Rishi Sunak has spoken out against plans for a second Scottish independence referendum, warning it would “needlessly divide” the country at the “worst possible time”.
Instead he insisted it was “vital” for the UK to “stick together” and focus on tackling coronavirus and the recovery from the pandemic.
He also argued that Scotland was a “stronger nation” because it was part of the United Kingdom.
The Chancellor spoke out ahead of Thursday’s Holyrood elections, where the SNP and Greens are pushing for a second referendum to be held if Scots elect a majority of independence-supporting MSPs.
The campaign has also seen former first minister Alex Salmond return to the political frontline, as the leader of the new Alba Party, campaigning for a “supermajority” for independence.
But Sunak said: “The last 12 months has shown that in the darkest of moments, all four nations of the United Kingdom benefit from each other and our partnership.
“The undeniable truth is that Scotland is a stronger nation because it is part of a United Kingdom.”
The Tory Chancellor told voters: “In this Scottish Parliament election, if you want to get your political leaders focused on the things that matter to you and your family, then you need to use your peach party list vote for the Scottish Conservatives.”
Sunak stressed that throughout the coronavirus crisis his “number one priority” had been to “protect and support as many jobs as possible”.
The Chancellor said: “Our furlough and self-employed income support schemes have together protected over one million Scottish jobs.
“The UK Government is spending over £400bn to support our country through this pandemic. And now our world-leading vaccination scheme is delivering a path out of this pandemic and a return to normality for the whole of our country.”
He continued: “It is vital, for the whole United Kingdom, that we continue to stick together, finish the job of getting through this health crisis, move onto the task of rebuilding our economy and build a better country for future generations.”
Sunak said there was “one clear risk to this shared goal”, adding that this was “the uncertainty of a second independence referendum”.
Speaking about the prospect of a second independence vote, the senior Tory said: “It would needlessly divide our country and at the worst possible time.
“Instead, we should be focused on the job prospects of young people in Scotland, they have borne the economic brunt and need the most support.
“We should be focused on the quality of healthcare and education in Scotland, because you can’t have a strong economy without a healthy and high-skilled population.
“And we need to focus on making our streets safer, protecting people and communities from crime.”
Campaigners have taken to the streets of Glasgow to urge the reopening of ‘vital’ public servicesin the city.
Hundreds attended a march, organised by activist group Communities Unite Against Closures, in the city centre on Saturday afternoon.
They are calling for services, including libraries, museums and sports facilities, to be reopened to the community, with several facing threat of indefinite closure.
Banners saying Save Whiteinch Library, Don’t Axe Our Venues and Friends of People’s Palace could be seen among others at the march that started at Cathedral Square and walked from the closed St Mungo Museum to the People’s Palace.
A spokesperson for CUAC said the city’s heritage has been “ravaged”.
A statement posted on the event’s Facebook page said: “These services are not a luxury, they are at the heart of any cohesive community.
“Our community assets should not be regarded as a cost to the public purse but an investment in the health and wellbeing of our community for generations to come.”
Glasgow Life say its ability to open more venues is “entirely dependent on more funding becoming available” from the city council.
A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said:“The £100m funding guarantee we received from Glasgow City Council in March has been fully allocated, reopening more than 90 venues across the city in the wake of the global pandemic.
“In May, Glasgow City Council passed a motion resolving that all Glasgow Life venues should reopen as soon as funding and Scottish Government guidance allows but Glasgow Life’s ability to open more venues is entirely dependent on more funding becoming available.
“Unions have been kept up to date with plans for reopening over the last year and the ongoing impact the pandemic would have on Glasgow Life and assessments of the possible impact were published and widely reported in March this year.
“We recognise the strength of feeling there is about venues without reopening dates and, continue to make the case for further income which would allow us to open more.”
A further nine deaths and 1018 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland overnight, according to official figures.
The daily test positivity rate is 4.9%, down from the 6.2% reported on Friday.
Of the new cases reported on Saturday, 236 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 192 are in Lothian, 174 are in Lanarkshire, and 82 are in Fife.
The rest of the cases are spread out across nine other health board areas.
A total of 445 people were in hospital on Friday with recently confirmed Covid-19, 29 fewer than the day before. Out of those, 64 patients are in intensive care.
