Nicola Sturgeon said she will not shy away from taking a decision to impose quarantine on English visitors to Scotland, but neither will it be a decision she takes lightly.
Asked about the possibility of self-isolation for visitors from south of the border, the First Minister said the UK nations need to work together on outbreak management in a way that “mitigates against having to put any border restrictions in place”.
“This is not about saying to people in England you are not welcome in Scotland – of course people in England are welcome in Scotland,” she said.
“This is not about politics, it’s not about a constitutional agenda, it’s just about taking decisions to protect people in Scotland as much as possible from Covid.”
Speaking on the BBC on Sunday, Sturgeon said she would like to see the UK Government be more explicit that it was trying to get to levels of coronavirus that were “virtually elimination levels”.
“We need to be sure that any outbreaks in England are being properly managed just as England will want to be sure that any outbreaks in Scotland are properly managed,” she said.
“It’s when there isn’t that confidence that the concerns about possible importation would grow.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland’s response to tackling the coronavirus pandemic is “firmly heading in the right direction”.
Another 24 deaths and 500 cases have been recorded over the past 24 hours.
Scotland hopes to start lifting lockdown restrictions in the coming weeks, and Sturgeon told parliament that progress was being made.
She said: “The number of cases is falling, the numbers in hospital are falling and the vaccination programme is progressing extremely well”. Three other deaths that were registered recently were also added to the total under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – which now stands at 7398.
Meanwhile, 726 patients are currently in hospital with coronavirus, a decrease of 24, with 69 of those in intensive care, down one
The number of people who have been given their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine now stands at 1,688,608, an increase of 26,729 from the day before.
Additionally, more than 100,000 have received their second dose.
Enhanced contact tracing is currently under way in Scotland after the Brazilian variant of Covid-19 was detected in the country.
Three Scottish residents tested positive for coronavirus after flying into Aberdeen from Brazil, via Paris and London, in January.
The tests, which were completed in early February, were passed to the UK’s sequencing programme and were identified as being the Manaus variant on Saturday.
The First Minister said the importation of new variants of Covid-19 from overseas remained one of the key threats to defeating the virus.
She said: “It is absolutely the case that the key risk we face as we suppress the virus here at home and vaccinate more people is new variants coming into the country that could potentially undermine the efficacy of the vaccine, so this is one of the most serious challenges and top priorities that we have in the weeks to come.
“Local authorities have the ability and there is work to identify the needs of people who are being asked to self-isolate and that can – if necessary – include accommodation.
“We should take care to ensure that we are not risking the spread of the virus through the lack of availability of the support people need to self-isolate and that is something we take seriously.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said Nicola Sturgeon put in a “very good performance” at the Holyrood committee into the Government’s unlawful investigation of former first minister Alex Salmond but suggested detail was lacking.
Baillie, a member of the committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “As I expected I thought Nicola Sturgeon put in a very good performance. It was very polished, as we’ve come to expect of her.
“But in the torrent of words that were exchanged over the eight hours I’m not sure that in some areas where we needed quite specific detailed answers that we actually got them.”
Asked to say more about those areas and if she has all the background information she needs, Baillie said: “I mean that genuinely is part of the problem. In my 22 years in Parliament, I have never been so obstructed, unable to do my job, as I have been on this committee.
“And in part that’s down to the Scottish Government. We have consistently asked them for information, which they say they will provide, we get it six months late.
“And in the case of legal advice, it’s taken two parliamentary votes and endless letters to try and get them to actually hand it over, and they only did so at six o’clock before the committee meeting.”
She said not all the legal advice was handed over, meaning that questions about “key bits of the process” still cannot be asked.
House parties ‘on the rise’ as Covid restrictions flouted
Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation said there had been an increase in non-compliance with Covid restrictions.
Non-compliance with regulations put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, particularly indoor gatherings, is on the rise, the head of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has said.
Calum Steele, the general secretary of the body that represents rank and file officers, said more complaints were being made against certain people who “have had enough” of the restrictions.
But Mr Steele said he does not believe, despite recent statistics, people in cities are more likely to break the rules as opposed to those in more rural areas.
Following a question from Labour MSP Alex Rowley at the Covid-19 Committee on Thursday, Mr Steele said: “I think to some extent, we’re probably talking about house parties largely… but it actually reaches across the length and breadth of the country.
