Coronavirus live: ‘We’re not done with lockdown yet’

The latest coronavirus news and updates from across Scotland on Thursday, April 9.

Coronavirus: News and updates. Pixabay
Coronavirus: News and updates.

8.30pm: Blue light tribute during clap for our carers

The nation has once again come together to thank the NHS workers fighting coronavirus.

Now in its third week, the clap for our carers campaign continues to recognise key workers and all those working on the frontline battling to stop the spread of Covid-19.

At 8pm on Thursday, people across the UK showed their appreciation for health staff by cheering and applauding into the streets.

Thank you to all our emergency service workers who are working during #Coronavirus to keep our communities safe 👏 🚒 Scottish Fire and Rescue Service 🚑 Scottish Ambulance Service#ClapForCarers #ClapForKeyWorkers

Posted by Police Scotland on Thursday, 9 April 2020
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Police Scotland joined forces with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Ambulance Service to hold a special blue light tribute.

7.20pm: Prime Minister out of intensive care

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care, Downing Street has confirmed.

On Thursday night, a spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery.

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“He is in extremely good spirits.”

6pm: North Air agrees to furlough workers on full pay

Unite Scotland has welcomed the decision by North Air based in Aberdeen to furlough employees during the Covid-19 crisis on full pay.

North Air is a fuel tanker company for aircrafts based at Aberdeen Airport.  

The decision to furlough 27 workers in line with the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme follows Unite securing a trade union recognition agreement with the company earlier this year.

Unite regional officer, Shauna Wright, said: Unite the Union are delighted that North Air have agreed to utilise the government retention scheme and top up the salary to 100% for the workforce in Aberdeen. 

“This is a welcome offer from the company and shows that North Air as an employer values their staff group during these difficult times. 

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“Unite earlier this year signed a recognition agreement with North Air and this is a testament to good working relationships at a local level. 

“We hope that this shows all employers that doing the right thing at the right time is the way forward.”

5.30pm: Lawyer to scrutinise police use of emergency powers

A leading human rights lawyer has been appointed to scrutinise Police Scotland’s use of emergency powers during the coronavirus crisis.

John Scott QC will be the chairman of an independent group examining how police are using the new powers granted by emergency legislation.

Officers now have the ability to fine or arrest those suspected of breaching lockdown rules.

Mr Scott is a solicitor advocate with more than 30 years’ experience in the legal profession. He was involved in the Lockerbie case appeal and previously led the Scottish Human Rights Centre.

He is also the chairman of a review into mental health legislation.

Chief constable Iain Livingstone invited him to take on the new role, following consultation with justice secretary Humza Yousaf.

5pm: Death toll continues to rise

A total of 7978 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Wednesday, Dominic Raab has said, up by 881 from 7097 the day before.

On the possibility of easing the lockdown, the foreign secretary said: “We are not done yet. We must keep going.”

He added: “It’s been almost three weeks and we’re starting to see the impact of the sacrifices we’ve all made.

“But the deaths are still rising and we haven’t yet reached the peak of the virus. So it’s still too early to lift the measures that we put in place.

“We must stick to the plan and we must continue to be guided by the science.”

Speaking at the Downing Street daily briefing, he said Prime Minister Boris Johnson “continues to make positive steps forward and he’s in good spirits”.

3.25pm: Sturgeon will consider allowing those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 to be tested for the virus

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said testing relatives of people who have died from coronavirus could prevent them from “grieving alone”.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Leonard said “compassionate testing” could also help patients receiving end-of-life care to enjoy the time they had left.

So far, facilities across Scotland have carried out more than 27,000 tests for coronavirus. Priority is being given to NHS frontline staff.

The First Minister said she would look at the issue “very carefully”.

2.59pm: Postal staff walkout as bosses fail to clean ill worker’s desk

Angry postal staff staged a walkout after bosses failed to clean the workstation of a worker who was hospitalised with coronavirus symptoms.

Staff at a Royal Mail sorting office in Greenock, Inverclyde, raised their grievances after a worker fell ill in work between last Thursday and Saturday and was subsequently hospitalised.

Royal Mail walkout, coronavirus.
Royal Mail: The workers walked out on Monday.

A source said despite colleagues expressing their worries about the employee’s health, nothing was done by management and the worker continued to handle hundreds of parcels to be delivered.

Workers arrived at the sorting office on Monday morning to find out that their colleague had been admitted to hospital, yet they were expected to carry on as normal.

They immediately walked out while representatives from the Communication Workers Union (CWU) met with bosses.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “There was a disruption to service on Monday morning at Inverclyde delivery office.

“We are working with our people to resolve any areas of concern.

“A deep clean of the office is taking place today.

“Royal Mail takes the health and safety of its colleagues, its customers and the local communities in which we operate very seriously.”

2.20pm: Priority supermarket delivery slots for vulnerable Scots to be in place next week

Nicola Sturgeon said about 4200 packages of food and essential items have been delivered free of charge to “shielded” people unable to leave their home at all during the coronavirus pandemic.

She added that the 136,000 people across the country identified as most vulnerable by medics have all been contacted offering help to get medicine and – if requested – free food deliveries.

Of those, 21,000 have registered for the support service, Sturgeon said.

In addition to the offer of food deliveries through the Scottish Government’s contracts with suppliers Brakes and Bidfood, those in the shielded group will soon be able to ask for their details to be passed on to supermarkets who will offer priority delivery services.

