Level-four coronavirus lockdown ‘tough but necessary’

Glasgow, its surrounding areas and West Lothian will go into the highest tier of the Covid alert system.

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Moving 11 council areas into a level-four lockdown was a “tough but necessary” decision, the First Minister has said.

Glasgow, its surrounding areas and West Lothian will move into the highest tier of the Covid alert system at 6pm on Friday.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will all have to close for at least three weeks, and it will be against the law to travel in and out of level three and four areas.

Sturgeon was speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, when she announced 54 deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus had been registered in the past 24 hours.

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She reiterated that the decision to use level four for the first time was made to tackle the spread of Covid-19, as well as to ensure that hospitals do not become overwhelmed and to increase the chances of families being able to meet at Christmas.

And she said work was being done across the UK to allow people to meet for the festivities.

Sturgeon said: “We are all desperate for some normality around Christmas and I absolutely include myself in that.

“The Scottish Government right now is working very closely and well with the other UK nations to try to agree a way for that to happen – we want to have the same position across the UK given family patterns that exist.

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“But we know that people coming together when a virus is circulating will increase the risks of it spreading.”

Sturgeon was also asked about schools being open, amid growing pressure from teaching unions to close them in level-four areas.

But the First Minister said the benefits of keeping pupils in class “outweighed” the impact on the spread of coronavirus.

She outlined the details of a new report from Public Health Scotland, which showed that three-quarters of all schools did not report a single case of Covid-19 in the first nine weeks of this term.

In total, 1621 pupils tested positive for the virus during that period, the equivalent of 0.2% of the total cohort.

Sturgeon said: “While we will continue to listen carefully to all concerns, these findings do reinforce our view that, at this time, the benefits young people gain from being in school outweigh the overall impact on transmission rates.”


Scots soak up sunshine as Covid travel restrictions ease

Parks and seaside resorts busy as groups of up to six adults from six households are now allowed to meet outdoors.

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People enjoying the sun in Largs.

Some coronavirus travel restrictions have been removed in Scotland and more people are now able to meet up outdoors.

The latest stage in lockdown easing was announced at an unscheduled Covid-19 briefing by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.

She said the continued decline in virus cases meant the restrictions can be eased earlier than planned.

Scots can now travel across local authority boundaries for outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise.

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Cyclists pass a queue at an ice-cream van in Cramond, north-west of Edinburgh.
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But they must follow the “stay local” order for other purposes such as non-essential shopping, and travel to some islands is not allowed.

Rules on gatherings have also been relaxed, with groups of up to six adults from six households now allowed to meet outdoors.

Children under 12 do not count towards the limit.

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Loch Morlich near Aviemore in the Highlands

As the changes took effect, the latest Scottish Government coronavirus figures showed three deaths of Covid patients and 204 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours,

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Friday’s data brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7640.

The daily test positivity rate is 1.4%, up from 1.2% on Thursday.

There are now 109 people in hospital in Scotland confirmed to have the virus, down six in 24 hours, and of these 18 patients are in intensive care – up two.

A total of 2,722,084 people north of the border have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 688,761 have had their second.

Among those heading further afield on Friday was Andrew McVie, 27, from Glasgow, who told the PA news agency he was “super excited” to be visiting Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae for a cycling day trip for the first time in more than two years.

The clerical assistant said he has enjoyed returning to the scenic island – a short ferry ride from Largs on the North Ayrshire coast – after visiting as a child with his mother.

He said: “I try and go with a bike when I’m free on weekends and day trips, I really enjoy it and it’s dead handy to get to and dead easy to cycle around, you can do it in about two hours if you don’t stop.

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“It’s why a lot of people like it, there’s great scenery and it’s a really nice, friendly, welcoming place and it’s a beautiful day.

“I’ve missed it so much not being able to go because of the travel restrictions, but I’ll still be taking precautions.

“And tomorrow I’m going through to Edinburgh with a couple of friends for the first time in over a year which will be good.”

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Lochore Meadows in Fife.

The latest lockdown easing comes after barbers and hairdressers opened on April 5 and ahead of a more substantial unlocking of the country on April 26.

On that date, Scotland will move from level four to level three of the four-tier system of restrictions.

Cafes, restaurants and beer gardens can then reopen, along with shops, gyms, libraries and museums.

Travel between Scotland, England and Wales will be permitted and tourist accommodation can welcome back visitors.

Other restrictions will ease in May and over the summer if Covid-19 continues to be suppressed.

Announcing the measures on Tuesday, Sturgeon said: “We have always said we will keep plans under review and accelerate the lifting of restrictions if possible.