“There is an increase in general non-compliance with those specific restrictions.
“Those examples of non-compliance are increasing among a relatively small proportion of the population who have just decided that they’ve had enough and they no longer intend to play by the rules.”
Mr Rowley quoted a recent 12% spike in complaints made to police in Dundee, compared to last year, while the same figure in Perth and Kinross dropped by 11.8% alongside a 14.6% drop in Angus.
Mr Steele said “I’m not sure that’s an urban versus rural problem.
“I think there’s an inevitability that, by virtue of an appreciation that there are more police officers in our urban centres rather than our rural locations, that there is probably a greater expectation in our cities that if the public phone the police to attend to gatherings… the police will be there and probably more of a grudging acceptance that there’s probably no point in phoning the police in some of the more rural areas, because by the time they get there the whole thing will be finished.”
He added: “I’m not sure there’s anything particularly distinct in the psyche of those that live in our cities versus those that live in our rural communities about the levels of compliance.”
Mr Steele went on to say the population is struggling under “fatigue” from the restrictions, which on March 23 will have been in place in some form across the country for a year.
Over recent weeks, the Scottish Government has extended its testing regime to emergency service call-handlers, in an effort to ensure staff numbers don’t drop to dangerously low levels, a move which Mr Steele welcomes.
But he said more should be done to test frontline officers, who are regularly expected to deal with the public.
“There has been some improvement in terms of the ability to access testing, but generally it’s when officers are symptomatic or believe they’re symptomatic and the ability to request and access tests is available to them,” he told the committee.
“We don’t believe, as an organisation that goes far enough.”
He added: “There has been a legislative intent that police officers place themselves in these high risk situations that there should be a support mechanism and a safety mechanism to ensure that as a consequence of having done so that police officers are not exposed to the virus and thereafter taken it to others and exposing others to that virus as a consequence.”
Robbers attacked victim with stun gun and knife at ATM
Christopher McLeod was wounded in the back and knocked to the ground as Dawn Cullen and male accomplices assaulted him near a cashpoint.
A woman who took part in a terrifying early morning attack on a man with a stun gun and a knife near a cashpoint machine has been jailed for five years.
Christopher McLeod was wounded in the back and knocked to the ground as Dawn Cullen and male accomplices assaulted him.
The robbers repeatedly discharged the stun gun into his body after they confronted him with demands for money, his bank card and its PIN number in the street attack.
Mr McLeod, then aged 26, was found bleeding heavily by police who went to his aid in Edinburgh and said he had been assaulted by a woman and males.
The attack victim was taken for treatment and found to have stab wounds to his lower back which were cleaned and closed with skin staples.
Cullen, 36, of Murrayburn Park, Edinburgh, and her co-accused prisoner Keith McCreadie, 36, had denied assaulting and robbing Mr McLeod on October 7 in 2019 at the city’s Morvenside Close, in Wester Hailes.
But Cullen was unanimously convicted of the offence and McCreadie was also found guilty of the crime on a majority verdict of a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh following a trial last month.
Sentence had been deferred for the court to obtain background reports on the pair.
On Thursday, shortly before McCreadie received a seven-year long jail term, judge Lord Beckett told the duo that jail was the only option available to them.
Passing sentence, Lord Beckett said: “This was a serious example of an offence of assault to injury to robbery.
“For such a serious offence and to deter any other person from committing such egregious crimes, I must pass an appropriate sentence.
“There is no suitable alternative to custody.”
The duo were accused of assaulting Mr McLeod while acting with another by making threats, repeatedly punching him on the head and striking him with a knife.
They also fired the stun gun at him before knocking him to the ground to his severe injury and permanent disfigurement and robbing him of money, a bank card and bus pass.
Cullen was also convicted of illegally possessing the stun gun and assaulting Heather Hughes, 30, at Morvenside Close on October 7 in 2019 by chasing her and brandishing the prohibited weapon.
The court heard that DNA from Cullen was found on a knife recovered by police from a nearby garden following the attack. She was also picked out as the woman who took part in the assault close to a Scotmid store, which has an ATM machine, during identification procedures.
CCTV which featured an audio recording was examined by forensic scientists who said that on three occasions distinct sounds could be heard which were consistent with that produced by a stun gun when it is operated in the open air.
One witness said he heard an attacker tell the victim that if he did not give details of his PIN he would be put in the boot of a car and saw him getting “Tasered”.
