Sturgeon will refute ‘absolute nonsense’ from Salmond

Salmond said the First Minister breached the ministerial code in relation to a meeting with him in her home.

Sturgeon: First Minister with Alex Salmond Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Sturgeon: First Minister with Alex Salmond

Nicola Sturgeon will use her appearance before an inquiry into the botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond to dispel the “absolute nonsense” put forward by her predecessor, John Swinney has said.

Salmond said the First Minister breached the ministerial code in relation to a meeting with him in her home, where she was told about allegations of sexual harassment made against him.

In evidence to the committee established to look into the process of the complaints, which were deemed unlawful and saw Mr Salmond win more than £500,000 in public money, the former first minister accused Ms Sturgeon of misleading Holyrood.

Deputy First Minister Swinney told Politics Scotland he has confidence in what Sturgeon will say when she appears before the committee later this month.

ADVERT

“The First Minister will set out clearly, openly and transparently all that she has got to say on this issue, and I’m very confident in the points the First Minister will put across,” he said.

“The First Minister looks forward to setting out, in detail, all of the views and perspectives she has on this issue, to put to rest some of the absolute nonsense that has been circulating about this particular issue.”

Swinney added: “We’ve got to remember that we faced a very difficult situation of having to investigate complaints about inappropriate behaviour, a lot of which have now been conceded by Alex Salmond in court, and that issue had to be addressed.

“An incredibly difficult situation, and the First Minister will set out exactly her perspective when it comes to all the relevant inquiries into this issue.”

ADVERT

Initially, Sturgeon said the April 2 2018 meeting in her Glasgow home was the first she had heard of the allegations; however, it later emerged that she had met Salmond’s chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, in her Holyrood office four days earlier.

Salmond said omission of the meeting with his aide was “a breach of the ministerial code”.

Sturgeon said in her evidence to the committee that Mr Aberdein had stopped by her office while in Holyrood for another reason, an assertion Salmond described as “simply untrue”.

An inquiry is currently ongoing into whether Sturgeon did violate ministerial rules in relation to the matter.

Both Salmond and the Scottish Conservatives pushed for the remit of the inquiry, being conducted by James Hamilton QC, to be widened.

However, Swinney said the investigation is already able to investigate any breach of the ministerial code.

He said: “I’m really surprised by this line of argument from Alex Salmond and the Scottish Conservatives, because it appears they’re not keeping up with events.

ADVERT

“I answered a parliamentary question in November which made clear the James Hamilton Inquiry on the ministerial code could look at any aspect of a breach of the ministerial code.”


Sturgeon: Crown Office influence claims ‘downright wrong’

Lord Advocate called to Parliament to answer urgent question about Crown's role in Alex Salmond's published evidence.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond campaigning in 2015.

Nicola Sturgeon has attacked Alex Salmond for not turning up at a Scottish Parliament committee examining the Government’s handling of harassment complaints against him.

Salmond was due to be questioned on Wednesday over his claims that the First Minister misled parliament and of a conspiracy to have him jailed.

He will now give evidence on Friday on his own claims that Sturgeon misled Parliament and broke the ministerial code.

The former first minister asked to delay his appearance after his already-published written evidence was belatedly redacted by Parliament on Tuesday following an intervention by the Crown Office – the body responsible for prosecuting crime in Scotland.

ADVERT

Salmond said the Crown Office’s decision to write to Parliament – purportedly seeking redactions over contempt of court fears – was “astonishing” and asked his lawyers to seek answers about the “unprecedented and highly irregular actions”.

Asked about the saga at the daily coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said: “Any suggestion at all that these decisions are in any way politically influenced are downright wrong.

“I would suggest that they go further than that; that they actually start to buy into what is a false and quite dangerous conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact.

“Creating an alternative reality in which the organs of the state – not just me and the SNP and the civil service and the Crown Office and the police and women who came forward – were all part of some wild conspiracy against him for reasons I can’t explain, maybe that’s easier than just accepting that at the root of all this might just have been issues in his own behaviour.

“But that’s for him to explain if he ever decides to pitch up and sit in front of the committee.”

