Scotland’s shame: How do we solve the poverty pandemic?

Campaigners warn urgent action is needed to address growing hardship across society.

Chronomarchie via Pixabay

More than a million Scots – and a quarter of children – were living in poverty before the coronavirus pandemic hit.  

Statistics published last week make for grim reading, and underline that poverty comes in many forms – the majority of families struggling to get by (68%) had at least one parent in work. 

The figures highlight other inequalities, too; people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were twice as likely to be living on the breadline than white British families.

With the full impact of the past year yet to be felt, there are fears that rising unemployment, isolation, crippling living costs and restrictive or difficult-to-access services will trap even more Scots in poverty.  

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As the countdown to the Holyrood election begins, campaigners are warning that all political parties need to commit to urgent action to address growing hardship across society.

A recent study found that the majority of Scots want to see more government action to tackle this problem. 

We’ve been hearing from those at the sharp end, to ask what they think should be done in the next term at Holyrood. 

Rural: ‘Although it looks lovely, we still have problems

A common misconception is that poverty is only suffered by people living in urban areas. In rural locations it can be more hidden, but no less corrosive. 

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Cheryl Brown, who lives in Cellardyke, Fife, has been working with parents to provide support throughout the pandemic. 

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Cheryl Brown

The East Neuk area is a popular tourist destination and a well-known hotspot for second homes for the well-off. 

But with much of the work for locals being seasonal, and expensive living costs, it’s not easy for families on low incomes. 

Mum-of-two Bridget McGarvey says: “It’s a higher price for food here. If you don’t have a car, we can’t get to the big shops. 

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Bridget McGarvey

“It should be means tested, maybe they can get a voucher for the bus, to help [people] to go and get the food they need in the bigger supermarkets, and clothes for children.” 

Her neighbour Cheryl has a teenage daughter and also helps to look after her four-year-old nephew while juggling shifts at a local shop and her university studies. 

She says: “Politicians in Holyrood need to understand that people who live here – although it looks lovely – still have real problems accessing services.

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Cellardyke harbour
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“I want to see childcare improved – the hours available for childcare, [to] take into account that people work shifts. 

“They need to look at opportunities, creating opportunities. I’d like to see a more equal society over the whole country. I feel that the divide’s getting bigger.”

Urban: ‘There is still a dividing line

After years in a cycle of homelessness, prison stints and struggles on benefits, Paul Stewart made a fresh start.

The Leither works as a tour guide for Invisible Cities, and he’s currently running virtual tours while visitors to Edinburgh are few and far between. 

While the bulk of social security is reserved to Westminster, he says Holyrood could push harder to provide a better safety net and redress the balance. 

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Paul Stewart

“[In Leith] we’ve got Michelin-starred restaurants and we’ve got a seafood restaurant that’s £80 for lunch, but you’ve got the ‘banana flats’ 150 yards away, so there is still a dividing line,” he says.

“For me, universal basic income is a massive massive thing. If we can get that, that’ll take a lot of stress and anxiety from people. Giving everyone a basic income, that’s the best way you can do it. Obviously a higher minimum wage would be a start as well.”

Food insecurity and mental health struggles: ‘I was ashamed’

When the pandemic hit, Wendy Crawford lost her job in IT and then fell ill with Covid. 

The mum-of-five turned to the local foodbank, the Winchburgh Food Store, for help. 

She’s now set up her own florist business, dusting down the skills she learned as a teenager.

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Wendy Crawford

But working on floral tributes for funerals has given her an insight into the struggles of others. 

Wendy says: “At first I was a bit ashamed, because I was like, ‘I’m the mum, I’m the one that provides for the kids, I’ve always provided for my kids’. 

“I’ve had quite a few young people, mental health, especially guys’ funerals, and that was really sad. They feel that they’re the ones that are supposed to support their families.”

Having heard about so many people struggling with depression, Wendy believes mental health services need more funding.

But she also wants to see more investment in community-run food banks. 

“Give them [food bank volunteers] the support they deserve,” she says. “They work hard as well. These are parents, or people that work their own jobs, doing this in their spare time”

Margaret Russell founded the Winchburgh Food Store alongside Angela Donnelly when they realised there was a need in the village at the start of the pandemic. 

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Margaret Russell

The group, which is still fundraising online through Collection Pot, was inundated with offers of donations and volunteers’ time, but were struck by how many people struggled to admit they needed help.

Margaret added: “This pandemic has affected some people much worse than others, and I think it’s a really important thing for human nature to want to actually support those who are struggling for a little bit, because everybody, at some point in their life, could need some help.” 