2.09pm: Sturgeon: Scotland faces ‘mental health legacy’ from coronavirus

Scotland will be left dealing with a “mental health legacy” of coronavirus once the virus has been quelled, the First Minister has said.

Taking part in the first ever virtual meeting in the history of the Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon said the effects of isolation necessitated by the outbreak will be felt long after it is over.

In response to a question from Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, the First Minister said funding had been made available to allow for the expansion of counselling services, including the creation of virtual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions.

She said: “Not just in the immediate phase of dealing with this, but I suspect for a long time afterwards, we’re going to be dealing with a mental health legacy of it.

“We have to make sure that the services that provide the help that people need are there and that means expanding access to counselling now, but looking ahead to make sure that these services are appropriate in the future as well.”

1.50pm: New PPE advice for care workers following union anger

Coronavirus.

New guidance has been issued on what personal protective equipment (PPE) Scottish care workers should wear, following concern from trade unions.

The Scottish Government has agreed with unions and local authorities that the UK-wide guidance on PPE is “official and fully comprehensive”.

Unions had criticised supplementary guidance issued by Scotland’s chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen regarding the use of face masks for care workers looking after patients not suspected of having Covid-19 symptoms.

1.22pm: PM continues to improve after ‘good night’ in intensive care

Boris Johnson’s condition “continues to improve” in intensive care where he has spent three nights while being treated for the coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister had a “good night” in St Thomas’ Hospital in London and thanks the NHS for the “brilliant care” he has received, his official spokesman said on Thursday.

Boris Johnson’s condition “continues to improve” in intensive care where he has spent three nights while being treated for the coronavirus.

Posted by STV News on Thursday, 9 April 2020

12.55pm: Coronavirus claims 81 more lives as death toll rises to 447

The coronavirus death toll in Scotland has risen to 447, the First Minister has confirmed.

Nicola Sturgeon said 81 more deaths had been recorded since yesterday.

Before a ‘virtual’ session of First Minister’s Questions, she said 4957 cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed in Scotland.

Sturgeon stressed as usual that the figure was an “underestimate”.

A total of 1781 coronavirus confirmed or suspected patients were in hospital as of 9am on Thursday, with 212 in intensive care.

12.27pm: Scottish coronavirus facilities have tested 5,000 people

Coronavirus testing facilities across Scotland have already tested 5,000 people.

This includes a new facility at Glasgow Airport, which opened in a long-stay car park on Sunday, and will prioritise testing NHS frontline staff.

The Glasgow drive-through facility is by invitation only, for those who are priority testing.

Professor Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government’s national clinical director, told BBC Radio Scotland: “We’ve now tested 5,000 health and social care workers across the country, partly using work you’ll have seen on the TV, and places in Fife and Tayside.

“It’s part of the UK approach to testing but we’re responsible for who gets in and out of that service. So, we take priority people and put them through that first, and as that expands we’ll be able to increase that list.”

12.16pm: Sturgeon not expecting COBRA to propose easing lockdown measures

The First Minister says easing of lockdown measures unlikely.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is not expecting the Cobra committee to propose any easing of the coronavirus lockdown measures, ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

The emergency meeting, featuring the leaders of the devolved governments, will be chaired by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after the Prime Minister spent another night in hospital suffering from Covid-19.

The First Minister told Sky News the meeting is expected to discuss the current coronavirus situation and there is little chance lockdown measures will be changed.

She said: “I agree with Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales; I don’t think there is any possibility, any likelihood, of these lockdown measures being lifted immediately, or even imminently.”

12.10pm: Former justice secretary calls for prisoner releases to fight virus

Former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has called for the Scottish Government to set up a prisoner release programme to tackle coronavirus.

Writing in the Scotsman, MacAskill said the state has a duty of care to inmates in its prisons, which are “geared toward hothousing the virus, rather than shielding the prisoner from infection”.

Last week, MSPs passed the Scottish Government’s emergency Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill which put in place provisions to allow prisoners to be released should the prison estate become overwhelmed.

Under the new law, only those convicted of sexual or terror offences or someone who poses a threat to an identified person will be exempt from release

12.04pm: Residents dead in coronavirus outbreak at third Scottish care home

A third Scottish care home has experienced a deadly Covid-19 outbreak, with nine elderly residents reportedly dying from the virus.

Staff at Tranent Care Home in East Lothian, which cares for people with dementia, are currently trying to manage the outbreak.

It follows other outbreaks at Castle View care home in Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, where eight residents died after showing coronavirus symptoms, and Burlington care home in North Lanarkshire, where 13 died.

11.48am: Uni cafeteria delivers van load of stock to local food bank

A cafeteria at Edinburgh Napier University has delivered a van load of leftover stock to a local foodbank.

Enjoy at Edinburgh Napier in Sighthill sent the food to the bank at South Leith Parish Church on Tuesday.

In times like these we know how important is to pull together and help each other out. ❤️ Yesterday, we loaded up a van…

Posted by Enjoy at Edinburgh Napier University on Wednesday, 8 April 2020

A Facebook post from Enjoy said: “In times like these we know how important is to pull together and help each other out.

“We loaded up a van and delivered our leftover stock from Sighthill to the food bank at South Leith Parish Church!

“A huge thank you to Rev. Iain May for all the work the church is doing to help those in need in the local community.”

