Nicola Sturgeon hopes the UK Government will co-operate for IndyRef2

The First Minister will tell SNP members that 'democracy must – and will – prevail'.

Sturgeon: Hoping for Westminster co-operation. STV News
Sturgeon: Hoping for Westminster co-operation.

Nicola Sturgeon will ask the UK Government to agree to another Scottish independence referendum “in the spirit of co-operation”.

Scotland’s First Minister will tell SNP members that “democracy must – and will – prevail” to allow another vote on Scottish independence.

Sturgeon, who is due to deliver the closing speech of the SNP conference shortly before midday, is expected to say that she hopes to adopt an approach of “co-operation not confrontation” in her attempts to secure a second referendum.

The SNP leader has called for another referendum by the end of 2023 when the coronavirus pandemic is over, although the UK Government remains opposed to another vote.

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When asked about allowing a referendum to take place during a Westminster Liaison Committee in March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded: “When you ask people to vote on a highly controversial and divisive issue, an issue that breaks up family relationships, that is extremely toxic and divisive, and you tell them this is going to happen only once in a generation, I think you should stick to it.”

Sturgeon is expected to tell the virtual conference: “My approach to government and to politics will be, as far as possible, co-operation not confrontation.

“The experience of the pandemic and the challenges we face as a result reinforces my view that this is the right approach.

“So it is in that spirit of co-operation that I hope the Scottish and UK governments can reach agreement – as we did in 2014 – to allow the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland to be heard and respected.

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“But, this much is clear: democracy must – and will – prevail.”

She will add: “The United Kingdom is after all a voluntary union of nations.

“Until recently no-one seriously challenged the right of the people in Scotland to choose whether or not they wished to become independent.

“Frankly it is not up to a Westminster government which has just six MPs in Scotland to decide our future without the consent of the people who live here.

“As an independent country, co-operation between Scotland and our friends across the rest of the UK will continue, but it will be on a better basis: Scotland will be an equal partner.”

During an interview with Sky News on Sunday, it was suggested to Sturgeon that rather than being concerned about Covid-19, she was waiting until it was politically advantageous.

But she said that any politician would “factor those kind of judgments into those decisions”, and added: “I am very confident that when this question is next to put people in Scotland will vote yes.”

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She added: “My primary consideration is to do what’s right for the country, when is it right.”

The SNP conference also backed the Scottish Government plans for the timing of another independence referendum at the “earliest” possible moment after the Covid crisis.

Party members endorsed that timescale, backing a motion by 535 votes to 10, that sets out plans for another vote “as soon as it is safe to hold a proper, detailed, serious national debate on independence”.

It states that the date should be determined by “data-driven criteria” about when the public health crisis is over.

Responding to Sturgeon’s trailed remarks, chief executive of the Scotland in Union campaign group, Pamela Nash, said: “This is Groundhog Day yet again at SNP conference, with nationalist politicians only interested in talking about the constitution.

“The First Minister has clearly run out of ideas.

“If Nicola Sturgeon was serious about believing in co-operation, she would focus on making devolution work and using Holyrood’s powers to build a recovery for everyone.

“Instead, she is blindsided by her obsession with breaking up our country.

“Scotland deserves better than a government that prioritises division ahead of devolution.”

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Children aged 12 to 15 set to receive Covid jab appointments

Scheduled appointments offering children a single dose of the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccination will arrive this week.

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Vaccine: Appointment letters will arrive this week.

Appointment letters inviting children aged between 12 and 15 for a coronavirus vaccine will be dropping through letterboxes this week.

Drop-in clinics have been available to this age group for the last week and now scheduled appointments, starting this week, are being issued to all those eligible.

Children aged between 12 and 15 will be offered a single dose of the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine.

Parents and carers are being encouraged to accompany their children to community-based appointments where possible so they can discuss any questions they have with staff at the site.

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The appointment letters, which will be arriving from Monday, contain an information leaflet, which all parents and carers are urged to read with their children so they can make an informed decision about getting the vaccine.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to all children and young people aged 12-15 marks a significant milestone in the vaccination programme.

“It has been demonstrated that Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective in this age group, and vaccination offers the best chance of protecting young people from Covid-19 and preventing further disruption to education. Many countries around the world have already been safely vaccinating children and young people in this age group.