Minority communities ‘trapped’ in poverty 

Twimukye Mushaka, a former asylum seeker who is a fieldwork officer at the Poverty Alliance, says many people from BAME backgrounds are “trapped” in low-paid jobs and insecure work. 

She believes that the system needs to fundamentally change to help lift people from minorities out of poverty. 

She has particular concern about how the job market affects younger people from BAME backgrounds, and wants employers to do more to create truly diverse workplaces.

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Twimukye Mushaka

Twimukye says that people with personal experience of hardship need to be consulted on policy – otherwise any potential solutions won’t work. 

She adds: “Unless those kind of structural barriers that stop people from progression are addressed, then we’re going to see more people in poverty from black and minority ethnic communities.

“But there has to be political will on the part of politicians.”

Election 2021: What are the parties promising to fight poverty?

SNP

  • Double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per child;
  • Provide free school breakfasts and lunches to all primary school pupils all year round;
  • Cash grant of £520 for every family with children who get free school meals until the full rollout of Scottish Child Payment is complete.

Scottish Conservatives

  • Free school lunches and breakfasts for all primary school children;
  • Allow every Scot to access £500 for training each year through a Retrain to Rebuild Account;
  • End rough sleeping by 2026 by investing in a national Housing First programme and establishing a Help to Rent scheme.

Scottish Greens

  • Double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per child;
  • Ensure devolved benefits increase annually, with a long term aim to bring in a universal basic income;
  • Empower trade unions and a millionaire’s tax on the wealthiest 1%.

Scottish Labour

  • Double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per child;
  • End insecure work, increasing salaries to the Real Living Wage and revitalising collective bargaining;
  • Creating a high quality and affordable early learning and childcare service which offers wraparound flexibility;
  • Regulate the private rented sector. 

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per child;
  • End homelessness and rough sleeping through new prevention legislation;
  • Build at least 37,100 homes for social rent;
  • End waits of up to two years for mental health treatment;
  • Work with the UK Government to develop a system of universal basic income;
  • Maintain the new Scottish social security system and bring control of new benefits to Holyrood.

Spike in East Renfrewshire Covid cases ‘causing concern’

John Swinney said case numbers will be reviewed on a daily basis in evaluating whether further action needs to be taken.

Scotland must maintain its guard to keep coronavirus under control, despite “encouraging signs” in tackling the virus, according to John Swinney.

The Deputy First Minister made the comments as he said that a spike in cases in East Renfrewshire has caused concern.

Speaking to STV News, Swinney indicated that case numbers will be reviewed on a daily basis in evaluating whether further action needs to be taken.

It comes as the majority of Scotland moves to level two of Covid restrictions, with the exemption of the City of Glasgow and Moray, with both areas having seen a rise in cases.

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East Renfrewshire currently has a case rate of 86.9 per 100,000 – higher than Glasgow’s when it was announced on Friday the city would be kept in Level 3 restrictions.

“We made it very clear when we set out the strategic framework that although we wanted to move down the levels in as unified a fashion as we can across the country, there may be exceptions where we have local outbreaks that we have to take action to strengthen the restrictions,” said Mr Swinney.

“Now, we’ve obviously regrettably had to do that in the City of Glasgow.

“We are looking at the numbers in all local authority areas on a daily basis to make sure that nothing is running away from us and obviously the East Renfrewshire situation is causing some concern.

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“And we’ll be reviewing these numbers on a daily basis to make sure that we take prompt, swift action to tackle any spread of the virus because that’s the way in which we’ll be able to maintain and sustain a position of lower restrictions within Scotland if we keep the virus and its prevalence under control.”

Swinney suggested the rise in cases in Glasgow were driven by the so-called Indian variant of the virus.

He said: “We’re at an early stage in understanding some of the most recent data on hospitalisations.

“Obviously, we think that some of the challenge within the City of Glasgow has been driven by the variant of concern that’s emerged in India.

“If that is the case, we need to see what the impact on hospitalisation is out of that particular variant of concern.

“So, we’re watching a range of data – case numbers, we’re looking at hospital admissions, we’re looking at positivity rates, and the welcome today has been the positivity rate has fallen again, case numbers are lower than they have been.

“So, there are encouraging signs, but we have to maintain our guard to make sure we keep the virus under control and the vaccination strategy, which has been very, very successful, is proving to be a very powerful weapon in containing the virus and in providing the public safety and assurance that we require.”


‘Blue Monday’: Anger as Glasgow remains in Level 3

Hospitality bosses were left devastated by the 'eleventh hour' announcement that left staff and stock on the shelf.