10.48am: Scottish Building Society staff support Alzheimer Scotland helpline

Scottish Building Society has partnered with Alzheimer Scotland’s free 24-hour hotline to help those living with dementia and their families during lockdown.

Staff at SBS are supporting the charity’s volunteers by providing specialist advice on questions around finances, such as mortgages and savings.

With families in self-isolation, the charity have had to increase capacity on this critical lifeline.

They reached out to SBS to ask if staff could volunteer their expertise for the helpline.

Paul Denton, SBS Chief Executive, said: “It is critical at this time that those living with dementia and their partners, carers and friends know that they are not alone.

“Alzheimer Scotland provides a vital lifeline at these difficult times and everyone at the Society feels privileged to support such an essential charity.”

10.41am: Foodbanks across Scotland benefit from ScotRail stock donation

People in need across Scotland have benefitted from donations from ScotRail staff.

ScotRail’s hospitality teams have donated food and drink stock to charities operating foodbanks in Glasgow, Edinburgh Aberdeen and Inverness.

The train operator has temporarily withdrawn all on-board hospitality services from its trains, resulting in a surplus in short dated food and drink such as soft drinks, snack boxes and confectionary.

Help for the Homeless Glasgow and Church of Scotland’s Edinburgh North East and Leith foodbank are among the charities who received donations.

10.40am: Charity provides emergency supply packs to ‘sick kids’ hospital

An Edinburgh charity is providing emergency supply packs to support children and families in hospital through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC) – which supports the Royal Hospital for Sick Children – has launched an emergency appeal to help families having to cope with the impact of the outbreak on top of the distress of having a sick or injured child.

The free emergency packs contain non-perishable food products and essential items including nappies, toilet roll, tinned soup, beans and tea bags so parents and carers do not have the additional stress of shopping for their families while their child is in hospital.

10.22am: Uni launches study to understand mental health implications of covid-19.

A leading university is launching a new study into the mental health and wellbeing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in adults across the UK.

The University of Glasgow will work in partnership with Samaritans and SAMH for the project.

The study will aim to understand the impact of the pandemic, and the unprecedented social distancing measures introduced across the country, on mental health indicators such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-harm or positive mental wellbeing.

9.55am: Airbnb cancels all bookings in the UK for the next month

Short-stay rental giant Airbnb has cancelled all bookings in the UK for April and said properties would only be available to health care professionals and key workers.

It put the restrictions in place in response to government advice regarding the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown.

Airbnb said in a statement: “In response to UK Government advice we have liaised with guests to cancel all leisure stays during April 2020 to ensure we limit the spread of coronavirus, protect our community and observe travel restrictions.

“During April we are happy to host healthcare professionals, or key workers connected to the coronavirus response who still need accommodation away from home during this difficult time.

9.16am: Doctor has only held his baby girl once as he self-isolates from family

In a bid to protect their families, some NHS workers have taken steps to isolate themselves outside of work.

Sending children to stay with grandparents, aunts and uncles is one step some NHS staff have chosen to take.

Other NHS workers have started living in hotels, hostels and other temporary accommodation as they care for coroanvirus patients.

One Glasgow GP described how he is still sharing a roof, but is isolating himself from his wife, son and newborn baby in order to protect them.

Sandesh Gulhane’s baby girl is just one week old but he has only held her once – after she was born by caesarean section in a sterile operating theatre.

He told PA that he wanted to do “everything” he possibly can to keep his family safe.

“I am basically socially distancing myself from my family,” Dr Gulhane said.

“I say hello, but I don’t hug my six-day-old child, my six-year-old son, I don’t go near my wife.

“I sleep in a separate room, I use a separate bathroom, I eat separately to them.”

He urged people to stay at home, adding: “I am sacrificing my family life and people can’t sacrifice having a BBQ.”

8.53am: Hearts to fight SPFL plans to relegate them to Championship

Premiership bottom club Hearts last night released a statement on SPFL plans to finish the season as it stands.

That would mean Hearts being relegated to the Championship, with Celtic being declared champions.

Here’s what Jambos chair Ann Budge had to say.

Ann Budge says Hearts will not accept SPFL plans to finish the season as it stands.

8.50am: What does the coronavirus data tell us?

The National Records of Scotland yesterday released detailed data on coronavirus deaths for the first time.

STV News’ online politics reporter Dan Vevers has analysed the numbers.

8.37am: Prime Minister spends third night in intensive care

Boris Johnson remains in intensive care, where he was taken on Monday night after his coronavirus symptoms worsensed.

He is said to be “responding well” to treatment and is sitting up and talking.

8.30am: Coronavirus claims life of first NHS worker in Scotland

STV News last night revealed the death of district nurse Janice Graham from Covid-19.

She’s the first NHS worker in Scotland to lose their life to the coronavirus.

Friends and colleagues have paid glowing tributes.

Janice Graham, coronavirus.
District nurse Janice Graham is the first Scots NHS worker to die from coronavirus.

8.15am: Nicola Sturgeon to hold virtual FMQs.

Thursday is usually the day the First Minister fields questions at the Scottish Parliament from opposition leaders and MSPs.

Today, however, she’ll do it via video call as part of her daily briefing from St Andrew’s House.

8.00am: UK Government to consider lockdown extension

The UK Government’s emergency committee Cobra will meet today to discuss an extension to lockdown.

Politicians will review the restrictions based on scientific evidence about the spread of coronavirus.

Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said ending lockdown early would be a “monumental mistake”

7.35am: Housing market ‘may need government intervention’

Government intervention may be needed to help revive the housing market after the coronavirus epidemic, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The RICS March 2020 Resident Market Survey shows a downward trend for all areas of the housing market across Scotland post Covid-19.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist, said: “The feedback from the survey does imply that further government interventions both in the wider economy and more specifically in the housing market may be necessary.”

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We are committed to supporting the housing market and home-building industry and to achieving the earliest possible restart of housing construction, but only when it is safe to do so.”

7.23am: New poll warns that Scotland is facing a ‘cost of living crisis’

Scotland faces a “cost of living crisis” amid the coronavirus outbreak, a poll of more than 1,000 adults has found.

The tracking poll for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) found about a third (34%) of Scots were concerned about their ability to pay for food and other essentials.

7am: Dedicated dozen: Carers move in to keep coronavirus out

A dozen care home workers are spending 32 nights on lockdown alongside elderly residents in a desperate bid to prevent coronavirus.

St David’s Care Home owner Ivan Cornford, 58, decided the best way to protect residents was by blocking access to the outside world.

It was only possible thanks to 11 of his employees volunteering to live in the home — and sacrificing contact with their own families for the entire time.

Driver among three dead in commuter train derailment

Driver believed to be one of the victims after train came off the tracks in Aberdeenshire.

Three people have died after a commuter train derailed in Aberdeenshire.

One of the victims was the driver of the ScotRail service, the operator confirmed.

Six other people are in hospital with minor injuries after the train came off the tracks in an area hit by heavy flooding.

Police believe everyone onboard the train is accounted for, but warned that a full search of the area would take some time.

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The Wednesday morning crash sent plumes of smoke into the sky that could be seen for miles and prompted a massive emergency response.

Stonehaven train derailed.
Plumes of smoke could be seen billowing from the stricken train.

The derailed five-carriage train, which left Aberdeen at 6.38am on its way to Glasgow, left the tracks near 10am close to Stonehaven.

ScotRail turned its logo black across its social media feeds as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives.

The operator said: “We are working closely and quickly with the emergency services on the incident near Stonehaven. British Transport Police has sadly confirmed three fatalities, including our own ScotRail driver, and multiple other injuries.

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“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this tragic event.

“The railway in Scotland is often referred to as a family, and it’s one that is hurting today.”

An investigation involving police and rail operators is under way to establis the cause of the incident.

It’s thought flooding may have been a contributing factor after Network Rail earlier warned of landslips in the area.

Chief Superintendent Eddie Wylie, from British Transport Police, said: “This is a tragic incident and first and foremost our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have very sadly died this morning.

“We remain on scene alongside our emergency service colleagues, and a major incident operation has been under way.

“I would like to reassure the public that this was not a busy service, and from CCTV enquiries and witness statements we believe all passengers have been accounted for.

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“However, once the area has been made safe then a full and thorough search will be conducted, which is likely to take some time.”

Normally a train with five carriages could carry upwards of 1300 people, but social distancing measures brought on by the pandemic has cut that number significantly.

A centre was set up in Aberdeen for friends and families to get more information on anyone who was on the train, but hasn’t been heard from since the derailment.

An air ambulance was seen coming and going from the site. Pic: Newsline

NHS Grampian set itself up at Midstocket Church in Aberdeen, saying it would “provide help and support and a direct link with the emergency department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.” 

It discouraged anyone from heading straight to the hospital looking for anyone.

“My deepest condolences are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident,” the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

Local MP Andrew Bowie said the River Carron burst its banks and caused flooding in Stonehaven, but added the water receded quickly as the stormed slowed.


Thunderstorms bring flash flooding and travel chaos

Amber warning overnight as severe weather causes damage and disruption on Scotland's east coast.

Flash flooding has created disruption in parts of Scotland as thunderstorms caused torrential downpours overnight.

An amber warning was declared for the country’s east coast on Tuesday night until 9am on Wednesday, as adverse weather wreaked havoc in towns and cities.

A major incident was declared in Fife, where a number of schools closed, and people were evacuated from their homes.

A landslide meant hundreds of people had to be rescued at Pettycur Bay Holiday Park.

Pile-up: Victoria Hospital car park in Kirkcaldy. STV
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Adverse weather caused a pile-up at one of Victoria Hospital’s car parks, scenes which were described as “upsetting” by Monica Lennon MSP.

Heavy rain was felt across Fife, East Lothian, Midlothian, Falkirk, Edinburgh and West Lothian during Tuesday night and early hours of Wednesday.

Flooding: Victoria Hospital car park in Kirkcaldy. STV

Locals said the storms in the capital were “like nothing they had ever seen”, as thunder and lightning rumbled across the city.

Meanwhile, the weather has caused severe damage on the A68 at Fala, Midlothian, which Amey maintenance crews are working to repair.

Lightning in Redding, Falkirk. Thomas Lamont, The Kilted Photographer
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Amey added: “A diversion has been established and an investigation is taking place into the full extent of the damage.”

Further north Perth experienced the adverse weather, with the local authority closing off a number of roads on Wednesday morning.

Perth and Kinross Council described several roads as “impassable”, including Feus Road, Marshall Place, Wallace Crescent, Crammond Place, Crieff Road, Glasgow Road and the A912 at Bogle Bridge.

The council said surface water has been causing problems at a number of other locations, while Perth High School has closed due to flooding.

