Scotland plans to loosen lockdown from April

Roadmap unveiled for Scotland's exit from coronavirus restrictions.

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Scotland is planning to start significantly loosening the coronavirus restrictions in April “if all goes according to plan”.

Non-essential shops, bars, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers could reopen in parts of the country from the last week of that month.

And the ‘stay at home’ law could be lifted on April 5, under a new ‘roadmap’ out of coronavirus restrictions.

Meanwhile, primary four-seven pupils are set for a return to school on March 15, the same date four adults from two households will be allowed to meet outdoors.

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Nicola Sturgeon told parliament on Tuesday that the localised ‘levels’ system would return from the last week of April.

That means varying rules in different parts of the country depending on the number of local cases.

Restrictions would then be “progressively eased” at three-week intervals.

Studies show vaccines are having a significant impact on Covid-19, raising hopes of a return to normality in the coming months.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed a plan on Monday to lift all restrictions in England by June 21.

However, Sturgeon had said Scotland would show more “caution” as various sectors begin to open up.

More detail on the plans to lift lockdown will be outlined in mid-March.

The First Minister told MSPs the five-level system, separated by council areas, will return and she hopes those in Level Four will be able to drop down to Level Three, which would see sectors such as non-essential retail reopen.

She said: “It is therefore from the last week of April that we would expect to see phased but significant reopening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers.

“And, of course, the more of us who are vaccinated and the more we all stick by the rules now, the faster that safe pace is likely to be – if we all stay in this together, our progress will be greater.”

Mainland Scotland and some islands have been under effectively a full lockdown – including a stay at home law – since January 5.

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Orkney, Shetland and islands in the Highland and Argyll and Bute local authority areas – with the exception of Skye – are under slightly less restrictive rules.

The youngest children in Scotland returned to the classroom on Monday as schools began to reopen.

Children between the ages of four and eight in primaries one to three were back in class, along with some senior secondary pupils who need to do practical work for qualifications.

All children under school age in early learning and childcare were also returning.

Senior secondary pupils are required to stick to two-metre social distancing within schools and on school buses, while Covid-19 testing will be made available to them and teachers.

A further 56 virus-related deaths were registered in the past 24 hours – meaning more than 7000 have now died within 28 days of a positive test.

More than 1.4m people have now received a first dose of the vaccine, which a major study said on Monday was “substantially” reducing serious illness from the virus.

The First Minister said she was “optimistic” about restoring “more normality” to people’s lives in the coming months.

Sturgeon said Scots would have to accept some trade-offs in the near future to see a longer-term unlocking in the country.

She said: “It is important to stress, of course, that all of this depends on us continuing to suppress the virus now – and continuing to accept some trade-offs for a period, for example on international travel.

“However, if we do so, I am optimistic that we can make good progress in returning more normality to our lives and the economy.

“I know this is still a cautious approach which though absolutely essential to control the virus and protect health, is extremely difficult for many businesses.”

The Scottish Conservatives said the roadmap statement “fell short of public expectations”.

Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said: “We didn’t get information about when measures like social distancing will end and when we will be able to do something as basic as give a loved one a hug.

“Everyone understands that we might not be able to give people absolute certainty – but they were at least expecting the First Minister to give them some kind of hope.

“Nothing has been published about what happens after April 26. This isn’t a routemap out of Covid, it is holding document.

“People didn’t tune in today expecting to be told to tune in again in three weeks’ time. They have a right to be disappointed that Nicola Sturgeon is not giving them a plan to get back to normality.”

Parents group UsForThem Scotland said secondary pupils had been left on the “scrapheap” as most won’t return before April.

Organiser Jo Bisset said: “Despite all the warnings and the evidence about harm being caused to young people through schools being closed, still the First Minister won’t listen.

“Her government is very deliberately choosing a course of action that will wreck their education and obliterate the formative years of their lives.

“Parents have been patient to this point, but those with children above primary school will be utterly furious at this.”

The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed “indicative” dates but called for more detail about reopening the economy.

Scotland policy chair Andrew McRae said: “This roadmap is an important moment in the country’s battle against Coronavirus, and as such, a critical one to get right.  

“In an ideal world, we’d have had a firmer timetable, but we at least have some indicative, earliest dates being set out.

“But the gaps between these dates – at three weeks – are lengthy.  We now need the detail about what economic activity can resume under the different levels, so that businesses can begin to plan.”