“The improved data does not allow us to throw caution to the wind – not if we are sensible – but it does give us a bit of limited headroom.

“So from the end of this week, you will be able to meet up with family and friends who live in different parts of the country.

“Many of those reunions will be long-awaited, and much anticipated. Please do remember that meetings at this stage must still be outdoors – you cannot socialise in people’s homes – and remember due to physical distancing, public transport capacity remains relatively limited.”

But on Thursday, the First Minister told the PA news agency it was “positive” that the easing of travel restrictions had been brought forward, but cautioned Scots not to allow their guard to drop.

“Don’t go to crowded places, if you’re headed to a beach or a park and it’s crowded please come away again because crowded places are not safe places to be.

“Please stick to all of the rules and advice, remember your face covering, remember, as I say, to avoid crowded places, hand hygiene, keep your two metre distancing.”

The First Minister added: “As long as we all stick to the advice that’s still in place, this easing of restrictions tomorrow should be the first of many and I think, not least because of the vaccine programme, we can all afford to be just that bit more optimistic right now.”

Scottish Lib Dems unveil manifesto with vow to put recovery first

Party leader Willie Rennie argued that in the wake of coronavirus, 'we must bring the country together'.

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Scottish Liberal Democrats: Party leader Willie Rennie.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have launched their election manifesto with a promise to “put recovery first, not independence”.

Leader Willie Rennie argued that in the wake of coronavirus, “we must bring the country together to recover from this dreadful pandemic”.

He insisted: “This is not the moment to go back to the divisions of the past with another independence referendum that will divide because the recovery will require the skills and talents of everyone.

“Just imagine what we can do. This manifesto is packed with over 50 top line commitments.

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“To cut mental health waits. Faster treatment in the NHS. Giving pupils the education they deserve to achieve their best. Creating well paid jobs with a skilled workforce. Taking bold action to tackle climate change.

“This is a liberal offer. At our heart we want every individual to achieve their potential. Liberal Democrats will put recovery first.”

The manifesto, launched ahead of the May 6 Holyrood poll, promises an “urgent programme to help children bounce back in education” after schooling was disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Liberal Democrats plan to raise the school starting age to seven, with a play-based education until then, and more childcare for youngsters from the age of two.

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Every qualified teacher will be guaranteed a job – a move the party says would cut class sizes – and starting salaries will be at least £30,000.

The party will also guarantee every primary and secondary school pupil has at least one week away at an outdoor centre – as well as “regular” classroom lessons outdoors.

It vows to put “recovery first for the NHS”, with 15% of health spending going on the key area of mental health.

The Lib Dems say they will train more specialist mental health workers who would be based in community centres, schools and workplaces, as well as hospitals.

They also plan to double the number of specialist psychiatrists in training to help young people, as well as doubling the number of people training to be counsellors – with the offer of a £5000 grant to those studying on such courses.

Other commitments include a job guarantee for 16 to 24-year-olds, moving one million homes to zero-emission heating by 2030, and the creation of the new post of Outdoor Recreation Champion within government, to help everyone in Scotland get the benefits of the outdoors.

But unlike other parties, the Lib Dems do not support the creation of a National Care Service in Scotland, saying they are “concerned that this risks losing local innovation and skills, and could repeat the expensive mistakes made by the similar creation of Police Scotland”.

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Speaking about the policy programme, Rennie said: “Liberal Democrats will put recovery first, not independence.

“That means an NHS recovery plan. It means a greater priority for mental health with extra counsellors, mental health first aiders and specialists for easy access near to you.

“Bounce back support for pupils, employing more permanent teachers to cut class sizes, and extend free nursery education to all two-year-olds.

“Creating more jobs and taking action on the climate with one million low-cost, low-carbon homes, a young people’s job guarantee and £5000 training grants.

“That’s what you get when you put recovery first.”


Hunt for thieves who torched children’s charity minibus

The bus, belonging to childcare charity Simply Play, was found burnt out and destroyed.

Simply Play via Simply Play
Destroyed: The minibus was found on Monday.

A minibus stolen from a primary school in West Lothian has been found burnt out and destroyed.

The bus, belonging to childcare charity Simply Play, was stolen from Simpson’s Primary in Wester Inch, Bathgate on Friday.

After an appeal to help find the bus, the “heartbroken” group revealed on Friday that it had been found, but in an irreparable state.

It was found completely burnt out in Fauldhouse on Monday evening.

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A GoFundMe page has now been launched to help pay for a new bus.

