Award-winning bird hide destroyed in ‘deliberate’ fire

Between 7 and 8pm on Thursday, February 18, NatureScot's Mill Hide was completely gutted in a blaze.

Mill Hide in the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve. NatureScot via NatureScot
Mill Hide in the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve.

An award-winning bird hide on the shores at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve has been destroyed in what police are treating as a deliberate fire.

Between 7pm and 8pm on Thursday, February 18, NatureScot’s Mill Hide was completely gutted in a blaze.

Police are investigating the incident as a deliberate act and have appealed to the public for information to identify those responsible.

NatureScot’s reserve manager Neil Mitchell said: “When I went out to the site this morning I was shocked and saddened to see what has happened to the hide. It’s been completely destroyed and what’s worse is we believe the fire was started deliberately.

NatureScot’s Mill Hide was gutted by the fire (NatureScot).
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“The hide is hugely popular and over the years has brought so many people joy, allowing them to experience and connect with nature at the reserve. It was a beautiful building that has won several awards, and many visitors will have snapped views from it. Sadly we’ve now had to fence off the site for public safety.

“While it’s gutting to see it destroyed, the response from the community and the general public has been amazing. Given this bird watching site’s popularity and fantastic lochside location, we are determined to replace the hide as soon as possible.

“We would urge anyone with information about the fire to contact Police Scotland.”

The hide was built in 2011 and sits on the loch shore near Kinross behind the Todd and Duncan factory.

NatureScot’s Mill Hide had won awards for its design (NatureScot).
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It had won awards for its architectural design and was popular with locals and visitors offering views of the loch and the large number of birds that would congregate on the water.

Chief Inspector Graham Binnie of Police Scotland said: “Starting fires deliberately is reckless, dangerous and risks lives. In this case, the bird hide has been completely, and unnecessarily, destroyed.

“We are investigating this as a deliberate act and would ask anyone who saw any suspicious behaviour in the area on Thursday evening, or has information to identify those responsible, to report this to us as soon as possible.

“Those with information should contact Police Scotland on 101 and quote incident number 0573 of February 19.”

Loch Leven is Scotland’s most visited National Nature Reserve, with upward of 250,000 people a year visiting the site.

The bird hide was on one of the most visited parts of the site.

NatureScot’s Mill Hide had won awards for its design (NatureScot).

Holyrood pays tribute to ‘extraordinary’ Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, passed away on Friday morning at Windsor Castle.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led tributes to the late Duke of Edinburgh at Holyrood.

The Scottish Parliament was recalled on Monday for only the sixth time in its history so as MSPs could show their respect to Prince Philip in a motion of condolence.

The 99-year-old, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, passed away on Friday morning at Windsor Castle.

The Duke and the Queen were married for more than 70 years and Philip dedicated decades of his life to royal duty, serving the nation at the monarch’s side.

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Royal: Holyrood paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh.
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Following a one-minute silence in remembrance, Sturgeon said: “The tributes paid to the Duke of Edinburgh over these last three days show the affection in which he was held here in Scotland, across the United Kingdom and indeed around the world.

“On behalf of the people of Scotland I express my deepest sympathy to Her Majesty The Queen, who is grieving the loss of her strength and stay, her husband of almost 74 years, and also to the Duke’s children and to the wider Royal Family.”

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Holyrood: A minute’s silence was held for the Duke of Edinburgh.

The First Minister highlighted his life-saving efforts during the Second World War, and like so many of his generation the Duke had “endured difficulties and faced dangers that generations since can barely comprehend”.

Sturgeon described the relationship between The Queen and the Duke as a “true partnership”.

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She said: “He faced the additional challenge of being the husband of a powerful woman at a time when that was even more of an exception than it is today.

“That reversal of the more traditional dynamic was highly unusual in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and even now isn’t as common as it might be.

“Yet, the Duke of Edinburgh was devoted to supporting the Queen – they were a true partnership.”

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Braemar Gathering: The Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The FM said she enjoyed speaking to the Duke about the books they were reading when she would stay at Balmoral.

