Boohoo buys Debenhams brand for £55m but stores to close

With stores closing across the 242-year-old brand, it is unlikely many of the remaining 12,000 jobs are likely to be saved.

Debenhams: Online fashion retailer Boohoo has confirmed it has bought the brand. Anthony Devlin via Getty Images
Debenhams: Online fashion retailer Boohoo has confirmed it has bought the brand.

Online fashion retailer Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55m.

Although the deal will see the department store name survive, the company’s remaining 118 stores will close for good.

The deal will see Debenhams products sold by Boohoo from early next year, allowing enough time for liquidators to continue closing the retailer’s sites once they are allowed to reopen after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.

But with stores closing across the 242-year-old brand, it is unlikely many of the remaining 12,000 jobs are likely to be saved.

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Debenhams had already announced significant job losses and the permanent closure of six stores, including its flagship outlet on London’s Oxford Street.

Boohoo said the deal represents a “fantastic opportunity” to target new customers and launch into the beauty, sports and homewares market for the first time.

The company highlighted how Debenhams has six million beauty shoppers and 1.4 million Beauty Club members.

It said: “The group intends to rebuild and relaunch the Debenhams platform, helping further the group’s stated ambition to lead the fashion eCommerce market, and grow into new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”

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In hints that it intends to take on the might of Amazon, Boohoo said it would create the UK’s largest marketplace across fashion, beauty, sport and homeware – expanding the range of products sold via Debenhams marketplace by maintaining current third party relationships and expanding further.

Debenhams’ own fashion brands will also be absorbed into Boohoo’s current portfolio and sold via the Debenhams website.

Boohoo chief executive John Lyttle said: “The acquisition of the Debenhams brand is an important development for the group, as we seek to capture incremental growth opportunities arising from the accelerating shift to online retail.”

Founder and executive chairman, Mahmud Kamani, added: “Our acquisition of the Debenhams brand is strategically significant as it represents a huge step which accelerates our ambition to be a leader, not just in fashion eCommerce, but in new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”

Boohoo has previously bought a number of well-known high street brands out of administration, turning them into online-only operations, including Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen.

Meanwhile, online fashion giant Asos has confirmed it is in exclusive talks with the administrators of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia over the acquisition of the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands.

In a short statement to the stock exchange, Asos said it “believes this would represent a compelling opportunity to acquire strong brands that resonate well with its customer base”.

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“However, at this stage, there can be no certainty of a transaction and Asos will keep shareholders updated as appropriate. Any acquisition would be funded from cash reserves,” it added.


Lockdown exit set to accelerate as more pupils return to school

The First Minister also revealed that the next phase of school returns will go ahead as scheduled on March 15.

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The Scottish Government will consider in the next week if the easing of restrictions can be accelerated, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

In an update to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the First Minister also revealed that the next phase of school returns will go ahead as scheduled on March 15.

Primaries 4-7 will go back as previously planned on that date, while secondary pupils will now get some time in school before the Easter holidays.

At the moment Scotland is due to return to a regional, five-level system from the last week in April. However, the exit out of lockdown could come sooner due to “encouraging” figures recorded in the past week.

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The First Minister said: “We will be considering if it might be possible to accelerate the exit from lockdown in any way, consistent of course with the care and caution that we know continues to be necessary.”

Sturgeon said if the Scottish Government can go “further and faster, then we will not hesitate to do so”.

She added: “All of us want to move on as quickly as possible – and, as a priority, to see friends and family again. I hope that day is now not too far away.

“But to make sure we don’t see any reverse in our progress that would put that in jeopardy, it is really important that, for now, we all need to abide by the lockdown rules.

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“So please continue to stick to their letter and their spirit.”

On Tuesday it was revealed that a further 33 people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with Covid-19. An additional 542 cases were also recorded in the past 24 hours.

Sturgeon highlighted that the average of new cases reported had dropped to 657 from 815 at this point last week. Case positivity is now consistently below 5%.

The First Minister also confirmed that the next phase of school returns will go ahead as planned.

Last week’s strategic framework said all primary school pupils would return full-time, if data supported the return.

A phased return of pupils will take place between March 15 and the Easter break, with all pupils given at least some in-school teaching in that time, before full-time schooling returns after the holidays.

