Live: Coronavirus news updates from across Scotland

People have been told to stay at home in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Coronavirus: The fight against the deadly virus continues. Pixabay
Coronavirus: The fight against the deadly virus continues.

9.08pm – Coronavirus: ‘You’re not immune because you’re 14 or 34’

Scotland’s national clinical director has warned younger people are not immune to coronavirus because they are “14 or 34” and must follow guidelines to protect themselves during the pandemic.

Professor Jason Leitch emphasised Covid-19 is “not always easier” for teenagers and young adults when taking questions on Scotland Tonight, adding the Scottish Government is “trying to protect the whole population at once”.

While, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions are in a higher risk group in relation to the dangers posed by coronavirus, Professor Leitch echoed sentiments previously expressed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that the young and healthy need to take the pandemic seriously.

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“You’re not immune because you’re 14 or 34,” he said. “You’ve got to do the same thing at every age to protect your granny or your grandpa, but also to protect yourself.”

Read the full story.

8.50pm – Global coronavirus cases pass one million mark

The coronavirus pandemic has now reached more than one million cases across the world.

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According to figures from US university Johns Hopkins, nearly a quarter of that number (236,000) are in the US.

Italy and Spain currently make up nearly another quarter between them (225,000), with Germany, China and the UK also having a high number of cases.

8.10pm – Pipers honour key workers as St Andrew’s House lights up

Blue: St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh.

Pipers played a rousing rendition of Scotland the Brave and St Andrew’s House lit up blue in honour of those fighting coronavirus on the front line.

Read the full story.

7pm – Pupils’ submitted coursework will not be marked this year

Coursework which has already been submitted by school pupils in Scotland will not be marked due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has said.

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The move applies to those sitting National 5 courses and follows the cancellation of exams this year and the closure of most schools to all but the children of key workers.

It was previously announced that coursework for Higher and Advanced Higher courses would not be marked.

6.45pm – Glasgow University to host coronavirus testing facility

Glasgow University will host a coronavirus testing facility, which will be opened in collaboration with the Scottish Government.

Other partners include industry experts from BioAscent Discovery and the University of Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit.

The new testing centre will be able to provide capacity for more tests each day and will be located in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus.

The site, currently the University of Glasgow’s Clinical Innovation Zone, is designed to meet industrial scale standards and will be able to begin testing in mid-April.

6.20pm – Health and social care guidance on protective gear

New guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) has been issued for health and social care workers in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The guidelines, agreed among the UK’s four chief medical officers, cover a wide range of professions and scenarios.

They mean those working in care homes or looking after vulnerable people in their homes are required to wear masks.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman outlined the new rules on Thursday, saying millions of PPE items have been delivered to far.

In some situations, PPE will be able to be worn for “full sessions” and not changed after each patient.

4.55pm – British Airways to ‘furlough workers on 80% of pay’

British Airways will introduce its own modified version of the UK Government’s job retention scheme, with workers to be furloughed on 80% of pay, because of the coronavirus crisis.

That’s according to the Unite union, who has said the scheme will have no cap on earnings and added there will be no unpaid temporary lay-offs or redundancies.

4.36pm – Dirty tissues still an issue on ScotRail trains

ScotRail has said abandoned used tissues are still a problem on its trains as the train operator slammed it as “reckless behaviour”.

It issued a plea to customers to “please use the bins provided”.

4.17pm – Radio Clyde founder Lord Gordon dies from coronavirus

Lord Jimmy Gordon, STV’s former political editor and Radio Clyde’s founder, has passed away from coronavirus aged 83.

Gordon worked as political editor for STV between 1965 and 1973, before moving on to help set up Radio Clyde.

He remained as the station’s managing director until 1996 when he became chairman of what had grown into Scottish Radio Holdings.

St Aloysius’ College
Recognition: Lord Gordon was handed a CBE for services to broadcasting.

During this period he received a CBE for his services to Broadcasting and Public Life.

In 1997 he became a Labour life peer and took on the title Baron Gordon of Strathblane.

He was also a non-executive director of several listed companies, and a member of BP’s Scottish Advisory Board 1990-2003.

Gordon passed away on Tuesday at Glasgow Royal Infirmary after losing his battle with Covid-19.

3.35pm – Halfords offer to check NHS workers’ cars and bikes for free

Halfords has shown its appreciation for NHS staff and emergency service workers by offering a free ten point car check and bike service during the pandemic.

Chief executive Graham Stapleton said: “Now more than ever the NHS and emergency workers need our help and support.

“Our research shows how vital their cars and bikes are in getting to and from work, so we want to do our bit and help the extraordinary people who are doing an incredibly trying job at the most difficult of times.”

Earlier, the AA launched a free breakdown service for all NHS workers.

