Berra ready to make the most of second chance at Hearts

The defender's Tynecastle career looked over under Daniel Stendel but he is back playing for Robbie Neilson.

Second chance: Christophe Berra has returned to Hearts fold in recent matches. Paul Devlin via SNS Group
Second chance: Christophe Berra has returned to Hearts fold in recent matches.

Christophe Berra is determined to seize his unlikely opportunity to add silverware to his Hearts collection in last season’s delayed Scottish Cup final.

The defender’s Hearts career looked over following last year’s Boxing Day defeat by Hibernian when new boss Daniel Stendel told his club captain he was surplus to requirements.

Berra went on loan to Dundee and his new team kept five clean sheets in the six games he played before the pandemic forced the suspension of Scottish football.

Hearts joined Dundee in the Championship following their disputed relegation and Robbie Neilson recalled Berra to his first-team squad after replacing Stendel as manager.


After recovering from a pre-season injury, the 35-year-old has forced his way into the Hearts team for the last four games, just in time for Sunday’s Hampden clash with Celtic

Berra said: “It’s been a funny old year and there ‘s no hiding the fact that, if there was no pandemic, I wouldn’t be involved. The old manager would be here and I wouldn’t be.

“I am very fortunate and I’m glad to be here and hope I get selected for the game.”

Berra, who was on the bench when Hearts won the trophy in 2006 and played in the 2019 final defeat by Celtic, added: “I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in two cup finals and some people will never be involved in any.


“If you go through most leagues throughout the world, it’s a handful of teams who are playing in cup finals. When these opportunities come along, you need to grasp it.

“There’s less experienced players and younger boys in the squad and they really need to know that, unless you are playing for the top teams, these opportunities sometimes come few and far between.

“It’s a big occasion and you need to enjoy it.”

Like most things these days, the occasion will be highly different to normal with the final squeezed into the final weeks of 2020, just ahead of the traditionally hectic festive league schedule.

Closed-door games remain a strange experience midway into the Scottish season and the setting will be even more unusual for a cup final, but Berra is determined to savour the occasion.

“It can go either way, you could win the cup and it will be a great Christmas,” the former Scotland defender said. “If you don’t, it could be a bit of a downer.

“I don’t know if there’s been any cup final, certainly not in Scotland, but anywhere around the world, that’s five days before Christmas. It’s very unique.


“Everyone will be glued to their televisions, Hearts fans, Celtic fans, fans throughout Scotland and the UK, because it’s a big game.

“Even though there won’t be a crowd there, which is very disappointing, and that sometimes makes these games, it is a cup final and if you look back in 10 years, 20 years, you are either going to have a winners’ medal or a runners-up medal.

“There are little things like going through to Hampden to the press and other duties for media and sponsors, and this year you can’t do that, you have to hold back because of the circumstances.

“But we will still be turning up at Hampden, the changing rooms will be decked out, hopefully the pitch will still be in good condition and the stadium is looking good and there’s banners about that give it that feel that it is a big occasion.

“It is bitterly disappointing there’s no fans there and we understand why, but it is a cup final and you can’t take that away from it.”

Most Covid restrictions to end next week – but masks remain

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement in a statement to the Scottish Parliament.

SNS Group

Almost all of Scotland’s remaining Covid-19 restrictions are to end from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the First Minister said that a number of mitigation measures will remain in place.

Sturgeon said that the lifting of restrictions on August 9 would include an end to social distancing and limits on the size of social gatherings.

However, the wearing of face coverings in some public spaces will continue, with Sturgeon saying that they are “likely to be mandated in law for some time to come.”


Secondary school pupils will be required to wear face masks during lessons when schools return, as well as one-metre social distancing, which will be reviewed six weeks into the new term.

The requirement to self-isolate after close contact with a Covid-positive person will also be dropped in Scotland if a negative test result is received, whilst the use of vaccine passports for access to some events are under consideration.

Contact tracing of positive cases will remain, pubs and restaurants must continue to collect customer details and home working will continue to be advised.

Sturgeon said that while the Government expects the return of large scale events, for a “limited period”, organisers of outdoor events of more than 5000, and indoor events of more than 2000, will have to apply for permission to their local authority.


Despite the easing of restrictions, the First Minister urged people to continue to take care and caution.

She said: “This change is significant and hard-earned. The sacrifices everyone has made over the past year-and-a-half can never be overstated.

“However, while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality, it is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.

“Declaring freedom from, or victory over, this virus is premature.

