Military assistance is being considered to help tackle ambulance waiting times in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
The First Minister made the announcement as she apologised “unreservedly” to anyone who has suffered, or is suffering, from “unacceptably long waits”.
It comes after it was reported that a 65-year-old pensioner died having waited for 40 hours on an ambulance after collapsing at his home in Glasgow.
The case was raised by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross during FMQs at Holyrood on Thursday.
“Last week, I raised the crisis in Scotland’s ambulance service,” Ross told MSPs.
“I said that the scandalous waiting times could cost people’s lives.
“This morning, we all read in shock and horror about 65-year-old Gerard Brown, who died after a fall after a 40-hour wait for an ambulance.
“When the ambulance reached him, all they could do was pronounce him as dead. His body was still warm.
“His son, Dylan, said the hardest part to accept was that his father’s GP had told him that if they got to him, ‘your dad would still be here’.
“Just think about that – being told if they got to him, ‘your day would still be here’.”
He continued: “So what does the First Minister have to say to ambulance crews who turn up to try and save people’s lives, only to pronounce them as dead?
“What does the First Minister have to say to Gerard Brown’s GP, who said, ‘this is third-world medicine’?
“And what does the First Minister have to say to Dylan Brown, who is grieving the death of his father who should still be alive?”
The First Minister said it is not acceptable that some people are not receiving the standard of service that they should be.
“Well, firstly, my condolences are with Mr Brown,” Sturgeon responded.
“The individual cases that are reported in the media this morning obviously require to be fully and properly investigated and it would not be right for me to pre-empt those investigations.
“But, what is reported is unacceptable and I am in no doubt about that.”
She added: “Our ambulance service is working under acute pressure right now, largely due to Covid.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank our paramedics and technicians for the working they are doing in such difficult circumstances.
“While they are responding heroically to these challenges, I recognise that some people are not getting the standard of service that they should be getting, or indeed the standard of service that the Scottish Ambulance Service wants to deliver.
“That is not acceptable and I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has suffered, or who is suffering unacceptably long waits.”
The First Minister explained that military assistance is already being provided to ambulance services in England, as she set out the action being taken to tackle waiting times.
She continued: “A range of actions have already been taken to address these challenges, for example, additional funding to support new recruitment.
“A number of additional actions are currently under active consideration, I’m happy to summarise these in further exhanges.
“But, I can confirm now that this includes consideration of seeking targeted military assistance to help deal with short-term pressure points.
“Such military assistance is already being provided to ambulance services in England, and of course, we have had military assistance for other aspects of the pandemic over the past 18 months.
“I will be meeting personally with the Scottish Ambulance Service to assess their progress on all of the actions that are being considered, and the health secretary (Humza Yousaf) will be making a statement to Parliament next week.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar hit out at the SNP over the waiting times being experienced.
“This is an avoidable human tragedy on a heart-breaking scale,” he said.
“Pandemic or no pandemic, there’s a simple truth: no-one should be left to die on the floor while waiting 40 hours for an ambulance.
“Our NHS staff, paramedics, and call-handlers are being failed too.
“They’re the ones having to answer those heart-breaking calls and tell patients there won’t be an ambulance coming any time soon.
“They’re the ones having to turn up at homes to distressing scenes and are expected to explain the SNP government’s failures.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the call for military assistance is evidence of a government which has done “too little, too late”.
“The ambulance service have been failed by this government,” he told the Scottish Parliament.
“This isn’t just the pandemic. They simply don’t have the resource to prioritise these cases.
“Calling in the army is evidence of a government that has done too little, too late.”
Low-earning families in Scotland are set for a payout of £320 in the coming months, under Scottish Government plans.
Speaking ahead of a debate on Thursday, social justice secretary Shona Robison estimated the money would reach the families of 148,000 children.
The bridging payments, as they have been described, will see two cash payouts of £160 per child sent to families in receipt of free school meals in October and December.
The Scottish Government has already supplied two similar £100 payments this year, while the new scheme – administered by Social Security Scotland – is being rolled out.
