Hospitality sector begins legal action over Covid restrictions

The NTIA said the hospitality and late-night sector in particular have been 'driven to the edge of insolvency'.

Scotland: The NTIA has announced plans to launch legal action against the Scottish Government. MikePanic via IStock
Scotland: The NTIA has announced plans to launch legal action against the Scottish Government.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has announced plans to launch legal action against the Scottish Government over the country’s coronavirus restrictions.

The NTIA said the move was being made with an “extraordinary sense of disappointment and frustration”, but that the hospitality and late-night sector in particular have been “driven to the edge of insolvency”.

With no specific end date for the restrictions in sight, the NTIA said 39,000 jobs are at risk.

The group added that Scottish Government support has been “wholly inadequate” to compensate for operating losses and, on average, a “typical small business owner” has incurred around £150,000 worth of debt during the pandemic due to fixed costs exceeding income generated from revenue and grants.

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The NTIA is arguing that the curbs are “no longer justifiable or proportionate”, and has claimed their continuation would be a breach of the Human Rights Act.

Monday marked the biggest raft of changes made in Scotland since the country went back into lockdown on Boxing Day.

Pubs, restaurants, cafes and non-essential shops are back open for business.

Libraries, gyms, swimming pools, and visitor attractions such as museums and art galleries can also now reopen as the country moved to level three of the Scottish Government’s five-tier Covid alert system.

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Hospitality can open until 8pm indoors – but no alcohol can be served – and 10pm outdoors, where alcohol can be consumed.

Scotland is scheduled to move to level two restrictions on Monday, May 17, which will allow people to meet in “small numbers” in homes for the first time in months.

Cinemas, theatres, concert halls, music venues, comedy clubs, amusement arcades and bingo halls will be allowed to open from that date, with indoor and outdoor events resuming but with capacity limits.

Closing times for hospitality would also be extended to 10.30pm indoors.

During a Scottish Government briefing earlier this month, the First Minister said “if circumstances permit” the intention is for the country to move to level one from June 7, before moving to level zero later in the month.

Nicola Sturgeon also said that by the “deeper part of the summer” she hoped “something much more like normality” would be possible.

On Friday, the NTIA confirmed its intentions to proceed with a judicial review to challenge the “validity of all legal restrictions currently being imposed upon hospitality and night-time economy businesses”.

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In a statement, the NTIA said: “It is with an extraordinary sense of disappointment and frustration that we confirm our intention to commence legal action against the Scottish Government and note our intent to proceed with a judicial review challenging the validity of all legal restrictions currently being imposed upon hospitality and night-time economy businesses in Scotland under The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020.  

“The hospitality sector in general, and late-night sector in particular, has been driven to the edge of insolvency by the severe restrictions in place since the start of the pandemic. 

“Scottish Government support has been wholly inadequate to compensate for operating losses and a majority of businesses have now incurred unsustainable debt as a result.

“Even worse, all strategic framework funding has now ended while there is no end date for the restrictions that make these businesses commercially unviable. Thirty-nine thousand jobs are now at risk as a direct result.

“The reality is that the current emergency restrictions on opening, capacity, activities, and operating hours make thousands of businesses commercially unviable. 

“Hospitality businesses typically operate on wafer-thin profit margins, as little as 5%, while these restrictions can result in businesses suffering such immense declines in income that bankruptcy will be the inevitable result if they continue for much longer.

“Fixed costs such as rent, insurance, staff furlough costs, etc, have far exceeded the income coming in from revenue and grants, resulting in the typical small business owner in our sector incurring around £150,000 in Covid-related debt per premises, which represents many years’ worth of normal profits.

“Social distancing is toxic for businesses across numerous sectors of the economy, from restaurants, pubs and bars, wedding suppliers, music venues, nightclubs, coach tours, travel, and tourism, and many more.

“These can result in declines in capacity and therefore income of up to 75% and force businesses to trade at substantial losses even if allowed to open.

“Additional restrictions on live music, dancing, mandatory seated drinking, table service, and more, further reduce the ability of premises to generate sufficient custom to survive.

“We accept that restrictions were initially necessary in the interests of public health, and indeed we not only fully supported previous measures taken, but also actively promoted the government’s public health messages via social media channels and to our customer base.

“However, thanks to the heroic efforts of our NHS workers, vaccine researchers, and scientists, and the immensely successful roll-out of the vaccine, Covid-19 no longer presents the threat to public health that it did even a few short months ago. 

