Scots will be able to visit elderly relatives in care homes from next month with strict measures in place, the health secretary has said.
From July 3, a single “named key visitor” can visit a care home resident provided the home has been Covid-free for at least 28 days.
The “phased” reintroduction of care home visits will at first only allow outdoor meetings, with social distancing observed and the visitor wearing a face covering.
Covid-free means either the care home has had no cases of the virus at all over the pandemic, or that nobody living there has had symptoms for at least four weeks.
At present, only essential visits such as those involving end-of-life care are allowed.
But the Scottish Government has now published new guidance showing the stages of how care home visits and communal activity will be reintroduced.
Stage two will allow outdoor or garden visits, beginning from July 3, with the next stage allowing indoor visits of one key visitor and garden visits from multiple visitors.
The third stage will also permit limited use of communal spaces by residents.
The fourth and final phase will include controlled indoor visits, garden visits with children and wider use of communal areas by residents, with appropriate measures still being observed.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I know these necessary restrictions that were placed on care homes, and the pause on normal activities and routines, have been both difficult and at times distressing for people living in care homes, for their loved ones and for the staff…
“But significant progress has been made and we have seen improvements in the number of care homes with ongoing infections, to the extent that we can now see a cautious, phased return to visiting in care homes when and where it is clinically safe to do so.”
Scotland will move to phase three of its plan to ease out of lockdown, with Scots from up to three different households able to meet indoors and stay overnight from Friday.
Outdoor meetings of up to five households, comprising no more than 15 people, will also be permitted, the First Minister revealed.
Nicola Sturgeon announced the shift to MSPs on Thursday following the thrice weekly review of lockdown measures.
She confirmed two-metre social distancing, while remaining in place at large, will be relaxed in key sectors.
Public transport and retail will see the rule relaxed from Friday, the First Minister said.
However, mitigations will need to be in place in these sectors, with face coverings in shops also mandatory from Friday.
This rule, provided businesses have mitigations in place, will also be relaxed for bars, restaurants and cafes – which can reopen indoors and outdoors from next Wednesday, July 15.
Tourism businesses such as hotels will be able to open as expected in Scotland on July 15, the First Minister confirmed to MSPs.
Museums, galleries, libraries and cinemas, provided that tickets are bought in advance, can accommodate people again from that date too.
Hairdressers and barbers will be able to open on July 15, with guidance for the sector due to be published this week.
Shops within shopping centres will also be permitted to reopen, meaning the majority of retail premises will be operational in phase three.
From July 22, personal retail like outlets like beauticians and nail salons can resume work.
It comes as no new coronavirus deaths were reported in Scotland in the last 24 hours.
The First Minister told MSPs that while the virus is being suppressed in Scotland, it has not yet gone away.
She said: “Lockdown has suppressed it, but as lockdown eases there is a very real risk that it will start to spread again.
“And that is not conjecture – it is already happening in many parts of the world.
“And with every restriction we lift, the risk increases – especially as we start to permit more indoor activity.
“So all of us must do everything we can to mitigate it.”
From Friday, up to 15 people from five different households will be allowed to meet outdoors, the First Minister said, as long as two-metre distancing is adhered to.
A maximum of eight people from three different households will also now able to meet indoors.
However, the FM described the change as “one of the highest risk changes we have made so far”.
She continued: “We know that the risk of transmitting the virus indoors is significantly higher than it is outdoors.
“So it is essential that we all take great care and strictly follow all of the public health advice.”
Couples who do not live together will now be able to meet without physically distancing, regardless of their living arrangements.
Indoor hospitality businesses have also been given the go-ahead to open on July 15, but Sturgeon added: “Just as with indoor household meetings, opening up indoor hospitality poses significantly increased risks of transmission.
“So it is essential that the guidance on health and safety is followed rigorously, by businesses, staff and customers.
“That includes guidance on physical distancing and taking customer contact details.”
The First Minister said the announcement for beauty and nail salons had not been expected so soon, and revealed other measures have been brought forward.
Places of worship will be able to open again for communal prayer and services, earlier than planned, but with restrictions placed on singing and chanting, two-metre distancing and leaving contact details required.
