Live: Coronavirus news updates from across Scotland

The country is on lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Coronavirus: The fight goes on to stop the spread of the deadly virus. Pixabay
Coronavirus: The fight goes on to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

7.33pm – Health board suspends visiting to all but some ‘essential visitors’

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is to suspend visiting at all hospitals to protect patients and staff from coronavirus, effective immediately.

The health board has issued some exempt “essential visitors” but said only one person can attend at any given time and no children are permitted to visit.

Angela O’Neill, deputy nurse director, said: “We understand this will be difficult – visitors are normally warmly welcomed into our hospitals but our main priority now is to keep everyone safe.

ADVERT

“We want to thank everyone for their understanding and co-operation.

“Essential visitors, like birthing partners, parents of children and those visiting a family member receiving end of life care, will continue to be allowed, however only one visitor at any given time.

“If you are in the essential group of visitors, please speak to the nurse in charge to arrange.”

6.03pm – Senior Scots diplomat in Hungary dies of coronavirus

ADVERT

A Scots diplomat has died at the age of 37 after contracting coronavirus.

Steven Dick, the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy Hungary, died on Tuesday.

A statement from his parents, Steven and Carol Dick, said: “Steven was a much-loved son, grandson and nephew. He was kind, funny and generous.

“It was always his dream to work for the Foreign Office and he was very happy representing our country overseas.

“We are devastated by his loss & ask for privacy at this tragic time.”

5.25pm – Coronavirus ‘antibody test’ to be ready ‘within days’

The public will be able to conduct coronavirus antibody tests at home within a matter of days, MPs have heard.

ADVERT

Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service, Public Health England told Westminster’s science and technology committee 3.5 million tests had been bought and would be available in the “near future”.

5.08pm – Giving blood is an essential activity

Giving blood is an essential activity, with people urged to continue to donate to make sure hospitals are well stocked.

Sessions are going ahead during the coronavirus pandemic and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service will advise if this changes.

4.25pm – Teacher lends a hand in protective gear production

A teacher in the Highlands has been using his 3D printer to create face visors for medical staff who need protective gear in the fight against coronavirus.

Stephen Stewart, of Lochaber High School, received a call from Belford Hospital and after testing a few prototypes, he will also be producing visors for the NHS.

4.05pm – Orthotic technicians to produce face visors

A technique has been developed by hospital technicians in Glasgow, helping them to produce more than 100 face visors an hour.

Staff at the orthotic department at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow have turned to making the visors to boost supplies and plan to pass their design to hospitals across the country.

They are now appealing for material to make the protective equipment.

Anyone who can help with supplying 0.2-0.5mm acetate sheets is asked to contact orthotic lead Melville Dixon at melville.dixon@ggc.scot.nhs.uk

3.47pm – Football chairman offers free hotel rooms to NHS workers

Peterhead chairman Rodger Morrison is offering free accommodation at his county inn to NHS staff travelling to and from Aberdeen’s main hospital.

The Cock and Bull in Balmedie has five bed and breakfast rooms which have been opened up to those travelling to work at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary during the coronavirus pandemic.

3.33pm – Bus operators to receive funding regardless of numbers

The Scottish Government has pledged to pay bus companies the amount of funding projected in this year’s budget regardless of the number of passengers who use services.

The cash pledge, announced by the First Minister at a briefing on coronavirus in Edinburgh, is intended to help support companies during the outbreak.

Under the current agreement, Transport Scotland reimburses bus firms for travel under the concessionary scheme for over-60s and disabled people.

Nicola Sturgeon announced this year’s funding will not be based on the actual amount of travel but projections made at the beginning of the year.

2.57pm – Young Brit dies after Covid-19 diagnosis

A 21-year-old woman has died after contracting coronavirus in the United Kingdom.

Chloe Middleton, from Buckinghamshire, is believed to have had no pre-existing health conditions.

Her mum Diane said on Facebook: “To all the people out there that thinks it’s just a virus please think again speaking from a personal experience this so called virus has taken the life of my 21 year old daughter”.

2.35pm – Confirmed cases in Scotland exceeds 700

There are now 719 confirmed cases of the virus in Scotland – a rise of 135 in the last 24 hours.

