Sturgeon: Photos from Celtic Dubai trip ‘raise questions’

The First Minister believes the club's training camp in UAE should be "looked into".

Craig Williamson via SNS Group

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon believes Celtic have questions to answer over their trip to Dubai this week while Scotland deals with heightened restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Players and staff flew out to the Middle East following their 1-0 defeat to Rangers on January 2 and are to spend a week training in the United Arab Emirates.

Pictures from the trip, that appear to show players and staff drinking at a hotel, have drawn criticism, with deputy first minister John Swinney saying the trip was “not a good idea” and calling on the Scottish Football Association to “look into” the trip.

Elite sportspeople are permitted to travel abroad for training and Dubai is currently on the exemption list and does not require travellers to quarantine on return to Scotland.

ADVERT

Asked about the trip at her daily briefing, Sturgeon said that from what she has seen and read there appeared to be an issue that needs addressed.

She said: “For me, the question for Celtic, and I’ll try to be diplomatic here, is not so much are they overseas at a training camp, it may be given the changed circumstances that in future that won’t be appropriate, but the question is what is the purpose of them being there?

“I’ve seen a comment from the club that said it’s more R&R than it is for training.

“I’ve also seen some photographs, and I can only comment on what I’ve seen and I don’t know the full circumstances, but they would raise a question in my mind about whether all the rules of what elite players have to do within their bubbles and around social distancing are being complied with.

ADVERT

“So I think there are things there that should be looked into.”

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was quoted by the Glasgow Times on January 2 as saying: “We lost this time last year, we went on a brilliant run. Wee bit of warm weather, get some R&R, refresh and we go again.”

Following Sweeney’s comments on Monday, Celtic released a statement saying that they had approval from the relevant authorities before travelling.

It read: “The training camp was arranged a number of months ago and approved by all relevant footballing authorities and the Scottish Government through the Joint Response Group on November 12, 2020.

“The team travelled prior to any new lockdown being in place, to a location exempt from travel restrictions. The camp, the same one as we have undertaken for a number of years, has been fully risk assessed.

“If the club had not received Scottish Government approval then we would not have travelled.”

Speaking at Tuesday’s briefing, Sturgeon said that the government had only clarified the existing rules to the Scottish FA.

ADVERT

She said: “As I understand it, the Scottish Government gave advice to the SFA about the rules around elite training camps back around November last year.

“The world around the pandemic has changed quite a bit since November.

“It’s not our role to sign off, agree or not agree what a football club does in terms of training camps. So we set out what the rules are, what the rules have been. They may have changed given the changing nature of the pandemic.

“Elite sports can go overseas for training camps if that’s important in the context of their training for competitions. So that’s, as I understand it, what we set out as the rules.”


Coronavirus: More than 500 deaths recorded since last week

At least 97 of the deaths have occurred in care homes, according to statistics by National Records of Scotland.

Chris Hepburn via Getty Images

More than 500 deaths linked to coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland since last week.

During First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed a further 92 people have died after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

That takes the number of confirmed and suspected coronavirus deaths registered since January 11 to 531.

At least 97 of the deaths have occurred in care homes, according to statistics by National Records of Scotland (NRS).

ADVERT

The death toll of those who had tested positive stands at 5468, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by NRS suggest the most up-to-date total is at least 7448.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 166,583 – a jump of 1656 in the past 24 hours.

The daily test positivity rate is 7.5%, down from the 11.1% reported on Tuesday when 1165 cases were recorded.

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 2003 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – an increase of 14 overnight. Out of those, 150 patients are in intensive care.

ADVERT

On Wednesday, NRS revealed there were 368 deaths linked to Covid registered between January 11 and 17, down 23 from the previous week.

Of these, the majority were in hospital at 240, with 97 in care homes, 27 at home or in a non-institutional setting, and four in other institutions.

A total of 44 took place in Glasgow, 39 in Edinburgh and 34 in Fife.

NRS also revealed there were 6324 more deaths in Scotland in 2020 than the average over the previous five years.

The statistics body found the provisional total number of deaths registered over the year was 64,084.

This compares to an average of 57,760 over the previous five years, resulting in 6324 excess deaths.

Of the 6834 deaths involving Covid-19 between March and December 2020, 93% had at least one pre-existing condition.

ADVERT

The most common main pre-existing condition was dementia and Alzheimer’s, accounting for 28% of coronavirus deaths.

During her statement to the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon revealed that 309,909 people have now received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.


