UK’s new Brexit bill ‘will break law and break devolution’

The post-Brexit Internal Market Bill is an 'abomination' and a 'naked power grab', Nicola Sturgeon said.

The UK’s new post-Brexit Internal Market Bill is an “abomination” that as well as breaking international law is “set to break devolution”, according to Nicola Sturgeon.

In a fiercely-worded statement, the First Minister said the Westminster legislation published earlier on Wednesday is a “naked power grab” that would “cripple” Holyrood.

She urged all MSPs – including the Scottish Conservatives – to oppose the Bill, saying they have “a duty now to protect and defend the powers democratically endorsed by the people of Scotland”.

Sturgeon also suggested that had this law been in place at the time, the Scottish Government would not have been able to pass flagship legislation such as introducing minimum unit pricing for alcohol.

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The row comes after UK Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis admitted proposed unilateral changes within the legislation to the EU withdrawal treaty – specifically on the Northern Ireland protocol – would “break international law”.

Regarding devolution, the dispute over the Bill centres around the return of powers to the UK from Brussels, some of which fall in areas devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

UK ministers say Scotland will be getting more than 100 new powers but Nicola Sturgeon’s government insists the legislation would allow Westminster to effectively overrule them in some devolved policy areas.

And No 10 has said the Bill would enable it to directly fund projects in Scotland even if they fall under devolved matters – against the wishes of Scottish ministers.

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The Bill looks to replace the EU Common Market – which for EU members governs things such as food and environmental standards and energy efficiency regulations – with a new UK-wide internal market.

The UK Government has said this means Scotland will have to accept goods and services from the rest of the UK even if they don’t meet standards enshrined in Holyrood legislation.

The First Minister said: “The UK government are not only set to break international law – it is clear they are now set to break devolution.

“The Tories’ proposed Bill for a so-called UK internal market is an abomination. It is a naked power grab which would cripple devolution.

“The plan for mutual recognition of standards in reality means a race to the bottom when it comes to things like food standards and environmental protections.

“It would prevent the Scottish Parliament from effectively legislating in a whole range of areas, including laws covering the food people put on their tables, which is currently produced to high EU animal welfare and food safety standards.

“That could be undermined by Scotland having to accept lower standards set by a UK Government in pursuit of a US or other trade deals – and could see us forced to accept chlorinated chicken.”

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Sturgeon continued: “Their plans to trample over devolved spending powers in Scotland and directly fund their own projects could see projects like Boris Johnson’s bridge to Northern Ireland being funded instead of schools and hospitals – no matter what people in Scotland choose.

“Under this Bill, the Scottish Parliament would not have been able to pass its world-leading legislation on minimum unit pricing of alcohol – a fact which will deeply concern the broad coalition of Scottish civic society which backed this vital public health measure.”

She vowed to fight “tooth and nail” against what she dubbed a “shameless bid to reverse the devolution of power which was so overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Scotland in the referendum of 1997”.

The First Minister added that the Welsh Government, run by Labour, has also expressed “its vehement opposition to what is proposed”.

“But this power grab also poses a key test for every political party and every parliamentarian representing any part of Scotland,” Sturgeon continued.

“All parties – including the Scottish Tories – have a duty now to protect and defend the powers democratically endorsed by the people of Scotland.

“Far from returning powers to Scotland, as promised by the likes of Michael Gove, it is now crystal clear that Brexit means taking back control from Holyrood and taking control away from the Scottish people.

“That is a betrayal not just of devolution, but of the promises made in the Brexit referendum, including those in Scotland who voted Leave.

“It is also now clearer than ever that the only way to defend the powers of the Scottish Parliament is with independence.

“And when an independence referendum comes – as it will – it will no longer be a choice between independence and the status quo, but between independence and a Tory regime which is intent on crippling Holyrood.”

But Downing Street denied the Bill is a power grab and said devolved administrations will instead see a “power surge” when the transition period ends at the close of the year.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added: “There will be no change to the powers the devolved administrations already have and the vast majority of powers with devolved competencies returning from Brussels will go straight to Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff Bay.

“This will be a significant increase in the powers of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament, and the Northern Ireland Assembly, which are already among the most powerful devolved administrations in the world.

“Where powers are coming back to the UK Government this is to protect the economy.”

Boris Johnson’s spokesman also defended the proposed changes to override aspects of the EU withdrawal agreement regarding Northern Ireland.

He said: “The withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol aren’t like any other treaty.

“It was agreed at pace in the most challenging possible political circumstances to deliver on a clear political decision by the British people with the clear overriding purpose of protecting the special circumstances of Northern Ireland.

“It contains ambiguities and in key areas there is a lack of clarity.

“It was written on the assumption that subsequent agreements to clarify these aspects could be reached between us and the EU on the details and that may yet be possible.”

