Coronavirus cases linked to Sitel call centre rise to 24

A total of 17 employees at the test and trace site in Bellshill have Covid-19 along with seven of their contacts.

The cluster of cases associated with an outbreak at a Sitel-run test and trace centre in North Lanarkshire has risen to a total of 24.

The call centre at Eurocentral near Bellshill, operated by the firm on behalf of NHS England, has seen 17 employees test positive for coronavirus – a rise of two on yesterday.

A further seven people who have been in contact with those working at the site have been diagnosed with Covid-19, up from five on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Scottish Government briefing on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon said the total of 24 cases is a rise of four from the day before.

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Across Scotland, there are 16 new cases of coronavirus in Scotland overnight, with four in Lanarkshire, the First Minister said.

It brings the total of number of cases in the country over the course of the pandemic to 18,500.

However, she also revealed no new deaths among confirmed Covid patients in Scotland for seventh straight day in a row.

It means the death toll including confirmed and presumed coronavirus deaths remains at 4193.

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The 16 new positive cases in Scotland account for 0.4% of all coronavirus tests carried out in the last 24-hour period.

A total of 287 people are in hospital with Covid-19, eight fewer than the day before.

Of those, just two Scots are being treated in intensive care, a decrease of one.

Big event organisers not required to check vaccine status of everyone

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon provided an update on the Covid passport scheme at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group

Organisers of large events in Scotland will not be expected to check the vaccine certification of every single person in attendance.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the move following concerns raised by Scottish football bosses that it would not be possible to check the vaccine status of every supporter attending matches.

However, the First Minister insisted that those organising large events will still be expected to carry out a “reasonable” number of checks.

Sturgeon said that at venues such as nightclubs, and at “relatively small” events, it is expected that it will be possible to check the vaccine certifications for everyone who is in attendance.

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The SNP leader made the comments as she provided an update on the Scottish Government’s Covid passport scheme, which will come into effect from 5am on Friday, October 1 – with the NHS Covid Status App available for download from September 30.

Sturgeon explained that certification will be required for any venues that meet the set criteria.

It includes that the venue is open between midnight and 5am, serves alcohol after midnight, provides live or recorded music for dancing, and has a designation space which is in use where dancing is permitted.

“A pragmatic and sensible approach will be taken to each piece of guidance,” the First Minister told MSPs.

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“In legal terms, venues will be required to take ‘all reasonable measures’ to implement the scheme – in plain terms, that boils down to using common sense.

“So, for example, a venue that has a dancefloor operating after midnight – and meets the other criteria – will have to operate the certification scheme. 

“However, they won’t need to check people coming in for a pub lunch twelve hours earlier, that clearly wouldn’t be reasonable.

“But by the evening, it would be reasonable to check customers as they arrive. That’s what we mean by common sense.

“A pragmatic approach will be encouraged, so that businesses can make sensible judgements.”

Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government is working with businesses and environmental health officers to provide specific advice and guidance.

She told the Scottish Parliament: “At a venue such as a nightclub, or at a relatively small event, we expect that it will be possible to check vaccine certificates for everyone in attendance.

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“However at larger events, organisers will be expected to carry out a reasonable number of checks.

“We are currently working with businesses and environmental health officers to provide specific advice and guidance on the level of checks that should be considered both reasonable and effective to fulfil the important public health objective of certification.”

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Drink-driver sentenced over death of two friends in crash

Logan Russell was 17 when his Vauxhall Corsa left the road and collided with a tree in Fife.

Police Scotland
Tragedy: Ethan King and Connor Aird died following the crash in 2018.

A drink-driver who caused the deaths of two teenage friends as he drove them home from a party has been ordered to be detained for 42 months.

Logan Russell was 17 when his Vauxhall Corsa left the road and collided with a tree in Fife.

Ethan King, 17, died at the scene. Connor Aird, also 17, died later in hospital. A third passenger, Daniel Stevens, suffered serious injuries and spent a week in hospital.

Russell, now 20, managed to get out of the vehicle and told witnesses who went to their aid: “Help my friends. Can you get them out the car? It’s all my fault.”

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On Tuesday, a judge told Russell that he should have known the risks of driving after consuming alcohol and with a limited amount of sleep.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby said that if he was going to drink, he should not have taken the car, and added: “What happened here should be a warning for others.

“The victims are not just those who have died, but those left to grieve.”

He told Russell, who was also banned from driving for four years, that if he had been a mature adult offender he would have jailed him for six to seven years for the offence.

