Hampden allowed to have 12,000 fans at Euro games

The Scottish FA has sent details to UEFA ahead of this summer's tournament.

Scotland's men will be playing in a major finals for the first time since 1998. SNS Group
Scotland's men will be playing in a major finals for the first time since 1998.

The Scottish FA has submitted plans to UEFA detailing how they could accommodate 12,000 fans at four European Championship games this summer.

Glasgow is one of 12 host cities for the tournament but with the pandemic affecting countries across the continent, UEFA has asked for an outline of possible capacity for matches in June, before making a final decision on whether to change the venues for some games.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has insisted that no games will be played behind closed doors at the tournament, which was postponed last summer with most of Europe in lockdown.

Though Scotland is still under restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid, the Scottish FA has worked with the Scottish Government to put together a proposal that will allow as many fans as possible into the national stadium.

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That means Hampden would be at 25% capacity for the group games and knockout matches.

A statement from the Scottish FA and Glasgow Life read: “The Scottish FA and Glasgow Life (on behalf of Glasgow City Council) have been working on a range of planning scenarios for hosting the four UEFA Euro 2020 matches in Glasgow in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, both in terms of allowing spectators in the stadium and the creation of a Fan Zone in the city for the duration of the tournament.

“Following extensive consultation with the Scottish Government and public health advisers, the Local Organising Structure can confirm that it has submitted details of its preferred option for admitting spectators to the stadium to meet today’s UEFA deadline.

“We are delighted that the Scottish Government has given approval to allow spectators up to 25% of the stadium capacity (approximately 12,000 – based on the UEFA Euro 2020 venue overlay and seating configuration) for each of the four games to be staged at Hampden Park.

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“Naturally, this will be subject to continued progress with reducing the prevalence of the virus and the roll-out of the vaccination programme.

“A decision on the Fan Zone in the city will be made at the end of April.

“UEFA will be in contact with all ticket holders on Friday advising them on the latest tournament arrangements including ticketing and travel information.”

First minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I’m delighted we have been able to confirm that, thanks to Scotland’s progress in suppressing COVID-19, 12,000 spectators will be able to attend Hampden for the four EURO 2020 games this summer.

“This is a significant moment which celebrates just how far Scotland has come in tackling the COVID pandemic. Allowing fans to come together to watch Scotland play at our national stadium is a huge milestone, thanks to the dedication of fans sticking to the public health guidance.

“The restrictions set out over the last year have been really difficult for everyone – but I am looking forward to joining the Tartan Army in cheering on Scotland in June at Hampden Park.

“The country has delivered for the fans – now it’s all eyes on the team to deliver the results!”

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Scotland will play two group games in Glasgow after qualifying for their first major tournament in 23 years. Steve Clarke’s team will play Czech Republic on June 14 and host Croatia eight days later.


Party leaders to go head-to-head in STV’s live election debate

The debate, which starts at 7.30pm on Tuesday, will be shown on STV and will be available on the STV Player.

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Debate: The live show will start at 7.30pm on Tuesday night.

Scotland’s leading political party leaders will go head-to-head in a televised debate live on STV on Tuesday night.

Patrick Harvie (co-leader of the Scottish Green Party), Willie Rennie (Scottish Liberal Democrats), Douglas Ross (Scottish Conservatives), Anas Sarwar (Scottish Labour) and Nicola Sturgeon (Scottish National Party) will be pressed on the big issues between 7.30pm and 9pm.

Hosted by STV political editor Colin Mackay, the debate will begin with opening statements from each party leader, followed by initial discussion, cross-examination between the leaders and closing statements.

The show – which will also air on the STV Player – will then be followed by reaction and analysis on Scotland Tonight at 10.40pm.

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Voters in Scotland will go to the polls to decide the make-up of the next Scottish Parliament on Thursday, May 6.

There will be no overnight count at this election due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a result instead expected over the weekend May 7-9.

How is STV covering the election?

Scotland Tonight specials

Colin Mackay has been carrying out one-to-one leaders’ interviews, which are also available for catch-up on the STV Player. 

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STV News election special

This show will air between 4-7pm and 8pm-8.30pm on Friday, May 7, bringing viewers the first results as they come in. 