She added: “He was a thoughtful man, deeply interesting and fiercely intelligent.

“He was also a serious book worm, which I am too, so talking about the books we were reading was often for me a real highlight of our conversations.”

Sturgeon highlighted his interest in industry and science and said he was “far-sighted” in his early support for conservation.

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She added: “Indeed, as far back as 1969 in a speech here in Edinburgh he warned of the risks of ‘virtually indestructible’ plastics.

“Of course, in 1956 he founded the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which now every year provides opportunity, hope and inspiration to more than one million young people in more than 100 countries across the world.”

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Just married: Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day.

The First Minister said “it is right that our parliament pays tribute” to the Duke.

She added: “In doing so, we mourn his passing and we extend our deepest sympathy to Her Majesty The Queen and her family.

“We reflect on his distinguished war-time record, his love and support for The Queen and his decades of public service to Scotland, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

“Above all, we celebrate and we honour an extraordinary life.”

The Scottish Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson said she couldn’t imagine what “it is like to be married to someone for 73 years”.

She added: “And I can’t imagine what it is to have to get up and face every future day without them – what that absence feels like.

“And I think the recognition of the enormity of such a loss is what has led so many over the past few days to look past the titles and the 41 gun salutes and have such a sense of feeling for Her Majesty on such a human level.”

Davidson described the Duke as a “dashing young naval officer” who went on to become a “palace moderniser”.

She said: “He was a man that was born before the discovery of penicillin, before the creation of the United Nations or the invention of the television or the jet engine.

“But a moderniser he was in life, as well as in work. How many men in the 1950s gave up their job for their wife’s career?”

She also recalled how he had once asked former Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie about her underwear, at an event in Holyrood held to mark Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland.

Davidson said: “Seeing Iain Gray [former Scottish Labour leader] sporting a tie in the papal tartan, the Duke turned to Tory leader Annabel Goldie to ask if she had a pair of knickers made out of this.

“Quite properly, Annabel retorted, ‘I couldn’t possibly comment, and even if I did I couldn’t possibly exhibit them’.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he’d “never had the privilege” of meeting Prince Philip, so didn’t have a personal anecdote to share.

However he retold the story of a man called Jon Watts, who was jailed at the age of 17.

Sarwar said: “Jon recalled ‘there was lots of alcohol and no aspirations for people like me’, is what he said.

“But while in prison he came across the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, which he said gave him a new sense of direction.

“He camped out for his first award not on a Scottish mountainside, but in a tent on the artificial grass of a prison football pitch.

“Jon went on to get the bronze, silver and gold award while serving a six-year sentence.

“The skill he learned during the programme was cooking, and upon leaving prison he set up his very own catering business, now helping other young people to learn new skills and find jobs. ‘It saved my life’, Jon said last week.

“That’s just one life that the Prince helped save; there will be countless others from different walks of life.”

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Edinburgh: Members of the 105th Regiment Royal Artillery fire a 41-round gun salute.

Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, also paid tribute despite the party wishing for an elected head of state.

Highlighting all the lives lost during the coronavirus pandemic, he added: “Today is a moment to extend our thoughts to Prince Philip’s family and to all those who are grieving for their loved ones in a spirit of respect for the equal value of every human life.”

Scottish Lib Dems leader Willie Rennie recalled a meeting in which Prince Philip asked him about a “little blue man” badge he used to wear.

He said: “The Duke of Edinburgh spotted it at a reception. He bounced up, demanding to know what it was. ‘To show support for the prostate cancer campaign’, I said.

“He looked at me closely. He says, ‘have you got it or are you against it?’ Then he bounced off again.

“The engagement was only 30 seconds long, but it has stayed with me and to be retold numerous times over the years.

“It seems that he left lasting impressions with so many others too. Some less repeatable than others, but so many were fun and memorable.”

Parts of Scotland experience ‘coldest April night’ on record

Sunshine, snow and hail combined for a twist on an April shower this weekend.

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April cools: Areas across the country recorded the coldest April night in around 30 years.

