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Naismith praises Brown as he prepares to face Celtic captain

The Hearts skipper saluted Brown as he passed the 700-game milestone.

Steven Naismith has hailed Celtic captain Scott Brown for reaching 700 matches and remaining at the top of his game by adapting his style.

Brown made his debut for Hibs back in 2003 and has been a mainstay of Celtic’s side for over a decade, lifting trophy after trophy as captain.

Naismith, whose career has covered the same span, will skipper Hearts against Brown’s Celtic on Wednesday and says he has huge respect for the midfielder.

“To be honest, it’s the sign of a great player,” he said.

“Our careers have paralleled throughout, from way back in the youth team. I saw the other day about his 700 appearances and that’s some achievement.”

Naismith said what he found remarkable about Brown’s career had been the way in which the former Scotland international has adapted his style to fit the needs of the team and prolong his effectiveness.  

“It’s not like he’s been the one type of player his whole career,” he said. “He’s adapted, he’s changed as he’s got older. And again, as you get older, there are moments people doubt you, not just as an individual but it can be the manager that you’re playing under and what he wants you to do.

“I think under the last two managers Broony has found, or they’ve found, the best way for him to be most effective. That is not the way he was as an 18-year-old, charging into the box and creating chances and scoring goals, he’s now dictating the play from deeper in the pitch.

“Broony is a top pro and he always has been and he’ll be one that we’ll need to watch on Wednesday.”

Naismith said he has been feeling the benefits of a consistent run of games after returning from injury but now looks ahead to a tough series of matches that could be crucial to Hearts’ survival hopes.

“We’re in a relegation fight, simple as that,” he admitted. “With all the changes that have come and what the manager has brought and wants to do, it’s going to take time.

“As much as the pressure is on, I think we’ve shown in the performances that there is a lot of change but we’ve adapted to it. Sometimes we’ve maybe conceded goals that, as a team, we don’t want and that is just part of the change and the way we’re playing.

“The run of games is what we need, we need to get as many games and play them and get  as many points as we can. Some games you look at have been good results and good points others we’ve kinda shot ourselves in the foot. We need to get in a position where teams are looking up at us rather than the other way around.”

And the forward is hopeful that good performances in the upcoming matches will seal a call-up for Scotland’s Euro 2020 play-off against Israel.

“It’s a consequence of playing well for Hearts that you’ll be in contention,” he said. “The last international games I thought I played well contributed to the team and, as a whole, as a group, we did really well and that does plant a seed in the manager’s head.

“Competition is at its biggest at the moment, so I need to keep doing what I can for Hearts, scoring goals and to be honest we need to win games.”

Drugs summit: UK minister dismisses safe consumption room

Crime minister Kit Malthouse branded plans for a safe injecting facility in Glasgow 'a distraction'.

Growing problem: The amount of drug deaths in Scotland continues to rise.

A Home Office minister has effectively ruled out allowing a safe drug consumption room (DCR) to be set up in Glasgow as the UK Government hosts a drug deaths summit in the city.

Kit Malthouse branded plans for a safe injecting facility to reduce deaths from heroin overdoses a “distraction” and one that is proposed as a “silver bullet solution”.

With drug laws reserved to Westminster, the Home Office has repeatedly blocked Scottish Government and council officials from pursuing the project.

The summit at Glasgow’s SEC on Thursday is the second in two days, following a meeting on the same topic, at the same venue, hosted by Scottish ministers the day before.

There, Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken told delegates on Wednesday a DCR should be set up to arrest the “unprecedented spike” in drug deaths.

The city accounted for around a third of Scotland’s 1187 drug deaths in 2018 – among Europe’s highest and the most in the UK – something Aitken said needed an “emergency response”.

But opening Thursday’s conference, Malthouse said evidence of the concept working in other countries is “mixed”.

He said: “There are two issues with DCRs – first we cannot pretend they’re not legally very difficult.