The programme will be presented by John MacKay outside Holyrood, with STV special correspondent Bernard Ponsonby and Rona Dougall analysing the numbers at STV’s results studio in Glasgow – bringing viewers the story as it unfolds and key declarations as they happen live on air. 

STV reporters will be at voting counts across the country, feeding in live to the programme.

An additional special will air on Saturday, May 8 from 4.30-6.30pm, covering the results being declared as the new parliament begins to take shape. 

STV News at Six

Coverage continues on STV’s nightly news programme, with Kathryn Samson travelling to communities across the country in her Covid-secure ‘bubble’, inviting viewers to share views on all the political developments of the day.

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Online

The STV News website will offer comprehensive, up-to-the-minute coverage including leader interviews, expert insights from STV’s political team, rolling results coverage as the counts declare and detailed analysis once the outcome is known. 

Reporting will be available on the STV News website, apps and social media platforms.


Council workers urged to back strike action in row over pay

The trade union Unison has already recommended its members vote against the current pay offer.

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Union bosses insisted the offer “does not address the issue of endemic low pay” for some council staff.

Union leaders have started to ballot council workers to see if they would be prepared to take industrial action over a pay offer they branded “simply not good enough”.

The trade union Unison has already recommended its members vote against the current pay offer, and in favour of action up to and including possible strikes.

It comes after a pay deal offered all council workers earning less than £25,000 an £800 rise, while those earning £25,000 to £40,000 would get a 2% increase, with those making more than this awarded 1%.

However, bosses at Unison insisted the offer “does not address the issue of endemic low pay” for some council staff.

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The pay offer to council workers is below the 4% offered to many NHS staff by the Scottish Government.

And speaking as a consultative ballot began, Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland’s head of local government, said more than half of all council workers earn less than £25,000 a year – with more than 100,000 on a salary that is “significantly below the average wage of £32,000 per year”.

Ms Baxter stated: “The current offer does not address the issue of endemic low pay for these workers.

“Without these workers going above and beyond to keep services running over the past year, their colleagues in the NHS would have been left without childcare, our mortuaries would have been overwhelmed, our children would have been left without an education and our elderly would have been left without care.

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“Yet, to date, they have received no reward or recognition of their efforts at all. It’s simply not good enough.”

Mark Ferguson, chair of Unison Scotland’s local government committee, said: “Local government and its workforce are no longer the poor relation of the public services – we have become the distant relative which is never discussed and has long been forgotten.

“The current offer was simply lifted from the Scottish Government’s announced public sector pay policy – a pay policy that the Scottish Government has itself breached in offering higher pay rises to other public sector workers. Our members deserve better.”

A spokesman for the local government body, Cosla, said: “We have made an offer to our trade union colleagues. This offer remains on the table whilst we continue with on-going constructive negotiations.”


‘Give free gym memberships to deprived young people’

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh say young people from deprived areas have been hit hard by the pandemic.

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Gym: The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh say young people from deprived areas have been hit hard by Covid.

A body representing doctors has urged parties to consider offering free gym memberships to young people in the most deprived areas to improve health and wellbeing.

In its manifesto ahead of May’s Holyrood elections, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh called for political parties to consider the policy, which it says could cost £26.4m per year.

However, the cost could be reduced if agreements are struck with local councils to reduce membership fees.

The college says people between the age of 16 and 24 in the most deprived areas of Scotland have been hit hard by the pandemic and may struggle to pay for a membership, which could impact on their health.

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Acting president, professor Angela Thomas, said: “As we begin to think about the post-Covid recovery of health services, we must consider new ways to improve the health of the nation.

“One of the ways to improve health is through exercise, with an awareness of the economic barriers that people often experience.

“We know that exercise can improve not only physical health, but mental health too.”

She added: “While it is of course vital that we encourage appropriate forms of exercise among all age groups, we note that the 16-24 year old demographic is least likely to be able to afford a gym membership – particularly those living in the poorest communities and who are unemployed or on low pay.

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“Our analysis estimates that providing 16-24-year-olds in the poorest communities with a free gym membership could cost up to £26.4m – and that’s assuming that everyone takes up the offer.

“The reality is that the cost could be less, particularly if the next Scottish Government resolved to working with local authorities to provide free gym access.

“We believe that for political parties to include this in their manifestos, ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May, would present a new way of establishing a healthier lifestyle for young people.”