Posting on their Facebook page they said: “Words can’t describe how heartbroken we are.

“This is what they’ve done to our children’s minibus – totally stripped and burnt out in the middle of nowhere.”

Police are now investigating the incident.

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A spokesperson for the force said: “Police in West Lothian are investigating the theft of a vehicle from outside a school in Bathgate which was later found burnt out in Fauldhouse.

“The theft happened from outside the school on Leyland Road on Friday, 9 April, sometime after 5.30pm.

“The vehicle was then found burnt out on Monday evening, in Fauldhouse.

“Anyone who saw the vehicle between Friday, 9 April and Monday, 12 April, or has any information to assist police enquiries, should contact officers on 101.”

The charities GoFundMe page has so far raised over £1,000 towards a replacement.

Their CEO Raymond Branton said: “Everyone is gutted with this heartless theft.

“The last year has been tough enough on childcare providers and as a local charity, this will cost us money that we can ill afford”


Sunshine on Leith actor guilty of sexually assaulting actress

Kevin Guthrie faces jail after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a vulnerable woman in Glasgow.

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Guilty: Kevin Guthrie faces jail.

Scottish actor Kevin Guthrie has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a vulnerable actress.

The Sunshine on Leith star, 33, took advantage of the 29-year-old woman who had appeared unwell after a night out. 

The incident occurred at the flat of fellow actor Scott Reid – Methadone Mick in BBC’s Still Game.

Guthrie had insisted he had only “helped” the woman that night – but his DNA was found on the inside of her underwear.

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He wept and said “why?” as the verdict was delivered at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday.

He had denied a sexual assault charge during a four-day trial.

Sheriff Tom Hughes told him: “You took advantage of this woman while she was in a vulnerable position.

“The jury say you were found in a position of trust while you were supposed to be looking after her.

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“Your position stands in direct contrast to the one of your friend Scott Reid whose actions were highly commendable.

“He rushed to her aid when something happened outside his home and he cared for her.

“He was constantly trying to get help through NHS 24 and did absolutely anything to help her.

“This must carry a custodial sentence for this serious matter you have been found guilty of.”

Guthrie, of the city’s Yorkhill, was put on the sex offenders’ list.

He was bailed pending sentencing next month.

The attack occurred between September 30 and October 1, 2017.

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The woman had been due to meet Guthrie and Scott at a bar on the night of the alleged attack.

Scott received a call from a taxi driver to collect her as she appeared ill.

He and Guthrie helped the woman into the flat in Glasgow’s Kelvindale and put her on a bed.

Scott called NHS 24 leaving Guthrie in the room “to make sure she was okay”.

The woman recalled Scott not being in the room and bed covers then “being moved down my body”.

She went on: “I remember my top being lifted up and my bra being held down.”

The woman was groped by Guthrie before he performed a sex act on her.

Guthrie – who also starred in the Fantastic Beasts film and Netflix series The English Game – carried out a further two sexual acts and kissed her on the mouth. He would stop when Scott would come into the room.

She added: “I was unsure about what was happening, I could not believe it was happening.”

Prosecutor Harry Findlay asked why she did not say anything.

She replied: “I couldn’t. I found it difficult to communicate in any way.

“I think I was frozen as well.”

Guthrie refuted the accusations agreeing with his QC Gordon Jackson that it had instead been a “panic situation” due to the woman’s condition.

However, his DNA was found on the inside of the woman’s underpants.

Mr Findlay asked Guthrie to explain why this was.

He said: “I can’t for the life of me explain in any rational sense how that happened.”

Sentence was deferred until next month for background reports.


Covid variant first detected in India found in Scotland

'Cause for concern' as four cases of the B.1.617 variant have been confirmed in Scotland as well as 73 cases in England.

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'Cause for concern': Discovery of 77 UK cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India.

The discovery of 77 UK cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India could be a cause for concern, an expert has said.

Public Health England (PHE) reported that 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been confirmed in England as well as four cases in Scotland.

The figures come from the latest update of PHE’s surveillance of the distribution of different variants across the UK, based on data up to April 7.

Officials have designated it a “variant under investigation” (VUI) rather than a “variant of concern” (VOC), such as the Manaus (Brazil) or South African variants.

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Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the variant features two “escape mutations” – E484Q and L452R – which “are causing people to be concerned”.

“There’s laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations,” he said.

“Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviruses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by vaccine.

“But we don’t know that for certain at the moment.”

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In India, Covid-19 rates are soaring, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deats.

Prof Hunter said it is “not surprising” that the variant has come from India.