ADVERT

Sturgeon also repeated her assertion that there is not “a shred of evidence” to support her former mentor’s claim there was a “malicious and concerted” attempt to see him removed from public life involving claims of sexual harassment while he was first minister.

The Government’s investigation of the allegations was found to be “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the women who made complaints.

Salmond, who was later acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in a criminal trial, was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government investigation.

A spokesman for Salmond said his lawyers will ask the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC – head of the Crown Office and a member of the Scottish Government – to explain the legal basis for the Crown’s intervention, questions over whether the legal position about the evidence has changed and why, and whether there were any representations made to the Crown Office.

Mr Wolffe was called to Parliament on Wednesday to answer an urgent question about the Crown Office intervention that caused published evidence from the former first minister to be taken down and heavily redacted.

He insisted there was no political pressure on the decision.

In response to a question about whether he was consulted about the letter from the Crown Office, Mr Wolffe said: “No, I was not.

ADVERT

“The decisions in relation to this matter were made by senior professional prosecutors acting independently as they always do, and without reference to the law officers.”

He added: “Scotland’s public prosecutors take difficult decisions which some may find unpopular.

“They take those decisions objectively, professionally and in the public interest, and they act independently of any other person.”

Meanwhile, Salmond’s legal team said it was “clearly impossible” for him to give evidence under oath on Wednesday in the circumstances and offered to postpone his appearance until Friday.

A meeting of the cross-party committee agreed it still wants to hear evidence from Salmond.

The committee then voted to recall Mr Wolffe to face more questions as well as agreeing to order the Crown Office to release further documents to the committee.

Sturgeon will then make her appearance on Wednesday.

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “There was unanimous agreement in the committee that it wants to hear from Alex Salmond.

“His evidence has always been an important part of the committee’s work and as such the committee agreed that it would invite Mr Salmond to give evidence in person on Friday.

“The First Minister will then give evidence as the final witness to the inquiry on Wednesday.

“The committee remains determined to complete its task set by the Parliament and today agreed further actions in order to help them complete this work.”

A mess to embarrass the architects of devolution

Heady ideals look distinctly tarnished when following every twist and turn of what has been dubbed ‘The Alex Salmond Affair’.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Alex Salmond with current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Open, accountable and transparent. These are the watchwords that heralded the advent of Scotland’s new democracy in 1999.

These heady ideals look distinctly tarnished when following every twist and turn of what has been dubbed ‘The Alex Salmond Affair’.

It is regrettable that the personality of the former First Minister looms large. Some of the issues at the heart of this should not be lost or viewed through the prism of whether you approve or disapprove of Mr Salmond. Issues not personalities are what counts.

From the forming of the Scottish Governments harassment procedures, to the Court of Session declaring them unlawful, to the subsequent criminal prosecution of Mr Salmond through to the current procedural torture chamber that is the Holyrood Committee probing those procedures, this is a sorry tale that has not been the finest hour for openness, accountability and transparency.

ADVERT

Supporters of Mr Salmond have another word for all of this, they call it ‘corrupt’. Salmond himself this week accused the Crown Office of not being fit for purpose. That charge, from a former head of Government is unprecedented and despite his bent for an eye catching headline, it is not a charge Salmond would have made lightly.

On unrelated matters in recent weeks the Scottish Conservatives have used the word ‘corrupt’ in relation to some prosecutions. The office of Lord Advocate is under scrutiny and indeed assault by question as never before. I have no problem with that, it is called accountability to Parliament.

James Wolffe QC told MSPs the other week some prosecutions related to the administration of Rangers FC in 2012 were ‘malicious’. The public purse has haemorrhaged tens of millions of pounds in damages to citizens Wolffe says should never have been prosecuted in the first place.

Lord Tyre in another civil case last week said the prosecution of Mr David Grier proceeded without ‘probable cause’. This, the biggest scandal ever to hit the Crown Office in my lifetime, occurred in one of the world’s oldest legal systems in 2021.

ADVERT

And if that wasn’t enough, the intervention of the Crown Office on Monday night led to the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body redacting evidence from Mr Salmond that he was meant to speak to today at the Holyrood committee.

This is despite the fact the contents of his submission has been in the public domain and indeed has been widely published. I am tempted to ask why the Crown Office chose to have the Corporate body redact passages freely published elsewhere?

