Ban on indoor house gatherings extended to Lanarkshire

People living in North and South Lanarkshire will no longer be able to host or visit other households.

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Residents of North and South Lanarkshire council areas will no longer be able to host or visit people from other households in their homes.

The Scottish Government announced the extension of the ban to Lanarkshire amid rising coronavirus cases in the area, with 205 infections identified in the past seven days.

The same restrictions are already in effect in Glasgow City, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire and East and West Dunbartonshire.

The inclusion of North and South Lanarkshire came after a meeting of Scotland’s national incident management team on Friday afternoon.


The measures in the two local authority areas will come into effect at midnight and be reviewed in seven days.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the decision as “regrettable” but necessary.

As per the new national restrictions on social gatherings announced on Thursday, up to two households of no more than six people. can still meet outdoors in Lanarkshire.

That includes in private gardens as well as in hospitality settings like beer gardens.


But as well as the restriction on indoor gatherings, if anyone living in Lanarkshire is identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, they and all those in their extended household should self-isolate for 14 days.

That measure is also in place in the other five council areas, as is the ban on non-essential visits to hospitals and inside care homes.

Outdoor visits to care homes are permitted by three people from a maximum of two households, in line with current guidance.

People who have formed an extended household and people providing care and support – such as caring for an elderly relative or delivering shopping – can continue to meet indoors with enhanced hygiene measures in place.

The restrictions in Glasgow City, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire and East and West Dunbartonshire will next be reviewed on Monday, and the measures in Lanarkshire next Friday.

The First Minister said: “It is clearly regrettable that these restrictions need to be extended to people living in Lanarkshire.

“I understand that this will not be welcome news for people living in these areas, especially ahead of the weekend, but we must act now to protect people and get more control over the virus in the area.


“Local public health teams have looked at where cases are being identified and, by restricting indoor meetings, we are helping to protect those who are most at risk from Covid-19 – as they are more likely to be meeting others in a household setting rather than in a public setting.

“I would ask everyone in the affected areas to be extra vigilant, to follow all guidance and to isolate and book a test if they have any symptoms.”

She added: “Above all, I want to emphasise that getting a test – and even getting a negative result – is not a substitute for self-isolating.

“If you have symptoms, or if you are contacted by our Test and Protect team and told to do so, you will need to self-isolate.”

Newly published advice appears to contradict Salmond claim

The Scottish Conservatives said the four documents released on Thursday fall far short of what was demanded.

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Salmond: Claims contradicted.

Newly released Scottish Government legal advice appears to contradict Alex Salmond’s claim of a plot to delay a civil case in the hope it would be overtaken by criminal proceedings he faced.

But the Scottish Conservatives said the four documents released on Thursday fall far short of what the Scottish Parliament and Salmond inquiry demanded, and called on the Scottish Government to “end the secrecy” and release all the advice.

The documents relate to the botched investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by the former first minister.

A successful judicial review by Salmond resulted in the investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.


Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges following a criminal trial last year.

Giving evidence to a Holyrood inquiry into the government’s handling of complaints last Friday, he claimed the Scottish Government hoped a criminal trial would “ride to the rescue” and prevent its unlawful investigation of him suffering a “cataclysmic” civil court defeat.

Explaining his belief that a looming criminal trial was the reason the government did not admit defeat in the case sooner, Salmond said: “Conceding in October [2018] would be embarrassing, it would be difficult, but it wouldn’t be as cataclysmic as an open court case in January [2019].

“What other motivation could there possibly have been than the belief that something might happen and intervene which meant that the judicial review never came to court?”


He added: “If the criminal case had been advanced, then the civil case wouldn’t have gone ahead pending the outcome of the criminal case.

“Many people seemed to invest a great deal of hope that the criminal case would ride to the rescue, like the cavalry over the hill, and the civil case would never be heard.”

In a document dated September 4 2018, Roddy Dunlop QC and Solicitor Advocate Christine O’Neill, counsel for the Scottish Government, said they could see strength in the argument that the criminal investigation may “make the entire petition pointless”.

He wrote: “If there is a criminal conviction then surely this case will not proceed; and if there is a trial and an acquittal then the Ministers would be faced with a very different situation than that which presently obtains.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney released a first batch of legal advice on Tuesday under threat of a no-confidence vote and further documents were published on Thursday evening.

