Scotland ‘must face up to sexual harm committed by youngsters’

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf has suggested a public health response should be pioneered to tackle the behaviour.

Recommendation: A public health response 'should be pioneered to tackle harmful sexual behaviour among young people'. Pixabay
Recommendation: A public health response 'should be pioneered to tackle harmful sexual behaviour among young people'.

A public health response should be pioneered to tackle harmful sexual behaviour among children and young people, Scotland’s justice secretary has suggested.

It follows the publication of a report by an expert group commissioned by the Scottish Government into how best to address the issue.

Among the proposals made by the group was for there to be more preventative activity tailored for boys and young men – on the basis the majority of adolescents displaying harmful sexual behaviours are male.

It also suggests providing effective support for parents and carers on how to keep their children safe, as well as a review of the steps that can be taken to achieve prevention rather than to intervene after the harm has been caused.


Speaking on a visit to Preston Lodge High School in East Lothian to see a lesson delivered by Rape Crisis Scotland’s national sexual violence prevention programme, Mr Yousaf also announced plans to set up a multi-agency group to oversee work on prevention and support.

It would be intended to help parents, carers and practitioners such as teachers and social workers.

“I am grateful to the expert group for their extensive work on this important issue which is affecting children and young people worldwide and I welcome their recognition of the progressive, preventative action already under way in Scotland,” Mr Yousaf said.

“Facing up to sexual harm caused by children and young people is difficult, emotive and often troubling but as a society we cannot shy away if we are to tackle its causes.


“Scotland’s success in reducing violent crime among young people offers a blueprint for challenging underlying attitudes and changing behaviours.

“These issues are complex and require significant collaborative working between statutory authorities and professional disciplines – the justice sector cannot fix this alone.

“There is a duty for all adults – parents, neighbours, policy makers – to respond to this challenge and do everything we can to keep our younger generation safe.”

Catherine Dyer, the chairwoman of the expert group, said harmful sexual behaviour among children and young people is a “global challenge”.

“Recent decades have seen enormous and continuous cultural and technological changes that affect all children and young people,” she said.

“Often these are linked and exceptionally fast-paced.

“While the vast majority of children and young people relate to each other in a healthy and respectful way, it is important that we support them as they grow up and explore their sexuality.


“Harmful sexual behaviour among children and young people is a global challenge that Scotland needs to address at home through a number of actions, including further tackling causal factors and focusing preventative work on boys and young men.”

Joanna Barrett, NSPCC Scotland policy and public affairs manager, said: “More than a third of children and young people who call Childline about sexual abuse say the abuser is under the age of 18.

“So we know this is a serious issue and the work of the expert group is a positive first step in addressing it.

“We urgently need to know more about the numbers of children and young people exhibiting harmful sexual behaviour in Scotland as only then can we ensure therapeutic services for those who harm and are harmed are properly resourced.”

‘It felt like Grace was on trial’ – father decries court verdict

Stewart Handling says 'not proven' does not serve any purpose after teenager accused of killing his daughter was set free.

The father of a schoolgirl who died after taking ecstasy says the ‘not proven’ verdict in Scotland doesn’t serve any purpose, after the teenager accused of killing her was set free.

Stewart Handling told STV News it felt like his daughter, Grace, was on trial at the High Court in Glasgow earlier this month.

Callum Owens was cleared of killing Grace after admitting that he supplied her with ecstasy.

Owens admitted giving Grace a pill on June 28, 2018, from a bag of nine he had bought.


She was later found dead in 19-year-old Owens’ house in Irvine, North Ayrshire.

Owens denied culpable homicide, and a majority jury found the charge not proven.

Mr Handling said: “I don’t like not proven. It doesn’t serve any kind of purpose in my book, you’re either guilty or not guilty, so this middle ground I can only see it there to help the jury member, that’s the only plausible benefit of having that; it helps the jury member who hasn’t had quite enough evidence to sway them one way or another.

“This is the first case of its kind, so I just hope that the fiscal (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) in the future are still brave and if – god forbid this ever happens to another family – that we go for a conviction.”

Grace Handling

Grace’s father also said it felt at times as if it was his daughter, and not Owens, who was on trial.

“You had to say to yourself ‘wait a minute, who’s on trial here’, so that bit is wrong; that you’re able to crucify somebody’s character,” said Mr Handling.