However, when secondary schools return, face coverings will have to be worn at all times and physical distancing guidelines followed.

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The First Minister also urged school staff and older secondary pupils to take up the lateral flow tests being made available.

She said: “I would encourage as many staff and senior phase pupils as possible to use the tests when they return to school. It is a further important way in which we can ensure that schools remain as safe as possible.”

The First Minister also thanked school staff for their work to support young people during the pandemic.

She said: “I know everyone is looking forward to having children back in the classroom as soon as possible.

“I also want to thank parents across the country. I can only imagine how difficult all of this disruption continues to be – but I hope, and believe, that the end of it is now firmly in sight.

“And my thanks too to children and young people. I know how hard it must be to be separated from friends and teachers.

“But you have responded magnificently to all the difficulties of the last year.

“I hope that you are looking forward to getting back to school later this month.”

The Scottish Conservatives said the earlier-than-planned return of secondary pupils was the “latest SNP u-turn”.

Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said: “While today marks a gradual speeding up for a return to schools, the First Minister’s latest announcement was also typically vague and only prolongs uncertainty.

“No-one wants to risk an increase in cases by moving too quickly but pupils deserve better than guesswork based on the SNP’s drip feeding of partial information.”


Scottish Cup and some suspended leagues to restart

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said all players must be tested before matches.

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Football: Clubs from suspended leagues allowed to resume training.

Some suspended football leagues and the Scottish Cup are to resume.

League One, League Two and the Women’s Premier League have all been given the go-ahead after talks between the Scottish FA and Scottish Government.

However, other leagues will remain suspended indefinitely.

Speaking at in the parliament First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said all players must be tested before matches.

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All lower leagues were suspended in January after a rise in coronavirus infections.

No dates have been announced for when fixtures will return in any of the leagues or the Scottish Cup.

Sturgeon said she hoped the news “will be welcomed by football fans across the country”.

Rod Petrie, Scottish FA president, said: “We are pleased that the First Minister has again recognised the importance of football in Scotland.

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“The decision to temporarily suspend parts of the professional game played by predominantly part-time teams was not an easy one to take.

“None the less, given the sharp rise in infection rates caused by new strains of the virus at the start of the year, it was the right thing to do to assist the national effort to reduce its prevalence during lockdown.”


Coronavirus: 33 deaths and 542 fresh cases in Scotland

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 784 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

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Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further 33 people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

The death toll of those who tested positive stands at 7164, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is at least 9347.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 203,012 – an increase of 542 in the past 24 hours.

The daily test positivity rate is 4.4%, down from the 4.5% reported on Monday when 386 cases were recorded.

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Of the new cases reported on Tuesday, 158 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 104 are in Lothian, 101 are in Lanarkshire, and 74 are in Forth Valley.

The rest of the cases are spread out across eight other health board areas.

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 784 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19

The Scottish Government also confirmed that 1,634,361 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 22,783 from the day before.

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A total of 84,445 people have received their second dose, a rise of 5580.


NHS nurses say 1% interim pay rise is ‘slap in the face’

Health service workers said they were considering unprecedented industrial action.

NHS Workers Say No via STV
NHS workers and supporters staged protests against pay and conditions last year which nurse Pauline Brady helped organise.

Nurses have branded the Scottish Government temporary pay rise for NHS staff “a disgrace”.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman wrote to NHS employees to explain they will be given a 1% rise backdated to December 2020 until negotiations can be concluded.

But campaign group NHS Workers Say No said the move was to cover delaying discussions over pay until after the Holyrood elections on May.

Brenda Eadie, nurse and Glasgow-based organiser, told STV News: “It’s a token to say we’re still looking at it, but they are delaying doing til after the elections.

NHS Workers Say No via STV
NHS Workers Say No protest in Glasgow Green (NHS Workers Say No)
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“So we lose all our leverage, and realistically we’ll end up with 3.5%. Nothing is going to get better, it’s going to get worse.”

Staff affected are those directly employed by health boards under the Agenda for Change system – approximately 150,000 NHS workers.

Campaigners and unions say NHS staff have suffered real-term pay cuts over the past decade, with pay not rising in line with inflation.