“They involve the commission of several types of crime and the tolerance therefore of those crimes and that presents us with a legal and legislative difficulty.

“Secondly, the evidence around the world is mixed – most of the studies are broadly to areas where they’ve been used and even the most successful ones affect quite small numbers of people.”

The UK crime minister added: “I am concerned that it is a distraction from the main event, which is fundamentally there needs to be more concentration and resource on innovative and different kinds of treatments and that making sure we deal with underlying and complex health concerns is critical.

‘Given the scale of the deaths we need scalable solutions. In some parts of the country like Dundee, for example, I’m not sure a DCR would necessarily be appropriate – so what are we going to do for Dundee?’

Kit Malthouse, UK crime minister

“It’s part of the debate. There’s a difference between thinking about the debate and pulling from it what you think you can do and people having different views.

“Given the scale of the deaths we need scalable solutions. In some parts of the country like Dundee, for example, I’m not sure a DCR would necessarily be appropriate – so what are we going to do for Dundee?”

By council area, Dundee City Council has the highest number of drug deaths per head of population over the last four years of figures.

Malthouse said he could not remember a time when drugs were “so profoundly behind the many social problems we face as a country”.

But he expressed hope the summit would be the start of ongoing cooperation on the issue of drug deaths, calling a cross-border policing round-table between English forces and Police Scotland to tackle the drug trade’s “business model”.

Malthouse went on: “We’re running at the moment in England pilots in Merseyside, the West Midlands and London which are showing some success.

“I’m quite keen to stimulate activity between the two and I’m hoping that Humza (Yousaf) will agree to a joint round-table so we can put the two or whatever it is forces together and talk more about what we can do – particularly around somewhere like Dundee which is a discreet community that’s got an acute problem.”

Yousaf, the Scottish justice secretary, may also be involved in another summit due to happen next month.

It comes as the Scottish Government an extra £20m of funding to tackle drug deaths to coincide with the summits, on top of the £7.3m already set aside for the issue in the draft Budget.

The cash will help deliver the recommendations of the drug deaths task force, provide investment for mental health support and allow officials to consider adding more NHS-funded drug rehab beds.

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “The UK Government has made it clear at their summit that they are not willing to consider the bold, innovative approaches to this problem that I feel are needed.

“However, that doesn’t mean we will stop fighting for what we believe is right and this extra investment will help us in our efforts to save lives.”

Representatives from addiction charity FAVOR (Faces & Voices of Recovery) UK protested outside the summit venue with a banner of their campaign slogan: “You keep talking we keep dying.”

Annemarie Ward, from the charity, told STV News: “It just feels like we’re having reviews about reviews and talking shops.

“No one’s actually doing anything to change the situation or to help people who are dying.”

She added: “Both events have raised the debate and that’s a positive thing, but it’s not enough.”

Officer airlifted after crash leaves police car in ditch

The A92 has been closed westbound from Crossgates to Cowdenbeath after the crash.

Collision: Part of the A92 has been closed.

An officer has been airlifted to hospital after a crash forced a police car off road and into a ditch in Fife.

They are believed to have serious injuries after being involved in a collision on the A92 with a transporter around 1.40pm on Thursday.

The police vehicle had been stationary and was assisting a vehicle which had stopped on the road.

Crash: The vehicle went off road after the incident. Fife Jammer

The A92 has been closed westbound from Crossgates to Cowdenbeath following the two-vehicle collision.

Police said diversions have been put in place and urged motorists to avoid the area.

Murder accused ‘held dying girlfriend in his arms’

Keith Rizzo, 23, is accused of killing Neomi Smith at her flat in Brechin last summer.

Court: Keith Rizzo has been accused of murdering Neomi Smith.

A murder accused claimed he found his girlfriend lying injured in her flat and then heard “someone running”.

Keith Rizzo was quizzed by detectives hours after the death of Neomi Smith.

