Tories call on Sturgeon to remove health secretary

The Scottish Conservatives accused Jeane Freeman of multiple failures and urged the FM to 'take the blinkers off'.

Jeane Freeman: Scottish Tory leader calls on minister to go. Getty Images
Jeane Freeman: Scottish Tory leader calls on minister to go.

The Scottish Conservatives have called on Nicola Sturgeon to “take the blinkers off” and remove Jeane Freeman as health secretary.

Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said the First Minister has shown “misplaced loyalty” to her health secretary during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The party has catalogued ten incidents during Freeman’s tenure where it says she “has been lucky to keep her job”.

The First Minister branded the Conservative call to sack one of her key ministers during a pandemic “disgraceful” and “party politics at its worst”.


But Carlaw said “enough is enough” as he accused the health secretary of a “dismal performance” in the last few months.

It comes after Freeman said on Sunday that hospital staff are “not yet” being routinely tested for Covid-19 and that she did not know when that would be the case.

A total of 908 Scottish hospital patients have caught the virus in non-coronavirus wards, with 218 dying over the course of the pandemic.

The Conservatives also cited news reports on Monday that around 18,000 people currently “shielding” at home from coronavirus received wrong information on the date they would be allowed to go outside.


A letter is reported to have been sent in April to those considered most at risk from coronavirus and therefore shielding, which told them could leave their homes for the first time in weeks today – June 8 – when the true date agreed by health officials is June 18.

Sturgeon used Monday’s government briefing to update these shielded groups, such as organ transplant recipients, some cancer patients, people with weakened immune systems and those with severe respiratory conditions.

She apologised for an “administrative error” that had seen some shielded Scots given the wrong date but clarified they would be allowed to go out for daily exercise from next Thursday.

However, shielding will remain in place until July 31, the FM confirmed, although said this date would be kept under review – meaning they cannot yet take part in sports, or meet people from other household.

Other examples of failings the Tories gave included the controversy over a Nike conference in Edinburgh in February where it emerged the first Scottish Covid cases had emerged, with ministers accused of a “cover-up”.

They further highlighted the revelation that more than 900 people were transferred from hospitals to care homes in March before mandatory testing was in place – far higher than the initial figure of about 300 the health secretary provided to MSPs.

Carlaw’s party also raised controversies pre-dating the pandemic, such as the long-delayed opening of the new Sick Kids hospital in Edinburgh, as well as the scandal over child infections at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.


The Scottish Tory leader said: “Jeane Freeman was already on borrowed time before coronavirus hit.

“But as this crisis has unfolded, a number of issues have unfolded on her watch which were completely avoidable, and enough is enough.

“The testing structure under the SNP has been a disaster, to the point where care homes have been left in the lurch, and now she can’t even say when hospital staff will be routinely tested.

“The misplaced loyalty shown by the First Minister to her health secretary is having a negative impact on the NHS.”

Carlaw added: “A litany of problems had built up before, not least infection deaths of children at the SNP’s flagship hospital in Glasgow, and the continued unacceptable delays of the new Sick Kids in Edinburgh.

“These have been compounded by a dismal performance during the pandemic too.

“Nicola Sturgeon has to take the blinkers off and find someone who can actually get on top of these problems.”

However, speaking at the Scottish Government briefing, the First Minister said the Scottish Tories should be “ashamed” of their approach.

She said that throughout the coronavirus crisis she had “resisted and refused invitations I’ve had at briefings like this to be critical in the UK Government or to engage in traditional politics”.

Sturgeon went on: “I’m going to continue to do that because the issues we’re dealing with right now are incredibly difficult but they’re also the most seriously important any of us have ever dealt with.

“Actually, they’re much more important than the traditional party-political arguments and debates that we have.”

But she said she would have to make an exception for Carlaw’s statement earlier on Monday, branding it “absolutely and utterly disgraceful”.

The First Minister continued: “Unfortunately, I don’t find it surprising and I say this more in sorrow than anger.

“For the last few weeks, the Scottish Tories have seemed to me to be not very interested at all in the real issues that we are grappling with and dealing with here.

“They have seemed to me to be interested only in party politics and in trying to undermine a health secretary who is literally working around the clock to deal with the most difficult issues that any of us have ever dealt with.