Heavy snow, blizzards and flooding to hit Scotland

Amber weather warning issued for the south and south-east of Scotland.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Parts of Scotland could see up to 30cm of snow fall overnight, with flooding likely in other areas.

An amber weather warning has been issued in the south and south-east of Scotland from 6pm on Wednesday until 8am on Thursday, covering areas such as South Lanarkshire, Lanark, Jedburgh, Melrose, Lauder, Peebles and Penicuik in Midlothian.

Hills around the Borders areas of Lauder, Galashiels, Peebles, Innerleithen, Melrose, Dewar, Hawick and Jedburgh could see 30cm of snow by the morning.

Blizzard-like conditions are likely to develop on Thursday in Moray and the east Highlands and could affect roads on higher ground, with snow on Wednesday night in Inverness and the north Highlands.

ADVERT

Snow will also fall across most of central Scotland, western Fife and Stirlingshire.

STV meteorologist Sean Batty said: “Today has been one of the busiest forecasting days for a long time here in Scotland, with so many things going on in the next 24 hours.

“We’ve got four main things going on – heavy snow and rain in the south east, heavy snow in the east Highlands and inland Moray, heavy rain and flooding on the north-east coast and strong winds developing in the north too.”

Heavy rain could cause flooding in Moray, north Aberdeenshire, Caithness and Orkney, with 40-50mm possible.

ADVERT

Winds will also be an issue for the north and north-east as Storm Christoph heads into the North Sea on Thursday.

The north of Lewis, north Highland coast, Orkney, Shetland and coastal Moray and Aberdeenshire could see gusts of up to 50mph.

Sean said: “This added to the heavy rain in these areas will make for an extremely miserable day here, and potentially dangerous conditions on high level routes from blowing snow.”

The weather is likely to calm down on Friday and into the weekend, although wintry showers are expected in the far north and west.

Sean said: “Longer term, while temperatures will be up and down from day to day, it generally looks like the remainder of January and through the start of February will be colder than normal.

“That means that snow is still likely to be an issue from time to time in the coming weeks.”


Over-80s vaccine target date ‘refined’ as rollout picks up pace

Nicola Sturgeon was pressed on the issue during First Minister's Questions at Holyrood on Wednesday.

PA Media via PA Ready

Scotland’s coronavirus vaccination programme is “picking up pace”, Nicola Sturgeon insisted as she told MSPs the target timetable for delivering injections to the over-80s has been “refined”.

She was pressed on the issue by Scottish Tory Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson, who claimed hundreds of thousands of doses of the vaccine have “gone unused for weeks”.

The Conservative challenged the First Minister to explain why rollout of the vaccine is “lagging behind in Scotland”.

The exchanges, during First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, came after John Swinney said the Scottish Government has not yet received all supplies of the vaccine allocated to Scotland.

ADVERT

A total of 309,909 Scots have so far received their first dose of the vaccine, according to the latest figures.

Davidson said on Tuesday that while Scotland had already received 717,000 doses, “more than 400,000 have yet to reach patients”.

But Swinney, the deputy first minister, insisted: “We do not have that volume of vaccine in our hands, we cannot distribute that because it has not arrived with us yet.”

Meanwhile, Sturgeon stressed there is a difference between the supplies that have been allocated to Scotland and “what we have in hand”.

ADVERT

She said: “The majority of doses that are in Scotland are actually already in people’s arms.

“The rest of them will be supplying GPs and other vaccination centres over the next few days to make sure that they get into people’s arms. That is how a supply chain of anything works.”

Sturgeon insisted the vaccination programme “is not lagging behind in Scotland”.

She said the Scottish Government had “very deliberately” focused first on elderly residents in care homes, in a bid to reduce deaths – with more than 90% of this group now having received their first dose of the vaccine.

The First Minister added: “The reason why the overall numbers therefore are lower at this stage, because of that focus on care homes, is because it takes longer and is more labour intensive to vaccinate in care homes than it is in the community.”

But she said vaccinations amongst those aged over 80 are “picking up”, and the target of giving all those in this age group their first dose should be met by the first week in February.

Davidson said health secretary Jeane Freeman had previously committed to giving everyone in this group their first injection by the end of January, and asked Sturgeon: “Why are we already falling behind?”

ADVERT

Sturgeon initially said there had not been any change in the target, though she said later that it had been refined.

The SNP leader told MSPs: “On this point about end of January versus the beginning of February, we refine these target dates as we go along, based on our developing understanding of supply.”