“I think Grace was absolutely savaged in there (court), her character was totally blackened – a wee 13-year-old girl, she’s probably been in a group and she’s probably said ‘no’ 100 times to ecstasy and maybe an odd time, maybe once or twice, she’s given into that.

“She would actually hate the way this happened, you know, her life ended, she would be angry.”

Grace’s family had been aware that she’d taken the drug before, but believed she had stopped after they spoke to her.

The family would like to see tougher sentences for dealers who supply drugs to children. They hope other families won’t have to experience their pain.

“She was a typical teenager, she had a difficult phase, you don’t ever think it’s going to come to an end, you always think ‘you know something, in a few weeks’ time it will be better or in a few months’ time she’ll get over that and she’ll make better choices’, said Mr Handling.


“Grace was a special girl because she always thought of others and that’s why I’m sure she was at that house in the first place, because she knew that that boy was in his first tenancy alone and she didn’t want him to feel alone

“It was one of the hardest days of my life (the day of the court verdict), apart from the police coming to tell us that Grace had been found dead. It was up there with that day.”

Government ‘should discourage breeding of flat-faced pets’

The charity OneKind said such breeds can have 'extensive and serious welfare concerns'.

Holyrood: Next government urged to take steps.

Animal campaigners are calling on the next Scottish government to take steps to discourage the breeding of “flat-faced” animals, such as pugs, French bulldogs and Persian cats.

The charity OneKind said such breeds can have “extensive and serious welfare concerns”, saying they can suffer from breathing problems throughout their lives.

But it added during the coronavirus lockdown there had been a demand for brachycephalic, or “flat-faced”, dogs as pets – with the charity claiming that the French bulldog is now the most popular dog breed in the UK.

As a result of their popularity, the charity argued measures to discourage the breeding of such animals should be introduced after the next Holyrood elections in May.


OneKind director Bob Elliot said: “During the pandemic, there has been demand for brachycephalic, or ‘flat-faced’, dogs and the French bulldog is now the most popular dog breed in the UK.

“OneKind has actively campaigned to raise awareness of the extensive and serious welfare concerns associated with these breeds and the high demand for them has prompted us to include an ask in our manifesto to end the breeding of these ‘flat-faced’ dogs, cats and rabbits.”

The charity’s manifesto said that for brachycephalic animals such as pugs and Persian cats, the “majority” of such creatures “suffer severe breathing problems for their entire lives”.

Calling for measures to discourage the breeding of animals with these “exaggerated features”, it said that “breeding regulations should include a proviso that selective breeding favours welfare over appearance”.


Retired veterinary surgeon Dr Andy Cage, who worked for the PDSA animal charity for some 40 years, said: “Over the last few years, due to the increasing popularity of the flat-faced dog breeds, I was seeing a dramatic increase in the numbers presented to the hospital.

“French bulldogs predominated, but we saw many pugs and bulldogs too.

Most, if not all, were suffering from breathing difficulties and many had additional problems, such as ulcers on the surface of the eyeballs and spinal and limb deformities.”

He added: “Before Covid restrictions intervened, we were having to carry out risky surgery on some of these pets every week to open up airways and attempt to save sight.

“Some of the spinal deformities resulted in paralysis and incontinence which meant the animal couldn’t be saved.

“The worst thing was that many owners weren’t aware of the suffering their pets were enduring and thought the bulging eyes and snorting were ‘cute’.”

OneKind also wants to see the next Scottish government act to ban the sale, manufacture, possession and use of snares, and to introduce new legislation to “make the ban on hunting with dogs effective and enforceable”.


It says Scottish ministers should press the UK Government to replace animal testing with alternatives, with the manifesto stressing that “animals are individual beings, not commodities, and that decisions affecting their welfare should be based on evidence and ethics”.

Mr Elliot said: “We are calling on all parties and candidates for the 2021 elections to the Scottish Parliament to prioritise animal welfare in the next parliamentary session.

“OneKind’s vision is a world in which animals are recognised and respected as individuals and treated with kindness, empathy, dignity and compassion.

“That is why we’re asking parties and candidates to make decisions based on evidence and ethics and recognise animals as sentient, individual beings, through a series of animal welfare commitments.”

Citizens Advice helped more than 90,000 since lockdown

More than 450,000 individual pieces of advice have been issued by Citizens Advice Scotland.