Flooding has also caused difficult conditions in Aberdeen, with pictures showing deep surface water on the roads. A number of schools have also been closed.

Flooding: Adverse conditions in Aberdeen. Fubar News

STV meteorologist Sean Batty said: “The east of the country has experienced some horrendous conditions overnight with frequent lightning, hailstones and torrential downpours.

“It looks like Scotland has experienced over 1500 flashes of lightning through these storms with around 300-400 across the Lothians, Edinburgh, Fife, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

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“I’ve not seen rainfall totals this high for a long time, with some of the heaviest downpours around Edinburgh, West Lothian, Falkirk, Perth, west and central Fife.

‘It looks like Scotland has experienced over 1500 flashes of lightning through these storms with around 300-400 across the Lothians, Edinburgh, Fife, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.’

Sean Batty, STV meteorologist

“From what I can see, it looks like 110mm of rain has fallen on the eastern side of Loch Leven in Scotlandwell and Kinnesswood. This is over a month’s worth of rainfall for this part of Fife.

“Heavy falls occurred in Perth city centre which has had around 80mm of rain from the storms, roughly what we’d expect in five weeks at this time of year. In one hour alone over 40mm of rain fell in the city, which is an astonishing amount of rain in that duration. That’s two thirds of a month’s rain in an hour.

“Falkirk was also badly affected by the storms with a month’s worth of rain falling here overnight.

“Edinburgh city centre had around 50mm, while further west in Ingliston there’s been 60mm. Around the capital is a good example of how rainfall can vary wildly in thunderstorms with Hermiston just two miles away from Ingliston getting 25mm.

“It’s an even bigger contrast to the east where Gullane only had 3mm and Haddington 2mm.”

The storms are expected to continue to track north and east through Wednesday morning to clear most of the mainland.

Shetland and Orkney will see these storms throughout the morning and into the early afternoon before easing.

More thunderstorms may develop later in southern areas and across the Highlands, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire.

Travel disruption was seen throughout eastern parts of the country, with ScotRail services delayed and in some instances cancelled.

In Perth trains were unable to run towards Inverness or depart south because of flooding in the station.


‘Moronavirus’ is a threat to the health of the national game

The First Minister told clubs this week they were on a yellow card and 'next time it will be red because you will leave us with absolutely no choice'.

Bolingoli: Celtic player broke quarantine rules.

Boli Bolingoli’s shorts may have been eye-catching, his £2000 suitcase remarkable and his Balenciaga hoodie designed to draw comment, but his facemask was the piece making a statement.

As the Celtic defender was pictured on a flight to Spain he was dressed like he was following the rules like the rest of us. The reality is that he was gambling with the immediate future of Scottish football.

One newspaper headline called Bolingoli “Celtic’s Covidiot”. His decision to fly abroad on his two days off, fail to quarantine or tell his employer about his trip, and then play against Kilmarnock on Sunday, was proof positive that moronavirus is a clear and present threat to the health of the national game.

The First Minister had made her unhappiness and annoyance clear when the ‘Aberdeen Eight’ were caught out in breach of the rules last week.

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The revelations about Bolingoli’s trip took things a step further. Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross may be a qualified referee but Nicola Sturgeon was every bit the official in charge when she told clubs they were on a yellow card and “next time it will be red because you will leave us with absolutely no choice”.

Within hours Celtic and Aberdeen’s next two matches were called off, with Scottish football’s Joint Response Group saying the decision was made when “a request was received” from the Scottish Government. This wasn’t a request so much as an offer they couldn’t refuse.

So was it a public health decision or a punishment? It was a bit of both.

A local lockdown in Aberdeen city meant that the Dons’ game was never certain to go ahead, especially after their players had caused the postponement of last Saturday’s match against St Johnstone.

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Celtic’s match against St Mirren being shelved is probably best filed under “something had to be done” in the wake of Bolingoli’s transgressions. The fact that Celtic and Aberdeen were then scheduled to meet on Saturday made a second postponement an obvious choice.

The action won’t end there, and the response to these incidents will signal a significant change in the footing of the SPFL and the SFA as they look to protect the game from itself and from the doomsday scenario where the government stops all football again.

Until now, the effects of the pandemic have been dealt with by the Joint Response Group, set up by the league and governing body to pool their efforts to help clubs through a health crisis and its potentially devastating financial impact. It’s been Hampden in rescue mode: benevolent, supportive and protective.

The Scottish Government’s warning will change the emphasis. The JRG’s work will continue but the job of policing the game will now become an equal priority.

Players endangering the careful planning won’t go unchecked now and the SFA and SPFL will now have to reach for the rule books to show everyone that they are doing what they can.

Bolingoli has been fined by the police and will be heavily disciplined by his club for actions Celtic boss Neil Lennon described as “rogue”, “selfish” and “stupid”. Aberdeen have been adamant that they will take action on their players.

That won’t be enough. Reports on Wednesday have the SPFL looking to ratify new rules and powers to allow it to deal with these sorts of issues and the sanctions it could impose might be limitless.

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That would be too late for the existing cases but it would be no surprise if the SFA’s compliance officer brought charges against Bolingoli and the eight from Pittodrie. In addition to the famous rule about bringing the game into disrepute, the governing body has one that compels players to “act in the best interests of Association Football”. It’s hard to imagine the Celtic player finding a lawyer willing to tackle that one.