However Swinney said the newly released documents make clear that delaying the case – known as sisting – was only considered as an option in order to minimise the impact of the case on the ongoing police investigation.

In a letter dated September 17 2018, the Lord Advocate said that the other option would be reporting restrictions and that this would be preferable.


He said: “I am satisfied that, if reporting restrictions are competent, these would adequately protect the public interest in any future criminal proceedings.

“On that basis, that would clearly be the preferable and appropriate route, since it would enable the issues raised by the petition to be addressed whilst protecting any future criminal process.”

The Scottish Conservatives have lodged votes of no confidence in Swinney and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “The limited documents that John Swinney has just published falls far short of the demands of the Scottish Parliament and of the Salmond inquiry.

“There is still nothing for the whole month of November.

“This is not good enough. End the secrecy and release all the legal advice.”

Supergroup forms to back rugby hero’s mission against MND

Grammy award-winning violinist Nicola Benedetti and songstress Julie Fowlis are among 40 musicians who feature.

Andy Gotts via Innes and Campbell / My Name’5 Doddie via Innes and Campbell
Nicola Benedetti and Doddie Weir: The former sportsman revealed in 2017 that he has the illness.

A supergroup has formed a ‘musical scrum’ to back a Scottish rugby hero’s mission to tackle a deadly disease.

Grammy award-winning violinist Nicola Benedetti and songstress Julie Fowlis are among 40 musicians who feature on a song to raise money for Doddie Weir’s motor neuron disease charity.

The former sportsman revealed in 2017 that he has the illness.

He created the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation to help finance the research and quest for a cure.


The emotive and powerful musical piece ‘Doddie’s Dream’ was composed by an old friend, Bruce MacGregor of Blazin’ Fiddles.

Mike Rushby Photography via Innes and Campbell
Bruce MacGregor of Blazin’ Fiddles (Mike Rushby Photography)

Money raised from the single, which is officially launched next week, will go to the foundation.

It was recorded remotely in an array of locations across Scotland, Ireland and the US.

Irish accordion legend Sharon Shannon and fiddle and accordion duo Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham are among the other contributors.


Mr MacGregor wrote the piece because he was inspired by Doddie’s positivity and by recent fundraising events.

He said: “I was lucky enough to play a bit of rugby and even managed to squeeze into a squad with Doddie at student level.

“I’ve been so inspired by the big man’s approach to dealing with this disease – he’s incredible.

“Whilst cycling by Loch Ness as part of Doddie Aid, I had this idea of doing a charity single with a host of fellow musicians playing along with me and the Blazers.

“The tune has a real positive lift to it and, hopefully, it fits in with that amazing collective spirit that was on display during Doddie Aid.”

Julie Fowlis said: “It’s an amazing line-up, with loads of iconic Scottish bands and players, so it’s a huge privilege to be part of it all.”

The foundation, which was launched four years ago, strives to help fellow MND sufferers and fund research into the currently incurable disease.


In January, the Doddie Active-Inter District Challenge was launched and attracted more than 30,000 participants – running, walking and cycling to rack up miles for their chosen district and ultimately raising more than £1million.

The song and video will be available online from next week.

Pandemic layoffs sees rise in seeking temporary work, RBS says

Recruiter survey found the economy is continuing to recover but uncertainty is discouraging people from moving jobs.

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This is the 11th consecutive monthly rise in people looking for temporary jobs.

The number of people looking for temporary work continues to increase due to layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an economic report.

A Royal Bank of Scotland survey of recruiters in February found the economy is continuing to recover but uncertainty is discouraging people from moving jobs and leading to wage stagnation.

The availability of temporary candidates across Scotland increased amid reports that layoffs stemming from the pandemic had led to a greater number of people looking for roles.

This is the 11th consecutive monthly rise in people looking for temporary jobs.


Hiring activity rose last month, with upturns in both permanent and temporary placements as businesses adapted to Covid-19 restrictions, the RBS Report on Jobs found.

The report found starting salaries rose at a much slower pace during February and neared stagnation.

While the demand for permanent staff increased for the first time in a year, the supply of candidates dipped with recruiters saying people were reluctant to pursue new roles due to heightened uncertainty.

Sebastian Burnside, chief economist at Royal Bank of Scotland parent NatWest Group, said: “February data provided further positive signs for the Scottish labour market, as hiring activity continued to rise despite ongoing lockdown measures.


“Moreover, the upturns in both temp billings and permanent placements gathered pace on the month.

