In depth: Navigating the crisis, opening schools, Salmond inquiry

The First Minister spoke to STV News about a wide range of issues in an extended interview.

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Scotland’s First Minister sat down for a wide-ranging interview with presenter Kelly-Ann Woodland to talk about the government’s response to the Covid pandemic.


Coronavirus: Scotland records 714 new cases overnight

That's 11.5% of newly-tested Scots, the highest positive percentage since the summer.

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Coronavirus: No new deaths but more than 700 cases.

Scotland has recorded 714 new cases of coronavirus, the biggest single-day jump on record.

It amounts to 11.5% of newly-tested individuals, up from 9.5% on Friday and the highest proportion of positive tests since the government began publishing the data in July.

The World Health Organisation says countries who keep that percentage under 5% generally have their epidemic under control.

Scotland’s has not been under 5% since September 18 as Covid-19 infections have surged.

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No new deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours, but six coronavirus patients have died so far this week.

Of Saturday’s new infections, 290 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 123 are in Lothian, 91 are in Lanarkshire and 76 are in Tayside.

It comes amid major campus outbreaks at the University of Glasgow and Napier University in Edinburgh.

This weekend, all students around Scotland are barred from pubs and restaurants and from socialising outside their household in emergency measures to stem the tide of cases.

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While the 714 new cases are the most ever recorded in Scotland, the country has greatly expanded its testing regime since the virus first peaked in the spring.

Responding to the figures, Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “This is our biggest daily tally of cases so far.

“Important therefore to start with some caveats. We are doing much more testing now than in spring.

“These figures are impacted by university clusters. And Test & Protect is working hard and well.”

But the First Minister added: “We have absolutely no room for complacency – on the contrary.

“Cases are rising across Scotland, as in other countries.

“The number of people in hospital (99 today) has doubled in last couple of weeks.

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“And we can only beat Covid back together – we must all play our part.

“So, please, for now, stay out of each other’s houses; stick to the 6/2 rule outdoors and in indoor public places; download protect.scot; and follow FACTS.

“We will get through this – but only if we all act to protect ourselves and each other. Let’s stick with it.”

A total of 99 people are in hospital with Covid, a rise of ten in the last day.

The figure of 11 patients in intensive care with the virus is unchanged on yesterday.

Last week, fresh restrictions were imposed on Scotland limiting social gatherings to no more than six adults from a maximum of two households.

This week, as cases soared, a Scotland-wide ban on visiting or hosting people from other households at home was implemented.

The Scottish Government’s FACTS public health message stands for:

  • Face coverings in enclosed spaces
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Clean your hands and surfaces regularly
  • Two-metre social distancing
  • Self-isolate and book a test if you develop coronavirus symptoms

More than 1.25 million Scots have now downloaded the confidential Protect Scotland contact tracing app, which uses bluetooth technology to notify users if they have been in contact with a Covid-infected person.

That’s nearly 28% of Scotland’s adult population.

Sturgeon calls out ‘keyboard warriors’ ahead of election

The First Minister attacked 'cowards' posting abuse to candidates standing in next year's Holyrood election.

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Abuse: The First Minister said 'keyboard warriors' attacking candidates are 'cowards'.

Nicola Sturgeon has called out misogyny dished out by “keyboard warriors” as she told those seeking election to Holyrood for the first time to expect abuse on social media.

The First Minister posted a series of tweets attacking “cowards” who abuse politicians online and urged her fellow parliamentarians to offer support to those who are standing for the first time.

She highlighted the case of Rhiannon Spear, who is seeking to represent Argyll and Bute in the May 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “A shout out to everyone – in all parties – standing for s/election to @ScotParl for the first time.

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“You will face abuse on here – especially if you have the temerity to be a woman and/or from one of our BAME communities.

“But stand strong and don’t be silenced…

“Bullies are cowards and that’s just as true on social media as it is in real life.

“By putting yourself forward, you are already showing more guts than any keyboard warrior hurling abuse.

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“And to my fellow ‘old timers’ in politics – we should have the backs of those who are not as inured to it as we are, and call out abuse on here when we see it, even when it’s from our own ‘side’.

“Disagreement is what democracy is all about – vile, toxic abuse is not.

“And on the subject of calling it out even when it’s on my own ‘side’, disagree with @RhiannonV as much as you like, but leave out the misogynistic abuse.”

Ms Spears has previously spoken out in support of transgender rights and reform of the Gender Recognition Act, which has seen her targeted on social media.


Glasgow University to refund students one month’s rent

The gesture follows students in the city forced into self isolation after a spike in coronavirus cases.

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Refund: Students to be given rent money back in Glasgow.

Glasgow University will refund all students in halls of residence one month’s rent, along with a £50 payment for food.

The return of students to campuses across Scotland has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases, forcing hundreds into self-isolation.