The 23-year-old told how he heard an “almighty bang” while in the shower at Ms Smith’s home in Brechin, Angus, last June 9.

He recalled then holding onto his dying partner as she lay stricken in the kitchen.

Rizzo also claimed Ms Smith had been getting “bother” from an ex-boyfriend.

The ex-farm worker denies murdering the 23-year-old at a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

On Thursday, jurors heard Rizzo being interviewed by police.

He recalled how they had been at a local bar in Brechin before returning to Ms Smith’s flat.

The court again heard how Rizzo stated he went for a wash after getting back.

He then told detectives: “I was showering and [then] it was just an almighty bang.

“I just heard a door getting slammed and then she screamed my name.”

Rizzo said he initially thought Ms Smith had “done something stupid”.

He went on to claim his partner was “just lying there” in the blood-stained kitchen.

Rizzo added: “She managed to just have enough breath and she was like ‘I love…’

“That was it – she just gasped and there was nothing. I was holding her, checking her pulse, couldn’t get nothing.”

Rizzo stated he and Ms Smith would have “small petty arguments”.

But, he went on: “God, I really feel it now. We’ve built all this together and someone’s torn it away.”

Rizzo claimed he heard the sound of someone running as he found Ms Smith.

He earlier told police Ms Smith had spotted a person lurking nearby as they returned from the pub.

Rizzo further claimed in the interview Ms Smith had “a lot of bother” from a former partner, who “used to steal money out of her accounts”.

Rizzo denies the accusations.

The trial, before Lady Rae, continues.

Coronavirus: Some tourists free to leave Tenerife hotel

It is understood around 50 are British but the exact number of Scots is still not known.

Marc Ryckaert / CC BY-SA
Lockdown: Some guests are free to leave the hotel.

Around 50 British holidaymakers are among a cohort of tourists who have been allowed to leave a hotel in Tenerife after a coronavirus related quarantine.

The four-star H10 Costa Adeje Palace went into lockdown on Tuesday after a visiting doctor tested positive for the virus, with hundreds of guests told not to leave their rooms until further notice.

However, the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) confirmed it was aware 130 tourists have been allowed to leave.

It is understood around 50 are British but the exact number of Scots is still not known.

An FCO spokesman said: “We are urgently seeking clarification from the Canary Island authorities following their announcement that 130 tourists of different nationalities will be granted permission to leave the Costa Adeje Palace Hotel.

“We continue to offer support to all British nationals at the hotel.”

The announcement does not force the group to leave but means they are free to do so if they wish.

Canary Island authorities said the order affected those who entered the hotel on Monday, as those who who tested positive were already outside the grounds by this point.

Hundreds of thousands of Scots visit Tenerife every year, making it one of the country’s most popular holiday destinations, with dozens of flights from Scottish airports every week.

Paramedic’s kind gesture to girl, 10, who needed ambulance

The youngster had to be taken by ambulance to A&E in Larbert on Tuesday night after experiencing severe pain in her ear.

Kind gesture: 10-year-old Haylie McMillan.

The mum of a 10-year-old girl with a condition which causes the growth of tumours on her nerves has said she was in tears after a paramedic’s kind gesture to her daughter.

Haylie McMillan was first diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type 1 in 2015 and has since had five tumours, the most concerning in her head and and nerves on her face and neck.

The youngster had to be taken by ambulance to A&E in Larbert on Tuesday night after experiencing severe pain in her ear and told the paramedics – Alistair and Alison – about her love of animals.

The following morning, Haylie’s mum Mary-Jane woke up to a letter from Alistair, which included two passes to Edinburgh Zoo and “touched her heart”.

The letter said: “Your girls talked excitedly about lots of animals while in the ambulance and that they had never been to Edinburgh Zoo before. It’s an expensive day out so I thought this would help a wee bit.

“Your family really is a credit to you and Haylie is an amazingly strong wee girl. I wish you the absolute best in terms of getting the treatment she needs.”