“Actually, I think that kind of approach says more about the Scottish Tories than it does about the health secretary or about the Scottish Government.

“I would say they should be ashamed of themselves but I’m not entirely sure they have any shame based on the statement this morning.”


Scotland records highest ever number of new coronavirus cases

Another two people have died with the virus in Scotland while 486 new infections have been confirmed.

University of Glasgow

Scotland has recorded 486 new cases of coronavirus overnight, the highest figure on record.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Wednesday Covid-19 briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed two further deaths of patients with the virus.

She said while the number of new infections is the highest it has been during the pandemic, this is partly down to much greater levels of testing now.

The 486 new cases – of which nearly half, 224, are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area – amount to 7.8% of newly-tested Scots.


The First Minister said this is partly down to a “significant” outbreak at the University of Glasgow.

It comes after a ban on visiting other households was extended from seven council areas in the west of Scotland to the entire country.

The new restrictions also include a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, which has been replicated in the rest of the UK.

Sturgeon noted it is six months to do the day since the full-scale national lockdown to tackle coronavirus was imposed across Britain.


She said she understood if people felt “down-hearted” about fresh restrictions on our lives and the rise in cases but insisted the country is in a better position than it was in the spring.

The two people with coronavirus who have died takes the total so far this week to three.

Separate figures by National Records of Scotland which count all deaths where Covid-19 was cited as a leading or contributory cause show 11 fatalities in the week ending September 20 involving the virus.

While the Scottish Government’s daily statistics only count people who died within 28 days of their positive coronavirus test, the NRS include those who died after that 28-day period and those who were suspected of having Covid without being tested.

Of the 11 deaths registered with NRS last week, eight occurred in hospitals and three happened in care homes.

On the Scottish Government’s metric, confirmed coronavirus deaths now stand at 2508.

But using both sets of figures suggests the most up-to-date death toll in Scotland is 4250.


There are now 83 people in hospital with coronavirus, a rise of ten in 24 hours.

Of those, ten patients are being treated with intensive care, which is unchanged.

The First Minister indicated her government was “hamstrung” by the UK Government from imposing tougher restrictions that could have been placed on hospitality in Tuesday’s announcement due to a lack of financial powers to support the sector without UK help.

Among key concerns, she said, was the lack of a extension or replacement for the furlough scheme, due to expire in October, which has supported hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs in recent months.

The First Minister said she would be writing to the Prime Minister on the issue asking for an extension of the scheme or an extension of powers to the devolved administrations.

She said: “We mustn’t be hamstrung in essential public health decisions by the lack of necessary economic mitigations.

“All four UK nations agreed a joint statement to the effect that we would focus our efforts ‘on suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keeping it there’ and that is really positive.

“It puts aside forever the idea that we can just let this virus run, because we know it does real damage in lives and in health.”

Sturgeon added: “There is an argument… that all of us across the UK should actually be doing even more right now and there is a danger that what starts to hold us back is not the public health analysis but financial limitations.”

Two significant coronavirus clusters at University of Glasgow

At least 124 students have tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 600 are self-isolating across the university's residencies.

Getty Images
Coronaviurs clusters are being investigated at the University of Glasgow.

At least 124 students have tested positive for coronavirus at the University of Glasgow.

The total number of Covid-19 cases is expected to be much higher as the university, located in the West End of the city, is dealing with “two significant clusters”.

More than 600 students are self-isolating across all the university’s residencies.

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “We are aware of two significant clusters of positive cases of Covid-19 in our Murano Street and Cairncross residences, which we believe were largely due to social activity around September 12-14, the start of freshers’ week.


“We are working closely with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s public health team to manage these.

“The total number of reported cases since the start of term is 124 but the actual number is likely to be higher.

“We are not aware of any students who have had to receive hospital treatment.”

The news comes after the Scottish Government issued a warning to students not to have house parties.


First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and National Clinical Director Jason Leitch have urged students to make sacrifices during the country’s fight against coronavirus.

It comes as hundreds of students have been told to self-isolate amid suspected outbreaks at a number of universities across Scotland.

Hundreds of students have been ordered to self-isolate following a suspected Covid-19 outbreak at halls of residence in Dundee.