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While restrictions eased across the rest of Scotland, pubs and restaurants in Glasgow had their reopening plans ruined as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the city.

Hospitality bosses were left angry by the “eleventh hour” announcement on Friday meaning staff they had hired and the stock they had ordered have uncertain futures with no reopening date to look forward to.

Last week, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the country would move from Level 3 to Level 2, with some island areas going down to Level 1.

But amid a surge in cases in Moray, the First Minister said it was unlikely the area would join the rest of Scotland in having restrictions eased. On Tuesday, a decision had not yet been reached.

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On Friday, it was confirmed Moray would remain in Level 3 along with Glasgow as the city became the country’s Covid-19 hotspot.

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“It’s outrageous,” said Paul Stevenson, owner of Sugo Pasta in the city centre, “Trading under Level 3 restrictions means we are not making money…without the sale of alcohol and the restrictions of trading hours. Going down to Level 2 gave us a chance.”

Covid-19 cases in Glasgow are rising with the rate now higher than 100 per 100,000 people.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is making vaccines available for people aged 18-39 living in the worst affected areas of the city and everyone is being urged to visit their local asymptomatic testing centre and take a Covid test.

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Paul Shevlane, of Maryhill’s Woodside Inn, said: “We don’t have a date for reopening, which is obviously understandable because look at the numbers and the cases.

“But you then also think about staff, rotas, money you’ve spent to get open for today. Just all the costs, the outlay of everything.

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“All the staff were looking forward to it, all the customers were looking forward to it. We were talking a lot about it so, aye, pretty gutted.”

Neighbouring East Renfrewshire has also seen a spike in new coronavirus cases, with the region’s infection rate over 86 per 100,000 people – above the Level 2 threshold.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “We are looking at the numbers in all local authority areas on a daily basis to make sure that nothing is running away from us and obviously the East Renfrewshire situation is causing some concern.

“Obviously, we think that some of the challenge within the City of Glasgow has been driven by the variant of concern that’s emerged in India.”

The Scottish Government announced financial support for businesses impacted by the continuation of Level 3 restrictions. Tourism and hospitality chiefs have said it is not enough.

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Donald MacLeod, convenor of the Glasgow Licensing Forum, said: “What should have been a happy Monday, a manic Monday, is really a blue Monday, a really depressing blue Monday.

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“I really feel for them, I think it was a disgraceful decision at the eleventh hour to make by the Scottish Government.”

The city’s health board said eligible residents should have received texts or will have letters soon inviting them to get vaccinated.

Professor Linda Bauld, of the University of Edinburgh, told STV News: “I think the testing is working well. We have a lot of testing. We’re testing more in the UK and in Scotland than most parts of the world. People need to come forward for the testing.

“The vaccines also extending to other age groups, really positive, but that’s not a quick fix. It takes time for that protection to be built up.”

‘Worst violence police have dealt with in 20 years’

Officers were pelted with bottles, barriers and fireworks as they tried to disperse hostile crowds.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group
An injured person was stretchered away as Rangers fans celebrated in Glasgow's George square.

Police officers have said Saturday’s events in Glasgow was the worst violence they had dealt with in 20 years, according to the Scottish Police Federation.

Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph before scenes turned “ugly” and more than five police were injured.

Calum Steele, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) general secretary, said officers who were on the ground told him the violent disorder that followed largely peaceful celebrations was the worst experience they had ever had in decades on the job.

He told STV News: “There is an inevitability that through adrenaline and through being pelted with missiles that officers are going to receive cuts and bruises.

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“But when that violence extends to officers being thrown up in the air, injuring their backs, having teeth broken, and further in the west of Scotland, having their arm broken, there are some serious questions that have to be asked about the kind of society we are living in.”

As the crowds of Rangers fans became increasingly disorderly following the consumption of “copious” amounts of alcohol, police in riot gear armed with shields began to disperse them, moving them off George Square.

As they were forced down the city streets, some supporters threw various missiles at officers.

Mr Steele said: “All of those that undertook and participated in the disorder in George Square are absolutely responsible for their own actions. But throwing of missiles, bottles, barriers, fireworks and other pyrotechnics at police officers, you present a real risk to life.

‘We’ll identify far more people that were involved and they’ll be getting a chap on the door in the next few days and weeks.’

Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland assistant chief constable
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“When we have police officers, with over 20 years experience, telling me that this is the worst experience, the worst violence that they’ve dealt with in 20 years, I think that’s something that has to be taken very seriously.”

Earlier in the day, one fan is understood to have suffered an extreme injury to his hand when a pyrotechnic he was holding exploded.