“The harm the virus can do, including through the impact of long Covid, should not be underestimated. And its ability to mutate may yet pose us real challenges.

“So even as we make this move today, care and caution will still be required, and that is why I want to focus now on the protections and guidance that will remain in place after August 9.”

Sturgeon also did not rule out the re-imposition of coronavirus restrictions if needed in order to keep the country safe.


“We all hope – I know I certainly do – that the restrictions we lift next Monday will never again have to be re-imposed. But no-one can guarantee that,” she told the Scottish Parliament.

“This virus remains a threat – and as we enter winter, it may well pose challenges for us again.

“So as we have done throughout, the Government will seek to take whatever action is necessary to keep the country safe.

“But as has also been the case throughout, we all have a part to play in keeping the virus under control.”

Ministers urged to back right to recovery to tackle drug deaths

More than 1300 people died in Scotland last year as a result of drugs misuse.

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Angela Constance made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

The Scottish Government has been urged to “be bold” and back a proposal to ensure that those struggling with addiction or substance misuse are guaranteed access to treatment.

The call was made by Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross, whose party has raised the proposal under their new ‘right to recovery’ Bill.

It seeks to enshrine in law the right to addiction and recovery services, including short and long-term residential rehabilitation.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Scotland’s drugs policy minister Angela Constance indicated that the proposal would be given “serious and fair” consideration, but stressed the need to see the detail of the legislation.


In a statement, Constance also announced funding for a new national facility for families affected by drug use, with £250m to be invested over the next five years.

It comes after statistics published last week indicated that 1339 people died in Scotland last year as a result of drug misuse – the highest annual figure on record.

Ross raised the issue during a statement on the actions being taken to reduce the number of drugs deaths in Scotland.

“Words are not going to solve this crisis, people need action and they expect to hear from the First Minister,” he said.


“For the seventh year in a row, drug deaths have peaked. Our drug death rate is close to four times higher than any other country in Europe.

“In Scotland, if you live in a poorer area, you are 18 times more likely to die from drugs. Behind all those shocking statistics are lost loved ones and broken families.

“When is the First Minister and this government going to wake up? When will she stop abandoning our communities? When is she going to listen to those on the frontline?”

He continued: “We published our proposal for a right to recovery Bill and it’s with Parliament’s team being prepared for its launch.

“It’s being developed by frontline experts to guarantee everyone gets the treatment they need. It’s backed by seven recovery organisations and apparently, SNP MSPs.

“It would cut through the broken system and save lives. People who’ve lost family members and close friends to drugs deserve a straight answer.

“So, if the First Minister won’t won’t come to Parliament today and give a commitment, will the minister?


“Quite simply, will the Scottish Government be bold? Back our Bill.”

Constance said that she would not give a blanket commitment to the Scottish Conservative leader.

She responded: “I know that Mr Ross has not been in this Parliament as long as I have been and I appreciate that he may not know me very well.

“But, I don’t play games and I’m not remotely interested in playground politics.

“With respect to his proposal to enshrine the right to treatment, let me be clear once again – I will of course, as will the First Minister, give serious consideration to any proposition, serious and fair consideration.

She continued: “With respect, I have to say to Mr Ross I have still to see the Bill, I am not going to give him a blind or blanket commitment.

“It is my job to look at the detail because scrutiny works both ways and bearing in mind, I have made a number of detailed commitments around investment and delivery to this Parliament and of course have the Government’s manifesto to implement.

“(If) Mr Ross wants me to implement his idea and his manifesto commitments, it’s imperative that I see the detail of that work.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “The minister is right to say that this is Scotland’s national shame, but she must recognise it is the Scottish National Party’s shame too.

“We need urgent action to save lives. We can’t ignore the link between Scotland’s higher drugs death rate and our suicide rates.

“We need a coherent strategy and a plan from this government.”

Covid jabs for 16 and 17-year-olds ‘could be approved in days’

Labour has said the government must have a plan to roll out coronavirus vaccines to the age group.

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Vaccine: Labour have said the government must have a plan to vaccinate the age group.

Labour has said the Government must have a plan to roll out coronavirus vaccines to 16 and 17-year-olds following suggestions experts were about to approve the move.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “veering towards expecting” the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) would soon outline updated guidance for young people having the coronavirus jab.

Speaking to MSPs on Tuesday, Sturgeon had suggested the decision could come as soon as Wednesday.

She said: “We are waiting on JCVI advice. When I say ‘we’, I am obviously referring to the Scottish Government, but the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments are in the same position.”