The constitutional optics don’t look good. The Lord Advocate is a member of the Cabinet which is of course a political body. When the devolution legislation made its way through the House of Lords in 1998, the late Lord McCluskey warned of the dangers of having a Law Officer being seen to be too attached to the Executive arm of Government.

That Law Officer was ultimately responsible for giving legal advice to the Government on the harassment procedures. That Law Officer was also ultimately accountable for Mr Salmond’s prosecution and for the subsequent attempts to have his views redacted before a Parliamentary Committee. Censored is another word.

For the avoidance of doubt I make no charge of impropriety against Mr Wolffe. Having known several Lord Advocate’s I know that they take their independence very seriously in the prosecution of crime and in making decisions free from political interference.

Indeed today, in a nervy address to MSPs, Mr Wolffe said the sole reason for the intervention of the Crown on Monday night was to protect the identification of witnesses although he simply ignored pointed questions about how the decision to write to the Corporate body crystallised. He was clear that there had been no political interference in the decision to intervene.

He was ‘not getting into the substance of issues’ he told Parliament this afternoon. That will not impress MSPs who believe the actions of his office has frustrated the work of a Parliamentary Committee.

ADVERT

However, Lord McCluskey’s warnings that the independence of the office could be seen as compromised by ties to politicians is an interesting one in this context. Today the Lord Advocate also made the point that both pre and post devolution the holder of his post has always been a member of the Government.

The Lord Advocate has had a locus at key stages of this long timeline. That is an uncomfortable place for any Law Officer when the intervention of his office is seen as key to the defence and credibility of a Government’s position. That being said Mr Wolffe was clear today that he offers advice without fear and no politician has ever tried to compromise his role.

Another cardinal principle in the separation of power stakes is that politicians should refrain from becoming embroiled in controversy relating to criminal prosecutions, since that is a matter for the Crown Office and the Courts.

At her Covid briefing today the First Minister, I would suggest, stretched that principle to breaking point. Of Salmond’s acquittal she said this, ‘Alex Salmond is innocent of criminality, that doesn’t mean the behaviour they claimed of didn’t happen. It is important we don’t lose sight of that’.

A prosecution has occurred and a citizen has been acquitted by a jury of fellow citizens listening to all of the evidence. And yet nearly a year after the acquittal of that citizen, the First Minister believes ‘that doesn’t mean the behaviour they claimed of didn’t happen’. That view, with respect to Nicola Sturgeon, is precisely why we have Juries. This forage into Mr Salmond’s acquittal wasn’t really wise.

Alex Salmond believes he has evidence that establishes a conspiracy to have him prosecuted for essentially political reasons. Today his successor called him and his supporters out, calling the conspiracy viewpoint variously ‘wild, untrue, false, baseless’.

She said that the preference for Mr Salmond is to make claims and not have them scrutinised and she urged him to give evidence to the committee. That evidence will now be given on Friday.

Mr Salmond has won in the Court of Session and been acquitted by the High Court of Justiciary of serious criminal charges. The end game for him is the salvaging of his reputation and the airing of what he believes is an abominable conspiracy.

I am certain that the findings of the parliamentary inquiry and indeed the separate probe of James Hamilton QC on whether the First Minister is in breach of the ministerial code are unlikely to deliver the redress that the former First Minister seeks. I equally doubt however that both probes will be the final word.


Any end date for Covid restrictions now ‘would be made up’

Nicola Sturgeon addressed the announcement of June 21 as a possible date for the end of restrictions in England.

Russell Cheyne - WPA/Pool via Getty Images

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she would be “making it up” if she gave a specific date for the end of Covid-19 restrictions.

Speaking at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Sturgeon addressed the announcement of June 21 as a possible date for the end of restrictions in England.

In setting out her government’s plans on Tuesday for easing the lockdown, the First Minister did not give a similar date.

The Scottish Conservatives accused Sturgeon of giving people “next to no hope”.

ADVERT

She told the briefing: “If I was to give you a fixed, hard and fast date right now, I would pretty much be making it up and I don’t think that’s the approach I should take with you.