The initiative was devised in lieu of the extension of the Scottish Child Payment, which will be available to all eligible families with a child under 16 from next year and, as pledged by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, will be doubled to £20 “as early within the life of this parliament as possible”.
Robison said: “We are determined to build a better future for Scotland’s children and we know how important these payments will be to families in need this winter – particularly with rising fuel bills and Christmas just around the corner.
“Together the Scottish Child Payment and bridging payments will put an estimated £130 million in the pockets of low-income families this year, providing support as we recover from the pandemic.
“Scottish Child Payment is already the most ambitious anti-poverty measure currently being undertaken anywhere in the UK and we have committed to doubling it to £20-a-week per child as soon as possible in this parliamentary term.”
Four more bridging payments are planned for next year, to coincide with the start of school holidays.
While Gail Macgregor, the resources spokeswoman for local authority body Cosla, said: “Councils are pleased to be able to ensure that eligible low income families have access to an additional £520 this year and next through these bridging payments.
“It is important families who have been hardest hit by the pandemic have these vital additional funds as we move forward with the challenging recovery process.
“This demonstrates how local government can reach in and support families in our communities.”
Care home’s registration temporarily suspended amid concerns
The Care Inspectorate launched legal action following an unannounced inspection.
A court has temporarily suspended a care home’s registration after a watchdog raised “serious concerns” about the quality of care.
The interim suspension of the care provider’s registration at Singleton Park Care Home near Lockerbie in Dumfries and Galloway will take effect from September 30.
The Care Inspectorate launched legal action after it found that the home had failed to make any improvements following a critical inspection in July.
Inspectors held an unannounced inspection visit at the home in Courance on July 20 and 21 and identified significant concerns.
They issued an improvement notice requiring “safe and effective management, leadership and oversight of the care home” as well as “improved working practices and care of people in the home”.
However, further inspection and monitoring found the care home provider had failed to meet any of the required improvements in the notice and further serious concerns were also identified.
Following a hearing at Dumfries Sheriff Court, a Care Inspectorate spokesman said on Thursday: “The sheriff court has ordered an interim suspension of the care provider’s registration at Singleton Park Care Home, Lockerbie, to take effect from September 30, 2021.
“The Care Inspectorate is working closely with partners at Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership to ensure residents of the home experience a safe transition to new care arrangements.
“We have taken this legal action to ensure people experienced an improvement in their care following serious concerns raised during an inspection. The suspension of the provider’s registration will allow for transition to alternative care arrangements.
“A further hearing is expected in due course.”
A Singleton Park Care Home spokeswoman said they did not want to comment.
Child’s life-changing surgery after swallowing magnets in viral trend
Jack Mason, 9, had his appendix, small bowel and part of his large bowel removed after swallowing magnets.
A schoolboy has had life-changing surgery after swallowing magnets in a viral trend that could have killed him.
Jack Mason was taken to hospital on Tuesday last week with abdominal pain and vomiting they struggled to control.
The nine-year-old was blue-lighted to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow the next day where scans showed something was blocking his bowel.
Jack’s mum Carolann McGeoch said he admitted to swallowing around six of the magnets after “a bit of probing”.
It was not until after surgeons came to speak to her she realised the severity of the situation.
She said: “It was explained to me that the damage these magnets can cause could be so extreme that he might not pull through.
“Through floods of tears I then had to sign my permission to the operation and to acknowledging that ‘anything could happen’.”
“There are videos across social media encouraging kids to do tricks with these but what the videos fail to mention is that ultimately those tiny wee magnets could kill.”
Carolann McGeoch, Jack’s mum
After four hours of surgery, Jack had lost his appendix, small bowel and 30cm of his large bowel, “all for the sake of some silly magnets”, Carolann said.
“Jack is lucky to be alive, but if his experience can prevent other kids from enduring the same then I will do everything I can to get the word out there,” she said.
Carolann wrote to Jack’s school, Borestone Primary in Stirling, to ask them to arrange an assembly and inform kids about the dangers of the toy magnets.