That was followed by Forth Environment Link and Recyke-a-Bike joining forces with Cycling Scotland to offer free bikes to key workers in Forth Valley during April.

3.26pm – Dundee Flower and Food Festival cancelled

September’s flower and food festival has been cancelled because of coronavirus.

The popular horticulture, food and live entertainment event was due to be held on the weekend of September 4 at Camperdown Country Park.

However, the festival has been axed in line with guidelines relating to the combat of Covid-19.

Anne Rendall, convener of Dundee City Council’s neighbourhood services committee, said: “We appreciate that many people look forward to the Flower and Food Festival every year but the decision has been taken in the best interests of everyone involved.”

2.06pm: 50 more people die as death toll reaches 126

The death toll from coronavirus in Scotland has jumped by 50 to reach 126.

Reported Covid-19 patient deaths rose by two-thirds, up from 76 on Wednesday.

Nicola Sturgeon said 40 of those 50 deaths took place over a number of days rather than in the last 24 hours, with delays in reporting due to family liaison issues. 

The other ten deaths occurred within the last 24 hours.

2pm: Children’s charity donates ‘ventilators’ to Ninewells Hospital

A global health charity based in Scotland has donated ten anaesthetic machines to help provide more intensive care beds at a Tayside hospital.

Edinburgh-based Kids Operating Room (KidsOR) has installed 25 paediatric operating rooms in 11 countries across Africa and South America and is later this year due to open the first such facility at a refugee camp in Kenya.

The ten specialist anaesthetic machines – which can act and will be used as ventilators – have been donated by the charity to Ninewells Hospital.

It will mean ten new intensive care beds at the hospital can help patients from Tayside and north-east Fife who have been seriously affected by coronavirus.

Kids Operating Room: Founders Nicola and Garreth Wood.

The charity’s co-founders Garreth and Nicola Wood said: “We know that this is the most challenging time ever to face healthcare systems around the world.

“Our thoughts and heartfelt thanks are with those on the frontline fighting Covid-19.

“KidsOR’s entire focus is on saving lives and we are proud to do that both overseas and now at home, too.

“We hope that this donation will help towards NHS Scotland providing the extra ICU capacity they need.”

1pm: Little and Large comedian dies in hospital

Comedian Eddie Large, best known for being part of double act Little and Large, has died after contracting Covid-19 in hospital.

Double act: Little and Large.

The 78-year-old was born in Glasgow, but grew up in Manchester.

Agent Peter Mansfield confirmed his death on Thursday.

Comedian: Eddie Large passed away in hospital.

On Facebook, the comedian’s son, Ryan McGinnis, wrote: “It is with great sadness that mum and I need to announce that my dad passed away in the early hours of this morning.

“He had been suffering with heart failure and unfortunately, whilst in hospital, contracted the coronavirus, which his heart was sadly not strong enough to fight.”

12.30pm: Morrisons promises bonus to frontline staff

Staff at Morrisons have been told to expect a more than £1000 windfall as the company pledged to triple their annual bonuses.

Employees across the frontline of its supermarkets will be paid a 6% bonus on their earnings over the next 12 months, managers said on Thursday.

It represents an extra £1050 for full-time employees and will also be paid to staff who are off sick or self-isolating, Morrisons said.

The scheme also includes the new hires that the supermarket has made to help deal with added demand sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

12.15pm: National Lottery sets up £50m emergency fund

The National Lottery has set up a £50m emergency fund for British heritage sites after almost 50% said they will not survive beyond six months if the coronavirus shutdown continues.

Grants of between £3000 and £50,000 will be available to sites already funded by the organisation, primarily to train the workforce in digital skills to help them through the Covid-19 crisis.

These include digital fundraising, social media and online communications, and how to run online events and activities.

A survey by the National Lottery Heritage Fund of more than 1250 organisations in late March found 82% reported the shutdown was a high or moderate risk to their long-term viability.

About 35% said their financial reserves would be depleted within four months, and 46% said they would not be able to survive more than six months.

Asked what support they needed from the Heritage Fund and its partners, 75% said greater flexibility for existing projects and grants, and 53% said emergency funding.

The £50 million emergency fund will use cash diverted from planned new grants, with all new awards halted with immediate effect, the National Lottery Heritage Fund said.

12.07pm: Prisoner numbers ‘should be reduced during outbreak’

There should be a “concerted effort” to reduce the number of people detained in prisons and other facilities during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a group of watchdogs.

Scottish members of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), a group of 21 bodies that have powers to inspect or monitor places of detention, have written to the justice secretary.

They urged Humza Yousaf to ensure the rights of detained people are protected during the Covid-19  epidemic.

The impossibility of social distancing in prisons puts both staff and inmates at increased risk of infection, the letter said.

Signatories include the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland and the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.