“Getting the Covid-19 vaccine is a decision to be made jointly between parents or carers and their children, but it’s really important to use reliable and trusted sources such as NHS Inform when making a decision and assessing the potential benefits, risks and side effects.

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“Individual choice should be respected for the decisions young people and their parents or carers make in accepting, or not accepting the vaccine offer.

“Where possible, parents or carers are welcome to attend appointments with their children and both can ask questions about any queries they have before the vaccination is given.

“I would like to thank all of the vaccinators and vaccine site staff who have worked so hard to get us to this stage of the Covid-19 vaccine programme.”

In some rural areas, 12 to 15-year-olds will be offered the jabs through their school vaccination programme instead of a community setting and they will receive letters and leaflets home from school.

Major emergency response as luxury hotel evacuated

Firefighters were called to the Macdonald Inchyra Grange Hotel in Grangemouth on Sunday evening.

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Incident: Guests evacuated from Macdonald Inchyra Grange Hotel.

A luxury hotel near Grangemouth has been evacuated following an incident.

Firefighters were called to the Macdonald Inchyra Grange Hotel in Grangemouth on Sunday evening around 7.30pm. 

Two appliances were sent to the scene alongside specialist resources.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said the last appliance left the scene at 10.54pm.

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A spokesperson said: “SFRS were called at 7.30pm on Sunday September 26 to assist as part of a multi agency response to an incident at a hotel on Grange Road in Grangemouth. 

“Operations control mobilised two appliances and specialist resources to the scene, where crews remain.”


Competition law suspended in bid to stop petrol panic-buying

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng met with oil companies and retailers on Sunday to address the issue.

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Fuel crisis: Competition law suspended in bid tackle fuel shortage due to panic-buying.

Competition law has been suspended in an attempt to get a grip on the fuel shortages being driven by panic-buying motorists, ministers have announced.

The decision comes after Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng met with oil companies and retailers on Sunday to address another day of continued queuing for the pumps, with thousands of petrol stations running dry.

A scuffle at a north London petrol station was posted on social media as motorists waited to fill up their tanks in a bout of “frenzied buying” sparked after concerns from BP that the HGV driver shortage could impact its ability to keep up with fuel deliveries were leaked to the media.

Kwarteng opted to temporarily exempt the industry from the Competition Act to allow the industry to share information so it can target areas where fuel supply is running low.

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The triggering of what is known as the Downstream Oil Protocol comes as the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) warned that as many as two-thirds of its membership of nearly 5500 independent outlets was out of fuel, with the rest of them “partly dry and running out soon”.

Kwarteng said: “We have long-standing contingency plans in place to work with industry so that fuel supplies can be maintained and deliveries can still be made in the event of a serious disruption.

“While there has always been and continues to be plenty of fuel at refineries and terminals, we are aware that there have been some issues with supply chains.

“This is why we will enact the Downstream Oil Protocol to ensure industry can share vital information and work together more effectively to ensure disruption is minimised.”

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In a separate joint statement from the likes of Shell, ExxonMobile and Greenergy, the industry reiterated that the pressures on supply were being caused by “temporary spikes in customer demand, not a national shortage of fuel”.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson told the BBC the shortages were down to “panic buying, pure and simple”, with priority by oil companies being afforded to keeping motorway service station pumps topped up.

The intervention comes less than 24 hours after the Government announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5000 foreign HGV drivers and 5500 poultry workers allowed into the UK on three-month contracts up to Christmas Eve in an attempt to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys and tackle fuel delivery difficulties.

But retailers warned that the decision to relax immigration rules to fix supply chain issues was “too little, too late” to keep shop shelves fully stocked this Christmas.


MSPs to consider licence for Airbnb-style properties

The proposed scheme would impose regulations in a bid to tackle the growth of rentals in areas such as Edinburgh.

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Airbnb: MSPs to consider licence for short-term rental properties.

Plans for owners of Airbnb and short-term let properties in Scotland to require a licence will be examined by a Holyrood committee.

The proposed licensing scheme would impose regulations in a bid to tackle the growth of Airbnb-style rentals in popular tourist areas such as Edinburgh.

Under the Scottish Government plans, councils will have until October 2022 to set up a licensing scheme, with all short-term lets licensed by April 2024.

Existing hosts and operators would have to apply for a licence by April 2023 under the proposed legislation.

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Ministers had originally hoped to introduce the new law before May’s Holyrood election but pushed the plans back following backlash from some MSPs.

