Yousaf recites George Floyd’s last words in Holyrood speech

Closing a debate on racism Humza Yousaf held back tears as he read out the final words of George Floyd.

Yousaf: Held back tears. Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Yousaf: Held back tears.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary has recited the last words of George Floyd in an emotional speech in the Scottish Parliament.

Humza Yousaf, closing a debate on racism for the Scottish Government, held back tears as he read out the final words of the 46-year-old father, who died in police custody on May 25 in the US city of Minneapolis.

Mr Floyd’s death was caught on camera and went on to spark protests across the US and the world, including thousands who defied the wishes of Yousaf and the First Minister to demonstrate in Scotland despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yousaf said: “There is no black MSP in this parliament, in a debate about Black Lives Matter, there isn’t a black voice here – to our shame.

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“So I want the last words in this debate to belong to George Floyd.”

Yousaf, after urging MSPs to imagine the last words of Mr Floyd were said by a member of their own family, read out what could be heard in the almost nine-minute-long video.

The Justice Secretary went on to say that not only did members of the black and minority ethnic community have to put up with “racist slurs”, but racism was “literally killing minorities”.

Turning to the issue of race in Scotland, Yousaf said the death of Mr Floyd and other racial issues elsewhere “force us to hold a mirror up to ourselves”.

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He added: “This is the part where we should all begin to feel uncomfortable.
“We have to accept the reality and the evidence in front of us, that Scotland has a problem of structural racism.

“Take this parliament as an example – over 300 MSPs have come and gone out of this parliament and in 20 years, not a single black member of the Scottish Parliament.

“Our shame.”

Yousaf, one of only two black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) MSPs currently sitting in Holyrood alongside Labour’s Anas Sarwar, pointed out that the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Tories have not had a person of colour represent them in the Scottish Parliament.

He added: “I don’t say that to point the finger, I say that to make change.”
The Justice Secretary went on to point out those who he deals with on a daily basis in his portfolio, all of whom are white.

“Reciting the names of the heads of the legal profession, the courts and the police, Yousaf punctuated them with the word “white”, before moving on to the medical profession, trade unions and directors general of the Scottish Government.

He concluded by saying: “That is not good enough.”

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Yousaf went on to address white people directly, saying “as people of colour, we don’t need your gestures”.

“Don’t just tweet Black Lives Matter.

“Don’t just post a hashtag.

“Don’t just take the knee.”

He added: “What we need from you is action and for you to be anti-racist by your deeds.

“Don’t just tell us how you’re not a racist – I take that as a bare minimum – you must be anti-racist.”


Campaigners call for Scottish Government to criminalise paying for sex

Ministers are being urged to introduce legislation which makes paying for sex a criminal offence.

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Charities representing sex workers say they would oppose any move to criminalise the buying of sex.

A group of campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to criminalise those who pay for sex in order to reduce demand for prostitution.

A group called A Model for Scotland is holding an online event on Wednesday to encourage ministers to introduce legislation which makes paying for sex a criminal offence.

Speaking at the event will be former detective superintendent of Suffolk Constabulary Alan Caton, who led the force’s response to the murders of five women in Ipswich in 2006.

He says outlawing the purchase of sex would help protect women from violence and exploitation.

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In this year’s Programme for Government, ministers committed to “develop a model for Scotland which effectively tackles and challenges men’s demand for prostitution”.

However charities which represent sex workers have said they would oppose any move to criminalise the buying of sex.

Umbrella Lane, which represents sex workers across Scotland, says these laws would hurt consensual sex workers and do nothing for those being exploited.

Ahead of the meeting on Wednesday, Caton said: “There is currently a minority of men in Scotland who feel entitled to sexually exploit vulnerable women by paying them for sex.

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“My experiences in Ipswich taught me that society must never turn a blind eye to the abuses these men are committing.

“Men who pay for sex cause immense harms to the women they exploit, while their demand also drives a brutal sex trafficking trade.”

He continued: “Prostitution is violence against women. Yet the law in Scotland currently gives men license to pay for sex.

“That cannot be right. It is crucial that the law sends out the unequivocal message that paying for sex is never acceptable, and that law enforcement agencies have the powers to hold perpetrators to account.

“At the same time, women exploited through prostitution must be decriminalised and given the support they need to leave sexual exploitation.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government’s definition of violence against women includes prostitution and this is set out in our Equally Safe strategy.