Anas Sarwar wins Scottish Labour leadership election

The Glasgow MSP beat Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon to succeed Richard Leonard.

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Sarwar said it was the honour of his life to take on the role.

Anas Sarwar has beaten Monica Lennon to become the next leader of Scottish Labour.

Sarwar said it was the honour of his life to take on the role.

Cara Hilton, chair of the Scottish Labour party, announced the result on Saturday.

The ballot closed on Friday, February 26, with Sarwar winning 57.56% of the vote.

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The Glasgow MSP won over 61% of votes cast by party members, but received slightly less support from affiliated supporters than Lennon.

Sarwar said: “It is greatest honour of my to be elected leader of the Scottish Labour party.

“Thank you to our members and affiliates for putting your trust in me and giving me the opportunity to serve our movement.

“And thank you to Monica for joining me in what has been positive campaign that has shown the best of our party, not the worst of our politics.

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“I want to say directly to the people of Scotland. I know Labour has a lot of work to do to win back your trust because if we’re brutally honest, you haven’t had the Scottish Labour Party you deserve.

“Today we have elected the first ever ethnic minority leader of a political party in the UK.

“That doesn’t say something about me. That says something great about Scotland and its people.”

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “Huge congratulations to Anas on his election as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. I look forward to working with him to secure our economy, protect our NHS and rebuild our country.”

“We will fight the Scottish Parliamentary elections by making the case for a socially just Scotland in a modern United Kingdom. Under his leadership, Scottish Labour will focus on what unites us – not what divides us.

“I know Anas will do the hard work that is necessary to win back the trust of the Scottish people and build for the future as we emerge from this pandemic.“

Lennon thanked Sarwar for the “positive” leadership battle.

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She said: “I want to thank Anas Sarwar and his team for making this a positive debate. My own team of volunteers have been awesome. I’m grateful to everyone who has taken part and taken an interest.”

Ms Hilton thanked former leader Richard Leonard, interim leader Jackie Baillie and party staff and volunteers for their work.

She thanked both candidates saying: “At every stage of this election you’ve shown Scottish Labour at its very best.”

“The odds are stacked against us in this election.

“Now is the time, comrades, to come together… Scotland is ready for change, let’s deliver that.”

A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI for STV News this week projected the SNP to increase its share of the vote by nine, winning 72 of the 129 seats, giving the government a majority of 15.

The poll also showed the Scottish Conservatives coming in second second with 26 seats and Scottish Labour third on 17, with the Scottish Greens on nine and the Scottish Liberal Democrats on five.

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “Many congratulations to Anas Sarwar on becoming the new leader of Scottish Labour.

“The SNP remains willing to work with any party to oppose Tory austerity, protect our Parliament from a Tory power grab, and stand up for our place in Europe – however Mr Sarwar has, perhaps, an impossible job on his hands breathing life into a party with no new ideas, ambition or vision for Scotland.”


Sturgeon did not breach ministerial code, Blackford says

Former first minister Alex Salmond said in evidence his successor broke ministerial rules, but stopped short of calling for her to resign.

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The First Minister will give evidence to the inquiry next week.

Nicola Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code, Ian Blackford has claimed, as he refused to say if the First Minister should step down if he is proven wrong.

The SNP leader has been accused of misleading parliament over when she knew about allegations of harassment made against her predecessor, Alex Salmond.

Sturgeon told MSPs she first learned of the claims at a meeting in her home with Salmond on April 2, 2018, but it later emerged she had been told four days earlier by his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein at a meeting in her office, which she claimed to have forgotten.

During a six-hour evidence session before the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints looking into the botched handling of claims made against him on Friday, Salmond repeatedly said, under oath, that Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, but stopped short of saying she should stand down.

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The First Minister referred herself for investigation to James Hamilton QC, an independent adviser on the ministerial code.

Despite calls for the First Minister to stand down if she is found to have breached the code, SNP Westminster leader Blackford has thrown his support behind his party leader.

“She’s made it clear on a number of occasions that she does not believe she has broken the ministerial code,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday.

“I believe that to be the case as well, this will be put to bed, and we will be able to move on from it to make sure we are dealing with the Covid crisis in the right way, and we’re having that discussion about what Scotland’s future is.

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“I and my party have full confidence in the First Minister leading us to that destination of Scotland becoming an independent country.”

He added: “Yesterday was supposed to be a seminal day in this inquiry where the former first minister was going to bring forward evidence of a conspiracy – by his own admission, there is no evidence of a conspiracy by the First Minister against him.