Davison commented: “There we have it, it’s not a slip, it is a refinement.”

But she insisted it is “important that the First Minister acknowledges problems” in the vaccination programme and “starts to fix them”.

The Tory claimed: “There are hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses that have gone unused for weeks while GPs are desperate to get their hands on it.

“Problems here have been building for some time and the Scottish Government continues to stand by and furiously repeat that everything is fine but GPs and the BMA (British Medical Association) are sounding the red flag and raising the alarm, not to be awkward but because they and us and everyone wants this vaccination programme to work and time is of the essence.”

Sturgeon later told interim Scottish Labour leader Jackie Baillie about 1% of doses of the vaccine have been wasted so far – while plans allow for a wastage rate of 5%.

Baillie said a wastage rate at the weekend of 1.8% meant that in real terms, “something like 5000 doses” had been lost “when people desperately need this vaccine”.


CCTV appeal after number of attacks on women at park

The assaults happened in The Meadows area of Edinburgh between 10.30pm and 11.30pm on Monday, January 11.

Police Scotland

Police have released CCTV footage of a man they want to track down following a number of attacks on women at an Edinburgh park.

The assaults happened close to Melville Drive in The Meadows area of the city between 10.30pm and 11.30pm on Monday, January 11.

Police said several women were approached separately by a man before being attacked.

Investigating officers believe the man captured on CCTV will be able to assist with their enquiries.

ADVERT

He has been described as Asian, slim, aged between 20 and 30, and around 5ft 7-9in.

The man was also wearing a dark slim-fit puffer-style jacket.

Detective inspector George Calder said: “A number of women were approached by a man who assaulted them and we believe the man shown in these images can help with our enquiries.

“Officers are also keen to speak to anyone who may have seen the man walking towards the city centre or near Argyle Place or who may have dashcam footage, particularly from driving along Melville Drive at that time of night.

ADVERT

“Anyone who has not spoken to officers already and may be able to help identify the man, or the man himself, can contact Police Scotland on 101.”


Police hunt driver after man badly injured in hit and run

The 55-year-old was left seriously injured after being struck by a car.

Malcolm Fife via Getty Images
Injuries: Described as serious but not life threatening.

A man has been left seriously injured after being struck by a car in a hit and run.

The 55-year-old was hit by a silver VW on the A701 near Gowkley Moss roundabout in Midlothian at around 2.45pm on Tuesday.

Emergency services attended and he was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for treatment to his injuries, described as serious but not life threatening.

The car left the scene following the incident and police are now looking to trace the driver as they appeal for information.

ADVERT

Constable Kevin Liddell of Dalkeith Road Policing said: “We are appealing for the assistance of the public to trace the vehicle involved.

“I would ask if you were in the area at the time of the incident and may have witnessed the collision that you get in contact with officers.

“I would also appeal to anyone who has any dashcam or mobile phone footage that could assist with our investigation.

“Police can be contacted by calling 101.”


Murder accused ‘posed as postman to kill pensioner’

Martin Stewart is alleged to have killed Margaret Grant following an incident in Edinburgh's Restalrig Circus last year.

Police Scotland / STV News
Edinburgh: Margaret Grant died last year following an incident at her home.

A man has been accused of posing as a postman to get into a 79-year-old woman’s home before murdering her.

Martin Stewart is alleged to have killed Margaret Grant following an incident at the flat in Edinburgh’s Restalrig Circus last January 24.

The 40-year-old faced the accusation during a hearing at the High Court in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Prosecutors allege Stewart “did pretend” to Ms Grant that he was a postman and had a parcel to deliver.

ADVERT

He is then said to have got inside the flat before attacking the pensioner.

This includes claims Stewart demanded cash, pulled a panic alarm from Ms Grant’s neck, threatened and pushed the pensioner, as well as ransacking her home.

He also allegedly stole money, jewellery and the panic alarm.

Ms Grant is said to have later died at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

ADVERT

Stewart faces 13 other charges including claims he had robbed Ms Grant previously.

The indictment states that he turned up the flat “under the pretence of a lawful purpose” on various occasions between October 5, 2016 and December 31, 2017.

Stewart allegedly entered taking cash and a purse.

Among other charges it is alleged he targeted other Edinburgh pensioners either stealing from them or planning to commit theft.

His lawyer, Shelagh McCall QC, pleaded not guilty on behalf of Stewart, who appeared via video link.