Restrictions on attendance numbers at funerals, weddings and civil partnerships will also be eased, although these numbers will be “even more limited” than those allowed to return to places of worship.
Motorcycle instruction along with theory and hazard tests will be allowed to resume – but not instruction for those learning to drive a car.
No date was given either for the reopening of indoor gyms, bingo halls, live events and non-essential offices.
Sturgeon said there should be “cautious hope” in Scotland over the suppression of the virus but she added it is still a time of “real danger”.
She told the Scottish parliament “Next week represents the most substantial easing of lockdown so far.
“And everything we learn about this, still new virus – about its infectiousness, its ability to kill, and its potential to do long-term damage to health – should warn us that we mess with it at our peril.
“And so perhaps more than ever, now is a time for great caution.”
High street pharmacy chain Boots has said it expects to cut more than 4000 jobs as part of action to mitigate the “significant impact” of Covid-19.
The move will affect around 7% of the company’s workforce and will particularly affect staff in its Nottingham support office.
It will also affect some deputy and assistant manager, beauty adviser and customer adviser roles across its stores.
The restructuring will also result in the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores.
It comes after retail sales tumbled by 48% over the past three months in the face of the pandemic, despite Boots keeping swathes of its stores open to customers.
Meanwhile, its opticians business saw sales dive by 72% compared to the same quarter last year as people stayed at home.
Boots said that the cuts represent an “acceleration” of its transformation plans to improve profitably across the business.
Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK, said: “The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our transformation plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth.
“I am so very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication during the last few challenging months.
“They have stepped forward to support their communities, our customers and the NHS during this time, and I am extremely proud to be serving alongside them.”
“In doing this, we are building a stronger and more modern Boots for our customers, patients and colleagues.
“We recognise that today’s proposals will be very difficult for the remarkable people who make up the heart of our business, and we will do everything in our power to provide the fullest support during this time.”
An electricity pole fell from a helicopter transporting it and crashed to the ground near a road in the Highlands, accident investigators have found.
The helicopter was flying at around 200ft in Glencoe with the 700kg wooden pole in a sling underneath the aircraft when it was mistakenly released.
The pole crashed into the hillside below and split into two pieces around 200 metres from a minor public road, according to report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
The 66-year-old pilot was flying the Eurocopter solo as part of electricity line refurbishment when the incident happened at around 2.30pm on March 3.
The report said: “The pole broke into two pieces when it struck a steep hill approximately 200 metres from a minor public road but clear of any built-up areas and third parties.
“There was no damage to the helicopter or lifting equipment.
“The operator considered the most probable cause for the inadvertent release of the load was that the sling, which was carrying the load, was not positioned correctly in the helicopter’s hook which was of the spring-loaded keeper design.
“As a result of this incident, the operator is continuing to phase out the design of this hook for most of its operations and has changed its procedures so that only the operator’s employees are permitted to load the hook when spring-loaded keeper hooks are used.”
A private island in the middle of Loch Lomond has gone on sale for £500,000.
The uninhabited island, Inchconnachan, is only accessible by boat and no-one has lived there for 20 years.
The ruins of a timber bungalow built in Colonial style in the 1920s can still be seen.
It was once the holiday home of thrill-seeking aristocrat Fiona Gore, Countess of Arran who was at one-time the fastest woman on the water, after setting record speeds of 102mph in a powerboat in 1980.
Planning consent and detailed architectural drawings have been obtained to replace the existing bungalow with a new four-bedroom lodge and one-bedroom warden’s house, along with a boathouse and pier.
The island is both an Area of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation as well as being part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and is surrounded by views of mountain ranges.
Wildlife lovers could watch nesting ospreys, otters and deer on the 103-acre island, which can only be accessed by a boat from Luss, Argyll and Bute.
It is on the market for offers over £500,000 – the same price as an ultra-modern one-bedroom flat near Canary Wharf in London.
Cameron Ewer for Savills said: “This is an extraordinary opportunity to acquire a beautiful and completely private, yet accessible, retreat and create a wonderful new residence there.
