Universities chief ‘confident’ in student safety measures

Alastair Sim said Universities Scotland worked closely with staff, trade unions and student unions on measures.

Learning: Alastair Sim said universities won't see students sitting next to each other in a big lecture hall. Pixabay
Learning: Alastair Sim said universities won't see students sitting next to each other in a big lecture hall.

The director of Universities Scotland is “extremely confident” that enough safety measures are in place for students to start learning.

Alastair Sim said the representative body has worked closely with staff, trade unions and student unions to put measures into place for their return.

It comes after the University and College Union (UCU) said uncapped recruitment could overwhelm some institutions, and risked “turning universities into the care homes of a second wave”.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Moving a million-plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster and risks leaving ill-prepared universities as the care homes of a second wave.”

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However, Mr Sim said he was a “little surprised” at the reaction from the UCU, adding a lot of the work had been put into place in conjunction with the staff and students.

He expects further guidance from the Scottish Government on Tuesday.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland on Monday, Mr Sim said: “We’ve got physical distancing in place, a really high-quality blend of digital learning and face-to-face learning.

Universities ‘should aim to avoid face-to-face teaching’ Read now

“We’ve got students being managed in small households, we’ve got attendance monitoring. We’ve got quarantine for students arriving from countries that aren’t exempt.

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“You’re not going to see anything like a big traditional lecture, with students sitting next to each other in a big lecture hall.

“The blend will be predominantly towards digital learning.

“Although there are subjects like medicine, nursing and performance, where a strong face-to-face learning is needed, and that will be in place in a way that has been worked on to make sure it’s safe.”

It is unclear how many international students will make the journey over to learn in Scottish universities, with Mr Sim saying many of them are still waiting on visas or cheaper flights.

He added: “International students are more likely to come over in a staggered fashion.

“They will arrive to arranged accommodation with a welcome pack, that will contain food and contact details, and those arriving from countries where quarantine is needed will quarantine for 14 days first.”

Mr Sim said he trusts students not to gather in large groups in pubs and restaurants, saying: “It is an extraordinary responsible generation, who have lived through this and understand the importance of it.”


No quarantine for double vaccinated arrivals from France

India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE removed from travel red list but travellers from Mexico now have to hotel quarantine.

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Travellers returning from France no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.

India and three Middle Eastern countries have been removed from Scotland’s coronavirus travel red list – and arrivals from France will no longer need to self-isolate if fully vaccinated, the Scottish Government has said.

But travellers from Mexico and Georgia will now have to quarantine in a hotel.

It comes as part of a host of changes to the traffic light system for international travel.

The Scottish Government said the new lists will come into force at 4am on Sunday.

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Travellers from Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will join those from India in not having to isolate in a hotel on entry to the country.

Mexico, Georgia and the French overseas departments of La Reunion and Mayotte will be put in the red tier.

Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway are among seven countries being added to the quarantine-free green list.

Arrivals from France will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.

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It will be aligned with all other amber nations, from which arrivals only need to quarantine at home if they are not fully vaccinated.

While Spain remains on the amber list, travellers are advised to be cautious due to a new variant originating in South America.

The Scottish Government said passengers should get a PCR test prior to departure from Spain rather than other available tests such as lateral flow.

Quarantine hotel costs will also change “in light of a decision taken by the UK Government, which manages contractual arrangements on behalf of the four nations”, the Scottish Government said.

The price of a stay in managed isolation is to increase from £1750 to £2285.

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said: “These latest changes make it clear that international travel remains challenging.

“Recent relaxations to travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people were due to the huge success of the Scottish Government’s vaccination programme.

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“It is vitally important we protect that progress through continued vigilance on importation, and we continue to urge caution given the risks caused by variants of concern.”

Teens accused of ‘leaving unconscious boy on live railway track’

It is claimed the boy was struck on the head with a piece of concrete as well as being repeatedly punched and kicked

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Court: Five teenagers are to stand trial.

Five teenagers are to stand trial accused of trying to kill a boy and leaving him unconscious on a railway track.

Jordan Duncan, 18, Stephen Fairservice, 18, Adam Tennant, 18, Josh Todd, 18, and a 17-year-old boy – who cannot be named for legal reasons – faced the allegation at the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday.

The indictment lists two locations for the May 4, 2018 incident including Lanark train station in South Lanarkshire.