The lab-confirmed death toll of those who tested positive within the previous 28 days currently stands at 7939, however figures including suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now at least 10,324.
It was also confirmed that 4,009,611 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 2034 from the day before.
A total of 3,180,160 people have received their second dose, a rise of 17,498.
Scotland’s Kathleen Dawson has helped Team GB secure gold in the 4x100m mixed relay at the Olympic Games.
Adam Peaty later revealed Great Britain’s resurgence in the pool is down to tireless commitment behind the scenes after the team equalled their best-ever swimming medal haul at an Olympics.
Peaty and James Guy bagged their second golds of Tokyo 2020 and Dawson and Anna Hopkin their first, as the Team GB quartet set a world record time in a gripping final of the inaugural mixed 4×100m medley relay.
Britain were therefore left celebrating their fourth gold of these Games, to go with two silvers and one bronze, matching the exact haul they achieved 113 years ago in London, and there is the prospect of more to come on Sunday.
Their achievements represent a massive turnaround from when British Swimming’s funding was slashed after a failure to win a race at London 2012, and Peaty insisted assiduity and diligence has been at the core of their revival.
“I hope this team and the rest of British Swimming get the recognition and the respect that they deserve because it’s been f*****g hard,” said Peaty, who retained his men’s 100m breaststroke title earlier this week.
“It’s the only way to get the emotion across. Honestly people don’t understand how hard it is. Hopefully people back home can understand that.
“I’ve been doing this for seven years since 2014 and I didn’t think the team would be where they are today. You’ve got such amazing talent. It’s just incredible to be part of that and hopefully people back home are pretty pumped.”
Peaty will be eyeing a fourth Olympic gold and third in Japan this week in the men’s 4x100m medley relay final on Sunday, but he feared the worst on Saturday morning after thinking Guy had jumped in too early at their handover.
Britain jumped from sixth to fourth at the halfway stage after Peaty’s incredible breaststroke split of 56.78 seconds before Guy catapulted them to top spot with an equally astonishing time of exactly 50secs in the butterfly.
But Guy himself worried he had set off a fraction earlier and did not allow himself to get carried away with the celebrations until he knew he would not get disqualified.
“I was just panicking and panicking. I thought I went early. I was like ‘oh no’,” said Guy, with Peaty adding: “I saw his feet leave and I was like ‘you f*****g idiot’.”
Guy added: “As soon as I dived in I’m thinking ‘I’ve gone too early, I’ve screwed it up, I’m going to get a DQ, but you know, it’s too late now, just go for it’. Afterwards I was just waiting and just saying ‘please, please, please, please’.”
This event has been added to the Olympics schedule for the first time – where two males and two females must be selected but the nation can use any combination in the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle splits.
Dawson, from Kirkcaldy in Fife, did not get off to an auspicious starts after slipping in her push off the wall in a leg where she was up against four males, including the 100m and 200m backstroke winner Evgeny Rylov of the Russian Olympic Committee.
“I had a little bit of an issue,” said the Scot. “I couldn’t quite feel my hands. Somehow I slipped going in.
“I wasn’t quite sure what I did when I did it. I think I managed to keep calm and after that it was about focusing to try and get the best performance I could out of myself.”
Britain were six seconds off the pace when Peaty dove in but the 26-year-old from Uttoxeter and Guy helped their nation into a lead of six tenths of a second as Hopkin anchored their race in the freestyle.
Hopkin came into the race knowing she would go head-to-head against the men’s 100m freestyle champion Caeleb Dressel but the American was well back as Britain touched out in three minutes and 37.58 seconds.
“It’s pretty cool to say I’ve beaten Caeleb Dressel,” joked Hopkin.
“To know that he was coming for me, it’s a little bit intimidating. But I knew that the guys ahead of me would get me a good lead.
“And then it was just about me focusing on my own race and keeping my head down, not worrying about where he was. Because that would just distract me, and stay focused on my lane and bring it home for the guys.”
China took silver, finishing 1.28 seconds behind the winners, while Australia collected bronze as the United States settled for fifth.
Elsewhere, Ben Proud qualified for the men’s 50m freestyle final on Sunday, the final day of swimming at the Games.