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Russell, from Leslie in Fife, earlier admitted causing the deaths by careless driving while over the drink-drive limit.

He had previously faced a charge of causing the deaths by dangerous driving on the A915 Standing Stane Road at Windygates, Fife, on November 11, 2018.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that he had held a full driving licence for just 55 days when the fatal collision occurred after he lost control of the car.

‘Drinking alcohol’

Advocate depute Leanne McQuillan said that on the evening of November 10, 2018, into the early hours of the next day Russell and his passengers had attended a party at a girl’s home in Windygates.

The prosecutor said: “The accused was seen by various guests to be drinking alcohol throughout the course of the evening as were the other guests.”

She said about 8.15am the girl’s father got up and noticed four youths were still in the garden and went out and told them it was time to leave.

He was uncomfortable about them leaving in a car and went to speak to them. He thought the passengers seemed drunk, but Russell did not and he drove off.

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The collision happened about 20 minutes later as Russell headed in the direction of Kirkcaldy. Two motorists were driving behind Russell’s Corsa.

The advocate depute said: “The witnesses described the car drifting gradually to the right, crossing the centre line into the opposing carriageway.

“No one saw the brake lights illuminate. The vehicle then left the roadway, struck a wooden post and fence, entered a field and collided with a tree.”

Witnesses saw smoke and stopped, and the emergency services were alerted.

As they approached the vehicle they saw Russell walk around from the driver’s side as he made a plea to help his friends.

He told police he was the driver and gave a positive breath test. A blood sample was later analysed and found to contain 118 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit in Scotland is 50 milligrams of alcohol.

‘He will live with it for the rest of his life’

Mr King was found to have died after sustaining significant head trauma. Mr Aird died on November 16 as a result of chest and head injuries.

Mr Stevens suffered fractured bones but made a full recovery, although suffers occasional pain in a leg. The court heard he remembers nothing of the crash or the party. 

Defence solicitor advocate Iain Paterson, for Russell, said: “He made a clear error to drive that morning – a dreadful error of judgement – and he understands that.

“There was a lapse in concentration, as he accepts, which led to this tragic accident.

“He does accept absolutely that he is going to be sent into custody today and he hopes that brings some solace to the families because he is deeply remorseful about what has happened.

“He will live with it for the rest of his life.”


Mum told child’s hospital-acquired infection ‘came from the drains’

The ten-year-old boy was undergoing cancer treatment at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

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Queen Elizabeth University Hospital: The Scottish Hospitals Inquiry is under way.

A mother has told how she felt “anxious” about every admission to a Glasgow hospital after her son’s “near death experiences” from a hospital-acquired infection.

Colette Gough was told the infection which left her son seriously ill following surgery during his cancer treatment came from the drains at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow and was not an isolated case.

The Scottish Hospitals Inquiry is hearing evidence on problems at two flagship Scottish hospitals that contributed to the deaths of two children.

It is investigating the construction of the QEUH campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.

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Mrs Gough’s ten-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer after he became unwell in July 2018, aged seven, and was found to have a kidney tumour.

He was being treated in the Schiehallion unit, the children’s cancer unit in the children’s hospital on the QEUH campus, and underwent surgery to remove the affected kidney in early September 2018.

The inquiry heard that his condition deteriorated after surgery due to a line infection and medical staff battled to stabilise him, and that the same thing happened the following day, leaving his parents “terrified that this was him going down again”.

Mrs Gough said that in mid-September she and her husband were invited to a meeting with two doctors who explained where the infection had come from.

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She said: “They apologised and told us that the infection he had had come from the drains and that he was not an isolated case, that he was one of six children who had fallen ill about the same time and that there seems to be an issue with the building and the drains and the water, and because of that the plan was to close the ward and transfer the whole unit to somewhere else in the hospital.

“At that point they didn’t know where or when that would happen, that they were working with estates to try and rectify the problem.”

Alastair Duncan QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked how this made her feel, to which she replied: “Quite angry, that’s the reason we’re here today because my husband and I really felt let down. We really put our trust and our faith in the hospital.”

Earlier she said that there were signs on the sinks in the Schiehallion unit asking people not to drink the water or pour anything down the drain, and that during the first month of their time at the hospital tap filters appeared.

However she said that staff “played down” concerns about the water and said it was just to keep everybody safe.

The inquiry heard that around that time work was being done on the building cladding, and a window fell out of the adult hospital.