Citizens Advice: More than 90,000 people were helped.

The Citizens Advice network in Scotland has helped more than 92,000 people in the six months since the UK went into lockdown, according to the organisation.

More than 450,000 individual pieces of advice have been issued by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) to 92,276 people since the coronavirus lockdown came into effect on March 23.

Citizens Advice Bureaux were only allowed to reopen for face-to-face advice for vulnerable clients in August, following Scottish Government approval, with the majority of advice issued over the phone or sought online.

With the furlough scheme expected to end in October, CAS said they expect the demand for services to increase in the coming months, as they anticipate rising unemployment and personal debt.


CAS deputy chief executive Anne Lavery said the increased demand for support during the pandemic showed the importance of funding free, impartial and confidential advice.

Ms Lavery said: “This data shows the absolutely staggering work Citizens Advice Bureaux are doing in local communities across the country during this crisis, helping people recognise their rights and access money they are entitled to.

“To do that – while the country went through unprecedented levels of change in how we work and live our lives – shows how resilient local Citizens Advice Bureaux are.

“The network has been there for people for 80 years and hasn’t missed a beat during the pandemic.


“We know demand for advice will likely grow even further as the furlough scheme winds down and people face growing unemployment and rising debts. That’s why we think it should be extended in certain sectors and part of the UK to protect people.

“It’s also vital that Citizens Advice Bureaux are properly funded and protected going forward – people need them now more than ever.”

Figures released last week also revealed the vast majority of Scots seeking help from Citizens Advice Bureaux for employment and housing issues have never used the service before.

First-time visitors to a bureau are more likely to be younger, employed and owner-occupiers than those attending before the coronavirus lockdown, according to the latest CAS monthly report.

‘Almost half of Scots in favour of minimum unit pricing’

Alcohol sales dropped by 5% since the implementation of the policy in 2018.

Minimum pricing: 'Most Scots in favour.'

Almost half of Scots are in favour of the minimum unit pricing (MUP) of alcohol, a new survey suggests.

Analysis by Public Health Scotland of the 2019 Scottish social attitudes survey found 49.8% of the 1,022 people asked supported the measure, compared to 27.6% who did not.

Coming into effect in 2018, the measure meant each unit of alcohol must cost at least 50p in a bid to raise the price of high-strength drinks to tackle alcoholism north of the border.

Another study released in June showed alcohol sales had dropped by 5% since the implementation of the policy.


Dr Karl Ferguson, the public health intelligence adviser at Public Health Scotland, said: “These findings from the Scottish social attitudes survey show the public is generally more in favour of MUP than against, and that attitudes appear to have grown more favourable over the timeframe during which the policy was implemented.”

Public perception of the legislation has changed from 2015 when 41.3% of 1288 people were in favour and 33.4% opposed, the figures show.

A report published alongside the findings suggested the shift in public attitude could be to do with a deeper understanding of what the policy means for individuals, or perceived negative effects that did not come to fruition.

Dr Ferguson added: “A related possible explanation is that some concerns the public may have held prior to implementation have not been observed.
“For example, MUP did not increase prices across the board in the off- and on- trades, as it only directly influences the pricing of a minority of off-trade products.


“This study is one of a number in the ongoing evaluation of MUP which develops our understanding of the wider impact of the policy’s implementation.”

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick welcomed the findings.

He said: “This latest report showing increasing public support for MUP is very encouraging.

“We know that it will take longer for the impact of reduced consumption to feed through into health-related statistics but I am more convinced than ever that MUP is one of the main drivers in reducing alcohol harms.”

FitzPatrick also claimed the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill, which has been opposed by the Scottish Government, could undermine MUP and other public health legislation.

Covid-19: What is the coronavirus alert level system?

The Covid Alert Levels system was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a televised address to the nation back in May.

Covid-19:Threat level on the rise.

After a few months of respite over the summer, the threat of Covid-19 is rising again.

The UK’s four chief medical officers warned the transmission rate is rising, meaning much tougher social distancing measures could be on the way.

But what is the alert system and how does it work?

What is the alert system?


The Covid Alert Levels system was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a televised address to the nation back in May. The system is similar to that used to establish the terrorist threat and run by the recently established Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC).

It has five tiers from level one to five based on the spread of Covid-19 through the country.