“This year’s Programme for Government commits the Scottish Government to developing a model for Scotland which effectively tackles this behaviour and we are now taking this work forward.

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“We will base our model on fundamental principles which embed equality, human rights and women’s safety at its centre.

“As part of that work, we will learn from other jurisdictions and international approaches and engage with those with lived experience to help shape and strengthen services.”

Dr Anastacia Ryan, founding director of Umbrella Lane, said her organisation and others which represent sex workers oppose the criminalisation approach.

She said: “It is unfathomable that a group of men are calling for laws that have been shown to increase violence against women who engage in sex work.

“Particularly shocking is the weighing in of a male former detective superintendent amidst growing awareness and outrage at the levels of institutional misogyny in police forces.

“Police and former police officers should be there to carry out the law, not campaign for increased criminalisation of an industry steeped in outdated, harmful laws.

“These laws already put women at risk forcing sex workers to work alone indoors or risking arrest through working alone, in hidden and isolated areas on the street to avoid police repression and possible prosecution.”


New teachers ‘more likely to get temporary job than permanent one’

The Scottish Government has been urged to find employment for thousands of teachers facing an uncertain future.

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Willie Rennie has called for the Scottish Government to 'stop the temporary funding that leads to temporary jobs'.

The number of new teachers getting permanent jobs after their probation year is “plummeting”, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie has warned.

Scottish Government figures show that 1169 of the 3076 post-probation teachers (38%) went into permanent, full-time positions in state schools last year.

It is a drop of 10 percentage points from 2018-19 and the lowest proportion for at least seven years, according to official figures.

With 42% of teachers going into temporary, full-time posts after their probation year, it is the first time on record that more people have taken temporary jobs rather than permanent ones.

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School statistics show that the overall number of teachers rose by 1153 from 2019, with increases of those teaching in primary, secondary and special needs schools.

But, Rennie called for the Government to “stop the temporary funding that leads to temporary jobs”.

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Willie Rennie is the former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. (STV News)

The former Scottish Lib Dem leader previously set up a petition that attracted more than 1400 signatures calling for the Scottish Government to find employment for thousands of teachers facing an uncertain future.

Rennie said: “These figures show that the plummeting number of full-time jobs available for new teachers is part of a far deeper problem with Scottish Government policy, rather than short-term issues created by Covid.

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“This casualisation of the teaching workforce must end. We need to stop the temporary funding that leads to temporary jobs.

“The way the Scottish Government has treated thousands of newly qualified teachers has been disgraceful.

“Despite endless election promises, many teachers and their families have been left in a dire position because of incompetent planning by ministers.

“The Scottish Government has finally listened to our pleas with a decision to baseline some funding for future years which will make the funding permanent.

“This teachers’ victory should not have taken weeks of bad press for ministers to recognise the problems facing our education system.

“But the SNP Government must go further by making more of the funding permanent so that it can be used to issue more permanent contracts.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “While local authorities are responsible for the recruitment of their staff, we have taken action to support councils to recruit permanent teachers.

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“Since the start of the pandemic, we have provided £240m of additional investment, over two financial years, for the recruitment of additional education staff.

“This has supported the recruitment of over 2200 additional teachers and over 500 support staff in the 2020-21 school year.

“In August, we announced that further additional permanent funding equating to £145.5m per annum will be baselined in to the local government settlement from April 2022.

“This will ensure sustained employment of additional teachers while meeting local needs and benefitting Scotland’s children and young people.

“We will continue to do everything we can to maximise the number of jobs available for teachers, including permanent posts.”


Drug ‘could help people with diabetes recover after heart attack’

Researchers have found a drug that increases levels of a protein to help cells adapt and survive after being starved of oxygen.

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The study is published in the journal Diabetes.

Researchers have identified a drug that could help improve heart function in people with diabetes who have heart attacks.

Currently in clinical trials as a potential treatment for a form of anaemia, the medication could help diabetic hearts to recover and reduce their risk of developing heart failure, research suggests.

Blood supply to the heart is reduced or cut off during a heart attack, starving the heart of oxygen (hypoxia).

In diabetes, heart cells are less able to tolerate hypoxia and therefore die more quickly.

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Researchers from the University of Oxford have found that a drug, known as molidustat, can increase levels of a protein that helps cells to adapt and survive after being starved of oxygen.

