College boss 'should repay tens of thousands' from excess severance

The Holyrood committee also slammed evidence from witnesses who they said were 'unconvincing'.

John Doyle: MSPs say he should repay tens of thousands of pounds.
John Doyle: MSPs say he should repay tens of thousands of pounds.

A former college principal who received a severance payment vastly in excess of what he was entitled to should repay tens of thousands of pounds, a Holyrood committee has recommended.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee published its report on the governance of severance payments at the former Coatbridge College on Tuesday.

The inquiry was initiated following concerns raised by the Auditor General in her report on the subject.

Following a series of evidence sessions in which the Committee heard from the key decision makers, the Committee agreed with the Auditor General’s view that the chair of the former college, John Gray, colluded with the former principal John Doyle to get the result they wanted.

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It ruled that the two men withheld relevant information from the college’s Remuneration Committee to achieve this.

Police Scotland is being provided with a copy of the committee’s report.

Public Audit Committee Convener Paul Martin MSP said: “We found a number of witnesses to our inquiry unconvincing. It was frustrating that key information relevant to our inquiry was not provided earlier than it was.

“There is a compelling moral argument for John Doyle to repay the tens of thousands of pounds extra he received from the college.

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“The Scottish Government provided more than £52m between 2011/12 and 2013/14 to support the college merger process and most of that money was used to fund voluntary severance schemes.

“It was not provided however to allow already highly-paid public servants to feather their own nests at the expense of their colleagues and of their students education.

“What we heard during our evidence sessions demonstrated clearly that the end result in relation to John Doyle’s severance payment was engineered through a process of misinformation and disregard for existing guidelines and process.

“We found smokescreens where we should have found spotlights, distractions when we wanted directness. Behind it all lies an appalling abuse of the public purse. There simply was no business case for the former principal to receive the level of severance payment he received.

“Given the nature of much of the evidence we received, we are providing Police Scotland with a copy of this report to enable it to consider what action might be appropriate.

“We very much hope that all our report is accepted and action is taken to ensure that situations such as this one simply do not happen again.”

The report adds that the college governance task group, led by the cabinet secretary, must take action to ensure a similar abuse cannot happen again.

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It says: “The group must consider what sanctions should be available to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and what further powers might be required.

“Given the significant governance and oversight failings, the Scottish Government must look at the operation of the SFC and the effectiveness of its supervisory role.”

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Covid-19: What is the coronavirus alert level system?

The Covid Alert Levels system was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a televised address to the nation back in May.

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Covid-19:Threat level on the rise.

After a few months of respite over the summer, the threat of Covid-19 is rising again.

The UK’s four chief medical officers warned the transmission rate is rising, meaning much tougher social distancing measures could be on the way.

But what is the alert system and how does it work?

What is the alert system?

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The Covid Alert Levels system was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a televised address to the nation back in May. The system is similar to that used to establish the terrorist threat and run by the recently established Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC).

It has five tiers from level one to five based on the spread of Covid-19 through the country.

What is the Joint Biosecurity Centre?

The JBC was set up a few months into the pandemic to provide real-time analysis of Covid-19 outbreaks and the rate of spread at both a local and national level.

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It advises on specific actions which can be taken to manage rising numbers of infections, such as closing schools or businesses, as well as the risk posed by travellers arriving from abroad.

It also provides evidence to the chief medical officers of each of the UK’s four countries, allowing them to decide if a change of alert level is necessary.

How does the alert system work?

The country’s alert level is determined primarily by the virus’s reproduction rate or “R rate” – the average number of people that will contract Covid-19 from an infected person.

It is also based on the overall number of coronavirus cases.
The higher the level, the stricter measures the Government is likely to impose in a bid to get the virus under control.

What are the different levels?

Level one means Covid-19 is no longer known to be in the UK and the only action should be “routine international monitoring”, while level two is when the number of cases and transmission is low and “no or minimal” restrictions are required.

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When the scheme was launched, the country was at level four, which means a “Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation, transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

It was reduced down to level three on June 19, meaning the epidemic is still in general circulation but restrictions can be eased.

Level five is when transmission is high or rising but also when there is a risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed.

Why has the threat level been upgraded again?

A second wave, potentially as lethal as the first, is imminent according to the UK’s most senior scientists.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said on Monday the UK could be facing 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October and a daily death toll of 200 by mid-November unless rapid action is taken.

He and England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned Britons to brace for a “tough six months” as the virus might spread more easily during the colder weather.

Are we are facing another national lockdown?

The Government has yet to announce what the change in threat level means for the general public, but it will be hugely reluctant to impose the same level of restrictions we saw imposed in March.

Boris Johnson is due to chair meetings of Cabinet and the Cobra emergency committee – including the leaders of the devolved administrations – on Tuesday to consider what action to take.

Earlier on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to guarantee pubs in England would be allowed to open this weekend, but said the Government was “determined” to keep schools open during the next phase of the response.


‘Serious moment’ for Scotland as coronavirus spreads

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed a further 255 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that urgent action is needed as coronavirus once again begins to spread throughout Scotland.