They recommend a number of steps including extra support for staff, ensuring detainees receive appropriate healthcare and setting up video systems such as Skype to allow families to keep in touch.

The justice secretary outlined measures to ensure the continuity of the justice system on Wednesday.

Hearings in criminal and civil courts can take place remotely and the time limit for unpaid work has been relaxed.

The release of prisoners will only be considered as a last resort, he said.

Certain categories, such as those serving life sentences and terrorist offenders, will be excluded.

12pm: Former RAF aircraft hangar could become temporary mortuary

Plans to use a disused aircraft hangar as a temporary mortuary have been agreed between a local authority and the Ministry of Defence.

Moray Council approached the MoD about proposals to use a hangar at Kinloss Barracks as part of its emergency planning procedure.

The council said it is hoped the hangar will not be needed but it has to plan to ensure measures are in place to deal with a worst-case scenario.

11am: Council finds solution to ‘free school meal’ payments

Angus Council said it has found a solution to ensure families have access to their free school meal entitlement.

The local authority said staff have been “working closely and at pace” across various services to enable ‘free school meal payments’ for 1895 parents or guardians of 2238 children.

The first payment of £44 – which includes two weeks’ payment in arrears and two weeks’ advance payment at £11 per child – will be deposited in bank accounts on Friday.

Regular fortnightly advance payments of £22 per child will be then be made from April 17.

For more information, go to angus.gov.uk.

10.36am: Man charged over ‘deliberate coughing’ during argument

Police have charged a man for “deliberately coughing” on another person during an argument amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The force said they would “not tolerate” that type of behaviour given the “current climate”.

The 60-year-old suspect is alleged to have coughed on the other man within a car park in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, on Wednesday morning.

10.30am: Free bikes for key workers

Forth Environment Link and Recyke-a-Bike have joined forces with Cycling Scotland to offer free bikes to key workers in Forth Valley during April.

The initiative will allow essential workers to get to and from work without using public transport during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Through the region’s two bike share schemes – nextbike and Forth Bike – 200 free memberships will be made available.

Saddle up: Free bikes will be made available to key workers in Forth Valley.

Clara Walker, executive director of Forth Environment Link, said: “As a local charity, we’re looking to support Forth Valley’s key workers in any way we can. 

“With public transport reduced and social distancing measures in place, getting around by bike is one of the best ways to travel to minimise the risk of transmission. 

“Daily exercise outside is also a great way to support our mental health and wellbeing at a challenging time like this. 

“We’ll be reviewing the free key worker memberships after a month, with a view to extending these if there is demand.”

9.20am: Temporary relief proposed for borrowers with overdrafts

Overdraft customers will be able to request zero-interest buffers of up to £500 over three months to help ease the financial impact of coronavirus, under new proposals from the City regulator.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is proposing a range of temporary “stop gap” measures to offer quick support to users of some consumer credit products.

The proposed measures will be subject to a brief consultation ending at 9am on Monday, April 6. 

If confirmed, they will be in place by the Thursday.

8.50am: Unite continues BA talks over coronavirus threat to jobs

Talks are continuing on Thursday over the fate of thousands of British Airways workers who face being laid off because of the coronavirus crisis.

The airline, which has grounded much of its fleet, has been in negotiations with the Unite union all week.

Cabin crew, ground staff, engineers and head office staff are likely to have their jobs suspended but redundancies are not expected.

A Unite spokesman said: “Unite has been working around the clock to protect thousands of jobs and to ensure the UK comes out of this unprecedented crisis with a viable aviation sector.

“Talks with British Airways are ongoing and Unite’s priority is always to communicate with our members, who are very anxious at this time but who understand the work that Unite is doing to protect jobs, incomes and futures.”

BA said talks were continuing.

8.09am: Brewery vows to cut off beer supply to Wetherspoons

A Glasgow brewery has vowed to stop supplying Wetherspoons in response to the pub chain’s treatment of staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

West Brewery said they would “rather sweep the streets” than do business with Wetherspoons owner Tim Martin.

West Brewery
Glasgow: West Brewery has vowed to stop supplying Wetherspoons.

Pubs and restaurants were told to shut by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of measures to try to stop the spread of Covid-19 on Friday, March 20.

Martin came under fire for failing to initially assure his staff that their wages would be paid while they were unable to go into work.

In response to a Twitter post asking if the brewery, based at Glasgow Green, would consider stopping its supply of artisan beers to Wetherspoons, a spokesperson responded: “Don’t worry. We made that decision last week. 

“We’d rather sweep the streets than do business with people like him.”

7.15am: Lockdown brewing ‘perfect storm’ for online child abusers

Children stuck at home using the internet during lockdown is brewing a “perfect storm” for offenders to abuse online, the NSPCC has warned.

