Eight-year-old girl gives Sturgeon day off in garden briefing

Little Isabella updated the Scottish people on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic from her back garden.

Facebook / Mariann Hay

An eight-year-old girl decided to give the First Minister a day off and address the nation from her garden.

Little Isabella, dressed in a coordinated suit, hilariously speaks to the Scottish people to update them on the spread of the coronavirus in her very own daily briefing.

Isabella’s mum, Mariann Hay from Port Glasgow, said her daughter wanted to give Nicola Sturgeon a break and spoke to the nation on her behalf.

More than 30 travel fines issued in week under Covid rules

The force served 33 fixed penalty notices across eight of its divisions in the week running up to November 25.

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Travel ban: Police issued 33 fines in one week.

Police Scotland have issued more than 30 travel fines over a week for breaches of coronavirus restrictions.

The force served 33 fixed penalty notices across eight of its divisions in the seven days running up to November 25.

Nine of these were issued in Lothian and Borders, eight in Greater Glasgow and eight in Lanarkshire.

Police Scotland said the figures are indicative and may be higher.

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The remaining eight notices were split across Tayside division with three, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde at two and one each in Ayrshire, Forth Valley and North East.

More than two million people across 11 council areas were moved to the toughest level four on Friday November 20.

Another ten local authority areas were put into level three.

Fines start at £30 but rise to £60 if they are not paid within 28 days.

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Repeat offenders can face penalties of up to £960.

The Scottish Government introduced the new travel laws as a means to prevent the spread of the virus.

They cover western and central parts of Scotland.


Coronavirus: Christmas school holidays could be extended

Council leaders discussing whether to standardise the holiday from December 18 to January 11.

School pupils might have longer than normal Christmas holidays to look forward to.

The school Christmas holidays in Scotland could be extended further into January after coronavirus rules were relaxed for the festive season.

Council leaders are discussing whether to standardise the break across Scotland from December 18 to January 11.

Return dates currently vary between local authority areas from January 5-7.

The proposal has been designed to limit the spread of Covid-19 after families gather for Christmas. Three households will be allowed to form a ‘bubble’ and spend time indoors together between December 23-27.

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Talks over extending the school holidays were taking place on Friday morning, with a decision expected to be taken by the Scottish Government next week.

Discussions were also held on Thursday, with the proposals leaked to the Daily Record newspaper.

An alternative plan would see remote learning reintroduced for a few days until schools return.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman, who confirmed Scotland has recorded 37 deaths and 969 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, spoke about the proposals at the briefing on Friday.

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She said the education recovery group’s discussions were focused on maintaining the Scottish Government’s commitment to keep schools open, “so that our young people can have the opportunity to learn and be part of normal school education.”

Freeman added: “Now, that recovery group has been working all through the summer to give us the best advice they can about how to ensure we can keep schools open.

“They looked at the end of the summer holiday period, the return of school, the lessons we have learned from that and what more we can do and they’re obviously looking at how we enter the festive period and the school holidays and how we return to school at the end of that holiday period.”

The Scottish Conservatives said various measures should be taken before the school holidays are extended.

Shadow education secretary Jamie Greene ]said:  “We want young people to grow up to have the best careers possible and any further watering down of their class time must be properly catered for at home. 

“Every child should have access to proper IT equipment and learning materials to ensure they don’t fall behind with their studies. 

“We should not underestimate the enormous pressure an extended Christmas break would put on countless working parents and every effort should be made to support them. 

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“Re-opening key worker hubs to share the burden of child support is a must if an extended break does get the go ahead.”

Schools returned in August, following a closure which saw pupils sent home in March as the country locked down in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Other than occasional temporary closures to deal with outbreaks, schools have remained open with mitigating measures in place.

These include the use of face coverings among staff when social distancing is not possible and among S4-S6 pupils in level three and four areas.

Earlier this month, the NASUWT teaching union said smaller class sizes and blended learning should be considered for the areas in level four.

However, education secretary John Swinney said schools are “not a significant area of transmission” in response to the request.


Thirteen residents die at care home after Covid outbreak

A further seven residents have also tested positive for the virus at Mavisbank care home in Bishopbriggs.

© Google Maps 2020
Outbreak: Thirteen care home residents die following coronavirus outbreak.

Thirteen residents at an East Dunbartonshire care home have died following an outbreak of coronavirus. 