“We do our jobs until we drop. But right now, most of us have already dropped.”

Brenda Eadie, nurse and organiser

Ms Eadie said members campaigning for fair pay have been insulted, with one describing the 1% offer as “another wee slap in the face”.

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In her letter, Freeman pointed out that Scottish staff are the best paid in the UK and said the government is committed to maintaining the “premium”.

Pauline Brady, a mental health nurse and Nurses say No organiser, said: “It’s strange how Scottish NHS campaigners are told they should be quiet because we have been offered more than England/Wales.

“I couldn’t imagine feeling like that about any part of the NHS. We are all grossly underpaid and the fight is a joint one.”

NHS Workers Say No via STV
NHS Workers Say No car procession in November toured hospitals in Glasgow and Ayrshire (NHS Workers Say No)

Last year, nurses and other frontline NHS workers staged a number of protests after they were left out of a public sector pay rise.

Doctors and dentists, along with other public sector staff, were given a pay bump of 2.8% but this did not include all NHS workers with nurses, cleaners and porters left out.

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Saturday, August 8, at Glasgow Green, with other demonstrations held across the UK.

A car rally protest toured hospitals in and around Glasgow and Ayrshire on Saturday, November 14.

“NHS workers have never felt so demoralized and they know it’s time to fight for our worth.”

Brenda Eadie, nurse and organiser
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Now, campaigners say, staff are prepared to take unprecedented industrial action.

Ms Eadie said: “They want to strike they are ready to strike, NHS workers have never felt so demoralized and they know it’s time to fight for our worth.

“Historically, because of the amount we care, we don’t walk away. We do our jobs until we drop.

“But right now, most of us have already dropped, working 60-hour weeks just to make ends meet.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader and health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “NHS and care staff have been on the frontline of this pandemic, dealing with death every day for the last year.

“We need to see the Scottish Government reward these vital workers with a pay rise that reflects the work that they do and the danger they have been put in.

“It’s time for Kate Forbes and Jeane Freeman to get round the table with NHS workers and their unions, and hammer out a pay increase that reflects the vital work our NHS heroes do.”

NHS Workers Say No via STV
NHS Workers Say No protest in Glasgow

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “NHS Scotland Agenda for Change staff are already the best paid in the UK, and in recognition of an exceptional year of significant pressure NHS Agenda for Change staff, including nurses, will receive an interim pay increase of 1% which will be backdated to December 1 ahead of the final 2021-22 pay settlement.

“This follows the £500 thank you payment announced earlier.

“While pay increases are usually effective from April 1 both the 1% interim rise and the full pay settlement, once agreed, will be backdated to December 1, 2020.

“Formal negotiations over staff pay have been affected by the cancellation of the UK Government’s budget and subsequent impact on the Scottish Spending Review.

“Scotland is the only part of the UK to have provided this interim uplift, and recent reports suggest the UK Government’s budget this week will not specify funding for a pay uplift for NHS England staff before the pay review body has completed its work in May.”

Recovery truck driver fined for car hanging off the back

The driver was caught by police near Whitburn in West Lothian on Monday night.

Police Scotland
Fined: The driver was pulled over on Monday night.

A recovery truck driver has been fined after being pulled over with an unsecured car hanging off the back of their vehicle.

Road Policing Scotland posted pictures of the incident online, stating that the driver “felt it was okay to transport a car in this position and without it being tied down” after the winch broke.

The driver, who was caught near Whitburn in West Lothian on Monday night, was handed a fixed penalty notice for having a dangerous load and was prohibited from driving until the red Skoda was removed.


Tories pressing ahead with Swinney no-confidence vote

Opposition parties have signalled they would support a no-confidence motion in the Deputy First Minister.

Andy Buchanan/PA via PA Wire
John Swinney said ‘key legal advice’ will be sent to the committee on Tuesday.

The Scottish Tories will press ahead with a vote of no confidence in the Deputy First Minister until all advice from the Alex Salmond legal action is released.

MSPs have voted twice to release the advice, given months before the Scottish Government conceded a case brought by the former first minister into the handling of complaints against him, but the Scottish Government has so far resisted.