NHS Tayside’s health protection team is investigating a single positive case of Covid-19 and a “small number” of suspected cases linked to Parker House in Dundee, a private student accommodation.

Close contacts of the positive case – a student at Abertay University – are being contacted.

Meanwhile, a number of students at Aberdeen University have also tested positive for Covid-19.

All residents of Wavell House halls of residence within Hillhead Student Village have been told to self-isolate for two weeks unless advised otherwise.


It also emerged last week that public health officials were investigating a coronavirus cluster at university student accommodation in Edinburgh.

NHS Lothian said a number of people had tested positive at Napier University’s Bainfield accommodation in the Fountainbridge area of the capital.

University students warned to pull the plug on house parties

The First Minister and national clinical director urge students to make sacrifices in the fight against Covid-19.

Students have been warned not to have house parties as the Scottish Government issued an appeal to universities.

The First Minister and national clinical director have urged students to make sacrifices during the country’s the fight against coronavirus.

It comes as hundreds of students have been told to self-isolate amid suspected outbreaks at a number of universities.

Professor Jason Leitch said: “We need you not to have house parties. I could not be any clearer.


“By all means socialise in licensed hospitality venues, where a maximum of six people from two households can meet, but no meeting up in other people’s homes or in your shared student accommodation.

“The new rules coming into force today state that you must not meet people from other households in your home or in another person’s home socially, unless they are in your extended household, and a maximum of six people from two households can meet in outdoor spaces.

“This applies to you as it applies to the rest of us. Parties are not allowed, I’m sorry and I hope they come back soon.”

Nicola Sturgeon said that that “tough guidance” was in place but discussions were ongoing about what may be needed going forward.


Appealing to students, she said: “If you are asked to self-isolate, and I know many of you are already in that position, it is really important that you follow that advice.”

She added: “From me, for now, please know that we appreciate the sacrifices you’re making at this really important stage of your lives.

“It’s not yesterday that I was at university, but I still remember what an important stage of life it is and nobody wants you to be living under these restrictions, but it is important that you take care not put yourselves at risk and obviously not to inadvertently put other people at risk.

“What we’re asking you to do now is for the collective good of everyone but we do appreciate your sacrifices and thank you for it.”

Students were also reminded that if they have been asked to self-isolate, they should do so for the full 14 days.

Man killed and woman injured in ‘targeted’ fire attacks

Police believe four incidents in Greenock area in a week may be linked.

Police: Officers appeal for information after fire attacks.

Police believe a spate of fire attacks – in which a man was killed and a woman seriously injured – may be linked.

There were four targeted incidents in the Greenock area within less than a week from September 14 to 19.

In the first, a 46-year-old man died in a fire in the town’s Union Street, around 10.35pm on Monday, September 14.

On Wednesday, a 40-year-old woman was seriously injured in a fire at a property in Wellington Street. It is believed to have been started by an accelerant thrown through a window at around 11.05pm.


Her nine-year-old daughter was also in the property at the time but was not injured.

Enquiries found a small white vehicle was seen driving off at speed after the attack, in the direction of the junction of Wellington Street and Duncan Street.

A short time later, around 11.10pm, a white Suzuki Splash with registration number GK14 FZE, was seen driving into Skye Street.

Three men got out of this car and ran down Skye Street and into Rankine Street. They are all described as being in their late teens and of skinny build.


The driver was wearing a black scarf covering the lower part of his face and a black zipped hooded top. The two passengers were both wearing something over their heads and each wore grey zipped hooded tops, with the hoods up.

On Thursday, around 2.20am, the same Suzuki was reported on fire on Skye Street, having been reported stolen from Denholm Terrace in the early hours of Wednesday.

Finally, on Saturday, September 19, there was a fire on Cumberland Road, believed to have been started by an accelerant thrown at a window of a property.

The window was not broken but garden furniture caught fire, although it was extinguished quickly. The occupants of the property, a 45-year-old woman and three members of the family, including her six-year-old daughter, were not injured.

Detective superintendent Gerry McBride said: “I would like to start by saying how sickened we are by all of these incidents, whether linked or not, these have been unprovoked, targeted attacks which have resulted in both serious injury and death.

