Biking boom as number of cyclists increases during pandemic

Cycling Scotland found there were 47% more cycling journeys recorded in the last year.

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The number of people cycling in Scotland has increased almost every month during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures have shown.

Cycling Scotland uses a network of 47 automatic cycle counters across the country to compile data on biking.

It found there were 47% more cycling journeys recorded between March 23 2020 and March 22 2021 compared with the same period in 2019­–2020.

There were increases of 68% in April, 77% in May, 63% in June, 44% in July and 33% in August, compared with the same months in 2019.

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September saw a rise of 32%, followed by October (22%), November (7%) and December (4%).

In January 2021, cycling numbers decreased 14% – which the charity attributes to bad winter weather – before a rise of 20% in February.

The statistics show the number of people cycling in the first three weeks of March was up 52% on the same period last year, which came prior to the coronavirus lockdown.

Spikes of more than 100% were recorded over the year in Girvan, Callander and Dunoon.

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Cycling Scotland said the figures were a bright spot in a “horrendous year” but called for more investment in infrastructure.

The charity’s chief executive Keith Irving said: “It has been a horrendous year, but one of the few bright spots has been more people getting back on their bikes.

“Cycling has a key role to play in people getting exercise and fresh air, managing the ongoing pressure on our transport system and, crucially, tackling the global climate emergency we face.

“We’re delighted at the massive increase in cycling and it’s vital we see it continue and expand.”

He added: “To get even more people cycling, we need to invest more in infrastructure so people feel safe to cycle.

“We need more dedicated cycle lanes, separated from vehicles and pedestrians. We need to reduce traffic, especially on residential and shopping streets. And we need to increase access to bikes and storage to tackle the barriers too many people face so anyone, anywhere can enjoy all the benefits of cycling.”


Family pay tribute to crash victim with the ‘biggest of hearts’

Robert McGhee, 24, was pronounced dead at the scene after his car left the road and struck a tree.

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In a statement released through Police Scotland, his family said he will be 'in our hearts forever more'.

Tributes have been paid to a 24-year-old man who died in a crash, with his family describing him as having the “biggest of hearts”.

Robert McGhee was pronounced dead at the scene after his car, a black Audi S3, left the road and struck a tree in Aberdeenshire.

The incident took place on the Torphins to Kincardine O’Neil road at around 9pm on Monday, November 29.

In a statement released through Police Scotland, his family said he will be “in our hearts forever more”.

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“It’s with great sadness that at only 24, Robert (Bert) was taken from us,” the family said.

“A loving son, fiancé, grandson & nephew, his big blue eyes & long eyelashes melted everyone. 

“He was the most helpful, hardworking, caring, polite young man with the biggest of hearts you could ever meet. 

“The world has lost a treasure that can never be replaced. You will be in our hearts forever more.”

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Police are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the collision or saw the vehicle before the incident to contact them.

North East-based Road Policing Sergeant Chris Smith, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Robert at this time.

“Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances of the collision and I would urge anyone who witnessed the collision or saw the vehicle prior to the incident that has not already spoken to the Police to come forward.

“In particular, we are keen to trace the driver of a green coloured 4×4 described as a jeep who is believed to have stopped at the scene and their information may be of assistance to our investigation.”

Details can be passed to Police Scotland on 101 quoting reference 3433 of November 29, 2021.


Senior police officer suspended following ‘criminal allegation’

The force's oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), confirmed the suspension of an officer in a statement.

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A senior officer can be suspended if an allegation, if proven, would be sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct or if the nature of the allegation means suspension is in the public interest.

A senior officer in Police Scotland has been suspended following a “criminal allegation”.

The officer is understood to be Police Scotland Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Pat Campbell.

He is executive lead for organised crime, counter-terrorism and intelligence, which also covers border policing, cyber crime and digital forensic, having taken up the role a year ago.

Campbell is senior responsible officer for cyber capabilities, cyber strategy and technical surveillance.

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The force’s oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), confirmed the suspension of an officer in a statement.

Prosecution service the Crown Office has instructed police watchdog the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) to investigate the allegation.

A senior officer can be suspended if an allegation, if proven, would be sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct or if the nature of the allegation means suspension is in the public interest.

In its statement, the SPA said: “The Scottish Police Authority has suspended a senior officer from Police Scotland duties.

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“The decision was taken after a criminal allegation was brought to the authority’s attention.

“The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner is investigating this allegation under direction from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

“The suspension is effective from Wednesday 1 December and will be reviewed regularly, or if there is a change in circumstances relevant to the suspension.”

Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “I can confirm that a senior officer from Police Scotland has been suspended by the Scottish Police Authority.

“This is in connection with a criminal investigation being carried out by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

“The chief constable has reviewed Police Scotland’s command structure to ensure the organisation continues to meet operational demand.”


Does this street have the best Christmas display in Scotland?

Street transformed into winter wonderland after neighbour diagnosed with terminal cancer.

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Lavender Drive in Newton Mearns must surely be Scotland’s most festive street.

After more than two months of planning, neighbours have switched on their street-long Christmas display.

The idea to transform Lavender Drive into a winter wonderland came during the depths of lockdown last year when one resident, father-of-two Fred Banning, was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.

By asking for donations from those who come to see the 16 spectacular homes, the neighbours raised more than £5500 for the Beatson Cancer Charity last Christmas and hope to collect even more this time around.

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“I was going to and from chemotherapy and the first time I turned the corner and saw the whole street lit-up was just fantastic,” Fred, 38, told STV News. 

“It was really quite moving, it is like nowhere else I’ve ever lived.”

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The street Christmas lights were switched on after two months of planning.
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Lavender Drive has been transformed into a winter wonderland.
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The decorations are lighting up the night in the Newton Mearns street.
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Money is being raised for cancer research.
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Neighbours came out to single Jingle Bells during the big switch-on.
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The display aims to raise money after father-of-two Fred Banning was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Projects tackling childhood obesity to share more than £750,000

Figures show 23% of Primary 1 children in Scotland are at risk of being overweight or obese.

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The schemes all work to encourage good nutrition among young families.

Projects working to tackle childhood obesity have been awarded more than £750,000 of cash from the Scottish Government.

Public health minister Maree Todd said the cash, which is being split between eight initiatives, would help ensure youngsters can have “the best start in life no matter where they live”.

The schemes, which all work to encourage good nutrition among young families, will receive a total of £759,000.

That will see the Thrive Under 5 project benefit from £269,344 to help with its work among families with pre-school children in some of Glasgow’s most deprived areas.

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It comes in the wake of figures showing 23% of Primary 1 children in Scotland were at risk of being overweight or obese – with 10% specifically at risk of obesity.

Campaigners at Obesity Action Scotland said: “There has been no positive progress in reducing obesity rates within the last decade, with 22.4% of Primary 1 pupils in Scotland at risk of overweight or obesity in 2001-02.”

Todd said: “Addressing obesity remains a public health priority and we want children and families to have access to appropriate support to give everyone the best start in life no matter where they live.

“We know that diet impacts on children’s health and development and will therefore continue to support local partners to develop these ambitious and effective plans to help prevent and reduce childhood obesity.

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“Our 2021-22 Programme for Government sets out our focus on improving the health of young people by taking forward the actions in our Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan.

“These projects, alongside our Best Start Foods payment and Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme are central to our commitment to ensure everyone in Scotland has access to healthy, nutritious food.

“We have also introduced the Good Food Nation Bill to help ensure good quality, locally sourced and produced food is a practical everyday reality for everyone.”

Siobhan Boyle, health improvement lead at Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, said they were “delighted” to receive two years of funding for the Thrive Under 5 project.

She said: “This programme will directly benefit families in the Thrive Under 5 neighbourhoods by combining a suite of healthy lifestyle supports in relation to financial inclusion, food insecurity, healthy eating and physical activity.

“A local Thrive Under 5 network in each area will drive the project forward in partnership with local people. We are looking forward to seeing the positive difference that this project will make.”


Show where all Government spending goes, Scottish Labour demands

The Scottish Government has never undertaken a comprehensive spending review.

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Scotland’s finance secretary, Kate Forbes, is due to announce the proposed Budget on Thursday.

A full review of the Scottish Government’s spending should be carried out to identify unspent money, wasted spending and to increase transparency around the Budget, Scottish Labour has said.

The party’s finance spokesman, Daniel Johnson, has called for a comprehensive spending review as part of the Budget process, with “line by line” evidence of where public money is being spent.

Scotland’s finance secretary, Kate Forbes, is due to announce the proposed Budget on Thursday and Johnson said knowing where all the money goes would help to “make sure every penny is spent wisely”.

The Scottish Government has never undertaken a comprehensive spending review despite them being carried out by the Treasury on UK Government spending approximately every three years.

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Johnson argued that a spending review would allow the Government to understand where money was being spent successfully and where spending had failed to deliver its intended aims.