Parts of Scotland have recorded the coldest April night in around 30 years with temperatures dropping to almost -10C.

People across the country were left baffled when sunshine, snow and hail combined for a twist on an April shower this weekend.

On Saturday night the mercury fell to -6C in Aberdeenshire and as low as -8C in the north and west Highlands.

Temperatures dropped even lower on Sunday night, with Monday morning being an April record-breaker for some areas,

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Tulloch Bridge in the Highlands was the coldest spot with a low of -9.4C recorded, which is almost a whole degree lower than the record for April. Records here go back almost 30 years.

Even further south the temperatures hit the extreme end of cold for April with a low of -7.4C in Tyndrum, -4.5C in Islay, -4.3C in Edinburgh and -4C at Bishopton in Renfrewshire. The lows in Tyndrum and Islay look like new records.

While Scotland has had local records, the all-time record has been safe, with -15.4C recorded back in 1917 at Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway.

STV Meteorologist Sean Batty said: “Cold and snowy weather in April and May can come as a big shock, but this part of spring can be very volatile with some huge day-to-day swings in temperature.

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“So far this year it seems we’ve lacked the extreme warmer spells where we can get the BBQ and sun loungers out, and it’s been more typical to be bundled up against an icy wind.

‘I’ve got bad news for those of you hankering after the other end of extreme, I don’t think we’ll be hitting the 20s until May.’

STV Meteorologist Sean Batty

“In the last few weeks, we’ve had some abnormally cold conditions but we’ve not been alone with central and western Europe colder than usual – including Spain where there was some extreme heat recently.

“Most of the country had some snow showers during the weekend, and where skies cleared at night, there were some very low temperatures.

“As we go through this week it will feel warmer by day with temperatures getting back into double digits by the end of the week, but frosts will still occur by night, although temperatures won’t be as low as recent nights.”

Sean added: “I’ve got bad news for those of you hankering after the other end of extreme, I don’t think we’ll be hitting the 20s until May.”


Brown calls on G7 to spearhead global vaccination push

Former PM says the mass vaccination of the world should be primary focus of the G7 summit in Cornwall.

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The G7 nations should commit £22bn a year as part of a “Herculean” push for global vaccination, Gordon Brown has said.

The former prime minister has called for the mass vaccination of the world to be the primary focus of the G7 summit, which starts on June 11 in Cornwall.

US president Joe Biden is expected to attend the event, along with the other G7 leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the EU.

Brown said: “Nobody is safe anywhere until everybody is safe everywhere. If the disease keeps spreading in Africa and Asia it will come back and haunt us here, it will mutate and we’ll still be in trouble several years from now.

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“So it makes sense not only for us to help ourselves but to help get the vaccination done in other countries, and at the moment although 70 or 80% of adults in Britain are being vaccinated, it’s less than 1% in sub-Saharan Africa and only a few are getting access to the vaccines and we’ve got to do something different.

“So, the G7 meets in Britain in a few weeks’ time, Boris Johnson is chairing it, they’re the richest countries, they should come to an agreement; we’ll pay 60% of the costs, then Russia, China, the oil states and all the other countries like Scandinavia can do more we could pay to vaccinate the world if we come together and club together to meet the cost.”

Vaccines are currently shared internationally under the World Health Organisation-backed Covax programme, which is working to provide vaccines for low and middle-income countries.

However, Brown said the issue is not a shortage in the number of vaccines, but the “shortage of money to pay for them”, adding the funds needed to end the global crisis “are a fraction of the trillions Covid is costing us”.

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Writing in The Guardian, Brown says the G7 nations must spearhead a “Herculean mobilisation” of pharmaceutical companies, national militaries and health workers to reach the “greatest number of people in the shortest time across the widest geography.”

He writes: “As things stand, affluent countries accounting for 18% of the world’s population have bought 4.6 billion doses – 60% of confirmed orders. About 780 million vaccines have been administered to date, but less than 1% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa have been injected.

“Immunising the West but only a fraction of the developing world is already fuelling allegations of ‘vaccine apartheid’, and will leave Covid-19 spreading, mutating and threatening the lives and livelihoods of us all for years to come.”