“I think we’ve had a number of false dawns in this whole spectacle and I do not believe under any circumstances, under any determination, that the First Minister has broken the ministerial code.”

Blackford also refused to say whether Sturgeon should resign if she is found to have broken the rules, describing the question as “hypothetical”.

“Mud has been thrown around by political opponents over the course of the last few months,” he said.

“There is no evidence that has been brought forward that the First Minister has broken the ministerial code or indeed has engaged in any kind of conspiracy.”

When asked specifically about the accusation she misled parliament over when she knew about the allegations, Blackford said there was “no recollection” of the meeting with Geoff Aberdein and she corrected the record when she remembered.

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Blackford added: “I think the public will look upon this and wonder what on earth is going on – we’re talking about a minor difference in dates for that first meeting.

“I think anybody that is in senior office… is holding multiple meetings on a daily basis, and to be able to remember in minute detail the exact date of a meeting…

“The fact is there has been no conspiracy, the First Minister has not sought to mislead anybody over this whole saga, and that will be demonstrated next week when the First Minister appears before the committee.”

Scottish Labour to announce party’s new leader on Saturday

Monica Lennon and Anas Sarwar are both hoping to succeed Richard Leonard as Scottish Labour leader.

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Monica Lennon or Anas Sarwar will be named the next leader of Scottish Labour.

Scottish Labour will formally announce the party’s new leader on Saturday.

The result of the contest between Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon and Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar is scheduled to be announced at 11am.

The winner will succeed Richard Leonard, who stood down as Scottish Labour leader with immediate effect last month.

His departure left the party hunting for its fifth leader in the last seven years.

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The new leader will not be in for an easy start – with Holyrood elections taking place in May they will have to hit the ground running.

While Labour dominated Scottish politics when the devolved parliament was first set up in 1999, the party has seen its support fall away in more recent years.

A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI for STV News this week projected the SNP will win 72 of the 129 seats – nine more than now and giving them a majority of 15.

It also showed the Scottish Conservatives would be the second-biggest party on 26 seats, with Scottish Labour on 17, the Scottish Greens on nine and the Scottish Liberal Democrats on five.

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Lennon tweeted on Friday afternoon: “I want to thank Anas Sarwar and his team for making this a positive debate.

“My own team of volunteers have been awesome. I’m grateful to everyone who has taken part and taken an interest.”

Sarwar – who stood unsuccessfully for the position in 2017 – said he was proud of the campaigns that both candidates ran.

He said: “Thank you to everyone who supported and got involved in our campaign to rebuild our party.

“Our members help to motivate and inspire me every day. I’m proud that both Monica and I ran positive campaigns which have demonstrated the best of our party.

“Our task now is to demonstrate the best of our party to the country. Whatever the final result, I know we’ll work together to rebuild Scottish Labour so that we have the opportunity to rebuild Scotland.”

This is the biggest split I have ever seen in Scottish politics

The dispute between Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon is about personality and some in the SNP think it is about destruction.

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Alex Salmond gave evidence to Holyrood committee on Friday.

Alex Salmond is one of the biggest figures in modern Scottish politics – he is the country’s longest-serving First Minister and led the SNP for 20 years.

Nicola Sturgeon served her political apprenticeship during his first term as leader and was his deputy for a decade before taking over as First Minister herself.

So this is the biggest split I have ever seen in Scottish politics.

The SNP split in the 1980s when the 79 Group including Alex Salmond was expelled – but that was about ideology and direction.

This is a much bigger split – it is about personality and some in the SNP think it is about destruction. They think Salmond is trying to bring the house down. He thinks it is about an attempt to destroy him.

Salmond finally had his say on Friday, giving evidence to the committee investigating the Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment complaints against him.

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Among the key exchanges at the Holyrood committee, Salmond said the name of one of the original complainers was shared at the first meeting with Sturgeon – she denied that yesterday at FMQs.

The First Minister will face further questions on this when she is at the committee on Wednesday.

Salmond made it clear he felt there should have been resignations – specifically the Permanent Secretary, the Lord Advocate, and those who he believes were part of a malicious scheme against him including the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.

He believes the First Minister has broken the ministerial code – that is the biggest threat to her through the independent investigation being led by former Irish director of public prosecutions James Hamilton.

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Senior figures in Government admit privately that could force her to quit just before the Holyrood election – they don’t think it will. But there is still a doubt, to the extent that it’s difficult for the SNP to plan their election leaflets for example.

