Coronavirus: Lockdown under way as Scots ordered to stay home

People have been ordered to stay at home and will only be allowed to leave for shopping for basic necessities or for exercise.

Lockdown: Coronavirus pandemic. Getty Images
Lockdown: Coronavirus pandemic.

Lockdown is under way in Scotland in the fight against coronavirus.

People have been ordered to stay at home and will only be allowed to leave for shopping for basic necessities or for exercise.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said as of Monday night Britons will only be able to go out for exercise once a day under the draconian measures.

Gatherings of two of more people are banned, except for members of your own household.

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People should go to the shops for essentials like food or medicine as infrequently as possible, the PM said, and should not go out to see friends or family members who do not live at their house.

People can also leave the house for any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, or to go work – but only if this is absolutely necessary as a result of being unable to work from home.

Speaking shortly after Johnson, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the measures “amount to what has been described as a lockdown”.

Addressing the nation on Monday night, the Prime Minister said: “Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses.

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“And as we have seen elsewhere, in other countries that also have fantastic health care systems, that is the moment of real danger.

“To put it simply, if too many people become seriously unwell at one time, the NHS will be unable to handle it – meaning more people are likely to die, not just from coronavirus but from other illnesses as well.

“So it’s vital to slow the spread of the disease.”

The new rules mean people should only leave their homes for one of four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine. Shopping trips should be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day such as a run, walk, or cycle. This should be done alone or only with people you live with. 
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person. This includes moving children under the age of 18 between their parents’ homes, where applicable. Key workers or those with children identified as vulnerable can continue to take their children to school.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where work absolutely cannot be done from home.

They also mean the following things are no longer allowed:

  • All shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship will be closed.
  • Gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with – will no longer be allowed.
  • All social events , including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals, will be cancelled.

More on:

Party leaders to go head-to-head in STV’s live election debate

The debate, which starts at 7.30pm on Tuesday, will be shown on STV and will be available on the STV Player.

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Debate: The live show will start at 7.30pm on Tuesday night.

Scotland’s leading political party leaders will go head-to-head in a televised debate live on STV on Tuesday night.

Patrick Harvie (co-leader of the Scottish Green Party), Willie Rennie (Scottish Liberal Democrats), Douglas Ross (Scottish Conservatives), Anas Sarwar (Scottish Labour) and Nicola Sturgeon (Scottish National Party) will be pressed on the big issues between 7.30pm and 9pm.

Hosted by STV political editor Colin Mackay, the debate will begin with opening statements from each party leader, followed by initial discussion, cross-examination between the leaders and closing statements.

The show – which will also air on the STV Player – will then be followed by reaction and analysis on Scotland Tonight at 10.40pm.

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Voters in Scotland will go to the polls to decide the make-up of the next Scottish Parliament on Thursday, May 6.

There will be no overnight count at this election due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a result instead expected over the weekend May 7-9.

How is STV covering the election?

Scotland Tonight specials

Colin Mackay has been carrying out one-to-one leaders’ interviews, which are also available for catch-up on the STV Player. 

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STV News election special

This show will air between 4-7pm and 8pm-8.30pm on Friday, May 7, bringing viewers the first results as they come in. 

The programme will be presented by John MacKay outside Holyrood, with STV special correspondent Bernard Ponsonby and Rona Dougall analysing the numbers at STV’s results studio in Glasgow – bringing viewers the story as it unfolds and key declarations as they happen live on air. 

STV reporters will be at voting counts across the country, feeding in live to the programme.

An additional special will air on Saturday, May 8 from 4.30-6.30pm, covering the results being declared as the new parliament begins to take shape. 

STV News at Six

Coverage continues on STV’s nightly news programme, with Kathryn Samson travelling to communities across the country in her Covid-secure ‘bubble’, inviting viewers to share views on all the political developments of the day.

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Online

The STV News website will offer comprehensive, up-to-the-minute coverage including leader interviews, expert insights from STV’s political team, rolling results coverage as the counts declare and detailed analysis once the outcome is known. 

Reporting will be available on the STV News website, apps and social media platforms.


Council workers urged to back strike action in row over pay

The trade union Unison has already recommended its members vote against the current pay offer.

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Union bosses insisted the offer “does not address the issue of endemic low pay” for some council staff.

Union leaders have started to ballot council workers to see if they would be prepared to take industrial action over a pay offer they branded “simply not good enough”.

