Transgender reforms ‘can be completed before 2021 election’

Scottish ministers are 'determined' to press ahead with proposals despite a backlash from within their own party.

Plans to make it easier and quicker for people to change their gender could be approved before next year’s election, the cabinet secretary responsible for the reforms has said.

Shirley-Anne Somerville said the Scottish Government is “determined” to press ahead with the controversial proposals, which include removing the requirement to provide medical evidence to a panel before you can switch gender.

The draft legislation would also lower the minimum age of applicants from 18 to 16, and reduce the time an applicant has to spend in their new gender before being legally recognised from two years to six months.

Speaking to STV’s Scotland Tonight, with around a month to go of a public consultation on the government’s plans, Somerville insisted she aims to build “maximum consensus” around them.

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The draft Bill would keep the stipulation that applicants must make a solemn statutory declaration they have been living in their acquired gender for three months and intend to do so permanently.

A minimum three-month period of reflection between applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) and confirming the application would also be introduced as part of the draft legislation.

It would mean applicants must have lived in their acquired gender for a minimum of six months before a certificate is granted – just a quarter of the time people have to wait under the current system.

The Scottish Government insists its proposals are in line with international best practice, but stalled its plans last summer to conduct further consultation amid controversy and resistance, including from within its own ranks.

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Chief among the concerns of opponents is that a system of so-called self-identitication, or self ID, will be abused by predatory men to get into women’s spaces, with examples frequently cited including women’s toilets and prisons.

But Somerville said there had been “a lot of misunderstandings” – raised alongside legitimate concerns and questions – about the government’s proposals.

‘We have women’s rights and we have trans rights – I don’t see those aspects as mutually exclusive.’

Shirley-Anne Somerville

She told STV: “I absolutely appreciate that women’s rights are exceptionally important.

“They have been long-fought for and long-campaigned on and there is absolutely nothing I would do as a member of this government to jeopardise any of that.

“So that’s why I really do make sure that I listen to the concerns that are out there on the issue, because we not only want to protect what we have as women but we want to make sure our rights are extended.”

She added: “We have women’s rights and we have trans rights – I don’t see those aspects as mutually exclusive.”

The minister emphasised the legal right of people to change gender has been enshrined in law since Westminster passed the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

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“That right has to exist. We are required to have that and I think that’s quite right,” Somerville added.

She continued: “What we’re talking about here isn’t something that’s new. These people are in our community, they’re part of our community.

“But they talk to us very specifically about how the current system deeply impacts on them, about the state of their mental health and particularly the high suicide rates within the trans community because they can’t be recognised for who they are.”

Somerville added: “These may be a small number of people in our Scottish population but their rights are very important.”

STV
Reforms: Shirley-Anne Somerville says she will press ahead.

The cabinet secretary pledged to “move forward” with the government’s plans despite accepting they had “generated a lot of heat”, and urged people with an interest to contribute to the consultation which ends on March 17.

Asked if the legislation would be passed by the end of this parliament, Somerville answered: “Yes – it can be done in time for next year’s election.”

But one vocal opponent of the plans within the government’s own backbench ranks, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, claims the measures are “ideological”.

McAlpine said: “It’s a really profound change because you’re expanding the group of people who can change their sex from a small group of people who have gender dysphoria, which is diagnosed, to a much larger group of people who have no medical diagnosis and who could be changing sex for all sorts of reasons.

“It’s an ideological move, not an administrative move. 

“We’re just saying this change in the law which says sex is a feeling in your head is unscientific, wrong and dangerous.”

But the Scottish Government officially has support for the principle of self ID from all of Holyrood’s opposition parties except the Scottish Conservatives, despite notable internal divisions on the issue within Scottish Labour.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Those battles are not going to be won for progressive values if we see the equality movement fragmented.

“We know that there are forces, particularly on the religious right, who see this issue of trans people’s rights as a wedge to fragment and split an equality movement that is too strong for them to oppose when we are united. 