Commenting on Dawson’s win, Mike Whittingham, director of high performance at sportscotland, said: “Team GB’s performances in the pool at the Tokyo Games have been nothing short of incredible and to see Scottish swimmers at the heart of that success is fantastic.
“Huge congratulations to Kathleen on a well-deserved gold medal and also to her coach, her support team and everyone at Scottish Swimming.
“They have all worked so hard for this moment, which highlights the strength of the sport at all levels here in Scotland. But today is all about Kathleen, she deserves all the plaudits and praise coming her way.”
The friendlies have finished, the League Cup is on the back burner and the European competitions can be forgotten this weekend – the Premiership is back.
After the strangest season in history, fans are looking for a return to normality, insofar as Scottish football is ever normal.
The numbers may not be at the levels anyone wants yet, but there will be supporters in every stadium on the opening weekend, and they’ll all have hopes and expectations.
The promotion of Hearts and Dundee brings back a couple of city derbies, and clubs across the league have been strengthening.
We’ve looked at each side and how they are prepared for the challenges ahead.
Stephen Glass may have taken charge towards the end of last season, but this summer feels like the start of something new at Pittodrie. Scott Brown has joined as player-coach, along with a handful of exciting new signings.
The first major test was encouraging, with a 5-1 demolition of Hacken thrilling fans, but there’s a big challenge ahead to finish high in the Premiership and compete for silverware. Last season brought a fourth-place finish and a points tally closer to the bottom than the top.
Improvement is expected and excitement around the club is high.
After their domestic dominance ended in spectacular fashion, Celtic start this campaign under a new manager; Ange Postecoglou has vowed to deliver attacking, entertaining football.
He’ll attempt to do so with a new-look squad. Five players have been added and many more are needed as they attempt to mount a title challenge. Kristoffer Ajer – a mainstay in the defence – has gone and striker Odsonne Eduoard is set to follow suit.
A big turnaround of players will present challenges, not least how quickly they settle and gel. The club’s elimination from the Champions League has already put them behind the eight ball.
Supporters’ anger following the defeat to Midtylland is directed towards the board, not Postecogolou, who at his first media conferences warned he needed new signings ‘’yesterday’’.
Unless the Australian gets the backing he needs to win trophies, this could be another long season for the Celtic faithful.
James McPake’s side earned their Premiership place the hard way, coming through the play-offs after a testing Championship season, and they’ll find no respite on their return to the top flight.
The core of last season’s team remains, with Charlie Adam’s experience and skill a hugely valuable asset. Cillian Sheridan and Luke McCowan have arrived to offer new options in an attack that already features Jason Cummings.
The return of derbies against United will be a welcome addition to the calendar, but in the bigger picture, Dundee’s main task is to steer clear of the drop zone.
Local bragging rights are a bonus.
United were a year ahead of their city neighbours in returning to the top division and made a decent fist of re-establishing themselves with a ninth-place finish.
Regardless, the club made a big change, allowing manager Micky Mellon to return to Tranmere and promoting Tam Courts from within. Courts will be expected to showcase the young talent the club has traditionally produced, and deliver attacking football while climbing the table. It’s no small task.
There hasn’t been much in the way of recruitment, but Charlie Mulgrew has returned and his know-how could be crucial. A flawless record in the League Cup group stage was an encouraging start for Courts and the new project, but the pressure could be on if a difficult-looking start sees the team fail to deliver points.
Hearts did exactly what was required of them last season, lifting the Championship trophy to ensure their controversial exit from the Premiership lasted just one season. The Tynecastle club returns with greater ambition than just staying up.
Any notion that manager Robbie Neilson came out of promotion as a conquering hero should be set aside, though. Cup exits to Alloa and Brora last year brought anger from fans, and the team’s performances at times throughout the league season means he faces a job to win around the support.
Neilson hasn’t added extensively to his squad, yet, but the team that came up has plenty of top-level experience and doesn’t lack for leadership. The League Cup has provided a smooth warm-up, with four wins from four, but two games against Celtic and a match against Aberdeen before the end of August mean that Hearts fans will have a clearer idea of their side’s prospects sooner rather than later.
League Cup semi-finalists, Scottish Cup finalists and third in the Premiership last season. On paper it’s a successful season, but the Hibs faithful feel opportunities were missed.
