Retail sales hit fourth month of double-digit decline

Figures found total sales in Scotland were down 18.6% last month, compared against 1.9% in June 2019.

Decline: Retail sales continue to struggle as lockdown eases. Getty Images
Decline: Retail sales continue to struggle as lockdown eases.

Retail sales in June were down by almost a fifth compared to last year in a fourth successive month of double-digit decline.

The SRC-KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor found total sales in Scotland last month were down 18.6% in comparison with June 2019 (1.9%).

Sales were down 27.6% in May, which was an improvement on the record low recorded in April (32.2%) but still higher than the 13% fall in March.

Total food sales for June 2020 increased by 4% compared to 12 months previously, when they had decreased by 0.5%.

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Despite a 37.3% drop in total non-food sales last month, when adjusted for the estimated effect of online sales the June 2020 figure instead becomes a 19.4% decrease.

Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) director David Lonsdale said: “While positive for some retailers, at least in the short-term, any prolonged absence of office workers from our city and town centres has portents for stores in those areas who rely on such custom, and who may also have suffered from a loss of tourist traffic and students recently.

“Going forward, the permitted reopening of shops, malls and eateries over recent weeks should help generate more shopper footfall and lift retail sales figures.

“However, more needs to be done, in particular to bring the energy and footfall back into our city centres.”

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He added: “Tens of thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of jobs in retail directly and the supply chain more widely ultimately depend on the ongoing support of the Scottish public.

“That support from shoppers in the coming months will determine the future and vibrancy of our high streets and retail destinations for years to come.

“Early indications suggest that any retail revival may be slow and gradual.”

Sales of laptops and accessories and home electricals continued to do well, with people still working from home or remote learning.

Home entertainment such as gaming and toys also performed well, along with DIY and grocery sales.

Clothing and footwear were among the markets to fare poorly, especially more formal attire and holiday-related items.

Paul Martin, KPMG UK head of retail, said: “It’s clear the easing of lockdown has failed to kick-start a full recovery in Scotland’s retail sector.

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“Despite a positive 4% growth in total food sales and categories including technology and sports equipment witnessing increasing demand, the overall outlook remains incredibly depressed, particularly for clothing retailers.

“The shift to online sales has helped offset some of the challenges but the situation remains critical for many of the country’s highest profile brands as well as independent retailers.”

Pupils, teachers and parents prepare for schools’ return

Schools are reopening five months after the coronavirus lockdown forced their closure.

By Jenness Mitchell & Ewan Petrie

It will be an anxious week for young people, parents and teachers as schools reopen their doors after nearly five months.

Teachers are back at work to prepare for pupils returning to their desks over the next few days.

All pupils are expected to be back in class full-time from August 18 at the latest after schools were given the go-ahead to reopen by the Scottish Government.

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While visiting West Calder High School in West Lothian on Monday, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said as a country it was “right to prioritise” getting schools back.

She said: “It’s really important and I think really positive that young people are able to return to full-time schooling.

“We know that’s important for their education, that is very obvious, but it’s also important I think for young people’s well-being and a sense of normality coming back into their lives, even though there will be differences to normality as they knew it before lockdown.”

Sturgeon praised the work local authorities have carried out to make schools safer in the fight against Covid-19.

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As well as new physical distancing signage and one-way systems, schools have also implemented hand-sanitising stations.

Newark Primary School in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, has created an isolation room for anyone who starts to display symptoms of the virus.

Headteacher Lynne McGugan is also prepared to stagger entries, exits, lunchtimes and playtimes if needed.

Sturgeon said she understood those returning to the classroom might be feeling concerned.

She said: “I know that this will be an anxious week for young people themselves, for teachers – who themselves are often parents, and parents.

“But we also know that being out of school is doing real harm to young people, so we have to strike the right balance.

“And where necessary, if it means slowing down on other aspects of getting back to normal in order to prioritise school return, I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Class of 2020: These new teachers will be heading into classrooms on Tuesday.
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The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s largest teaching union, questioned 29,867 teachers over the past week.

A total of 60% supported the decision to reopen, however 66% expressed anxiety and a lack of confidence that sufficient safety measures will be in place.

The First Minister said anxiety was expected and it would be “wrong to expect otherwise” due to the pandemic.

She said: “That’s why it’s been so important that we’ve done this carefully. 