Mary-Jane added: “The paramedics were fantastic. It really touched my heart that this person thought of myself and family. I was in absolute tears reading his letter because of [the] kindness.

“He has restored my faith in humanity. Haylie has had it rough the past few months and I would just like them to be recognised.”

What’s in a name when it comes to storm tracking?

Storm Ellen swung by Scotland last weekend - or did she?

The anticipated Storm Ellen failed to materialise last month.

I know, I know, you’re desperate to know where Storm Ellen is/ has been/ has gone – depending on what you think has happened to her.

Some of you may be slightly confused, she swung by last weekend, right? Wrong. You may remember last week I was talking about the potential for a weekend storm which would be unnamed. Well after tweeting about it, lots of people replied saying it was actually called Storm Ellen.

That, however, was a mix-up due to some of the press deciding to name it themselves, without it ever officially being named by the Met teams. This is one of the problems we have with issuing the names in advance – sometimes someone just takes it upon themselves to name an upcoming storm before anything has been done officially.

But does that matter? Well, yes in this case, it did, because the ‘storm’ came to nothing in the end as it didn’t really develop like some computer models were touting. So Met Eirann and the Met Office were right not to name it Ellen and worry people unnecessarily.

Something to confuse you more is we’ve got Storm Jorge (pronounced Horhay) on the way this weekend. But I hear you say, why then has the storm changed sex as it hurtles towards us with a set of castanets? Well that’s more down to timing. Met Eireann was considering this morning naming the storm Ellen, the next name on our joint list with the Irish service, but they were pipped to the post by the Spanish State Meteorological Agency. The Spanish met service is part of the south-west European storm naming group, along with France and Portugal. That means, like our partnership with the Irish, they have their own joint agreed list of yearly names they work through.

It’s convention that once a storm has been named by any country, that the name will then be passed on through other countries the track takes it, even though they might have their own list of storm names. It’s the same as when the National Hurricane Centre in Florida names tropical storms or hurricanes – we refer to them here as ‘ex tropical storm …’ rather than rename them when they cross the Atlantic and head towards us.

Now we’ve cleared that up, what does Jorge have in store for Scotland? Well in actual fact not too much. The storm centre is expected to currently track right over Scotland, which means most of us will have light winds. The strongest winds will be around the edges of the centre for Shetland and Orkney, Kintrye, Islay, and Dumfries and Galloway where gusts could reach up to 70mph along the coast.

The track may change which would give us much stronger winds, so keep an eye out for the latest information in the forecast. There will also be more rain moving north on Saturday, which, of course, because it’s a leap year will just add more to the rainfall totals of what has been a record-breaking wet month for some spots.

So Ellen remains on our list awaiting her moment…

Van driver’s dangerous manoeuvre killed pensioner in storm

Andrew McKinley, 26, from Kilmarnock, caused the death of Jean Shearer, 70, by dangerous driving.

High Court: Andrew McKinley has been jailed for five years.

A van driver who killed a pensioner in a head-on crash after a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre in a storm has been jailed for five years.

Andrew McKinley, 26, from Kilmarnock, was convicted at the High Court in Glasgow of causing the death of Jean Shearer, 70, who was a passenger in her husband Walter’s Smart car in December 31, 2017, by dangerous driving.

Mr Shearer, 80, was also seriously hurt in the collision which took place around 11am on the A737 near Dalry, Ayrshire.

The Shearers were on their way to to visit their daughter, when McKinley’s Peugeot van struck them.

Storm Dylan was raging at the time and there was surface water on the road.

When McKinley pulled out to overtake his van aqua planed. He lost control and ended up on the wrong side of the road.

His van ploughed into the Smart car being driven by Mr Shearer. Mrs Shearer died seven days later in Crosshouse Hospital, Irvine.

Judge Johanna Johnson banned McKinley from driving for seven years on Thursday and told him: “You were aware of those conditions and you engaged in a course of dangerous driving through Dalry and overtook the car and drove at an extensive speed.