The Government should also be able to provide estimates of what it expected to spend in the following two years, something he suggested would give clarity and stability to public budgets such as those of councils and the police.

Johnson said: “After 14 years, the gap between the SNP’s rhetoric and reality on investing in Scotland’s future is eye-watering.

“To jumpstart a meaningful recovery from the pandemic and invest in an ambitious future, we’ve got to make sure every penny is spent wisely.

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“The SNP’s broken financial promises have smothered Scotland’s potential for too long. We need an ambitious Budget with clear priorities for Scotland’s recovery.

“We need a clear picture of what we are trying to achieve – and if it’s working.

“Transparency and efficiency must be at the heart of our economic recovery. The days of short-term thinking must end.

“That’s why, as we approach this Budget, Labour will be focused on schemes that can unlock Scotland’s potential and get (us) back on the road to recovery.”

Johnson also said the Scottish Government would have a “pretty substantial envelope” of additional funding, with at least £3.9bn extra expected to be available from Barnett consequentials as a result of UK Government spending decisions.

Suggesting that some of the additional money should be given to councils to tackle the problems of rubbish in the streets and potholes in the roads, Johnson added: “I think the way (the Scottish Government) has treated local government since the SNP came to office has left local government in an invidious position.

“Frankly, they’ve left our roads in a dreadful state and rubbish uncollected, and I think there needs to be some pretty urgent action to put those things right.”

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He added: “I think Kate Forbes has two options. She can look across her Budget lines from last year and increment them up a bit, giving in to her Cabinet colleagues.

“Or she can look at the Budget and the envelope of £3.9bn of cash that is there from the (UK) comprehensive spending review and say ‘what can we do, what interventions can we make to get the recovery back on track and build the resilience that we need?’.”


Thousands across UK facing eighth day without power following Storm Arwen

In Scotland on Friday, power was restored to 900 homes, with engineers hoping to reconnect 1100 of the remaining 1600 between then and Saturday.

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The Met Office has warned of freezing temperatures this weekend.

Thousands of people across the UK are facing an eighth day without power following the damage caused by Storm Arwen.

Figures from industry body Energy Networks Association (ENA) indicated that around 9200 homes were still without power as of Friday evening.

It comes as the Met Office warns of freezing temperatures, including parts of Scotland expected to see lows of 1C (34F) along with sleet and rain over the next 24 hours.

In Scotland on Friday, power was restored to 900 homes, with engineers hoping to reconnect 1100 of the remaining 1600 between then and Saturday.

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The army was also deployed to help residents in the north-east who have been without power for a week since the storm caused “catastrophic damage” to the electricity network.

Around 130 troops have been sent to carry out door-to-door checks and offer welfare support.

The long delays have prompted energy regulator Ofgem to warn it will take enforcement action against network companies which failed to restore power to customers quickly enough following the storm.

It has also agreed with firms to lift the £700 cap on compensation which could be given to customers.

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The change will allow those affected to claim £70 for each 12-hour period they are left without power, after an initial £70 for the first 48 hours.

Chief executive Jonathan Brearley told the BBC Radio 4 programme: “We are deeply concerned about customers who for over a week have been without power.

“We want to establish the facts and make sure we understand what has happened, whether the network companies have met their obligations. If they haven’t, we will take enforcement action.

“We have clear expectations of how fast they should get people back on the system.

“We do recognise the challenging circumstances those companies are in. But what we expect from the network companies is to be relentless in connecting people, but also to be putting support in place.”


Government announces funding to support women involved in sex work

The government is consulting over whether its approach to tackling prostitution is sufficient to prevent violence against women and girls.

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Sex workers have accused the government of adopting an 'outdated ideology' and a 'harmful moralistic view' in its approach to prostitution.

More than £615,000 is being invested by the Scottish Government in a range of projects, including support for women involved in prostitution.

Most of the money will go to the Glasgow-based Women’s Support Project, a charity which aims to raise awareness of the harms of commercial sexual exploitation.

The organisation will receive £421,000 which it said would help ensure women are able to access specialist support to address their practical and emotional needs.

Women’s Support Project national coordinator Heather Williams said it welcomed the government’s recognition of the selling or exchanging sex or images as violence against women and girls.

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“This funding will help ensure women are able to access specialist support to address their practical and emotional needs, it will also contribute to work to raise awareness of the impact of commercial sexual exploitation and help improve practice within statutory services based on what women have told us they need,” she said.

“Prostitution is a form of violence against women.”

Community minister Ash Regan MSP

More than £83,000 will go to community justice organisation Sacro – including support for an Edinburgh-based project to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of women involved in prostitution.