This time around, Jack Ross has the unenviable task of delivering progress on what’s already a reasonably high bar. The manager started his recruitment early, landing Daniel MacKay from Inverness, made Jamie Murphy’s move from Rangers permanent and added Jake Doyle-Hayes from St Mirren.
There will be further additions, most likely, but Hibs’ hopes may also hinge on whether there are departures. Interest in Ryan Porteous and Kevin Nisbet was rebuffed last season and with a new chief executive in place, Hibs aim to build on what they have. That ambition could be tested, especially if progress in Europe means a juggling of priorities.
From the point David Martindale stepped into the manager’s job last season, it quickly became a memorable one for the Livi fans. A long, long unbeaten run helped the team to a top-six finish and the League Cup final.
Now, the work is on to match or better what surprised most of Scottish football last term. Ten new faces have arrived, including Andrew Shinnie and Bruce Anderson, but just as many have left the club. Martindale will have to hope the new signings click if they are to avoid taking a step backwards.
The fixture list has already given Livi a tough task in the early weeks, with matches against last season’s top four within the first six games.
For the club that finished third in the shortened 2019-20 season, last term was a depressing drop in standards for the Steelmen.
Now Graham Alexander has had a transfer window and a pre-season to put his mark on the squad. Declan Gallagher and Devante Cole are among the departures and leave huge shoes to fill, but Alexander has made nine signings, including the impressive Liam Kelly on a permanent deal. Dutch striker Kevin van Veen worked with the manager before, suggesting he’s far from a gamble.
The side came through the League Cup group stages with nine points, but narrow wins over Queen’s Park and Queen of the South, as well as a surprise 2-0 loss to Airdrie, indicate that Motherwell are far from flying.
After steering Rangers to their first title in ten years, Steven Gerrard is hungry for more success. And supporters want more, too. Unsurprisingly, they are odds-on favourites with the bookies to win the Premiership, but success in the cups will also be a target. By Gerrard’s own admission, one trophy out of nine under his watch is ”not good enough”.
The big and early test comes in Europe. They must successfully negotiate two qualifying rounds to reach the lucrative group stage of the Champions League, something the club last achieved a decade ago.
The signing of Fashion Sakala looks a tidy bit of business, as does the capture of John Lundstram. Departures? Alfredo Morelos’ future is again a hot topic. In a recent interview, the Rangers manager was unable to answer if the striker would be at the club this season. Glen Kamara may have caught the eye of potential suitors after impressing for Finland at the Euros.
With [just over] a month to go before the transfer window closes, speculation over players’ futures will no doubt continue.
While Rangers are odds-on to win the league, Ross County are the shortest price to finish bottom and it’s easy to see why. John Hughes steered the club to a narrow escape from the drop last year, but promptly left to seek new challenges, leaving the club to lick its wounds.
Enter Malky Mackay, a controversial choice given his past, but also a manager with extensive experience.
Mackay has brought in players, including Ross Callachan from Hamilton, and stated an intent to make an impression on the league, but County look the least well-equipped at this stage and face an uphill struggle. Late signings may make a difference, but a relegation battle looks inevitable.
What constitutes success for St Johnstone this season after the incredible heroics that saw them win both cups and finish fifth in the league?
Ever the pragmatist, Callum Davidson’s first aim will be to stay in the Premiership, but the team that played with such assurance last year should have no worries on that score and will make a top-six place a more realistic target. Beyond that, it may be down to how many of the core of that side are prised away before the window closes – and how they are replaced.
On-loan centre-back Hayden Muller looks capable of maintaining Saints’ defensive solidity, while left-back Reece Devine joined from Manchester United for the season and looks to be another shrewd addition
On paper, another solid season, with the capability for another cup run or two, looks in the offing, with the added excitement and demands of European football, where an intriguing tie against Galatasaray will result in either Europa League progress or a Conference League play-off place.
Davidson showed last season he could squeeze the maximum out of a small squad with discipline, attitude and belief, as well as no little talent. Pulling off a repeat with league expectations, defence of two trophies and continental competition would add to his rapidly growing reputation.
After falling short of their publicly stated top-six ambition by the finest of margins, Jim Goodwin and his side are setting out with exactly the same target this time around.
The buzz around St Mirren following the completion of the supporters’ buy-out adds another positive in Paisley and hopes will be high that the new era can start off with success.