“I’m not ruling out any specific dates. I want it to be as soon as possible and we have every reason to be hopeful that come the summer life will be much, much, much better than it is just now, but when I stand here and give you what I think the actual date when all or most restrictions will come to an end is going to be, I want to be as sure as I can be that is real and it can be delivered.”

Paul Grover via Getty Images
Boris Johnson set June 21 as a possible date for the end of restrictions in England.

Sturgeon added: “I don’t just understand the frustrations that people have, I feel those frustrations.

“As has been the case all along, I’ll have to take decisions that sometimes you agree with and sometimes you disagree with, but I can assure you that the Scottish Government will continue to do our very best to lead the country as quickly but also as safely and sustainably through this horrible ordeal and out the other side of it.”

ADVERT

Speaking after confirming Scotland has recorded 47 deaths from coronavirus and 798 positive tests in the past 24 hours, she said the Scottish Government’s updated framework for easing restrictions focuses on the next six weeks as “that’s the timeframe that right now we can be most confident about”.

The First Minister said there is uncertainty over how the more infectious virus strain will behave once restrictions are lifted and the impact of the phased return to schools will be particularly scrutinised in this regard.

She said: “My hope is that the more we learn about the impact of the early changes, the more confidence we will then have that we can go further and faster, without risking a resurgence of the virus that would set us all back. In the meantime, we will move forward carefully.”

She also announced care homes should be supporting up to two named visitors for each resident from March 1, where possible, and Scottish Government guidance on this “very important way forward” will be published on Wednesday.

Sturgeon gave a further update on the daily coronavirus figures, announcing the daily test positivity rate is 3.9%, down from 4.8% on Tuesday.

There are 1018 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 58 in 24 hours, and there was no change in those in intensive care which remains at 93.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The First Minister seems to be rattled by the backlash to her plans.

ADVERT

“Nicola Sturgeon gave people next to no hope of when restrictions would ease and now she’s having to furiously backtrack. She seems to be on the verge of a climb-down over her lockdown plan already.

“After Scottish Conservative calls for a u-turn on the slow school reopening, she dodged questions about return dates.

“She’s now suggesting the loosening of restrictions to level 2 might happen earlier and, in another masterclass of political spin, trying to rewrite history and claim that was the plan all along.

“When people just want a clear message of hope and certainty, they’re getting less clarity and more confusion from the First Minister.”

Man charged with murdering ‘kind-hearted’ grandfather

Thomas Adams was pronounced dead after police attended a disturbance at a house in Glenrothes on Saturday.

Police Scotland / Ross MacDonald via SNS Group
A man has been charged with murdering Thomas Adams.

A man has been charged with the murder of a grandfather in Glenrothes.

Police were called to a disturbance at a house on Uist Road in the Fife town at about 7.10pm on Saturday.

Emergency services attended and a 65-year-old man was pronounced dead a short time later.

He has now been identified as Thomas Adams.

ADVERT

In a statement issued through Police Scotland, his family said: “Thomas was a kind-hearted and loving husband, father, father-in-law, grandad and brother who will be sorely missed by all of his family and many friends.”

A 29-year-old man was arrested and charged in connection with the incident and appeared at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on Monday.

Dale Berwick, from Buckhaven, faces charges of murder and assault, and another of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.

He made no plea and was remanded in custody.

ADVERT

Detective inspector Christopher Mill said: “Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of Thomas.

“I would like to thank members of the local community for their assistance in this enquiry and to reassure them there is no threat to the wider public.”


Two women tortured teenage boy with glass bottle

Agnes Bowers and Nora Holmes stamped on the 17-year-old's head in Renfrewshire.

© Google Maps 2020
Agnes Bowers and Nora Holmes have been jailed for the attack.

Two women who attacked a teenage boy with a glass bottle and stamped on his head have been jailed.

Agnes Bowers, 27, and Nora Holmes, 25, carried out the assault to danger of life on the 17-year-old victim at his home in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, on October 4, 2019.

Holmes smashed a bottle of vodka over his head before the pair punched, kicked and stamped on his head. Holmes also tried to write on his leg using broken glass.

The pair pled guilty at the High Court in Glasgow to assault to teenager’s severe injury, permanent disfigurement and danger of his life.