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee will now consider the proposed legislation and is asking the public to give their views on the issue.

Committee convener Ariane Burgess said: “The increase in popularity of short-term lets has no doubt brought economic benefits to Scotland.

“However, what is becoming increasingly clear is that these benefits must be balanced with the need to protect our communities and the safety of those staying in short-term lets.

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“The Scottish Government has suggested that this proposed licensing scheme strikes that balance, but we want to know whether you think these measures have got this right.

“Will the introduction of a licensing system ensure that the character of our neighbourhoods are protected as well as protecting those staying in short-term lets? We want you to let us know.”

A survey, that will run until Friday October 29, has been launched for people to submit their views.


More than 10,000 visas given to foreign workers ‘to save Christmas’

The temporary visa scheme will see opportunities created for 5000 HGV drivers and 5500 poultry workers.

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Temporary visas: The scheme aims to 'rescue Christmas' from supply shortages.

More than 10,000 foreign workers will be temporarily permitted to work as lorry drivers and in the food sector as ministers look to rescue Christmas from supply shortages.

A temporary visa scheme will see opportunities created for 5000 HGV drivers and 5500 poultry workers to take up employment in the UK until Christmas Eve, in a bid to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys and toys and counter delivery difficulties at petrol stations.

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said the changes, with the visas available from next month, would “ensure preparations remain on track” for the festive season.

Retailers had warned the Government that it had just ten days to save Christmas from “significant disruption” due to a shortfall of about 90,000 drivers in the freight sector.

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Industry groups the Food and Drink Federation and Logistics UK both welcomed the visa changes, with federation chief Ian Wright calling the measures “pragmatic”.

But British Chamber of Commerce president Baroness McGregor-Smith said the changes were the “equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire” as it would “not be enough to address the scale of the problem”.

The announcement about immigration rules being relaxed to ease supply pressures comes amid scenes of lengthy queues at petrol stations after a shortage of specialised tanker drivers forced some fuel retailers to shut their pumps and ration sales.

As well as the short-term measure of opening up to foreign workers, the Ministry of Defence is also stepping in to provide examiners for lorry driving tests as ministers look to steadily increase the size of the workforce.

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Officials said the loan of MoD examiners to work alongside Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) employees would help put on “thousands of extra tests” over the next 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, nearly one million letters will be landing in the coming days on the doormats of people with HGV licences to encourage those who have left the industry to return.

The letter will set out the steps the haulage sector is taking to improve industry conditions, including increased wages, flexible working and fixed hours, according to the Department for Transport.

Shapps said: “This package of measures builds on the important work we have already done to ease this global crisis in the UK, and this Government continues to do everything we can to help the haulage and food industries contend with the HGV driver shortage.

“We are acting now but the industries must also play their part, with working conditions continuing to improve and the deserved salary increases continuing to be maintained in order for companies to retain new drivers.

“After a very difficult 18 months, I know how important this Christmas is for all of us and that’s why we’re taking these steps at the earliest opportunity to ensure preparations remain on track.”

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated a global shortage of lorry drivers, although there have been long-term issues in the UK with labour numbers amid an ageing workforce, low wages and poor truck stop conditions.

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The DfT said it recognised that importing foreign labour “will not be the long term solution” to the problem and that it wanted to see investment poured into establishing a robust domestic workforce.

Officials said the Government continued to support solving the high vacancy rate through improved testing and hiring, with better pay, working conditions and diversity.

Another long-term measure to turn the situation around will see the Department for Education plough up to £10m into creating new “skills bootcamps” to train up to 3000 more people to become HGV drivers.

The free, intensive courses will train drivers to undertake an entry level HGV licence (Category C) or a more advanced course to operate heavier and longer lorries (Category C&E).

Another 1000 people are expected to be trained through courses accessed locally and funded by the Government’s adult education budget.

Those accessing medical and HGV licences through the adult budget in the 2021/22 academic year will have their qualifications paid for by the state, with the funding backdated to anyone who started one of these qualifications on or after August 1.

More DVSA examiners will also be freed up to conduct lorry driver tests via a law change to allow driving examiners at the three emergency services and the MoD to be able to conduct driving tests for one another.

UK education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “HGV drivers keep this country running.

“We are taking action to tackle the shortage of drivers by removing barriers to help more people to launch new well-paid careers in the industry, supporting thousands to get the training they need to be road ready.”

