Sturgeon: Trump should behave more responsibly on Covid

It comes ahead of a potential meeting next month between PM Boris Johnson and the US president.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she wished US president Donald Trump would be more “responsible” in his conduct handling the coronavirus outbreak.

The First Minister was asked for her thoughts after the possibility of Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting the president next month was raised by a Downing Street spokesman.

Sturgeon will ‘refute’ allegations of misleading parliament

First Minister says she doesn't accept claims made by her predecessor Alex Salmond that she broke the ministerial code.

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Nicola Sturgeon says she doesn't accept claims made by Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will refute accusations she misled the Scottish Parliament – a claim made by her predecessor as first minister Alex Salmond – when she appears before a committee of MSPs.

Asked about Salmond’s claims on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, she said: “I don’t accept that and I will refute that vigorously.”

Sturgeon said she had hoped to appear before the Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints this coming week, but her appearance had been delayed by a “couple of weeks”.

She said: “I will sit before that committee and I will set out my account of what happened, given the very difficult situation that I faced, and people can make their own judgements on that.”

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Salmond has claimed that his successor as First Minister misled MSPs with “false and manifestly untrue” statements about when she first knew of sexual harassment allegations against him.

But Sturgeon said she does not believe she lied to parliament and Deputy First Minister John Swinney says she will use her appearance before the inquiry to dispel the “absolute nonsense” put forward by her predecessor.

Sturgeon initially told Holyrood she first heard of complaints of sexual misconduct against Salmond when they met at her home on April 2, 2018.

It later emerged she had a meeting with Salmond’s chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, in her Holyrood office four days earlier.

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The SNP leader told the Scottish Parliament committee she “forgot” about that encounter.

Asked by Marr if Salmond was “spinning false conspiracy theories”, Sturgeon said: “What I certainly reflect on is that at times I appear to be simultaneously accused of colluding with Mr Salmond to somehow cover up accusations of sexual harassment on the one hand.

“And then on the other hand, being part of some dastardly conspiracy to bring him down.

“Neither of those are true.”

She continued: “I, at the time I became aware of all of this, just tried hard not to interfere with what was going on and not to do anything that would see these swept aside rather than properly investigated.”

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had made “mistakes” in its handling of the complaints, which would be the subject of the Holyrood committee’s inquiry.

Boy, 12, struck by train in critical condition in hospital

The boy was hit by a train at Prestwick Town railway station in South Ayrshire on Saturday night.

© Google Maps 2020
Boy was hit by train at Prestwick Town railway station.

A 12-year-old boy is in a critical condition in hospital after being struck by a train at a railway station in South Ayrshire.

The boy, who was not on the tracks at any point, was hit at Prestwick Town railway station just after 7.20pm on Saturday night.

He was taken by ambulance to hospital, where he remains in a critical conditon.

British Transport Police (BTP) officers say the incident is being treated as an accident and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

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BTP said in a statement: “Last night (Saturday 23 January 2021) at just after 7.20pm, BTP Officers were called to Prestwick Town Railway Station, South Ayrshire, after reports of a 12-year-old boy being struck by a train.

“Colleagues from Police Scotland also attended.   The Scottish Ambulance Service took the young man to hospital where he remains in a critical condition.  

“The incident is currently being treated as an accident.  If you have any information about this incident, please contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 432 of 23/1/2021.”


Over-70s to receive Covid jab appointments in blue envelopes

The 'distinctive' blue envelopes have been given priority by Royal Mail and will start arriving through letterboxes from Monday.

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Letters: Over 70s to begin receiving jab appointments.

Blue envelopes containing coronavirus vaccination appointments for those aged 70 to 79 will start arriving through letterboxes on Monday, the Scottish Government has said.

As the inoculation programme moves through priority groups, several health board areas are beginning to send out letters telling those in the age group when they will receive their first dose of the Covid-19 jab.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman urged people to look out for the “very distinctive” envelopes, which are being given priority by Royal Mail.

A new booking system is also being used by several health boards to schedule appointments for patients in order of priority.

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Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire and Lothian are among the NHS boards which will use the system.

The Scottish Government said they are on track for all those aged 80 and over to have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of the first week in February.

This age group will not receive a blue envelope as they are being contacted by telephone or another form of letter.