ADVERT

The court heard they carried out the assault because of rumours about their victim.

Judge Lord Burns jailed Holmes who he said was the instigator of the attack for 43 months. Bowers , from Roystonhill, Glasgow, was jailed for 37 months and ordered to be monitored in the community for two years after her release.

Lord Burns said: “You both assaulted this young man because of a rumour which may or may not be well founded.

“This was fuelled by a cocktail of drink and drugs and mental health problems.”

ADVERT

The judge told Holmes: “You were the principal actor here and you used a bottle to hit the boy and cut glass on his body – a form of torture.”

Prosecutor Paul Kearney said: “Holmes began an assault by smashing a vodka bottle on his head.

“She then dragged him from the couch and the two accused kicked, punched and stamped on his head then kicked and punched him on the body. Holmes repeatedly struck his head off a wall.”

The crying victim pleaded with the pair for the attack to stop, but was cut with broken glass.

One witness told police: “It looked to me like they were trying to write something on his legs with the glass.”

The living room was described as being a “bloodbath” with walls and furniture stained.

The boy wasn’t moving and was covered in blood and a 999 call was eventually made.

ADVERT

Officers arrived and were told by Holmes that “things got out of control.”

She added: “It’s all on me. I think I went too far, I need a lawyer.”

The victim suffered a bleed on the brain, a cut to a vein and a broken nose.

Mr Kearney added: “The wounds will leave permanent scars. His life was put in danger and without medical treatment he would have died.”

Defence counsel Louise Arrol, representing Bowers, said: “She has very little recollection of the incident. She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.”

Defence counsel Donna Armstrong, defending Holmes, said: “She has written a letter to the court expressing remorse. She lost control.”


Man in court charged with murdering 73-year-old

Alastair Gray was found dead at property in Falkirk on Tuesday morning.

SNS Group via SNS Group
Man appeared at Falkirk Sheriff Court charged with murder.

A man has appeared in court charged with murder following a death at a property in Falkirk.

Police were called to a property on Grahams Road at about 10.45am on Tuesday.

Alastair Gray, 73, was discovered with fatal injuries and pronounced dead at the scene.

Christopher Gray, 49, was charged with murder when he appeared at Falkirk Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

ADVERT

Gray was also charged under the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.

He did not enter a plea and was committed for further examination and remanded in custody.


Lennon resigns as Celtic manager with club 18 points adrift

Lennon's departure comes after 1-0 defeat to bottom-placed Ross County on Sunday.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group

Neil Lennon has quit as Celtic manager with immediate effect.

Lennon’s departure comes after a 1-0 away defeat to Ross County that continues a troubled season for a team that has won four consecutive domestic trebles.

The Northern Irishman leaves with the team 18 points behind Rangers in the Premiership. His assistant John Kennedy will take over as interim manager.

Lennon, 49, has been a player, coach and manager (over two spells) for the vast majority of the past two decades but has been under pressure for months as season full of promise has become a struggle.

ADVERT

After nine successive league titles, Celtic were chasing a Scottish record ten in a row but instead a resurgent Rangers are closing in on the trophy. Lennon has also seen his side crash out of Europe and end a long run of domestic cup dominance.

Lennon said: “We have experienced a difficult season due to so many factors and, of course, it is very frustrating and disappointing that we have not been able to hit the same heights as we did previously.

“I have worked as hard as ever to try and turn things around, but unfortunately we have not managed to get the kind of run going that we have needed.

“I have always given my best to the club and have been proud to deliver silverware to the Celtic supporters. The club will always be part of me. I will always be a Celtic supporter myself and I will always want the best for Celtic.

ADVERT

“I would like to thank so many people at the club who have given me so much and I would also like to thank my family for their love and support. I wish the Celtic supporters, players, staff and directors nothing but success for the future.”

Lennon, a successful player with the club from 2000 to 2007, first managed Celtic in 2010, winning the first three league titles of their current run, as well as two Scottish Cup victories.

Following the abrupt departure of Brendan Rodgers from Celtic Park in February 2019, he returned to the club to take charge until the end of the season. He guided the team to the title and, after winning the Scottish Cup for the team to complete a third domestic treble he was offered the job on a permanent basis.