They hope that giving molidustat to people with diabetes will help their hearts to recover after a heart attack and reduce their risk of further complications, such as heart failure.

Dr Lisa Heather, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) intermediate research fellow at the University of Oxford, said: “Even with optimal management, people with type 2 diabetes still have a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.

“They’re then more likely than people without diabetes to develop heart failure after a heart attack.

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“Despite this, there are no treatments available to help the diabetic heart recover after a heart attack.

“We’re hopeful that we’ve identified a drug that can address this unmet need and improve outcomes for people with diabetes after a heart attack.”

Molidustat, which is taken orally, is currently in phase III clinical trials for treating anaemia in chronic kidney disease.

The drug works by increasing levels of a protein called hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF).

When oxygen levels fall, HIF levels increase, causing it to activate its target genes which help cells to adapt and survive.

Previous research has found that people with diabetes have lower levels of HIF in their heart cells.

Researchers found that when they exposed human heart cells with insulin resistance, a characteristic of type 2 diabetes, to low levels of oxygen, the increase in HIF protein levels was much lower than in control cells without insulin resistance.

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However when insulin-resistant cells were treated with molidustat, the researchers saw increased levels of the HIF protein and activation of its target genes.

Next researchers looked at the impact of molidustat on heart function by exposing hearts from rats with and without type 2 diabetes to low levels of oxygen.

According to the study, the function of the diabetic hearts was significantly decreased after the period of low oxygen.

But when these hearts were treated with molidustat their function recovered back to the level of those without diabetes.

HIF is also involved in healing processes that happen after a heart attack, such as the growth of new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis.

Angiogenesis is known to be reduced in diabetic hearts, and this is believed to be a critical step in the development of heart failure.

In the study, when rats with type 2 diabetes were treated with molidustat the researchers saw increased levels of the signals involved in the growth of new blood vessels.

They hope the treatment could help to improve blood supply to the heart after a heart attack in people with diabetes.

Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the BHF, who funded the research, said: “These promising results suggest that drugs which stabilise HIF could become a new treatment to reduce the risk of heart failure after a heart attack in people with diabetes.

“Further research is now needed to translate these early stage findings into clinical benefit.”

The study is published in the journal Diabetes.


Work under way on new railway station near Inverness Airport

The two-platform station is being built at Dalcross on the Aberdeen to Inverness line.

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Travel: Construction work is under way on a new railway station near Inverness Airport.

Construction work is under way on a new railway station near Inverness Airport.

The two-platform station is being built at Dalcross on the Aberdeen to Inverness line.

The £14m facility will feature step-free access via a footbridge with lifts.

There will also be 64 car parking spaces with ten electric charging points, four disabled spots and cycle parking.

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Work from now until the end of the year will see the creation of embankments, as well as the start of construction work on the new platforms, including the concrete lift shafts and footbridge foundations.

Network Rail expects the construction of the station to be completed in December 2022.

Transport minister Graeme Dey said: “It is great to see work getting under way on what will be an exciting development both for Inverness Airport and for the surrounding communities.

“The start of work on-site is a significant step towards delivery of this sustainable travel interchange, which has been made possible by a £14m Scottish Government investment as part of our commitment to a fairer, greener Scotland.

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“By making Inverness Airport more accessible for passengers and staff alike, we can deliver improved travel links to the growing Inverness Airport Business Park and the new town of Tornagrain.

“This is particularly important as we continue to pursue a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

ATM withdrawals ‘decline sharply due to impact of Covid pandemic’

Visits to ATMs 'have declined to fewer than twice a month on average across the UK'.

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Customers now take out around an extra £10 during each visit, Link said, at just under £80 typically.

People are withdrawing nearly £100m less each day from ATMs compared with in 2019, according to cash machine network Link.

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, adults across the UK visited ATMs three times a month on average.

But visits have since declined to fewer than twice a month on average.

Customers now take out around an extra £10 during each visit, Link said, at just under £80 typically.

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Link pointed to Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) figures in 2020 showing that more than five million people greatly rely on cash every day.

The total value of Link ATM withdrawals is currently running at around £1.6bn a week, compared with around £2.2bn in 2019.

The network said this year, it has heard from over 400 communities wanting better cash access.

It has installed over 70 ATMs across the country in response to those requests and a further 30 in areas identified as lacking cash access.

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Link said it is encouraging people to speak up if they find it difficult to access cash free of charge.