The children’s charity is concerned that predators could take advantage of the crisis, with social networks relying more heavily on artificial intelligence as human moderators adjust to home working.

“The impact of the coronavirus lockdown has increased online risks and brewed a perfect storm for offenders to abuse children,” said Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC.

“The public health emergency is creating major challenges across society, and like all of us tech firms must adapt.

“It’s vital they set out how they are prioritising protecting children by identifying and disrupting offenders with fewer moderation resources available.”

6.50am: William and Kate phone Scots hospital staff

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge telephoned a Scots hospital as the coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify.

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Royal: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spoke to NHS staff in Airdrie.

William and Kate chatted to staff from University Hospital Monklands in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, as well as workers from Queen’s Hospital Burton in the Midlands during Wednesday afternoon.

The royal family has resorted to phone calls and video conferencing to conduct some of their royal duties as the country continues to observe the coronavirus lockdown.

6.33am: Call for rates relief extension to support whisky industry

Calls have been made for an extension of business rates relief to support whisky distilleries during the coronavirus lockdown.

Kingsbarns Distillery: The firm will be hit hard by the closure of its visitor centre.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said reliefs and grants on offer do not cover its members’ visitor centres, as they do not fit within the definition of “leisure, retail and hospitality”.

It said the businesses will need further support to help them through a time when production has been scaled back, with one distillery saying its centre amounted to 70% of its revenue.

6.30am: UK summit urged to help struggling utilities customers

The SNP has called for a summit to be held between the UK Government, opposition parties and utilities providers to help those struggling to pay during the coronavirus outbreak.

SNP: Ian Blackford has proposed various measures.

Ian Blackford, the party’s leader at Westminster, has proposed various measures aimed at protecting consumers.

The outbreak should not lead to people being unable to afford utility bills or being able to contact family and friends, he said.

Mr Blackford has called for an immediate freeze on prices as well as a six month “reprieve” on utilities being cut off if bills are not paid.

6.30am: AA starts free breakdown service for NHS staff

A leading motoring association has launched a free breakdown service for all NHS workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The AA has said health service staff who break down on their way to or from work can now call for help, whether or not they are a member of the company, and they will receive assistance.

It’s a scheme which applies to everyone in the NHS, from cleaners and porters to nurses and surgeons, who have all been described as “crucial” by the AA.

6.30am: The fight against coronavirus continues

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

Ten days ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Britons should only go out for exercise once a day.

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 in the same house.

Further 89 deaths from coronavirus recorded in Scotland

John Swinney said the total number of coronavirus deaths in Scotland now stands at 5,468.

SNS Group via SNS Group

Scotland has recorded a further 89 deaths from coronavirus, the Deputy First Minister has said.

At Thursday’s daily briefing, John Swinney said the total number of deaths after confirmed coronavirus in Scotland now stands at 5468.

There were 1636 new cases of Covid-19 reported, with 2004 people currently in hospital with the virus.

Of that number, 161 people were in intensive care, an increase of five from Wednesday.

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He added that 168,219 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 166,583 the previous day.

The daily test positivity rate is 7%, down from 7.5% on the previous 24 hours.

The Deputy First Minister said that 334,871 people have now received their first coronavirus vaccination and added it is hoped all over 70s will be vaccinated by mid-February.

Swinney said the latest estimate showed the R number in Scotland – the average number of people infected by each person with Covid-19 – was now estimated to be “around 1” and had “probably fallen during the last week”.

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This shows the current lockdown measures are “at the very least helping to stabilise case numbers”, the Deputy First Minister added.

He said the number of infections occurring remained “concerningly high”.

Swinney also said that three new walk-in testing centres were opening in Scotland this week.

One opened in Paisley on Tuesday, he said, with further sites opening in Dunfermline and Glenrothes later on Thursday.

He said that each of these new centres would be able to undertake up to 300 Covid-19 tests a day and take the total number of walk in centres to 28.

“They will help to increase the accessibility and effectiveness of testing,” Swinney added.

The Deputy First Minister stressed that while infection numbers remained high, the lockdown restrictions were “vital”.

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Swinney said: “They are the single most important way in which we can reduce case numbers and ease some of the pressure on our health and social care services.”


Ten residents die in care home coronavirus outbreak

The first death at Thorney Croft Care Home in Stranraer was reported earlier this month.

© Google Maps 2020
Thorney Croft Care Home: Ten residents have died following a coronavirus outbreak.

Ten residents have died in a Covid outbreak at a care home in Dumfries and Galloway.

The first death at Thorney Croft Care Home in Stranraer was reported earlier this month.

On Thursday, Dumfries and Galloway health and social care partnership confirmed a further nine deaths have occurred, with four in the past week.

A total of 45 staff members and 45 residents have also tested positive for the virus.

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Community Integrated Care – the charity that runs the home – said all necessary steps were being taken to manage the outbreak.