“To see some of the rhetoric that I remember so weirdly from the 80s and 90s, from the Section 28 era, it was directed at gay men, lesbians, bisexual people in those days.

“It is now being directed at trans people with exactly the same venom, and it’s being done in a way that risks fragmenting our community.”

Analysis: ‘This debate has sparked bitter divisions’

By STV political correspondent Ewan Petrie

Few measures have provoked the levels of division, anger and abuse as plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

This is a debate that has polarised opinion and split campaign groups.  

It is also one where abuse has become a prominent feature. 

Much of it is online. Both sides say they are on the receiving end, and both sides condemn it.

It has also become a highly sensitive political issue, with the proposals seeing bitter divisions within different parties – including the SNP which is pushing forward the reforms.

Around 50 of its members set up the Women’s Pledge last year to uphold women’s rights.

It has the support of senior members, who are urging the First Minister not to rush ahead with the plans.

If the new bill becomes law, Scotland would follow countries like Argentina, Malta, Canada and Ireland which have adopted self-identity systems, while changes to the law in England and Wales are being considered.

A public consultation on the proposals ends next month    

The Scottish Government would then have to have legislation passed within the next year if it is to avoid this becoming an election issue next May.  

‘The current system is offensive and intrusive’

STV
James Morton: Transitioned in the 1990s.

James Morton began his transition as a teenager in the 1990s, before legal rights protecting trans people were put in place.

It was also back when Section 28 was still in force and prevented teachers from providing any information on LGBT issues.

He went on to manage the charity the Scottish Trans Alliance.

“I’m one of the people who has applied for a GRC and I found it really offensive and really stressful trying to get that birth certificate changed,” said James.

“It just felt really humiliating to give that to a panel of strangers for them to decide if I was distressed enough to merit getting my birth certificate changed.”

“What we are asking for is for it to be closer in alignment to how you change your passport – and not have the same level of intrusive medical evidence and psychiatric reports and length of time you have to wait from when you’ve changed everything else.”

‘Trans community is being damaged by self-ID’

STV
Diagnosis: Trans woman Seven Hex believes medical process helped her.

Seven Hex transitioned more than 10 years ago.

She feels the removal of a medical diagnosis for people going through the gender recognition process robs them of the chance to have other underlying issues addressed.

“For me the medical process was very appropriate.  It worked for me, and I don’t see there is anything particularly wrong with it,” Seven said. 

“The original Gender Recognition Act was specifically written for and made for transsexual people, and now that’s being carved up to include anyone and everyone. 

“There has been a huge resistance to this and rightly so. 

“Self ID isn’t even law and yet many principles are currently in practice. 

“We can’t then as transsexuals, with this transgender umbrella over us, escape the criticism.

“We take that flak too, and our reputation has been and is being damaged by self ID and its proponents who seek to use transsexuals as the gateway to legitimise what they have done.”

‘Sixteen is too young to decide to permanently switch gender’

STV
Detransitioner: Sinead Watson is trying to reverse gender switch.

Sinead Watson transitioned to male in her early 20s, believing it would solve many of her issues.

But after a few years living as Sean, she realised she had made a mistake and is now trying to reverse the process.

“I’m not just speaking for myself at this point any more, I’m talking to a lot of other detransitioners,” Sinead told STV.

“There are people who can be so certain in their 20s or their 30s who can still make a mistake. 

“The idea that a 16-year-old can sign statutory declarations saying that they intend to permanently live as their acquired gender – I mean, they’re not old enough to smoke, they’re not old enough to drink. 

“I find it really concerning that they would deem a 16-year-old emotionally mature and developed enough to have the foresight to say they are going to identify this way for the rest of their lives.”

She added: “I can’t undo what the testosterone has done to me, I can’t undo the double mastectomy. 

“I’m only 29 and I need to live with this for the rest of my life, so there is bitterness.”

For more on this debate, tune into Scotland Tonight at 7.30pm on Thursday.

Spike in East Renfrewshire Covid cases ‘causing concern’

John Swinney said case numbers will be reviewed on a daily basis in evaluating whether further action needs to be taken.