“A couple of these attacks have also taken place while children have been present and it has been sheer luck that the number of people injured has not been any higher.

“We want to make it absolutely clear that this behaviour will not be tolerated in our community and officers will do everything they can to find those responsible.


“It is also important to reassure the wider community that although enquiries are still ongoing, we do not believe there is any risk to the wider public.

“There will be an increased police presence in the area whilst investigations are ongoing. Specialist units have been deployed to both carry out enquiries, and to tackle this problem and prevent any further instances occurring.”

If you have any information that can help police contact them on 101.

Cancer wards at children’s hospital closed until next May

Health secretary informs MSPs and MPs of 'significant delays' to wards 2A and 2B due to coronavirus pandemic.

Reopening of cancer wards further delayed due to Covid-19.

The reopening of two cancer wards at a Glasgow hospital has been further delayed until next May.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman has written to local MSPs and MPs to inform them of ‘significant delays’ to restoring wards 2A and 2B at the Royal Hospital for Children (RHC).

They were closed in September 2018 for a ventilation system upgrade after three patients contracted infections.

Ms Freeman stated in her letter that the coronavirus pandemic had resulted in “significant challenges with supply chains and the continued effects of social distancing during construction works”.


She said the Scottish Government is still awaiting the finalised programme, but that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board is now expecting work to be “complete in May 2021”.

The RHC is part of the £842m Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus.

Patients on wards 2A and 2B at the RHC were transferred to the QEUH following the infection outbreak, which was linked to water-borne bacteria.

“This is about rebuilding confidence and restoring trust, which has been shattered following a series of cover-ups and mismanagement by health board chiefs.”

Anas Sarwar, Labour MSP for Glasgow

Anas Sarwar, Labour MSP for Glasgow, said the new delay is disappointing for patients and their families.

He said: “The Scottish Government is right to demand assurances from the health board, which must urgently work towards re-opening the wards safely and swiftly.

“This is about rebuilding confidence and restoring trust, which has been shattered following a series of cover-ups and mismanagement by health board chiefs.

“It is vital that families are kept fully informed throughout the process.”


Earlier this year, Ms Freeman placed NHSGGC under increased scrutiny over ongoing issues relating to infection prevention, management and control at the QEUH and the RHC.

“Unfortunately, the schedule for the works has been impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.”

Statement from National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde

A statement from NHSGGC said: “We continue to work to complete the significant programme of works within Wards 2A and 2B to deliver what will be one of the safest environments within the UK and ensure we are taking every possible measure to reduce the likelihood of infection for patients treated in the unit.    

“Unfortunately, the schedule for the works has been impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.

“Based on Scottish Government guidance for the construction sector and social distancing, current forecasts suggest the works will be completed in May 2021 although this may, of course, be impacted further by the ongoing response to the pandemic.” 

Family ‘devastated’ after man killed in hit-and-run

George Robertson was struck by an unidentified vehicle on the B792 on Sunday night.

Police Scotland/Google
Named: George Robertson, 53, died after a hit and run.

A man who died in hospital after a hit-and-run in West Lothian has been named by police.

George Robertson, 53, was struck by an unidentified vehicle on the B792 between Bathgate and Torphichen on Sunday night.

The incident is believed to have happened between 10.15pm and 11pm, just south of Torphichen. The driver failed to stop.

Mr Robertson was taken by ambulance to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he died a short time later.


Inspector Peter Houston said: “George Robertson was a much loved family man and his family, friends and work colleagues have been left devastated by this tragic incident.

“I am making an appeal directly to the driver of the vehicle involved to please do the right thing and make yourself known to the police.

“I would also urge anyone with knowledge of who was driving to pass this information on and help us provide answers for George’s family.

“The inquiry team are still looking to speak to anyone who was on the B792 between 10.15pm and 11pm on Sunday night, who may have noticed a man wearing dark clothing walking.


“I would also urge anyone who may have seen a dark coloured vehicle, which may have sustained fresh damage, in the area around the time of the collision to make contact with my team.”

Anyone with information or who may have dashcam footage should contact police on 101.

‘We beat back coronavirus once, we can do it again’

Nicola Sturgeon told the STV News at Six the country must 'come together again' in the fight against Covid.