Mr Duncan asked: “Thinking about where things stood, the issues you experienced on ward 2A, the shower water, issues you experienced on ward 3B, two life-endangering events, the now closure of wards 2A, 2B, the move to the adult hospital, an issue with cladding, an issue with windows, possible risk from the work being done, at this point in time how did you feel about the hospital?”

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Mrs Gough replied: “Anxious about every single admission and the anxiety levels just kept rising, and the fact that I was still on the bounce back from witnessing my son’s near death experiences and I was just running on pure adrenaline at that point.”

The inquiry was ordered after patients at the Glasgow hospital died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and the water supply, and the opening of the Edinburgh site was delayed due to concerns over the ventilation system.

Earlier this year, an independent review found the deaths of two children at the QEUH campus were at least in part the result of infections linked to the hospital environment.

The review investigated 118 episodes of serious bacterial infection in 84 children and young people who received treatment for blood disease, cancer or related conditions at the Royal Hospital for Children at the campus.

It found a third of these infections were “most likely” to have been linked to the hospital environment.

Two of 22 deaths were “at least in part” the result of their infection, it said.

The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, continues.

Food could disappear from shops over CO2 shortage ‘within days’

CO2 is injected into the packaging of perishable foods such as meat and salads to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

DLMcK via IStock
The gas is used in food packaging and as a method of stunning animals prior to slaughter.

Shoppers will start noticing shortages within days as a result of the crisis in carbon dioxide (CO2) supply, a food industry chief has warned.

The gas is used in food packaging and as a method of stunning animals prior to slaughter but supplies are running low.

Spiralling energy costs have led to the suspension of operations at fertiliser plants – which produce CO2 as a by-product – having a knock-on effect on the food industry.

CO2 is injected into the packaging of perishable foods such as meat and salads to inhibit the growth of bacteria. It typically prolongs the shelf life of products such as beef steak by around five days.

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The halt to CO2 production comes as supply chains are already grappling with a shortage of HGV delivery drivers, heaping yet more pressure on UK supermarkets’ “just in time” model.

Alongside warnings of gaps on supermarket shelves if the issue is not resolved promptly, the result will be widescale food waste as retailers are forced to discard otherwise perfectly good products.

Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said consumers could start noticing shortages in poultry, pork and bakery products within days.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Government needed to support fertiliser producers, help food producers to look for alternatives to CO2 and address labour shortages in the industry.

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“We have been saying for several weeks now that the just-in-time system which underpins both our supermarkets and our hospitality industry is under the most strain it has ever been in the 40 years it has been there,” he told Today.

“It is a real crisis.”

He said that poultry production will begin to erode very seriously by the end of this week, with the same being true of pig production.

The production of bakery goods and meat packaging is “probably only about a week behind”.

“We probably have about 10 days before this gets to the point where consumers, shoppers and diners notice that those products are not available,” he said.

Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, told the BBC: “We grow and slaughter around 20 million birds a week, the vast majority of those are chicken. We also trade, so total consumption in this country is somewhere around 30 to 35 million birds a week.

“It will be a real challenge if there is a shortage of CO2 to the point that slaughterhouses cannot process the birds. That is really the worst case scenario, which is why we are so hopeful that the Government can step in here.”

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Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he has held talks with fertiliser firm CF Industries, which suspended operations at two UK sites because of the high cost of energy, leading to CO2 supply issues.

“Time is of the essence, and that’s why I spoke to the CEO, speaking to him twice in the last two days, and we’re hopeful that we can get something sorted today and get the production up and running in the next few days,” he told Today.

In a sign that taxpayers’ money could be used, Kwarteng said “it may come at some cost, we’re still hammering out details, we’re still looking at a plan”.

The warnings of shortages are the latest from the food industry.

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group, has warned a shortage of both carbon dioxide and workers could mean Christmas dinners will be “cancelled”.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said cancelling Christmas is “very much not the plan” despite prospects of a turkey shortage and a spike in coronavirus cases during the festive season.


Former student donates £50m to University of Strathclyde

Charles Huang gained his MBA from the university based in Glasgow in 1989 and his PhD in marketing in 1994.

University of Strathclyde via PA Media
Strathclyde: Former student donates £50m to uni.

The leader of a US private equity firm behind the creation of the UK’s Covid-19 rapid lateral flow tests has donated £50m to his former university in Glasgow.

