Council admits ‘falling short’ on free school meal parcels

East Renfrewshire Council has come under fire over pictures shared online of its food parcels.

Food parcel: One parent said the rolls delivered expired the following day. @FixFreeMeals via Twitter
Food parcel: One parent said the rolls delivered expired the following day.

A council has admitted standards fell short in a “small number of cases” following complaints over its free school meal packs delivered to families during lockdown.

East Renfrewshire Council has come under fire over pictures shared online of its food parcels.

One parent said the latest package, delivered on Monday, included almost out-of-date rolls.

The yoghurt, mayonnaise and cheese were also reportedly delivered unrefrigerated.


The parcel also included a small number of fruit and vegetables, a tin of tuna, meatballs, rich tea biscuits and noodles that were said to “look like plastic”.

The mum is calling for the council to instead issue vouchers so as children can be given a choice of what to eat.

She also highlighted that the “unnecessary process of packing and distributing these packs” increases the risk of transmission of coronavirus.

Jackson Carlaw, the MSP for Eastwood and former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has written to the council following a number of complaints from constituents.


In a letter to chief executive Lorraine McMillan, he said: “I am extremely concerned that vulnerable families in East Renfrewshire may not always be receiving adequate food provision to support them at this extremely challenging time and the system of sending food packages locally appears to be failing on far too many occasions.”

Carlaw called for the local authority to move to a supermarket voucher system.

He added: “It is important that we all learn from experience and  to recognise that the quality of food parcels has proved to be inconsistent and vastly inferior to the flexibility of vouchers to parents who can then make decisions appropriate to their family needs.”

The outcry in Scotland follows similar complaints in England in which a £30 food parcel was estimated to contain just more than £5 worth of food.

Campaigners – including Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford and food writer Jack Monroe – have spearheaded the call for better school meals, with many arguing councils should provide vouchers instead.

It is understood that East Renfrewshire Council and East Ayrshire Council are the only two local authorities in Scotland not offering voucher or cash alternatives to food deliveries during the stricter lockdown restrictions.

A spokesperson from East Renfrewshire Council said the local authority has delivered more than 36,000 free school meal packs since March 2020.


They added: “The contents of the food packs, which can be amended to cater for all dietary requirements, are designed in consultation with nutritionists to ensure they are as close to the Scottish Government’s health guidelines as possible and provide enough food for one child’s lunch for five days, including fresh fruit and vegetables. 

“All the food is provided through our usual suppliers and the packs are then put together in-house by council staff. 

“In the small number of cases that the quality of the food packs has fallen short, we have worked as quickly as possible to rectify these issues. 

“We took a decision back in March 2020 that the approach of providing meal packs was more beneficial for the majority of families as it ensured that nutritious food was provided and will continue to keep this situation under review.”

Call for cross-party support on final Scottish budget vote

The finance secretary has said the public expects unity at a 'time of national emergency'.

Handout via Getty Images
Budget: Call for cross-party support from finance secretary.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes has issued a plea for opposition parties to vote to support the Scottish budget on Tuesday.

MSPs are due to vote on the final stage of the budget, and Ms Forbes argued that the public expects unity at a “time of national emergency”.

The draft budget for 2021-22 was unveiled in January and promised record funding of £16bn for the NHS in Scotland and money for local authorities to freeze council tax.

To help businesses impacted by coronavirus, Ms Forbes also said the budget would extend the 100% rates relief for some of the hardest-hit sectors – including retail, hospitality, leisure, aviation and newspapers – for a further year.


But with the Scottish Government not having a majority in Holyrood, SNP ministers need to win the support of at least one other party for the budget to pass.

Although Ms Forbes has said the ongoing cross-party talks have been “positive”, opposition MSPs have called for more money to be allocated for pay increases for the lowest-paid care workers, homebuyer support and education.

Ahead of the budget vote, the Finance Secretary said: “We are continuing to tackle a global pandemic and I have sought to engage constructively to deliver a budget that meets the needs of the nation.

“I would like to thank all parties for the positive way they are participating in this process and I am hopeful of reaching a successful conclusion.


“At this time of national emergency, with our recovery at stake, the Scottish people will expect nothing less of us.”

Listing some of the headline spending announcements, Ms Forbes continued: “It meets the main ask of business by extending 100% rates relief for the retail, hospitality, leisure, aviation and newspaper sectors for a further 12 months – considerably exceeding the relief offered in England.

“It supports families by providing money for a council tax freeze and delivers a fair pay rise for our public sector workers to whom we owe so much during the pandemic.

