Fears new test will ‘screen out’ Down’s syndrome babies
Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing was introduced in September as part of routine pregnancy screening measures.
Fears about new pregnancy testing for Down’s syndrome are being raised by parents who have children with the condition.
Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing, or NIPT, was introduced in Scotland in September as part of routine pregnancy screening measures.
It’s more accurate than previous methods and should reduce the risk of pregnant mothers miscarrying later on.
However, some parents say that their children could be “screened out” in the future.
Six-year-old Olly Byrne has Down’s syndrome, but he doesn’t let the condition hold him back.
Currently, all pregnant woman are offered a blood test to screen for the condition. However, some fear the new NIPT test could lead to an increase in the number of abortions of babies with Down’s syndrome. And that concerns Olly’s mother.
Speaking to STV News, Beki Byrne said: “Screening has its uses, it is important, and for some people they definitely want to have all the information that they can have, and that is fine.
“The problem is, with any type of diagnosis, how it’s delivered. Leaflets aren’t enough, you’re dealing with lives.
“You need to have all the right information, and that doesn’t just mean the statistics of what illnesses they might get.”
Down’s syndrome occurs when you are born with an extra chromosome, which can leave children with a learning disability.
Pregnant women are routinely screened for a number of things. Those with a high chance of their baby having Down’s syndrome will now be given the opportunity to have NIPT.
Professor Marion Bain, deputy medical officer for Scotland, said: “It offers them the opportunity to have a further test, a more specific and accurate test.
“NIPT reduces the number of women who have to go on for a confirmation diagnostic test.”
Because the test is invasive, there is a risk of test-related miscarriage.
NIPT was introduced in England several years ago. A Freedom of Information request from 26 health boards down south showed that the number of children born with Down’s syndrome has decreased by 30% since it was brought in.
Angela Greenwood opted out of any screening whilst she was pregnant. It wasn’t until her daughter Rosie was born that she discovered she had Down’s syndrome.
Ms Greenwood said: “They talk also as well about that there is no cure, which I see quite a lot, but there doesn’t need to be a cure because it’s not a disease.
“It’s part of Rosie, and it’s part of what makes her who she is. And if we took that away, the same Rosie wouldn’t be there for us.
“In the world everyone is different, and having a variety is a good thing, I think.”
Over the next three years NIPT will be continually monitored by NHS Scotland – which believes mothers should be given as much information as possible about their unborn baby.
But for parents like Ms Greenwood and Ms Byrne, they say they wouldn’t change their children for the world, and want to show everyone that having a condition like Down’s syndrome doesn’t need to hold you back.
Alex Salmond claims there is “no doubt” Nicola Sturgeon has broken rules governing the behaviour of ministers, but stopped short of saying she should resign.
Giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims against him, Salmond said Scotland’s “leadership has failed”.
The Court of Session ruled the Scottish Government’s investigation into complaints against him was “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the women who made complaints.
Salmond called for the Lord Advocate and the head of Scotland’s civil service, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, to resign over the handling of the complaints against him.
He alleged a “malicious scheme” among senior SNP figures to damage his reputation, but said he had no evidence the current first minister was part of this.
Salmond contradicted evidence from Sturgeon over key meetings on the complaints against him, and added: “I have no doubt that Nicola broke the ministerial code, but it’s not for me to suggest what the consequence should be.”
He said he did not believe she was involved in covering up complaints against him, but criticised her for using a Covid press conference to “effectively question the result of a jury”.
He declined to directly apologise for his own behaviour when asked.
In his opening statement to the committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints on Friday, he told MSPs he believes the government’s actions are no longer true to the principles of openness, accountability and transparency.
He said the failures of leadership surrounding the investigation into his conduct are “many and obvious”.
He added: “The government acted illegally but somehow nobody is to blame. Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.
“The importance of this inquiry is for each and every one of us to help put this right.
“This inquiry is not about me, I have already established the illegality of the actions of the Scottish Government in the Court of Session, and I have been acquitted of all criminal charges by a jury in the highest court in the land.
“The remit of this inquiry is about the actions of others, whose investigation into the conduct of ministers, the Permanent Secretary, civil servants and special advisers.