Whisky distillery to expand after securing £10m loan

Bladnoch Distillery aims to target 'growth markets' in Australia, Israel, China, the US and parts of Europe.

Bladnoch Distillery via HSBC UK
Bladnoch Distillery: Master distiller, Dr Nick Savage.

A Scottish whisky distillery is planning to expand its growth into international markets after securing a £10m bank loan.

Bladnoch Distillery, near Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway, aims to target “growth markets” in Australia, Israel, China, the US and parts of Europe.

The loan from HSBC UK will also be used to improve the company’s energy efficiency and carbon footprint through technology upgrades as well as maintenance and improvement works on its grounds and warehouses.

In the past year, Bladnoch has expanded its team with seven new posts. Further additions are expected throughout 2021.

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Bladnoch’s master distiller, Dr Nick Savage, said: “While trading conditions have been challenging in the face of Brexit and Covid-19, we’ve managed to grow through this period and the business is now in a place where it can explore new opportunities to increase our international sales and reputation.

“HSBC UK understands the real value of whisky stocks and products, not just the financial value. It means they are well placed to understand our vision and plans for future growth.”

Allan Jackson, corporate banking director in Scotland at HSBC UK, added: “It is no secret that the whisky sector is hugely important to the Scottish economy, with worldwide appeal for its products.

“We’re delighted to support Bladnoch as it continues to improve and grow its business operations, tapping into new markets where demand is increasing.”


SNP to promise more help with cost of school day for poorer Scots

John Swinney will outline further policies aimed at helping youngsters from disadvantaged families.

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SNP: John Swinney will outline further policies aimed at helping youngsters from disadvantaged families.

The SNP is pledging to scrap charges for practical lessons in schools, and help for poorer children with the cost of class trips.

Education secretary John Swinney will also promise if the SNP is re-elected to power next month it will increase the grant disadvantaged families get to help with the cost of buying uniforms.

Swinney will say the SNP is “absolutely committed to tearing down the barriers to education that still exist, and ensuring all children can get the best start in life”.

At the moment charges can be imposed in subjects such as art and design, music, home economics, hospitality and technology, with pupils either being expected to pay a fee for materials or to provide their own.

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As well as abolishing these, a future SNP government would exempt youngsters from less well-off families from the costs of school trips, while grants for uniforms would be increased from the current £100 minimum to £120 for primary school and £150 for secondary school.

The payments will be linked to inflation, and reviewed, to ensure they meet the costs faced by families.

The policy commitments come ahead of the party unveiling its manifesto for the May 6 Scottish Parliament election.

The SNP has already pledged to help youngsters with free school breakfasts and lunches in primary school, and by providing every pupil with a laptop or tablet to help with their learning.

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Swinney will say the party wants to make “Scotland the best place in the world to grow up for every child”.

He will say: “That’s why the SNP has invested enormously in early years, from the Baby Box to the transformational increase in childcare provision seen in recent years.

“It’s why we’re extending free school meals to ensure that no child is forced to try and learn while hungry.

“And it’s why we are going to give every pupil the device they need – so they can learn in the modern world.

“We know that some families are sacrificing essentials like heating, food and rent payments so that their children can participate fully at school. This is simply unacceptable.

“If re-elected, charges for practical subjects in school will be abolished, poorer families will be exempt from the cost of school trips and the value of uniform grants will be increased.

“The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but particularly so for the younger generations – and by reducing the cost of the school day, we will make a real difference in the lives of children from low-income families.”

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The SNP also said they will invest £5m in the foreign aid budget to help developing countries recover from Covid-19.

The current budget of £10m is used to help people in Malawi, Pakistan, Zambia and Rwanda.

The funding, which the party said would increase with inflation, would be used to aid the vaccine rollout in the countries, as well as for the recovery from the pandemic.

International development minister, Jenny Gilruth, said: “Scotland stands ready to play its full part in global efforts to vaccinate the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

“It is clear that Covid-19 will remain a threat for some time to come, and we must therefore step up our international contribution.

“If re-elected, the SNP government will increase the International Development Fund by 50%, from £10m to £15m, and commit to further increases in line with inflation.

“This will help with Covid preparedness, the vaccine rollout, and aid recovery from the pandemic in our partner countries.”

