Tory MSP thrown out the chamber for calling Sturgeon a liar

Oliver Mundell accused the FM of lying to parliament when she pledged full transparency to Holyrood's Salmond inquiry.

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A Conservative MSP has been ejected from the Holyrood chamber after accusing the First Minister of lying to parliament and then refusing to apologise for the remark.

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell claimed Nicola Sturgeon had lied when she previously pledged full co-operation and transparency with Holyrood’s inquiry into how harassment complaints against Alex Salmond were dealt with.

On Tuesday, the Scottish Tories suggested the FM had “misled” parliament amid frustration among MSPs on the inquiry with the lack of evidence it has received, with its convener going as far as to accuse the Scottish Government of “obstruction”.

Mundell, who is the son of former Scottish secretary David Mundell, raised this as a point of order in the Scottish Parliament chamber on Wednesday.

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Challenged about his use of language by presiding officer Ken Macintosh, he refused to withdraw his accusation that the First Minister had “lied to parliament”.

The presiding officer then demanded he leave.

Outright accusing another elected member of telling a lie in the chamber is deemed unparliamentary language.

After Salmond successfully took the Scottish Government to court in 2019 over its botched handling of harassment complaints against him, a special committee of MSPs was set up to investigate what had happened.

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Regarding the committee’s work, on January 17 the First Minister told MSPs: “The inquiries will be able to request whatever material they want, and I undertake today that we will provide whatever material they request.”

She also repeatedly pledged the Scottish Government would “cooperate fully” with the probe and offer maximum possible transparency.

But SNP MSP and inquiry convener Linda Fabiani said on Tuesday the committee is experiencing “frankly, obstruction” from the Scottish Government.

It has previously complained of missed deadlines for evidence and key files heavily redacted or withheld by the government, with officials citing legal reasons for doing so.

Fabiani said the committee still awaits written submissions from the Scottish Government, from SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – Sturgeon’s husband – and from Salmond himself – and “simply cannot proceed” without the evidence it needs.

Citing the First Minister’s remarks to the chamber in January, Mundell repeated the Conservative accusation that she had misled MSPs.

He said: “Will the presiding officer ask the First Minister to explain why she lied to parliament?”

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Macintosh said the issue is being looked at by the committee and suggested Mundell raise the matter with it directly or ask the question during a parliamentary debate.

The presiding officer then asked the Tory MSP to “apologise for using the term ‘lied’ in the chamber”.

But Mundell declined, and said: “I do feel it is the appropriate word, and I can’t find anything else that would express the sentiment.”

Macintosh urged him to make his point “without personalising and making pejorative terms which are disrespectful to other members” and said his remarks were not “befitting of Mr Mundell’s character”.

The Dumfriesshire MSP hit back: “I think it’s disrespectful to the parliament for the First Minister to make a promise and not to keep it.

“But I can’t withdraw the word, no.”

The presiding officer answered: “I’m going to have to ask you to leave the chamber, I don’t think that language is acceptable.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said any suggestion Sturgeon had misled Holyrood is “demonstrably false”.

She added: “The First Minister has agreed to personally give evidence to the committee – and as we have made clear, not only is the government providing all possible material to the committee, we intend to initiate legal proceedings seeking to allow the release of further documents.”

Coronavirus: Two more dead as cases rise by 746 in Scotland

According to information reported by NHS boards across Scotland, more than 1000 people are in hospital with Covid-19.

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Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further two people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 94,689 – a jump of 746 in the past 24 hours.

The official death toll in Scotland now stands at 3722, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is at least 5380.

Of the new cases reported on Sunday, 229 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 159 are in Lanarkshire, 78 are in Lothian, and a further 78 are in Ayrshire and Arran.

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The remaining cases are spread across seven other health board areas.

According to management information reported by NHS boards across Scotland, 1049 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – a decrease of 28 overnight. Out of those, 76 patients are in intensive care.


Blackford: Government in a panic over support for independence

SNP's Westminster leader urged members to come together and focus on pushing to leave the UK.

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SNP: Westminster leader Ian Blackford spoke at the party's virtual conference on Sunday.

The UK Government is in a “panic” over recent support for Scottish independence, the SNP’s Westminster leader has said.

Ian Blackford told party faithful to “keep the faith” at the annual conference – this year being held virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic – urging members to come together and focus on pushing to leave the UK.

Blackford compared the record of Westminster in the past 20 years, citing the Iraq War, Brexit and the bedroom tax, with the history of the Scottish Parliament, with free prescriptions, tuition fees and the upcoming Scottish Child Payment raised as examples of Scotland being a “fairer and more equal place to live”.

In recent months, polls shifted to show support for independence, with survey results rising as high as 58% when undecided voters are removed, according to an Ipsos Mori poll for STV in October.

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“That diverging tale of two parliaments has led to an inevitable conclusion – poll after poll shows that a settled majority now believes that all decisions and all powers should now be trusted to the people of Scotland,” he said in an address from his home in Skye.