Scotland must maintain its guard to keep coronavirus under control, despite “encouraging signs” in tackling the virus, according to John Swinney.

The Deputy First Minister made the comments as he said that a spike in cases in East Renfrewshire has caused concern.

Speaking to STV News, Swinney indicated that case numbers will be reviewed on a daily basis in evaluating whether further action needs to be taken.

It comes as the majority of Scotland moves to level two of Covid restrictions, with the exemption of the City of Glasgow and Moray, with both areas having seen a rise in cases.

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East Renfrewshire currently has a case rate of 86.9 per 100,000 – higher than Glasgow’s when it was announced on Friday the city would be kept in Level 3 restrictions.

“We made it very clear when we set out the strategic framework that although we wanted to move down the levels in as unified a fashion as we can across the country, there may be exceptions where we have local outbreaks that we have to take action to strengthen the restrictions,” said Mr Swinney.

“Now, we’ve obviously regrettably had to do that in the City of Glasgow.

“We are looking at the numbers in all local authority areas on a daily basis to make sure that nothing is running away from us and obviously the East Renfrewshire situation is causing some concern.

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“And we’ll be reviewing these numbers on a daily basis to make sure that we take prompt, swift action to tackle any spread of the virus because that’s the way in which we’ll be able to maintain and sustain a position of lower restrictions within Scotland if we keep the virus and its prevalence under control.”

Swinney suggested the rise in cases in Glasgow were driven by the so-called Indian variant of the virus.

He said: “We’re at an early stage in understanding some of the most recent data on hospitalisations.

“Obviously, we think that some of the challenge within the City of Glasgow has been driven by the variant of concern that’s emerged in India.

“If that is the case, we need to see what the impact on hospitalisation is out of that particular variant of concern.

“So, we’re watching a range of data – case numbers, we’re looking at hospital admissions, we’re looking at positivity rates, and the welcome today has been the positivity rate has fallen again, case numbers are lower than they have been.

“So, there are encouraging signs, but we have to maintain our guard to make sure we keep the virus under control and the vaccination strategy, which has been very, very successful, is proving to be a very powerful weapon in containing the virus and in providing the public safety and assurance that we require.”


‘Worst violence police have dealt with in 20 years’

Officers were pelted with bottles, barriers and fireworks as they tried to disperse hostile crowds.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group
An injured person was stretchered away as Rangers fans celebrated in Glasgow's George square.

Police officers have said Saturday’s events in Glasgow was the worst violence they had dealt with in 20 years, according to the Scottish Police Federation.

Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph before scenes turned “ugly” and more than five police were injured.

Calum Steele, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) general secretary, said officers who were on the ground told him the violent disorder that followed largely peaceful celebrations was the worst experience they had ever had in decades on the job.

He told STV News: “There is an inevitability that through adrenaline and through being pelted with missiles that officers are going to receive cuts and bruises.

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“But when that violence extends to officers being thrown up in the air, injuring their backs, having teeth broken, and further in the west of Scotland, having their arm broken, there are some serious questions that have to be asked about the kind of society we are living in.”

As the crowds of Rangers fans became increasingly disorderly following the consumption of “copious” amounts of alcohol, police in riot gear armed with shields began to disperse them, moving them off George Square.

As they were forced down the city streets, some supporters threw various missiles at officers.

Mr Steele said: “All of those that undertook and participated in the disorder in George Square are absolutely responsible for their own actions. But throwing of missiles, bottles, barriers, fireworks and other pyrotechnics at police officers, you present a real risk to life.

‘We’ll identify far more people that were involved and they’ll be getting a chap on the door in the next few days and weeks.’

Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland assistant chief constable
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“When we have police officers, with over 20 years experience, telling me that this is the worst experience, the worst violence that they’ve dealt with in 20 years, I think that’s something that has to be taken very seriously.”

Earlier in the day, one fan is understood to have suffered an extreme injury to his hand when a pyrotechnic he was holding exploded.

“The harm these kinds of projectiles can cause should never ever be understated,” Mr Steele told STV News.