It’s the biggest daily rise in cases in the country since the outbreak began, an increase of around a quarter (23%) on the 584 patients reported on Tuesday.

12.45pm: Patient deaths in Scotland rise by six to 22

The Scottish Government is setting up its own expert advisory group to help in the Covid-19 battle, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

Scotland’s First Minister announced the move as she revealed the number of coronavirus deaths in the country has risen to 22.

That is up by six from Tuesday’s total of 16, the First Minister said, adding a further 51 people are in intensive care suffering from Covid-19 or with symptoms of the virus.

12pm: Coronavirus funding in Scotland tops £2bn

Scottish secretary Alister Jack told MPs additional coronavirus funding for Scotland now totals £2.7bn.

11.53am: Record numbers flock to NHS 24

NHS 24 this week recorded one of the busiest days since the service was set up in 2002.

There were almost 19,000 calls to the 111 service and the coronavirus helpline on Monday, on a day when the 111 service would normally see around 3200 calls. This included almost 12,000 calls to 111 and a further 7000 to the dedicated helpline.

The NHS inform website, which is hosting the national information service for Covid-19 information, registered more than 182,200 visits with more than 44,000 people accessing the coronavirus self help guide on the site. 

On Tuesday, there were more than 8500 calls to 111, with almost 4000 calls to the helpline. NHS inform saw just over 202,000 visits with the self help guide accessed more than 55,000 times.

In response to the very high demand for its services, staff from across the national health board have been volunteering to be retrained so they can support the helplines. 

In addition to staff being asked to step into other roles, temporary staff have also been recruited and are currently in training, to help bolster the workforce and help NHS 24 support as many people as possible.

NHS 24 medical director Dr Laura Ryan said: “NHS 24 people have been, quite simply, amazing.” 

11.18am: Barclays to waive overdraft interest until end of April

Barclays UK will waive interest on overdrafts for a fixed period, as part of moves to help personal banking customers through tough financial times amid the spread of coronavirus.

The bank said overdraft interest will be waived from Friday to the end of April, meaning no charges for customers to use their agreed overdraft.

It said customers do not need to call it to set this up – as interest will automatically be removed from March 27.

The move is part of a wider package of support that the bank is offering to help customers who are suffering financial hardship because of coronavirus.

Gillean Dooney, managing director at Barclays, said: “It’s crucial we offer the right support to our customers through this challenging time.

“We have therefore decided to waive all overdraft interest until the end of April, meaning there will be no charges for customers to use their arranged overdraft. We are reviewing all options to help customers after this time to ensure we support those in financial difficulty.”

Morrisons: Customers at the store in Giffnock.

11.08am: Shoppers keep their distance

Shoppers at a Morrisons store in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, kept their distance from each other while lining up outside the supermarket.

A customer told STV News: “It worked really well.

“Staff monitored who was going in, everyone in the queue was kept apart, and there was plenty of food too.”

11am: New £5m fund to help Scottish fishing and seafood industry

The fishing and seafood industry will receive £5m from the Scottish Government to help businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.

Demand for Scottish delicacies such as langoustine, prawns and crab has fallen sharply as the export and hospitality markets contract.

The funding will be offered to 650 companies in the industry, including onshore processing firms.

Owners of vessels less than 12 metres long will receive an initial payment of 50% of two months’ average earnings, administered by Marine Scotland.

10.45am: Dumfries and Galloway family desperate to get home

A crowdfunding page has been set up for a Dumfries and Galloway family stuck in Florida.

George McMillan, 43, his wife Kim, 42, and their children Finlay, 13, and Ruby, five, travelled to the popular holiday destination on March 5.

But the Leswalt family’s holiday plans were scuppered after Disney World Florida announced it would close due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr McMillan, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, said their flights to the UK were cancelled and they are soon to be kicked out of their hotel.

“It’s been very stressful, more so these last few days as in two days’ time that’s us out of the hotel,” he said.

“I have enough medication to see me through to about Saturday.”

Stranded: The McMillan family are stuck in Florida.

While flights have been arranged for their return, Mr McMillan said they are not guaranteed.

“There is so much conflicting information, we are effectively in the dark,” he added.