“That is why the Tories are in a panic, they are unwilling to accept the truth that a majority of Scotland’s people now want an independent future.

“Instead of listening to the will of the Scottish people, the Tories are attempting to deny democracy and destroy devolution.”

Blackford insisted that no prime minister or UK government will be able to force Scotland to stay in the union “against our will”.

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He added: “Denying democracy is a political position that can’t and won’t hold.

“It’s a position that will crumble under the weight of votes in next year’s Scottish election.”

The Westminster leader also issued a call for unity and focus among party members, the day after one of his MPs questioned the handling of internal debates within the party.

In an interview with the Times on Saturday, Joanna Cherry called for an end to the “cult of leader” within the SNP and pushed for a more “collegiate” approach to policy decisions.

Blackford said: “We have all come a long way – and we are now within touching distance of independence. But just as we have travelled all this way together – we can only complete this journey together.

“My message to all of us is this: Keep heart, keep the heid and keep the faith. A new Scotland – fairer, greener and European – is now ours to win.”


Sturgeon refuses to say if she would welcome Salmond back to SNP

A Holyrood committee is investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of allegations against the former first minister.

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SNP: Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to say if she would welcome former first minister Alex Salmond back into the SNP.

She was challenged on the issue as Scotland’s deputy first minister insisted ministers have “not closed the door” on handing MSPs legal advice from the court case Salmond won against the Scottish Government.

A Holyrood committee is investigating the government’s botched handling of allegations against Salmond, and the Scottish Parliament has twice voted for the legal advice to be handed over to the MSPs.

Sturgeon said the committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints inquiry, and a separate investigation into whether she breached the ministerial code, must be allowed to be completed.

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On The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Sturgeon was asked if she would like to see Salmond back in the party.

She responded: “I’m not going to get into these issues today.

“There is a parliamentary inquiry under way, there is an inquiry into my conduct in terms of the ministerial code.

“I think it is important to allow these inquiries to take their course.

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“There are important issues of political scrutiny and accountability, I have no issues with that, but I think it is important to allow those processes under way to take their course.”

Sturgeon succeeded Salmond as SNP leader and First Minister when he stood down after losing the 2014 independence referendum.

But her relationship with her former mentor has since soured, with Salmond successfully challenging the way the Scottish Government handled sexual harassment complaints against him.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that to be “unlawful” and Salmond was awarded more than £500,000.

Meanwhile, deputy first minister John Swinney said “active consideration” is being given to the issue of handing over the legal advice.

He told Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News that it is against the ministerial code for him to release the legal advice other than in exceptional circumstances, and law officers must give their consent.

However he said no decision has yet been taken on the issue.

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He told the programme: “The government’s original position was that we do not release legal advice and no government releases legal advice except in very exceptional circumstances.

“What I’ve said is that we will consider the fact that the Parliament has voted in that way. That consideration is ongoing at the present moment and that work is being undertaken to determine what approach we should take to responding to what Parliament has undertaken.

“So the issue is not closed, it’s very much under active consideration within the Scottish Government and I will be updating Parliament as soon as I’ve got a conclusion on the handling of that issue.”

Asked whether the advice might be published, he replied: “There is a possibility that we might do that because Parliament has asked us to do that and I’m now reflecting on that particular issue.

“At no stage have I closed the door on that issue, I’ve simply set out the fact that ordinarily governments don’t publish their legal advice.”


UK secures two million more doses of coronavirus vaccine

It brings the total number of jabs on order from Moderna to seven million – enough for around 3.5 million people in the UK.

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On order: The Government has purchased two million more doses from US firm Moderna.

Another two million doses of a coronavirus vaccine which trials suggest is 95% effective have been secured by the Government.

It brings the total number of jabs on order from the US firm Moderna to seven million – enough for around 3.5 million people in the UK.

The vaccine has yet to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), but doses could begin being delivered next spring if it meets the standards.

Interim data suggests the jab is highly effective in preventing people getting ill and may work across all age groups, including the elderly.

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The UK has placed orders for 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine – enough to vaccinate most of the population – with roll-out expected in the coming weeks if the jab is approved by the MHRA.

It also has orders for 40 million doses of the jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, which has been shown to be 95% effective.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Every week, we are getting more positive news about the range of vaccines in development, and thanks to the work of our taskforce the UK has pre-ordered more hundreds of millions of doses from those companies most advanced in their work.

“This includes buying a further two million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, on top of the five million we’ve already secured.

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“With a wide range of vaccine candidates in our portfolio, we stand ready to deploy a vaccine should they receive approval from our medicines regulator, starting with those who will benefit most.”


Men fined for breaching Covid restrictions to go for a sunbed

Police caught the pair after stopping a vehicle in Greenock’s High Street on Wednesday night.

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Fined: Two men travelled from Glasgow to Greenock for a sunbed.