So far, 28 people have been arrested following Saturday’s incidents which Rangers said ‘besmirched’ the club’s name.

The wounded officers have received medical treatment, one for a serious injury, and Police Scotland confirmed they were recovering well.

Police Scotland’s assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie said that a full investigation into Saturday’s incidents was underway.

He said: “We’ll look at CCTV, speak to witnesses, [and] police officers that were there. We’ll identify far more people that were involved and they’ll be getting a chap on the door in the next few days and weeks.

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“We’ll share the information around the identities of the people we believe are responsible with the club. I don’t think anybody who was involved in that on Saturday night should get anywhere near a football ground again in the future.”

Coronavirus: 161 new cases recorded in last 24 hours

Scottish Government figures showed there had been no further deaths of those who had recently tested positive.

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Covid: 161 new cases in Scotland.

Scotland has recorded 161 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish Government figures show.

No new deaths have been recorded meaning the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7664.

A total of 229,774 people have tested positive for the virus and the daily test positivity rate is 1.6%, down from 2% the previous day.

A total of 68 people were in hospital on Sunday with recently confirmed Covid-19, with three patients in intensive care.

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A total of 3,035,790 people have received the first dose of a Covid vaccination and 1,638,536 have received their second dose.

With the exception of Glasgow and Moray, mainland Scotland moved to level two restrictions on Monday and some islands moved to level one.

Since the start of the pandemic more than 10,000 deaths have been registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Over three million people, around two thirds of adults in Scotland, have received their first dose of the vaccination.

Appeal for witnesses after woman knocked down and killed

The 22-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene after the alarm was raised near Caldercruix on Sunday night.

© Google Maps 2020
North Lanarkshire: The incident happened on the A89 Airdrie Road.

A young woman has died after being hit by a vehicle in North Lanarkshire.

The 22-year-old pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene after the alarm was raised near Caldercruix on Sunday night.

The incident happened on the A89 Airdrie Road, near to the Woodside Road junction, at around 11.45pm.

On Monday afternoon, Police Scotland reported that the road remains closed for investigation works to conclude.

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Detective constable Lyndsay McKinnon, of Coatbridge CID, said: “This was a serious incident and our thoughts at this time are with the family and friends of the woman who lost her life. 

“Our enquiries into the cause of the crash are continuing and I would ask anyone who saw what happened, and has not yet spoken to officers, to come forward. 

“We are particularly interested to speak to anyone who was on the A89 before the crash and may have seen the deceased walking.

“Anyone with information or anyone who may dashcam footage which can help the investigation is asked to contact police on 101.”


Dedicated team to track suspects in George Square incidents

Police have already arrested 28 people in relation to various offences on Saturday.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group
Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then marched George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph.

A special team of police will investigate the incidents that took place at and around George Square in Glasgow on Saturday.

The dedicated inquiry will track those involved using CCTV, video and photographs from the scenes which officers described as the “worst violence they’ve dealt with in 20 years”.

Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then marched George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph before scenes turned “ugly” and more than five police were injured.

At present, 28 people have been arrested in connection with a variety of offences.

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An online portal has been set-up so that the public can send detectives any video footage or photographs of incidents that took place on May 15.

Detective inspector Craig Warren, who is leading the investigation, said: “The public can be confident we are doing everything possible to identify those responsible for the violence and disorder on Saturday. This will take time due to the numbers involved.

“Rest assured, if you were involved in causing this disorder, violence or anti-social behaviour you will be arrested.

“We are reviewing CCTV, video and still images and I would appeal to anyone who may have captured incidents on their mobiles to please get in touch with us. You may have footage that could help us in our investigation and it’s vital we speak with you.

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“The Major Incident Public Portal (MIPP) is now available for the public to send any information, photographs or images directly to the investigation team.

“There has been footage circulating on social media covering the events in George Square. If you recognise people involved in these acts of violence and disorder, please let us know. You can contact 101 or alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Police probe video of Rangers players after title win

In a statement, Police Scotland said they are now assessing the content of the video.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Police said they are assessing the contents of the video.