The trade union Unison has already recommended its members vote against the current pay offer, and in favour of action up to and including possible strikes.

It comes after a pay deal offered all council workers earning less than £25,000 an £800 rise, while those earning £25,000 to £40,000 would get a 2% increase, with those making more than this awarded 1%.

However, bosses at Unison insisted the offer “does not address the issue of endemic low pay” for some council staff.

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The pay offer to council workers is below the 4% offered to many NHS staff by the Scottish Government.

And speaking as a consultative ballot began, Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland’s head of local government, said more than half of all council workers earn less than £25,000 a year – with more than 100,000 on a salary that is “significantly below the average wage of £32,000 per year”.

Ms Baxter stated: “The current offer does not address the issue of endemic low pay for these workers.

“Without these workers going above and beyond to keep services running over the past year, their colleagues in the NHS would have been left without childcare, our mortuaries would have been overwhelmed, our children would have been left without an education and our elderly would have been left without care.

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“Yet, to date, they have received no reward or recognition of their efforts at all. It’s simply not good enough.”

Mark Ferguson, chair of Unison Scotland’s local government committee, said: “Local government and its workforce are no longer the poor relation of the public services – we have become the distant relative which is never discussed and has long been forgotten.

“The current offer was simply lifted from the Scottish Government’s announced public sector pay policy – a pay policy that the Scottish Government has itself breached in offering higher pay rises to other public sector workers. Our members deserve better.”

A spokesman for the local government body, Cosla, said: “We have made an offer to our trade union colleagues. This offer remains on the table whilst we continue with on-going constructive negotiations.”


‘Give free gym memberships to deprived young people’

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh say young people from deprived areas have been hit hard by the pandemic.

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Gym: The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh say young people from deprived areas have been hit hard by Covid.

A body representing doctors has urged parties to consider offering free gym memberships to young people in the most deprived areas to improve health and wellbeing.

In its manifesto ahead of May’s Holyrood elections, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh called for political parties to consider the policy, which it says could cost £26.4m per year.

However, the cost could be reduced if agreements are struck with local councils to reduce membership fees.

The college says people between the age of 16 and 24 in the most deprived areas of Scotland have been hit hard by the pandemic and may struggle to pay for a membership, which could impact on their health.

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Acting president, professor Angela Thomas, said: “As we begin to think about the post-Covid recovery of health services, we must consider new ways to improve the health of the nation.

“One of the ways to improve health is through exercise, with an awareness of the economic barriers that people often experience.

“We know that exercise can improve not only physical health, but mental health too.”

She added: “While it is of course vital that we encourage appropriate forms of exercise among all age groups, we note that the 16-24 year old demographic is least likely to be able to afford a gym membership – particularly those living in the poorest communities and who are unemployed or on low pay.

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“Our analysis estimates that providing 16-24-year-olds in the poorest communities with a free gym membership could cost up to £26.4m – and that’s assuming that everyone takes up the offer.

“The reality is that the cost could be less, particularly if the next Scottish Government resolved to working with local authorities to provide free gym access.

“We believe that for political parties to include this in their manifestos, ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May, would present a new way of establishing a healthier lifestyle for young people.”


Whisky distillery to expand after securing £10m loan

Bladnoch Distillery aims to target 'growth markets' in Australia, Israel, China, the US and parts of Europe.

Bladnoch Distillery via HSBC UK
Bladnoch Distillery: Master distiller, Dr Nick Savage.

A Scottish whisky distillery is planning to expand its growth into international markets after securing a £10m bank loan.

Bladnoch Distillery, near Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway, aims to target “growth markets” in Australia, Israel, China, the US and parts of Europe.

The loan from HSBC UK will also be used to improve the company’s energy efficiency and carbon footprint through technology upgrades as well as maintenance and improvement works on its grounds and warehouses.

In the past year, Bladnoch has expanded its team with seven new posts. Further additions are expected throughout 2021.

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Bladnoch’s master distiller, Dr Nick Savage, said: “While trading conditions have been challenging in the face of Brexit and Covid-19, we’ve managed to grow through this period and the business is now in a place where it can explore new opportunities to increase our international sales and reputation.

“HSBC UK understands the real value of whisky stocks and products, not just the financial value. It means they are well placed to understand our vision and plans for future growth.”