As a result, the Scottish Government and Universities Scotland have asked students not to socialise in hospitality venues this weekend.

At Glasgow University, 124 cases of the virus were reported on Thursday, with the number expected to rise.

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A test centre has been established at the Murano Street halls of residence, which houses more than 1000 students.

The university has now said it will refund rent, as well as make a £50 food payment to students and initiate more drop-ins from student support staff.

The number of food parcels for those self-isolating will also increase, along with cleaning materials, bedding and towels.

University principal Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli said: “I hear the concerns of our students in residences and I appreciate how difficult this situation is for them. 

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“From today, we are rolling out significant extra support measures so they can more easily access food, health and wellbeing and other supplies.

“We are offering everyone in our residences, regardless of whether they are isolating or not, a one-month rent refund to compensate for the disruption they are facing, and any financial hardship they may have encountered.”

Professor Muscatelli added: “Our Living Support Team are also stepping up efforts to proactively contact students, check on their wellbeing and offer support.

“To make sure everyone has access to hot and fresh food, we will work with providers to install mobile catering units and give £50 to each student for food and supplies.

“This isn’t the start of academic life we would wish for anyone.”

The principal also thanked those who were in self-isolation for “playing their part”.


On Friday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised to students for the start of their academic year, but supported universities to take action against those breaking the rules “as a last resort”.


Forbes: Chancellor should not decide which jobs are viable

A new job support scheme will replace furlough in November but is only designed to protect jobs deemed 'viable'.

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Kate Forbes: Localised lockdowns not taken into account.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak should not be able to decide what is a “viable job”, Scotland’s finance secretary has said.

The job support scheme announced by Sunak on Thursday is intended to replace furlough when that form of support ends next month, but only jobs that are deemed viable will be eligible for the new payment.

Kate Forbes expressed concern at the new measures, which she said should have also included an extension to the furlough scheme.

She told PA: “I don’t believe it’s the Chancellor’s job to decide what is and isn’t a viable job, because this scheme requires people to be in some form of work.”

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She said localised lockdowns are not taken into account in the scheme, and neither are parts of the economy such as nightclubs which have not yet been allowed to open at all.

The finance secretary added: “Where we’ve seen localised lockdowns during furlough, businesses have been able to re-furlough their staff and get access to critical support – this scheme won’t allow for that.

“The other thing it won’t allow for is sectors that haven’t been allowed to reopen, either because they have to remain shut or because business hasn’t increased.

“These are viable jobs, they’re good jobs – but because of the nature of lockdown right now, people have not been allowed to reopen.

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“The Chancellor’s scheme is, wrongly in my view, trying to determine what is and isn’t a viable job in a way that does not appreciate the reality of the situation we are living in.”

Under the new scheme, employers will continue to pay staff wages for the hours they work.

But if they are not required to work their full hours, the government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary.

It means employees who are working shorter hours than normal will still be paid two-thirds of the hours for the time they cannot work.

Employees must be working at least a third (33%) of their usual hours and will receive at least 77% of their normal pay.

Forbes also said she hoped clarity would have been given earlier for what was going to replace the furlough scheme at the end of October.

She said furlough should have been extended for businesses not yet allowed to open to ensure some support for staff who are unable to return to work at all.

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The minister added she has had “no indication” of Barnett consequentials coming to the Scottish Government as a result of the Chancellor’s winter economy plan.

She also said she is still waiting for information on extra funding from previous announcements such as the self-isolation payments set out in August.

A spokesman for the Treasury said: “The UK-wide package announced yesterday was broadly welcomed by business groups across Scotland and provides welcome support for businesses and workers.

“As the Chancellor has said, it would be fundamentally wrong to hold people in jobs that only exist inside the furlough.

“Our focus will continue to be on creating new opportunities for people in Scotland and supporting them into viable and secure jobs.”

Flu jabs to be administered at drive-through centres

The centres will aim to vaccinate up to 500 people per day and will operate every weekend until December.

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Vaccine: Flu jabs to be administered at drive through centres.

Drive-through flu jab centres have opened in Edinburgh to ensure the vaccine can still be administered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The centres will aim to vaccinate up to 500 people per day and will operate every weekend until December.

Established by the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP), the drive-throughs are aimed at ensuring the 150,000 eligible people in the city can receive their vaccination.

Judith Proctor, chief officer of EHSCP, said: “As part of our mission to support a caring, healthier and safer Edinburgh, we’re committed to making it even easier to get a flu vaccine this year.

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“The flu vaccine is an important health protection measure and we want to make sure that everyone who is eligible has access to the vaccine.

“To keep the people of Edinburgh safe, and to respect physical distancing measures, we have confirmed a range of Edinburgh venues to offer access to the flu vaccine, including a drive-through service at sites across the city.