Sturgeon said the four chief medical officers across the UK had written to the JCVI asking them to look again at vaccination advice for young people.

She said: “First, as a priority, I am particularly hopeful that we will see updated recommendations for 16 and 17-year-olds.

“I am hoping for – possibly veering towards expecting – updated advice from the JCVI in the next day or so.”

The JCVI has so far ruled out the mass vaccination of healthy children, but under existing guidance young people aged 16 to 17 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious Covid infection should have already been offered a jab.


Children aged 12 to 15 with certain conditions which make them vulnerable to coronavirus can also access the vaccine, as can those aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person, such as a parent or grandparent.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty previously said there was a balance to be struck between vaccinating young people who do not tend to suffer severely from the virus, and ensuring their lives were not disrupted.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “With the JCVI apparently about to give the green light to vaccinating 16-year-olds, ministers need to ensure plans are in place to roll out this vital next stage of vaccination while ensuring parents have all the facts and information they need.”

FM: Football clubs still need permission to host large crowds

Organisers of outdoor events of more than 5000 and indoor events of more than 2000 will have to apply for permission.

SNS Group via SNS Group / STV News
Clubs will have to continue applying for permission to host major crowds.

Sporting bodies and clubs will have to continue applying for permission to host major crowds despite Scotland moving beyond level zero of coronavirus restrictions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government was temporarily keeping some mitigations in place when most legal Covid-19 regulations are removed from next Monday.

Sturgeon said: “While we expect to see the careful return of large-scale events we will, for a limited period, keep in place the processes through which organisers of outdoor events of more than 5000 and indoor events of more than 2000 will have to apply for permission.

“This is allowing us and local authorities simply to be reassured of the arrangements to be in place to reduce the risk of large-scale gatherings.”


Current restrictions remain in place for this weekend’s fixtures, which mean clubs need to apply to local authorities for permission to host crowds of more than 2000.

Celtic will host 24,500 fans for their cinch Premiership game against Dundee on Saturday.

Despite Scotland moving beyond level zero on August 9, the pandemic is not over, Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister told MSPs on Tuesday: “This change is significant and hard-earned. The sacrifices everyone has made over the past year-and-a-half can never be overstated.


“However, while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality, it is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.

“Declaring freedom from, or victory over, this virus is premature.”

Hibernian CEO Ben Kensell said the club wants to get a full crowd back at Easter Road as soon as possible.

“We want to welcome back fans as safely as we can, which is very important, number one priority for us,” he said.

“But actually, we want to get a full crowd back in as soon as we possibly can for obvious reasons, to support the team on the pitch, but actually for financial and commercial reasons as well.

“But there’s no better place than a sold out or packed Easter Road to cheer the lads on.

“So, from my perspective, it can’t come soon enough. But we’ll wait for the guidance and then we’ll act appropriately.”

Nightclub guidance on face masks ‘yet to be finalised’

The First Minister announced on Tuesday that most legal restrictions would be in removed in Scotland from Monday.

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Guidance on whether face masks will have to be worn in nightclubs has not yet been finalised, Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs.

The First Minister announced on Tuesday that most legal restrictions would be in removed in Scotland from August 9 as cases continue to fall in the wake of the successful vaccine rollout.

But the mask mandate, Sturgeon said, would continue in some form for some time to come in the same indoor settings. However, nightclubs have not been open throughout the pandemic and therefore mask wearing has not been legally required.

When asked for clarity on the issue by Labour MSP Pauline McNeill, the First Minister said: “I think it is important that we have similar mitigations in all indoor settings.


“But we will be engaging with the night time industries sector about exactly how we would hope, as they are able to reopen from Monday, they will ensure that the right mitigations are in place and what will be expected of them as well as what we would encourage them to do.”

The First Minister said she had been having discussions in recent days with the sector and it was clear that some restrictions – with the strong allusion being she meant face coverings – would “make no sense” in nightclubs, adding: “Even if a nightclub was technically allowed to open, it would make it really impractical.

“As we finalise guidance for the reopening, we will make sure that we don’t skimp on appropriate safety measures, but we will be mindful of the practical realities in settings like nightclubs.”

Sturgeon also took the opportunity to urge anyone returning to clubs after Monday’s reopening, in particular younger people, to get vaccinated.


“If you intend over the next few weeks to go back to a nightclub, and who could blame you for that, please make sure if you’re over 18 you’ve got your vaccine before you do,” she said.

“That will help protect you.