And we saw in that STV News/Ipsos MORI poll yesterday – this row might not have hit the SNP’s poll ratings, or boosted the opposition much so far, but more than a third of those questioned last week did say that it made them less favourable towards the SNP. So this week it’s a story breaking out of the political bubble.

And politically – everything is at stake here.

Sturgeon will be at this committee on Wednesday to tell her side of the story.

She says it’s her chance to set the record straight.

Salmond has ‘no doubt’ Sturgeon broke ministerial code

Former first minister says there was a 'malicious scheme' to damage his reputation.

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Alex Salmond claims there is “no doubt” Nicola Sturgeon has broken rules governing the behaviour of ministers, but stopped short of saying she should resign.

Giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims against him, Salmond said Scotland’s “leadership has failed”.

The Court of Session ruled the Scottish Government’s investigation into complaints against him was “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the women who made complaints.

Salmond called for the Lord Advocate and the head of Scotland’s civil service, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, to resign over the handling of the complaints against him.

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He alleged a “malicious scheme” among senior SNP figures to damage his reputation, but said he had no evidence the current first minister was part of this.

Salmond contradicted evidence from Sturgeon over key meetings on the complaints against him, and added: “I have no doubt that Nicola broke the ministerial code, but it’s not for me to suggest what the consequence should be.”

He said he did not believe she was involved in covering up complaints against him, but criticised her for using a Covid press conference to “effectively question the result of a jury”.

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Alex Salmond gave evidence under oath.

He declined to directly apologise for his own behaviour when asked.

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In his opening statement to the committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints on Friday, he told MSPs he believes the government’s actions are no longer true to the principles of openness, accountability and transparency.

He said the failures of leadership surrounding the investigation into his conduct are “many and obvious”.

He added: “The government acted illegally but somehow nobody is to blame. Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.

“The importance of this inquiry is for each and every one of us to help put this right.

“This inquiry is not about me, I have already established the illegality of the actions of the Scottish Government in the Court of Session, and I have been acquitted of all criminal charges by a jury in the highest court in the land.

“The remit of this inquiry is about the actions of others, whose investigation into the conduct of ministers, the Permanent Secretary, civil servants and special advisers.

“It also requires to shine a light on the activities of the Crown Office.”

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He went on to claim the committee has been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought” in its inquiry, later adding there was “deliberate suppression of information inconvenient to the government”.

He said his ability to give evidence has been “severely hampered” by the Crown Office, adding the “threat of prosecution made to me if I offered that evidence is, in my estimation, both extraordinary and unwarranted”.

The committee redacted parts of his written evidence previously published after the Crown Office raised concerns – something he said would not have happened at the House of Commons.

He said the previous two years and six months – during his investigation and criminal trial – had been a “nightmare”, but “we can’t turn that page, nor move on, until the decision-making which is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed”.

Questioned by Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, Salmond said he did not believe Sturgeon had been involved in a “cover-up” of complaints against him.

He said: “I’ve seen it pursued on the committee that somehow Nicola Sturgeon was covering up – that’s not the case, my charges against Nicola Sturgeon don’t include that.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “I want to ask, laying aside the charges of which you have been acquitted, and the allegations that you deny, of the behaviours that you have admitted to, some of which are appalling, are you sorry?”

Salmond replied: “In my statement I pointed out the Government’s illegality has had huge consequences for a number of people, and specifically mentioned the complainants in my opening statement.

“Over the last three years, there have been two court cases, two judges and a jury, and I’m resting on the proceedings of these cases.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie asked the former first minister if the name of one of the complainers had been shared at a meeting his then chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had been present at.

Salmond said it had, adding: “My former chief of staff told me that.”

The former first minister also claimed a leak to the Daily Record newspaper, which broke news of the allegations against him, was “politically inspired”, as he called for police to act.

He added: “I think it does require further police investigation – I do believe I know the identity but I’m not here to speculate on individuals that I cannot substantiate.”

He will later face questions about his claims Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament and breached the ministerial code.

Salmond, who was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in a criminal trial, was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government investigation into harassment claims made against him.

Sturgeon has previously insisted there is “not a shred of evidence” that there was a conspiracy against Salmond and she has denied lying to parliament.

She is scheduled to appear before the committee to give evidence next Wednesday.

The Scottish Conservatives said “devastating evidence” had left the SNP leadership “on the ropes”.

Party leader Douglas Ross said: “Devastating evidence has revealed SNP cover ups, costly mistakes and terrible errors of judgement.