It is claimed the boy was struck on the head with a piece of concrete as well as being repeatedly punched and kicked.

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He is said to have ended up on the ground unconscious.

Prosecutors claim the boy was then dragged onto a “live railway line”.

The attempted murder charge states this was to his severe injury, permanent disfigurement and to the danger of his life.

Lawyers for the five pled not guilty on their behalf at the hearing.

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A trial was fixed for March next year.


Coronavirus: 11 deaths and 1381 new cases recorded

A total of 381 people were in hospital on Wednesday with recently confirmed Covid-19.

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Covid-19: The fight to stem the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further 11 deaths and 1381 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland overnight, according to official figures.

The daily test positivity rate is 4.9%, up from the 4.7% reported on Wednesday.

Of the new cases reported on Thursday, 290 are in Lothian, 289 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 220 are in Lanarkshire, and 118 are in Grampian as well as Fife.

The rest of the cases are spread out across eight other health board areas.

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A total of 381 people were in hospital on Wednesday with recently confirmed Covid-19, two fewer than the day before. Out of those, 55 patients are in intensive care.

The lab-confirmed death toll of those who tested positive within the previous 28 days currently stands at 7976, however figures including suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now at least 10,370.

It was also confirmed that 4,018,503 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 2177 from the day before.

A total of 3,268,887 people have received their second dose, a rise of 19,265.


Hairdressers, hotels and retailers ‘broke minimum wage laws’

Companies have been 'named and shamed' by the UK Government for underpaying workers.

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List: Scots businesses 'named and shamed' for breaking minimum wage laws.

Hairdressers, hotels, retailers and an amusement park are among the Scottish businesses “named and shamed” by the UK Government for breaking the minimum wage law.

The breaches by the 22 companies took place between 2013 and 2018.

A total of £31,000 was found to be owed to 209 workers after investigations by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

The businesses have been made to pay back what they owe, and were fined an additional £46,000.

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Among the companies named are J Ren Ltd, trading as Mooboo, a bubble tea shop in Glasgow’s St Enoch Shopping Centre.

It owed £3114 to 24 workers between 2014 and 2017.

John Codona’s Pleasure Fairs Limited, which runs Codona’s Amusement Park in Aberdeen, owed more than £1318 to 90 workers between March and November 2017.

Ian Littlewood, a member of the management team at the amusement park, said the company “do pay the minimum wage – 100%”.

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He added: “There was an error where we deducted the cost of a uniform from staff which was pointed out by HMRC and all monies were paid back for that but we have never not paid the full minimum wage.”

Harbour Havens Limited, which trades as Kildonan Hotel on the Isle of Arran, was named for racking up £2478 in arrears to four workers between 2014 and 2017.

Anne Acuna, one of the company directors, said they have always paid above minimum wage and said she was “disheartened” to be named on the Government’s list.

She said the issue stemmed from paying room and board for seasonal workers as the hotel is on an island.

“They have always been paid more than minimum wage but sometimes it looks like it’s under minimum wage when you take off room and board,” she said.

“They had contracts when they came in, they knew what the room and board was, they were happy with that.

“We’ve been doing that for years when all of a sudden this comes up and we immediately stopped paying them in that fashion.

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“We were caught in a situation that had no bad intention whatsoever.”

Also named were Rainbow Rooms International hairdressers in Glasgow, South Ayrshire and East Dunbartonshire, owned by Brittain & McMail Limited, Riccardo Corvi, Janine McMahon, and Fleeson & Robb Limited.

The Department for Business said minimum wage breaches can occur when workers being paid on or just above the minimum wage have deductions from their pay for uniform or accommodation.

Other breaches can involve paying the incorrect apprenticeship rate or failing to pay workers for all the time they had worked, such as overtime.

Business minister Paul Scully said: “Scottish employers can’t take their eye off the ball when it comes to upholding workers’ rights.

“There is never an excuse to short-change workers and paying the minimum wage isn’t optional.

“It’s up to all employers in Scotland, including those on this list, to check government guidance and pay workers properly.”

Chairman of the Low Pay Commission Bryan Sanderson said: “These are very difficult times for all workers, particularly those on low pay who are often undertaking critical tasks in a variety of key sectors including care.

“The minimum wage provides a crucial level of support and compliance is essential for the benefit of both the recipients and our society as a whole.”

