FC Copenhagen boss confident of scoring at Celtic Park

Ståle Solbakken insists the Danish champions will cancel out Celtic's away goal in the Europa League clash.

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Ståle Solbakken is confident his FC Copenhagen team will score at Celtic Park, insisting it’s an open tie.

Celtic drew 1-1 with the Danish side in the first leg of the Europa League last 32 clash, meaning Copenhagen must score in Glasgow to have a chance of progressing in the competition.

After arriving in Scotland, Solbakken told STV: “They [Celtic] got their important away goal, but it’s still an open tie. The [second-half performance last week] probably gives my players an idea that we can cope with Celtic.

“I think we got a shock at the beginning of the match, but that’s normal as we have just started our season.’’

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When asked if he was confident his team could score in the return leg, the Copenhagen manager said: “Yes. We have, more or less, scored in every away game so we are hopeful.’’

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Odsonne Edouard celebrates making it 1-0 against Copenhagen. SNS Group.

Celtic are in top form going into the second leg, having won ten games in a row across all domestic completions, scoring 32 goals in the process.

Neil Lennon’s side will be cheered on by a sell-out crowd, but Solbakken believes his players will relish the atmosphere

“We expect a great atmosphere, but that’s what we want,” he said. “We’ll probably talk ten seconds about the atmosphere, then more about the tactical issues.’’


Blunder over envelope colour for over 70s vaccine letter

The Scottish Government will now send out white, windowed envelopes after a supply issue for blue ones.

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Blunder: Blue envelopes swapped for white ones after supply issue.

White envelopes will be used for the first tranche of coronavirus appointments for those aged 70-79 because blue ones were not ready in time, the Scottish Government has announced.

As the inoculation programme moves through priority groups, several health board areas are beginning to send out letters telling those in the age group when they will receive their first dose of the Covid-19 jab.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman urged people to look out for the “very distinctive” blue envelopes, which are being given priority by Royal Mail.

However on Sunday evening the Scottish Government announced that white, windowed envelopes, with a distinctive black NHS logo on the right, will be used as a temporary measure as the blue envelopes are not ready.

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It said the change has no impact on the vaccination programme timetable, with the first appointment letters expected to be delivered on Monday as planned.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The blue envelopes we hoped to use were not ready in time for the first tranche of vaccine appointment invitations so distinctive NHS branded white envelopes are being used as a temporary measure.

“The absolute priority remains the rollout of vaccinations and this temporary change to the envelope colour has absolutely no impact to our timetable.

“We continue to strongly urge everyone in the 70-79 age group to check all their post in the coming weeks and take up the offer of the vaccine when it is received.

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“Patients may receive a phone call invitation from their local health board as part of the appointment process and all patients aged 75-79 in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will be invited via phone. ”

A new booking system is also being used by several health boards to schedule appointments for patients in order of priority.

Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Lothian are among the NHS boards which will use the system.

The Scottish Government has said they are on track for all those aged 80 and over to have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of the first week in February.

This age group will not receive a blue envelope as they are being contacted by telephone or another form of letter.

Ms Freeman said: “I would urge everyone to take up their appointment when they are offered one.

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

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

UK risks becoming ‘failed state’ unless it reforms union

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has urged Boris Johnson to review the way the UK is governed.

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United Kingdom: Former prime minister Gordon Brown.

The UK risks becoming a “failed state” unless it makes reforms to the union, former prime minister Gordon Brown has warned.

Brown urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to consider ideas like replacing the House of Lords with a “senate of the regions” and to review the way the UK is governed.

It comes after The Sunday Times published the results of opinion polls in the four nations of the UK, which found a majority of voters thought Scotland was likely to be independent in the next ten years.

In Scotland, the poll found that 49% backed independence compared with 44% against – a margin of 52% to 48% if the undecideds are excluded.

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Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Brown said that “the choice is now between a reformed state and a failed state”.