It’s how the SPFL deal with clubs that will make for interesting reading. Missed and late tests will no longer be tolerable and major rule breaches will be considered disastrous but the league will have to decide if it has an appetite for calling clubs to account and how that might be achieved.

Celtic and Aberdeen have been appalled, angry and apologetic about the embarrassing behaviour of their players. There’s no suggestion they have been lax in their approach to the problem, nor that there’s any fault in the safety protocols at either club.

The SPFL is, of course, entitled to assign responsibility and impose sanctions as a deterrent. With so much at stake and after such high-profile breaches of trust it’s almost expected that it does. But to hold the clubs responsible even if they have taken all precautions isn’t popular among the clubs. We know this from failed moves to bring in such “strict liability” where offensive behaviour and racist or sectarian songs are sung.

There’s no guarantee the league will decide to go down that road but their next steps will be decisive in whether or not there’s a smooth return to competition or a shambles that leads to shutdown.

In normal circumstances Bolingoli would have a key role to play on Celtic’s left flank, using his abilities to help the team transition from defence to attack. Instead, his decision to disregard the rules has prompted a shift in attitude from all concerned with the Premiership and that change in tack could yet prove devastating.

SQA chief ‘regrets’ but defends downgraded exams

Fiona Robertson appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee on Wednesday.

Getty Images
Exams: Fiona Robertson appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee.

The chief executive of the SQA has said she “regrets” how young people were left feeling over their downgraded exam results, but insisted the controversial moderation system used was “fair”.

Fiona Robertson appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee on Wednesday following the government’s U-turn that will see all downgraded results withdrawn and replaced by teachers’ estimates.

Ms Robertson said everyone at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) was “keenly aware of the concerns from young people” expressed over the past week.

In her opening remarks to the committee, she said: “On the basis of the commission that we received from the Scottish Government, there was a clear and unequivocal case for some moderation.”

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The appeals process would have dealt with any “anomalies” in the moderated results, she said, while the SQA’s equalities impact assessments showed the results were “fair”.

Glasgow: Students held a protest at George Square.

Last Tuesday, around 138,000 school pupils received the results of their National, Higher and Advanced Higher courses after an exam-free year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although pass rates were up, the moderation system saw 26.2% of grades changed.

The SQA downgraded 124,564 results – 93.1% of all the moderated grades – based on criteria including schools’ historic performances.

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Pupils from the most deprived areas of Scotland had their grades reduced by 15.2% compared with 6.9% in the most affluent parts of the country.

In response, opposition politicians branded the moderation process a “train wreck” as well as “disturbing and grossly unequal”.

Pupils held a protest at Glasgow’s George Square, whilst Scottish Labour tabled a motion of no confidence in education secretary John Swinney – which is set to be debated on Thursday.

Jamie Greene, the Scottish Conservatives’ education spokesperson, said to Ms Robertson: “I listened with intent to your opening statement but there’s one word I didn’t hear, and that’s the word ‘sorry’”.

Ms Robertson responded: “It was difficult to see the reaction to last week’s results.

“But we were asked to fulfil a role and part of that role was to maintain standards across Scotland.

“I fully appreciate that, as I highlighted in my opening statement, young people felt that their achievements had been taken outwith their control.

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“I absolutely get that and of course I regret how young people have felt about this process.”

Scottish Government: John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon initially defended the system.

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer asked if one of the SQA’s statisticians had resigned as the moderating system was being developed and if this was because they had concerns about the system.

She confirmed one person had resigned, but said: “I’m not privy to the full details of that particular individual.

“It probably wouldn’t be fair for me to go into that in fairness to them.”

Scottish Labour’s Iain Gray asked if the SQA signed off on a moderation system “in the sure and certain knowledge that pupils in those schools with a poorer past performance would be more heavily impacted”.

Ms Robertson said the moderation process was based on data but “the extraordinary circumstances of the year meant that we were awarding on a basis that I think we would all agree were not ideal because of the cancellation of exams”.

The SNP’s Alex Neil raised what he called the “human cost” of the system, saying he had heard from the family of a young woman who had been left “distraught” by a downgraded result and refused to eat or leave her room for three days.

Referring to previous committee meetings which raised concerns about the methodology, he said: “The SQA absolutely refused to listen to the committee’s point about the need to consult on the methodology before it was approved.

“I think everybody and their granny knew that if you used the record of local schools you’d end up with the situation we ended up with – where the moderation process led to two and a half times the downgrades in the poorest areas than happened in the more affluent areas.”

Ms Robertson said: “Where there are lessons to be learned we will learn them.”


Buildings catch fire after being struck by lightning

Emergency services called to fires in early hours of Wednesday, after storms raged overnight.

Thomas Lamont
A picture captured in Redding, Falkirk, by the Kilted Photographer.

A house and butcher shop went up in flames as thunder and lightning caused destruction in Falkirk.

Emergency services were called to several separate fires in the early hours of Wednesday, after storms raged overnight.

Firefighters tackled a blaze at a house in Reddingrig Place, Redding, around 4am, before a fire broke out at Thomas Johnston’s butcher shop in Brightons’ Main Street shortly before 5am.

Police confirmed there were no injuries during either incident, however, significant damage has been caused to the roof of the butchers.

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Meanwhile, cars at the Cadgers Brae Brewers Fayre in Polmont have been submerged in water because of flooding.

Flooding: The scene at Cadgers Brae Brewers Fayre in Polmont.