However, following the tabling of a no-confidence motion against Swinney which opposition parties indicated they would support, he announced on Monday “key legal advice” would be released, confirming in a letter to the inquiry set up to look into the affair it would be sent to them on Tuesday afternoon.

“We will press ahead with the vote of no confidence until all the legal advice is published.”

Douglas Ross

Tory leader Douglas Ross has said the party will press ahead with the vote until the advice is published in full.

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“Recklessly continuing with the judicial review when it was doomed would clearly be a breach of the ministerial code,” Ross said.

“The public deserve to know exactly what mistakes were made.

“John Swinney is not getting away with releasing only the evidence he wants us to see. We will press ahead with the vote of no confidence until all the legal advice is published.

“I’d like to thank other opposition parties for supporting Scottish Conservative moves to have the legal advice released for a third time.

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“The government must be held to account and by uniting behind our motion, we will ensure the will of the Scottish Parliament is respected.”

Ross’ comments come as two members of the inquiry also called for the motion of no confidence to remain on the table.

Independent MSP Andy Wightman and Tory Murdo Fraser took to Twitter on Monday, taking exception with the announcement of “key legal advice” being released.

Wightman said it was not for the Scottish Government to decide what is considered to be “key”, adding: “Keep that vote of no confidence on the table.”

Fraser said: “Hearing tonight that the key legal advice being offered by [the Scottish Government] may, in fact, be a carefully selected set of documents designed to paint them in a good light and not give the full picture.

“If true, then that is appalling bad faith, and we will pursue the [vote of no confidence] in John Swinney.”

In his letter to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, Swinney admitted there were “reservations” expressed about the case after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with the complainers.

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But he added there were “good public policy arguments and reasonable grounds for the government to continue to defend the judicial review”.

The parliamentary bureau, the body which handles Holyrood’s scheduling, is due to discuss the motion on Tuesday morning.

Legal advice included ‘reservations’ about Salmond probe

The deputy first minister argued there were ‘good public policy grounds’ for apparently overriding the concerns about the probe.

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Deputy First Minister John Swinney has confirmed there were legal advice ‘reservations’ about the government’s investigation of Alex Salmond.

John Swinney had admitted the legal advice reveals concerns about the unlawful investigation of Alex Salmond but claimed there were “good public policy grounds” to not concede the case for another three months.

After agreeing to hand over the “key” legal advice following the threat of a no-confidence vote, the deputy first minister said government lawyers “have not identified any documents” that support Salmond’s claim the government deliberately delayed conceding the case in the hope a criminal trial would “overtake” his judicial review.

The Scottish Government launched an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by the former first minister but it was found to be unlawful, unfair and “tainted by apparent bias” because of prior contact between the investigating officer and two of the women who complained.

Although the investigating officer, Judith Mackinnon, said under oath that she had always been open about the contact with complainers, Scottish Government lawyers purportedly did not learn of it until October 2018, nine months after the investigation began.

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It took the Scottish Government until January 8 for the government to concede the case – a week before the full judicial review was due to start.

The former first minister, who was awarded maximum legal costs of £512,250 in part because of the late concession, has alleged that the government had hoped a looming criminal trial would “ride to the rescue” and prevent its unlawful investigation suffering a “cataclysmic” civil court defeat.

In November 2020, the Scottish Parliament twice passed motions demanding the government publish all the legal advice it had received about Salmond’s judicial review.

After a motion of no confidence was lodged on Monday in the deputy first minister over the government’s refusal to comply with the will of parliament, Swinney agreed to hand over the “key” legal advice to the Holyrood inquiry into the botched investigation.

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In a letter ahead of the release of the legal advice, Swinney acknowledged lawyers had raised “reservations” about the issue of prior contact.

But he insisted there were “good public policy arguments and reasonable grounds for the government to continue to defend the judicial review and to seek a determination from the court on the matters raised, until the events of late December 2018”.

That December, a private civil court commission was held ahead of the planned court hearing as part of efforts by Salmond’s legal team to get the government to hand over evidence.

Swinney added: “During his evidence session with the committee on Friday, Mr Salmond also raised an allegation that there was a desire within government to seek to sist [pause] the judicial review once the issue of prior contact with the complainers was identified.

“I have asked officials to review the relevant documentation, but they have not identified any documents which support this allegation.”