Nick Quin, head of financial inclusion, Link, said: “People are choosing new ways to pay for things, and Covid has turbocharged the switch to digital.

“When we conducted similar analysis this time last year, we had an incomplete picture because before the vaccine rollout people generally were staying local, working from home and many leisure locations were still temporarily closed.

“ATM use in some city centres had declined by as much as 80% overnight (in Westminster, Glasgow and Edinburgh in March 2020).

“Now that life is returning to normal, people are still visiting ATMs much less often and taking out more each time.

“Crucially, even though we’re withdrawing almost £100m less per day, millions still rely on cash, especially in the most deprived areas of the country. It is important we continue to protect access to cash across the country.”

The UK Government has pledged to legislate protect the future of cash.

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Here are the top 10 constituency areas with the smallest percentage declines in the volume of cash withdrawals, comparing August 2019 with August 2021, according to Link:

=1. Liverpool Walton, 20%

=1. Bradford South, 20%

=1. Birmingham, Hodge Hill, 20%

4. Leicester East, 21%

5. Bradford East, 22%

=6. Boston and Skegness, 23%

=6. Birmingham, Perry Barr, 23%

8. Warley, 24%

=9. Cynon Valley, 25%

=9. Rochdale, 25%

And here are the top 10 constituency areas with the biggest percentage declines in the volume of cash withdrawals, comparing August 2019 with August 2021, according to Link:

1. Edinburgh East, 63%

=2. Cities of London and Westminster, 60%

=2. Edinburgh North and Leith, 60%

4. Holborn and St Pancras, 58%

=5. Edinburgh South, 56%

=5. Glasgow Central, 56%

=5. Edinburgh West, 56%

8. Crawley, 55%

9. Belfast South, 54%

10. Bristol West, 53%

And, over the same period, here are the percentage changes in the volume of withdrawals, the increase in the average amount of cash withdrawn per withdrawal and the change in the total typical amount withdrawn each day, according to Link:

– East Midlands, minus 38%, £10, minus £6.5m.

– East of England, minus 39%, £10, minus £8.3m.

– London, minus 40%, £14, minus £13.4m.

– North East, minus 35%, £8, minus £3.9m.

– North West, minus 35%, £9, minus £10.6m.

– Northern Ireland, minus 38%, £14, minus £3.1m.

– Scotland, minus 43%, £9, minus £11.4 million

– South East, minus 41%, £10, minus £12.2m.

– South West, minus 43%, £8, minus £8.2m.

– Wales, minus 37%, £8, minus £4.4m.

– West Midlands, minus 35%, £10, minus £7.5m.

– Yorkshire and the Humber, minus 36%, £9, minus £8.3m


‘Work-life balance’ takes on new meaning after Covid pandemic

The current 'one-size-fits-all' solution is reportedly 'not meeting the complex needs of the modern workforce'.

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WFH: The current 'one-size-fits-all' solution is reportedly 'not meeting the complex needs of the modern workforce'.

Employees are confused about what work-life balance means for them and are calling for firms to agree a new definition of the term, according to a new report.

Research by jobs site Glassdoor suggested that two out of three people have a different idea of what work-life balance is, compared with before the pandemic.

The current “one-size-fits-all” solution is not meeting the complex needs of the modern workforce, with people struggling to juggle work and home life, said Glassdoor.

Despite nearly half of workers taking action to improve the blend of job and home during the Covid crisis, a similar number admitted that work regularly eats into their personal life, and a third believe a healthy balance is not possible in their current role, the study indicated.

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Two-thirds of those polled said that what they want from the balance between work and home has changed since the pandemic began, rather than being a simple case of clocking off early or not checking emails after 6pm.

A third of the 2000 workers surveyed said a good balance between home and work life is flexible working hours, a further third wanted choice in where they work, and one in four called for a reduced working week.

Most employees believe work-life balance will be a key consideration when looking for their next job, said Glassdoor.

Reviews on companies sent by workers to Glassdoor indicated that the best employers for offering a good work-life balance included the Office for National Statistics, Mastercard, the Bank of England and tech company Softcat.

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Spokeswoman Lauren Thomas said: “Employee reviews on Glassdoor indicate that the companies that top the work-life balance rankings offer a range of options to help workers harmonise their home and professional lives.

“Whether it is the autonomy to set one’s schedule, hybrid working policies, or simply trust shown by management that work will be delivered without being tied to an office, it is clear that a healthy balance is best achieved when employees can individualise their approach to work.”