“It also requires to shine a light on the activities of the Crown Office.”
He went on to claim the committee has been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought” in its inquiry, later adding there was “deliberate suppression of information inconvenient to the government”.
He said his ability to give evidence has been “severely hampered” by the Crown Office, adding the “threat of prosecution made to me if I offered that evidence is, in my estimation, both extraordinary and unwarranted”.
The committee redacted parts of his written evidence previously published after the Crown Office raised concerns – something he said would not have happened at the House of Commons.
He said the previous two years and six months – during his investigation and criminal trial – had been a “nightmare”, but “we can’t turn that page, nor move on, until the decision-making which is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed”.
Questioned by Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, Salmond said he did not believe Sturgeon had been involved in a “cover-up” of complaints against him.
He said: “I’ve seen it pursued on the committee that somehow Nicola Sturgeon was covering up – that’s not the case, my charges against Nicola Sturgeon don’t include that.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “I want to ask, laying aside the charges of which you have been acquitted, and the allegations that you deny, of the behaviours that you have admitted to, some of which are appalling, are you sorry?”
Salmond replied: “In my statement I pointed out the Government’s illegality has had huge consequences for a number of people, and specifically mentioned the complainants in my opening statement.
“Over the last three years, there have been two court cases, two judges and a jury, and I’m resting on the proceedings of these cases.”
Labour’s Jackie Baillie asked the former first minister if the name of one of the complainers had been shared at a meeting his then chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had been present at.
Salmond said it had, adding: “My former chief of staff told me that.”
The former first minister also claimed a leak to the Daily Record newspaper, which broke news of the allegations against him, was “politically inspired”, as he called for police to act.
He added: “I think it does require further police investigation – I do believe I know the identity but I’m not here to speculate on individuals that I cannot substantiate.”
He will later face questions about his claims Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament and breached the ministerial code.
Salmond, who was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in a criminal trial, was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government investigation into harassment claims made against him.
Sturgeon has previously insisted there is “not a shred of evidence” that there was a conspiracy against Salmond and she has denied lying to parliament.
She is scheduled to appear before the committee to give evidence next Wednesday.
‘Biggest split in Scottish politics’
Analysis by STV political editor Colin Mackay
Alex Salmond is one of the biggest figures in modern Scottish politics – he is the country’s longest serving First Minister and led the SNP for 20 years.
Nicola Sturgeon served her political apprenticeship during his first term as leader and was his deputy for a decade before taking over as First Minister herself.
So this is the biggest split I have ever seen in Scottish politics. The SNP split in the 1980s when the ’79 Group’ including Alex Salmond were expelled – but that was about ideology and direction.
This is a much bigger split – it’s about personality and some in the SNP think it is about destruction.
They think Alex Salmond is trying to bring the house down. He thinks it is about an attempt to destroy him.
People aged 40-49 will be prioritised next for a Covid-19 vaccine, with scientific advisers saying the move will “provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time”.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had considered whether groups such as teachers and police officers should be vaccinated next.
But it concluded that the most effective way to prevent death and hospital admission is to carry on prioritising people by age.
The Scottish Government said it would accept the JCVI advice.
Advisers said modelling studies for phase two of the vaccination programme also indicate that the speed of vaccine deployment is the most important factor in helping prevent severe illness and death.
This means that in phase two, priority will be given in the following order:
All those aged 40-49
All those aged 30-39
All those aged 18-29
These groups will be vaccinated once all those in phase one (the over-50s and most vulnerable) have received a jab.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “All four UK nations will follow the recommended approach for phase two of the vaccine rollout, subject to the final advice given by the independent expert committee.
“Each government remains focused on the target to offer a first vaccination to all those in the phase one priority groups by the middle of April and the remainder of the adult population by the end of July subject to the availability of supplies.
“The vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow.
“All these measures work to greatest effect when they work together.”
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair for the JCVI, told a briefing that age “remains a dominant factor – it is still one of the most important causes of severe disease, even in those aged 50 years and below”.
He said that even within different occupational groups, it is older people who are more at risk than those who are younger.