“The number of accusations of misleading parliament and breaking the ministerial code are extraordinary.

“The entire leadership of the ruling party of government are on the ropes.”


Scottish Tories ‘will have voice on PM’s union committee’

Douglas Ross has insisted he will be able to input into the new Cabinet committee to make the case for the union.

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Douglas Ross has insisted he will be able to input into the new Cabinet committee.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has insisted he will be able to input into the new Cabinet committee set up by the Prime Minister to make the case for the union.

Ross welcomed the establishment of such an “extremely high level committee within Government” after the “troubles” experienced by the Tories’ Union unit

The committee was set up by Boris Johnson after Oliver Lewis left his position as head of Downing Street’s Union unit last week.

Mr Lewis, a veteran of the Brexit Vote Leave campaign, had been in the job for less than a fortnight and had replaced former Scottish MP Luke Graham.

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The committee was set up by Boris Johnson.
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Ross will not be on the new committee – which will include the PM, chancellor Rishi Sunak, cabinet office minister Michael Gove and the secretaries of state of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But he insisted: “I will be feeding into that and the Scottish Conservative voice will undoubtedly be heard.”

Speaking about the Union unit, he said: “You can’t hide that there has been troubles in that unit, but the Prime Minister has acted quite decisively to then move to this Cabinet committee.”

He said the arrangement of the Cabinet committee was similar to one which operated during the Brexit negotiations.

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“I am sure with the Prime Minister chairing that and with senior members of the Cabinet as committee members, that will work very well,” Ross added.


Salmond tells MSPs ‘Scotland’s leadership has failed’

Former first minister is facing questions about his allegations that Nicola Sturgeon misled Parliament.

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Alex Salmond has said Scotland’s “leadership has failed”, as he criticised Nicola Sturgeon and claimed evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee has been suppressed.

Giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims against him, Scotland’s former first minister accused his successor Sturgeon of using a Covid press conference to “effectively question the result of a jury”.

But he said he did not believe she was involved in covering up complaints against him, and he declined to directly apologise for his own behaviour when asked.

The Court of Session ruled the Scottish Government’s investigation into complaints against him was “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the women who made complaints.

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In his opening statement to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints on Friday, he told MSPs he believes the Government’s actions are no longer true to the principles of openness, accountability and transparency.

He said the failures of leadership surrounding the investigation into his conduct are “many and obvious”.

He added: “The government acted illegally but somehow nobody is to blame.

“Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.

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“The importance of this inquiry is for each and every one of us to help put this right.

“This inquiry is not about me, I have already established the illegality of the actions of the Scottish Government in the Court of Session, and I have been acquitted of all criminal charges by a jury in the highest court in the land.

“The remit of this inquiry is about the actions of others, whose investigation into the conduct of ministers, the Permanent Secretary, civil servants and special advisers.

“It also requires to shine a light on the activities of the Crown Office.”

He went on to claim the committee has been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought” in its inquiry, later adding there was “deliberate suppression of information inconvenient to the government”.

He said his ability to give evidence has been “severely hampered” by the Crown Office, saying the “threat of prosecution made to me if I offered that evidence is, in my estimation, both extraordinary and unwarranted”.

The committee redacted parts of his written evidence previously published after the Crown Office raised concerns – something he said would not have happened at the House of Commons.

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He said the previous two years and six months – during his investigation and criminal trial – had been a “nightmare”, but “we can’t turn that page, nor move on, until the decision-making which is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed”.

Questioned by Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, Salmond said he did not believe Sturgeon had been involved in a “cover-up” of complaints against him.

He said: “I’ve seen it pursued on the committee that somehow Nicola Sturgeon was covering up – that’s not the case, my charges against Nicola Sturgeon don’t include that.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “I want to ask, laying aside the charges of which you have been acquitted, and the allegations that you deny, of the behaviours that you have admitted to, some of which are appalling, are you sorry?”

Salmond replied: “In my statement I pointed out the government’s illegality has had huge consequences for a number of people, and specifically mentioned the complainants in my opening statement.

“Over the last three years, there have been two court cases, two judges and a jury, and I’m resting on the proceedings of these cases.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie asked the former first minister if the name of one of the complainers had been shared at a meeting his then chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had been present at.

Salmond said it had, adding: “My former chief of staff told me that.”

The former first minister also claimed a leak to the Daily Record newspaper which broke news of the allegations against him was “politically inspired”, as he called for police to act.

