Tourism businesses told to prepare for opening on July 15

The Scottish Government is hoping to move to 'phase three' of its plan to exit lockdown in July.

Tourism: People have been told only to travel locally.
Tourism: People have been told only to travel locally.

Businesses in the tourism sector have been told by the Scottish Government to prepare for reopening from July 15.

Rural economy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing warned “nothing can be guaranteed” amid the coronavirus pandemic and it would be subject to infection numbers.

But he told MSPs the government hopes to give the go-ahead to the sector to resume work at the lockdown review on July 9, with firms advised to get ready to reopen six days later.

The minister acknowledged Scotland’s tourism industry has been “devastated” by lockdown.

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Ewing urged the UK Government to lead a tourism recovery plan Britain-wide backed by funding.

He announced the July 15 date, he said, in acknowledgement of the need for clarity in the sector so firms can take bookings, plan staff rotas and, if necessary, procure personal protective equipment (PPE).

The tourism secretary said it was also because it is expected that “general travel restrictions can be lifted on that date”, as he promised to work with public transport operators on restoring tourist travel in mid-July.

At present, people are asked to only travel locally for recreation – for example, to beauty spots or public spaces – which in official advice is given as no more than five miles.

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Ewing said: “The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges across the entirety of the Scottish economy, but it is very clear there are exceptional circumstances facing this sector that must be recognised.

“We have acted as quickly as we can to address the significant financial challenges faced by businesses and provide a comprehensive package of support.

“We are also pushing the UK Government to do more, including a review of VAT rates and to consider extensions to schemes such as the coronavirus job retention scheme.

“I’ve been engaging with businesses since the beginning of the outbreak and I have heard their calls for more clarity which today I can provide.

“Businesses should start to prepare for a provisional return to trading – with appropriate safety guidelines – on July 15.”

But he added: “This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to phase three of the route map.

“Businesses must now use this time to satisfy the necessary regulations and adapt to the new way of living.”

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Lockdown measures are reviewed every three weeks, with the next review on June 18 expected to move Scotland to phase two of its plan to ease restrictions.

That could allow two households to meet indoors, more than two households to gather outdoors and for outdoor spaces of pubs and restaurants to reopen.

Phase three, which could begin from July 9, should see the lifting of travel restrictions, multiple households allowed to meet inside and outside and the full reopening of pubs, restaurants and retail.

Museums, cinemas, libraries, galleries and gyms are also set to reopen their doors with social distancing and other hygiene measures in place.

It comes after the National Trust for Scotland warned it may not be able to reopen some of its historical tourist sites – like the Bannockburn Visitor Centre – for another two years if social distancing restrictions remain in place.

Sturgeon to confirm move to phase three of lockdown easing

The First Minister will give a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

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First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon will give a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

Nicola Sturgeon will confirm on Thursday if Scotland can move into the third phase of its plan for easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Phase three would see customers able to return to hairdressers, restaurants and drink inside pubs, although the First Minister has suggested that not all restrictions would be lifted at the same time.

Sturgeon said she was “hopeful” Scotland could move to phase three of its route map for easing lockdown and is expected to give a statement to the Scottish Parliament outlining when and how measures will be lifted.

She previously announced plans for hairdressers, indoor pubs, museums, galleries and libraries to open on July 15.

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According to the Scottish Government’s route map, offices and call centres will also be able to reopen in phase three, while universities and colleges can begin a phased return of in-person teaching – all with physical distancing measures in place.

Depending on the latest public health advice, the First Minister could also announce an easing of restrictions for live events – both indoor and outdoor events – as well as the reopening of gyms.

Non-essential shopping centres could also be able to reopen, along with holiday accommodation, museums and libraries.

Public transport is due to resume more services, albeit with reduced capacity and mandatory face coverings for most passengers.

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Places of worship are also expected to be able to reopen during phase three for congregational services and communal prayer, while an easing of restrictions on attendance at funerals, marriages and civil partnerships could also feature in the First Minister’s announcement.

Sturgeon has already confirmed that, from Friday, Scots will be able to meet in extended groups outside and a maximum of two other households indoors – if physical distancing is maintained – and that children will be able to play organised outdoor sports from Monday.

Police officer to appeal after winning sex discrimination claim

Karen Harper claims evidence was ignored and decisions were not explained during the employment tribunal.

Appeal: Karen Harper.

A former police officer who partly won a sex discrimination claim against Police Scotland is appealing — on the grounds her employment tribunal ignored evidence and failed to explain decisions.

The tribunal found Karen Harper was victimised by a sergeant who passed potentially damaging information about her “in retaliation” after she accused him of bullying.

However, it rejected the whistleblower’s allegation that her bullying complaint was also the reason she was targeted in an extensive criminal investigation.

In his original judgment in February, tribunal judge Mark Whitcombe said it was “purely coincidental” the investigation was launched two weeks after she lodged her complaint in 2015.