Freeman said: “We all know how easy it is to ignore some of the mail which comes through our letterboxes but these blue envelopes will be very distinctive and they will contain details of your vaccine appointment so please open them.

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“The letters are being posted first class and we have been advised by the Royal Mail that the colour will allow them to prioritise delivery.

“The blue envelopes will contain information about the time and place of your appointment and details on how to reschedule it if you are unable to attend.

“I would urge everyone to take up their appointment when they are offered one.

“The vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow.

“All these measures work to greatest effect when they work together.”

Teenage girl sexually assaulted inside city park

Seventeen-year-old girl was attacked at Tollcross Park in the east end of Glasgow on Saturday night.

© Google Maps 2020
Teenager was sexually assaulted inside Tollcross Park.

A teenage girl was sexually assaulted inside a Glasgow park on Saturday night.

The 17-year-old was attacked at Tollcross Park, in the city’s east end, between 9pm and 11pm.

Police Scotland said: “Police are investigating a report of a 17-year-old girl being sexually assaulted within Tollcross Park, Glasgow, between 9pm and 11pm on Saturday, 23 January, 2021.

“Enquiries are at an early stage to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.”

Burns in the Covid era: Tributes to National Bard go virtual

Traditional gatherings are unable to take place this year so Robert Burns' birthday is being celebrated online instead.

Bachelors of Tarbowton

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!

The immortal words of Scotland’s National Bard – reverberating around the world this year like never before as thousands log-on to celebrate virtual Burns Night suppers.

Traditional gatherings – filled with poetry, song and whisky – are unable to take place in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But that hasn’t stopped Scots raising a glass and celebrating the life of Robert Burns on his birthday.

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And the University of Glasgow has set out to chronicle the many Burns Suppers taking place online in Scotland and across the globe in 2021.

A research project led by academics from the university includes an interactive world map – featuring 2500 Burns suppers across five continents and giving an inventory of their menus, settings, entertainment and orders of ceremony.

It is the broadest, most detailed record of Burns Night activities ever made by the university’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies.

Researchers are calling on Scots to join in their #VirtualBurnsNight – by posting photos and videos of their event on social media – to help expand the map and their research project even further.

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Dr Paul Malgati, a research assistant on The Burns Supper in History and Today project at the University of Glasgow, said: “This January is an unprecedented moment in the 220-year long history of Burns Night.

“We’re expecting to see thousands of people tuning into hundreds of Burns celebrations held virtually all over the world.

“At the University of Glasgow, we’ve just released a giant world map of Burns suppers and we’ll be following this year’s situation very closely.

“We have already sent out invitations to join us for our #VirtualBurnsNight 2021 to 2000 addresses, across more than 140 countries.

“These include Scottish societies, pipe bands, Burns clubs, Scottish country dance group, rotary clubs, British embassies, libraries, museums, schools and universities, which all hosted a Burns Supper or a Burns Night celebration in recent years.

“Considering the effects of the global pandemic, we realised that by bringing together all our contacts, we had a unique opportunity to hold a substantial, virtual event, making up for the cancellation of many Burns suppers across the world.”

The University of Glasgow says it is estimated that more than nine-and-a-half million people around the world take part in a Burns Supper every year.

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This year’s project will be part of the celebrations to mark the 220th anniversary of the first Burns Supper – held in Burns Cottage, Alloway on July 21, 1801, commemorating the date of the bard’s passing rather than his birth.

One group that has already celebrated Burns Night virtually is the Ayrshire-based Bachelors of Tarbowton, who live-streamed their celebrations on Zoom.

Organiser Cameron Goodall said people tuned in from countries across the world, including the United States and New Zealand.

He said: “Because our Burns Club is made up of very serious Burns people, we traditionally have our suppers very late – typically around March.

“We usually have to go that late to ensure everyone will be available. Most are the backbone of several Burns Suppers around Scotland.

“We already had to forego our 2020 Burns Supper and we had rescheduled at that stage for the end of 2020. As it became clear even that was going to be impossible I started seriously looking at Zoom to enable us to get together as a group. 

“We managed a dress rehearsal, of sorts, to coincide with St Andrew’s Day and I wanted to let the world at large get a peek under the curtain, as it were.”

Cameron said he decided to live-stream their Zoom Burns Night on YouTube, adding that such a move was not without its teething problems.

“A few of our members are still somewhat challenged by technology but we still managed to have a grand night,” he said.