“We need to spend now to save lives, and we need to spend tomorrow to carry on vaccinating each year until the disease no longer claims lives. And this will require at least 30 billion dollars (£22bn) a year, a bill no one so far seems willing to fully underwrite.”

Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the Government, told Sky News: “Wherever there is disease, we know there is a risk – it is in our self-interest to get vaccination occurring around the world.

“Wherever it occurs in the world, whatever we do, it will arrive here.

“The notion, put forward by Gordon Brown, that the G7 ought to be supporting international vaccination is really top rate. We must support that.”

Boy, 11, reported missing after leaving home for school

Charlie Durkin was last seen leaving his house in Lossiemouth at around 8.30am on Monday morning.

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Charlie Durkin has gone missing from his home in Lossiemouth.

An 11-year-old boy has gone missing in the north east of Scotland.

Charlie Durkin was last seen leaving his house on North Covesea Terrace in Lossiemouth at around 8.30am on Monday morning.

Police believe he was walking to school and are appealing for information about his whereabouts.

Charlie may also have returned home to collect a bright pink coloured bicycle.

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As well as his home town, Charlie is known to frequent the Elgin area.

He is described as slim, around 5ft 2in, and was wearing a school uniform comprising of a black puffa-style jacket, white shirt, black trousers, and black and white coloured Nike trainers.

He is also believed to have a black and white coloured Vans rucksack in his possession.

Anyone who has seen Charlie or who may have knowledge of his whereabouts is asked to contact police on 101 and quote incident 0916 of April 12.

Coronavirus: No further deaths as cases rise by 199 overnight

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 154 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

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Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further 199 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

No additional deaths have been reported.

The death toll of those who tested positive stands at 7630, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now more than 10,000.

The daily test positivity rate is 2.4%, up from the 1.8% reported on Sunday when 250 cases were recorded.

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Of the new cases reported on Monday, 67 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 28 are in Lothian, 28 are in Lanarkshire, and 21 are in Fife.

The rest of the cases are spread out across six other health board areas.

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 154 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. Out of those, 21 patients are in intensive care.

The Scottish Government also confirmed that 2,668,723 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 11,145 from the day before.

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A total of 590,174 people have received their second dose, a rise of 21,299.


Coronavirus: Some high school pupils return to class full-time

Pupils in Aberdeen, Fife, Dumfries and Galloway, Moray, Shetland and the Western Isles are back to in-person learning.

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Secondary school pupils in some council areas are back to full-time in-person learning.

High school pupils in some local authority areas are returning to the classroom full-time on Monday.

Pupils in Aberdeen, Fife, Dumfries and Galloway, Moray, Shetland and the Western Isles are back to in-person learning.

They will no longer have to adhere to strick two metre social distancing rules but other mitigations have been strengthened.

Face masks must be worn in all areas – classrooms, corridors and communal areas. This applies to S1-S3 pupils – not just those in the senior phase of their school education (S4-S6) – unless medically exempt.

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Furthermore, twice-weekly lateral flow tests are available for all secondary school pupils.

The majoirty of schools in Scotland are still on their Easter break and most pupils will return full time from next Monday. April 19.

Pupils in Edinburgh and Midlothian council areas will return the following day, on April 20.

Only those who are shielding will have to wait longer until they can resume face-to-face lessons.

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Scotland’s primary pupils returned to class full-time in stages during February and March, while most high-school students were seeing teachers in-person on a part-time basis.

This year’s National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams have been cancelled, with results being awarded instead through coursework and assessment.

Sturgeon: Westminster will not stand in the way of Indyref2

SNP leader does not believe Boris Johnson will prevent a second referendum if her party wins a majority at Holyrood.

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SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon believes UK Government discussions on independence have moved on.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon does not believe Boris Johnson will prevent a second Scottish independence referendum if the SNP wins a majority at next month’s Holyrood election.

The Prime Minister has so far rejected calls to give the go-ahead for a referendum, but Sturgeon said she believes UK Government discussions have moved on.