Crowdfunding page GoFundMe said a keyword search on its website showed a 54% increase in campaigns in the last week mentioning being stuck abroad, and a 33% increase in campaigns mentioning being stranded overseas.

Royal: Prince Charles and Camilla. Getty Images

10.43am: Prince Charles diagnosed with coronavirus in Scotland

Prince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus while in Scotland, his office has confirmed.

His wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, has also been tested but does not have the virus.

The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire, where the couple are staying at Balmoral.

10.30am: Six-month MOT exemption announced

Vehicle owners in Britain will be granted a six-month exemption from MOT testing, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

All cars, vans and motorcycles will be exempted from needing a test from March 30.

This will allow people to carry on with essential travel during the coronavirus pandemic, the DfT said.

Drivers were warned vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition.

Garages will remain open for essential repair work.

10.30am: Distillery produces 30 litres of hand sanitiser

Darnley’s Gin, created on the site of Kingsbarns Distillery on the outskirts of St Andrews, has completed its first-ever production of hand sanitiser to support the most vulnerable in the East Neuk of Fife during the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

Following guidance from the World Health Organisation, the company has produced 30 litres of the gel – which will now be distributed free of charge to churches, care homes, businesses and the most vulnerable individuals in the local area.

Cheers to that: Darnley’s Gin hand sanitiser.

William Wemyss, founder and managing director of Darnley’s Gin and Kingsbarns Distillery, said: “These are uncertain and challenging times for us all.  

“Family and community spirit have always been at the very heart of our business, and now more than ever, we aim to do all we can to assist our neighbours here in the East Neuk.”

10am: Fire service enacting ‘robust contingency plans’

Scotland’s top fire chief has reassured communities that the rescue service is taking all necessary measures to minimise disruption to its emergency response amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Martin Blunden, chief officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), said “robust contingency plans” are in place to manage increasing levels of sickness and self-isolation among firefighters and staff.

This includes the temporary suspension of the service’s home fire safety visit programme; halting attendance at external events; and inviting recently retired firefighters and specialist staff to return to the frontline to cover potential absences.

Speaking of the potential impact on the service’s core emergency response, chief officer Blunden said: “We continue to work to attend every 999 call that we receive.

“However, should we have a significant staff absence, our highly trained operations control staff will assess calls that we receive to make sure that we attend the calls where we can save life, or where we can prevent significant damage to buildings or properties.

“They will make that assessment, and we may eventually have to place calls into a queue until resources can be made available.

“But I can assure you that for every 999 call where you need our response, we will attend, and we will do everything we can to assist and save life.”

Kate Forbes
Finance secretary: Kate Forbes has pledged to put pressure on banks.

9.50am: Banks must ‘do their bit’

Scotland’s finance secretary has pledged to put pressure on banks if they fail to help individuals and businesses left struggling during the coronavirus outbreak.

Kate Forbes she would “expect” banks to be supportive to requests to defer payments from those who have fallen on hard times.

But if they do not, she said she would “most happily put pressure on them” as ministers “expect the banks to do their bit”.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, Ms Forbes said she had taken part in a virtual roundtable meeting on Tuesday with banks and other financial services.

During the talks, she said she had been stressing that “they need to be sympathetic to requests for payment deferrals, for mortgage holiday and other things”.

She said: “This is about getting through the next few months, this is about ensuring we still have an economy at the end of it and that businesses that have struggled can bounce back and people have money in their pockets.

“So if there are cases where banks are not sympathetic I will most happily put pressure on them. We expect the banks to do their bit to support communities and support businesses through the next few months.

“And where they are not, that should be flagged and I will most certainly take it up with the banks.”

9am: Persimmon and Bellway shutting construction sites

Housebuilders Bellway and Persimmon are shutting construction sites despite being allowed to stay open amid the lockdown to help protect workers from coronavirus.

Bellway said it was closing its 200 building sites across the country by the end of Friday, with site managers only allowed onto developments to maintain security or to hand over keys to buyers.

Persimmon confirmed it is also starting an “orderly shutdown” of its construction sites.

It said it would continue with essential work only, making partly-built homes safe, where otherwise customers could be left in a vulnerable position.