“This is the first time a drive-through model has been used for vaccinations in Scotland, and could provide a blueprint for how to deliver vaccination programmes successfully in the future.

“Details of where people can go to receive a flu vaccine will be available on the NHS Inform website.”

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Walk-in clinics will be available for those without a car.

On Friday, interim deputy chief medical officer Dr Nicola Steedman urged Scots to ensure they get the flu jab to avoid the risk of contracting coronavirus and flu at the same time, which she described as “extremely serious”.


Extra police on streets for first night of 10pm curfew

A closing time of 10pm came into force for pubs and restaurants in Scotland on Friday.

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Police patrols have been stepped up on Scotland’s streets after bars and restaurants were put under a new 10pm curfew.

Friday saw the first night of the new measures designed to help tackle recent surging cases of coronavirus, which also limits hospitality venues to table service only.

The industry has warned the curfew could be a “fatal blow” for many of its businesses.

But the government says the policy’s aim is to limit transmission of the virus in hospitality settings while still allowing venues to continue trading.

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In further measures this weekend to stem a swathe of outbreaks at university campuses, students are prohibited from going to pubs, cafes or restaurants or from socialising with anyone outside their accommodation.

It was made mandatory last week for customers at pubs and restaurants to wear face coverings when not seated at their table and for staff on shift.

Venues are also forbidden from playing background music, must enforce strict rules on hygiene and distancing and record customers’ details for the test and protect programme.

It comes after social gatherings were restricted to no more than six adults from a maximum of two households.

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Meanwhile, private indoor gatherings between households are not allowed in Scotland at all.

Speaking at Thursday’s coronavirus briefing, Police Scotland’s chief constable said patrols would be increased to ensure compliance with the new hospitality measures.

However, Iain Livingstone admitted the curfew could see an increase in house parties or gatherings as customers refuse to end their nights early.

He said: “Additional officers will be deployed across Scotland to support colleagues from local authorities and to monitor compliance.

“I think it’s important for me to say that the vast majority of licensees have acted with great responsibility during this very challenging period – I pay credit to them and undertake that policing will continue to support and work with the licensed trade.”

The chief constable said that officers would “continue to use good sense” when enforcing the new rules.

Later in the briefing, the head of Police Scotland said there was “a danger” that parties would increase after the early closing of bars.

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He added: “That is why I’ve been so clear this afternoon about discouraging people from having house parties, discouraging people from gathering together indoors where there’s no level of regulation or oversight.

“The reason that we’re going to ask our officers to be around at the 10pm curfew tonight is that it’s a change and with any period of adjustment… there will always be some that won’t (follow regulations).

“We’ll go and speak to people and encourage them to do the right thing and if they’re not, ultimately, then we’ll take enforcement action.”

Mr Livingstone also said that he would not tolerate any abuse levelled at police officers or staff who try to enforce the new measures.

He said: “It won’t be tolerated.

“I have made a public pledge of my fundamental commitment of that and will continue to take action against those who look to do harm to people who ultimately are doing their job for the public.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she echoed the chief constable’s comments on abuse suffered by police officers “100%”.

Man charged after sexual remarks made to women and children

A 39-year-old man will appear in court after two women and two children were targeted.

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Charged: Man to appear in court after sexual remarks made to women and childen.

A man has been charged in connection with sexual remarks and gestures aimed at women and children in Fife.

On Thursday, a car slowed down with the driver allegedly making sexual remarks to a 33-year-old woman who was walking by.

The incident occurred at around 1.45pm between the B923 to Rowan Wynd near Kinghorn.

Two further incidents were reported on Friday after a man allegedly made a sexual gesture from a car towards a five-year-old boy around 4.30pm at Red Ash Park, Lochgelly.

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Half an hour later, it was reported a man had allegedly made a sexual gesture from a car towards an eight-year-old girl and a 27-year-old woman on Hall Street, Lochgelly.

Detective Inspector Karen Muirhead, of Dunfermline CID, said: “We understand reports of this behaviour causes concern amongst the community and following an investigation, we have now charged a man in connection with these incidents.  

“If anyone has any further information about these incidents then please call us on 101 quoting reference 2890 of September 25 2020.”

A 39-year-old man is due to appear at Dunfermline Sheriff Court on Monday in connection with the incidents.


Courtroom drama as cinemas prepare to host juries

Inside a cinema where juries will begin hearing court cases in the coming days.

The first trials using a cinema to host a jury will begin next week.

It’s a bid to address the court case backlog worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

From Tuesday, some High Court cases sitting in Edinburgh and Livingston will have juries sitting in five screens of the Odeon cinema at Fort Kinnaird retail park in the capital.

Each screen can accommodate 15 physically-distanced jurors, who will feature on a video wall in the courtrooms.

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The remote jury centres will initially be in place for six months – after £5.5m funding from the Scottish Government – but there is an option to extend them for a longer period.