“This budget provides record funding for our NHS and local government, £832m for affordable housing and new funding to tackle climate change.

“Our businesses, people and economy are expecting us to provide certainty and stability. I urge MSPs to vote for it on Tuesday.”

Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman Daniel Johnson said the budget must reward Scotland’s “heroic” social care workers.

Having unsuccessfully tabled an amendment at its stage one vote to raise the pay of all social care workers to £15 an hour, starting with an immediate increase in pay to £12 an hour, Mr Johnson said: “Scotland’s social care workers have proved their worth beyond any doubt during this pandemic – that so many are stuck on poverty pay is simply wrong.


“The social care workforce is predominately female and often subject to unscrupulous employment practices. By delivering a fair pay deal for social care workers we can send a message that the days of this vital workforce being neglected are over.

“There is no good reason why this budget cannot be used to deliver fair pay for social care workers.

“At this budget, Scottish Labour will fight to make fair pay for Scotland’s heroic social care workers a reality, and we call on the SNP to work with us to make this a reality for thousands of workers.”

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser pointed to the reduction in stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland announced by the Chancellor and said: “The SNP have decided not to give the same support to buyers in Scotland, despite receiving over £10 billion in additional pandemic funding from the UK Government.

“This is a mistake, and the SNP finance secretary needs to think again.

“The consequences of this will be that many families in Scotland will be unable to move home.”

In his party conference speech on Saturday, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said they would back the budget if the additional funding as a result of the UK budget was directed towards farming and environment schemes, “short changed” councils and “more to help education bounce back”.

‘I pulled a rabbit from the hat by working my magic online’

Ryan Davidson's sold out show The Wonder Room had to be cancelled as the country entered lockdown.

Jakub Arendarik via Ryan Davidson
Ryan Davidson: Glasgow magician's one-man shows were cancelled last year.

With tickets for his one-man tour selling out in just six hours this time last year, 2020 was looking like a big one for Ryan Davidson.

But like so many throughout the country, the Glasgow magician’s plans were brought to a swift halt when lockdown was introduced. 

With no time to waste, he had to think of alternative ways to take his talents to the public and, in a theme that will be familiar to many, he found himself working his magic online.

He wrote and starred in his first virtual show Mirror Mirror in May and has been performing online corporate shows.


The shows have been a success, with Ryan also appearing at the Edinburgh International Magic Festival, which was held online for the first time, but he admits it hasn’t been without difficulties. 

He said: “It was weird being in my studio at home performing for my camera and an iPad screen and you can’t see or hear any reactions. 

“My shows usually thrive off the intimacy and immersive nature of them. This was totally different. It has taken me a long time to adapt and find what works and what doesn’t.”

Despite having no immediate plans to perform before live crowds, he has kept working to improve his one-man show The Wonder Room and has developed an interactive private show “for one screen only”.


He explained: “I wanted to capture that intimacy of my live shows in a virtual format. This is just me and one other household on screen.

“It’s nice and relaxed and because it’s just us, people feel far more comfortable than having another 50-100 people on screen watching when they’re taking part.

“I send a secret package in the post that they open during the show. 

“This builds the excitement, but more importantly it allows them to take part at home. It makes the show more interactive, some of the show happens in their own house, in their own hands. There’s a memento of the show that they can keep too.

“I miss performing for a live audience but I think audiences miss it too. There’s still demand for live entertainment; something that connects people and takes them away from social media or Netflix for an hour.

“People still want to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, so this kind of show has been very well received when people have booked it.”

He has also spent lockdown planning a new book for magicians that he is hoping to publish early next year.


And despite seeing how lockdown has affected many in the arts, the 35-year-old has found inspiration in the many ways people have worked around it.

He said: “It’s been a difficult time for people in the arts. All of my friends in the entertainment industry have been hit hard and, like many others, have had very little financial support. 

“It’s been inspiring to see so many people think outside the box and adapt their work and their craft to share it with virtual audiences online.

“The most important thing for people is keeping safe and looking after themselves. It’s been tough. If artists like me can break the monotony and offer something a little different to look forward to and take their minds off things, then it keeps us all smiling I suppose.”

Murder investigation launched over missing mother and child

A 50-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the deaths of Bennylyn Burke and her daughter Jellica.

Avon and Somerset Police via Facebook / STV News
Missing: Investigation launched over missing mother and child.

A murder investigation has been launched following the disappearance of a mother and her two-year-old daughter.

Avon and Somerset Police issued an appeal earlier this week to trace Bennylyn Burke and two children from South Gloucestershire.