She told the Guardian: “If people in Scotland vote for a party saying, ‘when the time is right, there should be an independence referendum’, you cannot stand in the way of that, and I don’t think that is what will happen.”

Sturgeon said she believes discussions within the UK government had “moved away from ‘we can stop a referendum’ to ‘when would it happen, and on what basis would it happen?’”

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She said: “People will always challenge that because of what the supposed position of the UK government is,” adding that she is “pretty confident” the SNP’s plan B of a referendum Bill at Scottish Parliament will not be needed.

In an 11-point plan earlier this year, her party said it would announce a referendum through legislation at Holyrood if there is an SNP majority but the UK Government refused to grant a Section 30 order, effectively daring Westminster to challenge it in the courts.

Sturgeon said her “strong preference and intention” is to hold another referendum in the first half of the parliament, up to 2023, but she will be “guided by the realities of Covid”.

She also addressed comments from her predecessor as first minister, Alex Salmond, in his role as leader of the Alba Party, that peaceful protests and legal action could also be used in pursuit of independence, saying they could put off potential independence supporters.

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Sturgeon told the newspaper: “If you’re somebody that voted no in 2014 and … because of Brexit or other things, are now open-minded to independence – and I know an awful lot of these people – and you hear somebody say they think they can bulldoze their way to independence in spite of public opinion, I would think, ‘maybe I don’t want to engage in this any more’.”

Warrant issued for man who racially abused Humza Yousaf

Stuart Smith, 63, has repeatedly failed to return to Glasgow Sheriff Court for sentencing.

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Targeted: Humza Yousaf was racially abused online.

A man convicted of racially abusing justice secretary Humza Yousaf has been issued with a warrant for his arrest.

Stuart Smith, 63, claimed the SNP MSP supported “Muslim killers” and raised money for their families.

The message was sent on November 14, 2015 – the day after the Paris terror attack and was in response to a screenshot of Mr Yousaf’s “#PrayForParis” tweet.

Smith said Mr Yousaf had a “good Scots name”, adding: “I am sure he is 90% backing Muslim killers. Be having a whip round for terrorist families soon.”

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Smith was found guilty in November following a trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner aggravated by religious prejudice.

But, he failed to attend several sentencing hearings claiming to be suffering from ill health.

Sheriff Sean Murphy QC told his lawyer Iain McCelland on the last occasion that he should attend Monday’s hearing or a warrant would be issued.

Mr McCelland told the court that he had emailed Smith, of Gretna in Dumfries and Galloway, as well as sent him written correspondence.

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Sheriff Murphy said: “He was warned to be here last time, warrant to apprehend.”


MacIntyre: I’m not missing Masters next year ‘for anything’

The 24-year-old from Oban secured a place in next year's tournament after finishing in the top 12 at Augusta.

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Robert MacIntyre will be back at the Masters next year after impressive debut performance.

Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre was thrilled to secure a place in next year’s Masters after making a hugely impressive debut at Augusta National.

With the top 12 and ties guaranteed an invite for 2022, MacIntyre was in danger of missing out until he birdied the 18th in a closing 72 to finish in a six-way tie for 12th.

“This is a place you want to be competing every year,” the left-hander from Oban said. “My first time this year and I obviously put up a decent fight, but once you come here, you don’t want to miss another one.

“I’m not missing next year for anything. I’ve played some great golf over the last week and I feel like my game suits this golf course.

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“The way I play golf suits the way this golf course wants you to play golf. I’m just over the moon to finish the way I finished.

“If someone had given me tied for 12th for a start, I’d have taken it, but then once I started getting into the battle, I could see how people were making scores.

“Obviously got off to a poor start today, but I battled back the way I normally do. Disappointing bogeys on 16 and 17, but huge birdieing the last.

“This moment right now is everything I’ve ever dreamed of, and it’s what I play golf for.

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“I’ve got to take the positives. I’ve played great for my first year and tried to manage my way around a golf course that I’ve never seen – I’ve only played it on computer games with my pals.”

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