DC Jacqueline Grant, 43, who listened to the soundtrack on the CCTV said she heard a male voice ask: “Do you want Tasered?” as well as crackling sounds and groaning.
She told prosecutor Lisa Gillespie QC that an eight to ten inch long knife was found after the attack and blood was on a wall.
Following the convictions defence counsel Kenneth Cloggie, said Cullen was in remission from cancer but still had regular appointments.
The court heard McCreadie has previously been jailed for assault and robbery and his counsel Tim Niven-Smith said he acknowledged that a “substantial” custodial sentence was inevitable in his case.
Having fled fear and fighting to seek safety in Scotland during a pandemic has left many refugees at breaking point,a study has revealed.
While isolation and loneliness have affected people across the nation, a study has revealed those who have come to Scotland in the hope of building a better life have been given little support.
Waffa Alkiwfi and her family fled Syria after fearing for the lives of her children because of fighting, power cuts and no running water.
The family found safety in Dundee, found work, made friends and were learning the language – then coronavirus struck – cutting them off from most support.
Ms Alkiwfi said: “When we were first locked down it was very hard. I felt lonely and sad, not seeing my friends and going to city centre.
“I miss seeing people’s smiles. It’s more difficult to understand in English with people wearing masks.”
Mechanic Khaldoon Al Khayyit and his wife Faten Basher fled war torn Iraq, where lockdowns were part of life.
He told STV News: “It’s not different because when we were in Iraq there was militia and the same problem we stay in our house ten days maybe 20 days, the same problem, the same scare we can’t go outside.”
Research by Queen Margaret University has revealed the pressures of the pandemic has pushed many refugees to the brink.
Dr Alison Strang, author of the report, said: “The combination of the isolation and the lack of hope and the lack of opportunity to move on with your life is a recipe for really acute despair and poor mental health.
“For neglected population groups, such as refugees and asylum seekers, who have experienced significant disruption in their lives, this sense of ‘life hanging in the balance’ during a time of social isolation, can become unbearable.
“But many refugees, against the odds, are managing to keep the hope going, keep the family going.”
“But many refugees, against the odds, are managing to keep the hope going, keep the family going.”
Dr Alison Strang
The friends the families have made in Scotland have been a lifeline during lockdown.
Ms Basher said: “I have a friend Joyce. She helps me and I speak with my neighbour. In the morning when I open the window I speak with him a lot.”
William Scotland, the couple’s neighbour, said: “I have been helping him to speak English and he’s been helping me to speak some Arabic.”
Through volunteering, Ms Alkiwfi struck up a strong friendship with Anne Singleton – the families are now inseparable.
Ms Singleton said: “She would do anything for anybody. She’s really talented. She’s an amazing cook.
“She cooks me and my sister and our families an amazing carry out every Friday night which is wonderful. It’s just been an absolute joy to meet her so I feel very lucky.”
Despite losing so much in their lives these refugees say they are also lucky and, like so many, are looking forward to lockdown lifting and playing their part in the country they now call home.
The Chief Scientist Office Rapid Research into COVID-19 fund allowed research money to be made quickly available near the start of the pandemic to progress the Queen Margaret University research.
Demand for help with eating disorders has rocketed during lockdown, a leading charity has said.
Beat was contacted by 283% more people during 2020 compared to the previous year.
The charity believes lockdown pressures could be triggering both new cases and relapses.
Some of those affected have spoken to Scotland Tonight, to be broadcast on STV at 7.30pm on Thursday.
‘I was scared to eat’
One in four people with an eating disorder are male, such as 18-year-old Dean Miller, who began restricting food when he was 14.
The apprentice welder was subjected to jibes in the school playground about his weight, which caused him to think about his body for the first time.
“It came at me out of nowhere,” he said. “I was playing football with the boys at school at lunch. They kicked me and said ‘shut up Dean, you’re fat’. I was like ‘wow’, it was just a shock.”
Dean only realised how bad it was getting when his eating disorder prevented him from playing football.
He said: “My gran would make me lunch, but I was just putting it in the bin. Something in my head was telling me ‘no, don’t eat it’. I was so scared to put on weight.”
Dean was taken to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by his mum and diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
“I’d look in the mirror and still think ‘I’m fat’,” he said. “You just see yourself differently and you’re so thin, but you can’t see that.”