The 25-year-old was reported missing on Monday having last been seen at her home on February 17.

A 50-year-old man was arrested in connection with their disappearance after officers attended a house in Dundee’s Troon Avenue on Friday afternoon.


The man has now been charged in connection with the deaths of Bennylyn and her daughter Jellica and enquiries are continuing to establish their whereabouts.

The arrested man is expected to appear at Dundee Sheriff Court on Monday.

The second child reported missing has been traced and is being supported.

Detective Superintendent Graeme Mackie, of Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team, said: “We are now treating the disappearances as a murder investigation and I would urge anyone with any information to please come forward and speak to us.


“This is a complex enquiry involving both local officers in Dundee and specialist resources from across Police Scotland.

“Bennylyn’s next of kin have been updated on the arrest and are being supported by colleagues from Avon and Somerset Police. 

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very difficult time.

“There will be an increased police presence in the area for a considerable period of time and I would like to thank the local community for their cooperation.

“Anyone with concerns or information can speak to a local officer or call Police Scotland via 101, quoting incident 1434 of 5 March, 2021.”

Essex pair drove to Scotland ‘to make TikTok videos’

A 38-year-old man and his 35-year-old friend were pulled over by Essex Police in the past week.

SNS Group via SNS Group
Scotland: Essex Police fined two people.

Two people have been fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions after travelling hundreds of miles from Essex to Scotland and back to make videos for TikTok.

A 38-year-old man and his 35-year-old friend were pulled over by Essex Police in the past week.

The pair were issued with Fixed Penalty Notices after admitting they made the return journey from Southend-on-Sea to “test drive cars”.

A spokesperson from Essex Police said: “Attracting followers on social media is very important to some people, but a 38-year-old man from Southend and his 35-year-old friend attracted the attention of our officers after travelling all the way to Scotland and back to test drive cars.


“Their excuse? They were making videos for TikTok.”

Unmuted: It’s a Sin star David Carlyle’s life in lockdown

Carlyle stars in the hit drama It's a Sin - a powerful portrayal of life in Britain during the AIDS crisis.

Channel 4 via Contributed

It’s a Sin has been one of the TV highlights of the year so far.

The Channel 4 drama is a stark look at life in the UK during the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis.

Scots star David Carlyle plays bus driver by day, party-loving-punk Gregory ‘Gloria’ Finch by night and was the latest celebrity to take part in Scotland Tonight’s Unmuted segment.

Scheme to help identify buildings for 5G mast installations

The programme will help identify sites on public buildings and streets for masts and antennae.

Getty Images via Getty Images
5G: Scheme to help with rollout of 5G in Scotland.

A new scheme will aim to accelerate the rollout of 5G in Scotland by identifying public buildings where masts can be installed, the Scottish Government has said.

The programme will help identify sites on public buildings and streets for masts and antennae, and reduce barriers to installing them.

Ministers said this will increase 4G and 5G mobile connectivity.

A total of 124 mobile masts are due to be installed in an effort to improve coverage in rural areas of Scotland.


The scheme, part of the Infralink programme, is led by the Scottish Futures Trust and is funded by the Scotland 5G Centre.

Scottish Government connectivity minister Paul Wheelhouse welcomed the “game-changing” move.

“The changes in the way we use digital technology to stay connected over the past 12 months have shown how vital reliable digital connectivity is in all of our lives,” he said.

“Continued investment in mobile infrastructure, and the tools to remove barriers and make collaboration straightforward for all parties involved, is essential to Scotland’s social and economic recovery from the pandemic.”


Hamish MacLeod, director of Mobile UK, which represents the UK’s mobile operators, said Infralink is a “welcome and innovative programme”.

Sarah Eynon, Infralink programme lead at Scottish Futures Trust, said the scheme “offers a win-win situation for both the public sector and operators, but Scottish citizens and businesses will reap the ultimate rewards”.

‘No evidence’ Brazil strain of Covid has spread in Scotland

Jeane Freeman said there has been no community transmission by three Scots infected by the variant.

WPA Pool via Getty Images
Strain: Health secretary says 'no evidence' Brazil strain has spread in Scotland.

There is no evidence the mutated coronavirus strain first found in the Brazillian city of Manaus has been transmitted by the three Scots infected with the variant, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said.

A total of six cases of the P1 variant were identified in the UK last month – three in Scotland and three in England.

Since then, approximately 300 contacts or contacts of contacts liked to the three Scottish cases have been reached, told to self-isolate and offered a Covid-19 test, Ms Freeman has revealed.