“All in all, this is good news for job-seekers. With more roles available, we should see further increases in placements over the coming months and if the trend continues, the labour market will make good progress in its recovery.”

The data was collected from about 100 Scottish recruitment and employment consultancies between February 11 and 22.

Scottish port aims to ‘lead world’ in hydrogen technology

The Port of Cromarty Firth aims to build a facility to produce and distribute the element.

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Highland port unveils ambitious plans.

A Highland port has unveiled ambitious plans to lead the world in hydrogen technology – with the help of whisky.

The Port of Cromarty Firth aims to build a facility to produce and distribute the element.

The idea is that green hydrogen, created with power from windfarms, will ultimately help Scotland “de-carbonise” its economy.

The North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme will produce and distribute hydrogen locally and as far as Europe.


One aspect of the project is to provide distilleries in the region with hydrogen.

A four-month feasibility study is due to begin this month backed by funding from Pale Blue Dot Energy, ScottishPower, Glenmorangie, Whyte & Mackay and Diageo.

The partners hope it could be operational within two years. It is unclear at this stage how many jobs could be created.

The port’s chief executive Bob Buskie said the project would help Scotland establish itself as a global leader in a technology still in its infancy.

Blackford: Independence referendum could be in late 2021

The SNP Westminster leader said that the first priority of the Scottish Government would be to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP suggested that a vote could take place in late 2021.

A Scottish independence referendum could take place “as early as late 2021”, according to Ian Blackford.

The SNP Westminster leader said, however, that the first priority of the Scottish Government is tackling the Covid crisis.

Blackford explained the “key” would be putting in place circumstances which would allow for an independence vote to be held.

“It could be the case we could face a referendum as early as late 2021.”

Ian Blackford, SNP Westminster leader

He said: “I want to see that referendum happen as quickly as is practically possible, I think it’s in everybody’s interest that that is the case.


“But of course we’ve got to get the election out the way, we need to make sure that the SNP are elected back into government again, that we reinforce that mandate for a referendum.

“There’s a bill that will be published over the coming weeks and that can be enacted once we’re on the other side of the election.

“Of course what I would say is that the first priority of the government is dealing with the Covid crisis, it’s about keeping people safe, it’s about the acceleration that we’ve seen with the vaccine programme, it’s about taking off the measures of lockdown as and when we can.

“But we do that based on data, we do that based on evidence, we do that based on keeping people safe.


“When we’ve got to that position of safety, that would be the right time to have the referendum.”

He continued: “(Scottish constitution secretary Mike Russell) has talked about a six-month period once the legislation is triggered which could be in June, so it could be the case we could face a referendum as early as late 2021.

“But the key thing is that we put in place the circumstances that allow that to happen, whenever it happens, and that we have an inclusive debate with everybody in Scotland about the kind of country that they want to live in.

“And it is a choice of two futures. It’s the long-term damage of Brexit, it’s the impact of Tory austerity, or it’s about that economic recovery, that fairer Scotland, that greener Scotland that we want to see with Scotland being an independent country back into Europe.”

Blackford also warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson that he “cannot stand in the face of democracy” in the event that the SNP wins a majority in the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

He said: “Democracy has got to prevail and there’s been a long-held, cherished position that in Scotland sovereignty rests with the people.

“There’s never been a situation in Scotland that sovereignty has rested with Westminster, has rested with Parliament, and you can go right back to the Declaration of Arbroath, the claim of right and everything that’s gone around that, that does demonstrate that in the end, it has to be about the will of the people, to be able to choose their own future.


“And I’d say to Boris Johnson or anybody else in the Tory party that they cannot stand in the face of democracy, they cannot stand in that will of the Scottish people to see their sovereignty enacted, to have that discussion, to have that debate and to make that determination as to whether or not we wish to be independent.

“And certainly that’s the case that if we win the election, and I’ll never take anything for granted, that we’d be making that case pretty robustly.

“We will support our colleagues in government in Edinburgh in making sure that we get what the Scottish people vote for.”

The SNP Westminster leader added: “I hope and believe that we can win a referendum and win it well, but I want to be able to bring Scotland together and there is a place for those that are on the other side to come on that journey with us and to contribute to Scotland’s story because it’s in all our interests to do that.”

‘Pigs can’t fly’: RAF base staff discover piglet on runway

An engineer came to rescue the little hog as he joined pilots on the tarmac.