The area has been badly affected by the storms, with a month’s worth of rain falling overnight.

It caused a significant breach on the Union Canal, east of the A801, between Polmont and Muiravonside.

Scottish Canals confirmed it is on site, adding the breach has impacted the Edinburgh to Glasgow railway line.

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STV meteorologist Sean Batty said the east of the country experienced “some horrendous conditions overnight with frequent lightning, hailstones and torrential downpours.”

He added: “It looks like Scotland has experienced over 1500 flashes of lightning through these storms with around 300-400 across the Lothians, Edinburgh, Fife, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

“I’ve not seen rainfall totals this high for a long time, with some of the heaviest downpours around Edinburgh, West Lothian, Falkirk, Perth, west and central Fife.”


If this is not a resignation issue, what is?

Despite calls for John Swinney to resign, a crisis, bigger than the one he helped create, may paradoxically be his saving grace.

Swinney: Yesterday’s climb-down was 'embarrassing'.

It is a simple question and it is one that John Swinney is no doubt pondering in private. For this has been no one-week crisis but a narrative played out over many months with probing questions being met with repeated ministerial assurances that the exams award system for 2020 would be fair and robust.

Yesterday’s climb-down was complete and as embarrassing as it gets for a politician in the mea culpa stakes. 

Last week his defence of what he buried yesterday was, to use a favourite word of this crisis, ‘robust’.  Even more robust was the First Minister’s defence in a BBC interview in which she seemed impatient and annoyed with the very suggestion the SQA had presided over a shambles rooted in injustice.

The apologies have been fulsome and the U-turn dizzying if only because the overall appearance is that saving face politically has been as much a factor as addressing injustice. 

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Having placed tens of thousands of young people in a state of abject fear, the impression that is given is that with a change of heart and a gorging on humble pie then we can now all move on.

Now the constant calls for ministers to quit can be a wearying business in the political world. Any aggrieved voter will inevitably call for a ministerial head and a public inquiry thrown in for good measure when they are the subject of perceived wrong doing.

Backbench parliamentarians no one has ever heard of make the resignation call hoping they will see their name in print. Front-benchers inevitably overuse it, most frequently when a story is running on empty.

But for once the calls are understandable. In a system of parliamentary accountability it is ministers who are answerable even for the incompetence of others that they have the ability to influence if not control.

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In any system of scrutiny, where a minister signs off on a system which he or she subsequently admits is not fit for purpose, there has to be a sanction commensurate with the shambles of their creation. 

In this context, if the exams crisis of 2020 is not a resignation issue for the cabinet secretary then what is? If there is no end-game beyond criticism in parliament then we may as well admit that the principles of scrutiny and accountability are but mere pawns in a game.

Minsters can get themselves into trouble for various reasons. Sometimes they are run by their civil servants particularly if they are lazy and are never on top of a problem. If they are naive or have no foresight as to how a developing issue might play out then that issue can come back and bite them where is hurts.

None of these shortcomings apply to John Swinney, a politician of huge experience with an instinctive feel for what could go wrong. And yet by his own admission, he failed. That failure was as serious as it gets on his watch and the consequence is that his authority is gone, completely and possibly forever.

There are moments when a politician becomes so wounded that their ability to do the job is disabled because they are ultimately defined, consumed and buried by the crisis they have sponsored.

This is never an edifying sight when applied to conscientious and hard working public servant like Swinney, but he is long enough in the tooth to know that by limping on he does so as a much diminished figure. If your authority goes as a minister your opponents scoff not merely in opposition but in jest. You cease to be taken seriously.

Now it looks likely that the education secretary will survive tomorrow’s vote of no confidence. The Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer says his party will vote with the Government to ensure John Swinney escapes parliamentary censure.

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Greer is an impressive younger politician in a party who very quickly said to the Government, if you sort the crisis on our terms you have our support. Swinney it appears duly agreed. 

The problem with the position of the Scottish Greens is that they see this as an injustice to be put right without ever embracing the concept that the sponsor of the injustice should be the subject of any meaningful sanction.  

Their intervention is rooted in a fix not in the sound principle that ministers whose failure is absolute should pay an absolute price. In that regard they have failed to discharge the most basic function of an opposition party.

I first met Mr Swinney over 30 years ago and he is a politician I have always regarded highly. In the political jungle where it is easy to locate one’s baser instincts he has always tried to play fair. Ruthlessness and cynicism are frequently virtues in this world and for the most part his reputation as a good guy is well deserved.

Forget Swinney the politician for a moment. Swinney the man will be wrestling with that most draining of contests, the struggle with his conscience. 

I cannot believe that his instincts are anything other than to resign. The brake on any decision will be that this is not an opportune time given the unprecedented times in which we live.

A crisis, bigger than the one that he helped create, may paradoxically be his saving grace.


Recession hits hard as economy takes record dive

Britain has been officially declared in recession for the first time since the financial crisis.

Recession: Scotland lagging behind England.

Britain has officially fallen into recession after the pandemic sent the economy plunging by a record 21% between April and June.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed the mammoth second quarter contraction, the worst in western Europe, and the UK’s nosedive into recession after a 2.2% fall in the first three months of 2020.

The last time Britain was in recession was during the financial crisis in 2009.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the figures “confirm that hard times are here”.

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“Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and sadly in the coming months many more will.

“But while there are difficult choices to be made ahead, we will get through this, and I can assure people that nobody will be left without hope or opportunity.”