“We want people to be able to responsibly enjoy things again, but protect yourself as you do.

“You’ll be reducing the risk of becoming ill and you’ll be helping to protect others as well.”

At-a-glance: What Covid restrictions will ease from August 9?

Scotland will move beyond level zero restrictions on Monday, the First Minister has announced.

encrier via IStock
Restrictions: Masks will continue to be worn for some time.

The majority of coronavirus restrictions in Scotland will end from August 9, the First Minister announced on Tuesday. 

Addressing parliament remotely, Nicola Sturgeon said lifting restrictions would include an end to social distancing and limits on the size of social gatherings.

However, face coverings will still be required in certain settings such as on public transport and in shops, with the First Minister adding that they are “likely to be mandated in law for some time to come”.

The First Minister warned that while rules will be lifted, “it does not signal the end of the pandemic”.

From August 9


Face coverings

It will continue to be mandatory to wear face coverings in all indoor places as in level zero, subject to existing conditions such as exemptions for health reasons. 

This will be kept under review, but it is expected to remain in law for months to come. 

Social distancing 


The requirement to social distance will be removed, however people are encouraged to keep a safe distance from each other, especially indoors, and to avoid crowded places to minimise risk.

Test and Protect

Contact details of customers will continue to be taken by hospitality venues.

However localised restrictions may return to control outbreaks, as well as travel restrictions.


People who display symptoms or test positive for Covid will still be required to self-isolate.

However from August 9, close contacts who are double vaccinated will no longer be required to automatically self-isolate for ten days. 


Instead, if two weeks have passed since a second dose and a close contact has no symptoms, they can take a PCR test.

If the test is negative, self-isolation can end. 


Working from home is still advised by the Scottish Government. 

Businesses are encouraged to develop a hybrid model of both home and office working for the future.


All venues will be allowed to open from Monday, meaning nightclubs will reopen for the first time in more than a year. 

Bar service will also resume in pubs and hospitality venues will be able to operate at full capacity. 


Organisers of outdoor events of more than 5000 and indoor events of more than 2000 will have to apply for permission, allowing the Scottish Government and local authorities to assess the risk of each event. 


Secondary school pupils will have to wear face coverings during lessons, while staff will have to social distance by one-metre for at least six weeks once schools reopen.

‘Blanket isolation’ of whole classes of schoolchildren will no longer be routine and “instead a more targeted approach will identify close contacts at highest risk of infection”.

All secondary pupils, and all school staff will need to take a lateral flow test one or two days before they return after the holidays, and then to take tests twice a week after that.

Police using ‘specialist resources’ to find teen missing for months

Jamie Cannon was last seen in Saltcoats on May 20 and his disappearance has been described as 'out of character'.

Police Scotland / jgshields via IStock
Missing: Jamie Cannon has not been seen for more than ten weeks.

Police are using “all specialist resources” available to them in a bid to find a missing 19-year-old man from North Ayrshire.

Jamie Cannon, from Saltcoats, has not been seen for more than ten weeks, with the last sighting of the teenager at 10am on Thursday, May 20.

He was reported as missing to police several days later on Saturday, May 22.

Jamie’s disappearance has been described as “completely out of character” for him.


He is described as being 6ft 1in, and when last seen he was wearing grey jogging bottoms, grey trainers, a blue jacket and carrying a camouflage backpack.

Chief inspector Alan Paterson said: “We remain committed to searching for Jamie and are using all specialist resources available to us. We are extremely grateful to the local community who continue to help us locate him.

“Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 1623 of May 22.”

Rock Lomond: When Oasis took Balloch Park by storm

It's 25 years since Oasis played two barnstorming concerts for 80,000 Scots fans.

STV News

Oasis played the first of two barnstorming concerts near Loch Lomond on this day 25 years ago.

Tens of thousands of people squeezed into Balloch Country Park on consecutive nights in what remain among the most memorable outdoor gigs ever held on Scottish soil.

For brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, it was a triumphant return to the country where they were discovered three years earlier, in 1993.

By August 3, 1996, they had released their hugely successful albums Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and the STV News cameras were in Balloch that day to capture the electric atmosphere.

STV News

Fans were in party mood from first light as they packed trains from Glasgow, desperate to see the band who were dominating the airwaves.

“They’re just unique, honestly,” one reveller said. “There are very few bands now that you can actually enjoy, but this is superb.”

We even caught up with TV personality Chris Evans, who insisted it was impossible to choose a favourite Gallagher brother.

