Watchdog to probe Rangers and retailers over replica kits

The Competition and Markets Authority confirmed it has opened an initial inquiry into potential 'anti-competitive behaviour'.

Replica kit: The CMA has launched an investigation. Greaves Sports via Website
Replica kit: The CMA has launched an investigation.

The UK competition watchdog has launched an investigation into Rangers FC and sportswear retailers over the price of replica football kits.

On Wednesday, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) confirmed it has opened an initial inquiry into potential “anti-competitive behaviour”.

It said it is probing Rangers and Hummel, which used to manufacture the club’s kit, as well as retailers Greaves Sports and JD Sports.

The investigation process, which is expected to take six months, will look into suspected breaches of competition law, it said.

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The regulator said: “At this stage the CMA believes that it has reasonable grounds to suspect one or more breaches of competition law.

“The CMA has not reached a view as to whether there is sufficient evidence of an infringement of competition law for it to issue a statement of objections or, ultimately, an infringement decision, to any party under investigation.”

It stressed that not all investigations lead to objections or an infringement decision by the CMA.

A spokesman for JD Sports said: “We are cooperating fully with the investigation and are unable to comment further at this time.”

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It is the latest investigation into JD Sports by the CMA, coming just weeks after the watchdog’s decision to block the company’s £90m acquisition of rival Footasylum was reversed by the Competition Appeal Tribunal.


FM ‘hopeful’ outdoor meeting rules will be relaxed

Nicola Sturgeon hopes to make some 'relatively minor but important' changes to lockdown restrictions next week.

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Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes to relax the rules around outdoor meetings next week.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she was keen to allow people to meet a loved one, but cautioned people not to get carried away as Scotland emerges from lockdown.

Outdoor meetings of four people from two households are scheduled to be allowed between March 15 and April 5 in the Scottish Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Sturgeon said changes to the current rules – which allow the meeting of two adults from two households for exercise – could be announced in the coming days.

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She said: “I am hopeful that next week we might be able to make some relatively minor, but I think important, changes to the rules around our ability to meet people outdoors and also to how young people are able to interact with their friends outdoors.

“I think it’s really important that we don’t get carried away yet.

“The overall stay-at-home message needs to stay for a bit longer so that we don’t send our progress into reverse, but I am very keen that within that we should all get a bit more opportunity to see a loved one, as the first steps we take out of this lockdown.”

Sturgeon also announced that Scotland has recorded 11 deaths from coronavirus and 498 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

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It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7409.

She said the daily test positivity rate is 3.1%, up from 2.5% the previous day.

There are 666 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 52 in 24 hours, and 64 patients are in intensive care, down three.

By 8.30am on Friday, a total of 1,717,672 Scots had received their first coronavirus vaccine, an increase of 29,064 from the previous day.

Meanwhile, a total of 108,197 have had their second jab, with 8,139 getting this on Thursday.

Sturgeon said 96% of 65 to 69-year-olds had had their first dose of the vaccine, along with 39% of 60 to 64-year-olds, 33% of 55 to 59-year-olds and 27% of 50 to 54-year-olds.

Sturgeon also said routine testing was now available for people without symptoms in food production and processing businesses – such as dairies, abattoirs and meat and seafood processing plants.

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She said these workplaces had a higher risk of transmission, due to factors such as the cold temperature and limited ventilation.

Scotland ‘absolutely intent’ on hosting Euros at Hampden

Nicola Sturgeon says she hopes to be among the Tartan Army cheering on Scotland at Euro 2020 this summer.

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Scotland's men have qualified for a major tournament for the first time since 1998.

The Scottish Government is “absolutely intent” on Hampden hosting Euro 2020 matches this summer, Nicola Sturgeon said.

The First Minister said she hoped to be among the Tartan Army cheering on the men’s national team, who qualified for their first major tournament in 23 years by defeating Serbia on penalties last November.

Scotland are scheduled to open their campaign against the Czech Republic on June 14 and will also face Croatia in Glasgow on June 22 – either side of a Wembley encounter against England.

But there are doubts over Glasgow remaining as a host city because no guarantees have yet been made about fans attending matches.

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Sturgeon said: “I certainly hope so and nobody wants Scotland to lose the Euros and I don’t think we should be in the position right now of thinking that’s the case.