RAF Lossiemouth via Facebook
Engineer SAC(T) George French rescued the pig from the runway where he had tried to join pilots.

Personnel at a Royal Air Force base were shocked when they spotted a pig joining pilots on the runway.

Senior Aircraftman Technician George French came to rescue the little hog when he appeared on the tarmac on Thursday during morning flying at RAF Lossiemouth.

A spokesperson for the base said: “Someone forgot to mention to this little guy that pigs can’t actually fly. We can’t blame him for trying though.

“Thankfully our people are trained to keep an eye out for unusual activity or hazards on our runways whilst they carry out their skilled jobs in order to keep our personnel and aircraft safe.

Engineer SAC(T) George French rescued the pig from the runway where he had tried to join pilots (RAF Lossiemouth/Facebook)

“You will be happy to know no piglets, personnel or aircraft were harmed during this strange turn of events.”

RAF Lossiemouth, in Moray, is one of the country’s two Quick Reaction Alert stations which protect UK airspace.

The base is home to four Typhoon combat aircraft squadrons, one Poseidon MRA1 squadron, and an RAF Regiment squadron.

Coronavirus: ‘Things firmly heading in the right direction’

First Minister says number of cases is falling and country's vaccination programme is progressing extremely well.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland’s response to tackling the coronavirus pandemic is “firmly heading in the right direction”.

Another 24 deaths and 500 cases have been recorded over the past 24 hours.

Scotland hopes to start lifting lockdown restrictions in the coming weeks, and Sturgeon told parliament that progress was being made.

She said: “The number of cases is falling, the numbers in hospital are falling and the vaccination programme is progressing extremely well”.

Three other deaths that were registered recently were also added to the total under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – which now stands at 7398.


Meanwhile, 726 patients are currently in hospital with coronavirus, a decrease of 24, with 69 of those in intensive care, down one

The number of people who have been given their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine now stands at 1,688,608, an increase of 26,729 from the day before.

Additionally, more than 100,000 have received their second dose.


Enhanced contact tracing is currently under way in Scotland after the Brazilian variant of Covid-19 was detected in the country.

Three Scottish residents tested positive for coronavirus after flying into Aberdeen from Brazil, via Paris and London, in January.

The tests, which were completed in early February, were passed to the UK’s sequencing programme and were identified as being the Manaus variant on Saturday.

The First Minister said the importation of new variants of Covid-19 from overseas remained one of the key threats to defeating the virus.

She said: “It is absolutely the case that the key risk we face as we suppress the virus here at home and vaccinate more people is new variants coming into the country that could potentially undermine the efficacy of the vaccine, so this is one of the most serious challenges and top priorities that we have in the weeks to come.

“Local authorities have the ability and there is work to identify the needs of people who are being asked to self-isolate and that can – if necessary – include accommodation.

“We should take care to ensure that we are not risking the spread of the virus through the lack of availability of the support people need to self-isolate and that is something we take seriously.”

House parties ‘on the rise’ as Covid restrictions flouted

Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation said there had been an increase in non-compliance with Covid restrictions.

Pixabay via Pixabay
Covid: Non-compliance 'on the rise'.

Non-compliance with regulations put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, particularly indoor gatherings, is on the rise, the head of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has said.

Calum Steele, the general secretary of the body that represents rank and file officers, said more complaints were being made against certain people who “have had enough” of the restrictions.

But Mr Steele said he does not believe, despite recent statistics, people in cities are more likely to break the rules as opposed to those in more rural areas.

Following a question from Labour MSP Alex Rowley at the Covid-19 Committee on Thursday, Mr Steele said: “I think to some extent, we’re probably talking about house parties largely… but it actually reaches across the length and breadth of the country.


“There is an increase in general non-compliance with those specific restrictions.

“Those examples of non-compliance are increasing among a relatively small proportion of the population who have just decided that they’ve had enough and they no longer intend to play by the rules.”

Mr Rowley quoted a recent 12% spike in complaints made to police in Dundee, compared to last year, while the same figure in Perth and Kinross dropped by 11.8% alongside a 14.6% drop in Angus.

Mr Steele said “I’m not sure that’s an urban versus rural problem.


“I think there’s an inevitability that, by virtue of an appreciation that there are more police officers in our urban centres rather than our rural locations, that there is probably a greater expectation in our cities that if the public phone the police to attend to gatherings… the police will be there and probably more of a grudging acceptance that there’s probably no point in phoning the police in some of the more rural areas, because by the time they get there the whole thing will be finished.”