In a statement, he added: “Vaccinations stop people from dying and the current strategy is to prioritise those who are more likely to have severe outcomes and die from Covid-19.
“The evidence is clear that the risk of hospitalisation and death increases with age.
“The vaccination programme is a huge success and continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure.”
In the corridors and intensive care units of Kilmarnock’s University Hospital Crosshouse, staff are fatigued and stressed.
Coronavirus case rates may be falling across Scotland but the pressure on medical workers remains intense.
Crosshouse has been one of the busiest hospitals in Scotland during the second wave of the pandemic – its ICUs have been stretched to capacity for months.
There are currently 11 patients in the hospital’s 17-bed unit, a decrease of three in recent days and the first time in weeks that the number has reduced.
But staff remain just as busy as patients are staying in hospital longer – some for as many as two months.
Medics believe it will take several months before they see any reduction in their workload.
Gemma Blair, deputy charge nurse in the hospital’s intensive care unit, said the cracks were starting to show among staff who have been dealing with Covid patients for almost a year.
She said: “There are days in here when you feel that the ship has capsized and we are manically trying to get to the shore.
“I have seen what I would say are the strongest of my colleagues crying within the unit because it really is so tough. That’s really the important message to get across that it is still very busy and this is still happening in your local hospitals. “
“We are so tired, we are exhausted. You feel some days that you don’t know how you’re going to make it to the end of the day but then a patient who has been with you for 40 days will wave to their family for the first time on a video call or take their first drink of juice.
“That is why we get out of our bed in the morning, that is why we show up, it’s for these patients.”
Gemma feels she is can switch off from work easier these days compared to the start of the pandemic, but is now worried about the impact the last 12 months has had on staff.
“The first wave I lived it, worked it, breathed it, watched it every day on the news,” she said.
“Now I worry about after – what happens once the Covid unit closes? What will staff do then? Will there be a PTSD element?
“We are used to looking after critically unwell patients but we are not used to this and there is also a worry about the staff who have redeployed from other areas and the strain on them. “
The area that now houses the covid ICU unit was previously used for day surgery – it was converted during the summer months when Crosshouse had no new coronavirus admissions.
Then one Friday night in October, a call came through from accident and emergency.
One of those on shift was ICU consultant Dr Peter O’Brien, who recalls feeling uneasy at what was to come.
He said: “From June we had no new Covid admissions. I was on shift that Friday night in October when we got the call from A&E that we had the first patient of the second wave and the words in our mind were ‘well here we go again’.
“In Scotland, there appeared to be a peak of the second wave and then we took a second superimposed peak on top of that – I didn’t expect that. That second increase in that wave around Christmas going into January felt like a kick when you are down. “
Dr O’Brien says his biggest hope is the vaccine rollout will relieve some of the pressure.
“You never know what’s around the corner,” he said.
“We were always advised when the first wave was over that we had to in a state of readiness for 200, 300, 400 percent capacity. I would say for the next year, our minds will always be in that state of awareness. “
Scotland recorded a further 27 people coronavirus deaths n the past 24 hours.
That means the total number of deaths of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days now stands at 7111.
There are currently 924 patients in hospital with coronavirus, a decrease of 43, with 80 of those in intensive care, a fall of nine from Thursday.
Although the number of Covid hospital admissions is falling across the country, Dr John Allan, critical care clinical director at Crosshouse, said the second wave has been “relentless”, adding that ICU capacity at the East Ayrshire hospital has been two to three times over capacity for many months.
He said: “The volume of patients and the duration for which we have had to deliver this high level of intensive care is the most striking aspect of this second wave.
“We have certainly seen a lot more younger patients than we did in the first wave. Another difference is that we using CPAP machines as a therapy more so than we did in the first wave.”
Dr Allan says it is also important for hospitals to catch up on elective surgery as Covid rates continue to fall.
He said: “We do need staff to get a chance to decompress and physically rest but we also have this big unknown about what Covid will look like in three months, a years time.
“I guess we all hope that it’s not going to look anything like this but it will change how we work for years to come.