At the Scottish Government’s briefing on Monday, the First Minister confirmed a further 255 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours – representing 6.3% of newly tested individuals.

Sturgeon warned that “Covid is spreading again in Scotland” and that “doing nothing in the face of this rapid spread is not an option”.

She said that if left unchecked, it will lead to more cases, more people in hospital and more deaths.

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Sturgeon said: “This is a serious moment again for the country.”

New measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus will be in place in the coming days.

Sturgeon said: “In my view, further and urgent action will now be needed to stop the increase in the number of cases.

“I and my advisers have spent the weekend immersed in discussion and analysis, looking at a variety of options and considering carefully the impact that we judged these would have.”

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The new measures will include financial support for those who are low paid and are asked to self-isolate. Consideration is also ongoing about bringing in large fines for those who break self-isolation rules.

While the measures are still being considered, the First Minister said they are “very close to a point of decision”.

The First Minister also confirmed there have been no further deaths linked to Covid-19.

The official death toll in Scotland stands at 2505, however weekly figures where coronavirus has been registered on the death certificate now stands at 4236.

There are 73 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, an increase of ten in 24 hours. Of these patients, eight are in intensive care.

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government endorsed the warning of UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.

At a UK Government press briefing earlier on Monday, Sir Patrick warned that Britain could be facing 50,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October – leading to 200 deaths a day a month later if the current rate of infection is not halted.

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Sir Patrick said the “vast majority of the population remain susceptible” to catching coronavirus and the current situation required swift action to bring the case numbers down.

He said: “At the moment, we think that the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.”

Sturgeon earlier said it was “frustrating” a Cobra meeting had not yet been set up, however during her briefing it was announced the gathering would go ahead on Tuesday.

Ahead of speaking to Boris Johnson on Monday afternoon, the First Minister said: “In that call, I will impress upon the Prime Minister my view that we need decisive, urgent and as far as possible given our individual responsibilities, coordinated action across the UK.

“I will be clear that I am willing to allow a bit more time for four-nations discussions to take place before making final decisions for Scotland, but I will be equally clear that the urgency of this situation will mean that we cannot, must not and will not wait too long.”

UK-wide Covid crisis talks to take place on Tuesday

The First Minister had expressed frustrations over delays in a Cobra meeting being scheduled.

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Cobra: Boris Johnson will chair a meeting, which will include Nicola Sturgeon, on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister will chair UK-wide crisis talks on coronavirus on Tuesday morning with new restrictions expected this week.

Boris Johnson is due to speak to Nicola Sturgeon later on Monday, the First Minister having expressed frustrations over delays in a Cobra meeting taking place.

Sturgeon and the leaders of the UK’s other devolved nations have been calling for a meeting of the emergency committee to coordinate the next steps as Covid-19 continues to spread.

The Scottish Government learned of the plans during discussions with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove on Saturday.

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Initially at her daily briefing on Monday, Sturgeon said: “It is frustrating that we still don’t have a precise time for that”.

However, once it was confirmed it would take place on Tuesday morning, she said: ” I think that’s very positive and I’m pleased about that.”

At the briefing, a further 255 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours were confirmed – representing 6.3% of newly tested individuals.

Sturgeon warned that “Covid is spreading again in Scotland” and that “doing nothing in the face of this rapid spread is not an option”.


UK faces 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October

Sir Patrick Vallance said this could lead to 200 deaths a day a month later.

The UK could be facing 50,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October unless action is taken, the government’s chief scientific adviser warned.

Sir Patrick Vallance said this could lead to 200 deaths a day by November, as he and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty held a televised briefing on Monday.

The UK Government experts believe the epidemic is currently doubling every seven days, with cases likely to soar without necessary measures.

New restrictions are expected to be announced over the coming days in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and other UK devolved leaders are due to have calls with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, ahead of a Cobra meeting on Tuesday.

“At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days,” Sir Patrick said.

“If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated and this grows doubling every seven days… if that continued you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.

“Fifty thousands cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November say, to 200-plus deaths per day.”

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He said changes are already in place, which should “slow” the rate of infection.

Sir Patrick added: “The challenge therefore is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days.

‘Action required’: Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance provided an update on Covid. Getty

“There are already things in place which are expected to slow that, and to make sure that we do not enter this exponential growth and end up with the problems that you would predict as a result of that.

“That requires speed, it requires action and it requires enough in order to be able to bring that down.”

Prof Whitty added there was now “significant rates of transmission” of coronavirus in parts of the UK.

He said: “What we’ve seen is a progression where, after the remarkable efforts which got the rates right down across the country, first we saw very small outbreaks, maybe associated with a workplace or another environment, then we’ve seen more localised outbreaks which have got larger over time, particularity in the cities.

“And now what we’re seeing is a rate of increase across the great majority of the country. It is going at different rates but it is now increasing.

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“And what we’ve found is, as we go through in time, anywhere that was falling is now moving over to beginning to rise and then the rate of rise continues in an upwards direction.

“So, this is not someone else’s problem, this is all of our problem.”

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s justice secretary, described Sir Patrick and Prof Whitty’s Covid update as “sobering”.

He added: “Our own data in Scotland also showing concerning trends. Simply put, doing nothing is not an option.