The trend, known as the “#PiercingChallenge”, originated on video-sharing platform TikTok and involves teenagers using tiny magnets as fake tongue piercings.
The clips have been viewed more than 353 million times.
Jack does not have TikTok but, Carolann said, the videos are being shared all over social media and are easily accessible.
Following several cases of children in Scotland and the rest of the UK swallowing the toys, the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons and Child Accident Prevention Trust launched awareness campaigns.
Gregor Walker, a consultant paediatric surgeon who was involved in Jack’s care, said: “We are very pleased with Jack’s progress since surgery and I am grateful to all members of the team at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow for their continued hard work.
“I am also grateful for Jack’s mother in highlighting this on social media. Increasing awareness is extremely important and this is another example of the hazards of swallowing magnets, which seems to have been happening more frequently over the last two years.
“In our hospital 20% of the children who swallow magnets have required a procedure, with 10% requiring major surgery.
“The important message is that if you think your child has swallowed magnets, please attend your local hospital for review.”
Jack’s surgery left him unable to walk unaided but on Thursday his condition improved and his mum was delighted to announce he had managed to go to the toilet meaning what is left of his bowel is working.
Borestone Primary School’s Parent Teacher Association wrote to parents and carers to share Jack’s story.
“We were really concerned when we heard one of our very own P5 pupils has been gravely ill in hospital and had to undergo serious and life changing surgery – all due to a TikTok challenge involving magnets,” the notice read.
“We all wish Jack a speedy recovery and hope he will be back in school very soon.”
Carolann said the last week had been a “heartbreaking” experience that could have been far worse.
“There are videos across social media encouraging kids to do tricks with these but what the videos fail to mention is that ultimately those tiny wee magnets could kill,” she said.
“Jack’s life has changed forever, let’s stop others from having to go through the same.”
An international student who is stuck in her flat while quarantining has said she can’t wait to “experience life in Glasgow”.
Taneeshaa travelled to Scotland from Malaysia and is due to begin a Masters in social innovation at Glasgow Caledonian University.
But after arriving on Sunday, September 12, the 23-year-old must complete a ten-day quarantine period inside her student accommodation.
“It’s just tiring to see the same four walls again and again,” Taneeshaa told STV News. “You know, I wake up and see the same thing.
“So I just wish I could be free a little bit, but I’m hoping this will pass really quickly. I’ve always wanted to experience life in Glasgow.”
In the meantime, Taneeshaa is keeping herself busy by sorting out her flat and preparing for university life.
She said: “I’m in a studio apartment, so I have my own kitchen and my own washroom. It’s very convenient for me and I have enough food stocked up for my quarantine.
“I’m busy unpacking. I’ve so much luggage to unpack and sometimes when I’m bored I’ll just look out the window and I’m on my gadgets most of the time, my laptop and phone.”
Back to class
While larger lecturers will still take place online over the next academic year and face masks, lateral flow tests and social distancing will remain in place at times, the student experience is expected to be much closer to normal.
Most classes will take place in person, while students will be free to roam campus after being confined to their rooms during lockdown.
And, importantly for many, bars and nightclubs have all reopened as Scotland tries to emerge from the pandemic.
Queen Margaret University principal Paul Brice said institutions would be “acting cautiously” as students returned to campus.
He said: “Our incident management group will meet daily and we know from last year that we can pivot quickly and make changes if we need to.
“We will work to keep the university operating as nearly normally as we possibly can.”
A new sleeper train that would connect Scottish cities to mainland Europe is being proposed.
The German Green Party’s plans would see both Glasgow and Edinburgh connected to cities including Madrid, Rome, Istanbul, St Petersburg and Oslo, with a direct line from Scotland to Germany.
If it goes ahead then passengers could fall asleep on departure from Glasgow or Edinburgh and be in Frankfurt by the time they wake up.
Over 40 railway lines will connect several countries throughout the continent.
Scottish Greens transport spokesman Mark Ruskell MSP has welcomed the news.