Bellway has already shut its sales offices and Persimmon is closing its sales network from Thursday, offering telephone and online-only customer support.

Glasgow Subway.
Glasgow Subway: Services will close early from Wednesday night.

8am: Glasgow Subway to close early

Glasgow Subway will close early each night as the country gets to grips with strengthened measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

From Wednesday, the underground system will close at 9pm when the last train leaves St Enoch.

Previous services continued to run as late as 11.30pm between Monday and Saturday.

Transport bosses said the move was for the “protection” of staff and passengers.

6am: ‘Safe and secure’ climate summit could be held

Police chiefs are set to be told a “safe and secure” COP26 can still be delivered in Glasgow despite concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Police Authority will meet via tele-conference on Wednesday and get an update on Police Scotland’s preparations for the United Nations climate conference, planned to take place in November at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC).

But members will also hear “that position may change over the coming months” as the coronavirus outbreak develops.

6am: Online marketplaces ‘must stamp out Covid-19 profiteering’

Amazon Marketplace and eBay are being urged to clamp down harder on coronavirus profiteering by sellers, after Which? found many everyday household products being offered at inflated prices.

The consumer group said it had found overpricing of cleaning products, thermometers, baby formula and tampons.

In several cases prices were around ten times what shoppers would normally expect to pay and in some instances the price inflation was even higher.

Which? said online marketplaces should be bringing in stricter controls to identify and prevent sellers charging unjustifiable high prices for essentials – and policies must be communicated clearly and directly with sellers.

However, both eBay and Amazon said they are taking tough action against “price gouging” – which happens when a seller dramatically inflates the price of goods – including preventing bad sellers from using accounts.

6am: Scottish courts to close to public as cases scaled back

Scottish courts will close to the public and significantly reduce the number of cases heard in person due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) has announced further measures to limit the number of people attending court, with a “bare minimum” of cases being heard.

From Wednesday, members of the public will be unable to attend trials and hearings, while all cases before sheriffs will take place in ten courts across Scotland.

Courts have already ceased all jury trials and adjourned all-but-essential summary criminal trials and civil hearings involving witnesses.

The High Court will continue to sit in both Edinburgh and Glasgow for urgent cases and the Court of Session will still deal with essential civil business, such as child abduction petitions and interim interdicts.

Scottish Government: Deputy first minister John Swinney.

6am: Childcare places ‘must go to most critical key workers’

Childcare places for the children of key workers “must be kept to an absolute minimum”, the deputy first minister has said.

John Swinney said that parents and employers should only take up the childcare places being offered if they are the “most-critical key workers” who cannot work from home and have no other care options.

The childcare places are being provided by local authorities, third sector and private providers to the most vulnerable children in society and those whose parents are deemed critical to the coronavirus response, including frontline medics and emergency service staff.

6am: The fight against coronavirus continues

People are expected to remain at home in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

On Monday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Britons should only go out for exercise once a day under the draconian measures.

Gatherings of two of more people are banned, except for members of the same household. 

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

More on:

Three dead and six hurt 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 is thought to be the driver of the ScotRail service.

Six other people are being treated in hospital with minor injuries.

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

ADVERT

The Wednesday morning crash sent plumes of smoke into the sky that could be seen for miles and prompting 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.

Heavy rain overnight caused flooding throughout the area, which may have been a contributing factor. Network Rail had earlier warned of landslips causing disruption.

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.

ADVERT

“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.

“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.

ADVERT

“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
ADVERT

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
ADVERT

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.

ADVERT

“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.

ADVERT

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.

ADVERT

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.

ADVERT

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.”

ADVERT

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.

ADVERT

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.

ADVERT

“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.

ADVERT

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.

ADVERT

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.”


Swinney’s exams failure was as serious as it gets on his watch

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. 

ADVERT

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 Minister’s 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 parliamentarian’s 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.

ADVERT

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 Mr 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.

ADVERT

Mr 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. Mr 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 thirty 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”.

ADVERT

“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.

ADVERT

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.

ADVERT

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
ADVERT

“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.

ADVERT

“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.

ADVERT

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.”

ADVERT

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.

ADVERT

“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.”


You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?