“They’re chalk and cheese – and I like chalk and I like cheese,” Evans told our reporter.


Local residents had been concerned about the onslaught of Oasis fans to their town, but in the end they seemed to enjoy themselves.

STV News

“They were all very orderly walking down that road, we watched them and there were no problems,” one neighbour said.

Laura Boyd looks back at the legendary Oasis shows at Balloch Park

We were there!

As told to Laura Boyd, STV News entertainment reporter

Donald Macleod, the promoter behind the sell-out shows.

“It was probably the biggest, most significant gig Scotland’s ever put on. It was fantastic. There was a lot more than 80,000 there – they were pulling down fencing…

“It was an experience like no other. It was really hyper, it was really mad. It was supersonic, as they would say.

“The band took it in their stride, they always did. They had that swagger.

Donald Macleod via Contributed

“Just before the band came on, there was a tirade of things getting thrown at the stage and we’re looking up the hill and all these police horses start coming down towards us. They charged down. We were like ‘what are they doing?’, then it got quiet. Next moment, they were charging back up the hill with all the bams chasing after them.

“Getting the teams in place, the security, ten miles of fencing, enough power to power the city of Dundee, thousands of barrels of beer getting sold, the crowd loving it – Wonderwall – what a band. I’ve put on Prince and the likes, but this was something special.”

Alan McGee, the Oasis manager who discovered the band at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow.

“The Celtic team were there on the Saturday and the next night was all the Rangers team, and the gig was great, you know what I mean?

“We’ve got a great iconic photograph from that time – when the brothers kissed each other on the lips, we got one of the great Oasis photographs from that time.

“They only talk about it in Scotland, if I’m being honest, cause in England they all talk about Knebworth, but Loch Lomond was a better gig from what I remember.

Oasis fan George Boothe, from Houston, Texas, was at the gig during his honeymoon.

“We got married in Aberdeen and decided to have our honeymoon in Scotland and ended up in Cameron House with tickets to see Oasis at Loch Lomond.

Donald Macleod via Contributed

“Oasis were THE band at the time. At our wedding, we had a ceilidh and a disco, and one of my greatest memories was all our friends singing in a big circle to Don’t Look Back in Anger.

“So we have very special memories of my honeymoon, but also of going to that concert.”

What was on the set list?

We’ve made all 20 tracks available as a Spotify playlist, which can be streamed here:

Gerrard salutes Davis but calls for improvement from squad

The midfielder gave Rangers a Champions League lifeline against Malmo on Tuesday evening.

Rob Casey via SNS Group
Davis: Midfielder scored Champions League lifeline for Rangers.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard hailed Steven Davis for his Champions League lifeline but warned most of his team they needed to show significant improvement after a 2-1 defeat in Malmo.

Rangers conceded twice in two minutes in the opening stages of the second half and struggled to test the opposition goalkeeper despite putting on the pressure in the final 20 minutes of the first leg in Sweden.

But Davis struck with the last kick of the ball to keep the third qualifying round-tie in the balance.

The Northern Ireland midfielder fired a left-footed shot that took a deflection and flew into the top corner with seconds remaining of five minutes of stoppage time.


“I’m disappointed with the result and the goals we conceded but that was a big moment at the very end of the game, and it sets it up for next week,” Gerrard said.

“It’s not the position we wanted to be in but it’s obviously a lot better than going in at 2-0 and we were also on the verge of maybe going in even worse as well.

“The injury time has been very big for us but our performance over 90 minutes hasn’t been enough. So we are going to have to go up levels individually and collectively next week.

“I’m going to call on the Ibrox crowd. I’ve never done it before but we are going to need them next week, for a full 90 minutes, in full voice. And with that behind us, and a mentality change, then that injury time could be a big moment.”


Gerrard added: “We had two magnificent performances. Fil Helander I thought played at Champions League level, he was outstanding, and Steven Davis.

“I’m running out of plaudits for Davo but he’s someone who doesn’t give up, keeps going to the end and he has provided a real big moment that’s given us an important lifeline.”

Gerrard, who hopes to have Joe Aribo back for Saturday’s trip to face Dundee United after the midfielder missed out in Malmo, added: “I don’t think we deserved to lose the game 2-0 because at half-time we were in a good shape and looking more likely but we lost our way for four-five minutes and lost two goals.

“We never really cleared our heads after the first goal and were punished again.

“I’ve just said to the boys in there, my honest opinion is there’s six or seven who need to raise their level and raise it sharply.”

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