“Our suppers at The Bachelors Club would usually last about five hours and our online one was only a half-hour short of that, but it’s since been edited down to a slightly more manageable three hours!”

Some of the biggest Burns Night suppers are taking place right here in Scotland. Here are the details of some of the major online events planned this year:

  • WORLD’S BIGGEST BURNS – Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus, a charity that supports people with spina bifida, hydrocephalus and related conditions, says it is hosting the “world’s biggest Burns Supper”. The celebration, taking place on Monday at 7pm, features comedy from Fred MacAulay and music from Travis frontman Fran Healy.
  • BURNS&BEYOND – Burns&Beyond is a free programme of events and performances running across Burns weekend. It features a series of online music performances, poetry and even a cocktail-making class.
  • BIG BURNS SUPPER – Hosted by comedian Janey Godley, an online broadcast featuring musicians, comedians, actors, aerialists and historians from across the world. The event will be broadcast from 7pm on January 25 via Facebook.

Forbes: Budget will help Scotland ‘recover and renew’

The finance secretary said the plans would help Scotland recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

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Budget: Plans aim to support Scotland post-pandemic.

This week’s budget will help Scotland to “recover and renew” from the Covid-19 pandemic, finance secretary Kate Forbes has said.

Ahead of the delayed announcement, which customarily takes place in December, Kate Forbes said there would not be a public-sector pay freeze similar to that announced by the UK Government and staff would be offered a settlement that was “fair and affordable”.

In pre-budget consultations, the finance secretary said, sectors have stressed the need for targeted support, which she claims will be delivered when she addresses MSPs on Thursday.

In a statement released on Sunday, she also hinted at the extension of rates relief for businesses but said the Scottish Government currently has “limited resources” with which to offer such support due to the delay in the UK Government’s spending pledges announcement.

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Forbes said: “The budget on Thursday will create the conditions for Scotland to recover and renew.

“The budget will include innovative, targeted measures to help businesses and families get back on their feet and bolster our vital public services.

“I have already ruled out following the UK Government’s public-sector pay freeze and will set out details of a pay settlement that is both fair and affordable.”

The UK budget has been delayed until March by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, something Forbes said at the time would cause “significant difficulties” in the process north of the border.

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In an effort to secure cross-party support for the budget, Forbes continued: “The global pandemic and the problems arising from Brexit combine to make these uniquely challenging times.

“This budget will help Scotland emerge as a globally competitive, fairer and greener country, and I urge all parties to work in the national interest to ensure it is passed by the Scottish Parliament.”

Business group CBI Scotland called for the finance secretary to focus on sustainability and skill in her announcement.

According to the group, the three key areas of focus should be support for businesses in the short term to protect jobs while investing in training for the future and looking at ways to transition to a net zero economy.

CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: “CBI Scotland argues that a budget focused on support, skills and sustainability can bolster Scotland’s short and long-term economic prospects.

“That means protecting the companies that will deliver growth, investing properly in our workforce and building a net zero economy that not only delivers a better environmental future, but an economic one too.

“Sustainability can be a competitive advantage for Scotland for years to come and deliver a real jobs boost at a time when we need it most.”

When Bon Jovi brought Glasgow city centre to a standstill

Huge crowds gathered on Argyle Street as the American rockers performed at Tower Records.

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Glasgow city centre was brought to a halt on a summer day in 1995 when American rockers Bon Jovi turned up.

The band played six songs – including an acoustic version of their biggest hit Livin’ On A Prayer – through the open windows of Tower Records on Argyle Street.

Huge crowds gathered outside the music shop to greet Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and the rest of the band on June 14, 1995.

They were also treated to other Bon Jovi classics such as Wanted Dead or Alive and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.

‘We went to great lengths to save our swimming pool’

Events planned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a campaign to save Govanhill Baths.

GBCT via Govanhill Baths Community Trust
Community members protest the closure of the Govanhill Baths in 2001.

It was 20 years ago that a Glasgow community rose up in outrage to save their swimming pool.

Now, two decades on from the formation of the Save Our Pool campaign that led to the setting up of the Govanhill Baths Community Trust, the historic takeover of the building is to be celebrated.

It all started on January 15, 2001, when the Kingston Swimming Club received notice that Glasgow City Council intended to close the pool.