“We are not being complacent, we’ve thought very hard – informed by scientific advice – about the measures that need to be in place, and we’ll make sure that there’s rapid access to test and protect for any staff member or young person who has symptoms.”

Qualified: New teacher Nicole Wylie is ‘confident’ about the return.

Nicole Wylie, a newly qualified teacher in Inverclyde, told STV News that she had a “few worries” but overall felt “confident” about the new term.

She said: “A few worries, but everything’s in place in the school.

“We’ve got lots of hand sanitiser stations, arrows on the floor, one-way systems, staggered entries and things like that, so everything’s been done the way that it should be. 

“I feel quite confident going back, knowing that all the appropriate measures have been put in place.”

Inverclyde: Jim Clocherty hopes parents will be confident enough to send their children to school.

Jim Clocherty, education convener at Inverclyde Council, added: “Once we actually get things going, once things get back to the ‘new normal’, I think parents will see that and hopefully they’ll feel safe enough to send their children to school.”


Swinney to set out plan to ‘rectify’ exam results

The education secretary will outline the government's next steps at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

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Swinney: Facing calls to resign.

Deputy first minister John Swinney will set out a plan to “rectify” the school exam results controversy.

The education secretary, who has faced calls to resign, will outline the government’s next steps in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

With no exams this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) applied a methodology whereby marks estimated by teachers were downgraded based on criteria including the historic performance of the school.

This criteria saw Higher pass rates for pupils in the most deprived areas reduced by 15.2%, in comparison with 6.9% for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds.

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On Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed her deputy as she apologised to pupils affected by the decision.

Both initially defended the system, stressing that the appeals process would allow eligible pupils to challenge their results and arguing that it would not have been “credible” if teachers’ estimates were not downgraded.

But following protests from pupils in Glasgow and cross-party criticism of the system, the First Minister said Swinney would “rectify” the situation.

She said: “We will be taking steps to ensure that every young person gets a grade that recognises the work they have done.

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“Our concern – which was to make sure that the grades young people got were as valid as those they would have got in any other year – perhaps led us to think too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil.”

She added: “Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I’m sorry for that.

“The most immediate challenge is to resolve the grades awarded to pupils this year.”

The moderation process has been widely criticised by opposition parties.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack described it as “disgraceful” and called the system as a “postcode lottery”

The Conservative MP said Swinney had shown “a lack of judgement”.

Scottish Labour are set to mount a no-confidence vote against Swinney in Holyrood with the Conservatives saying they will support it.

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Presiding officer Ken McIntosh explained that the motion would have to be debated if it is backed by 25 or more MSPs, but it would be an “expression of parliament’s opinion” and not legally binding.

Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories have a combined 54 MSPs.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens are yet to state whether they will support the motion.

The motion was tabled on Monday morning, meaning a debate is not likely to take place before Wednesday as MSPs are normally given two days’ notice ahead of a no-confidence vote.


Woman, 91, arrested over crash that killed three-year-old boy

Xander Irvine died after being struck by a car in Edinburgh on June 30.

Police Scotland
Xander Irvine: Three-year-old died in hospital.

An elderly woman has been arrested after a three-year-old boy died in a crash.

Xander Irvine died in hospital after he was struck by a car in Edinburgh.

His 37-year-old mum Victoria was also injured in the collision outside St Columba’s Hospice shop on Morningside Road on June 30.

Police confirmed a 91-year-old woman was arrested on Monday in connection with the incident.

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A report will now be sent to the procurator fiscal.

In a statement released through Police Scotland at the time of his death, Xander’s family said: “Xander was a very happy, bubbly, intelligent little boy who was very dearly loved by his parents Victoria and Paul. 

“Xander was a real chatterbox who just loved books, playing with all sorts of vehicles and his Lego. 

“He really enjoyed life and he enriched the lives of everyone he met.

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“Xander will be so very sorely missed by them both and all his family and friends in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”


Girl, 12, who died in River Leven named by police

Ava Gray was pronounced dead at the scene on Sunday.

Ava Gray: Died in the River Leven on Sunday.

A young girl who died after getting into difficulty in the River Leven has been named.

Ava Gray, from Alexandria, was pronounced dead after being recovered from the water in West Dunbartonshire on Sunday.