“If you think about where the main variants have arisen – South Africa, the UK, California, Brazil, and now India – all of these are countries that have really struggled to keep case numbers down.

“So it’s not surprising. India has got a huge pandemic, and therefore that’s where you’re going to be getting the variant.”

He added: “The big, big anxiety with this one is that it seems – and again this is still a little bit speculative because it hasn’t been confirmed – but… there are two mutations here that are causing people to be concerned.”

The news comes as some coronavirus travel restrictions were removed in Scotland on Friday.

From Friday, Scots can leave their local authority area and visit other parts of the country for the purposes of outdoor socialising, recreation or exercise.

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But they must follow the “stay local” order for other purposes such as non-essential shopping, and travel to some islands is not allowed.


Hunt for man who asked schoolgirl to ‘get into his van’

A manhunt is under way after the incident in Fife on Thursday evening was reported to police.

© Google Maps 2020
The incident reportedly took place outside the Spar on High Street, Freuchie.

A man reportedly asked a ten-year-old girl to get into his van outside a main street shop in a Fife village.

At around 6.30pm on Thursday, the schoolgirl was with her friends outside the Spar on Freuchie’s High Street when the man is said to have approached them.

Police said he had previously been inside the store and, after he spoke to the girl, got into his black van and drove away.

Officers are searching for the man and have asked anyone with any information to get in touch.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police enquiries are ongoing following a report of a ten-year-old girl approached by a man outside the Spar on High Street, Freuchie, around 6.30pm on Thursday, April 15.

“The man had been in the shop before the incident and he drove off in a black van.

“The young girl was with her friends at the time and officers are currently carrying out enquiries to establish more information and trace the man involved.

“Anyone with information should contact officers through 101, quoting reference number 3550 of April 15.”


‘Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has shown me I can do anything’

Kayleigh Ptak, from Perthshire, said the youth awards programme has given her more independence and confidence.

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A young woman with autism and cerebral palsy has praised the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for giving her an “amazing sense of achievement”.

Kayleigh Ptak, from Perthshire, told STV News that Prince Philip’s youth awards programme has given her more independence and confidence.

The 19-year-old, who has attained a silver award, said: “It’s shown me that I can do anything, because I never thought Duke of Edinburgh was something I would be able to do and it has shown me that anything is possible.

“It’s given me more independence and confidence, and it’s just given me more motivation and it’s given me an amazing sense of achievement.

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“And I hope, in the future, if I continue with DofE to inspire others to take part if they get the opportunities I have, because it’s just something that I am so passionate about.”

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Royal: Prince Philip’s funeral will take place on Saturday.

Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, passed away on April 9 at Windsor Castle.

The Duke and the Queen were married for more than 70 years and Philip dedicated decades of his life to royal duty, serving the nation at the monarch’s side.

The 99-year-old, who’s funeral takes place on Saturday, established the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 1956.

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The awards programme – which operates in more than 140 countries – aims to inspire and transform the lives of young people through volunteering, physical activities and expeditions.

Kayleigh added: “It came along at a time where I didn’t really know what I was doing. So, I don’t think if I had DofE in my life when it first arrived, I don’t know what I would be doing.

“I’ve met a great bunch of people who, although we all have different needs and abilities, we all support each other and look out for each other when we need it, and we just get on so well as a team.”

Killer stabbed man in heart after finding him at partner’s flat

Robbie Smullen has been jailed for more than nine years over the death of Barry Dixon.

Police Scotland / Police Scotland
Robbie Smullen killed Barry Dixon in 2019.

A killer who stabbed a man in the heart after he found him at his partner’s flat has been jailed for more than nine years.

Robbie Smullen, 23, knifed Barry Dixon before leaving him at Shannon Beattie’s home in the Tulloch area of Perth.

A judge said Smullen had at the time been disinhibited by the effects of alcohol and “sexual jealousy” when he carried out the killing.

Lady Carmichael said: “No sentence I can impose today can repair or lessen the harm you have caused to the family of Barry Dixon.

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“The effects of your actions are enduring for them and felt deeply by them.”

She jailed Smullen for nine years and three months, taking into account that he was freed under three bail orders from Perth Sheriff Court when the offence occurred.

Smullen had earlier denied murdering 22-year-old Mr Dixon in the attack on June 4, 2019, and maintained that he acted in self-defence.

But a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh rejected his claim and convicted him of the lesser charge of culpable homicide. 

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After the knife attack Mr Dixon was taken to Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital where a scan revealed he had fluid in the sac around his heart. Blood gathered around the vital organ was removed, but a stabbing injury to the heart was identified.