“All those at serious risk of hospitalisation or mortality have now been offered a vaccine, and take-up rates have been well above expectations with almost all of JCVI groups one to nine now vaccinated.

“These groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from Covid-19 and the results of vaccination are startlingly effective. 

“Evidence presented to SAGE noted that of 42,788 Covid-19 cases admitted to UK hospitals between the start of the vaccination programme on December 8 and March 5, just 32 had received a vaccine at least three weeks before.

“It is therefore the position of the NTIA that the restrictions imposed on hospitality businesses by Scottish Government with regards to capacity, activities and operating hours are no longer justifiable or proportionate and any continued application of such emergency restrictions would now be in breach of Article 1 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which applies in the UK by virtue of the Human Rights Act 1998.

“The NTIA has retained the services of TLT Solicitors and the dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, to argue our case in court at the earliest practical opportunity.”

The Scottish Government said it wants to get back to normal “as soon as it is safely possible”, but added it “must move very carefully to ensure continued suppression of the virus”.

It highlighted its Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF), which has provided grants to businesses that have been forced to close or significantly change their operation due to Covid restrictions put in place from last November.

Nightclubs, which were eligible for the SFBF, should now have received restart grants.

Top-up grants and rates relief have also been made available.

In addition, one-off grants of up to £50,000 – based upon rateable value – were also made available to nightclubs last October through the Covid-19 Contingency Fund.


Election 2021: Live results as more seats declared

Final results due to be declared throughout Saturday.

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A second day of counting is ongoing across Scotland in the 2021 Holyrood election.

With the normal overnight count cancelled to ensure Covid safety, it will be later on Saturday or possibly Sunday before the final results are known.

The SNP have claimed 47 of the 56 seats declared so far, with results due for the remaining constituencies and regions over the next few hours.

You can follow all the results as they happen right here.

Constituency seat results

ConstituencyResults (Turnout)
Aberdeen CentralSNP HOLD (56%)
Aberdeen DonsideSNP HOLD (58.2%)
Aberdeenshire EastSNP HOLD (64%)
Aberdeen South
& North Kincardine
SNP HOLD (64%)
Airdrie & ShottsSNP HOLD (59%)
Angus North
& Mearns
SNP HOLD (64%)
Argyll & ButeSNP HOLD (68%)
AyrSNP GAIN (68%)
Banffshire
& Buchan Coast
SNP HOLD (56%)
Caithness Sutherland
& Ross
SNP HOLD (65%)
Clackmannanshire
& Dunblane
SNP HOLD (66%)
Clydebank & MilngavieSNP HOLD (70.8%)
Coatbridge & ChrystonSNP HOLD (63%)
CowdenbeathSNP HOLD (61%)
Cumbernauld & KilsythSNP HOLD (65.2%)
Cunninghame NorthSNP HOLD (64%)
Cunninghame SouthSNP HOLD (58%)
DumbartonLabour HOLD (68%)
DumfriesshireConservatives HOLD (66%)
Dundee City EastSNP HOLD (58%)
Dundee City WestSNP HOLD (57%)
East LothianSNP GAIN (69%)
EastwoodConservatives HOLD (76%)
Edinburgh CentralSNP GAIN (63%)
Edinburgh SouthernLabour HOLD (71%)
Edinburgh WesternLib Dems HOLD (71%)
Ettrick, Roxburgh
& Berwickshire
Conservatives HOLD (64%)
Falkirk EastSNP HOLD (63%)
Falkirk WestSNP HOLD
Glasgow
Anniesland
SNP HOLD (58%)
Glasgow Maryhill
& Springburn
SNP HOLD (52%)
Glasgow PollokSNP HOLD (55%)
Glasgow SouthsideSNP HOLD (59%)
Greenock
& Inverclyde
SNP HOLD (63%)
Hamilton, Larkhall
& Stonehouse
SNP HOLD (61%)
Inverness & NairnSNP HOLD (64%)
Kilmarnock
& Irvine Valley
SNP HOLD (61.5%)
KirkcaldySNP HOLD (57%)
LinlithgowSNP HOLD (62.2%)
Midlothian North
& Musselburgh
SNP HOLD (61%)
MoraySNP HOLD (65%)
Motherwell and WishawSNP HOLD (59%)
Na h-Eileanan an IarSNP HOLD (66%)
North East FifeLib Dems HOLD (69%)
Orkney IslandsLib Dems HOLD (65.4%)
PaisleySNP HOLD (62%)
Perthshire NorthSNP HOLD (70%)
Perthshire South & Kinross-shireSNP HOLD (70%)
Renfrewshire North
& West
SNP HOLD (68%)
Renfrewshire SouthSNP HOLD (65%)
RutherglenSNP HOLD (63%)
Shetland IslandsLib Dems HOLD (66%)
Skye, Lochaber
& Badenoch
SNP HOLD (68%)
StirlingSNP HOLD (69%)
Strathkelvin
& Bearsden
SNP HOLD (72%)
Uddingston & BellshillSNP HOLD (61%)