Last season the Northern Irishman continued the run of silverware, sealing a record-equalling ninth consecutive league title and winning the League Cup. He also lead his side out at the delayed Scottish Cup final in December, where they beat Hearts to complete a historic ‘quadruple treble’.

Though successful domestically before this season, Lennon’s record in Europe in his second spell was more troubled. A 5-4 aggregate defeat to CFR Cluj ended Champions League involvement in the third qualifying round last season. The consolation place of a Europa League place was taken and Celtic topped their group but were defeated by Copenhagen in the last 32.

This season, Champions League qualification saw the club knocked out by Ferencvaros in the second round. The Europa League brought more misery with a home defeat to Milan and an away draw with Lille followed by humiliating back-to-back 4-1 defeats to Sparta Prague.

Following the second of those losses, Lennon had insisted that he enjoyed the backing of the Celtic hierarchy and was determined to fight on.

ADVERT

A League Cup exit to Ross County brought demonstrations at Celtic Park from angry fans and a 4-1 defeat to Milan worsened the situation.

The manager continued to argue that he should be given the chance to turn results around but conceded that his trophy-laden past record may not count for much given recent setbacks.

However, Lennon did receive clear and public backing from the club’s board in early December when they said they were supportive. However, the statement acknowledged results and said that a review would take place “in the new year”.

A run of positive results came to an end with defeat to Rangers at Ibrox on January 2, though Celtic’s performance was much improved on previous encounters.

However, following the defeat the club left for Dubai for a training camp.

Lennon, his assistant John Kennedy, another member of staff and 13 players at the club had to isolate following the trip after defender Christopher Jullien tested positive for coronavirus.

A second Celtic player was confirmed as having the virus during a media conference where Lennon had claimed critics of the trip were “hypocrites”, had claimed other clubs were not following covid protocols, and claimed some in the media had misrepresented the trip.

While Lennon and key players isolated, Celtic drew two games, ceding further ground in the Premiership.

On his return to the dugout, he saw the team draw 2-2 at Livingston and afterwards insisted that he would not quit, saying he had “put too much into it” and that “It’s my life”.

Results continued to be mixed. A 0-0 draw at Almondvale followed, and the team then beat Hamilton 2-0 before defeat to St Mirren.

Five wins in a row then saw Lennon optimistic that the team had found their stride but the defeat in Dingwall in Sunday left him unable to explain another defensive lapse but insisting he was the man to solve the problems and could mastermind a summer rebuild.

‘He fought so hard’

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said: “I would like to pay tribute to Neil for all he has done for the club in his second spell, delivering our eighth and ninth successive league titles, the quadruple treble and winning the last five available domestic trophies.

“Neil has always been and will always be a true Celtic man and someone I will always hold in the highest regard.   

“I have watched Neil fight many battles over many years, on and off the field, with a courage and tenacity few could match. Even this season, he has fought so hard and worked tirelessly to turn things around.

“While this season has not progressed as we would have liked, it cannot diminish the character or integrity of a man who has given the club so much.

“Personally, it is a sad day for me to see Neil leave the club. Neil is a man of quality and decency, he is someone who will always be part of the fabric of Celtic and someone who will always be welcomed at Celtic Park.

“On behalf of everyone at the club, and personally, I would like to thank Neil for his work as our manager and I wish him and his family good health and continued success in everything they do.”

Celtic’s biggest shareholder Dermot Desmond said: “Neil is a Celtic legend both as a player and manager. He has given so much to the Club, and with his success over the last number of years – including winning a Treble in his own right – he will be very difficult to replace.

“We thank Neil sincerely for all he has done for the club and we wish him every success going forward.”

Covid breaches rise as police break up more house parties

Enforcement of restrictions is at its highest level since emergency powers began.

STV News
In the first week in January, there were fewer than 500 charges recorded by police, but last week that number was more than 1,000.

Police say there has been a significant increase in the number of breaches of Covid regulations, including a rise in house parties.

At a Scottish Police Authority (SPA) conference on Wednesday morning, deputy chief constable Will Kerr said the number of house gatherings “have been rising significantly”.