Family of four seriously injured after explosion rips through home

At least one house was completely destroyed after huge blast at housing estate in Ayr on Monday night.

Katielee Arrowsmith via SWNS

Four members of the same family are in a serious condition after their home was destroyed by a huge explosion in Ayr.

A mum and dad and their two children were all inside the house when the blast happened on Monday night.

Police said on Tuesday that a 43-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy are currently being treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

A 47-year-old man has been taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and an 11-year-old boy is being cared for at the Royal Hospital for Children.

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They all suffered serious injuries during the blast in the Kincaidston area of the town, which was heard for miles around.

The other residents of the houses affected by the blast have all been accounted for.

Drone footage taken on Tuesday morning showed extensive damage to properties in Gorse Park. At least one house has been completely destroyed.

Residents have been evacuated from the area and two rest centres have been set up to assist those affected.

Katielee Arrowsmith via SWNS
Several properties have been destroyed after an explosion in Ayr.
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Chief inspector Derrick Johnston, area commander for South Ayrshire, said: “This is a complex incident and a number of different agencies are working together to establish the full circumstances of what happened.

“Our thoughts are with the family and everyone within the local community affected by this. A joint investigation with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is being carried out.

Emergency services were called to the scene at around 7.10pm on Monday, police said, adding that local road closures were in place and the public are advised to avoid the area.

Councillor Chris Cullen from South Ayrshire Council said: “It’s absolutely devastating what’s happened, it’s not something you expect.

“You come home, you cook your tea and next thing ‘boom’ there’s an explosion beside you. There’s a lot of people who are just totally shook, didn’t know what was happening.”

‘You come home, you cook your tea and next thing ‘boom’ there’s an explosion beside you.’

Councillor Chris Cullen

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “We dispatched a number of resources to the scene, including three specialist operations vehicles, six ambulances and an air ambulance.”

Euan Bryson, who lives in the adjacent housing estate, tweeted a video showing a fire engine on a smoke-filled street in the aftermath of the explosion.

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He said: “(It) was chaotic. There was personal property and rubble all over the scene.

Another resident told STV News: “It was like an earthquake. I thought (my wife) was up the stairs and I thought she fell. The next door neighbour said it was an explosion.”

Gas distribution company SGN is helping the emergency services.

A spokesman said: “Our engineers are currently assisting the emergency services to ensure the immediate vicinity is made safe in our role as the gas emergency service.”

STV News
Damaged car following explosion in Ayr.

SFRS area commander Ian McMeekin, the local senior officer for East, North and South Ayrshire, said: “Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this incident.

“This has been an extremely complex and challenging incident, which significantly damaged multiple properties in the area and resulted in the evacuation of other nearby homes. We will remain in attendance for some time as we work with our partners to ensure the area is safe.

“A joint investigation alongside Police Scotland will be carried out in due course to establish the full facts and circumstances.”

Siobhian Brown, the MSP for Ayr, Prestwick and Troon, urged people to avoid the area.

On her Facebook page, she wrote: “Our thoughts are with those affected in the Kincaidston area as we hear reports of an explosion.

“Please avoid the area if you can and let the emergency services do their jobs.”

Jodie Whittaker on Doctor Who exit: I will be filled with grief

Whittaker will be leaving the show following the upcoming series and a trio of specials next year.

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The new series of Doctor Who begins on October 31.

Jodie Whittaker has said she will be “filled with a lot of grief” when she hands over the role of Doctor Who to its next star.

The actress, who has played the Time Lord since 2017, announced in July she will be leaving the BBC sci-fi drama following the upcoming series and a trio of specials next year.

Showrunner Chris Chibnall is also set to leave the programme to be replaced by Russell T Davies, who was behind the 2005 revival of the show.

Speaking during an online Q&A, Whittaker addressed the emotions she felt over her departure.

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The 39-year-old said: “You have to honour the show and to honour everything. Me and Chris, there was this thing of like, ‘We want to do three seasons’. But no-one holds you to that so there was always a conversation, it was always fluid. But when you commit to that decision.

“This Doctor is Chris’s Doctor so for me it is right, but if everyone comes up to you forever going, ‘I’m a Doctor Who fan’ then that is an absolute joy because it has been such a pleasure.