STV News visited the cinema in Edinburgh to see how it works.


The cold hard reality of freezing fans out of football

Fears have been voiced about the prospect of serious financial difficulties if there wasn’t a return to some sort of normality soon.

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Warnings: Clubs could face financial difficulties.

Warnings about the cost of coronavirus to Scottish football are nothing new but there was a harder, colder edge to the conversation this week.

Since lockdown, and throughout the summer, fears have been voiced about the prospect of serious financial difficulties if there wasn’t a return to some sort of normality soon.

‘Some sort of normality’ meant at least some fans paying to push through turnstiles and into grounds. ‘Soon’ was more fluid but was generally taken to be no later than October 5, the date the Scottish Government had pencilled in for a phased return of supporters at sporting events.

The rise in coronavirus cases forced Holyrood to announce new measures to deal with the virus this week and that October date was revisited. Nicola Sturgeon said the proposed return was “unlikely”. Anyone with a grasp of reality heard that as “No chance”.

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Similar steps that were introduced in England are expected to be in place for around six months and the overall impression is that if you want to watch professional football any time before March, you should test your broadband speed and check your TV schedule.

For the clubs, the announcement didn’t bring widespread panic but the sober realisation that of the budgets drafted and marked as best case to worst case, it would be the gloomier outlook that would prove to be accurate.

The Premiership is already under way of course, with a rigorous testing regime, a plan in place and a TV deal to satisfy and help cover some costs. Below the top flight though, the action has yet to start and there are questions about how it will end.

Clubs in the Championship, League 1 and League 2 don’t start their league campaigns until mid-October and the Betfred Cup before that. The later start dates were put in place primarily because fans were expected to be in attendance by then.

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Squads are assembled, contracts are in place. Costs are set in concrete. Now, projected income has vapourised.

The Scottish FA and Scottish Professional Football League haven’t always been renowned for swift action but they did move quickly after this week’s announcement. Talks were held with government and the Scottish minister for sport penned a letter to his Westminster counterpart seeking discussions about a financial recovery package. The message was clear: Send money or many clubs will be financially crippled, if they survive at all.

It’s no exaggeration when 43% of club revenues come from ticket sales.

Will a huge rescue package from London end all fears? It seems reasonable to expect that if there’s a bail-out for English clubs then a proportionate amount would be diverted to help in Scotland as well. But the conversation south of the border seems to be that help would only go so far, with the Premier League riches expected to trickle down and help those in the lower leagues.

That couldn’t happen here. The SFA and SPFL don’t hold huge cash reserves and the former has seen its own income slashed with the latter stages of the Scottish Cup and the upcoming internationals looking like they will be played at an empty Hampden.

Top flight clubs aren’t in much of a position to help either. Belts are being tightened across the board and at the same time as Ross County are talking about helping cup opposition with testing costs, Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson is talking about the strain on his club even after they qualified for Europe and banked money from player sales.

Hamilton boss Brian Rice was blunt in his assessment on Thursday’s STV News at Six: “Bail them out. Give us a hand. The whole country is on its knees. We’re not looking for favouritism, just looking for help like everybody else is.”

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Zoom calls between the SFA, SPFL and lower league clubs on Friday were more about assessing the damage than finding a solution.

While there was a confidence about starting the season, and making it through 27 games, the longer stands remain empty the less secure clubs feel. While a hypothetical right now, a testing regime with its associated costs (estimated at between £50,000 and £100,000 a season) would bring all sorts of questions. As you would expect, what’s manageable at Championship level is less viable in League 1 and even more challenging in the bottom tier.

Clubs were also asked to put a figure on the cost of a season without fans. It’s not just taking the temperature, the figures will be used to build a case for government assistance and it could be as stark as counting the clubs who will fail to make it if a bail-out package isn’t delivered.

Beyond the plea for help, there are limited options.

Suspending the season and ‘mothballing’ wouldn’t work for many as player contracts – a major cost – have to be honoured and clauses to cancel would apparently only kick in if all football was suspended by the Scottish FA. Taking a decision now to shorten the season and only play 18 games instead of 27 would be similarly ineffective.

Government money seems the only solution to the crisis and if it doesn’t materialise then cost-cutting, video streaming revenue and other fundraising won’t go far enough to make professional football viable for some.

Instead of excitement building for the start of the new season for those outside the Premiership, it’s being approached with trepidation and uncertainty. Chairmen are less concerned with an eventual finishing position in the league than with being in a position to finish the league season.

Games will be played as reserves dwindle and fears grow. Appeals will be made and doomsday scenarios will be spelled out.

There are no easy decisions for clubs deprived of the income that’s sustained them for decades and for over century in many cases. For many, it’s a waiting game now, hoping an injection of cash arrives before it’s too late. The fate of many may be decided in the halls of government instead of on the pitch.


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