So far, Saints have held on to the stars of last season, and made it clear that anyone coming for Jamie McGrath will be paying a good price, and paying early enough that a quality replacement can be found. It’s not just about the goal-scoring midfielder, though, a dependable defence remains together for now and the club’s young talents like Ethan Erhahon and Jay Henderson will only get better.
Goodwin has also added wisely, bringing in players with experience of the league. Greg Kiltie and Alan Power joined from relegated Kilmarnock, while Charles Dunne arrived from Motherwell and Curtis Main has bolstered the attack.
Last season showed real progress from a club that had been accustomed to a relegation battle and, even given the increased competition in the league, Goodwin and his players will be focused on taking that next step and a top-half finish.
Motorway speed limits ‘should be slower when it rains’
Drivers would like the standard 70mph limit reduced in wet conditions, survey for RAC finds.
Most drivers want a lower motorway speed limit in wet weather, a new survey suggests.
The RAC poll of 2100 motorists indicated that 72% would like the standard 70mph limit cut in wet conditions to boost safety and encourage better driving habits.
Some 78% of respondents who supported a reduced motorway speed limit in the wet felt it would encourage some drivers to slow down, while 72% believed it was worth trying as it might save lives.
Nearly two-thirds said it could improve visibility due to less spray from moving vehicles.
Department for Transport figures show 246 people were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s motorways in 2019 when the road surface was damp, wet or flooded.
The Highway Code states that stopping distances in wet weather are at least double those on dry roads as tyres have less grip.
In France, motorway speed limits are reduced from 130km/h (80mph) to 110km/h (68mph) during inclement weather.
Of the UK drivers surveyed, 17% wanted the maximum legal speed in wet conditions cut to 65mph.
Some 33% wanted it to be 60mph, 8% were in favour of a 55mph limit, and 9% supported a reduction to 50mph.
A further 14% would like the limit reduced but are not sure by how much.
RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Statistically the UK has some of the safest motorways in Europe but it’s also the case that there hasn’t been a reduction in casualties of all severities on these roads since 2012, so perhaps there’s an argument for looking at different measures to help bring the number of casualties down.
“Overall, our research suggests drivers are broadly supportive of lower motorway speed limits in wet conditions, as is already the case across the Channel in France.
“And, while most drivers already adjust their speed when the weather turns unpleasant, figures show that ‘driving too fast for the conditions’ and ‘slippery roads’ are still among the top 10 reasons for motorway collisions and contribute to significant numbers of serious injuries and even deaths every year.
“The overall success of any scheme would of course depend on sufficient numbers of motorists reducing their speed, but even just a proportion reducing their speed in the wet would be likely to improve the safety of the UK’s motorways.”
The Scottish Government is providing almost £6m of cash to help bus and coach operators go green.
The money is being made available to help transport operators meet the standards that will be in place in low emission zones (LEZs) which are being introduced in Scotland’s largest cities in 2022.
A total of £5.7m is now available from the Bus Emissions Abatement Retrofit Programme (BEAR) to help with the costs of reducing diesel emissions or converting the vehicles to electric.
The scheme has already provided £12.2m, which has helped ensure that 762 buses can meet the more stringent emissions standards.
Transport minister Graeme Dey said: “To protect public health and improve air quality, we’re continuing to support the introduction of Low Emission Zones across Scotland.
“Each fully occupied bus in our towns and cities can remove the equivalent of 75 cars from the road. It’s for this reason that choosing bus is already a positive choice for air quality – and even more so if that bus is retrofitted to meet emissions standards.
“Scotland has good air quality, but for the oldest and youngest in our society and those with existing health conditions, air quality remains an issue.
“It is critical that we have LEZs introduced in our four biggest cities by 2022, and this support is another way we’re helping bus, coach and community transport providers to comply with forthcoming emissions standards.”
Stevie More, engineering director at Lothian Buses, said “Lothian are fully committed to improving air quality across all our operations in Edinburgh and the Lothian’s, in line with the Scottish Government’s ambition to have the best air quality in Europe.
“This announcement from the Scottish Government of a further round of BEAR funding is welcomed by the industry as we all strive to meet the Low Emission Zone targets across Scotland.”