He called on the Prime Minister to set up a commission on democracy which would review how the UK is governed.

Brown wrote: “The commission will discover that the United Kingdom urgently needs a forum of the nations and regions that brings them and Boris Johnson together on a regular basis.

“No country can have national integration without political inclusion, and the commission might start by learning from the experience of countries like Australia, Canada, Germany and America where, partly because of British influence in times past, second chambers are senates of their regions, and minorities who can easily be outvoted are guaranteed a stronger voice.”

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Brown also said that the Prime Minister should use the Armed Forces and the NHS to demonstrate the “everyday benefits” of the union.

A Cabinet spokesman said the public in Scotland want to see the UK’s politicians “working in partnership to focus on defeating coronavirus”.

“That remains the top priority of the UK Government, which has supported jobs and businesses across all four nations throughout the pandemic,” he added.

“The question of Scottish independence was settled decisively in 2014, when Scotland voted to remain part of the UK.

“Now more than ever, we should be pulling together to strengthen our United Kingdom, instead of trying to separate it.”

The Sunday Times poll found that in Northern Ireland, 47% still want to remain in the UK, with 42% in favour of a United Ireland and a significant proportion – 11% – undecided.

However, asked if they supported a referendum on a United Ireland within the next five years, 51% said yes compared with 44% who were against.

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In Wales, where support for independence is traditionally weakest, 23% still backed leaving the UK while 31% supported a referendum.


Applications set to open for £25m wedding sector fund

Eligible businesses such as photographers, wedding venues and florists can apply for up to £25,000.

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Fund: Businesses can apply for grants up to £25,000.

A £25m fund to support the wedding sector which has suffered a “severe impact” from the coronavirus pandemic will open to applications this week.

The fund will provide one-off grants of up to £25,000 for eligible businesses in the sector which have been hit by the impact of Covid-19, including wedding venues, photographers, florists, caterers and suppliers.

The Scottish Government said that in recognition of the ongoing challenges faced by the sector, a further £10m has been added to the £15m announced in December.

The fund will be managed regionally by Scotland’s three enterprise agencies – South of Scotland Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

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Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “The pandemic has had a severe impact on Scotland’s wedding sector, and we know that the current restrictions, while entirely necessary in our fight against Covid-19, continue to take their toll on the sector.

“I’d encourage all those who think they are eligible to find out more about applying – we want to help as many businesses survive this pandemic as we can.

“We have allocated over £3bn to help businesses since the start of this pandemic. However, we know it can never compensate for the unprecedented effect this has had on business.

“We will continue to work with the resources available to us to protect businesses and build a stronger recovery for Scotland.”

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Under current coronavirus rules, no more than five people can attend a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registrations in level four areas, and wedding receptions cannot take place.

In levels one, two and three, no more than 20 people can attend a wedding ceremony and reception.

Scottish Wedding Industry Alliance (SWIA) co-founder Caroline Inchyra said: “On behalf of the Scottish wedding industry, we are delighted that the sector has secured £25m funding from the Scottish Government.

“We must thank the Scottish Government for recognising the wedding industry as a vital sector in the Scottish economy, and the enterprise agencies for working with us to ensure this fund has as much impact as possible.

“This funding will give renewed hope to the many businesses who have been unable to operate in a viable way for almost a year.

“The SWIA looks forward to a continued positive working relationship with Scottish Government as the wedding industry navigates a path through the most difficult trading conditions this highly resilient sector has ever faced.”

Other businesses eligible to apply to the fund include videographers, marquee hire (including tipis), wedding attire and entertainment such as bands, DJs, pipers and string quartets.

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Dawn Robson, of Blooms Florist in Dumfries, welcomed the news of the fund after her business suffered from the impact of the pandemic last year.

She said: “I ended up with only two wedding bookings in the whole of 2020, which was completely devastating.

“I am already seeing bookings being cancelled for 2021, with a number of couples deciding to move their weddings back to 2022.