“There’s a deadline by which all countries have to give indications to UEFA about what they think will be possible in terms of fan attendance and fan zones.

“All countries are grappling with this, not just Scotland. We’re standing here on March 5 and, while we’re really hopeful – and I think you’re getting signs of a lot of optimism from us today – looking too far ahead is just difficult to do.”

The Scottish Football Association says it remains in talks with UEFA about Hampden hosting four matches at this summer’s European Championship.

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Scottish football’s governing body released a statement on Thursday, saying it hopes that “as many fans as possible” can attend the fixtures scheduled to take place in Glasgow.

It comes after sources told The Associated Press that Bilbao, Dublin and Glasgow are at risk of being dropped over the lack of guarantees about the number of fans that could be allowed into stadiums by June

STV News asked Sturgeon at her daily coronavirus briefing whether the Scottish Government could give UEFA the necessary assurances required for fans to be allowed inside Hampden.

She said: “Let me be very clear, we are absolutely intent on having the Euros, having Hampden as one of the host stadiums of the Euros, we’ve always been intent on that – let’s say we’re particularly keen on it now that that would bring the opportunity to see Scotland play at Hampden as well.

“So while nothing in a global pandemic can be certain when you’re looking far into the future I very, very, very, very, much want and hope – and hopefully over the next few weeks get a greater degree of confidence in saying (I) expect to be one of many Tartan Army fans cheering on Scotland at Hampden later in the year, so let’s keep our eyes on that prize.”

UEFA has an executive committee scheduled for April 19, where it is possible decisions on whether to withdraw hosting rights from one or more cities could be taken.

The 12 hosts will be asked to effectively make a minimum guarantee on capacity limits by April 7 and UEFA anticipates the cities will wait until the last moment to commit themselves to a position.

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They will be asked to consider the most realistic of four scenarios, ranging from a 100 per cent capacity venue to playing behind closed doors.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said it would be “terrible” if Scotland could no longer host fixtures at the tournament. 

He said: “Public health must always be the number one priority but I would urge the SNP government to get round the table with the footballing authorities as soon as possible.

“Our fans deserve to see Euros matches kick off in Scotland and every effort must be put into making sure that happens.”

Scottish port aims to ‘lead world’ in hydrogen technology

The Port of Cromarty Firth aims to build a facility to produce and distribute the element.

STV News
Highland port unveils ambitious plans.

A Highland port has unveiled ambitious plans to lead the world in hydrogen technology – with the help of whisky.

The Port of Cromarty Firth aims to build a facility to produce and distribute the element.

The idea is that green hydrogen, created with power from windfarms, will ultimately help Scotland “de-carbonise” its economy.

The North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme will produce and distribute hydrogen locally and as far as Europe.

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One aspect of the project is to provide distilleries in the region with hydrogen.

A four-month feasibility study is due to begin this month backed by funding from Pale Blue Dot Energy, ScottishPower, Glenmorangie, Whyte & Mackay and Diageo.

The partners hope it could be operational within two years. It is unclear at this stage how many jobs could be created.

The port’s chief executive Bob Buskie said the project would help Scotland establish itself as a global leader in a technology still in its infancy.

Gerrard ready to redecorate Ibrox as Premiership title looms

Rangers are just four points away from being crowned domestic kings for the first time in a decade.

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Rangers boss Steven Gerrard admits he is looking forward to doing some home improvements around Ibrox.

Rangers are just four points away from being crowned domestic kings for the first time in a decade with title number 55.

Gerrard, who’s been named manager of the month for February, said he’s looking forward to replacing banners describing his side as ’54-times champions’.

They could even have their hands on the trophy at long last as early as Sunday if they beat St Mirren tomorrow and Celtic slip up at Dundee United 24 hours later.

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That would deny Gerrard’s squad the chance to celebrate together on the field, with many fans preferring the dream scenario of seeing their side finally smash Celtic’s reign of dominance on their bitter rivals’ home patch when they head to Parkhead on March 21.

But Gerrard is only bothered about the fact the title party takes place – not the time or the venue.

And once the celebrations are over, he is looking forward to getting his DIY kit out.

He said: “Fans are entitled to think what they want. People will want it to happen for their own satisfaction.

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“For me it’s about becoming champions as quick as we can in any way we can do that.