HC One, owners of Mavisbank care home in Bishopbriggs, confirmed the deaths, adding a further seven residents have also tested positive for the virus. 

The company also confirmed 11 staff members are self-isolating following positive tests. 

A spokesperson for the home said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with all families who have lost a loved one from coronavirus.

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“Every loss is felt deeply by the families and our team, and we are doing all we can to support them during this challenging time.  

“As we navigate this outbreak, we continue to work closely with all the relevant authorities to contain the virus and safeguard our residents.”


Sir Alex Ferguson makes £2m child food poverty pledge

Ferguson praised the efforts of Man Utd forward Marcus Rashford.

Ross Parker via SNS Group
Ferguson: Teaming up with Marcus Rashford.

Former Aberdeen and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has pledged up to £2m towards a child-food charity.

Sir Alex, who also managed Scotland at the 1986 World Cup, praised the efforts of Man Utd forward Marcus Rashford as the pair team up to tackle the issue.

Rashford was awarded an MBE for his recent campaigning – which saw the Government twice make a U-turn on providing free school meals during holidays.

Now the 23-year-old has revealed that Ferguson will make the pledge towards the FareShare charity for which Rashford is an ambassador.

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An appeal in the Times is aiming to raise funds and the England star revealed the legendary manager, alongside Sir Michael Moritz, will match donations up to the aforementioned sum and described the news as “incredible”.

Ferguson grew up in Glasgow in tough conditions and believes Rashford has done a great job in highlighting the plight facing families across Britain.

The 78-year-old told the Times: “You have to be shocked at the number of people who are in need of food,”.

“Marcus has opened the eyes of everyone in Britain. The work he’s done has been fantastic and we’re all so proud of him because of that.

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“What Marcus has done is he’s led the way – people will say, ‘That boy he’s only 23 years of age’. People who are in their later ages…should be saying, ‘I can do something’.”

The pair never worked together with Rashford making his United debut as an 18-year-old three years after the long-serving boss retired.

But he has now left a mark on the Scot – a winner of 13 Premier League titles and two European Cups during his 25-year reign at the English giants – off the field.

Now-retired Ferguson, who also won league titles and the European Cup Winners Cup with Aberdeen, said: “He should be giving me some advice because what he’s doing at 23 is fantastic for a young person,

“I’ve no need to tell Marcus because I think there’s humility in the way he lives his life. His feet are on the ground.

“These are great qualities to carry you through life. Football hasn’t changed him. There is a danger in football that it can change people, money can change people, stardom can change people.

“Getting a celebrity position in life can sometimes be a problem because not everyone can carry success well. And at the moment Marcus is doing that very, very well.”


Drunk motorist killed lorry driver while twice over limit

Michael Hall was twice over the drink driving limit from the night before when he ploughed into Malcolm Easton's lorry.

Police Scotland
Malcolm Easton was killed when a BMW ploughed into his HGV.

A drunk motorist who killed a lorry driver in a crash after losing control of his BMW at almost 90mph has been jailed.

Michael Hall, 38, was still twice over the drink limit from drinking the night before when the collision occurred on the M74 near Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, around 6.30pm on May 2, 2019.

Hall struck the HGV driven by 42-year-old Malcolm Easton, from Alexandria, Dunbartonshire, as he tried to overtake it.

Mr Easton’s lorry jack-knifed as a result and plunged 40m down an embankment. He died at the scene from head injuries.

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On Friday, Hall was jailed for four years at the High Court in Glasgow. 

Judge Lord Braid told Hall: “You accelerated up to 89mph to overtake the lorry driven by Mr Easton when the driving conditions were treacherous.

“You braked and your vehicle spun hitting Mr Easton’s lorry which jack-knifed and went through a crash barrier and down a steep embankment. You were more than twice the drink driving limit.

“To overtake in such driving conditions was highly dangerous.”

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Lord Braid also banned Hall from driving for seven years and four months.

Police Scotland
Lorry driver Malcolm Easton was killed in the crash.

Members of Mr Easton’s family were in court to see Hall sentenced. They had written victim statements to the judge expressing their devastating loss.

The court heard that Hall, a car sales manager from England, had driven from Leeds to Ayrshire after celebrating into the early hours Liverpool beating Barcelona.

His defence QC Ian Duguid said: “The alcohol was from the night before in celebration. He appreciates he should have been more vigilant. He thought he was well capable of driving.