“The harm these kinds of projectiles can cause should never ever be understated,” Mr Steele told STV News.

So far, 28 people have been arrested following Saturday’s incidents which Rangers said ‘besmirched’ the club’s name.

The wounded officers have received medical treatment, one for a serious injury, and Police Scotland confirmed they were recovering well.

Police Scotland’s assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie said that a full investigation into Saturday’s incidents was underway.

He said: “We’ll look at CCTV, speak to witnesses, [and] police officers that were there. We’ll identify far more people that were involved and they’ll be getting a chap on the door in the next few days and weeks.

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“We’ll share the information around the identities of the people we believe are responsible with the club. I don’t think anybody who was involved in that on Saturday night should get anywhere near a football ground again in the future.”

Man killed in car crash that seriously injured another named

The 83-year-old died on Friday after the collision on the A950 Mintlaw to New Pitsligo Road, Aberdeenshire.

Police Scotland
Two cars collided on the A950 Mintlaw to New Pitsligo Road in Aberdeenshire.

A man who was killed in a two-car crash in Aberdeenshire that seriously injured another has been named by police.

Stanley Morrison, from Macduff, was pronounced dead at the scene while the other man was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to be treated for serious injuries.

The 83-year-old died after the collision on the A950 Mintlaw to New Pitsligo Road at around 5.50pm on Friday, May 14.

Police are appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident to get in touch to help them in their investigation.

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Sergeant Scott Deans, of Aberdeenshire Road Policing, said: “Our thoughts remain with the family of the man who has tragically died.

“Our enquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident are ongoing and I would urge anyone who has any information surrounding the crash to get in contact with police.

“Police can be contacted by calling 101 and quoting incident number 2744 of Friday, May 14, 2021.”


Appeal for witnesses after woman knocked down and killed

The 22-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene after the alarm was raised near Caldercruix on Sunday night.

© Google Maps 2020
North Lanarkshire: The incident happened on the A89 Airdrie Road.

A young woman has died after being hit by a vehicle in North Lanarkshire.

The 22-year-old pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene after the alarm was raised near Caldercruix on Sunday night.

The incident happened on the A89 Airdrie Road, near to the Woodside Road junction, at around 11.45pm.

On Monday afternoon, Police Scotland reported that the road remains closed for investigation works to conclude.

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Detective constable Lyndsay McKinnon, of Coatbridge CID, said: “This was a serious incident and our thoughts at this time are with the family and friends of the woman who lost her life. 

“Our enquiries into the cause of the crash are continuing and I would ask anyone who saw what happened, and has not yet spoken to officers, to come forward. 

“We are particularly interested to speak to anyone who was on the A89 before the crash and may have seen the deceased walking.

“Anyone with information or anyone who may dashcam footage which can help the investigation is asked to contact police on 101.”


Dedicated team to track suspects in George Square incidents

Police have already arrested 28 people in relation to various offences on Saturday.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group
Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then marched George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph.

A special team of police will investigate the incidents that took place at and around George Square in Glasgow on Saturday.

The dedicated inquiry will track those involved using CCTV, video and photographs from the scenes which officers described as the “worst violence they’ve dealt with in 20 years”.

Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then marched George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph before scenes turned “ugly” and more than five police were injured.

At present, 28 people have been arrested in connection with a variety of offences.

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An online portal has been set-up so that the public can send detectives any video footage or photographs of incidents that took place on May 15.

Detective inspector Craig Warren, who is leading the investigation, said: “The public can be confident we are doing everything possible to identify those responsible for the violence and disorder on Saturday. This will take time due to the numbers involved.

“Rest assured, if you were involved in causing this disorder, violence or anti-social behaviour you will be arrested.

“We are reviewing CCTV, video and still images and I would appeal to anyone who may have captured incidents on their mobiles to please get in touch with us. You may have footage that could help us in our investigation and it’s vital we speak with you.

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“The Major Incident Public Portal (MIPP) is now available for the public to send any information, photographs or images directly to the investigation team.

“There has been footage circulating on social media covering the events in George Square. If you recognise people involved in these acts of violence and disorder, please let us know. You can contact 101 or alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Coronavirus: 161 new cases recorded in last 24 hours

Scottish Government figures showed there had been no further deaths of those who had recently tested positive.

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Covid: 161 new cases in Scotland.

Scotland has recorded 161 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish Government figures show.

No new deaths have been recorded meaning the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7664.

A total of 229,774 people have tested positive for the virus and the daily test positivity rate is 1.6%, down from 2% the previous day.