UK environment secretary George Eustice said: “We have listened to concerns from the sector and we are acting to alleviate what is a very tight labour market.”

The Government said it had already streamlined the process for new HGV drivers while increasing the number of driving tests available to allow for an extra 50,000 tests to take place per year.


Police divers search River Clyde ahead of COP26 conference

The specialist officers will patrol the river and its banks ahead of the United Nations summit.

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Divers: Police to search River Clyde ahead of climate conference.

Police divers are searching the River Clyde as part of the security operation in the run up to the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.

The specialist officers, who can search in confined spaces as well as capture underwater footage, will be patrolling the river and its banks ahead of the United Nations summit which runs from October 31 to November 12.

During COP26 itself Ministry of Defence Police will monitor the waterway providing a “24/7, armed policing presence” on the river, with assistance when required from Police Scotland divers.

Police Scotland urged anyone who sees anything unusual around Glasgow’s waterways to contact them.

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Superintendent Stevie Irvine, Police Scotland Maritime Security lead for COP26, said: “Our specially trained divers will patrol and search the River Clyde, particularly restricted areas, in the run up to COP26.

“This is a historic event, with one of the biggest mobilisation of police assets the UK has ever seen, and that means some restrictions are needed to help keep participants, visitors and members of the public safe.

“Any protest activity in or around the waterways during COP26 will be met with a proportionate policing response which balances the needs and rights of those wishing to take part against the safety and wellbeing of protesters.

“This is all part of our work to support the delivery of a safe and secure event and we would ask that if you spot anything unusual in or around the waterways, report it to the police.

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“Trust your instincts if you see something that doesn’t seem right.”

Police Scotland’s dive and marine unit is among a number of specialist resources that will be deployed during COP26 as part of the security operation.

The river will be subject to movement and mooring restrictions for around three weeks.

The Queen, Pope Francis and US president Joe Biden are among the high-profile figures expected to attend the event, and each member of the United Nations has been invited, meaning nearly 120 heads of state are expected to arrive along with about 20,000 accredited delegates.

Superintendent Sandy Stewart, of Ministry of Defence Police, said: “Our marine unit officers will be supporting the Police Scotland operation for COP26, providing a 24/7, armed policing presence on the River Clyde and ensuring compliance with the legal restrictions put in place, to deliver a safe and secure event for all involved.”


Artists and musicians offered work tutoring primary pupils

Up to 50 freelancers are to be taken on as tutors for pupils in Scotland's island schools.

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Tutors: Up to 50 freelancers to be taken on in island schools.

Artists and musicians who have lost work during the coronavirus pandemic are being given the chance to tutor youngsters in Scotland’s island schools.

Up to 50 freelancers are to be taken on as tutors for primary schools, where they will lead cultural workshops on Scotland’s traditional languages and dialects, as well as music, drama, dance and visual art.

A shadowing scheme will help them develop assistant tutors, who will go on to deliver the workshops as part of the primary school curriculum.

Gaelic arts body Feisean nan Gaidheal will deliver the programme in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, as well as on islands in Argyll and Bute, Highland and North Ayrshire.

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The University of the Highlands and Islands will support the tutors, leading to accreditation for their work.

Jamie Hepburn, minister for further and higher education, youth employment and training, said: “Many freelancers have experienced considerable financial hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“On top of this, we know many touring musicians will also face challenges due to the UK’s exit from the EU for some time to come.

“This new programme will offer valuable retraining and employment opportunities for creative freelancers to work across all of our 93 inhabited Scottish islands.

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“Not only will school children get to learn more of the rich cultural diversity across our island communities, this project will also help promote Gaelic, Shetlandic and Scots languages and local dialects distinctive to islands such as Orkney.

Arthur Cormack, chief executive of Feisean nan Gaidheal, said the organisation was “grateful for support from the Scottish Government in delivering this new programme which will help freelance creative practitioners recover from the economic effects of the pandemic”.

He added: “Training will be an important part of the programme with the aim of increasing the resilience of freelancers and better equipping them to work in school settings in the future.

“All primary schools across our islands have been presented with an exciting opportunity to enable local artists to work with one year group, delving into local culture integral to our island communities.”


Sarwar demands £70 top-up to pensioners’ winter fuel payment

The Scottish Labour leader will urge the Scottish Government to put an additional £70 on to the winter fuel payment.

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Payment: Scottish Government urged to increase winter fuel payment.