Allan Jackson, corporate banking director in Scotland at HSBC UK, added: “It is no secret that the whisky sector is hugely important to the Scottish economy, with worldwide appeal for its products.

“We’re delighted to support Bladnoch as it continues to improve and grow its business operations, tapping into new markets where demand is increasing.”


SNP to promise more help with cost of school day for poorer Scots

John Swinney will outline further policies aimed at helping youngsters from disadvantaged families.

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SNP: John Swinney will outline further policies aimed at helping youngsters from disadvantaged families.

The SNP is pledging to scrap charges for practical lessons in schools, and help for poorer children with the cost of class trips.

Education secretary John Swinney will also promise if the SNP is re-elected to power next month it will increase the grant disadvantaged families get to help with the cost of buying uniforms.

Swinney will say the SNP is “absolutely committed to tearing down the barriers to education that still exist, and ensuring all children can get the best start in life”.

At the moment charges can be imposed in subjects such as art and design, music, home economics, hospitality and technology, with pupils either being expected to pay a fee for materials or to provide their own.

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As well as abolishing these, a future SNP government would exempt youngsters from less well-off families from the costs of school trips, while grants for uniforms would be increased from the current £100 minimum to £120 for primary school and £150 for secondary school.

The payments will be linked to inflation, and reviewed, to ensure they meet the costs faced by families.

The policy commitments come ahead of the party unveiling its manifesto for the May 6 Scottish Parliament election.

The SNP has already pledged to help youngsters with free school breakfasts and lunches in primary school, and by providing every pupil with a laptop or tablet to help with their learning.

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Swinney will say the party wants to make “Scotland the best place in the world to grow up for every child”.

He will say: “That’s why the SNP has invested enormously in early years, from the Baby Box to the transformational increase in childcare provision seen in recent years.

“It’s why we’re extending free school meals to ensure that no child is forced to try and learn while hungry.

“And it’s why we are going to give every pupil the device they need – so they can learn in the modern world.

“We know that some families are sacrificing essentials like heating, food and rent payments so that their children can participate fully at school. This is simply unacceptable.

“If re-elected, charges for practical subjects in school will be abolished, poorer families will be exempt from the cost of school trips and the value of uniform grants will be increased.

“The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but particularly so for the younger generations – and by reducing the cost of the school day, we will make a real difference in the lives of children from low-income families.”

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The SNP also said they will invest £5m in the foreign aid budget to help developing countries recover from Covid-19.

The current budget of £10m is used to help people in Malawi, Pakistan, Zambia and Rwanda.

The funding, which the party said would increase with inflation, would be used to aid the vaccine rollout in the countries, as well as for the recovery from the pandemic.

International development minister, Jenny Gilruth, said: “Scotland stands ready to play its full part in global efforts to vaccinate the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

“It is clear that Covid-19 will remain a threat for some time to come, and we must therefore step up our international contribution.

“If re-elected, the SNP government will increase the International Development Fund by 50%, from £10m to £15m, and commit to further increases in line with inflation.

“This will help with Covid preparedness, the vaccine rollout, and aid recovery from the pandemic in our partner countries.”

Gilruth, who is standing in the Mid Fife and Glenrothes constituency in this election, attacked the UK Government’s cuts to foreign aid, saying: “Boris Johnson must step up to the plate by reversing the shameful Tory cuts to the UK’s international aid budget and committing additional funds to a worldwide vaccination programme.

“Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is also the only sensible course of action to benefit people all over the world.

“If we fail to act, many thousands will die from this disease unnecessarily as it spreads and mutates out of control – impacting us all.

“By casting both votes SNP on May 6, Scotland can re-elect Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister to provide the serious leadership needed to tackle Covid in Scotland, and play our full part around the world, so we can build the strong, fair and green recovery we all want to see.”


Salmond: SNP showing lack of urgency over independence

Nicola Sturgeon previously said she wanted to see a referendum in the first half of the next parliamentary term.

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Alba Party: Leader Alex Salmond.

Alex Salmond has said the SNP are showing a “lack of urgency” over Scottish independence.

The Alba Party leader said they were going to tackle the “constitutional debate” following the suspension of the election campaign in the wake of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Salmond has made one of his first overt broadsides against his former party and more specifically his former deputy.

Nicola Sturgeon has previously said she hopes another referendum on independence would take place in the first half of the parliamentary term – which would be by the end of November 2023 – however she told journalists last week that would not be the case if the country was still in the grip of a pandemic.