Puppy abandoned in park ‘dehydrated and in poor condition’

The Scottish SPCA is now appealing for information with concerns over the mother of this puppy and any others in the litter.

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Staffordshire bull terrier: Found in Victoria Park on Monday.

A puppy has been found abandoned, “dehydrated and in poor condition” in a park in Aberdeen.

The tiny dog was spotted by a member of the public in Victoria Park at around 5.50pm on Monday.

Scottish SPCA officers were alerted and recovered the female Staffordshire bull terrier, which is thought to be between six and eight-weeks-old.

The animal welfare charity is now appealing for information amid concerns for the mother of the puppy and any others in the litter.

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Inspector Fiona Mckenzie said: “The dog is a tan, female Staffordshire bull terrier puppy. She is between six and eight-weeks-old.

“She is very lucky she was found by the member of the public as she was dehydrated and in poor condition – unfortunately she is not microchipped.

“We are now extremely concerned for the welfare of the mother of this puppy and any other puppies in the litter.

“We appreciate that the person who left her may have intended for her to be found but this is not the correct procedure to follow if you can no longer care for an animal.

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“The puppy is now at one of our animal rescue and rehoming centres, where she is receiving the veterinary care she needs.

“If anyone recognises this puppy we would ask that they contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999.”


Musicians to be able to tour visa-free in 19 EU countries

New rules which came into force at the beginning of the year do not guarantee visa-free travel for musicians in the EU.

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Pete Wishart said the decision to scrap touring visas was 'politically motivated'.

UK musicians and performers will be able to tour in a number of European countries without the need for a visa or work permit, the UK Government has announced.

New rules which came into force at the beginning of the year do not guarantee visa-free travel for musicians in the EU and have prompted fears that touring artists will incur large fees in many of the countries they visit.

However, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) said they have negotiated with 19 EU Member State countries to allow musicians and performers from the UK to conduct short tours visa-free.

These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.

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The Government said talks are ongoing with remaining EU Member State countries, including Spain, Portugal and Greece, to align their arrangements with the UK’s, which allows touring performers and support staff to visit for up to three months without a visa.

DCMS said in a statement: “We want the UK’s fantastic performers and other creative professionals to be able to tour abroad easily.

“We recognise challenges remain around touring, and we are continuing to work closely with the industry.

“We want to ensure that when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, touring can resume and our world-leading creative and cultural artists can continue to travel widely, learning their craft, growing their audiences and showing the best of British creativity to the world.”

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It comes after months of campaigning from musicians such as Sir Elton John and Ed Sheeran on the issue of post-Brexit touring, with Sir Elton previously warning the rules threatened “a generation of talent”.

SNP MP and former Runrig band member, Pete Wishart said it is right that the UK Government has “finally seen sense”.

“The decision to scrap touring visas in the first place was politically motivated by the Tories and their ‘Brexit Britain’ ideology – and should never have been made. Especially given the EU was ready and willing to continue them reciprocatively,” he said.

“It is right that the UK government has finally seen sense, done what should have been done from the get go, and negotiated to allow our musicians and performers to tour visa-free around Europe. 

“Although visa-free travel for artists to nineteen countries is good, it is not the full access we had as part of the EU, and I hope the UK government continues to negotiate to ensure our artists can travel freely throughout all 27 EU countries.

“Anything less than that will still drive up the costs and cut long-standing creative ties between Scotland and some European countries. 

“The fact remains that Scotland continues to suffer at the hands of a Brexit and a Westminster Government we did not vote for. The only way our creative sector can truly be protected is with independence.”


Queen’s relative jailed for sex attack now free from prison

Simon Bowes-Lyon, 35, attacked a guest at Glamis Castle in Angus in February 2020.

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Simon Bowes-Lyon is understood to have been released from HMP Perth last week after serving half his sentence.

A relative of the Queen jailed for sexually assaulting a woman at a castle has been released from prison.

Simon Bowes-Lyon, 35, the Earl of Strathmore, was sentenced to ten months in February for the late-night attack on a guest staying at Glamis Castle in Angus, his ancestral home.

Bowes-Lyon, the son of a cousin of the Queen, is understood to have been released from HMP Perth last week after serving half his sentence.

He was sentenced at Dundee Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to the assault, which happened in a bedroom at the castle 12 months earlier in February 2020.