“The important thing as a group is to just keeping winning football matches and it will happen when it happens.

“I totally respect that some fans might want to win it this way or that way – but I don’t think anyone will complain when we get this over the line.

“The important thing is to get that trophy back, get 55, knock all the 54s off the walls – that’s the main thing for me, adding to the wonderful history of this club.

“If it happens on Sunday, in April, or May, I don’t care so long as it happens.”

Gerrard knows the Ibrox faithful are ready to explode into scenes of jubilation having seen a group of supporters gather outside the Tony Macaroni Arena to set off a spectacular firework display during Wednesday’s win at Livingston.

But the Ibrox boss has urged fans to stay safe and abide by Covid-19 rules as they gear up to party.

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He said: “We all have to continue to try and abide by the rules and respect social distancing.

“I know a lot of rumours are going about but my job is to focus on the game and try and get three points. People have to understand the situation our fans are in and what they’ve been through and the priority is that they stay safe.

“The fans are the priority here and we totally understand and we can certainly relate to how they’re feeling at the moment.

“We know there’s a real excitement and rightly so. We want them to really enjoy this time and really revel in the moment.

“The fireworks display was impressive, for sure, and I got a bit of a fright. It went on for some time – and some of my players were dodging them when they landed on the pitch.

“So we would say try and keep them away from the pitch so we can focus on the job we’re trying to do.

“But we totally understand the excitement levels and it’s fantastic what’s happening at the moment – and we need to enjoy every single day.

“The important thing for us is to stay focused and try and get over the line as quick as we can. We’ve got an opportunity to make this 99.9% done and that’s what we want to do.”

Rangers have come a long way since losing to Hamilton exactly 12 months ago.

It appeared at that point Rangers might never overturn Celtic’s grip on power.

But Gerrard said: “Losing to Hamilton in the manner we did wasn’t a good day or good time and it’s not a game we’re proud of at all but what we’ve done over the last 12 months has been super-impressive and the players deserve all the credit for that.

“Football is a funny game and can change at any given moment – and that’s what happened from that day.”

Ex-FM tells Sturgeon and Salmond to stop fighting

Henry McLeish says there is 'no serious path' to the current First Minister's resignation.

Danny Lawson via PA Media
Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have both appeared in front of Holyrood committee.

A former first minister for Scotland has said Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond must stop “knocking hell out of each other in public”.

Labour’s Henry McLeish said there is “no serious path” to the current First Minister’s resignation.

Giving evidence at the Scottish Parliament committee inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against him last week, Salmond said there was “no doubt” his successor as First Minister broke the ministerial code but stopped short of saying she should resign.

Appearing before the committee on Wednesday, Sturgeon rejected his accusations and said she felt “let down” by his “absurd” claims of a plot of SNP figures against him.

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The committee was set up after a successful judicial review by Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government’s investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.

He was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault following a criminal trial last year.

A separate inquiry is investigating if Sturgeon breached the ministerial code, which she denies.

The Scottish Conservatives have said they have lodged votes of no confidence in Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney, though there is no timescale for these to be debated.

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McLeish told BBC Radio Scotland: “The First Minister, I think, has rebutted most of the challenges, the assertions, the allegations that have been made.

“In my view there is no serious path to the First Minister either resigning or suffering with a vote of no confidence in the parliament.

“What we should be doing now is for both the committee of inquiry at Holyrood and the separate inquiry into the breach of the ministerial code to be completed as soon as possible, get on with the election and get Scotland back to some normality.

“That’s a long shot in a way but we can’t continue to see two distinguished, prestigious people knocking hell out each other in public – that’s got to be left behind.

“I hope at the end of all of this the parliament and the government learn lessons. That’s the important thing. There are reforms required and that should be the first priority after we get this initial mess sorted out.”

McLeish became First Minister in 2000 but had to resign the position just over a year later having become embroiled in an expenses row about a failure to declare subletting a floor in his Glenrothes office – dubbed Officegate.

Prince Philip moves back to private hospital after procedure

The Duke of Edinburgh underwent a procedure at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on Wednesday.

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Prince Philip has been in hospital since February 17.

Prince Philip has been transferred back to King Edward VII’s Hospital in London having had a “successful” procedure for a pre-existing heart condition this week.