What is the Joint Biosecurity Centre?

The JBC was set up a few months into the pandemic to provide real-time analysis of Covid-19 outbreaks and the rate of spread at both a local and national level.


It advises on specific actions which can be taken to manage rising numbers of infections, such as closing schools or businesses, as well as the risk posed by travellers arriving from abroad.

It also provides evidence to the chief medical officers of each of the UK’s four countries, allowing them to decide if a change of alert level is necessary.

How does the alert system work?

The country’s alert level is determined primarily by the virus’s reproduction rate or “R rate” – the average number of people that will contract Covid-19 from an infected person.

It is also based on the overall number of coronavirus cases.
The higher the level, the stricter measures the Government is likely to impose in a bid to get the virus under control.

What are the different levels?

Level one means Covid-19 is no longer known to be in the UK and the only action should be “routine international monitoring”, while level two is when the number of cases and transmission is low and “no or minimal” restrictions are required.


When the scheme was launched, the country was at level four, which means a “Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation, transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

It was reduced down to level three on June 19, meaning the epidemic is still in general circulation but restrictions can be eased.

Level five is when transmission is high or rising but also when there is a risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed.

Why has the threat level been upgraded again?

A second wave, potentially as lethal as the first, is imminent according to the UK’s most senior scientists.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said on Monday the UK could be facing 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October and a daily death toll of 200 by mid-November unless rapid action is taken.

He and England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned Britons to brace for a “tough six months” as the virus might spread more easily during the colder weather.

Are we are facing another national lockdown?

The Government has yet to announce what the change in threat level means for the general public, but it will be hugely reluctant to impose the same level of restrictions we saw imposed in March.

Boris Johnson is due to chair meetings of Cabinet and the Cobra emergency committee – including the leaders of the devolved administrations – on Tuesday to consider what action to take.

Earlier on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to guarantee pubs in England would be allowed to open this weekend, but said the Government was “determined” to keep schools open during the next phase of the response.

‘Serious moment’ for Scotland as coronavirus spreads

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed a further 255 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that urgent action is needed as coronavirus once again begins to spread throughout Scotland.

At the Scottish Government’s briefing on Monday, the First Minister confirmed a further 255 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours – representing 6.3% of newly tested individuals.

Sturgeon warned that “Covid is spreading again in Scotland” and that “doing nothing in the face of this rapid spread is not an option”.

She said that if left unchecked, it will lead to more cases, more people in hospital and more deaths.


Sturgeon said: “This is a serious moment again for the country.”

New measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus will be in place in the coming days.

Sturgeon said: “In my view, further and urgent action will now be needed to stop the increase in the number of cases.

“I and my advisers have spent the weekend immersed in discussion and analysis, looking at a variety of options and considering carefully the impact that we judged these would have.”


The new measures will include financial support for those who are low paid and are asked to self-isolate. Consideration is also ongoing about bringing in large fines for those who break self-isolation rules.

While the measures are still being considered, the First Minister said they are “very close to a point of decision”.

The First Minister also confirmed there have been no further deaths linked to Covid-19.

The official death toll in Scotland stands at 2505, however weekly figures where coronavirus has been registered on the death certificate now stands at 4236.

There are 73 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, an increase of ten in 24 hours. Of these patients, eight are in intensive care.

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government endorsed the warning of UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.

At a UK Government press briefing earlier on Monday, Sir Patrick warned that Britain could be facing 50,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October – leading to 200 deaths a day a month later if the current rate of infection is not halted.


Sir Patrick said the “vast majority of the population remain susceptible” to catching coronavirus and the current situation required swift action to bring the case numbers down.

He said: “At the moment, we think that the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.”

Sturgeon earlier said it was “frustrating” a Cobra meeting had not yet been set up, however during her briefing it was announced the gathering would go ahead on Tuesday.

Ahead of speaking to Boris Johnson on Monday afternoon, the First Minister said: “In that call, I will impress upon the Prime Minister my view that we need decisive, urgent and as far as possible given our individual responsibilities, coordinated action across the UK.

“I will be clear that I am willing to allow a bit more time for four-nations discussions to take place before making final decisions for Scotland, but I will be equally clear that the urgency of this situation will mean that we cannot, must not and will not wait too long.”

UK-wide Covid crisis talks to take place on Tuesday

The First Minister had expressed frustrations over delays in a Cobra meeting being scheduled.