He added: “I think it does require further police investigation – I do believe I know the identity but I’m not here to speculate on individuals that I cannot substantiate.”

He has also faced questions about his claims Sturgeon misled parliament and breached the ministerial code.

Salmond, who was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in a criminal trial, was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the Government investigation into harassment claims made against him.

Sturgeon has previously insisted there is “not a shred of evidence” that there was a conspiracy against Mr Salmond and she has denied lying to Parliament.

She is scheduled to appear before the committee to give evidence next Wednesday.

Over 40s next in line for Covid vaccines in Scotland

Jabbing groups by age is the fastest way to cut deaths and serious illness, advisers say.

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People aged 40-49 will be prioritised next for a Covid-19 vaccine, with scientific advisers saying the move will “provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time”.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had considered whether groups such as teachers and police officers should be vaccinated next.

But it concluded that the most effective way to prevent death and hospital admission is to carry on prioritising people by age.

The Scottish Government said it would accept the JCVI advice.

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Advisers said modelling studies for phase two of the vaccination programme also indicate that the speed of vaccine deployment is the most important factor in helping prevent severe illness and death.

This means that in phase two, priority will be given in the following order:

  • All those aged 40-49
  • All those aged 30-39
  • All those aged 18-29

These groups will be vaccinated once all those in phase one (the over-50s and most vulnerable) have received a jab.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “All four UK nations will follow the recommended approach for phase two of the vaccine rollout, subject to the final advice given by the independent expert committee.

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“Each government remains focused on the target to offer a first vaccination to all those in the phase one priority groups by the middle of April and the remainder of the adult population by the end of July subject to the availability of supplies.

“The vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow.

“All these measures work to greatest effect when they work together.”

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair for the JCVI, told a briefing that age “remains a dominant factor – it is still one of the most important causes of severe disease, even in those aged 50 years and below”.

He said that even within different occupational groups, it is older people who are more at risk than those who are younger.

In a statement, he added: “Vaccinations stop people from dying and the current strategy is to prioritise those who are more likely to have severe outcomes and die from Covid-19.

“The evidence is clear that the risk of hospitalisation and death increases with age.

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“The vaccination programme is a huge success and continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure.”


Brown: Britain has looked dysfunctional during pandemic

Former prime minister says Boris Johnson risks becoming the 'biggest recruiting sergeant for nationalism'.

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Brown authored part of a report for the Scottish Fabians think tank.

The coronavirus crisis has made the UK look “dysfunctional” at times due to a lack of co-operation between administrations, Gordon Brown has said.

In an article on devolution for the Scottish Fabians think tank, the former prime minister also said Boris Johnson risks becoming the “biggest recruiting sergeant for nationalism” due to his position on devolution.

Brown authored part of a report for the Scottish Fabians which was released on Friday ahead of the results of the Scottish Labour leadership election.

The report says the Labour Party, in Scotland and across the UK, must find a way to articulate the purpose of the United Kingdom.

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In a section of the report titled “state of the nation”, Brown accuses Johnson of undermining devolution with the post-Brexit Internal Market Act.

Brown said: “If he continues in this manner, Boris Johnson risks becoming the biggest recruiting sergeant for nationalism and will lose any hope of persuading Scotland’s undecided voters to stay with the UK.”

He also said administrations around the UK had failed to work together through joint ministerial committees.

Brown continued: “Co-operation during the pandemic has faltered with too many people having to pay the price for the absence of joined-up decision-making.

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“At times Britain has looked like a dysfunctional state.

“While Scotland’s First Minister has attended some Cobra meetings on the pandemic there is no regular consultation between her and the Prime Minister.

“Instead, because of a failure to co-ordinate the machinery of government we are at the mercy of ad-hoc initiatives and informal conversations.

“This cannot be the basis of how two administrations work together.”

The former prime minister also said promises made by both the Conservatives and the SNP in their Growth Commission – the party’s economic blueprint for an independent Scotland – were “out of date” given recent events.

He called for new citizens’ assemblies and investigative committees of parliamentarians to look into claims made by both sides of the independence debate.

Brown said: “Some may say that it is naive to think partisan MPs and MSPs can be trusted to provide a fair assessment, but if our newspapers and media do their job, and if the eyes of pressure groups and the general public are upon these investigations, such public scrutiny will force out the answers we need.

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“They will compel our institutions to be fully accountable and will judge them harshly if they dodge the facts.”

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