Charles Huang’s gift to the University of Strathclyde is the largest it has received and one of the most generous made to a UK university.

Mr Huang gained his MBA from Strathclyde in 1989 and his PhD in marketing in 1994.

In 2016 he founded California-based private equity firm Pasaca Capital Inc, which has a global focus on investing in innovative technologies and products.

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Among its recent ventures is Innova Medical Group, which developed the rapid lateral flow tests used in Covid-19 testing programmes worldwide, including in the UK.

Mr Huang made the donation through his philanthropic foundation in gratitude for the scholarship which enabled him to study at Strathclyde and in tribute to the university’s former marketing department head Professor Stephen Young, his PhD supervisor and mentor.

Mr Huang said: “I came to the University of Strathclyde for my MBA in August 1988 under a scholarship from the British Council for international students and I’m forever grateful of the UK for that life-changing opportunity.

“My education at Strathclyde played a critical role in the success of both my career and my businesses.

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“This gift is to show my gratitude to Strathclyde and to support those who have yet to embark on their studies.”

The gift was made at a ceremony on campus on Tuesday.

More than half of the donation, £30m, will pay for a new building named after Mr Huang at the university’s technology and innovation zone.

The remainder will create The Stephen Young Institute for International Business, The Stephen Young Global Leaders Scholarship Programme and The Stephen Young Entrepreneurship Awards.

Prof Young, who died last month, helped establish the university’s marketing department – one of the first in the UK – in 1971.

Strathclyde Principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald said: “We are incredibly grateful to Dr Charles Huang for this exceptionally generous gift.

“A donation of this scale will make a huge difference to our students, our research, and our innovation.”

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He added: “Charles’ generous gift will also have an enormous impact on Glasgow and Scotland with the construction of the next phase of our technology and innovation zone, which is creating jobs, attracting industrial partners and inward investment, and developing future generations of graduates and postgraduates.”

Sir Jim said Mr Huang is “demonstrating how inspirational teaching and support leaves a positive mark for decades to come” in highlighting the role Prof Young played in his life.

Prof Young’s daughter, Juliette Young, said her family is “delighted” at the recognition of their father’s “outstanding academic career and legacy”, adding: “We would like to express our gratitude and thanks to the Charles Huang Foundation for remembering our father in this way.”

Large donations made to UK universities by individuals include author JK Rowling’s two-part £25.3m gift to fund the creation University of Edinburgh’s Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic and research there into the treatment of multiple sclerosis and similar conditions.

It is named in memory of her mother, who died with the condition aged 45.


Man arrested after police chase that left pedestrian dead

The man died just over three weeks after being struck by the vehicle.

© Google Maps 2020
A 28-year-old man is due to appear in court in connection with the incident.

A man has been arrested after a car being pursued by police struck a pedestrian who later died.

The vehicle had initially failed to stop for police in the Northfield area of Aberdeen, on Monday, August 16.

Officers then pursued the car, before it was involved in a collision with the pedestrian on Great Northern Road, shortly after 2pm.

The pedestrian, a 48-year-old man, was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with serious injuries, but died just over three weeks later on September 11.

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Police Scotland confirmed they have arrested a 28-year-old man in connection with the incident.

He is due to appear at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Tuesday.

A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal, officers have said.

Police say that as is standard procedure, the matter has also been referred to the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) with respect to any prior police involvement.


Extra £20m boost for ambulance service to improve response times

The funding is aimed at improving response times, alleviate pressures and improve staff wellbeing.

Scottish Ambulance Service via SAS
Ambulance: New funding announced for service.

An additional £20m of funding is to be invested in the Scottish Ambulance Service to help improve response times.

The move, which is also intended to alleviate pressures on the service and improve staff wellbeing, was announced by health secretary Humza Yousaf on Tuesday.

In a statement at Holyrood Yousaf said the new investment will deliver assistance from more than 100 military personnel, including 88 drivers and 15 support staff, following final approval by the Ministry of Defence, who are expected to begin deployment from this weekend onwards.

Around 100 2nd year paramedic students will also help in ambulance control rooms and more hospital ambulance liaison officers at the busiest A&Es to “help ensure timely admission of patients at A&E and reduce ambulance waiting times”.

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There will also be additional help from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in the form of volunteer drivers, as well as the British Red Cross and private transport companies “where clinically appropriate”.

The statement also revealed that immediate work to create temporary admission wards in hospitals, meaning patients can be admitted quicker, will begin straight away.