Police Scotland has said it is assessing a video allegedly involving Rangers football players using sectarian language during their league title celebrations.

In a clip circulated on social media, a group of players are seen singing along to the song, ‘Sweet Caroline’, at Ibrox Stadium.

The celebrations came after the club were presented with the Scottish Premiership title on Saturday following a 4-0 victory against Aberdeen.

In a statement, Police Scotland said they are now assessing the content of the video.

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The statement read: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media apparently showing Rangers players using sectarian language while celebrating on Saturday.

“We are assessing its contents and will liaise with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as part of our enquiries.”

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said it is right that Police Scotland investigate and determine the facts around the video.

He tweeted: “I have also been made aware of this clip, if (and I stress if) this clip is genuine then any player or staff member found to be guilty of anti-Catholic hatred should be shown the door by the Club.

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“It is right Police Scot investigate & determine the facts around it.”

In a statement released by Rangers FC, the club said that it had sought legal advice and is confident that no criminality took place.

The statement read: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media. It is evident that this video was shared with an adjoining narrative which attempts to discredit our players and the reputation of Rangers Football Club. This highlights the dangers of ‘trial by social media.’

“It is deeply concerning that this video has been taken as genuine and has been shared widely including by some political representatives who should be mindful of their influence and legal processes.

“Our squad is richly diverse. Sectarianism is unacceptable and has no place in our club which is underlined by our Everyone Anyone campaign.

“We are confident that no criminality took place, we have sought legal advice and look forward to cooperating with Police Scotland.”


Women in entertainment share list of ‘abusive’ men to avoid

List of 'powerful and abusive' men comes to light after actor Kevin Guthrie was jailed for sexual assault.

Amanda Edwards / Stringer via Getty Images

Women in Scotland’s entertainment industry have a shared list of “powerful and abusive” men to avoid while they’re working.

The so-called ‘whisper network’ contains names of men deemed a threat to women and has come to light after actor Kevin Guthrie was jailed for sexual assault.

Sunshine on Leith and Fantastic Beasts star Guthrie was locked up for three years on Friday after being convicted of an attack in Glasgow in 2017.

His sentencing has prompted a number of women to speak out about harassment and inappropriate behaviour, as they called on industry bosses to do more to protect them.

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Theatre producer Rosie Priest told STV News that the list had been shared between women across Scotland’s entertainment sector.

The men involved, she added, were often “protected by the cult of celebrity”.

She said: “That cult of celebrity runs deeper than the people you see on stage. Directors, writers, choreographers, CEOs – they all have this immense amount of power.

STV News
Rosie Priest

“We know that, unfortunately, one in four women is going to experience sexual violence in their lifetime and that sexual violence isn’t to do with intimacy, it’s to do with power.

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“And as a sector founded on very unequal power balances, a very small amount of people holding a lot of power, it means that predators, abusers, bullies can thrive.”

Four years have passed since the birth of the #MeToo movement and the fall of Hollywood giants Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Kevin Spacey.

But many working in the industry in Scotland believe not enough has been done to protect them.

STV News
Louise Oliver

Writer and actor Louise Oliver co-founded the Persistent and Nasty platform for women working in stage and screen to share their experiences.

She said: “There have been some moments across my career where I’m like ‘that wasn’t so great’ and I didn’t do anything at the time.

“I just had to move on and get over it.”

A court heard Guthrie, 33, attacked a woman who was “distressed and unwell” at a flat in the west end of Glasgow in 2017.

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A judge described the assault as a “heinous crime” as he placed the actor on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Theatre and TV actor Maureen Beattie launched the Safe Spaces campaign in a bid to rid the industry of inappropriate behaviour.

She said: “The world I want to see is a world so unused to that behaviour that it is an absolute shock when it happens.

“I suppose the revelations recently are shocking – but it’s like ‘there you go, it’s still going on’.

“To get to the point where bad behaviour literally took the breath away from you because you were like ‘wow, that’s extraordinary’ is where I’d like to get to.”