A recession is defined as two successive quarters of decline in gross domestic product (GDP).

But monthly figures showed the economy bounced back by 8.7% in June, following upwardly revised growth of 2.4% in May, as lockdown restrictions eased.

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The ONS said the economy was still a long way off from recovering the record falls seen in March and April after tumbling into “the largest recession on record”.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: “The recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has led to the biggest fall in quarterly GDP on record.

“The economy began to bounce back in June, with shops reopening, factories beginning to ramp up production and house-building continuing to recover.

“Despite this, GDP in June still remains a sixth below its level in February, before the virus struck.

“Overall, productivity saw its largest-ever fall in the second quarter. Hospitality was worst hit, with productivity in that industry falling by three-quarters in recent months.”


Twin-verclyde: Nine sets of twins start primary school

Teachers were left seeing double as nine sets of twins prepared to start their first day of school in the council area.

SWNS
Seeing double: Nine sets of twins on their first day of school in the area.

Teachers were left seeing double as nine sets of twins prepared to start their first day of school in Inverclyde. 

The children, all aged four and five, will all start at primary schools across the council area – with one school set to welcome three sets of the twins.

Inverclyde has a history of having the highest number of twins in the classroom after a record breaking 19 pairs started school in the area in 2015.

Last year 16 sets of twins started primary school at the same time in the council area.

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This year 16 pairs were eligible to start school, but the parents of seven sets decided to defer their children’s start until next year.

Double trouble: Sixteen pairs were to start this year but parents of seven deferred. SWNS.

Provost Martin Brennan said: “I am constantly surprised at the high number of twins we have heading for primary school every year.

“It often runs into double-figures.

“This year would have followed that trend apart from a number of parents deciding to defer their children’s school start until 2021.

‘I am constantly surprised at the high number of twins we have heading for primary school every year.’

Provost Martin Brennan
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“As a former teacher, I am particularly pleased to be able to welcome them as they prepare to join their new classmates in their new schools.”

The rate of multiple births in 2015 – when all of this year’s twins were born – was 2.25% compared to the Sottish average of 1.15%.

Sixteen sets started primary school in Inverclyde in 2019. STV

The children will start primary school at St Patricks, St Francis’, Whinhill, Lady Alice and Craigmarloch.

Three sets of twins will all start Newark Primary school.

Councillor Jim Clocherty, convener of Inverclyde Council’s Education and Communities Committee, said: “The twins photo has become very much a traditional part of the first day at school for many local parents.

“Clearly, though the twins who start school on Wednesday will be facing a very different school environment than last year.

“We have done our utmost to make sure our schools are safe and welcoming for our new pupils.

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“Hand sanitiser stations have been installed throughout our schools along with one-way systems and social distancing where required.

“It will be a different first day and a different school experience but I’m certain it will still be a rewarding one which leads to a successful and enjoyable school career.”


Survey finds majority support Scottish independence

The YouGov survey revealed that 53% – excluding 'don’t knows' – would vote in favour of breaking up the Union.

Yes: A new poll has found that the majority of people support Scottish independence.

A new poll has found the majority of the country now support Scottish independence.

The YouGov survey revealed that 53% – excluding “don’t knows” – would vote in favour of breaking up the Union.

This is the fourth survey in a row to put the independence vote ahead of remain, and the highest level of support for Scottish independence ever recorded by YouGov.

The newest poll, for The Times Scotland, also marks a two-point increase in support for Scotland leaving the union, compared to YouGov’s last poll in January.

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Professor Sir John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said that although the UK Government and the Conservatives north and south of the border have been “stirred into action” by the warning signs about the future of Britain, they will be hampered by the struggles of their main opposition in the House of Commons.

He added: “UK ministers are making frequent forays north while the party’s Scottish leader, Jackson Carlaw, has made way for a successor who, it is hoped, will be better able to reverse the nationalist tide.

“Yet this frenetic activity hides a strategic dilemma for the Conservatives – they are unlikely to be able to save the Union on their own.

“They will need the help from Labour – but Sir Keir Starmer’s party currently looks like the weak link in the unionist chain.”

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YouGov surveyed 1142 Scottish adults, aged 16 or older, and found that 52% of voters believe that Scotland is heading in the “right direction”, a 20-point increase on the last time the question was asked roughly a year ago.

By contrast, just 26% thought the country is going in the wrong way, compared to 41% last August.

Both Sir Keir and Boris Johnson have said they do not believe there should be another referendum in the near future, and Downing Street has briefed that the Prime Minister will not countenance another vote even if the SNP wins a majority in next May’s Holyrood elections.

Keith Brown, the SNP’s depute leader, said: “This poll shows that voters across Scotland continue to place their trust in the SNP to deliver for them after more than a decade in government at Holyrood.

“People in Scotland want an accessible government which listens to and engages with the public and that’s what they will always get with the SNP.

“The Scottish Government remains fully focused on tackling the coronavirus pandemic – but it’s now clearer than ever that people in Scotland have confidence in the SNP, and in Scotland’s ability to govern itself.

“It is now the established majority view in Scotland that we should be an independent country. Prolonging any attempt to stop people from having their say over their future is undemocratic, unsustainable and runs the risk of public opinion in Scotland turning even more sharply against the Prime Minister.

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“There is now unstoppable momentum behind an independence referendum – and that will be a decision for the people of Scotland, not Boris Johnson or any other Westminster politician.”


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