“He shouldn’t have been driving at speed in the conditions. He says as he overtook the lorry, a deluge of water came into his carriageway from the opposite carriageway and he aquaplaned.

“He has expressed remorse. He told a social worker who interviewed him ‘I can’t mess up in my life that would be disrespectful to Mr Easton.”

Hall pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. He also admitted having 47mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 22mg.


Christmas rules relaxation ‘no excuse for a big party’

Scotland's national clinical director urges caution when households gather for the festive season.

Tom Merton via Getty Images
Three households will be allowed to form a 'bubble' this Christmas.

The relaxation of coronavirus restrictions at Christmas should be used only to relieve social isolation and not to have a big party, Scotland’s national clinical director has said.

Professor Jason Leitch said the public health advice is to remain cautious, as he reminded Scots “the virus will not take Christmas off”.

Restrictions will be eased between December 23 and December 27 to allow three households to form a “bubble”, permitting them to meet indoors, outdoors or in a place of worship.

Prof Leitch said “everything was on the table” at discussions between the four UK nations on a united approach to Christmas, including lifting all restrictions for one day or keeping all the regulations in place – but they concluded it was right to offer people some flexibility.

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He told BBC Radio Scotland: “The four nations agreed that this is such a big deal, such a big holiday and celebration for the United Kingdom, that it was important to offer some kind of guidance so that people didn’t just do whatever they please and broke all the rules.

“We decided three households, five days and then we left the definition of that to the individual demographics.

“The public health advice is cautious, we want people to use it to relieve social isolation not to have a big Christmas party.

“Reserve the Christmas parties for after the vaccine, for after the pandemic.”

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Scots are advised to have no more than eight people aged over 12 in any Christmas bubble they form, and these can only include one extended household.

Children under 12 will not be counted towards the total number of people permitted in any grouping.

Those living in shared flats are being urged not to split up from their current housemates, while people who might want to visit a loved one in hospital or a care home are advised to avoid entering any bubble arrangement.

Prof Leitch also said households in any bubble should remain two metres apart from each other and he warned sharing items such as serving spoons and cutlery could pose a risk of transmission, saying “big sharing buffets are out”.

Asked whether he thinks people can be trusted to use their common sense in following the guidance, he said: “I do and our results, our numbers, our infection rates would suggest that you can.”


Plan for Lidl supermarket hits buffers over football pitch

The supermarket proposal has been in the works for several years.

Lidl Uk via LDR
Lidl: Plans hit snag over pitch.

By Local Democracy Reporter Jon Brady.

Plans to bring a Lidl supermarket to a Fife town have hit the buffers after councillors maintained that an adjacent football pitch must be replaced as part of the deal.

The supermarket proposal for the former site of the Yard pub on Admirality Road in Rosyth has been in the works for several years.

Planning permission was first granted in April 2018, and the pub – a frequent target for fire raising – was torn down a year later.

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As part of the agreement, site owners Mactaggart and Mickel were required to fund and build a new football pitch for Rosyth Juniors FC prior to construction of the store taking place. The club’s existing pitches will be lost to the new development.

However, in a proposal reviewed by Fife’s Central and West Planning Committee on Wednesday, the developer suggested providing a financial contribution towards a new pitch without carrying out the work itself.

It said that uncertainty over where to build the pitch had led to the decision.

However, the cash bid has been rejected by the committee after Fife planning officers said the offer was £350,000 short of covering the cost of a replacement pitch.

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The exact amount being offered by Mactaggart and Mickel was not disclosed at the meeting.

Case officer Katherine Pollock told gathered councillors: “It would not be acceptable – it would mean there is no longer effective management in place to ensure the required football pitch is delivered.”

Andrew Verrecchia, Labour councillor for Rosyth, said: “There’s clearly a disparity in what’s being offered and what the relocation cost would be.”

The application was unanimously refused by the committee.

Following the meeting Craig Ormond, director of Mactaggart and Mickel, said the company was considering its next steps before deciding whether to appeal.

He said: “We are considering our position following the disappointing planning refusal and are yet to make a decision on our next steps.

“Clearly appealing this decision is an option however no decision has been made and we are likely to seek further discussions with all of the stakeholders before committing to a decision whether to appeal or not.”


Thousands of jobs at risk as Arcadia Group nears collapse

Sir Philip Green's retail empire, which runs Topshop and Burton, is expected to appoint administrators in the coming days.