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Ms Harper, from Dumfries, had 22 years’ service before retiring through ill health in 2017.

In the appeal submission, Ms Harper’s lawyer Mark Allison claims there was a “failure by the tribunal to have regard to material evidence” and that it “failed to record their decision and give adequate reasons”.

Ms Harper was off duty when she allegedly intervened in an argument between her ten-year-old son and another boy, who claimed she shouted at him.

She was not told about the investigation or asked for her side of the story and later discovered two inspectors approached nine of her neighbours and her ex-husband Bruce, a former sergeant.

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Ms Harper’s appeal argues that element of the investigation were “incomprehensible” and “went beyond legitimate enquiry, and amount to a fishing expedition”.

It alleges the Glasgow tribunal “either misunderstood the evidence before it” or “failed to scrutinise and given reasoned analysis” in relation to the explanations given by police witnesses. 

Had it done so, the tribunal should have concluded “in the absence of a legitimate purpose” the reason for the visit was because of the bullying complaint.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said they were unable to comment due to the legal process being live while Ms Harper also declined to comment.

Her lawyer Mr Allison, of Livingstone Brown, said: “Ms Harper was pleased with the unequivocal findings by the tribunal both that she had been subjected to unlawful victimisation by a senior police officer and that the subsequent procedure was unfair and inconsistent with Police Scotland’s own policies and procedures.

“Nevertheless there are aspects of the judgment that Ms Harper takes issue with. 

“On the basis of legal advice, it is felt that there are reasonable grounds for challenging those decisions and that process is under way.”


Hotel attack victim ‘feared he would die’ after stabbing

Badreddin Abadlla Adam was shot dead by police after six people were injured in the attack in Glasgow.

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Glasgow: Badreddin Abadlla Adam injured six people in the attack.

A man who was stabbed in a knife attack outside a city hotel has said he feared he was dying as he lay bleeding on the pavement.

Badreddin Abadlla Adam, 28, from Sudan, was shot dead by police after his attack at the Park Inn Hotel in Glasgow, which left six people injured including 42-year-old police constable David Whyte.

Mex Abin, 20, said he was the first person to be attacked after encountering Adam as he walked along West George Street to meet a friend on June 26.

He said Adam called him over and then slapped him on the face before stabbing him in his right side, then his left.

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He told the Daily Record: “I think the knife was small. I didn’t even see it. I felt something had happened to my body but I didn’t know he had stabbed me. 

“I was shocked. I panicked. I just wanted to run but he wouldn’t let go of my t-shirt. I was screaming and struggling.

“His face was cold and calm. God must have saved me because I don’t know how but I pulled back – my t-shirt ripped and I broke free.”

Attacker: Badreddin Abadlla Adam, 28, from Sudan, was shot dead by police.

He said he ran towards his friend, who helped him to sit down, while a kitchen worker from the hotel rushed over and applied pressure to the wounds.

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Mr Abin, who is from the Ivory Coast, said: “I was on a pavement, sure I was dying. I thought of my mum. I thought if I closed my eyes I would never wake up again. I was afraid to die.”

The other people injured were men aged 17, 18, 38 and 53, with all victims taken to hospital for treatment.

Two of the injured are members of staff at the hotel while three are asylum seekers.

Mr Abin told the newspaper that Adam was “quiet and kept to himself” and said he did not really know him.

He praised the medical staff who treated him in hospital, saying: “I thank them a thousand times for saving my life.”

He also said he forgives Adam for stabbing him and that the attacker “lost his mind and that is not his fault”.


Hunt for driver after woman mowed down in hit-and-run

A 38-year-old woman was knocked to the ground by the reversing Volkswagen driver during the early hours of Monday.

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Police: Officers said two people were in the car at the time of the incident.

Police are on the hunt for a Volkswagen driver and their passenger following a hit-and-run in Angus.

During the early hours of Monday morning, a car attempting to reverse along a street collided with a 38-year-old woman, knocking her to the ground, before driving off.

The victim suffered minor injuries.

Another car parked in the same street was later found to have some fresh damage consistent with having been struck by a moving vehicle.

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Police believe the same driver was responsible.

The incident happened in Milton Park, Monifieth, at around 2.30am.

The Volkswagen is believed to be a Polo or a Golf and possibly grey in colour with an 02 registration.

Investigating officers said at least two people were in the car at the time of the hit-and-run.

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A police spokesperson said: “While it is unlikely given the time of night and location that anyone has witnessed this incident take place, we would be interested to hear from anyone who saw a VW Polo or Golf being driven poorly around the Monifieth and Broughty Ferry area on Sunday night into Monday morning.”

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


Bag of Covid-19 test samples found on Highland road

The samples were being transported to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

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Covid-19: The health board has said it will investigate how the bag managed to end up on the road.