Martin McGuigan, managing director of Community Integrated Care, said: “Our teams continue to work tirelessly, alongside the local authority and public health teams, to implement extensive infection prevention measures to manage this outbreak. 

“Our hearts go out to the loved ones of our residents, as well as our colleagues. 

“We are continuing to provide practical and emotional support to everyone at this very difficult time.”


Floods across Scotland as Storm Christoph brings heavy rain

The storm has brought with it travel disruptions and an avalanche warning.

Ruth Haughs via Ruth Haughs
Flooding: Heavy rain in Aberdeenshire.

Scotland has been hit by heavy flooding as Storm Christoph brings torrential rain, gale force winds and enough snow on hills for a potential avalanche.

The north and north-east of the country has been hit hardest with several areas reporting flooding.

Pictures show The Den in Turriff submerged in water following Thursday’s rainfall.

Flooding: The Den in Turriff. (Ruth Haughs)

There has also been reports of several disruptions to travel with train services in Inverness and Wick dealing with short delays.

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Journeys to and from Inverness were delayed after a tree fell on the track near Carrbridge Station and services to Wick were suspended after a landslip on the Far North Line between Tain and Fearn.

And snow in the south-east has caused concerns over a potential avalanche in the Pentlands and other hills.

Al MacPherson via email
Snow caused dangerous driving conditions. Picture by Al MacPherson.

The Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue team issued a warning on Thursday over the fears urging anyone in the area to take care due an avalanche that could be big enough to bury a person if they are caught in it.

On Facebook they said: “**Avalanche Warning**Word of caution if you’re doing anything off-piste in the Pentlands (or other hills). This is a full depth slab avalanche on the South side of Turnhouse.

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“All the blown wind slab thats accumulated from recent snowfalls has only been weakly bonded to the grass beneath. Certainly enough to knock you off your feet, maybe enough to bury you if caught and you’re unlucky!.”

Steven Mackay via Facebook
Snowfall on Thursday morning.

The weather is likely to calm down on Friday and into the weekend, although wintry showers are expected in the far north and west.

STV’s Sean Batty said: “Longer term, while temperatures will be up and down from day to day, it generally looks like the remainder of January and through the start of February will be colder than normal.

“That means that snow is still likely to be an issue from time to time in the coming weeks.”


Man dies after being hit by falling mast at building site

Enquiries into the death are ongoing alongside the Health and Safety Executive.

Police Scotland
Emergency services were called to Hallmeadow Place in Annan.

A man has died at a building site in Dumfries and Galloway after being struck by a fallen mast.

The 52-year-old was killed on an Ashleigh Building site in Hallmeadow Place, Annan, around 9.45am on Thursday morning.

The site has been closed and an investigation has been launched into the death by police and the Health and Safety Executive.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 9.45am on Thursday, January 21, we were called to a report of a mast having fallen on a 52-year-old man at a building site on Hallmeadow Place, Annan.

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“Emergency services attended and the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Enquiries into the incident will be carried out alongside the Health and Safety Executive. A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

A spokesperson for Ashleigh Building said: “We are devastated to confirm a fatality on our Hallmeadow, Annan site this morning.

“Whilst full details are still to be established, our immediate thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues of the operative involved.

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“The wellbeing of anybody working on our sites is absolutely paramount to us.

“A full investigation will be carried out, and we are working with all of the relevant authorities in this regard.

“We have closed the site to allow the investigation to be concluded.”

Swinney: Two-week notice for schools reopening ‘ideal’

The education secretary said he hopes to give parents and teachers as much notice as possible.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Schools: Two weeks notice would be ideal, says Swinney.

The education secretary said he “ideally” wants to give teachers, pupils and parents two weeks’ warning before reopening schools, but suggested it may happen with less notice.

Schools have been closed to the majority of pupils since before Christmas and are not expected to fully reopen until at least mid-February due to the high levels of coronavirus transmission.

Vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers are continuing to be taught in class, while the rest learn remotely from home.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Thursday, John Swinney said he hopes to give “as much notice and as much certainty as possible” about any return to face-to-face teaching.

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He added: “Ideally I would like to give two weeks’ notice to everybody involved about our return to face-to-face learning, but obviously we may give shorter notice than that if we believe the opportunity exists for such an approach to be taken.

“We’ll try to give as much notice and as much clarity at the earliest possible opportunity, but it will depend on two factors – the scientific advice available to us about the impact of the virus on particular age groups and cohorts of pupils, and it will depend on the general prevalence of coronavirus within our society.”

It follows comments by UK Government education secretary Gavin Williamson, who said he would give schools in England a “clear two-week notice period” so they are able to properly prepare to welcome all pupils back.

Mr Swinney also again said a phased return to in-class teaching is being considered by the Scottish Government’s education recovery group.