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Arcadia Group: Retail empire runs Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton.

Sir Philip Green’s retail empire, which runs the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands, is on the brink of collapse.

Around 15,000 jobs are at risk, with the Arcadia Group expected to appoint Deloitte as administrators in the coming days.

The company said it is “working on a number of contingency options”, after Sky News reported that the group’s future is in doubt.

An Arcadia spokesman said: “We are aware of the recent media speculation surrounding the future of Arcadia.

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“The forced closure of our stores for sustained periods as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a material impact on trading across our businesses.

“As a result, the Arcadia boards have been working on a number of contingency options to secure the future of the group’s brands.

“The brands continue to trade and our stores will be opening again in England and ROI as soon as the Government Covid-19 restrictions are lifted next week.”

Arcadia could tumble into administration as soon as Monday, Sky News reported on Friday.

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The group had been in emergency talks with lenders in a bid to secure a £30m loan to help shore up its finances.

If the insolvency is confirmed, it is expected to trigger a scramble among creditors to get control of company assets.

It is the latest retailer to have been hammered by the closure of stores in the face of coronavirus, with rivals including Debenhams, Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group and Oasis Warehouse all sliding into insolvency since the pandemic struck in March.

The group has more than 500 retail stores across the UK, with the majority of these currently shut as a result of England’s second national lockdown, which will end next week.


BiFab says Scottish Government ‘inaccurate’ over cash claims

Fiona Hyslop said the main issue leading to problems has been the 'unwillingness' of parent company JV Driver to provide support.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

The Scottish Government has been accused of being untruthful and inaccurate over allegations a lack of financial support from BiFab’s Canadian owner is to blame for the company’s problems.

A £2bn deal collapsed last month for Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) to manufacture eight wind turbine jackets at its yards in Methil, Fife, as part of the Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) project.

The UK and Scottish Governments have said they have no legal route to provide further financial support to the company, which was acquired by Canada-based JV Driver in April 2018 after the Scottish Government rescued BiFab in 2017.

Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop said on Tuesday that the main issue leading to the problems has been the “unwillingness” of parent company and majority shareholder JV Driver to provide working capital, investment or guarantees for BiFab.

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In a statement on Friday, BiFab said: “Scottish ministers continue to focus on JV Driver’s alleged lack of investment, guarantees and capital as the primary cause for its current situation.

“This cannot be further from the truth.”

BiFab said that, recognising the growing state aid challenges faced by Scottish ministers early in 2020, JV Driver offered on numerous occasions to transfer some or all of its shares in BiFab to Scottish ministers at no cost to the Scottish purse but ministers never pursued it.

The company said: “This offer was made to facilitate an ownership position by Scottish ministers that could support further investment if and when required.

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“This offer was never pursued by Scottish ministers. This offer still stands today.”

The company said BiFab and its management were given no access or opportunity to address the BiFab Working Group set up by the UK and Scottish governments and have not been contacted by it.

BiFab added: “Scottish ministers also point to the lack of a long-term business plan as a secondary causal factor to the current situation. 

“Again, this is inaccurate. JV Driver prepared a long-form multi-phase business plan for Scottish ministers prior to acquiring BiFab.”

BiFab said many nations have local supply chain protections that limit the amount of international sourcing available to major energy infrastructure projects but that no such legislation exists in Scotland or the wider UK.

It said that as a result, thousands of high-paying fabrication jobs are being lost to the Middle East and Asia and only Scottish and UK ministers have the ability to change this policy.

BiFab said ultimately it appears the NnG project will be lost to BiFab along with the 400 to 500 jobs it promised to create.

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It said: “As a result of recent correspondence from Scottish ministers, it is apparent that creditor support from the Scottish ministers required to pursue critical solutions for BiFab will be unavailable.

“While incredibly disappointed, BiFab management continues to consider all options available to the business.”

The Scottish secretaries of the GMB and Unite unions, Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty, described the situation as a “growing scandal”.

They added: “The signal this sends out to the renewables industry is clear, it’s business as usual.

“The jobs of the future will continue to be exported to the rest of world and subsidised by the billpayer to the tune of billions.

“At best, Britain will get scraps off the table from its own offshore wind market but it looks like both Governments have buried any credible hopes for a meaningful green jobs recovery in Scotland.”

The Scottish and UK governments have been contacted for comment.


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