Two days later, residents determined to keep the baths open started a campaign that would go on to feature the longest-ever occupation of a public building in British history.

Community campaign to save Govanhill Baths. Credit: Govanhill Baths Community Trust.
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Paula Larkin, archivist for the trust, said: “I remember this amazing energy and diversity. You had young Asian boys, older Irish women, all along the same picket line.

“Professionals, academics, unemployed people, we had working mothers and fathers, and teachers.

“The demographic of the campaign was really broad and I think that is one of the reasons it was so successful.”

Community campaign to save Govanhill Baths. Credit: Govanhill Baths Community Trust.

A refurbishment of the baths has been delayed due to the pandemic, but after securing more than £2m to restore it to its former glory, it is hoped work will be completed in 2022.

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This year, numerous events are planned to celebrate not only the Save Our Pool campaign but the history of occupations across the country.

Important anniversaries take place in 2021 for the occupation of the Upper Clyde Shipyard in 1971, the Lee Jeans factory in Greenock in 1981 and the Lovable bra factory in Cumbernauld, also in 1981.

Despite the pandemic, the Govanhill Trust hopes to organise a programme that uses their campaign as a way of exploring the importance of community protest movements.

Ms Larkin said: “It was such an important occupation, thought to be the longest of a public building in British history.

Community campaign to save Govanhill Baths. Credit: Govanhill Baths Community Trust.

“Through that occupation, eventually the Govanhill Baths Community Trust was set up and we’ve managed to save that building and it is going to be reopened in 2022 as a wellbeing centre.

“Without the occupation, it wouldn’t have happened. All the amazing work we’ve been doing since 2012 wouldn’t have happened. It’s absolutely key in the history of the trust.”

A Facebook page, Save Our Pool History Group, has been set up to bring those involved in the picket line, demonstrations and campaigning back together to contribute to the remembrance events.

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Ms Larkin said the involvement of those who wrote and sang protest songs, made banners and fought to save the pool is “key” to the celebrations.

Community campaign to save Govanhill Baths. Credit: Govanhill Baths Community Trust.

Calls to draft in supply teachers to offer extra support

The Scottish Liberal Democrats say urgent measures are needed to offer catch-up support to pupils.

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Schools: Calls for extra support for pupils.

Supply teachers should be brought into schools to provide extra catch-up support for pupils during the pandemic, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have said.

The party’s education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart MSP has written to Education Secretary John Swinney calling on him to introduce urgent measures to employ qualified supply teachers to provide extra support for children who would benefit from catch-up support and extra one-on-one learning.

She said that such a catch-up mechanism “could help dampen the worst impacts of the pandemic on learning”.

It comes after Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) general secretary Larry Flanagan called for “the rapid employment of supply teachers currently seeking work to provide additional support to those pupils struggling to engage with remote learning”.

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In her letter, Wishart wrote: “Teachers are working flat out to give pupils the best education they can. But supply teachers are telling me that they have consistently been underemployed since the start of the pandemic.

“I am writing to urge you to immediately lend your support to the introduction of new measures to employ qualified supply teachers to provide extra support for pupils who would benefit from catch-up support and extra one-on-one learning.

“I believe such a new catch-up mechanism, rooted in the judgement of class teachers, could help dampen the worst impacts of the pandemic on learning.”

Most pupils are currently taking part in online learning, with only those deemed vulnerable and the children of key workers attending school.

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Ms Wishart said that the loss of routine, time spent with friends and full access to normal learning has been hard, and “children have missed out on so much over the past year”.

She added: “The evidence I am receiving is that supply teachers have the capacity to help bridge some of that gap, both during the current period of remote learning, (and) also once schools return.

“They have valuable skills and experience, and can provide precious additional support. We should be looking to bring in every helping hand available.

“The nationwide package agreed in the spring for supply teachers helped with their initial predicament.

“But I believe there is now an urgent need to establish new catch-up mechanisms, and that supply teachers can be a part of this.”

Swinney, who is also Deputy First Minister, said: “The number of full-time equivalent teachers is at its highest since 2008 and since the start of the pandemic our additional funding has led to 1400 teachers and over 200 support staff being appointed.

“Last week we allocated an additional £45m to councils to support schools and families.

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“That funding, which is sufficient to fund 2000 additional teachers, can be used to recruit additional staff including supply teachers.”

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