Gilruth, who is standing in the Mid Fife and Glenrothes constituency in this election, attacked the UK Government’s cuts to foreign aid, saying: “Boris Johnson must step up to the plate by reversing the shameful Tory cuts to the UK’s international aid budget and committing additional funds to a worldwide vaccination programme.

“Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is also the only sensible course of action to benefit people all over the world.

“If we fail to act, many thousands will die from this disease unnecessarily as it spreads and mutates out of control – impacting us all.

“By casting both votes SNP on May 6, Scotland can re-elect Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister to provide the serious leadership needed to tackle Covid in Scotland, and play our full part around the world, so we can build the strong, fair and green recovery we all want to see.”


Salmond: SNP showing lack of urgency over independence

Nicola Sturgeon previously said she wanted to see a referendum in the first half of the next parliamentary term.

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Alba Party: Leader Alex Salmond.

Alex Salmond has said the SNP are showing a “lack of urgency” over Scottish independence.

The Alba Party leader said they were going to tackle the “constitutional debate” following the suspension of the election campaign in the wake of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Salmond has made one of his first overt broadsides against his former party and more specifically his former deputy.

Nicola Sturgeon has previously said she hopes another referendum on independence would take place in the first half of the parliamentary term – which would be by the end of November 2023 – however she told journalists last week that would not be the case if the country was still in the grip of a pandemic.

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In a statement released on Monday, Salmond said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s comments last week about an independence referendum in 2023 or later have caused total consternation in the national movement.

“It seems to be that Scotland will not be free until after 2023, more seriously it seems to indicate a lack of urgency on bringing the independence question to a decision.”

The Alba Party, as with the SNP, consider Scottish independence as something that would aid the country in its recovery from the coronavirus, but Salmond has said it is a “priority” for his party.

“The reality is that Scottish independence is not an alternative to economic recovery from Covid, it is an essential part of building a new, different and better society,” he said.

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“For Alba, independence is the priority, which is why we are putting it front and centre in the election campaign.

“In the power balance that will emerge post-election between Scotland and Westminster it is fundamentally true that Boris Johnson will find it substantially more difficult taking on a parliament with an independence supermajority representing a country than he will in framing the debate as party against party, Prime Minister against First Minister.”

A spokeswoman for the SNP said Salmond’s comments were “simply not a credible contribution to the independence debate”.

She added: “Only an SNP government can deliver an independence referendum, to give people a choice on the country’s future once the Covid crisis has passed – and as the First Minister has made clear, there is no shortcut to winning independence which doesn’t involve a clear majority voting for it in a democratic, accepted, legitimate process.

“The only safe way to ensure that Nicola Sturgeon is re-elected to lead an SNP government which can deliver independence is to give both votes to the SNP.

“Anything else is a gamble which risks putting Scotland’s future in Boris Johnson’s hands.”

Sturgeon told the Guardian on Monday she believes that Johnson would relent in his opposition to another referendum if the SNP win a majority on May 6.

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She said: “If people in Scotland vote for a party saying, ‘when the time is right, there should be an independence referendum’, you cannot stand in the way of that – and I don’t think that is what will happen.”

Responding to Sturgeon’s comments, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The first thing to say is that ministers and officials across all UK Government departments are focused on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I think that’s what the public wants to see, Scottish people have been clear they want to see the UK Government and devolved administrations working together to defeat this pandemic.

“So, calling for a referendum in this way in the middle of the pandemic is not right.”


Former chef school and restaurant to be transformed into hotel

Glasgow planners have ruled a five-storey B-listed building in Merchant City can be developed into a 31-bed hotel.

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Glasgow: The building will be transformed into a hotel.

Plans to turn a former Merchant City chef school and restaurant into a hotel have been approved.

Glasgow planners have ruled a five-storey B-listed building on Glassford Street can be transformed.

A 31-bed hotel, with a bar on the ground floor, can be opened on the site.

It had been home to Asian bistro Mamafubu as well as a licensed delicatessen/coffee bar, chef training school and offices.

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The application, submitted by Merchant Properties Ltd, said the development would “bring a currently vacant building back into use”.

A planning statement added: “The applicant is looking to deliver a bespoke hotel in this location, by creating a quiet and peaceful environment where guest can relax and sleep.