Man accused of raping and murdering mum-of-two in her home

David Hose, 30, allegedly killed Kirsty Robertson, 29, at a house in Ayr, South Ayrshire, in October 2019.

Georgeclerk via IStock
Court: David Hose is standing trial for the rape and murder of Kirsty Robertson.

A man accused of raping and murdering a mum-of-two in her home claimed he was told about her death by another person.

David Hose, 30, allegedly killed Kirsty Robertson, 29, at the house in Ayr, South Ayrshire, on October 20, 2019.

Hose denies the charge and is on trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

He is further charged with raping two other women in 2017 and 2018 at separate properties in Ayr.

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Hose and Ms Robertson’s friend, Shona Harbison, 36, told jurors on Monday that they were all drinking together on the night of the death.

Ms Harbison stated Hose was to stay the night to help look after Ms Robertson’s children in the morning.

Ms Harbison claimed when she left around 1.30am, Ms Robertson was lying on the couch.

Prosecutor Lynsey MacDonald asked how Ms Robertson was, and the witness replied: “She was passed out but when I told her I was leaving she never answered.

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“I spoke and shoogled her shoulder to see if she would wake up.”

Ms MacDonald asked if Ms Robertson reacted in any way, and she replied: “No.”

Ms Harbison stated that she was later woken up by Hose at 12.30pm at her own house.

She said: “He told me that Kirsty was dead and I didn’t believe him. I was trying to take it in and understand as I saw her a couple of hours ago and she was fine.”

Ms MacDonald asked if she questioned Hose about how he found out Ms Robertson had died.

She replied: “He said some girl called Vicky had said to him.

“I said I thought you were staying at Kirsty’s to help her, and he said he couldn’t get to sleep on the single chair in the living room.”

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John Scullion QC, defending, put it to Ms Harbison that Hose claimed he was told Ms Robertson had been found by her daughter that morning.

She replied: “He said a neighbour had turned up to take Kirsty to Kilmarnock for a bike for her daughter. He said the girl was told to wake up her mum.”

Ms Robertson’s neighbour, Caroline Hall, 35, earlier stated in evidence how she found Ms Robertson’s naked body face down on the couch.

The student nurse stated: “I went to the door and shouted Kirsty. I never got an answer so I went to the couch to rouse her.”

Ms MacDonald asked: “What did you find when you touched her shoulder?”

The witness replied: “She was cold, very cold and I knew straight away that she was [dead].”

The rape and murder charge includes claims Ms Robertson was intoxicated, unconscious and incapable of giving or withholding consent.

It is also alleged Hose left her face down on a couch and her breathing became restricted.

The trial, before Judge Simon Collins, continues.


SNP’s Anum Qaisar-Javed sworn in as Airdrie and Shotts MP

Anum Qaisar-Javed said she will be getting straight to work on behalf of her constituents.

New MP: Anum Qaisar-Javed.

Anum Qaisar-Javed has said she hopes her election as an MP is an encouragement for young women and people from minority groups to get involved in politics.

It comes after she was officially sworn in as the new SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts at Westminster on Monday having won the constituency by-election last week.

The 28-year-old modern studies teacher succeeds Neil Gray, who stepped down as an MP to become an MSP, and become Scotland’s second ever female Muslim MP.

“I am delighted to have been sworn in today as the MP for Airdrie and Shotts,” said Qaisar-Javed.

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“I hope this moment is a source of encouragement for other young women and people from all minority groups to get involved in politics and to ensure Parliament is reflective of our diverse society.

“I will be getting straight to work on behalf of my constituents who have placed their trust in me and tackling the issues that matter to them.”

She added: “The Covid pandemic has exposed the deep inequalities that exist in our society and my priority will be working to ensure that my constituents have the support they need to get through this crisis.

“And, once the crisis is over, people in Scotland will have the right to determine our own future in a referendum.

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“I will be campaigning for Scotland to become an independent country, so we can make the changes needed to secure a strong, fair and equal recovery.”


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