“For those seeking peace and seclusion, yet wanting all that this part of Scotland has to offer in the way of nature and water-based sport and activities, this is surely the ultimate prize.”
Tom Stewart-Moore for Knight Frank said: “To be able to build your own house on your own private island but yet in a very accessible and beautiful part of the country will be a dream for many and is likely to have global appeal.”
Last month, dozens of police officers were forced to disperse crowds from the area.
On days when large gatherings are anticipated, council officers are to be stationed at entrance points to remind visitors of park management rules, including prohibition of alcohol and keeping the park clean.
Following recent trouble, anyone entering the park with alcohol is to be refused entry, the council say.
Mobile CCTV is also to be improved at Kelvingrove, while discussions are ongoing about adding to the park’s four permanent CCTV cameras.
Councillor Anna Richardson, city convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said: “Going to the park has been a real lifeline during the Covid-19 emergency and throughout lockdown Kelvingrove Park has remained as one of Glasgow’s favourite green spaces.
“Closing gates at Kelvingrove is the last thing we wanted to do, but we have to ensure the park remains a place that everyone can enjoy and feels safe going there.
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.
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.
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.”
A think tank has warned of higher taxes in 2022/23 to help pay for the £160bn chancellor Rishi Sunak has committed to protecting jobs during the Covid-19 crisis.
In a wide ranging response to the economic update on Wednesday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) director Paul Johnson said: “Let’s hold in the back of our minds that a reckoning, in the form of higher taxes, will come eventually.”
The think tank poses questions about whether some of the measures announced by the chancellor will deliver value for money.
The Job Retention Bonus will give employers £1000 for every furloughed worker kept on until at least January 2021.
However, the IFS said: “A lot, probably a majority, of the job retention bonus money will go in respect of jobs that would have been, indeed already have been, returned from furlough anyway”.
It also questioned the timing of the VAT cut particularly as it relates to the hospitality sector.
Mr Johnson said: “Maybe it would have been better to wait until we know whether the real problem is on the demand side –people need to be encouraged to go out and eat-or on the supply side-with social distancing restaurants can’t serve enough people.”
The IFS also fired a warning over other measures announced like apprenticeships and energy efficiency programmes saying “you need to be sure you can deliver them. Even at the scale announced this will be challenging”.
The IFS said the chancellor has a difficult balancing act between supporting business now and laying firm foundations for economic recovery.
Mr Johnson concluded: “They need to get the balance between preserving those parts of the economy which have a long-term future and helping to transition to the new normal.
“They also need to actually deliver goods and services and change. That is very different from simply disbursing cash.”
‘Expect pay packets to take a hit in future’
By STV’s Special Correspondent Bernard Ponsonby
When the IFS speaks, politicians sit up and take note. Like the Office for Budget Responsibility its judgements tend to be unimpeachable.
Some of the think tank’s observations make for uncomfortable reading for Rishi Sunak but they readily concede he has a difficult if not impossible task in dealing with an unprecedented set of circumstances.
The problem for Sunak is that he is trying to do a number of different things at once with no guarantee that his spending will actually work.
The interventions are meant to shore up jobs now. Furlough has done that at huge expense. The concern is that the eye watering sums will have given households and businesses breathing space but just postpone the inevitable.
As the IFS point out you can spend £60bn on furloughing or add £8bn to the welfare bill in the form of higher payments to the newly unemployed. The Government have opted for spending more than would have been the case if they had simply let events take their natural course.
The chancellor is also trying to prop up key sectors of the economy like hospitality and tourism whilst laying the foundations for long term sustainable jobs through measures on apprenticeships and targeted help for 16-24 year olds. At this stage it is impossible to gauge how successful these measures will be.
Perhaps the most strikingly candid admission from the chancellor is that he cannot replace all of the jobs that will be lost in the coming months. In that sense the policy is about mitigating disaster not preventing it. Mass unemployment increasingly looks inevitable; the only issue is the weight of the mass.
And the price for trying to mitigate all of this is the biggest deficit since the Second World War. That’s why tax increases are inevitable but as the IFS says not this year and not next whilst the economy is in a fragile state.
Expect pay packets to take a hit therefore in 2022/23.