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In a statement released on Monday, Salmond said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s comments last week about an independence referendum in 2023 or later have caused total consternation in the national movement.

“It seems to be that Scotland will not be free until after 2023, more seriously it seems to indicate a lack of urgency on bringing the independence question to a decision.”

The Alba Party, as with the SNP, consider Scottish independence as something that would aid the country in its recovery from the coronavirus, but Salmond has said it is a “priority” for his party.

“The reality is that Scottish independence is not an alternative to economic recovery from Covid, it is an essential part of building a new, different and better society,” he said.

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“For Alba, independence is the priority, which is why we are putting it front and centre in the election campaign.

“In the power balance that will emerge post-election between Scotland and Westminster it is fundamentally true that Boris Johnson will find it substantially more difficult taking on a parliament with an independence supermajority representing a country than he will in framing the debate as party against party, Prime Minister against First Minister.”

A spokeswoman for the SNP said Salmond’s comments were “simply not a credible contribution to the independence debate”.

She added: “Only an SNP government can deliver an independence referendum, to give people a choice on the country’s future once the Covid crisis has passed – and as the First Minister has made clear, there is no shortcut to winning independence which doesn’t involve a clear majority voting for it in a democratic, accepted, legitimate process.

“The only safe way to ensure that Nicola Sturgeon is re-elected to lead an SNP government which can deliver independence is to give both votes to the SNP.

“Anything else is a gamble which risks putting Scotland’s future in Boris Johnson’s hands.”

Sturgeon told the Guardian on Monday she believes that Johnson would relent in his opposition to another referendum if the SNP win a majority on May 6.

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She said: “If people in Scotland vote for a party saying, ‘when the time is right, there should be an independence referendum’, you cannot stand in the way of that – and I don’t think that is what will happen.”

Responding to Sturgeon’s comments, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The first thing to say is that ministers and officials across all UK Government departments are focused on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I think that’s what the public wants to see, Scottish people have been clear they want to see the UK Government and devolved administrations working together to defeat this pandemic.

“So, calling for a referendum in this way in the middle of the pandemic is not right.”


Lib Dems pledge new law to help tackle ‘nature emergency’

The party insists a new Nature Recovery Law is needed, to force governments to act.

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Scottish Lib Dems: The party insists a new Nature Recovery Law is needed, to force governments to act.

Liberal Democrats want a new law to tackle Scotland’s “nature emergency” which would see an additional 36 million trees planted every year.

The party insists a new Nature Recovery Law is needed, to force governments to act.

The Lib Dem manifesto for next month’s Holyrood elections will include plans for such a law, setting legally binding targets for cleaning up the air, soil, seas and rivers.

The proposed legislation, which would be the first of its kind in Scotland, would also see more money invested though plans such as planting an additional 36 million trees a year across the country.

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A target for 30% of all publicly owned land should be used for rewilding would be set – with this including land owned by Forestry and Land Scotland, the Crown Estate Scotland, and Scottish Water.

In addition, the Liberal Democrats also want new national parks to be created in Scotland, saying this could provide an important boost for employment in more rural areas.

Speaking about the proposals, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “The SNP are consumed with creating more divisions by pursuing independence when instead they should be focusing on the recovery and protecting Scotland’s natural environment.”

In contrast he promised: “Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first. If elected as government, we would declare a nature emergency on day one.”

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He said this action was needed “because almost half of species in Scotland are in decline”.

Rennie added: “Experts say around one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction.

“I want future generations of Scots to enjoy our woodlands, our national parks and our beautiful landscapes. Taking action now to stop the nature crisis is our duty.

“As a sign of our ambition we are proposing plans that would see seven native trees planted for every person in Scotland, every year.”


Greens pledge to improve conditions for hospitality workers

The party also said it will scrap homework for primary school pupils.

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Scottish Greens: The party has pledged to improve conditions for staff in the hospitality industry.

The Scottish Greens have said they will work to improve conditions for staff in the hospitality industry.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie said insecure work and low wages was “endemic” in the industry before the pandemic, adding that a green recovery from Covid-19 must also come with a “new deal” for workers.

The industry has spent most of the past year shuttered due to the pandemic, with April 26 earmarked as a possible reopening date for some parts of hospitality.