“The bar will be open to both customers and members of the public, with the kitchen providing food to the bar as well as room service.”

There will be no alterations to the front of the listed building.

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A heritage report stated: “The significance of Grade B-listed 61-65 Glassford Street is principally embodied in its historic fabric and overall form as a building constructed in the form of a Glasgow-style warehouse, which occupies a prominent location in Glasgow’s Merchant City.”

The proposals will “result in alteration to building fabric but mainly the removal of modern features”, the statement adds.

A previous application for a hotel on the site was approved in 2008.

By local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands


Lib Dems pledge new law to help tackle ‘nature emergency’

The party insists a new Nature Recovery Law is needed, to force governments to act.

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Scottish Lib Dems: The party insists a new Nature Recovery Law is needed, to force governments to act.

Liberal Democrats want a new law to tackle Scotland’s “nature emergency” which would see an additional 36 million trees planted every year.

The party insists a new Nature Recovery Law is needed, to force governments to act.

The Lib Dem manifesto for next month’s Holyrood elections will include plans for such a law, setting legally binding targets for cleaning up the air, soil, seas and rivers.

The proposed legislation, which would be the first of its kind in Scotland, would also see more money invested though plans such as planting an additional 36 million trees a year across the country.

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A target for 30% of all publicly owned land should be used for rewilding would be set – with this including land owned by Forestry and Land Scotland, the Crown Estate Scotland, and Scottish Water.

In addition, the Liberal Democrats also want new national parks to be created in Scotland, saying this could provide an important boost for employment in more rural areas.

Speaking about the proposals, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “The SNP are consumed with creating more divisions by pursuing independence when instead they should be focusing on the recovery and protecting Scotland’s natural environment.”

In contrast he promised: “Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first. If elected as government, we would declare a nature emergency on day one.”

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He said this action was needed “because almost half of species in Scotland are in decline”.

Rennie added: “Experts say around one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction.

“I want future generations of Scots to enjoy our woodlands, our national parks and our beautiful landscapes. Taking action now to stop the nature crisis is our duty.

“As a sign of our ambition we are proposing plans that would see seven native trees planted for every person in Scotland, every year.”


Greens pledge to improve conditions for hospitality workers

The party also said it will scrap homework for primary school pupils.

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Scottish Greens: The party has pledged to improve conditions for staff in the hospitality industry.

The Scottish Greens have said they will work to improve conditions for staff in the hospitality industry.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie said insecure work and low wages was “endemic” in the industry before the pandemic, adding that a green recovery from Covid-19 must also come with a “new deal” for workers.

The industry has spent most of the past year shuttered due to the pandemic, with April 26 earmarked as a possible reopening date for some parts of hospitality.

Ahead of unveiling the party’s policies on hospitality, Harvie said: “The hospitality sector has had a grim year, and supporting small independent hospitality businesses should be seen as a strategic priority for economic recovery.

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“But we can’t return to how things were. Even before Covid, hospitality had an endemic problem of low pay and insecure conditions. A green recovery must come with a new deal for workers.

“Responsible employers should welcome the work of Unite Hospitality, who during the last year have helped organise the workforce in the face of challenging times.

“As we make our town centres safe and attractive places to be, with less traffic and pollution, as well as quality green spaces and public transport, we will need places to get together and socialise, to see the people we have missed over this last year.

“The Scottish Greens will work to ensure the people working in those places are valued.”

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The party have also pledged to scrap homework for primary school pupils.

The proposal is the latest in a line of Green policies designed to focus on the social development of children following the coronavirus pandemic, including a kindergarten-style model.

Education spokesman Ross Greer said homework can be “deeply unhelpful”.

He said: “After a year full of remote working from home, the last thing children and families need once schools reopen is to bring even more work home. We know from research that this creates a negative association with school and learning from a young age.

“Moving on from a year of restrictions on meeting friends and playing together, we need to ensure that children are free to go outdoors and socialise, rather than stuck inside completing homework which isn’t actually helping them.

“This is no criticism of overworked teachers, who are regularly pressured to issue homework which only creates an additional workload burden for them.

“Ending homework in primary schools benefits everyone, pupil, family and teacher.”

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The party has also pledged to increase the number of teachers in Scotland by 5500.


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