“As Jeane Freeman said this morning, we will be guided by science and take action necessary to save lives.”

Coronavirus cases linked to bowling club more than double

NHS Highland says vast majority of Covid-19 infections linked to private event at bowling club in Argyll and Bute.

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Coronavirus cluster linked to bowling club.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases linked to a bowling club in Argyll and Bute has more than doubled.

NHS Highland says the “vast majority” of the 27 positive Covid-19 infections are related to a private event that took place at Cove and Kilcreggan Bowling Club on September 7.

The cluster also includes a confirmed case of coronavirus in a pupil at Kilcreggan Primary School.

The school remains open and pupils can keep turning up for classes if they feel well.

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Close contacts of the confirmed case have been identified and told to stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days.

Dr Tim Allison, NHS Highland’s director of public health, said: “This is an evolving situation and NHS Highland’s Health Protection Team is undertaking further investigations including case follow up and contact tracing.

“Investigations are ongoing in light of this further case but so far the majority of the confirmed cases are linked with a private local event.

“We are working closely with Kilcreggan Medical Practice who have been closely involved with the outbreak response.

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“Anyone that is unwell, even if only mildly symptomatic, should isolate. You should arrange a test if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or if you have been asked to get a test by NHS Highland’s Health Protection Team.”

Pedestrian dies in hospital after hit and run

The 53-year-old man was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where he died a short time later.

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Death: Man killed following hit and run.

A pedestrian has died following a hit and run in West Lothian.

The incident happened around 11.05pm on Sunday on the B792 Torphichen to Bathgate road.

A 53-year-old man was struck by an unidentified vehicle and the driver failed to stop. 

Emergency services attended and the man was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for treatment to serious injury, where he died a short time later. 

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The road remains closed to allow investigations to be conducted.

Inspector Peter Houston from Police Scotland’s Road Policing Unit said: “This was a serious incident and our thoughts at this time are with the family and friends of the man who sadly lost his life. 

“Our enquiries into the cause of the crash are continuing and I would ask anyone who saw what happened, and has not yet spoken to officers, to come forward. 

“We are particularly interested to speak to anyone who was on the B792 before the collision, and may have seen the deceased walking, he was wearing all dark clothing. Equally, we would like to speak to anyone who may have seen a dark vehicle in the area either before or after the time of the collision, it may have had fresh damage. 

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“Anyone with information or anyone who may dashcam footage which can help the investigation is asked to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 4127 of Sunday September 20.”


Woman attacked by man while walking with her child

The woman has been left distressed after the random attack.

Attack: Police appealing for witnesses.

A woman has been attacked while walking with her child in North Lanarkshire.

The 23-year-old was assaulted by the man at the corner of Mansfield Road in Bellshill at around 1pm on Friday.

Police say the victim has been left extremely distressed by what they believe was a random attack.

Officers are now looking to trace the man responsible, described as being in his late teens or early 20s, and have appealed for witnesses.

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The suspect, who ran off in the direction of Hamilton Road, was wearing a grey top and dark jeans.

Detective constable Sean O’Farrell, from Lanarkshire CID, said: “This appears to have been a random assault in broad daylight, and although the woman was not seriously hurt, she has been left extremely distressed by what happened.

“This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and it is vital that we trace the despicable individual responsible.

“I would appeal to anyone who was in the area around 1pm on Friday and may have noticed a man approach a woman and child, or anything at all suspicious, to please get in touch.

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“Additional patrols will be in the area to provide reassurance to members of the public and I would urge anyone with information or concerns to speak to them.”


Three arrested after £80,000 of cannabis found in car

Cannabis with a street value of around £80,000 was found when officers searched a car.

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Cannabis: Three men charged in connection.

Three men have been arrested after police recovered a drugs haul in Dumfries.

Cannabis with a street value of around £80,000 was found when officers searched a car in Ecclefechan on Sunday.

The search took place on A74 at around 6.55pm during a routine patrol.

The men, aged 42, 43 and 59, were arrested and charged in connection with the incident.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “At around 6.55pm on Sunday September 20, whilst on routine patrol, police stopped a vehicle travelling northbound on the A74 near to junction 19 at Ecclefechan.

“A quantity of herbal cannabis with an estimated street value of £80,000 was recovered from the vehicle and three men were arrested and charged in connection with alleged drugs offences.”


CCTV appeal after two men left ‘traumatised’ by attack

Police believe the men pictured will be able to assist with the investigation in Edinburgh.

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CCTV: Police want to track down the two men pictured.

Police have released images of two men they want to track down following an assault in Edinburgh at New Year that left the victims “traumatised”.

Two men were attacked at the city’s Canongate at around 12.30am on Thursday, January 2.

Officers investigating the incident now want to question the men pictured.

Both men were described as having a tanned complexion. One of the men, who was wearing a baseball cap, spoke with an east London accent.

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Detective constable Pete Shannon said: “Both victims were left traumatised from this incident.

“We are eager to trace the men pictured as we believe they may be able to assist our enquiries, and would urge anyone who may recognise them to get in touch with us as soon as possible.”

If you recognise either of the men, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111


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