Two men have been fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions to go for a sunbed.

Police caught the pair after stopping a vehicle in Greenock’s High Street on Wednesday night.

It was then officers discovered that the 32 and 33-year-old had travelled to Inverclyde from Glasgow, a tier four restricted area.

Greenock remains under tier three rules. Under level three and four lockdown measures, Scots are banned from travelling into or out of other local authority areas except for essential reasons.

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Due to the breach, both men were issued with a fixed penalty notice.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers carried out a routine vehicle stop on High Street, Greenock, around 8.30pm on Wednesday, November 25.

“During the routine stop, it became clear two men within the vehicle were in blatant breach of current coronavirus restrictions. 

“A fixed penalty notice was issued to both men, aged 32 and 33.”


Firefighters tackling large blaze at former bingo hall

Emergency services were called to Forfar's Queen Street on Sunday afternoon.

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Fire: Emergency services were alerted on Sunday afternoon.

Firefighters are battling a large blaze at a former bingo hall in Angus.

Emergency services were alerted to the fire at the old Pavilion building in Forfar’s Queen Street on Sunday afternoon.

A spokesperson from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said crews are currently working to extinguish the blaze.

Police have closed the street and urged people to avoid the area “at the present time”.


Holy statue smashed during break-in to Catholic church

St John Ogilvie’s Church in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, is believed to have been targeted on Friday night.

St Joseph's Parish Blantyre via Facebook
Damage: A statue was smashed during the break-in.

A holy statue was smashed during a break-in to a Catholic church.

St John Ogilvie’s Church in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, is believed to have been targeted on Friday night.

During the break-in, a statue of St Anthony was “toppled and destroyed”.

Posting a picture of the damage on Facebook, a spokesperson for St Joseph’s RC Church, which is linked to St John Ogilvie’s, said: “Regrettably we had intruders at St John Ogilvie’s Church [on Friday night]. 

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“Thankfully there was nothing of value to take.”

Many parishioners branded the vandalism a “disgrace” and that those involved should be “ashamed of themselves”.

Another added: “Sad day when they pick a place of worship. Pray for them and their needs.”

Police were alerted on Saturday morning and are appealing for anyone with information to get in touch.

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A force spokeswoman said: “Around 8.05am on Saturday, officers were called to a report of a theft and vandalism at St John Ogilvie’s Church on Broompark Road, Blantyre.

“Enquiries are ongoing and anyone with information should contact 101.”


Arrest made after man ‘attacked with weapons in murder bid’

A 35-year-old man was taken to hospital following the alleged attempted murder in Linwood on Friday afternoon.

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Linwood: Police were called to Blackwood Avenue on Friday.

A man has been arrested in connection with an alleged attempted murder in Renfrewshire.

Police said they received a report about a man being attacked with weapons near a car park in Blackwood Avenue, Linwood, at around 3.20pm on Friday.

A 35-year-old man was found to have suffered serious injuries and was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley for treatment.

On Sunday, the force said a man had been arrested in connection with the incident and further enquiries are ongoing.

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Detective sergeant Chris Hughes said: “We are treating this incident as an attempted murder.

“One person has been arrested and we are following further positive lines of enquiry.

“However we would appeal to anyone who may have been in the area at the time and witnessed the attack to come forward.”

If you have any information, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


Tablet and laptop roll-out to pupils branded a ‘shambles’

Scottish Labour have said the schedule for delivering the devices has been 'wildly optimistic'.

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Shambles: Scottish Labour attack Scottish Government's delivery schedule.

The roll-out of tablets and laptops to digitally excluded pupils by the Scottish Government has been branded a “shambles” by Scottish Labour.

The party said the schedule for delivering the devices has been “wildly optimistic”, and it warned better planning is needed to meet the “ambitious” targets.

The Scottish Government announced this week that more than 23,000 iPads and Chromebooks will be sent to low-income families and care leavers as part of the Connecting Scotland programme, which aims to reach around 50,000 digitally excluded people by the end of 2021.

Ministers faced criticism earlier this year that devices were not being given to pupils quickly enough after around £9m was spent on 25,000 devices.

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Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “The SNP can talk a good game but they repeatedly fail to live up to promises. With more school children isolating at home or participating in blended learning, access to tablets or laptops is a vital part of ensuring continued access to learning.

“Online learning support for pupils is still very limited and inconsistent across schools – this must be improved given the amount of young people who need to take time away from the school building during the pandemic.

“Scottish Government commitments to deliver devices have fallen far short of the mark. The projected schedules for delivery were wildly optimistic given the constrictions of the pandemic, and roll-out so far has been a shambles.

“This is no time for self-congratulation. The promise of Chromebooks just fills the gap left by failure on earlier Connecting Scotland targets and better planning is needed if the SNP Government is to fulfil its promises to get digital devices to pupils by the end of the year.”

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The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.


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