A bag of Covid-19 test samples was found by a member of the public on a road in the Highlands.

The samples were being taken from Caithness General Hospital in Wick to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, according to a statement from NHS Highland.

The bag was found by a member of the public on the A9 near Tain and taken to a local police station.

The health board has said it will investigate how the bag managed to end up on the road.

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An NHS Highland spokesman said: “We can confirm that samples being transported from Caithness General Hospital in Wick to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness were found on the A9 near Tain.

“The samples were handed in to the local police station and are now with the laboratory team at Raigmore.

“We are investigating how this could have happened to ensure this will not happen again and would like to reassure everyone that at no point was there a danger to the public from these samples.

“They were packed properly and remained intact.

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“We are very grateful to the gentleman who handed the box of samples to the police.”

Young and unemployed ‘most affected by feeling hopeless’

A survey found that certain groups have been more affected than others during the pandemic.

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Feeling hopeless: Young people and unemployed most affected.

Young adults and the unemployed have been disproportionately affected by feelings of hopelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research.

A survey of 2004 adults by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland found that as the pandemic has progressed, certain vulnerable groups are being more severely affected than others.

The research, carried out between June 18 to 26, found one quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds said they felt hopeless as a result of the pandemic in the two weeks prior to the survey.

Those who are unemployed are also being seriously affected by feelings of hopelessness, with 25% of that group also saying they have struggled.

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A total of 26% of those with pre-existing mental health issues said they felt hopeless in the two weeks prior to the survey.

In comparison, one in seven (16%) adults over the age of 24 have experienced feelings of hopelessness.

Lee Knifton, director of Mental Health Foundation Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “What the research shows is that even as lockdown is easing, millions are still struggling. Overall, about one in seven people in Scotland are experiencing of hopelessness.

“But dig down a bit deeper into the research and you find that we’re not all in this together. Some are particularly vulnerable.

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“In particular, our research showed that young adults, people with existing mental health problems and unemployed people are struggling more than the rest of the population as a whole.

“It’s clear the pandemic remains a much more devastating experience for certain groups That is why we need to urgently see a whole-government mental health response and recovery plan.”

However, the research found levels of anxiety and worry have fallen, down from 64% at the beginning of lockdown in March to 49% in the last survey at the end of June.

Mr Knifton said that is good news, but it must not obscure the fact vulnerable groups are still struggling.

He added: “The Scottish and UK governments must respond to their needs, and take an all-government approach.

“Intervention is needed urgently to prevent many people’s current mental distress from escalating into tragic consequences.

“This research clearly identifies where some of those areas of most need are – including young adults and people with existing mental health problems.”


Burger King could be forced to shut one in ten UK outlets

The fast food firm's UK boss said that up to 1600 jobs could be lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Burger King
Burger King: The fast food firm may have to permanently close outlets as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Burger King UK’s boss has warned that up to 1600 jobs could be lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Only about 370 of the restaurant chain’s 530 UK stores have reopened since the nation went into lockdown.

Chief executive Alasdair Murdoch told Newscast the economic damage stemming from the crisis could ultimately force the company to permanently close up to 10% of its stores.

He said: “We don’t want to lose any [jobs]. We try very hard not to, but one’s got to assume somewhere between 5% and 10% of the restaurants might not be able to survive.

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“It’s not just us – I think this applies to everyone out there in our industry.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday unveiled a £30bn support package to help boost the nation’s economic recovery, which included plans to subsidise restaurant bills throughout August to encourage people to dine out.

However Mr Murdoch added that Government schemes do not do enough to compensate restaurants for the combination of fixed costs and lost sales throughout the pandemic, telling Newscast: “I don’t think you can ever get over the top of this problem.”


Ofgem proposes £20 energy bill price cut in £25bn investment

The energy watchdog has vowed to take money out of shareholders' pockets.

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Gas: Energy bills will be cut under Ofgem's proposal.

The energy watchdog has vowed to take money out of shareholders’ pockets to improve investment in a green energy network while slashing bills.

Ofgem said households stand to save around £20 a year on their gas and electricity bills under its proposals, which are set to come into force from next year.

However, the proposals were attacked by some of Britain’s biggest energy networks, which will have to shoulder the cost.

Under its plan, Ofgem will halve the rate of return that companies will be allowed to take from their investments.

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The regulator argues that companies and investors will still be willing to put their cash on the line to invest in upgrades to the system as the UK’s energy networks are a very low-risk investment.

“Strong evidence from water regulation and Ofgem’s offshore transmission regime shows that investors will accept lower returns and continue to invest robustly in the sector,” Ofgem said.

Meanwhile, the watchdog is setting aside £25bn for investment in the UK’s energy networks, including those run by National Grid.

There will also be a package of around £10bn in additional funding which is only available for clean energy investment, but companies will need to apply on a project-by-project basis.