Cobra: Boris Johnson will chair a meeting, which will include Nicola Sturgeon, on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister will chair UK-wide crisis talks on coronavirus on Tuesday morning with new restrictions expected this week.

Boris Johnson is due to speak to Nicola Sturgeon later on Monday, the First Minister having expressed frustrations over delays in a Cobra meeting taking place.

Sturgeon and the leaders of the UK’s other devolved nations have been calling for a meeting of the emergency committee to coordinate the next steps as Covid-19 continues to spread.

The Scottish Government learned of the plans during discussions with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove on Saturday.


Initially at her daily briefing on Monday, Sturgeon said: “It is frustrating that we still don’t have a precise time for that”.

However, once it was confirmed it would take place on Tuesday morning, she said: ” I think that’s very positive and I’m pleased about that.”

At the briefing, a further 255 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours were confirmed – representing 6.3% of newly tested individuals.

Sturgeon warned that “Covid is spreading again in Scotland” and that “doing nothing in the face of this rapid spread is not an option”.

UK faces 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October

Sir Patrick Vallance said this could lead to 200 deaths a day a month later.

The UK could be facing 50,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October unless action is taken, the government’s chief scientific adviser warned.

Sir Patrick Vallance said this could lead to 200 deaths a day by November, as he and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty held a televised briefing on Monday.

The UK Government experts believe the epidemic is currently doubling every seven days, with cases likely to soar without necessary measures.

New restrictions are expected to be announced over the coming days in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.


First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and other UK devolved leaders are due to have calls with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, ahead of a Cobra meeting on Tuesday.

“At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days,” Sir Patrick said.

“If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated and this grows doubling every seven days… if that continued you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.

“Fifty thousands cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November say, to 200-plus deaths per day.”


He said changes are already in place, which should “slow” the rate of infection.

Sir Patrick added: “The challenge therefore is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days.

‘Action required’: Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance provided an update on Covid. Getty

“There are already things in place which are expected to slow that, and to make sure that we do not enter this exponential growth and end up with the problems that you would predict as a result of that.

“That requires speed, it requires action and it requires enough in order to be able to bring that down.”

Prof Whitty added there was now “significant rates of transmission” of coronavirus in parts of the UK.

He said: “What we’ve seen is a progression where, after the remarkable efforts which got the rates right down across the country, first we saw very small outbreaks, maybe associated with a workplace or another environment, then we’ve seen more localised outbreaks which have got larger over time, particularity in the cities.

“And now what we’re seeing is a rate of increase across the great majority of the country. It is going at different rates but it is now increasing.


“And what we’ve found is, as we go through in time, anywhere that was falling is now moving over to beginning to rise and then the rate of rise continues in an upwards direction.

“So, this is not someone else’s problem, this is all of our problem.”

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s justice secretary, described Sir Patrick and Prof Whitty’s Covid update as “sobering”.

He added: “Our own data in Scotland also showing concerning trends. Simply put, doing nothing is not an option.

“As Jeane Freeman said this morning, we will be guided by science and take action necessary to save lives.”

Coronavirus cases linked to bowling club more than double

NHS Highland says vast majority of Covid-19 infections linked to private event at bowling club in Argyll and Bute.

Getty Images
Coronavirus cluster linked to bowling club.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases linked to a bowling club in Argyll and Bute has more than doubled.

NHS Highland says the “vast majority” of the 27 positive Covid-19 infections are related to a private event that took place at Cove and Kilcreggan Bowling Club on September 7.

The cluster also includes a confirmed case of coronavirus in a pupil at Kilcreggan Primary School.

The school remains open and pupils can keep turning up for classes if they feel well.


Close contacts of the confirmed case have been identified and told to stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days.

Dr Tim Allison, NHS Highland’s director of public health, said: “This is an evolving situation and NHS Highland’s Health Protection Team is undertaking further investigations including case follow up and contact tracing.

“Investigations are ongoing in light of this further case but so far the majority of the confirmed cases are linked with a private local event.

“We are working closely with Kilcreggan Medical Practice who have been closely involved with the outbreak response.


“Anyone that is unwell, even if only mildly symptomatic, should isolate. You should arrange a test if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or if you have been asked to get a test by NHS Highland’s Health Protection Team.”

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