No trial was set with judge Lady Stacey instead fixing a further hearing for April.


Vlogger ‘had no evidence’ for Govanhill child abuse claims

Claims about the Glasgow neighbourhood were widely shared online last month.

SNS Group via SNS Group
Police: Chief inspector Janie Thomson-Goldie said no one had come forward with information.

Social media allegations about child sexual exploitation in Govanhill have “no substance”, a local police chief has said.

Claims about the southside neighbourhood were widely shared last month, but chief inspector Janie Thomson-Goldie, area commander for Greater Glasgow South East, revealed “nobody has come forward” with information.

She told the council’s Southside Central area partnership that officers from various Police Scotland departments have been working in Govanhill to “ascertain if there was any truth” to the live streams.

The man behind the viral videos has been questioned regarding a different matter, the chief inspector said.

ADVERT

“There has been nothing at all,” she added. “No one has come forward and people have to come forward to ourselves.

“There’s no point standing chatting about it, if you see something please come forward, report it to ourselves or any of our partners.”

A minimum of four officers per shift have been patrolling the area.

“We have spoken with the gentleman,” CI Thomson-Goldie said. 

ADVERT

“He came forward with no information other than what he alleged on the live streaming.

“Any information he gave, we would have gone to the individuals’ homes to question them with regards to that. There was nothing at all, there was no substance.

“We have got what we call intel officers within the area, just linking in with various groups.

“We do have a lot of people out there who make a living off Facebook, Twitter and all these different things.

“There’s been nothing at all to substantiate all the allegations that he made across that course of nine or ten different video clips.”

Councillor Mhairi Hunter, who had asked for an update on the allegations, said: “I think that’s what we all suspected but obviously you’ve got to always take these things very, very seriously.”

The chief inspector said she would get back to the partnership if the situation changed.

ADVERT

By local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands


Missing man’s body recovered from canal during major search

More than 500 people were questioned after James Coyle went missing in November.

Police Scotland / © Google Maps 2020
James Coyle had been missing since November when his body was recovered from a canal in Clydebank.

Police have recovered the body of a man missing since last year from a canal in Clydebank.

James Coyle was last seen around 7pm on Sunday, November 29.

A major police operation was launched to find him with officers speaking to more than 500 people in their efforts.

Police Scotland confirmed on Wednesday that James’ body was recovered from the canal near Strauss Avenue in Linnvale.

ADVERT

The death is not being treated as suspicious and his relatives have been informed.

Chief inspector Natalie Carr said: “Our thoughts are with James’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time.

“Thank you to everyone who shared our earlier appeal for information and assisted with enquiries.”

Swinney brands Lennon’s Dubai defence ‘appalling’

Deputy First Minister said Neil Lennon's comments had left him 'at a loss for words'.

Craig Foy via SNS Group
Neil Lennon defended Celtic's decision to have a winter training camp in Dubai.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said he was “at a loss for words” after Celtic boss Neil Lennon defended the club’s controversial trip to Dubai.

It comes amid the ongoing row over Celtic’s decision to fly to the country for a winter training camp at a time when Scots are being told to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.

Lennon, his assistant John Kennedy, another member of staff and 13 players at the club had to isolate following the trip after defender Christopher Jullien tested positive for coronavirus – with another player now also confirmed as having the virus.

Swinney has previously criticised the club’s decision to travel, while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has questioned whether the trip was essential, adding she had doubts “based on some pictures I’ve seen whether adherence to bubble rules was strict enough”.

ADVERT

Photos emerged on social media showing members of the Celtic squad not distancing or wearing face coverings while in Dubai.

Lennon hit back at the club’s critics on Monday, insisting: “We did not abuse any ‘privilege’, we did the right things, we were totally professional.

“We had a little drink in the afternoon on the day off, completely allowed, no law breaking. Yet now we come back to this barrage of absolute hypocrisy.”

He insisted the club had been “held to a far higher standard than any other club”, and said “there seems to be some sort of agenda being driven here”.

ADVERT

When asked about Lennon’s comments on Wednesday, Mr Swinney said: “I am at a loss for words, frankly.”

He told BBC Radio Scotland he had previously said he “thought it was a really bad idea that Celtic decided to go to Dubai for this trip”, adding that “I didn’t think it was a particularly great signal”.

He stated: “I have no ill will to Neil Lennon whatsoever, but I think his comments in this respect have been absolutely appalling.”


You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?