Suspicious ballot paper seized by police at Edinburgh count

A suspected case of personation was reported in the Holyrood election in the Edinburgh Northern and Leith constituency.

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A possible case of personation is being investigated by police at the Edinburgh count.

A possible case of electoral fraud is being investigated by police at the Edinburgh count for the Holyrood election.

A suspicious ballot paper was seized after a would-be voter in the Edinburgh Northern and Leith constituency tried to vote, only to be stopped because someone had already cast a ballot in their name.

Candidates and polling agents were summoned on Saturday morning as counting got under way in Edinburgh to witness count staff and police attempt to track down the vote in question.

Depute returning officer Chris Highcock confirmed that the vote allegedly cast in someone else’s name – a crime known as personation – had been located and was being investigated by police.

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The votes cast in another person’s name will still be counted in the final tallies in case it turns out to be genuine, Mr Highcock said, but it has now been removed and placed in an evidence bag should police need to test for fingerprints.

The person who was unable to vote would have been able to secretly write who they intended to vote for in a sealed envelope which could then be revealed in the event of a legal challenge or court case.

The potential case of electoral fraud occurred at St Serf’s Church in Ferry Road, Inverleith, on polling day.

Mr Highcock said: “In this case, it looks like someone has turned up pertaining to be somebody else and they have been issued with the vote having said ‘Yeah, I’m that person’.

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“In cases like that, it’s important to the police because it’s a crime to pretend to be somebody else and get their vote.

“What happens then is that the ballot paper is traced, the ballot paper is taken out the box, it is put in an evidence bag and the police hold that and they do an investigation, to try and find out who it was and see what happened.”

He added: “Because it involves the ballot box, we’ve got to have candidates, agents and police there, so as we did that there were lots of people watching and it was in full view of any observers who need to be there.”

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police have received a report of voter personation which occurred at a polling station in St Serf’s Church, Edinburgh.

“Inquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.”

The Edinburgh probe comes after police launched an investigation earlier into a report of possible electoral fraud in West Dunbartonshire.

Police Scotland said inquiries are ongoing into a report of voter personation at a polling station in St Patrick’s Primary School in Dumbarton.

Services cancelled as ‘cracks found’ on high-speed trains

Trains serving Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow have been affected, with some services delayed or cancelled.

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Disruption: High-speed trains taken out of service.

Rail passengers are being urged not to travel after a number of high-speed trains were taken out of service after ‘cracks were found’.

LNER trains serving Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow have been affected by the issue on Saturday, with some services delayed or cancelled.

The Class 800 Hitachi trains were taken out of service as a “precautionary measure”.

Network Rail said some Great Western Railway (GWR), Hull Trains, London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and TransPennine Express (TPE) trains of the Hitachi 800 model were taken out of service.

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Great Western Railway said cracks were detected on “more than one” Hitachi 800 train, so all 93 Hitachi 800s in their fleet are being inspected as a “precaution”.

A spokesman said: “There’s a crack that’s been spotted and as a result of that – as a precaution – we’re checking all the trains, and while that’s taking place it’s better that they’re not used.

“It’s been found in more than one train, but we don’t know exactly how many trains because the fleet is still being inspected.”

Asked how long the disruption will last, the GWR spokesman said: “It’s a question of how quickly the trains can be inspected – it’s highly likely that it will certainly persist through to the end of today.

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“Once more inspection has been carried out we’ll have a better understanding as to whether that disruption is going to continue into tomorrow.”

The spokesman added that the issue is affecting long-distance journeys between cities, which are being refunded, but that suburban and rural GWR services are still running as normal.

A LNER spokesperson said: “A number of Class 800 series Hitachi trains from several train companies have been taken out of service today for checks as a precautionary measure. 

“This problem is being investigated by Hitachi and once trains have been checked, we hope to be able to release them back into service as soon as possible. 