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The court heard the victim was attending a three-day public relations event at the 16,500-acre estate and had gone to bed when a “drunk” Bowes-Lyon went to her room at around 1.20am.

He persuaded her to open the door before pushing her on the bed and sexually assaulting her in a 20-minute ordeal.

His victim locked the bedroom door and wedged a chair under the handle to prevent him getting back in and was “upset and afraid” and “left shaking”, the court heard.

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said it did not comment on individual cases.

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In a statement outside court, Bowes-Lyon apologised and said he is “greatly ashamed of my actions which have caused such distress to a guest in my home”.

He said he had “drunk to excess” on the night of the attack but acknowledged it was “no excuse” for his actions.

He added: “I did not think I was capable of behaving the way I did but have had to face up to it and take responsibility.

“This has involved seeking and receiving professional help as well as agreeing to plead guilty as quickly as possible.”

Glamis Castle is the seat of the earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, part of the late Queen Mother’s family.

A spokesman for Strathmore Estates declined to comment.


Man returned to crime after pandemic ‘left him broke’

John Lindores was charged after a drugs bust at his home in Knightswood, Glasgow, on February 24 this year.

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Court: John Lindores was jailed for two years.

A man returned to crime after the pandemic left him broke, a court has heard.

John Lindores was held after a drugs bust at his home in Knightswood, Glasgow, on February 24 this year.

Police found sheets of paper soaked with Etizolam – known as street valium.

On Thursday at the High Court in Glasgow, Lindores was jailed for two years after he pled guilty to being concerned in the supply of the drug.

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The 58-year-old had previously been locked in 2012 for his role in a large cannabis haul being seized.

Prosecutor Michael Meehan QC told how in this latest case police found a printer and indentation machine as well as a pile of blotting paper at Lindores’ house.

The set-up allowed Etizolam to be “sprayed or washed” onto the sheets with each then consisting of 704 individual deals.

Lindores told police two men had earlier come to his home and he was given “instructions” on what to do.

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Mr Meehan said: “Lindores was candid at [the] interview and indicated he was suspicious there was criminality given his knowledge of the individuals’ background.”

Two of the sheets found tested positive for Etizolam, with each having a potential value of £500.

Sarah Livingstone, defending, said cleaner Lindores had been a long-term cannabis user.

The lawyer added: “He tells me he got off it, but then Covid-19 happened.

“People were locked up and his addiction returned.

“His job hours were cut, he was not receiving furlough, so his income was reduced.

“His drug debt ran into the low-hundreds and he was asked to do this for a day.

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“He is a typical drug user who becomes involved.”

The court was told Lindores was also affected by other personal issues, but that these were improving.

Lord Fairley said the jail-term would have been three years, but for the guilty plea.


Scheme to provide pre-treatment support to cancer patients

It will be offered at all eight Maggie’s centres across the country.

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The Scottish Government has announced funding for the project.

A new scheme to provide pre-treatment support to cancer patients is launching across Scotland.

It will give tailored help and advice on exercise, nutrition and mental health to patients, and is backed by £270,000 funding by the Scottish Governement.

The pre-treatment rehabilitation will be offered at all eight Maggie’s centres across the country.

Scotland’s health secretary Humza Yousaf said that cancer treatment has remained a top priority for the Scottish Government through the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Prehabilitation enables people with cancer to physically and mentally prepare for treatment by adopting healthy behaviours – with the ultimate aim of improving outcomes for them,” he said.

“It can reduce the length of stay in hospital and post-treatment complications, and improve recovery, fitness, nutritional status, neuro-cognitive function and quality of life.

“This pilot scheme will help us understand how the NHS and Third Sector can work together to help people ahead of their cancer treatment.

“With eight centres across Scotland, working with Maggie’s allows us to meet the needs of cancer patients close to home.

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“We want to empower them to get the best possible results from their treatment, and improve their long-term health.

“Cancer treatment has remained a top priority for the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Maggie’s chief executive Dame Laura Lee said the new project will help ensure newly diagnosed people find support sooner.

“We are delighted to be working with the Scottish Government to support people with new cancer diagnoses to understand the benefits of making changes before treatment begins,” she said.

“Gentle exercise, eating well and emotional and psychological support are already aspects of the Maggie’s core programme of support – but this usually comes after the patient has started treatment.

“This new project will ensure newly diagnosed people find support sooner, and will be delivered while working with the NHS as part of their overall care package.”


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