He added: “I’m not sure there’s anything particularly distinct in the psyche of those that live in our cities versus those that live in our rural communities about the levels of compliance.”

Mr Steele went on to say the population is struggling under “fatigue” from the restrictions, which on March 23 will have been in place in some form across the country for a year.

Over recent weeks, the Scottish Government has extended its testing regime to emergency service call-handlers, in an effort to ensure staff numbers don’t drop to dangerously low levels, a move which Mr Steele welcomes.

But he said more should be done to test frontline officers, who are regularly expected to deal with the public.

“There has been some improvement in terms of the ability to access testing, but generally it’s when officers are symptomatic or believe they’re symptomatic and the ability to request and access tests is available to them,” he told the committee.

“We don’t believe, as an organisation that goes far enough.”


He added: “There has been a legislative intent that police officers place themselves in these high risk situations that there should be a support mechanism and a safety mechanism to ensure that as a consequence of having done so that police officers are not exposed to the virus and thereafter taken it to others and exposing others to that virus as a consequence.”

Robbers attacked victim with stun gun and knife at ATM

Christopher McLeod was wounded in the back and knocked to the ground as Dawn Cullen and male accomplices assaulted him near a cashpoint.

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Cullen was unanimously convicted of the offence and McCreadie was also found guilty of the crime on a majority verdict of a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh.

A woman who took part in a terrifying early morning attack on a man with a stun gun and a knife near a cashpoint machine has been jailed for five years.

Christopher McLeod was wounded in the back and knocked to the ground as Dawn Cullen and male accomplices assaulted him.

The robbers repeatedly discharged the stun gun into his body after they confronted him with demands for money, his bank card and its PIN  number in the street attack.

Mr McLeod, then aged 26, was found bleeding heavily by police who went to his aid in Edinburgh and said he had been assaulted by a woman and males.


The attack victim was taken for treatment and found to have stab wounds to his lower back which were cleaned and closed with skin staples.

Cullen, 36, of Murrayburn Park, Edinburgh, and her co-accused prisoner Keith McCreadie, 36, had denied assaulting and robbing Mr McLeod on October 7 in 2019 at the city’s Morvenside Close, in Wester Hailes.

But Cullen was unanimously convicted of the offence and McCreadie was also found guilty of the crime on a majority verdict of a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh following a trial last month.

Sentence had been deferred for the court to obtain background reports on the pair.


On Thursday, shortly before McCreadie received a seven-year long jail term, judge Lord Beckett told the duo that jail was the only option available to them.

Passing sentence, Lord Beckett said: “This was a serious example of an offence of assault to injury to robbery.

“For such a serious offence and to deter any other person from committing such egregious crimes, I must pass an appropriate sentence. 

“There is no suitable alternative to custody.”

The duo were accused of assaulting Mr McLeod while acting with another by making threats, repeatedly punching him on the head and striking him with a knife.

They also fired the stun gun at him before knocking him to the ground to his severe injury and permanent disfigurement and robbing him of money, a bank card and bus pass.

Cullen was also convicted of illegally possessing the stun gun and assaulting Heather Hughes, 30, at Morvenside Close on October 7 in 2019 by chasing her and brandishing the prohibited weapon.


The court heard that DNA from Cullen was found on a knife recovered by police from a nearby garden following the attack. She was also picked out as the woman who took part in the assault close to a Scotmid store, which has an ATM machine, during identification procedures.

CCTV which featured an audio recording was examined by forensic scientists who said that on three occasions distinct sounds could be heard which were consistent with that produced by a stun gun when it is operated in the open air.

One witness said he heard an attacker tell the victim that if he did not give details of his PIN he would be put in the boot of a car and saw him getting “Tasered”.

DC Jacqueline Grant, 43, who listened to the soundtrack on the CCTV said she heard a male voice ask: “Do you want Tasered?” as well as crackling sounds and groaning.

She told prosecutor Lisa Gillespie QC that an eight to ten inch long knife was found after the attack and blood was on a wall.

Following the convictions defence counsel Kenneth Cloggie,  said Cullen was in remission from cancer but still had regular appointments.

The court heard McCreadie has previously been jailed for assault and robbery and his counsel Tim Niven-Smith said he acknowledged that a “substantial” custodial sentence was inevitable in his case.

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