“Even though we have now vaccinated a large section of the population, we are not that much quieter than we were at the peak. It could take several months before our numbers start to come down so we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet.”
Pauline Murray, a deputy charge nurse with 30 years of experience, said medical staff are resilient but tired.
She said: “We have not had as many patients recover, unfortunately, so we have not had that boost that we got with the first wave when patients were discharged; that helped us keep going the first time when we saw these wins but this time it’s been tougher.
“We are a resilient bunch of people, although we are tired. We all just want a holiday to be honest. The support staff are maybe finding it a bit more difficult but we are trying to support them as much as we can. “
Mogwai mark 25 years together with first number one album
The rock band's previous chart peak came in 2017 when they reached number six with Every Country’s Sun.
Scottish rock group Mogwai have scored their first number one album – 25 years after releasing their debut single.
Their tenth record, As The Love Continues, fended off competition from grime pioneer Ghetts, whose third album, Conflict Of Interest, lagged behind by some 2900 chart sales, according to the Official Charts Company.
Mogwai’s previous chart peak came in 2017 when they reached number six with Every Country’s Sun.
Prior to that only one of their records had cracked the top ten.
The four-piece, known for their mainly instrumental brand of experimental post-rock, also became this week’s best-seller on vinyl and the top seller in UK independent record shops.
They said: “We’re unbelievably happy to have the number one album in the UK. We want to thank everyone at Rock Action Records – both of you – and mostly to thank everyone who has bought, downloaded and streamed the album, and supported us over the last week, and the last 25 years.
“It’s something we’re amazed by. We’re taken aback by everyone’s support, kindness and generosity.
“It is 25 years this week since the release of our first single Tuner/Lower, the first release on our own label Rock Action Records. We didn’t start the band or the label to get into the charts.
“None of us ever envisaged either the band or the label being in a position where having a number one record would be a possibility.”
Elsewhere, Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia returned to number three following the release of its extended Moonlight Edition, including new single We’re Good.
The Weeknd’s The Highlights compilation finished at number four, while Ariana Grande’s Positions rebounded 28 places to number five following a deluxe edition release.
On the singles chart, Olivia Rodrigo’s Drivers License earned a seventh consecutive week at number one – the longest stint there since Tones & I’s Dance Monkey at 11 weeks.
Dancing On Ice cut short after injury and Covid exits
The show lost a number of contestants who had to withdraw due to injury or receiving a positive Covid result.
Dancing On Ice has had its series cut short following multiple injuries and dropouts.
The show lost a number of contestants who had to withdraw due to injury or receiving a positive Covid result.
Emmerdale star Joe-Warren Plant and comedian Rufus Hound both had to withdraw after testing positive for coronavirus, while reality TV star Billie Shepherd, singer and actress Denise Van Outen and Jason Donovan all had to pull out of the series due to injury.
ITV said in a statement: “ITV have taken the decision to move the final of Dancing On Ice forward by one week.
“The competition’s final will now take place on Sunday, March 14.
“Our production team and cast have delivered a fantastic show during incredibly challenging times.
“Continuing to make the best TV for our viewers is our top priority and we look forward to the rest of the series, on air from this Sunday at 6pm.”
The celebrity skating competition has also been on a week-long break.
The statement comes as Faye Brookes and her new Dancing On Ice skating partner have spoken about only having limited time to prepare for their first routine together on Sunday.
The Coronation Street actress and professional skater Matt Evers are now a pair on the ITV series, after Brookes’ first partner Hamish Gaman had to withdraw due to injury.
Evers told This Morning that it was a “whole new world”, adding: “We’ve had 11 hours together to get ready for Sunday.”
Soap star Brookes credited Gaman with showing her the basics.
She told presenters Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond: “Well my head was spinning obviously but what was so lovely is that I owe everything to Hamish for teaching me all the basics, the technique, how to perform and I fell in love with ice skating.
“And then things changed and I got given Matt and he’s been here since day one, which is just phenomenal and he knows exactly what the judges are looking for and he’s a pro and so it’s just basically we’ve had to work ridiculously hard for the past week and just kind of go with it. We’re having fun.”