A total of 68 people were in hospital on Sunday with recently confirmed Covid-19, with three patients in intensive care.

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A total of 3,035,790 people have received the first dose of a Covid vaccination and 1,638,536 have received their second dose.

With the exception of Glasgow and Moray, mainland Scotland moved to level two restrictions on Monday and some islands moved to level one.

Since the start of the pandemic more than 10,000 deaths have been registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Over three million people, around two thirds of adults in Scotland, have received their first dose of the vaccination.

Police probe video of Rangers players after title win

In a statement, Police Scotland said they are now assessing the content of the video.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Police said they are assessing the contents of the video.

Police Scotland has said it is assessing a video allegedly involving Rangers football players using sectarian language during their league title celebrations.

In a clip circulated on social media, a group of players are seen singing along to the song, ‘Sweet Caroline’, at Ibrox Stadium.

The celebrations came after the club were presented with the Scottish Premiership title on Saturday following a 4-0 victory against Aberdeen.

In a statement, Police Scotland said they are now assessing the content of the video.

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The statement read: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media apparently showing Rangers players using sectarian language while celebrating on Saturday.

“We are assessing its contents and will liaise with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as part of our enquiries.”

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said it is right that Police Scotland investigate and determine the facts around the video.

He tweeted: “I have also been made aware of this clip, if (and I stress if) this clip is genuine then any player or staff member found to be guilty of anti-Catholic hatred should be shown the door by the Club.

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“It is right Police Scot investigate & determine the facts around it.”

In a statement released by Rangers FC, the club said that it had sought legal advice and is confident that no criminality took place.

The statement read: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media. It is evident that this video was shared with an adjoining narrative which attempts to discredit our players and the reputation of Rangers Football Club. This highlights the dangers of ‘trial by social media.’

“It is deeply concerning that this video has been taken as genuine and has been shared widely including by some political representatives who should be mindful of their influence and legal processes.

“Our squad is richly diverse. Sectarianism is unacceptable and has no place in our club which is underlined by our Everyone Anyone campaign.

“We are confident that no criminality took place, we have sought legal advice and look forward to cooperating with Police Scotland.”


Women in entertainment share list of ‘abusive’ men to avoid

List of 'powerful and abusive' men comes to light after actor Kevin Guthrie was jailed for sexual assault.

Amanda Edwards / Stringer via Getty Images

Women in Scotland’s entertainment industry have a shared list of “powerful and abusive” men to avoid while they’re working.

The so-called ‘whisper network’ contains names of men deemed a threat to women and has come to light after actor Kevin Guthrie was jailed for sexual assault.

Sunshine on Leith and Fantastic Beasts star Guthrie was locked up for three years on Friday after being convicted of an attack in Glasgow in 2017.

His sentencing has prompted a number of women to speak out about harassment and inappropriate behaviour, as they called on industry bosses to do more to protect them.

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Theatre producer Rosie Priest told STV News that the list had been shared between women across Scotland’s entertainment sector.

The men involved, she added, were often “protected by the cult of celebrity”.

She said: “That cult of celebrity runs deeper than the people you see on stage. Directors, writers, choreographers, CEOs – they all have this immense amount of power.

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Rosie Priest

“We know that, unfortunately, one in four women is going to experience sexual violence in their lifetime and that sexual violence isn’t to do with intimacy, it’s to do with power.

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“And as a sector founded on very unequal power balances, a very small amount of people holding a lot of power, it means that predators, abusers, bullies can thrive.”

Four years have passed since the birth of the #MeToo movement and the fall of Hollywood giants Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Kevin Spacey.

But many working in the industry in Scotland believe not enough has been done to protect them.

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Louise Oliver

Writer and actor Louise Oliver co-founded the Persistent and Nasty platform for women working in stage and screen to share their experiences.

She said: “There have been some moments across my career where I’m like ‘that wasn’t so great’ and I didn’t do anything at the time.

“I just had to move on and get over it.”

A court heard Guthrie, 33, attacked a woman who was “distressed and unwell” at a flat in the west end of Glasgow in 2017.

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A judge described the assault as a “heinous crime” as he placed the actor on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Theatre and TV actor Maureen Beattie launched the Safe Spaces campaign in a bid to rid the industry of inappropriate behaviour.

She said: “The world I want to see is a world so unused to that behaviour that it is an absolute shock when it happens.

“I suppose the revelations recently are shocking – but it’s like ‘there you go, it’s still going on’.

“To get to the point where bad behaviour literally took the breath away from you because you were like ‘wow, that’s extraordinary’ is where I’d like to get to.”


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