He said: “The cooperation agreement between the Scottish Greens and the SNP commits our parties to significant investment to upgrade and improve Scotland’s railways.
“We know that if we want to encourage more people to leave the car behind me need to make rail a more convenient and affordable option for communities across the country.
“It’s also clear that the work needed to tackle the climate crisis can’t stop at our borders, and that we need to work with international partners to deliver real change that offers effective alternatives to flying too.
“That’s why these proposals for a vast network of European sleeper trains are so exciting.
“Linking Edinburgh with Frankfurt could prove transformational in how people travel for work, study and leisure. And of course these links needn’t stop at Edinburgh and Glasgow but could carry on north too.
“With the German Greens in with a real shot of entering government there is every chance that work on these routes could progress rapidly, and I’d urge the Scottish and UK Governments to engage enthusiastically with them.”
Thousands of marchers will take part in Orange Lodge processions through Glasgow on Saturday in the largest gathering of Order members since the coronavirus pandemic.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Orange parades in the city and follows the cancellation of the biggest annual event, commemorating the Battle of the Boyne, the last two years.
Glasgow’s police chief has warned the force will not tolerate “offensive behaviour, including hate crimes, drunkenness and disorder” and urged the “large majority” who behave in the “right way” to influence those around them.
Nearly 5000 people are expected to take part in the marches which will see members of local groups converge at Glasgow Green.
“We are asking all those attending the County Grand Orange Lodge of Glasgow processions, either as a participant or supporter, to do so safely, responsibly and respectfully.”
Chief superintendent Mark Sutherland
The marches will be accompanied by a large policing operation working to “reduce disruption to the wider community”.
Chief superintendent Mark Sutherland, divisional commander of Greater Glasgow Police Division, said: “We will however not tolerate offensive behaviour, including hate crimes, drunkenness and disorder and such behaviours, will be dealt with swiftly and proportionately.
“Where this is not possible during the event we will launch follow-up investigations as necessary.”
Chief superintendent Sutherland said Police Scotland was aware of the protests at particular locations the processions will pass.
He said: “We continue to work with these groups to ensure their rights are protected and would again urge everyone to show tolerance, and respect the rights of others.”
Call It Out a campaign group against anti-Catholic bigotry, said it objected to a small number of routes which pass churches.
Cowcaddens Orange and Purple District 11 will pass St Theresa of Lisieux Roman Catholic Church on Saracen Street with around 200 participants.
St Benedict’s Catholic Church will be passed by the Greater Easterhouse Truth Defenders District 17.
Drumchapel Orange and Purple District 57 will pass by St Laurence Catholic Church in Drumchapel on Kinfauns Drive.
When approaching all music ceases and must remain silent while services are in progress.
Call It Out said it would hold protests in opposition to the marches at sites along certain routes.
A spokesperson said: “Call it Out will organise peaceful vigils outside all Catholic Churches affected…”
“We look forward to the pageantry, the colour and music and welcome the supporters of the Loyal Orange Institution who turn out to watch and enjoy the spectacle.”
Spokesperson for the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland
The city’s police boss said the force was a “rights-based organisation” that put a commitment to upholding human rights at its heart.
He said: “This means we are committed to supporting the human rights of individuals and groups who wish to assemble, balanced against the rights of the wider community and ensuring the safety of everyone involved.
“We are asking all those attending the County Grand Orange Lodge of Glasgow processions, either as a participant or supporter, to do so safely, responsibly and respectfully.”
A statement from the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland said: “The grand master Jim McHarg and Grand Lodge executive officers congratulate the County Grand Lodge of Glasgow on reaching the 200th anniversary of Orange parades in Glasgow.
“Jim McHarg stated he looks forward to a peaceful and successful parade as Glasgow’s Orange family celebrate their heritage and culture.
“We look forward to the pageantry, the colour and music and welcome the supporters of the Loyal Orange Institution who turn out to watch and enjoy the spectacle.
“Our message to everyone is keep safe and enjoy your day.”