they looked as though they had been dropped on the floor.

Laura also finished bottom in the walnut whirl challenge, which was completed in very hot conditions, after she messed up her timings and failed to have all the components properly cooled in time for the tasting.

Dave excelled in the technical challenge, finishing in first place ahead of Peter.

The three contestants were tasked with creating a multi-layered dessert which reflected on their time on the show in the final showstopper challenge.

Laura decided to recreate some of her previous triumphs in a dessert which featured components including Chelsea buns, macarons and carrot and walnut cake.


Leith praised her efforts, saying there is “nothing wrong with your baking”.

However, it was not enough to bring her back into contention.

Dave sought to redeem his failings in previous weeks by having a second go at some of the bakes he was criticised for in previous weeks, including brownies, chocolate babka and choux buns.

The judges gave mixed reviews of his attempt to right the wrongs of previous weeks.

Peter’s dessert featured components including a Victoria sandwich, choux buns and Battenberg biscuits and was labelled a “good effort” by Leith.

The showstopper round was watched by the entire crew for the 11th series of the programme, who formed a “bubble” in Down Hall Hotel near Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, throughout the duration of filming, after being tested for the virus and self-isolating.

Production of the series initially had to be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, however filming of the programme finished around the end of August.

MSPs pass Scotland’s ‘landmark’ sanitary products bill

Scotland will become the first country in the world to offer universal access to sanitary products.

STV News
Bill: MSPs pass legislation which aims to tackle period poverty.

Scotland will become the first country in the world to offer universal access to sanitary products.

On Tuesday, MSPs unanimously voted to pass the landmark Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill following a three-year campaign by Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon.

It’s hoped the new measures will go some way towards tackling period poverty, as well as addressing the stigma and taboo which has traditionally surrounded menstruation.

Sanitary products are currently free at schools, colleges and universities across Scotland. 


However, the new bill places a legal duty on ministers to ensure anyone can access them at many different locations.

The bill faced initial opposition, with ministers arguing the cost could greatly exceed the estimated £9.7m a year.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Lennon said: “We are in the final miles of a long journey and I am heartened by the support for the Period Products Bill.

“I am optimistic that we will complete that groundbreaking journey today.


“Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history – but it now has a chance to be the first.

“This law will ensure no-one has to go without essential period products.”

Care home inquiry plans revealed by health secretary

Holyrood's opposition parties passed a motion for the government to hold an 'immediate public inquiry'.

Andrew Bret Wallis via Getty Images
Care homes: Inquiry plans revealed.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman has announced plans to set up an inquiry about the impact of coronavirus on Scotland’s care homes but warned it will not be done quickly.

Holyrood’s opposition parties passed a motion on November 4 calling for the Scottish Government to hold an “immediate public inquiry” to look into why so many care home residents with Covid-19 had died during the pandemic.

Freeman initially rebuffed Parliament’s demands and instead suggested a UK-wide inquiry should be carried out at a later date.

But during Topical Questions on Tuesday, Freeman revealed her calls for a four-nations approach had been ignored and indicated the Scottish Government “will now begin the steps” to set up an inquiry.


Despite an insistence she “would never disrespect the will of this Parliament”, Freeman said there were “significant steps” required to set up an inquiry and it could not be done immediately as the motion stated.

She told MSPs: “I have sought to see if it is possible to have a public inquiry that is at least in part rests on the four nations, I think that makes a great deal of sense.

“I regret I’ve not had a response so we will now begin the steps.
“But members should not be under any illusion that it is a quick exercise to set up a public inquiry.

“There are significant steps that need to be undertaken that involve the Lord President or Lord Advocate, and others.”


Before the Scottish Government’s defeat over the Scottish Conservatives’ motion, Freeman had argued a coronavirus public inquiry should be held “once the country is through the immediacy of dealing with the pandemic”.

She had said the Scottish Government “wants and will welcome a public inquiry”, telling MSPs it could be “critical” in helping learn lessons from Covid-19.

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