During the general election last December, the Prime Minister repeatedly called the withdrawal deal “oven-ready”.

MSPs to vote on proposed five-tier coronavirus system

The plan, outlined by the First Minister last week, aims to control the spread of the virus in Scotland.

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Vote: MSPs to decided on proposed coronavirus tier system.

MSPs are set to vote on a proposed five-tier system which aims to control coronavirus in Scotland. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined the proposed system last week, which if voted through would come into force on November 2.

The plan ranges from life being “closest to normal” without a vaccine at level zero to almost a full lockdown at level four, when non-essential shops would close.

Level two will be similar to current rules outside central Scotland, with level three likened to those inside the central belt, where pubs and restaurants are closed.

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On Tuesday, MSPs will vote on whether to adopt the new proposals.

Under the plans, council areas in Scotland will each be given their own alert rating, with restrictions designed to match the risk of Covid spreading locally.

However, the whole country could be placed in the same level if necessary, the First Minister has warned. 

Under the proposed five tier system, schools would not close, even under the strictest measures.


Families of disabled children given winter heating payment

The Child Winter Heating Assistance will help families on the Disability Living Allowance to heat their homes.

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Benefit: Families to receive £200 payment to help heat their homes.

Families of disabled children will receive a new heating benefit this winter.

The Child Winter Heating Assistance is a new £200 payment that will help families on the highest rate care payment of the Disability Living Allowance.

The payment is aimed at helping families heat their homes this winter.

There are more than 14,000 children expected to be eligible for the payment which are expected to start on November 27 and be completed by December 11.

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Cabinet secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “As the nights draw in and the temperature starts to drop we will all be conscious of the extra cost to heat our homes.

“For families of the most seriously disabled children and young people, who may need to heat their homes for longer periods, this can bring even more pressure in what is already a challenging circumstance.

“I am so pleased that we have been able to introduce this payment before Christmas, ensuring people will have this money ahead of the coldest of the winter months.

“I hope this helps these families plan their finances and that they can turn the heating on without as much worry about how they are going to afford it.”

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She continued: “I am delighted that despite the impact of Covid-19, we’ve been able to move forward with three new benefits this year – Job Start Payment, Scottish Child Payment and now Child Winter Heating Assistance. This is the first disability assistance that we will deliver using our new social security powers.

“We are continuing to work with delivery partners to review the timeline for introduction of our remaining benefits and we will do everything we can to start these as soon as we can practically and safely do so.”

This payment will be made automatically to all those eligible through information from the Department for Work and Pensions.


Race against time to raise £1.7m for abandoned estate

Locals want to buy the property to prevent another holiday home in the area.

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The Killundine Estate in Morvern has lain bare for years.

A small rural community in the western Highlands has until Saturday to find £1.7m to rescue an abandoned estate.

Nestled in 6000 acres of forest moorland, the Killundine Estate in Morvern has lain bare for years.

Locals are attempting to buy the land and have been awarded £1m by the Scottish Land Fund to go towards the £2.7m asking price.

They want to stop more properties in the area being turned into holiday homes. But they face a race against time to find the money.

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Alasdair Firth, from Morvern Community Woodlands, the group behind the project, said the increase in holiday homes had made it challenging for locals to buy in the area.

He said: “It’s very hard for people who live here to afford to buy a house.

“It’s difficult for people to compete with this house market, where prices are so high.

“There’s a critical mass of people that you need to have all the services that the community wants to have and need, and we are getting to a point where we are losing that.

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“The estate could be used by local people to live in. We want all these buildings redeveloped, with people living and working. Hopefully the people that are here and want to stay here can stay here.”

As the number of holiday homes in the peninsula increase, it’s causing other problems. With fewer families arriving, the school roll has dropped in recent years. Where it once stood at 25, this year only 11 children will attend.

Keith Adams, Lochaline Primary School head teacher, said: “We had a family in recently, it was the first we’ve had into the area for two or three years – it used to be revolving doors here.

“That’s stopped and I can only put that down to the affordable housing.

“I always see the school as the heart of the community and we try to be that, so if the school becomes smaller and smaller, then the heart of the community becomes smaller.”

Despite covering 250 sq m of land, only around 320 people call Morvern home.

There are jobs in mining and fishing, but with the population dwindling, it’s having an impact on the industries.

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Veronique Walraven, who works at the mine and is part of the estate buyout project, said: “The percentage of the working age in Morvern is getting smaller and the older population is getting bigger.

“If nothing does change, if we are not proactive, then in the whole of the Highlands the working age population will shrink considerably – that will have a huge effect on businesses.”


Fourteen charged over alleged paedophile ring in Glasgow

Nine men and five women make court appearances in connection with alleged child sex offences.

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Police have made 14 arrests in connection with alleged paedophile ring in Glasgow area.

Fourteen people have been arrested and charged in connection with an alleged paedophile ring operating in Glasgow.