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More money may be set aside if Ofgem receives enough good proposals.

The regulator will scrutinise proposed investments and only give them permission if they cut carbon at a low cost to customers.

This could include a recently proposed National Grid project to install electric car charging points up and down British motorways, and innovative solutions such as switching the gas grid to run on hydrogen.

Ofgem will also set aside £630m to encourage new research and development in green energy.

It is the latest announcement from the regulator ahead of next year’s change to the rules on how much of investment costs networks can pass on to customers.

The current rules, known in industry jargon as RIIO-1, are set to expire next year. They will be replaced by RIIO-2, which will last until 2026.

Ofgem has proposed that the allowed rate of return be set at 3.95%. It is around half of what was allowed under RIIO-1, and will save British households some £3.3bn each year until 2026.

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Currently around a quarter of the average household’s energy bill goes to pay for the network.

The news angered some of the companies which will be the hardest hit.

National Grid said it will be pressing for changes that will incentivise investment and protect consumers ahead of Ofgem’s final decision in December this year.

A spokesperson said: “We are extremely disappointed with this draft determination, which risks undermining the process established by Ofgem. This proposal leaves us concerned as to our ability to deliver resilient and reliable networks, and jeopardises the delivery of the energy transition and the green recovery.”

Meanwhile, SSE said it is “disappointed and deeply concerned”.

Rob McDonald, managing director of subsidiary SSEN Transmission, said: “Whilst our stakeholder-endorsed and evidence-based business plan was in step with the Government’s low-carbon investment ambition, Ofgem’s first pass at a settlement resembles a worrying return to austerity.

“Ofgem’s draft determination is a barrier towards achieving net-zero and damaging to the green economic recovery.”

However, the move won support from Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Gillian Guy.

She said: “Today’s announcement is another step closer to a price control that stops network companies from overcharging energy customers by billions of pounds.

“These decisions are extremely technical, but they matter. Ofgem has struck the right balance between shareholder returns and value for money for energy customers, while making sure networks can continue to attract investment.”

Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said: “Ofgem is working to deliver a greener, fairer energy system for consumers. This is why we are striking a fair deal for consumers, cutting returns to the network companies to an unprecedented low level while making room for around £25bn of investment needed to drive a clean, green and resilient recovery.

“Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that every pound on consumers’ bills goes further. Less of your money will go towards company shareholders, and more into improving the network to power the economy and to fight climate change.

“Ofgem’s stable and predictable regulatory regime will continue to attract the investment Britain needs to go further and faster on decarbonisation.”

A final decision will be made in December after the companies have had time to feed in.


Non-EU applicants to Scottish universities jump by 16%

The number of applications from those within the EU has dropped by 2% - continuing a trend seen in recent years.

Uni: Number of non-EU applicants has risen.

Applications to attend Scottish universities from students outside the EU have risen by 16%, the latest statistics show.

Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), which processes millions of applications each year for colleges and universities across the UK, shows the increase, which contributed to a 3% rise in the total number of applications to Scottish institutions.

The statistics cover the most recent application cycle, which ended on June 30.

Between January and the deadline, a period which included an extensive lockdown due to coronavirus, 4,730 applications were made compared to 3,380 during the same period last year – an increase of 40%.

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The total number of Scottish-domiciled students who have applied up to and including the most recent application cycle is up slightly from 47,110 last year to 47,250, while the number of applications from those within the EU has dropped by 2% – continuing a trend seen in recent years.

When broken down by socio-economic background, the number of Scottish-domiciled applicants from more deprived areas show a decrease of 10 from 7,760 to 7,750, while those from more affluent areas dropped by 2% from 12,510 to 12,230.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said the data is “encouraging” but he added: “It will be September before universities know for sure whether offer-holders intend to take up their place.

“Not all international students apply through Ucas, so we can’t yet be sure if the positive trend shown in Ucas’ data for overseas applicants will be borne out across all international applicants.”

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Responding to the figures on the backgrounds of applicants, Mr Sim said:

“Since the pandemic hit, universities have consistently said that they will not let it deter them from efforts to widen access and that they will offer more flexibility to applicants because of the major disruption to schools, to exams and to people’s lives in general.

“Today’s data suggests that there’s been no negative impact, so far, on applicants from the most deprived 20% of Scotland’s areas wanting to go to university – applicant numbers have held steady.”

However, Mr Sim said the “key data point” will come next month when final exam results for Scottish pupils will be announced and dictate how many places at colleges and universities will be taken up.

This year’s exam diet was cancelled due to the pandemic, with teachers instead asked to help decide the final grades of their pupils.

Dr Donna McKinnon, director of access at the Scottish Funding Council, said: “This is encouraging news for Scottish universities who are working hard to be able to provide a safe, high-quality undergraduate experience for the next academic year. We will continue to keep a close eye on the figures.”


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