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He said: “There is much more likely to be a phased learning approach rather than the approach we took in August when all pupils returned in one go.

“It is much more likely that we will bring different cohorts of pupils, and we’re exploring what might be the groupings that could be brought back within the context of the scientific and clinical advice that is available to us.”

Explaining the factors that will influence the Government’s decisions on the further reopening of schools, Mr Swinney suggested falling numbers of infections and hospital capacity will be key.

“If we were to, for example, reopen schools to more pupils, there would be more human interaction, therefore giving rise to the possibility the virus may spread and that could potentially increase caseload within hospitals,” he said.

“We’ve got to look in detail at the effect of the virus – but particularly the new variant of the virus – on children and young people themselves and their ability to transmit the virus.

“What we knew of the original variant is that, with the youngest children, there was really very, very limited possibilities of transmission of the virus and very limited effect to the virus on the youngest of children.

“It got more challenging the older children and young people became.

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“But we don’t yet have enough clinical clarity about what the effect is of a new variant on children, young people, and particularly on older young people – from 16 to 18-year-olds, for example.”


Murderer left elderly landlady to ‘die on the kitchen floor’

Roman Frackiewicz assaulted his 77-year-old victim, leaving her with 14 fractured ribs, a broken breastbone and collapsed lungs.

Police Scotland / Paul Devlin via SNS Group
Court: Roman Frackiewicz was convicted of murder.

A lodger who brutally murdered his elderly landlady in a sustained attack that ruptured her heart is facing life imprisonment.

Roman Frackiewicz, 44, assaulted his 77-year-old victim in her home, leaving her with 14 fractured ribs, a broken breastbone and collapsed lungs after drinking vodka.

Jadwiga Szczygielska let him stay at her flat after he was convicted of a domestic assault in 2018 and a court imposed a non-harassment order preventing him contacting the victim of the attack.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard the priest at Mrs Szczygielska’s church asked her to take him in.

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Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC told the court: “She gave him her bedroom and extended great kindness towards him.”

But on April 17 last year, Frackiewicz attacked Mrs Szczygielska at her Edinburgh home in Pirniefield Bank, Seafield.

Mrs Szczygielska came to Scotland from Poland in 2013 to live with her son. He had a workplace accident and returned to Poland but she stayed on in Scotland where she had made many friends.

She continued to work as a childminder and sent money back to her family in Poland. 

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Mr Prentice said her son, Krzysztof, “indicated he could not find words to express how this terrible crime affects his life and his family, observing that this traumatic event will be with him for the rest of his life”.  

Mr Prentice told jurors that Edinburgh council refuse collector Frackiewicz had consumed a “substantial amount of vodka” before attacking Mrs Szczygielska after a quarrel broke out.

The court heard the injuries suffered by the victim were of a type found in serious road traffic collisions.

The jury was told that the rupture to her heart could have proved fatal, but that the fractures and lung injury she suffered could also have killed her.

Mr Prentice said: “The Crown is unable to specify precisely what was done to her because there were only two people in that flat when those injuries were sustained. The accused himself said nobody came to the flat.” 

Frackiewicz, who is also a Polish national, came to the UK in 2012 and after moving in with his victim paid her £200 a month while he slept in the bedroom at the flat and she bedded down on a sofa.

He had denied murdering Mrs Szczygielska by repeatedly inflicting or causing to be inflicted blunt force injuries to her head and body by means to the prosecutor unknown. However, he was unanimously convicted of the murder by the jury.

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The morning after the crime he contacted an employee with a community alarm service and said he needed an ambulance as he thought she was dead.

He phoned an acquaintance and said: “Jadwiga has passed away.” He later claimed it was “probably a heart attack”.

Following the verdict on Thursday, Lord Braid told him: “You have been convicted by the jury of the crime of murder and there will be only one sentence which I can impose, which is life imprisonment.”

However, Lord Braid adjourned sentencing on Frackiewicz until next month for the preparation of a background report as he has to set the minimum term the murderer must serve in jail before he becomes eligible to apply for release on parole.  

Frackiewicz, who has two previous convictions for assault, was remanded in custody until his next appearance at the High Court in Aberdeen on February 18.

The judge told jurors that some of the evidence in the trial was “disturbing to hear and to look at”.

Following Frackiewicz’s conviction, detective inspector Bob Williamson said: “Jadwiga Szczygielska was a generous and caring woman who was well liked within the community. 

“She allowed Roman Frackiewicz to stay in her home at a time when he had nowhere else to live. 

“Frackiewicz repaid Jadwiga by taking advantage of her within her own home and abusing her kindness. 

“We will never know why he chose to attack her that night but his actions were violent, brutal and cruel resulting in the catastrophic injuries suffered by Jadwiga. 