Swinney, who is leading the government’s response to the committee after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recused herself, suggested he agreed to release the legal advice over concern that the allegations “could impact negatively on public confidence in the parliament, government and even our justice institutions.”

He said the legal advice would be provided to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints on Tuesday afternoon – after they have questioned the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe; the head of the Crown Office and the Scottish Government’s chief legal advisor.

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Mr Wolffe rejected criticism of the Crown Office as he appeared before the committee on Tuesday morning.

He said: “Any suggestion, from any quarter, that the Crown’s decision-making has at any time been influenced by irrelevant considerations or improper motivations would be wholly without foundation.

“Insinuation and assertions to the contrary are baseless.”

Police on the hunt for shooter after gun fired at house

The shooting happened in Glasgow's Cardonald Road at around 10.25pm on Sunday.

© Google Maps 2020
Glasgow: The shooting happened in Cardonald Road on Sunday night.

Police have launched an investigation after a gun was fired at a house in Glasgow.

The shooting happened in the city’s Cardonald Road at around 10.25pm on Sunday.

A window was damaged in the attack.

Enquiries are ongoing.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 10.25pm on Sunday, February 28, police received a report of a firearm having been discharged at a flat on Cardonald Road, Glasgow.

“Police attended and found that the window of the flat had been damaged as a result.

“Enquiries are currently ongoing to establish the exact circumstances of the incident and identify the person or persons involved.”


Family’s Kiltwalk challenge in memory of young dad

Adam McKnight had gone to hospital with chest pains and later suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.

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Young dad: Adam McKnight died suddenly in 2016.

The family of a young dad who died of heart disease just a year after his son was born are taking on a charity challenge to raise money for life-saving research in his memory.

Adam McKnight and his fiancée Dannika were due to get married and had been celebrating the birth of their baby boy when Mr McKnight died suddenly in 2016.

The 28-year-old, from Motherwell in North Lanarkshire, had gone to hospital with chest pains and later suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.

Now, as Mr McKnight’s family and friends mark the fifth anniversary of his death, they’ve signed up to take part in this year’s virtual Kiltwalk in support of the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

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Linda Dykes, Dannika’s mum, said: “Adam was and still is the best dad and fiancé that anyone could have asked for.

“His memory carries on in his son, Blane.

“He died of ischemic heart disease but had no idea he had it – it was all so sudden. He went to hospital with pains in his chest, went into cardiac arrest and never woke up.”

Heart and circulatory diseases cause around 50 deaths each day in Scotland and across the country an estimated 700,000 people are living with the daily burden of these conditions.

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Mr McKnight’s family has already raised more than £1500 for the BHF, which is the largest independent funder of research into heart and circulatory diseases in the UK.

During the first lockdown last year, Ms Dykes and her niece Siobhan set themselves the challenge of walking 26 miles in 12 hours – taking in a local route from Carfin to Carluke and back, and then from Carfin to Motherwell and back.

They are now preparing for this year’s virtual Kiltwalk in April.

Ms Dykes added: “We are supporting the BHF so that other families are spared the heartache of losing a loved one in such tragic circumstances.

“This shouldn’t have happened to such a young, fit man and we’re determined to do everything we can in Adam’s name to help others.”

The family’s efforts come at a critical time for the BHF and the charity is hoping to encourage its biggest ever team of fundraisers to sign up for the virtual Kiltwalk this spring.

The last 12 months have been the hardest in the BHF’s 60-year history. The Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on its income, and as a result, research funding had to be cut in half this year.

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James Jopling, head of BHF Scotland, said: “Our research in Scotland and across the UK to help save and improve lives is only made possible thanks to wonderful supporters like Linda and her family, and we need the public’s support now more than ever.

“The closure of our shops during lockdown and the cancellation and postponement of traditional fundraising events means we are facing our biggest ever challenge.

“Cutting research funding will impact the development of new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating heart and circulatory diseases and we cannot allow the progress we have made over the last six decades to slow.

“That’s why we’re so inspired by Linda’s family and friends, fundraising for us in Adam’s memory and in these challenging times to help us beat heartbreak forever.”

For more information and to sign up to BHF Scotland’s Kiltwalk team, click here.


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