Yousaf also announced additional senior clinical input in ambulance control rooms to assist and help speed up decision-making on mental health, addictions, falls, breathing difficulties, high intensity users and trauma.

Half a million pounds will go towards funding staff wellbeing measures and there will be 14 additional staff members in Highland to reduce the on-call requirement in Campeltown, and remove it completely in Fort William, Kirkwall and Broadford.

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The funding comes in addition to the £20m already announced as part of the NHS Recovery Plan.

That investment is aimed at delivering a net increase of almost 300 ambulance service staff by April 2022.

The health secretary said: “The global pandemic has created the most challenging crisis in the history of the NHS.

“Ambulance services around the UK, as well as the wider NHS, are experiencing unprecedented demand – largely because of COVID-19, but also due to a combination of increasingly complex cases, and exceptionally busy emergency departments.

“The Scottish Ambulance Service is the heartbeat of our NHS. It has a unique role in engaging with all parts of the health and social care system across the whole of Scotland – 24 hours of every day.

“It is vital that we ensure it has the support it needs to perform this crucial role.

“The additional investment I have set out today means that the Scottish Ambulance service’s frontline budget for this year is more than 16% higher than it was last year.

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“The measures we have announced will begin to address some of these issues, both improving the level of service for the public, and also helping to reduce the pressure on the workforce, who are doing so much to serve the public during these incredibly demanding times.”

Scotland records 18 Covid deaths and 2870 new cases overnight

The daily test positivity rate is 11.7%, up from 10.8% the previous day.

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Scotland has recorded 18 coronavirus-linked deaths.

Scotland has recorded 18 coronavirus-linked deaths and 2870 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data.

Figures published by the Scottish Government indicate the death toll under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 8396.

The daily test positivity rate is 11.7%, up from 10.8% the previous day.

The Scottish Government included a warning on the figures for the numbers of new cases, new tests and daily test positivity rate, stating: “Please note that NHS Borders Lab have not submitted lab files since 1pm on Monday 20 September, investigation into this issue is ongoing.”

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There were 1,07 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, up 19 on the previous day, with 94 in intensive care, down three.

A total of 4,160,835 people have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination and 3,813,547 have received their second dose.


Couple ‘blown away’ by support after fire destroys home and hotel

The historic Taynuilt Inn had recently been refurbished and reopened when it was engulfed in flames on Tuesday morning.

Exploring Scotland's History (YouTube) via Supplied
After more than a year of closure, the couple reopened the historic hotel and pub in May.

A couple who lost their home and business when their hotel went on fire have been “blown away” by the generosity of their community.

Lesley and Jordan Foster had only recently taken on and refurbished the Taynuilt Inn near Oban in Argyll when it was forced to shut its doors by the pandemic.

But after more than a year of closure, the couple reopened the historic hotel and pub in May.

Then, following some difficult months, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was called to a blaze that had taken hold in the building just after 5am on Tuesday.

Robert McPherson via Supplied
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The inn, which sits on the A85 12 miles east of Oban, was engulfed in flames destroying both the Fosters’ home and livelihood.

Police described the fire as “extensive” closing off the road while four appliances tackled it.

“They ran out of that building with nothing but the clothes of their backs,” Christine Fox, a fellow business owner, told STV News.

“They’ve done an amazing job, it’s been so busy and it’s been a real hub for the community.”

Christine Fox

Christine and Lorna Maclennan, who owns the village Post Office, rushed to the aid of those affected when they heard the news on Tuesday morning.

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“They’re just a young couple, they’ve been doing a marvellous job getting it up and running through Covid,” said Lorna.

“It’s heartbreaking, for all the folk that work there, the customers that were staying there last night. They’ve lost so much.”

Christine set up a crowdfunder while Lorna started taking donations for the those affected at the Post Office.

Within a matter of hours they had raised almost £5000.

“I spoke to Lesley very briefly, she is absoltuely blown away,” Christine said as she was preparing soup and drinks to take up to the firefighers and police officers who were still on the scene ten hours later.

“Hospitality has had such a tough time. They’d been waiting on standby for the restrictions to lift. They’ve done an amazing job, it’s been so busy and it’s been a real hub for the community.”

The village of Taynuilt takes its name from the Gaelic Tigh-an-Uilt, meaning house of the stream, and was a traditional resting place for travellers.

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“The people of Taynuilt and the surround area are so kind and generous, today is a prime example,” added Christine.

You can donate to the fundraiser here.


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