Scottish ministers are being challenged to use welfare powers to boost the winter fuel payment by £70, helping pensioners cope with rising energy costs.

Labour’s Anas Sarwar will use his speech to the party’s Brighton conference to warn of the dangers of rising fuel poverty as “energy prices spiral out of control”.

The energy price cap – which limits the amount suppliers can charge for their default tariffs – is to increase by £139 from £1138 to £1277 at the end of this week.

Meanwhile with some energy firms going out of business, there are fears that people could have to pay more when they are transferred over to a different power supplier.

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Sarwar will raise the issue when he addresses the Labour Party’s annual conference, making his first speech there since becoming Scottish leader in February.

He will urge the Scottish Government to use its powers over social security to put an additional £70 on to the winter fuel payment.

This is made to those born on or before September 26 1955, and ranges from £100 to £300 depending on circumstances.

Sarwar will say: “This winter too many Scots are facing fuel poverty as energy prices spiral out of control.

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“In Scotland, 150,000 pensioners live in relative poverty every year – with thousands more on the brink.

“The Scottish Parliament has the power to make winter payments reflect the pressures on fuel poor households, but the SNP have delayed taking responsibility.

“That is why we would give every pensioner on the lowest incomes £70 now to help them through the winter months.

“Where the SNP obsess over mandates and white papers, the powers of the Scottish Parliament could be used to end the choice between heating and eating this winter.”

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: “We are already taking a wide range of actions within our powers to help people who are on low incomes including the Scottish Child Payment and bridging payments for families on low incomes.

“Our £130 pandemic payment will also reach everyone in receipt of council tax reduction in October. In addition, we have also announced our plans to extend Child Winter Heating Assistance to reach 5000 additional families with severely disabled young people to help them with costs of heating their home.

“Our efforts will be undermined by the UK Government’s plans to remove more than £1000 per year in Universal Credit (UC) payments from the lowest income households. Many of those who will lose out are unable to work due to ill health and disability and more than a third of UC recipients are already in work but rely on the payments to make ends meet.

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“We continue to call on the UK Government to reconsider this unjustifiable decision and do more to protect the most vulnerable.”


Soldiers will help ambulance service ‘for the long run’ if required

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack spoke as military personnel started a deployment with the Scottish Ambulance Service.

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It comes as the recent surge in Covid cases in Scotland has put further pressure on the NHS

Army personnel could be driving Scotland’s ambulances for longer than the two months originally planned, with Scottish secretary Alister Jack declaring the military support is “here for the long run” if needed.

A total of 114 soldiers have been drafted in to drive non-emergency vehicles for the Scottish Ambulance Service, with a further 111 members of the armed forces helping to staff coronavirus testing centres.

It comes as the recent surge in Covid cases in Scotland has put further pressure on the NHS, with some patients experiencing long waits for ambulances – something First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been clear is unacceptable.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf, who met some of the soldiers who are stepping in on Friday, said he expected their assistance would help make a “significant improvement” to the waiting times crisis.

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Jack said that while two months of support had initially been requested, military help could remain in place “longer if that’s what the Scottish Government needs and what it takes to help protect the public”.

Alister Jack insisted the forces helping the ambulance service were ‘here for the long run’ (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the Scottish secretary said: “The British military is always ready to deploy at the drop of a hat – but they are also here for the long run.

“Initially two months of support were requested, but let me be crystal clear about timescales.

“The UK’s Forces are not in any way restricting the amount of time available. We are happy for this operation to go on longer if that’s what the Scottish Government needs and what it takes to help protect the public.”

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Jack added: “I am pleased that we are able to work together as one to bring a quality UK asset such as the military to bear on problems.

“I say with confidence that if our NHS here in Scotland continues to struggle as winter bites, the UK military stands ready with much more help, which they can deliver in a heartbeat.”

Colonel Anthony Phillips, the commander of joint military command for Scotland, has previously said the forces deployment with the ambulance service could be extended.

Members of the armed forces from 68 Squadron from 7 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps  are now helping out, with approximately two-thirds of the troops based in the Glasgow area and a third in the Edinburgh region –  although they can be deployed elsewhere as required by the ambulance service.

Col Phillips stated on Friday: “Our commitment will be in the region of about two months.

“It is all conditions-based and if there is a requirement to look at that and extend, then that will be done in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence and the Scottish Government.”


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