Evers, who last year made history alongside Steps star Ian ‘H’ Watkins as part of the first same-sex couple to compete on Dancing On Ice, said: “We are still standing, the morale here is still high.
“We know we’re up against a lot this year and it’s just a matter of making the best out of a weird situation that 2020 and 2021 have brought, so it’s a matter of continuing to move forward, keeping that smile on our faces and hopefully entertaining people on Sunday night.”
Brookes added: “And listen, we signed up for this. We know this is the most dangerous show on television… we’ve all just got to make sure that we take care of ourselves, that we trust our partners, we work together and at the end of the day we just want to put on a good show at the end of the week.”
The remaining contestants, including Brookes, are Lady Leshurr, Colin Jackson, Sonny Jay and Rebekah Vardy.
They will all skate to routines in a movie week theme.
Dancing On Ice returns to STV on February 28 at 6pm.
The day nine children were taken from families on Orkney
Nine children aged between eight and 15-years-old were taken from their homes on the island 30 years ago.
Nine children aged between eight and 15 years old were taken from their homes during dawn raids on Orkney 30 years ago.
This Saturday marks three decades since they were separated from their families on the island of South Ronaldsay and taken to the mainland for questioning amid allegations of ritual Satanic abuse.
The story caused headlines around the world, leading to a major inquiry and reform of Scotland’s child protection system.
The children came from four different families. They were taken to the mainland and separated from their parents for questioning.
Finally, after five weeks, they were flown home when a sheriff dismissed the claims as “completely unfounded”. The allegations and the evidence were never tested in court.
To this day, the case has left scars on Orkney and the social work sector.
A public inquiry under Lord Clyde made almost 200 recommendations, which included the interviewing of children and the training of social workers.
Dr Sarah Nelson of Edinburgh University is an expert on what happened on Orkney.
She believes the case has had a negative effect on trying to identify victims of child sexual abuse.
“The myths that grew up around it had a hugely intimidating effect on child protection staff, so that even in the rare cases where children need to be taken into care it’s become much more difficult.”
But Alison Bavidge, the National Director of the British Association of Social Workers, believes there is far more protection now.
She said: “There is a much more sophisticated approach. It’s much better known across the key agencies and there are means of us working much better together.”
Changes include legislation and guidance, as well as child protection now being considered a specialisation in social work.
The Scottish Government has also just completed a major Care Review and plans to become the first country in the UK to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law.
On Orkney last year, the Care Inspectorate identified major weaknesses in child protection and care.
In a statement to STV News 30 years since the scandal, Orkney Islands Council said: “Many lessons were learned from Lord Clyde’s inquiry into the 1991 Orkney case.
“The inquiry led to significant changes in child protection legislation and practice in Scotland.
“As a result, child protection processes today are very different to those of 30 years ago. The priority and focus for all the agencies involved is to support families, helping them to look after children safely in their own homes wherever possible.”
Scotland national children’s charity Children 1st declined to comment when asked.
So too did the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland and Maree Todd, the Children’s Minister in the Scottish Government.
None of the families involved wanted to speak on camera. But after 30 years one did say they hope their experience will never be repeated.
Former Scotland star Peter Lorimer moved to hospice
Leeds United confirmed on Friday that Lorimer has been moved to a hospice.
Former Scotland star Peter Lorimer has been moved to a hospice as he battles a long-term illness.
Lorimer’s former club Leeds United confirmed the news after rumours of the 74-year-old’s health circulated on social media.
The former winger, who scored for the Scotland at the 1974 World Cup during a rare win at the tournament, remains the top scorer in the history of the Yorkshire club.
He scored around 200 goals in more than 500 appearances after signing on at Elland Road as a teenager in 1962 before going on to help them win two league titles, the FA Cup and reach two European finals.
In a statement released on Friday the Premier League club said: “Sadly we can confirm that Peter Lorimer is currently in a hospice battling a long-term illness.
“Peter, his wife Sue and their family would like some privacy at this time, but also want to thank the Leeds United fans across the world for their wonderful messages of support.
“The club will update fans on Peter’s progress in due course.”
Dundee born Lorimer played 21 times for Scotland between 1969 and 1976 scoring four goals.
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