Sue Waddington, gender based violence services manager for Sacro’s Another Way programme, said: “The funding has enabled workers from our Another Way project to continue delivering the service, but also to shape, grow and respond to meet the needs of this hard to reach group of women.”

And more than £110,000 will go to the UK charity South West Grid for Learning Trust to help fund the rollout of its Revenge Porn Helpline across Scotland and to further its work to get illegal intimate images removed from the internet.

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The Scottish Government’s definition of violence against women includes prostitution and is set out in our Equally Safe Strategy.

But sex workers have accused the government of adopting an “outdated ideology” and a “harmful moralistic view” in its approach to prostitution.

The government is consulting over whether its approach to tackling prostitution is sufficient to prevent violence against women and girls.

Kate, a sex worker from Glasgow, said the consultation is “pushing a different agenda, one more towards criminalisation”.

It follows two women who described themselves as “survivors of prostitution” addressing Holyrood’s Cross Party Group on Sexual Exploitation, calling for buying sex to be made an offence.

The government said the consultation it not committed to any specific course of action and instead aims to ask questions about challenging men’s demand for purchasing sex and how harms for women involved in prostitution can be reduced.

Last year, sex workers told STV News they had put themselves in risky situations after their incomes were hit by coronavirus.

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Currently, the laws around sex work in Scotland are nuanced. 

While exchanging money for sexual services is legal, activities around it, such as operating a brothel or soliciting for the purchase or sale of sex, are not.

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

Community minister Ash Regan MSP, who is leading the consultation, said: “Prostitution is a form of violence against women.

“The harsh reality of the risks commonly encountered are violence, sexual victimisation, poor mental health and sexual health, manipulation and sexual exploitation.

“The pandemic, stigma and the hidden nature of prostitution has created further barriers to getting help and I am therefore pleased to announce this additional funding for specialist services, designed specifically for women involved in prostitution and those who have experienced illegal images being uploaded to the internet.

“This money brings our total dedicated funding to support women involved in prostitution to £700,000 since June this year and is part of the Scottish Government’s overarching ambition to develop a model for Scotland which effectively tackles men’s demand for prostitution.”


Killer murdered friend then set him on fire underneath motorbike

Jordan Dickson left Craig Sneddon with at least 18 wounds after a brutal knife attack on January 17 this year.

© Google Maps 2020
The indictment stated Dickson murdered his friend by repeatedly striking him with a knife and then set fire to his body.

A killer murdered his friend then set fire to his body after a row about a minor bike accident.

Jordan Dickson left Craig Sneddon, 41, with at least 18 wounds after a brutal knife attack on January 17 this year.

The 25-year-old then fled the scene, but later confessed to a woman he had left the dad-of-one “burnt to a crisp”.

A couple walking their dog later that morning made the grim discovery of Mr Sneddon’s charred remains under Dickson’s burning bike on Fordel Path in Dalkeith, Midlothian.

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Dickson – who was on a curfew at the time – has now been jailed for a minimum of 19 years after he pled guilty to murder at the High Court in Glasgow on Friday.

Dickson had gone to Mr Sneddon home in Wallyford, East Lothian, the night before the killing.

In the early hours, the pair were spotted on Dickson’s Kawasaki bike.

They eventually ended up at Fordel Path sometime after 12.30am.

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Prosecutor Eric Robertson then told the court: “There are no eyewitnesses to what happened there, but Jordan Dickson accepts that while there had assaulted Craig Sneddon in terms detailed in the charge.”

The indictment stated Dickson murdered his friend by repeatedly striking him with a knife and then set fire to his body.

Dickson phoned a taxi to collect him around a mile from the scene to get him away and he headed to his home in Musselburgh, East Lothian.

He went on to speak to a number of people in the hours after.

This included claiming to his sister Bianca that he had been in a “fight” with Mr Sneddon and “said something about a bike”.

Around 4.30am, he stated to a friend: “I need help. I cannot talk on the phone.”

Dickson added to this man there allegedly had been a confrontation between him and Mr Sneddon.

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Prosecutor Mr Robertson said: “He told the man that after he stabbed Craig Sneddon in the neck, he poured petrol on top of him, placed the motorcycle on top and set fire to him.”

Dickson then went to the home of a friend of his other sister yelling he was “in trouble” and had “killed someone”.

The advocate depute told the hearing: “She did not believe him. He said he had ‘burnt the guy to a crisp’. He said he was referring to Craig Sneddon.”