“But it is also letting go of it. It will be very… I feel like I will be filled with a lot of grief for it because I kind of… Even thinking about it, it makes me upset. But this show needs new energy.

“The Doctor, the joy of this part is you hand on your boots – and you hand them on. And I don’t know who, but whoever that is, what a thing to go, ‘You are going to have a right time’.”

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Whittaker, who previously starred as grieving mother Beth Latimer in Broadchurch, recalled crying during one of her final days on set.

She said: “You know what I’m like – I’m a crier. I had to do my final (backstage interview) today. We haven’t finished filming so I can avoid the thoughts a bit more.

“But obviously with the behind-the-scenes stuff, it was in that slightly concluding way and, ‘Can you tell us how you feel about the crew?’ and then I just lost it.

“I was just crying my eyes out, absolutely gone. I always knew this is the best time I will ever have on a job. I have felt like that from the start of it.”

It was also announced that Rochenda Sandall, who played villain Lisa McQueen in BBC drama Line Of Duty, and Sam Spruell from The North Water will be joining the cast as guest stars.

Ripper Street star Craige Els, Steve Oram from The End Of The F****** World, The One actress Nadia Albina and Jonathan Watson of Two Doors Down will also feature.

It was previously announced Robert Bathurst, Thaddea Graham and Blake Harrison would be appearing in the upcoming series.

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The first special will air on New Year’s Day 2022, the second will be later in the spring and the third, when the Doctor will regenerate, will air in autumn 2022 and will form part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations.

The new series of Doctor Who begins on October 31.


British Gas HomeCare service ads banned for being ‘misleading’

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 24 complaints from the firm’s customers about the ads.

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British Gas: The ASA received 24 complaints from the firm’s customers about the ads.

British Gas ads for its HomeCare cover service have been banned for the misleading suggestion that emergency callouts were available to all customers at short notice.

Two TV ads in February showed dark and freezing homes followed by someone using the British Gas mobile app and then a voiceover saying: “Because with British Gas HomeCare cover, all parts and labour are included. Problem solved.”

The firm’s website stated: “Need ongoing cover? Worried about the boiler, heating, plumbing, or electrics playing up? Our HomeCare cover lets you avoid the cost of those unexpected breakdowns,” while a tweet on January 4 said: “No heating or hot water? Nightmare! With HomeCare we can solve it.”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 24 complaints from the firm’s customers about the ads, including 21 who had either been waiting for up to three weeks for an emergency callout or were informed that one could not be provided, due to severe limitations on services because of the Covid-19 pandemic and strike action.

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Thirteen customers told the ASA they had either been waiting several months for an annual boiler service or were informed that one could not be provided for Covid or strike reasons.

British Gas said they were subject to extensive industrial action from January to March 2021 and, coupled with the pandemic, that meant that some customers had to wait longer than they would have liked for a visit from an engineer.

They said that the TV ads had been commissioned and recorded before the third period of lockdown began and the full impact of industrial action became clear.

They had taken a range of actions to help customers, for example, by paying for customers to purchase their own heaters up to a value of £50 or to cover the cost of transport to a friend’s or relative’s house.

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Upholding the complaints, the ASA said: “The ads implied that all British Gas HomeCare customers would be able to call out engineers to attend urgent issues at short notice.

“However, we understood that the company’s ability to maintain service levels for all but the most vulnerable customers had been significantly disrupted by a combination of Covid-19 lockdown and industrial action by their employees.

“Given the timing of the ads relative to those events, we considered that they were misleading and breached the codes.”

The regulator ruled that the ads must not appear again in the forms complained about, adding: “We told British Gas Services not to misleadingly imply that emergency call outs were available to all customers at short notice unless they held evidence that was the case.

“We also told them not to imply that customers could obtain a boiler service reasonably soon after joining the scheme, if that was not the case.”

A British Gas spokeswoman said: “We’re disappointed at the outcome and are seeking an independent review of the council’s decision, which is contrary to the original ASA recommendations and Clearcast’s views.

“We actually completed more emergency and vulnerable customer visits in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter last year, despite Covid and industrial action which has now ended – seeing over half a million customers in total.

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“We know there will have been some customers who felt let down by our decision to push back non-essential services, which was necessary to protect customers and colleagues as we worked under the Government’s Covid restrictions at the time.

“We have since caught up on any non-urgent appointments and are up to date with urgent appointments as our engineers continue to work around the clock to look after our customers.”

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