Nicola Sturgeon has urged the public to “come together” in the fight against coronavirus, telling Scots: “We beat it back once and we can beat it back again.”

The First Minister was speaking live on the STV News at Six the day after a ban on visiting households was extended to the whole of Scotland and a 10pm curfew was imposed on hospitality venues across the UK.

On the new package of measures, the First Minister said: “I don’t want it. I absolutely get how tough people are finding it, it’s been tough for six months and it only gets tougher.

“None of us, even me, are exempt from all of the implications of this but it’s a global pandemic, it’s accelerating across the world.

“We did really well over the summer to drive it to low levels, to build Test and Protect, but we’ve always known that winter coming out of lockdown would present new challenges.


“That’s where we are right now and we’ve got to come together again and unfortunately make more sacrifices, but we beat it back once and we can beat it back again.”

Tonne of seized cocaine worth £100m was bound for Scotland

A man from Glasgow has been arrested following the joint operation between Police Scotland and National Crime Agency.

Police Scotland
Cocaine was found within a consignment of fruit.

A tonne of cocaine worth £100m has been seized as part of a joint operation between Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency.

Two men have been arrested after the drugs were found within a consignment of fruit at Dover in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

A 64-year-old man in Glasgow and a 40-year-old man in Essex are being held on suspicion of importing class A drugs.

Police Scotland said the massive haul was hidden with fruit on a vessel from South America and was destined for Scotland.


Searches have also been carried out at in Glasgow and Essex as the investigation continues.

The investigation is linked to Operation Venetic, which has so far seen hundreds of arrests across the UK following the infiltration of an encrypted communications platform.

Angela McLaren, Police Scotland’s assistant chief constable, said: “This seizure is undoubtedly a massive setback for serious and organised criminals.

“This operation and our other recent successes, underlines our unwavering commitment to working with partners, including the NCA, Border Force and SOC Taskforce to seriously disrupt this sort of criminality.


“Working together we will relentlessly pursue those who seek to bring misery to our communities whether they are in Scotland or elsewhere in the world. ”

The Organised Crime Partnership (Scotland) is a covert investigation team comprising of officers and staff from Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency.

“This operation has prevented a large amount of cocaine from making it on to our streets, we estimate that once adulterated and sold it could have had a street value of up to £100m.”  

Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations

NCA Director of Investigations Nikki Holland said the operation has prevented a large amount of cocaine from making it onto the streets of Scotland.

She said: “This is a huge seizure of class A drugs, made as a result of some excellent joint working between the NCA and Police Scotland under the Organised Crime Partnership (Scotland), and our Border Force colleagues.  

“This operation has prevented a large amount of cocaine from making it on to our streets, we estimate that once adulterated and sold it could have had a street value of up to £100m.  

“So in making this seizure we have taken away a valuable commodity that would have been sold to fund further serious and organised criminality.

“Our investigation into this attempted importation is continuing.”

Manhunt after car driven into hairdressers and set on fire

Scandal Hair & Beauty, on Glasgow's Broomknowes Road, was targeted at around 3.30am on Wednesday.

Google 2020
Glasgow: Scandal Hair & Beauty was targeted on Wednesday morning.

A manhunt has been launched after a car was smashed into a beauty shop window and then set on fire.

Scandal Hair & Beauty, on Glasgow’s Broomknowes Road, was targeted at around 3.30am on Wednesday.

Police said the silver Toyota Hilux 4×4 was deliberately driven into the window.

The male driver then got out and set it on fire. He was last seen heading in the direction of Hornshill Street.


In a statement on Facebook, a spokesperson for the shop apologised for having to cancel appointments “due to unforeseen circumstances”.

Sorry for any inconvenience to any clients that are book into today ,we will message yous all later and sort your appointments out ,due to unforeseen circumstances x

Posted by Scandal hair & beauty on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Detective constable Paul Friel said: “Our enquiries are at an early stage but the man we are looking to trace was wearing a dark hooded top and dark jogging bottoms.

“The shop was empty at the time, so thankfully no one was injured.

“I am appealing for anyone who was in the area at the time to come forward, especially motorists who may have captured the incident on dashcam.”


If you have any information, call 101

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