The killer later jumped on a bus in Wallyford and confessed to a passenger: “I am going to get done with murder.”

It was around 9am that morning the tragic discovery of Mr Sneddon’s body was made.

A couple had first noticed rising smoke and the smell of burning.

Mr Sneddon’s body was initially too badly damaged to be identified.

Relatives became concerned when they could not contact Mr Sneddon that morning.

They went on to learn it was his body found at the path after DNA tests.

Mr Robertson said he had suffered at least 18 wounds to his face, head and neck.

Pathologists said they could “not fully rule out” the possibility of other stab injuries.

After initially being held the next day, Dickson told police: “I do not understand. No comment.”

Dickson’s lawyer said he accepted his reaction to anything which apparently happened that night was “disproportionate”.

Ian Duguid, defending, said the pair had “embarked on a journey” on the bike with Mr Sneddon later in control.

The QC went on: “There was a collision or a minor accident and both came off the motorcycle.

“It was that event which caused the argument between the two men.”

Mr Duguid said Dickson claimed Mr Sneddon had initially gone for him before the killer viciously lashed out.

Lady Stacey handed Dickson a life sentence.

She told him: “What you did was wicked and cruel. After what happened, you did nothing by way of reporting or trying to get help.

“You did nothing apart from setting fire to his body. The family of Craig Sneddon will find that extremely hard to deal with.”

Detective chief inspector Bryan Burns said: “Jordan Dickson subjected Craig Sneddon to a brutal attack which ultimately resulted in his death.

“He has now admitted his responsibility for this and will face the consequences of his actions.

“Our thoughts are with Mr Sneddon’s family and friends at this time. We hope that the conclusion of this case brings at least a degree of closure for them.”


UK’s largest offshore wind tower factory to be built in the Highlands

The Port of Nigg factory will open in 2023, creating more than 400 full time jobs.

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Port Nigg: The project will cost £110m

The UK’s largest offshore wind tower factory will create more than 400 manufacturing jobs when it opens in Scotland in 2023, a spokesperson for lead partner Global Energy Group said.

The Port of Nigg factory, to be known as Nigg Offshore Wind (Now), will be capable of producing up to 135 towers per year.

The site, north of Inverness, will be 450 metres long and will cover an area of 38,000 square metres, equivalent to more than five football pitches.

The £110m project is a joint operation between Global Energy Group (GEG), which has its headquarters in Inverness, and Spanish offshore wind tower manufacturing specialist Haizea Wind Group.

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Tim Cornelius, chief executive of GEG, said: “The continued focus on a just transition to a carbon neutral economy has received fresh impetus as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

“The Scottish and UK governments are looking for opportunities presented by the now inevitable energy transition from a dependency on hydrocarbons to clean and sustainable sources of energy, to create jobs and generate sustainable economic growth.

The announcement of a state-of-the-art tower rolling factory at the Port of Nigg is said to be a leading example of the “green recovery” in action.

“It will create more than 400 direct long term, high-value jobs, and will offer our existing clients and new customers, from around the world, the opportunity to buy ‘Scottish’ – meaning offshore wind developers can achieve their local content targets whilst helping the UK economy recover in a green and sustainable way.

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“The facility will also create more than 1000 indirect jobs in the Scottish and UK supply chain.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Haizea who will bring their tower manufacturing expertise and knowledge to the Highlands of Scotland.”

A GEG spokesperson added that construction is expected to start in January next year, with site preparation and commissioning expected to take about 18 months.

This will support 1248 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs across the supply chain in building works and equipment supply.

GEG added that regional staff, historically employed in the oil and gas industry, will have the opportunity to be re-trained and upskilled at the Nigg Skills Academy.

The factory is expected to receive funding support from the Scottish Government via Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the UK Government via the offshore wind manufacturing investment support scheme.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We need bold, collective action to tackle the global climate emergency, and the growth of our renewables sector over the next 10 years will be truly transformative, helping to deliver a just transition to net zero and a greener, fairer future for us all.

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“This significant investment in Scotland’s energy sector is testament to the skills, expertise and innovation within our industry.

“We are delighted to financially support this cutting edge offshore wind towers facility, through Highlands & Islands Enterprise.”

The Now factory is expected to receive backing from SSE Renewables, Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund and solar company Mainstream Renewable Power.

SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “Today’s announcement shows that SSE is willing to put its money where its mouth is to support development of the Scottish manufacturing capability for the offshore wind sector.

“We have worked with Global Energy Group and stakeholders for more than two years to get to this point.”

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