Dean’s problems continued to worsen and his weight plummeted to less than seven-and-a-half stone. He was hospitalised on Christmas Eve 2019 with his kidneys at risk of failing.
“That’s when it hit me, I need help,” he recalled. “It was scary. I was scared to eat. I’d eat the food in there but I was scared.
“You had to sit in a room and they’d watch you so you wouldn’t exercise. And I was just sitting there thinking ‘why am I in here?’.”
Dean’s recovery hasn’t been straightforward. He relapsed soon after being released from hospital.
He said: “That was the voice in charge of me again. I was signed off from work and then my manager phoned me and the conversation we had was just so positive. And since then I’ve never looked back.”
Dean is now doing well and hopes to raise awareness and reduce stigma of eating disorders – especially among men.
“Sometimes, if it’s somebody’s birthday and they’ve got a cake, I know I want a bit but something tells me ‘no’,” he said.
“But I saw a quote that says ‘if your eating disorder tells you no, just eat it’. Because if you keep doing that, the voice will keep getting quieter and quieter.”
‘Embarrassment, shame, guilt’
Nearly one-third of calls to Beat in the past year were for Binge Eating Disorder.
Almost half of BED sufferers feel their illness isn’t taken seriously by healthcare professionals.
Lucy Wellman, 20, starting bingeing when she was just 11-years-old.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I thought there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t even think it was an eating disorder.
“Growing up, I was slightly bigger than everyone else and I really struggled with that and my self-esteem made me so conscious of eating that I would restrict quite a lot in the day and then I’d get to the evening and I’d eat a lot of food. I’d binge.”
Nearly 92% of those surveyed for Beat said a binge eating disorder had a negative impact on their family and close relationships.
Lucy’s family got her professional help, but she said it’s hard to shake the “embarrassment, shame and guilt” that comes with binge eating disorder.
She said: “Two or three times I went to the GP and I was just told to lose weight, which led to some quite self-destructive behaviour.
“I was bingeing, I was also self-harming, living quite a reckless life. Summer 2019 I actually did end up in hospital after I tried to take my own life.”
‘Eating disorders are real’
Emma Broadhurst, national officer for Scotland for Beat, said the charity was keen to raise awareness and help people access support.
“We know that losing weight is often the worst thing you can do for BED and it’s actually about supporting people to get their eating back under control,” she said.
“Binge eating disorder is a mental health illness so it’s about how we can support people rather than telling them just to lose weight, it’s not as simple as that.
“Eating disorders are real. We are here to help and support you but we’re not just here to help and support the individual with the eating disorder, we’re there for their family and friends, maybe their teachers or their employers.”
Lucy has worked hard to break the tyranny of her binge eating disorder.
“Life is going well. I am in recovery and I’m not completely there yet but I am on my way,” she said.
“BED is a completely valid illness. It’s debilitating, it’s destructive, and people who have binge eating disorder deserve support and all the help they can get.”
Beat can be contacted on 0808 801 0677 (adult helpline) or 0808 801 0711 (youth helpline).
They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the situation ahead of a looming deadline for UEFA to receive the plans from host countries.
A Scottish FA spokesperson: “We remain in constant dialogue with UEFA and Scottish Government regarding the co-hosting of the tournament in Scotland, given the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will continue these discussions to ensure as many fans as possible can enjoy the four matches at Hampden Park.
“We also note UEFA’s re-stated commitment to holding Euro 2020 across the 12 European cities, with no other plans being pursued, and will continue to work towards UEFA’s submission deadline of April 7.”
Sports venues in England will be able to welcome spectators back on a limited basis from May 17 under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recovery plan.
The target of June 21 to lift all restrictions comes midway through the rearranged Euro 2020 finals, and the day before England are due to face the Czech Republic at Wembley.
But the Scottish Government has not fixed any such dates for the return of spectators to stadiums.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she hopes to remove the stay at home requirement by April 5 and then, at least three weeks later, Scotland will return to geographically variable levels.
UEFA has an executive committee scheduled for April 19, where it is possible decisions on whether to withdraw hosting rights from one or more cities could be taken.
The 12 hosts will be asked to effectively make a minimum guarantee on capacity limits by April 7 and UEFA anticipates the cities will wait until the last moment to commit themselves to a position.
They will be asked to consider the most realistic of four scenarios, ranging from a 100 per cent capacity venue to playing behind closed doors.