Ahead of unveiling the party’s policies on hospitality, Harvie said: “The hospitality sector has had a grim year, and supporting small independent hospitality businesses should be seen as a strategic priority for economic recovery.

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“But we can’t return to how things were. Even before Covid, hospitality had an endemic problem of low pay and insecure conditions. A green recovery must come with a new deal for workers.

“Responsible employers should welcome the work of Unite Hospitality, who during the last year have helped organise the workforce in the face of challenging times.

“As we make our town centres safe and attractive places to be, with less traffic and pollution, as well as quality green spaces and public transport, we will need places to get together and socialise, to see the people we have missed over this last year.

“The Scottish Greens will work to ensure the people working in those places are valued.”

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The party have also pledged to scrap homework for primary school pupils.

The proposal is the latest in a line of Green policies designed to focus on the social development of children following the coronavirus pandemic, including a kindergarten-style model.

Education spokesman Ross Greer said homework can be “deeply unhelpful”.

He said: “After a year full of remote working from home, the last thing children and families need once schools reopen is to bring even more work home. We know from research that this creates a negative association with school and learning from a young age.

“Moving on from a year of restrictions on meeting friends and playing together, we need to ensure that children are free to go outdoors and socialise, rather than stuck inside completing homework which isn’t actually helping them.

“This is no criticism of overworked teachers, who are regularly pressured to issue homework which only creates an additional workload burden for them.

“Ending homework in primary schools benefits everyone, pupil, family and teacher.”

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The party has also pledged to increase the number of teachers in Scotland by 5500.


UK Government refers Holyrood Bills to Supreme Court

Nicola Sturgeon has described as ‘repugnant’ the UK’s Government’s decision to challenge legislation passed in the Scottish Parliament.

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The UK Government has insisted the referral was not due to the substance of the Bills.

The UK Government has referred two Bills passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament to the Supreme Court over concerns it is outwith Holyrood’s powers.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill were passed in the weeks leading up to the parliamentary recess.

The UK Government has insisted the referral was not due to the substance of the Bills, but because of technical aspects which may place legal duties on UK Ministers, but Nicola Sturgeon has described the move as “morally repugnant”.

Before the passage of the Bill, Scottish secretary Alister Jack wrote to the Deputy First Minister to ask for changes to be made to the children’s Bill, which was proposed by the Scottish Government.

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No changes were made to the Bill, which aims to ensure no public body in Scotland can infringe upon the rights laid out in the charter, leading to its referral to the Supreme Court on Monday.

A spokeswoman for the UK Government said: “UK Government Law Officers have today referred two Bills from the Scottish Parliament to the Supreme Court under Section 33 of the Scotland Act 1998.

“The UK Government Law Officers’ concerns are not about the substance of the legislation, rather whether parts are outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.”

In a letter after the passage of the Bill, the Scottish Secretary said there were concerns it would place legal obligations on UK Ministers in reserved areas.

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Similar issues were expressed with the local government Bill, which was proposed by independent MSP Andy Wightman.

As the news broke, Sturgeon attacked the move, taking to Twitter to say: “Jaw-dropping. The UK Tory government is going to Court to challenge a law passed by the Scottish Parliament unanimously.

“And for what? To protect their ability to legislate/act in ways that breach children’s rights in Scotland.

“Politically catastrophic, but also morally repugnant.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney also promised to fight the challenge, which he sought to paint as an attack on the rights of children.

“Not a single voice in the Parliament was raised against the Bill. It passed unanimously,” he said.

“And, crucially, it has been certified independently by the Presiding Officer as being within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

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“Now, the Tory Westminster Government is trying to veto those rights. That is not just morally repugnant but it is also deeply menacing.

“The only people who need fear this Bill are people who want to breach children’s rights.

“The only people who want to block this Bill are people who know they are already breaking those rights.

“So, if the Tories want to target the rights of Scottish children, then they can expect to see us in court.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “The Conservatives are bereft of compassion and have completely lost their way.

“At this time of national crisis, we should be pulling together to build a fairer Scotland, not playing petty political games.

“Scotland deserves a better opposition.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “This is petty and spiteful politics from the Conservatives.

“When the best thing they have to offer is a legal assault on children’s rights, you know you are looking at a party who are dead in the water.

“While Douglas Ross’s moral compass spins wildly, Scottish Liberal Democrats will get on with setting out a positive future for Scotland at the heart of the U.K. and putting the recovery first.”

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