Mr Dixon went into cardiac arrest during efforts to repair the injury and life was later pronounced dead. 

Police and paramedics had attended at the Perth flat following an emergency call and found Mr Dixon in the living room with a visible chest wound.

The court heard that Smullen earlier rowed with Ms Beattie, the mother of his child.

She asked him and his friends to leave the flat, which she shared with Smullen at the time.

Ms Beattie, 25, said she left seeking a cigarette and met up with Mr Dixon before returning to her flat where they were drinking. 

When Smullen entered he asked what Mr Dixon was doing in the flat. Ms Beattie said Mr Dixon asked him to calm down. She said a fight broke out and she tried to split them up but Smullen pushed her away.

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She told the court: “I just remember seeing Robbie on my right hand side and Barry was on my left hand side and Robbie stabbed him. It just happened so fast.”

Smullen told the court that when he arrived at the flat at Wallace Court he was angry and upset to find Mr Dixon there and thought he and his then partner were having sex.

He claimed that Mr Dixon came towards him and threw a punch and that he became aware of a knife in his hand. He said he grabbed his arm and they tripped and fell during a struggle.

Smullen said he fell on top of Mr Dixon and realised the other man had been stabbed when he got up.

He said he was terrified and panicked and ran to go and get help. 

Defence counsel Ronnie Renucci QC, for Robbie Smullen, said he had been described as “an immature young man” in a report and he would not take issue with that.

He said: “This was not a case where Mr Smullen that night had gone looking for Mr Dixon, or looking for trouble. He was returning to his family home and came upon a situation which he was not and could not have anticipated.” 

“He very much regrets his involvement in the death of Barry Dixon. The fact that he was the cause of the death of another person is something he will have to live with every day,” said Mr Renucci, adding that Smullen told a social worker that it haunts him.

“He has recognised he has to change his ways and move on from his past life,” said the defence counsel.

Arsenal bound for Ibrox to mark Rangers’ 150th anniversary

Mikel Arteta will bring his side north to Glasgow for commemorative friendly on Saturday, July 17.

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Arsenal will travel to Ibrox for friendly against Rangers in July.

Warning: This article contains offensive language

Rangers will welcome Arsenal to Glasgow in the summer to mark the Ibrox club’s 150th anniversary.

Mikel Arteta, who played for Rangers between 2002-2004, is set to bring his side north of the border on Saturday, July 17.

Rangers are hopeful that a significant number of supporters will be able to attend but away fans will not be permitted due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

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James Bisgrove, director of commercial and marketing, said: “Rangers’ 150th anniversary will be a special, special year for the football club, and I am thrilled Arsenal have accepted our invitation to come to Ibrox for a very special friendly match.

“There is a rich heritage shared by the two clubs, and it is therefore fitting we should meet at the beginning of a real, milestone year for Rangers.

“With the Covid-19 situation easing, we are very hopeful we will be able to welcome a significant number of our supporters back to Ibrox to celebrate not only the club’s anniversary, but also the winning of 55 in-person too.”

The announcement of Arsenal’s visit came just hours after Rangers boss Steven Gerrard praised Arteta’s men for dumping Slavia Prague out of Europe on Thursday night.

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Gers lost to the Czech champions in the previous round of the Europa League, but the last-16 clash was overshadowed by the racial abuse hurled at Glen Kamara by Slavia defender Ondrej Kudela.

The 34-year-old Kudela has now be handed a ten-game ban by UEFA for allegedly calling the Gers midfielder a “f***ing monkey” – ruling him out of this summer’s Euros.

The fall-out from the explosive Ibrox clash saw Kamara hounded with further online abuse from the Slavia support.

But Arsenal ensured Slavia would go no further in the competition as they produced a four-goal blitz at the Eden Arena to secure a 5-1 aggregate triumph and a place in the semi-finals.

There was a powerful image moments before kick-off when Gunners striker Alexandre Lacazette chose to defiantly take a knee as he stared down the Prague line-up, who remained standing with their arms linked.

The stand-in skipper, whose teammates also kneeled, went on to strike twice, much to the delight of Rangers boss Gerrard.

He said: “I loved everything about the game. I loved Arsenal’s performance, I loved the way they went about it and I admired how they approached before the game, during the game and after the game.

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“I was really proud watching Arsenal last night. Everything about it.

“I thought the way they prepared for the game, the way the manager spoke, the way the players behaved during and after, and then to back it up with that level of performance. I sat there and really enjoyed that game.

“I thought it was a sensational performance.”

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