Nine men and five women appeared in court over an 11-day period spanning from October 9-20.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We can confirm 14 people have been arrested and charged in connection with alleged child sexual offences in the Glasgow area.”

The charges are as follows:

  • A 36-year-old woman and 47-year-old man have been arrested and charged and were due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday, October, 9.
  • Five men aged 38, 42, 43, 47 and 54 have been arrested and charged and were due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday, October 12.
  • Three other women, aged 35, 49 and 48 have also been arrested and charged and were due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday, October 13.
  • A 50-year-old man has been arrested and charged and was due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Wednesday, October 14.
  • A 39-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man have been arrested and charged and were due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Thursday, October 15.
  • A 44-year-old man has been arrested and charged and was due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday, October, 20.

Lanarkshire ‘considered for level four restrictions’

Leaked documents say tier four restrictions for North and South Lanarkshire 'cannot be ruled out'.

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Covid-19: Lanarkshire facing toughest restrictions.

North and South Lanarkshire are the only two areas being considered for level four of the Scottish Government’s new Covid-19 restrictions, according to a leaked report.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) documents also suggest that most of the country, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, is set for “tier three” of the new measures, meaning a continuation of current restrictions.

However, while the letter to council leaders states that the situation in Lanarkshire “may be stabilising”, it says the use of level four restrictions ”cannot be ruled out”.

It also says that rising numbers in Dundee is “causing concern”.

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The Scottish Government will lay out which areas will be subject to the new coronavirus tier system in a parliamentary debate on Tuesday.

COSLA has written to council leaders, giving them a strong indication of what tier of restrictions their authorities will be subject to.

Level three of the tier system would mean alcohol sales both indoors and outdoors will not be permitted, although some restaurants may be able to open under strict conditions.

Level four is closest of the levels to a full lockdown, similar to the one introduced at the end of March, with non-essential shops being forced to close.

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Socialising would not be allowed in people’s homes, but six people from two households could still meet outdoors and there would be no limit on outdoor exercise.

Non-essential travel would be banned and there could be limits on the distance people can travel, as well as guidance to stay at home.

Schools will remain open and some outdoor meeting will be allowed.

The confidential letter reads: “I hope it will be helpful if I set out the approach being taken to these decisions.

“The starting point is the measures currently in place. These are broadly equivalent to Level 3 in the central belt, and Level 2 elsewhere.

“Changes from these levels, whether up or down, need to be justified by the data, supported by public health advice and consistent with the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Framework for Decision-Making.

“Because of the severity of the impact of the measures in the highest level, Level 4, Ministers will only consider using it if necessary.

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“The data currently indicate that level of concern for two areas: Level 4 is being considered for North and South Lanarkshire.

“There are, however, some signs in the latest data that the situation in those areas may be stabilising.

“Ministers will not reach a decision for these two areas until the latest possible point to ensure that they can take account of the fullest possible picture of the effect of measures already in place; but at this stage the use of Level 4 cannot be ruled out.

“If it was necessary, it would be used to avoid still greater harm, including many deaths.

“No changes are currently being considered in relation to other central belt areas. If that remains the case and is confirmed later this week, these areas would remain in Level 3 for the time being.

“There are some signs in the data of progress in the east of the central belt area, for example in Edinburgh and East Lothian, but some further consolidation of that progress is likely to be required before it would be safe, on public health grounds, to move them to Level 2.

“The data for Dundee City also gives cause for concern, with rising numbers of cases.

“Again, a final decision will be made on the basis of data becoming available in the next few days.

“Meantime, consideration is being given to moving Dundee City to Level 3 in the new framework, broadly equivalent to the measures currently in place in the central belt.

“Further consideration is also being given to the interaction between Dundee and neighbouring areas within the Tayside Health Board area.

“At this crucial stage in suppressing the virus, with higher case numbers, the winter approaching, and the introduction of a new strategic framework, the public health advice to Ministers is that it would not be safe to move any area straight to the lowest level, Level 0.”

By Local Democracy Reporter Joseph Anderson.


Investment strategy ‘will create tens of thousands of jobs’

Trade minister Ivan McKee will set out the plan to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

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Investment: Plan to attract inward investment could create tens of thousands of jobs.

A new strategy to attract inward investment to Scotland is due to be published on Tuesday, with the Scottish Government claiming it will create tens of thousands of new jobs.

Trade minister Ivan McKee will set out the plan to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

He said it will play an important part in driving Scotland’s economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr McKee said: “Scotland has been the UK’s top destination for inward investment outside London for the past seven years.

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“Inward investors already complement our existing industrial base, providing 34% of our jobs and 77% of our exports, but we can do better.

“The new strategic approach I am announcing today will build on our strengths, create tens of thousands of jobs and spread the benefits of inward investment more evenly across the country.”