The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s husband, was admitted to hospital on February 17, after feeling unwell.

He spent 13 nights at King Edward VII’s in central London before being moved to St Bartholomew’s Hospital on Monday.

On Wednesday, the 99-year-old underwent a procedure and was to remain in hospital for “treatment, rest and recuperation”.

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The Duke’s 100th birthday is three months away and has battled an infection since being in hospital.

Buckingham Palace said: “Following The Duke of Edinburgh’s successful procedure at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on Wednesday, His Royal Highness has been transferred to King Edward VII’s Hospital this morning.

“The Duke is expected to remain in hospital for continuing treatment for a number of days.”

Man accused of two attempted murders in 14 months

Leonard Cole denies two attempted murders and trying to pervert the course of justice.

© Google Maps 2020
Cole appeared via video link at the High Court in Glasgow.

A man has been accused of trying to kill two men more than a year apart

Leonard Cole appeared via video link to face the allegations at the High Court in Glasgow.

The 22-year-old is first charged with the attempted murder of Shaun Charles in Greenock, Inverclyde on June 9, 2018.

The accusation includes claims he repeatedly struck the man with a machete.

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Cole is then accused of a second murder bid in Port Glasgow, also Inverclyde, on August 27, 2019.

He is said to have acted with another individual in attacking Reece Warnock with claims the man was punched, kicked and struck with a knife.

The indictment states Mr Warnock has since passed away.

Cole faces further charges of having a machete, a knife, attempting to pervert the course of justice as well as failing to attend a court date in October 2019.

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His QC Thomas Ross pleaded not guilty on his behalf. The advocate also lodged special defences of self defence and incrimination.

Lord Fairley continued the case until a further hearing in May.


Online child sex abuse and fraud soars during pandemic

Police also record a rise in public nuisance, neighbour disputes and noise complaints.

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Online fraud was up more than 43%, the new figures show.

Online child sexual abuse and fraud increased sharply during the pandemic in Scotland, according to latest figures.

Police Scotland said there was a 43.4% increase in fraud between April and December compared to the same period last year and a 13.4% increase in the online abuse.

The statistics are covered in the force’s 2020-21 latest performance report and also show a 1.8% increase in domestic abuse crimes.

This is despite overall recorded crimes reducing from 187,334 during the same period last year to 174,999.

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The number of 999 calls received reduced by 5.1% but 101 calls increased by 3.4%.

A total of 1,993,318 calls were recorded during the period to both numbers.

People contacting the non-emergency line had to wait longer during the pandemic for a response (2 minutes and 37 seconds on average) but Police Scotland said calls to 999 were prioritised, with an eight-second, average response time.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “Officers and staff continue to play a key role in the national effort to combat the spread of coronavirus, while they face the same personal and professional challenges as their fellow citizens.

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“Our service centres are operating successfully with reduced capacity due to physical distancing requirements, while also coping with increased call demand from the public seeking guidance on coronavirus related issues.

“While some callers using the 101 non-emergency number have had to wait longer than normal to have their call answered during this time, emergency 999 calls are prioritised and I am grateful to the officers and staff for their commitment to public service.”

The data also shows large increases in incidents of public nuisance (up from 56,936 to 123,979), neighbour disputes (16,021 to 22,930) and noise complaints (43,288 to 51,277).

Ms Taylor added: “The public health crisis continues to influence the needs of our communities, however it may be years before we fully understand the impact of coronavirus on crime and policing demand in Scotland.”


Towns lose gas supply for second time in month

Properties in Aberdeenshire and Moray have no gas again, supplier SGN said.

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SGN said it didn't know when the problem would be fixed.

Two towns have lost their gas supply for the second time in just over a month.

More than 4000 homes in Hunty, in Aberdeenshire, and Keith, in Moray, were cut off during freezing weather in February.

Gas supplier SGN confirmed properties in the towns were without gas again on Friday, and said it didn’t know how long it would take to fix the problem.

Residents are being asked to turn off their gas while engineers work to restore supplies.

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SGN said: “We’re aware properties in Huntly and Keith are without gas. Our engineers are on site investigating the cause of this issue.

“We know it’s not easy being without your gas supply and we’re extremely sorry for this disruption.

“We’ll be doing all we can to restore everyone’s supplies as soon as possible.”


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