“This could affect a significant number of our services and passengers are advised not to travel today.”

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “RMT is fully aware of the issues that have led to the cancellation of services on LNER today and that similar problems with cracks appearing in the fleet on Great Western are also emerging.

“Hitachi needs to ensure the highest safety standards and properly investigate and rectify the issues.”

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Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said passengers should not be charged extra in future to pay for repairs.

“It’s welcome news that railway engineering staff have found these cracks before they led to an accident,” he said.

“This rolling stock must not be allowed back into service until we are 100% certain these trains are safe.

“It’s important to point out that the affected trains are relatively new, in which case the manufacturers should foot the bill for any repairs, not passengers or taxpayers.”

Hitachi Rail has apologised for the disruption caused.

A spokesman said: “We are working with all partners to resolve this issue as quickly and safely as possible.

“We would like to offer our sincerest apologies to passengers for the impact this may be causing for their travel plans.”


Lib Dems candidate misses election count to give birth

Aude Boubaker-Calder is being induced at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy on Saturday.

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Scottish Lib Dems: Aude Boubaker-Calder has had to miss the Holyrood election count.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats candidate for Dunfermline has apologised for being unable to see the result in person – because she is in hospital about to give birth.

Aude Boubaker-Calder, who is married to Fife councillor James Calder, is being induced at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy on Saturday after reaching the 42-week milestone without any signs of arrival.

In a statement, she said: “I was hoping to be able to be present during the results on Saturday but our little bundle of joy has decided otherwise and I will need to be induced this weekend as I am reaching the 42-weeks milestone.”

Boubaker-Calder had been due to give birth to her child around a week before the election.

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Speaking around three weeks ago, she said: “I’m expecting a child in the next couple of weeks – we don’t know what it is yet.

“It’s really important to me that I am engaged, as a feminist, in politics because the issue of women in politics is so important.

“We’ve seen accounts of women working in politics and motherhood at the same time – just look at the prime minister of New Zealand [Jacinda Ahern] who was in exactly the same situation as me.”

The count is currently ongoing for Dunfermline at Glenrothes’ Michael Woods Sports Centre.

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By local democracy reporter Jon Brady


Ballot counting to resume as SNP majority hangs in balance

The SNP currently have 39 seats, Liberal Democrats four, Conservatives three and Labour two.

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Election: Counting set to resume on Saturday.

Counting is set to resume in the Scottish Parliament election on Saturday, as an SNP majority hangs in the balance. 

On Friday 48 of the 73 constituency results were declared, with the SNP taking 39 seats, Liberal Democrats four, Conservatives three and Labour two.

The SNP picked up key seats in Edinburgh Central, Ayr and East Lothian.

However under Holyrood’s proportional representation system, those successes could see the party lose out on the regional list which make up the remaining 56 seats.

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, traditional overnight counts were abandoned in favour of a longer counting process over a number of days to allow for social distancing. 

The SNP need 65 seats to achieve an outright majority in the Scottish Parliament, and if successful, could see the party call for a second independence referendum. 

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday that she would offer Scots “the choice of a better future” in a second independence referendum “when the time is right”.

Seat-by-seat results (After 48 of 129 seats declared)

  • SNP – 39
  • Lib Dems – 4
  • Conservatives – 3
  • Labour – 2
  • Greens – 0
  • Other – 0

On Friday, Labour’s Jackie Baillie held on to her Dumbarton constituency – which had been the most marginal seat in all of Scotland and a top target for the SNP.

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Baillie had a majority of just 109 from the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but increased that to 1483.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar lost out to Sturgeon in Glasgow Southside but said he was pleased to increase his party’s share of the vote in the constituency.

Labour’s Daniel Johnson held Edinburgh Southern on 20,760 votes to SNP candidate Catriona MacDonald’s 16,738.

But Labour’s Martin Whitfield lost East Lothian to the SNP’s Paul McLennan.

Former Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw increased his majority in Eastwood as did Oliver Mundell in Dumfriesshire.

Rachael Hamilton also held Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire for the Tories, although with a reduced majority.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats retained all four of their constituency seats with leader Willie Rennie increasing his majority in North East Fife, as did Alex Cole-Hamilton in Edinburgh Western.

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However there was disappointment for the party in Caithness, Sutherland & Ross and Shetland – which they failed to take from the SNP.

Elsewhere, former first minister and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond said the measure of his party’s success would be “our existence as a political party”, adding it is “here to stay”.