The 12-year-old aspiring dancer was with two friends when the three of them got stuck in the river near Balloch Bridge at around 6.45pm.

Two of the youths, one boy and one girl, managed to get themselves out of the water and an extensive search for Ava was launched.

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She was discovered by emergency services just before 10pm.

Tributes have been paid to the Lennox Primary School pupil who has been described as a kind and popular child.

The school’s headteacher said: “The school and whole community are completely devastated by this tragedy and our thoughts are with Ava’s family and friends.

“Ava always had a smile and kind words to say and was popular with staff and fellow pupils. She will be greatly missed by us all.”

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And a spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council said: “We would like to extend our sincere sympathy to Ava’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

“Help and support will be offered to any pupils in our schools who need it following this tragic event.”

Her dance teacher Holly Douglas paid tribute on Facebook.

She said: “Words can’t describe the way I feel, Ava we all love you so so much you will never be forgotten at Full Out you will always be part of our team and our family.

“The world is a cruel place thinking of all the family right now.”

Police say there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.


Cyclist dies in hospital following collision with lorry

Rikki Gault died in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he was taken after the crash on Friday.

Rikki Gault: Died following crash.

A cyclist has died in hospital following a collision with a lorry in Aberdeenshire.

Rikki Gault was pronounced dead at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he was taken after the incident that took place in Banff on Friday.

The 30-year-old was on his bicycle when it collided with a lorry on Low Street at around 2.20pm.

Rikki’s family have requested privacy at this time however wished it known that “Rikki lived life to the full and will be sorely missed”.

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A report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.

Low Street was closed for around eight hours to allow for collision investigation work.

Police have asked anyone who witnessed the crash or seen either the lorry or the cyclist prior to the crash is asked to contact them on 101.


Petrie: ‘Harsh lessons learned from Aberdeen incident’

The managers and captains of all 12 Scottish Premiership clubs held a video call with Scotland's national clinical director, Jason Leitch.

Pixabay
Football: Harsh lessons learned.

“Harsh lessons have been learned” in Scottish football after Aberdeen players broke lockdown rules for a night out.

The football community moved to assure the Scottish government after a meeting with Jason Leitch over the incident that has left the Dons without eight first team players for their midweek game, if it goes ahead.

The managers and captains of all 12 Scottish Premiership clubs held a video call with Scotland’s national clinical director on Monday.

The discussions came three days after Aberdeen’s trip to face St Johnstone was postponed following Scottish Government intervention after two Dons players tested positive for Covid-19 and a further six were instructed to self-isolate following an ill-judged night out.

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They now face a wait see if their clash with Hamilton will get the go-ahead amid a coronavirus spike in the city.

The First Minister had warned Scottish football a repeat of the incident could see the national game lose its privileges after being granted permission to hold matches during the pandemic.

The football representatives were reminded of their responsibilities in relation to the protocols set out for them in particular and also the public in general.

Rod Petrie, chair of Scottish football’s Joint Response Group (JRG), said in a statement: “The JRG is thankful to Professor Leitch, as well as the managers and captains of Scottish Premiership clubs, for facilitating a video call to reinforce the message that Scottish football is serious in its commitment to helping the country emerge from the Covid crisis as safely as possible.

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“The events of last week were deeply regrettable but the JRG commends the immediate response by the Aberdeen owner, David Cormack, and the manager, Derek McInnes, in dealing with the matter and providing government with the necessary confidence that there will be no repeat.

“Scottish football must continue to work together to ensure the national game remains a safe and secure environment for all participants, but it must also be mindful of its role in promoting and protecting public health messages, behaviours and obligations.

“Harsh lessons have been learned by Aberdeen that will have been heeded by the rest of Scottish football and that message was made clear to Professor Leitch this evening.”

Aberdeen are set to host Hamilton on Wednesday without the eight self-isolating players – Jonny Hayes, Michael Devlin, Scott McKenna, Matty Kennedy, Sam Cosgrove, Dylan McGeouch, Craig Bryson and Bruce Anderson.


Aberdeen virus lockdown could be extended as cases rise

Nicola Sturgeon said the restrictions in Aberdeen may be kept in place for another week.

Aberdeen’s lockdown might be extended for another week as the number of cases continues to rise, the First Minister said.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants in the city have been closed since last Wednesday.