“It has been such a difficult time for everyone, but the wedding industry in particular has been devastated.

“It is good news to see this new fund open specifically for the wedding industry, with any help we can receive really appreciated.”


Boohoo buys Debenhams brand for £55m but stores to close

With stores closing across the 242-year-old brand, it is unlikely many of the remaining 12,000 jobs are likely to be saved.

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Debenhams: Online fashion retailer Boohoo has confirmed it has bought the brand.

Online fashion retailer Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55m.

Although the deal will see the department store name survive, the company’s remaining 118 stores will close for good.

The deal will see Debenhams products sold by Boohoo from early next year, allowing enough time for liquidators to continue closing the retailer’s sites once they are allowed to reopen after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.

But with stores closing across the 242-year-old brand, it is unlikely many of the remaining 12,000 jobs are likely to be saved.

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Debenhams had already announced significant job losses and the permanent closure of six stores, including its flagship outlet on London’s Oxford Street.

Boohoo said the deal represents a “fantastic opportunity” to target new customers and launch into the beauty, sports and homewares market for the first time.

The company highlighted how Debenhams has six million beauty shoppers and 1.4 million Beauty Club members.

It said: “The group intends to rebuild and relaunch the Debenhams platform, helping further the group’s stated ambition to lead the fashion eCommerce market, and grow into new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”

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In hints that it intends to take on the might of Amazon, Boohoo said it would create the UK’s largest marketplace across fashion, beauty, sport and homeware – expanding the range of products sold via Debenhams marketplace by maintaining current third party relationships and expanding further.

Debenhams’ own fashion brands will also be absorbed into Boohoo’s current portfolio and sold via the Debenhams website.

Boohoo chief executive John Lyttle said: “The acquisition of the Debenhams brand is an important development for the group, as we seek to capture incremental growth opportunities arising from the accelerating shift to online retail.”

Founder and executive chairman, Mahmud Kamani, added: “Our acquisition of the Debenhams brand is strategically significant as it represents a huge step which accelerates our ambition to be a leader, not just in fashion eCommerce, but in new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”

Boohoo has previously bought a number of well-known high street brands out of administration, turning them into online-only operations, including Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen.

Meanwhile, online fashion giant Asos has confirmed it is in exclusive talks with the administrators of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia over the acquisition of the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands.

In a short statement to the stock exchange, Asos said it “believes this would represent a compelling opportunity to acquire strong brands that resonate well with its customer base”.

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“However, at this stage, there can be no certainty of a transaction and Asos will keep shareholders updated as appropriate. Any acquisition would be funded from cash reserves,” it added.


Rise in referrals of children living with domestic abuse

The NSPCC said average monthly referrals have risen more than 30% during the pandemic.

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Abuse: Charity says referrals have risen more than 30%.

Referrals of children living in homes affected by domestic abuse have increased more than 30% since the start of the pandemic, a charity has said.

Figures from the NSPCC children’s charity show the average monthly referrals of children living in such homes rose from 32 a month during January through March to 42 throughout the rest of last year.

A total of 377 referrals were made by the charity to authorities such as police and social workers between April 1 and December 31.

Concerned neighbours have increasingly reported hearing non-stop arguing and children crying to the charity’s confidential helpline for adults worried about youngsters.

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One member of the public who called the helpline for advice said: “For the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing loud and aggressive shouting between a man and woman who live a few doors away from me.

“They’re at it pretty much every day and it generally lasts a couple of hours. Sometimes I hear their children crying when the parents are arguing.

“I’ve only really noticed this since I’ve been at home on furlough. I’m worried the kids aren’t being looked after properly.”

The charity said that left unaddressed, such situations can have profound and long-term impacts on children’s physical and mental wellbeing.

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Joanna Barrett, NSPCC Scotland policy and public affairs manager, said: “With families facing increased pressure behind closed doors, lockdown restrictions have made some children more vulnerable to experiencing domestic abuse, as well as other forms of abuse and neglect.