“Your actions have devastated a whole family and there is no sentence this court could ever impose that would reduce in any way the grief and loss felt by the Shearer family.”

“Jean was a lovely person and beautiful lady. She would help other people.”

Walter Shearer, Jean’s husband

Outside court Jean’s husband Walter blasted the jail term as “totally inadequate”.

An emotional Mr Shearer paid tribute to his wife, saying: “I’m first and foremost disappointed at the sentence – it was inadequate and doesn’t compare to the damage and death that he caused through dangerous driving.

“Jean was a lovely person and beautiful lady. She would help other people.

“Five years in my opinion is totally inadequate and it should be longer and I like to think we could appeal it.

“It is only the Crown that can appeal it and not the victims which doesn’t make it a level playing field – it’s unfair.”

The court heard that the cause of Mrs Shearer’s death was broncho-pneumonia and chest injuries due to road traffic collision.

Her husband suffered fractured ribs, and a broken leg. He did not give evidence as he has no memory of the crash.

McKinley sobbed and said “I’m sorry” to the Shearer family who were in the public gallery as he was led to custody.

He was previously convicted in December 2013 of careless driving and in February 2014 for dangerous driving and banned for two years.

Coronavirus: Scottish schools issued with NHS guidelines

NHS Scotland has issued guidelines to schools across the country over the COVID-19 outbreak.

Coronavirus: Guidelines issued to schools.

Schools have been told there is “no need to close” if any pupils or staff are showing symptoms of coronavirus.

Preparations are being stepped up across Scotland as more and more positive cases are declared in mainland Europe and the rest of the UK.

Steps which should be taken in schools to avoid the virus spreading have now been released by NHS Scotland.

The advice details how teachers and staff can best deal with the issue and what measures to take to avoid it spreading among pupils and relatives at home.

Schools have been advised to contact their local health protection team for advice if anyone is showing symptoms before issuing any wider communications while also bearing in mind the confidentiality of the person who is unwell.

There is no further action school staff should take until the test results are known, and then the individual will be given advice on if and when they should return.

However if any child, pupil, student or staff member within the institution is diagnosed with COVID-19 then further action will be taken to identify anyone who had been in close contact .

Anyone thought to have been in contact with someone showing symptoms who has since been diagnosed will be asked to self-isolate at home.

Who is considered a ‘contact’?

  • Any child, pupil, student or staff member in close face-to-face or touching contact with the patient;
  • Those working alongside them within two metres for 15 minutes or longer;
  • Anyone who has talked to them or has been coughed;
  • Anyone who has cleaned up any bodily fluids of the individual;
  • Close friendship groups and any child, pupil, student or staff member living in the same household as a confirmed case.

Any pupil, student or staff member who has visited any of the worst affected or category 1 risk areas since February 19, but who are not showing symptoms, should isolate themselves for around 14 days.

Further information and advice issued to schools by NHS Scotland over the coronavirus scare can be found here.

Gove attacks SNP MPs with ‘they don’t like it up ’em’ jibe

Responding to MP Steven Bonnar, the Cabinet Office boss accused the SNP of wanting to 'smash up' the UK.

Michael Gove echoed Dad’s Army as he told the SNP “they don’t like it up ’em”, accusing their MPs of being intent on “smashing up the United Kingdom”.

In a fiery Commons exchange, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster used the catchphrase of the character Lance Corporal Jones, played by the late Clive Dunn, adding that some SNP MPs were “decent and kind people” but still “nationalists”.

Following a statement on the UK’s negotiating mandate with the EU, SNP MP Steven Bonnar called for a second Scottish independence referendum.

The Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill MP added: “Does he truly believe withholding the sovereign right of the Scottish people is a sustainable position going forward?”

In his response, Gove mislabelled the Scottish National Party as the “Scottish nationalist party” at which point SNP MPs interrupted, shouting “national, national”.

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