The overall number of charges, which includes fines for breaking coronavirus rules, has more than doubled since the start of the year.

In the first week in January, there were fewer than 500 charges recorded by police, but last week that number was more than 1000.

ADVERT

Although the majority of interactions between police and the public continue to be resolved without enforcement, the percentage of occasions when officers have had to take action increased by 21% between the first week in January and the week up to February 10.

A report presented by lawyer John Scott to the SPA on Wednesday found that enforcement was at its highest level since emergency powers started just under a year ago.

The report said: “Some individuals are feckless or careless, and some transgress through genuine confusion, albeit the persistently large number of unlawful house gatherings may be hard to excuse in that way.

“Some, especially when it comes to self-isolation, may simply be unable to adhere to requirements due to financial or other need which continues in many cases to go unmet and unsupported.”

ADVERT

The percentage of FPNs issued has risen from fewer than 400 in the first week of the year to around 750 last week.

Police in Glasgow issued 171 FPNs in one weekend, on February 13 and 14.

The report to the SPA also highlighted concerns regarding how gatherings of children aged 12 and over were treated in the same way as adults.

The report said this had a “serious impact on the health and wellbeing of such children”.

Although there is no pro-active policing on travel regulations, police had issued 532 FPNs for breaking these rules as of February 14.

Woman who faked pregnancy after one-night stand sentenced

Jaclyn McGowan was sentenced to 150 hours community service after lying about being pregnant for nine months.

© Google Maps 2020
Sentenced: Jaclyn McGowan lied about being pregnant for nine months.

A woman who faked a pregnancy after a one-night stand has been sentenced to community service.

Jaclyn McGowan, 36, from Perth and Kinross, pleaded guilty to causing fear and alarm by stalking for nine months by lying about being pregnant.

At Perth Sheriff Court on Wednesday, Sheriff Lindsay Foulis sentenced McGowan to 150 hours of community service after she lied to Jamie Aitken and his family about being pregnant for nine months.

Fiscal depute Tina Dickie told the court that in June 2019, McGowan met with Jamie Aitken after matching on dating app Tinder and spent the night together in a hotel.

ADVERT

About two weeks after the meeting, McGowan messaged Mr Aitken to inform him she was pregnant and planned on keeping the baby. The pair agreed they would try to co-parent the child.

Ms Dickie said Mr Aitken told police in August 2019 McGowan sent him a picture of a crib and told him to transfer £300 to pay for it, which he refused to do.

Shortly after, McGowan claimed to be having a miscarriage. Several days later, McGowan told Mr Aitken it had been a false alarm and she was still pregnant.

In September 2019, McGowan sent pictures of a baby scan to Mr Aitken’s mother, Wendy, telling them Mr Aitken would never be a part of his child’s life, but the family were welcome to be.

ADVERT

In February 2020, McGowan visited a trampoline park in Dundee where Mr Aitken’s brother Corrie worked. He told his brother that despite McGowan supposedly being eight months’ pregnant, she looked “slim and not pregnant”.

She attended the park again several weeks later and appeared to have a large pregnancy bump.

McGowan blocked Mr Aitken from all social media in February 2020 and has had no further contact with him since.

In October 2020, Mr Aitken filed a police report against McGowan, saying her actions had left him feeling low and suicidal.

After being questioned by police, McGowan said after their one-night stand she had taken a pregnancy test, showing her to be pregnant. McGowan had a miscarriage a week later but did not inform Mr Aitken.

She admitted to buying a prosthetic bump to give the appearance of pregnancy while attending the trampoline park and said her actions were to hurt Mr Aitken for the way he had acted when the relationship ended.

McGowan’s solicitor argued that Mr Aitken’s claim he wished to keep the baby “couldn’t be further from the truth”, saying he had made it clear he did not want the child and pressured her to get an abortion.

ADVERT

Sheriff Foulis said: “It seems to me that these actions fall on the less serious category but certainly don’t diminish your actions.

“You pleaded guilty to causing fear and alarm over a period of nine months, so when I say it is on the less serious side, none the less I have to bear that in mind.”

He noted McGowan had not contacted Mr Aitken for nine months before he filed a police report and that the crown was also not seeking a non-harassment order.


You're up to date

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