“It is vital that no child becomes invisible at this time, and support is available and provided now to all children and families who need it.

“It is also so important that people speak out if they are concerned about a child. Our helpline experts are there to answer any questions and concerns, provide reassurance or take quick action if we feel a child is in danger.”

The charity said young people who experience domestic abuse can have trouble learning, experience depression or suicidal thoughts, or develop eating disorders, drugs or alcohol problems.

One 13-year-old told the helpline: “Recently my mum has been yelling at me and calling me names for no apparent reason. My parents fight a lot, like really a lot.

“My dad overreacts but mum makes the situation worse. Today my parents got in a huge argument that included a lot of shouting and my dad was throwing things at my mum.

“I was shocked because none of their fights have got physical before, and now I am wondering how bad things could get.

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“My parents don’t talk anymore and they treat me like their little messenger passing comments between them. It is really affecting me as I constantly feel anxious and cry myself to sleep. I really need help.”

Anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse, or has concerns that someone else may be, can contact the NSPCC’s helpline for information and advice on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.


Insolvencies down as coronavirus support provided ‘lifeline’

KPMG’s Restructuring practice said its analysis shows there were 466 company insolvencies over the course of 2020.

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Open: There were 25 fewer company insolvencies over the course of 2020 compared to 2019.

The number of corporate insolvencies in Scotland fell below 2019 levels last year as Government Covid-19 support measures provided a “lifeline” for businesses, according to new analysis.

KPMG’s Restructuring practice said its analysis shows there were 466 company insolvencies over the course of 2020, which was 25 fewer than 2019’s 491.

Meanwhile, the number of corporate administrations remained relatively static at 56 – up from 51 in 2019.

But KPMG said that despite being “in hibernation” due to lockdown restrictions, businesses continue to accrue liabilities and weaning themselves off the support schemes will be a “massive challenge for many”.

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Blair Nimmo, head of restructuring for KPMG in the UK, said: “While the breadth and depth of support measures available have provided a vital lifeline to Scotland’s business community, these figures provide a distorted view of reality.

“Those businesses that remain in hibernation due to ongoing lockdown measures, such as those in the leisure and hospitality and travel and tourism sectors, continue to accrue liabilities while seeing precious little cash flow into the business.

“At some point, rent and tax deferrals and loans will need to be repaid. The Job Retention Scheme will unwind.

“Weaning off these support schemes is going to be a massive challenge for many.”

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KPMG said that while the pandemic and resulting lockdown measures continue to have ramifications for many businesses, the impact of the UK’s new deal with the European Union has also come into focus.

Mr Nimmo said: “There was certainly a collective sigh of relief when a Brexit deal was signed on Christmas Eve, with Scotland avoiding a damaging cliff-edge scenario.

“But as businesses now grapple with the realities of our new trading relationship, there inevitably will be some bumps in the road.

“Some sectors are seeing an immediate impact on cash and liquidity. There have been early signs of disruption across supply chains, particularly on roads and at ports as customs changes, increased paperwork and delays start to have a knock-on effect on both suppliers and those awaiting deliveries.

“This leaves some companies with the issue of having cash tied up in stock, unable to be despatched to consumers, but with bills still to be paid and no obvious solution on the horizon.”

Mr Nimmo said that in 2021, it will be more important than ever that business owners consider a range of scenarios that hope for the best, whilst also planning for the worst.


Laser system could help cancer removal be more precise

The system is being developed by scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

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Cancer: Laser system could help surgeons be more precise.

A new laser system that could help surgeons remove cancer more precisely and safely is being developed by scientists.

Experts at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are developing a new system that will help surgeons distinguish cancer cells in much better resolution, and remove them without damaging healthy surrounding tissue.

Professor Jonathan Shephard has been given £1.2m by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop the system.