“He left her to die on her kitchen floor while he went to his bed. 

“This guilty verdict will never bring Jadwiga back but I sincerely hope it will bring some sense of justice to her family.”


Charities call for Scottish Child Payment to be doubled

The Scottish End Child Poverty Coalition is calling for the payment to be increased to £20 per week.

Justin Paget via Getty Images
Payment: Charities call for payment to be doubled.

The new Scottish Child Payment should be doubled to try and stem a “rising tide of child poverty”, according to a coalition of charities.

The £10 per week payment for eligible families is being introduced from next month as part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle child poverty.

Parents and carers who receive other welfare support such as Universal Credit or unemployment benefits are able to apply for the payment for each child under the age of six, with the benefit being rolled out for all qualifying under-16s by 2022.

But the Scottish End Child Poverty Coalition is calling for the payment to be increased to £20 per week, arguing it could help lift another 20,000 children out of poverty.

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The group of 14 charities in Scotland has published a manifesto of demands ahead of the May’s Holyrood election, amid concerns the Government’s current policies are not enough to meet poverty reduction targets.

Launching the manifesto, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland director John Dickie said: “Even before Covid-19, almost one in four children in Scotland were growing up in the grip of poverty.

“The pandemic has pulled families even deeper into poverty, while many more have been swept into poverty for the first time.

“A rising tide of child poverty now threatens to overwhelm many in our communities.

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“That’s why we have set out this range of measures that would help to stem that tide, by putting much-needed cash into the pockets of families who are struggling to stay afloat.

“We urge all political parties to commit to the action we’ve set out, and to use the next Scottish Parliament to loosen the grip of poverty on the lives of Scotland’s children.”

The coalition of charities is also calling for a range of other financial support across the social security sector, including increases to the value of Best Start Grants, School Clothing Grants and more funding for crisis support through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

A “child poverty-focused labour market policy” is also required, with specific actions to tackle the gender pay gap, according to the manifesto.

Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of the Close the Gap charity, said: “The existing inequalities women face in the labour market means they’ve been hardest hit by Covid-19 job disruption.

“The pandemic has starkly illuminated the link between women’s in-work poverty and child poverty. Women who were already struggling are now under enormous financial pressure as they and their families are pushed into further and deeper poverty.

“The End Child Poverty Coalition manifesto calls on Scotland’s political parties to commit to bold action to reduce child poverty.

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“Close the Gap welcomes the focus on substantive action to address women’s inequality in the labour market including tackling women’s low pay and boosting the provision of funded childcare.

“Ensuring economic recovery policymaking prioritises measures to build a labour market that works for women is a necessary step in tackling the growing child poverty crisis.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to provide support to people who need it most and tackle poverty and inequality head on.

“In 2019-20 we invested nearly £2bn in support for low-income households and have committed over £500m to support people and communities impacted by the Covid pandemic.

“This investment includes over £130m to tackle food insecurity, with free school meal provision continued during school holidays up to Easter 2021, and a £100 Covid Winter Hardship Payment for children who receive free school meals on the basis of low income.

“From next month we will commence payments of the new Scottish Child Payment for children from low-income households under six – worth £10 per child per week.

“This new payment, together with the support offered through Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods, offers around £5,000 of financial support by the time a child turns six – and is available for each and every child in a household.

“The UK Government must make tackling poverty a priority, starting with maintaining the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and matching our ambitions by introducing a benefit similar to our flagship Scottish Child Payment to lift people out of poverty.”


Fishing could be ‘destroyed’ without intervention, MPs warn

MPs queried whether the meat industry was ‘in jeopardy’ following reports of products sitting in lorry parks waiting for customs.

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MPs also queried whether the meat industry was ‘in jeopardy’ following reports of products sitting in lorry parks waiting for customs clearance.

The entire fishing industry could be destroyed if ministers do not fix customs clearance technology at the border, the environment secretary has been warned.

SNP MP Stuart C McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) told George Eustice that Scottish seafood companies were concerned they were “going out of business” with their produce “sitting in lorry parks in Kent waiting for customs clearance”.

His comments came as other MPs queried whether the meat industry was also “in jeopardy” after newspapers reported this week that pigs heads were “rotting in Rotterdam”.

But Mr Eustice assured MPs that while there were “occasionally delays at the border”, in general, “goods are flowing”.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said a £23 million fund had been established to help exporters who were struggling with the paperwork (Aaron Chown/PA).
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Speaking in the Commons during environment departmental questions, Mr McDonald said: “Scotland’s high-quality seafood producers are warning that they’re going out of business.

“They can’t have their products sitting in lorry parks in Kent waiting for customs clearance, those products have to reach market fresh.

“So what is the Government doing to change the procedures and fix the technology to ensure an entire industry isn’t destroyed, and will there be ongoing compensation offered to business until this is sorted, or was that a one-off?”