Man charged over quad bike crash after passenger injured

A 31-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with the incident.

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Crash: Passenger treated in hospital for serious injuries following the incident.

A man has been charged following a road crash involving a quad bike which left a passenger in a serious condition in hospital.

The crash occurred on Thursday around 6.45am on the roundabout at Kenilworth Avenue, Wishaw, near the junction with Lammermoor Terrace.

The passenger of the quad bike sustained serious head injuries and is being treated at the Queen Elizabeth II University Hospital in Glasgow.

The 36-year-old remains in a serious but stable condition.

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A 31-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with the incident.

He is due to appear at Hamilton Sheriff Court at a later date.

Sergeant Scott Sutherland, of the road policing unit, said: “I would like to thank everyone who assisted us in our investigation into this incident.”


First look at gentoo penguin chicks at Edinburgh Zoo

The first two eggs hatched on May 1 to parents Muffin and Mittens.

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Cute: The first two eggs hatched on May 1 to parents Muffin and Mittens.

The first images of this year’s newly-hatched gentoo penguin chicks have been captured at Edinburgh Zoo. 

Staff at the wildlife conservation charity were delighted to report nine chicks have emerged so far and hope more will follow in the coming weeks.

The first two eggs hatched on May 1 to parents Muffin and Mittens.

Cute: The first two eggs hatched on May 1 to parents Muffin and Mittens.

The first month is critical and keepers will be keeping a close eye on the new arrivals.  

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Gentoo chicks weigh around 98g when they hatch, which is the equivalent to half an avocado.  

Keen penguin cam viewers have been able to catch a glimpse of the youngsters on the charity’s live website camera and visitors hoping to see the chicks in-person must pre-book zoo tickets before their visit.

Airport gives heads-up for increased military flight activity

The public has been warned to expect war planes to be performing manoeuvres throughout May.

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Chinooks: Resident spotted the aircraft hovering above Prestwick in March.

A pensioner is delighted Prestwick Airport has let residents know in advance there will be more military flights in the area this month. 

Martin Dorans, an unpaid carer, raised concerns about a lack of notice regarding low flying aircraft at night in the town. 

Speaking on behalf of a number of residents, the community council member appealed for a heads-up on future exercises.

And his concerns seem to have been addressed after the airport issued an update on Thursday, May 6, telling people to expect more war plane activity in the coming weeks. 

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Mr Dorans, 68, said: “I would like to thank Prestwick Airport for having the courtesy to inform us about future military activities.”

He described seeing three Chinooks hovering above the Prestwick area up to 10.30pm during an evening in March.

Mr Dorans said there had been half a dozen incidents since January up until then.

It is understood the helicopters were taking park in defence training operation Exercise Chameleon.

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A Prestwick Airport social media post said: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport would like to make local residents and the general public aware that throughout this month, May 2021, and the beginning of June there will be an increase of Military flight activity around the airport.

It added: “The airport will be supporting UK and NATO Military training exercises.

“Glasgow Prestwick Airport will work alongside personnel taking part in the exercises to ensure there is minimal disruption to local residents during this period.”

Story by local democracy reporter Sarah Hilley


Residents warned of Wifi disruption during Navy exercise

Customers of Lothian Broadband have been told they could face disruption over the next two weeks.

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Wifi: Thousands could be impacted by the military operations.

Broadband customers in East Lothian have been warned they could lose their Wifi signal as a major naval exercise takes place off the Scottish coast.

Customers of Lothian Broadband have been told they could face disruption over the next two weeks.

An email sent out by the firm warns that some naval equipment and operations can interfere with its fixed wireless network.

Customers are being told: “The exercise is due to take place between May 8 and 22.

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“From previous experience, the most vulnerable timings are one to two days before and one to two days following the exercise dates, as vessels travel to and from the exercise locations.”

Lothian Broadband, which was established in 2015 to provide wireless services to rural communities in East Lothian and Midlothian, is believed to currently provide services to 1800 homes in the areas.

Last year, the firm expanded by acquiring Highland Wireless and its 4000 properties as it looks to expand its footprint in Scotland.

The company told its local customers it would be increasing its support staff cover during the military exercise to deal with any issues which come up.

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It said: “We have been working closely with Ofcom in recent days (who in turn liaise with the MoD on our behalf) to seek to minimize this impact as far as possible.

“We will also introduce some additional specific network monitoring and increase our level of support cover over this period to manage any interference that may arise.”

Story by local democracy reporter Marie Sharp

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