He added: “It aims to create high-value, skilled jobs in growing sectors and attract businesses that share our progressive, outward-looking values.

“With global economies still being impacted by coronavirus, and the end of the Brexit transition period looming, this plan is designed to play an important part in driving Scotland’s economic recovery.”


More than 1050 people in hospital with coronavirus

The First Minister confirmed the latest figures at the daily briefing.

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The number of patients in hospital with coronavirus has risen to 1052, as Scotland recorded more than 1000 new cases.

It’s a rise of 36, with 90 people receiving treatment in intensive care. Meanwhile, another person confirmed to have the virus has died.

The latest figures, which saw the country record 1122 positive test results, were revealed by the First Minister at the daily briefing.

The death toll under the measure of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days has risen to 2701.

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Of the new cases recorded, 428 were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 274 in Lanarkshire, 105 in Lothian and 97 in Ayrshire and Arran.

Bar opens its doors to protest coronavirus lockdown rules

Buck's Bar in Glasgow handed out complimentary meals to people in need to highlight curbs on the hospitality sector.

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A Glasgow bar opened its premises in breach of local coronavirus lockdown rules to protest curbs on the hospitality sector.

The owners of Buck’s Bar in Glasgow handed out free meals to those in need on Monday.

The owner of the bar, located on the city’s West Regent Street, said he was inspired to protest the restrictions after being contacted by a nurse who works in an intensive care unit.

Michael Bergson said: “She basically told me the amount of admissions they were getting in through attempted suicide and overdoses was starting to eclipse the amount of Covid patients they were getting.

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“It made us realise the lack of social interaction is causing an incredible amount of damage and hospitality is vital to (easing) that.

“We hope the government will start to listen, to recognise all the measures the entire industry has put in place. We hope they’ll realise it doesn’t matter what you are – a cafe, a restaurant, a shop, a pub – if you have the correct safety measures in place you should be allowed to trade.”

Mr Bergson also called on the Scottish Government to review the restrictions associated with Level Three of the framework being debated at parliament on Tuesday, saying it is “completely unworkable for the hospitality industry”.

He said: “The three-tier system cause outrage in our industry in England, with Tier Two hospitalities generally complaining ‘we can’t make money’.

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“We seem to have made something that’s more draconian and even more restrictive. They need to start listening to the will of the people. You can see from the response we’ve had to this that the general public believe hospitality is being made a scapegoat and that is unfair.”

The protest comes after five hospitality industry bodies joined together to launch legal proceedings against the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, UKHospitality (Scotland), Scottish Hospitality Group and Night Time Industries Association Scotland served notice of the action last Wednesday.

They say coronavirus restrictions imposed on the licensed trade sector have placed businesses under intense pressure and left many fighting for survival.

The trade bodies launched their action after receiving an opinion by legal expert Aidan O’Neill QC.

A deadline of 4pm on Wednesday, October 28 has been set for a response from the Scottish Government, with a petition for a judicial review being submitted if none is forthcoming.

Celtic financial results show impact of coronavirus on club

The Glasgow club posted a narrow pre-tax profit but saw revenue drop sharply.

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Celtic say their financial results are 'satisfactory'.

Celtic chairman Ian Bankier says the club must proceed and invest with a degree of caution after their latest financial results revealed the impact coronavirus has has on the club.  

For the year ending June 30, pre-tax profits fell to £100,000 from £11.2m the previous year.

Revenue dropped by 15.8% to £70.2m from £83.4m while operating expenses including wages fell 7.3% to £80.5m.

Celtic still have around £18m in the bank and revealed that they had increased their borrowing ability to £13m, which remains unused.

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Bankier said the pandemic and subsequent shutdown of football had unsurprisingly had “an adverse impact on operations and the balance sheet”.

He said the plunge in profits was “largely attributable to the value destructive impact” of the virus but said that: “Nevertheless, these results are satisfactory in the circumstances at hand.”

The club chairman said that Celtic’s strong financial position before the pandemic had offered “a degree of protection” but also warned that given the inherent uncertainty of the current environment, we must proceed and invest with a degree of caution. 

Though Celtic took in £24.2m over the financial year from player sales, the club spent £20.7m.

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Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell added to Bankier’s warnings.

He wrote: “The year ahead is unpredictable and Celtic are not immune to the extent of the challenges that we could face at many levels. Whilst we will continue to invest and not deviate from our strategy, we are also cognisant that we may have to endure the Covid-19 restrictions for longer than we would all hope and therefore must balance our desire to progress the club against long-term sustainability.

“The transfer market is likely to be unpredictable as clubs around Europe struggle to adapt and many of the key stakeholders in European football are expected to be inward facing and adopting defensive strategies.

“It is important that Celtic’s interests and that of Scotland’s are represented within European football and through my role at the European Club Association, I will continue to promote these interests.”

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