There have been 231 confirmed instances of the virus in the Grampian area since the start of the local outbreak on July 26.

A total of 157 have been linked to the Aberdeen cluster, while 852 contacts have been identified during tracing.

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In the last 24 hours, a further 18 cases have emerged, although it is not yet known how many are connected to the ongoing outbreak, which led to an initial seven-day local lockdown.

However, NHS Grampian said none of the cases linked to the cluster had required hospital treatment.

Nicola Sturgeon said restrictions would not be kept in place longer than necessary.

But she added: “Having done it, we need to make sure we do it long enough to get the cluster and the outbreak under control, and so I can’t rule out and won’t rule out the possibility that we may have to extend for a further seven days.”

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Sturgeon said she expected the number of cases in Aberdeen to keep rising over the coming days.

She said: “I hope that the measures that we put in place in Aberdeen last week will help to slow and then stop transmission before it becomes widespread in the community.

“And the advice we put in place about not travelling to and from Aberdeen, unless absolutely essential, should reduce the risk of cases spreading from Aberdeen to other parts of Scotland.

“That said, we do expect the number of cases and contacts in the Aberdeen cluster to rise further in the days ahead but I want to take the opportunity again to thank all those working hard locally to seek to contain this cluster as quickly and effectively as possible.”

Man injured after being stabbed in fight outside party

The 35-year-old had just left a house party in Glasgow when the attack took place.

Stabbing: Man attacked outside house party.

A man has been left seriously injured after being stabbed outside a house party in Glasgow.

The 35-year-old was attending the party on Seamill Street, Nitshill, on Saturday when the incident took place.

He was attacked on the road outside after leaving the house and getting into a fight with two men at around 10.30pm.

One of the men stabbed him before running off.

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Emergency services attended and the victim was taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where he received treatment for his injuries.

Police are appealing for information.

Detective Constable Stephen Findlay, Greater Glasgow CID, Govan, Glasgow, said:  “Officers have been making local enquires and checking CCTV but we’d like to hear from anyone who was in the area and who saw what happened to get in touch. 

“We are especially keen to hear from anyone who may have dashcam or mobile phone footage from the time of the incident.   

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“”Obviously we would be keen to see any footage and so would ask that witnesses, or indeed anyone who may have information that will assist our enquiry, contact Govan Police Station via 101.”


Flood alert: Thunderstorms to soak Scotland

Homes, buildings and roads at risk from flooding and damage from midday.

Thunderstorms are expected to strike parts of Scotland in the first half of the week.

The Met Office has issued a yellow ‘be aware’ warning from 12pm until Wednesday.

Flooding and disruption on the roads is likely, while the Met Office said homes and buildings could be damaged.

It also warned of fast-flowing water and said spray and water build-up may result in road closures.

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STV meteorologist Sean Batty said clusters of thunderstorms “could bring large hail and torrential downpours”.

However, he said the Met Office warning does not mean everyone will see the storms but rather the risk is widespread.

He added: “Thunderstorms tend to be just several miles wide, so forecasting where these will break out and track is extremely complex, hence the wide warning areas issued. 

“Nonetheless, if you are unlucky enough to be under one of these storms this week, you’ll know all about it. At this time of year thunderstorms can release large quantities of rain in a very short space of time meaning drains can’t cope which leads to flooding. 

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“The worst of the storms on Monday night will be across north Wales and northern England, where very large hail, flooding and gusty winds are possible. The remnants of these storms will move north into Scotland overnight and could still lead to flood issues, with some very heavy downpours possible in central and southern areas, such as Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, and later Fife, Clackmannashire, Falkirk and West Lothian. 

“This band of thundery rain will continue north on Tuesday and pass through the Highlands, Western Isles, Moray and Aberdeenshire during the morning and into Orkney and Shetland later in the day.

“A few more thunderstorms will come into southern Scotland on Tuesday night. On Wednesday some more thunderstorms could develop with the main risk during the first half of the day. At this stage it looks like we may see a concentration of thundery downpours across the Northern Isles, but these should ease later.”

Authorities in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders are on flood alert as the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) warned of difficult driving conditions.

While the warning from Monday lunchtime covers southern, central and northern parts of the Scotland, it does not extend further than Inverness or to the east coast.

However, Met Office warnings for Tuesday and Wednesday extend to the whole country.


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