Mr Eustice said his department was ‘working daily with the fishing sector to tackle and iron out any particular issues’ (Danny Lawson/PA).

Mr Eustice responded: “We have announced a £23m fund to help those exporters who struggled with the paperwork in these initial weeks.

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“We’ve also been working daily with the fishing sector to tackle and iron out any particular issues that they’ve encountered.”

He added that the problems were simply “teething issues”.

Meanwhile, shadow environment minister Daniel Zeichner told the Commons: “I fear the Secretary of State is living in a parallel universe.

“He must have seen the headlines ‘pig heads rotting in Rotterdam’ as Brexit delays hit the British meat industry,” and asked if the meat industry was “in jeopardy”.

Mr Eustice said: “He is wrong about that actually. Goods are flowing, particularly when it comes to lamb, which is our principal meat export. Dairy goods are also flowing.

“Yes, there are occasionally delays at the border as border officials in France and The Netherlands get used to these new processes, but we are intervening in all such instances to help the businesses concerned.”

The Environment Secretary also told MPs that an agreement between the UK and Norway over access to each other’s fishing waters during the next year could “conclude within the next couple of weeks”.

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Mr Eustice said that last week an interim agreement was reached between the two countries to allow British fishers to catch a quota of 2,750 tonnes of cod in waters around Svalbard, Norway, up to March 31.

Responding to Labour MP Emma Hardy (Hull West and Hessle), he told MPs: “We would anticipate that these negotiations would conclude within the next couple of weeks and then access for Arctic cod, should that be agreed in the agreement, could be resumed.”

MPs were also informed that the UK Government was conducting bilateral negotiations with Ireland over easing pet travel restrictions between Great Britain and the island of Ireland.

Since January 1, the UK has “part two listed status” under the EU Pet Travel Scheme, meaning that people travelling from Great Britain with their pets and assistance dogs need to follow new requirements in order to travel to the EU and Northern Ireland.

SDLP MP Claire Hanna (Belfast South) said the current situation caused “challenges” for pet owners, particularly in relation to guide dogs.

Mr Eustice replied: “The primary purpose of these pet travel regulations is to control the spread of rabies and both Ireland and Great Britain have a very similar and very high health status on rabies having not had it in dogs previously.

“We, therefore, do think that there should be easements on this particular provision, we have argued with the (European) Commission that we should be listed in part one but we are continuing to make those bilateral negotiations with Ireland a priority.”

Funeral held for Glasgow Archbishop Philip Tartaglia

Catholics celebrate Archbishop's life after he passed away following a positive coronavirus test.

Archdiocese of Glasgow via Archdiocese of Glasgow
The body of Archbishop Philip Tartaglia is brought to St Andrew's Cathedral in Glasgow.

A funeral has been held for Glasgow’s Archbishop, Philip Tartaglia.

Archbishop Tartaglia, who had served as the head of Scotland’s largest Catholic community since 2012, tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after Christmas and was self-isolating at home when he passed away.

However, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Glasgow said the cause of his death last week was not clear.

The Pope has expressed his sorrow at the death in a message received from Cardinal Parolin, his secretary of state.

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The message read: “His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the untimely death of Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, and he offers heartfelt condolence and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Glasgow.”

Archbishop Tartaglia’s body was laid in the city’s St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral on Wednesday night in preparation for his funeral.

Credit: Archdiocese of Glasgow

Under current coronavirus restrictions, only 20 of the Archbishop’s family and friends were able to attend the service, which started at midday.

Glasgow’s previous Archbishop, Mario Conti, paid tribute to his successor as he told of the moment when he heard of his sudden passing on January 13, the day Catholics celebrate the Glasgow’s patron Saint, St Mungo.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia
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Archbishop Emeritus Conti said: “I had made up my mind to send him greetings for the feast day, a short message of ‘Buona Festa’.

“I was at the computer preparing that message when the Archdiocesan Chancellor, Monseigneur Paul Murray, clearly emotionally upset, informed me of Philip’s sudden death.

“It was a shock which I am sure was shared by all who heard it, and like me, all who heard it were greatly saddened.”

Archbishop Tartaglia grew up in Glasgow’s east end as part of a large family where his parents established their business as Italian immigrants.

Archbishop Emeritus Conti said: “Perhaps only third to the love of his family and of the city of Glasgow was his love of Celtic Football Club.

“I don’t recall ever seeing him so animated and so much enjoying himself as at a dinner in the hospitality suite of Celtic Park on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Knights of St Columba, founded in this very city.

“And football was not only a wholesome diversion from the hard work of administering a large Archdiocese; it was a natural choice for him – the world of faith, family and football was the culture in which he had been brought up, and which he loved.”

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