The new system will be based around ultrafast picosecond lasers that deliver energy in a series of pulses that are one trillionth of a second long.

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The team has already proved the concept works for colorectal cancers, and are now working with clinicians at the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust to develop the new system for brain cancers.

Professor Shephard said: “Previously we focused on colorectal cancers. We proved in the lab that our laser system can remove cancer cells in a way that restricts damage to the surrounding, healthy cells – within the width of a human hair.

“Because the laser pulses are so short, there is no time for heat to burn the surrounding tissue, which is what happens with current surgical tools.

“We’re building on our understanding of lasers in colorectal cancer surgery towards clinical application, and working on adapting it for brain, head and neck cancers, where it could have huge benefits for patients.

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“The most important principle of any cancer surgery is to ensure that all cancer cells are removed; failure to do so will result in the cancer coming back.

“This is an ultimate test of precision, even microscopic loss of healthy tissue and damage to nearby vital structures can have severe functional consequences and a huge impact on quality of life.”

The team will also focus on developing a flexible, optical fibre based system that can target and remove cancer cells two orders of magnitude smaller than current technology.

Professor David Jayne, a consultant surgeon at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, said: “Surgical lasers open up exciting new approaches for cancer surgery.

“The precision of a laser combined with imaging to accurately discriminate cancer from normal tissue will greatly enhance the ability of surgeons to completely remove cancers with minimal side-effects for patients”

The team will be working on developing the system over the next three years.


Manhunt for flasher who carried out solo sex act in park

Police were called to Glasgow's Queen’s Park at around 2pm on Saturday.

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Queen's Park: Police carried out a search of the area, but could not find the man.

A manhunt has been launched for a flasher who carried out a solo sex act in a Glasgow park.

Police were called to Queen’s Park at around 2pm on Saturday, however officers were unable to find the man despite a full search of the area.

The suspect was described as Asian and aged between 25 and 35.

He was wearing a turquoise-coloured top with blue jeans and a black coat. He also had a goatee beard and was wearing an earring in his right ear.

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Detective Inspector Craig McPhail said: “This is a busy park and the woman who reported seeing this man was distressed by this incident.  

“She was approached by another woman who also seen him but she had left the park before police arrival and I would ask her to contact us.

“We are carrying out extensive enquiries to trace this man as soon as possible I would urge anyone with information that will assist our investigation to contact officers.”

If you have any information, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


Temperatures set to fall after yellow alert for snow and ice

The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning from 4pm on Sunday to 11am on Monday.

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Temperatures could fall as low as -13C following a yellow alert for snow and ice across parts of Scotland. 

The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning from 4pm on Sunday to 11am on Monday. 

The worst affected areas will be in the Northern Isles, Moray, parts of Aberdeenshire, the Highlands and the west coast including Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.

Drivers have been warned that the wintry weather could affect the roads.

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STV weather presenter Philip Petrie said temperatures could drop as low as -13C on Monday night – the coldest night of the winter so far. 

He said: ”On Saturday night temperatures dropped to lows of -11.4C in Dalwhinnie, which meant that on Sunday temperatures were slow to rise during the day with many areas struggling to get above freezing. 

“Once again on Sunday night we see widespread frost developing for many central and eastern parts thanks to clear skies and dry conditions, but with further wintry showers expected to move in from the west overnight there is a risk that the rain hitting the frozen ground will turn to ice – possibly causing some travel disruptions through Monday morning. 

“The worst affected areas will be the Northern Isles, Moray, the north of Aberdeenshire, the Highlands stretching down the western side of the country down to Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Dumbartonshire.

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“After an initially showery start to the day on Monday, the showers will fizzle out through the evening leaving another dry and clear night – giving the potential for our coldest night of the winter so far. Back at the start of January temperatures reached a low of -12.3C in Loch Glascarnoch, but on Monday night there is the potential for temperatures to drop to -13C.”


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