Ms Freeman has now announced that there has been no community transmission linked to the variant strain of coronavirus identified since the first cases were discovered on February 27.


She also confirmed that attempts to track down all passengers on the Heathrow to Aberdeen flight taken by the three Scots who tested positive for the mutated virus have ended, despite a failure to locate 21 of the 90 people on the plane.

Although the search for the remaining passengers has been called off, anyone who was on flight BA1312 on January 29 who has not been contacted are still being asked to call the national contact tracing centre on 0800 030 8012.

“There is no evidence of any community transmission of the P1 variant so far, and I am grateful to health protection teams, local clinicians and contact tracers for their efforts to contact the remaining passengers,” Ms Freeman said.

“We have used all available options and done everything possible to contact all passengers, including referring to flight manifests and telephone information from the Community Health Index to make contact.


“Some passengers only have international telephone numbers so it is possible they are no longer in Scotland.”

Links to a Scottish school were also discovered during the tracing of secondary contacts, although Ms Freeman said the risk to pupils, teachers and parents was “very low”.

She said: “A school was identified when tracing contacts of contacts as part of this enhanced contact tracing work.

“While we are not confirming which school due to the risk of identification of pupils, staff and their families, we can confirm that the risk to them is very low.

“This is not standard practice and was only carried out for these cases as an additional precaution.”

The P1 variant was associated with a surge of cases in Manaus late last year and is among a total of four variants of concern being tracked by scientists in the UK.

A study this week suggested that between 25% and 61% of people in Manaus who had previously had Covid were susceptible to reinfection with the variant.


The variant carries a mutation in the spike protein called E484K, raising concerns that vaccines may not be as effective against it.

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

“These three strands – following expert advice and guidance to suppress the virus, using our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and rolling out vaccination as fast as supplies allow – are the three critical actions that will see us move, step by step, to protect the public, save lives and a brighter year ahead.”

Sir Alex feared he would never speak again after brain op

The former football manager was worried he would lose his voice following emergency surgery.

Ross Parker via SNS Group
Fears: Sir Alex Ferguson opens up during Q&A at Glasgow Film Festival.

Sir Alex Ferguson has said he feared he would never be able to speak again after suffering a brain haemorrhage in 2018.

The former Manchester United manager told a Q&A at Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) he was worried he could lose his voice and memory after undergoing emergency surgery.

A new documentary about the two-time Champions League-winning manager premiered at the GFF on Saturday.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In was filmed while he was recovering from the operation, directed by his son Jason.


Aware that his memory might desert him, the film sees Sir Alex recount the most important stories of his life, in and out of football.

Speaking alongside his son during a virtual Q&A after the premiere, he said the recovery from the operation was terrifying.

“I lost my voice, just could not get a word out, and that was terrifying – absolutely terrifying,” he said.

“And everything was going through my mind: is my memory going to come back? Am I ever going to speak again?”


With a speech therapist he worked through exercises in which he had to recall every member of his teams and his voice came back after 10 days.

Ferguson, who retired in 2013, won 38 trophies during a 26-year spell in charge of United, and previously managed East Stirlingshire, St Mirren, Aberdeen and the Scotland national team.

He told the Q&A that his favourite memory of Manchester United fans was on the day he won the league title for the first time.

“God almighty – I couldn’t get out of the car park,” he said. “There were thousands of them… they could have made me president that day.”

He said the experiences he regretted most during his time in football were having to let players go, particular youngsters.

“That is the worst thing, having to let a young player go,” he said. “Because all his ambitions and hopes and desires are about playing for Manchester United in front of 75,000 people and going to Wembley in a final – when you take that away from them it’s a sore, sore thing. So I hated that.”

The documentary looks at Sir Alex’s upbringing in Scotland.


“I speak for every young boy in Govan and Glasgow that growing up, the only thing you had was football – football every day,” he said. “There was nothing else in my life.”

As a young man, Sir Alex organised strikes of apprentice workers, helping to win better wages.

“There are moments in your life when you say, I did something really worthwhile,” he said, stressing he was proud of his role in the strikes.

He said that determination was a key attribute in his success, reminiscing on a formative defeat as a young manager to Albion Rovers when he was in charge of East Stirlingshire.

His team lost 5-2 and he said he “made sure my players had a mental toughness from that moment on”.

He added: “My mindset every time I played a game of football was to win – that was the only thing that mattered.”

Further 12 deaths and 555 new coronavirus cases reported

A total of 1,743,869 Scots have now received their first coronavirus vaccine, figures have shown.

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images
Coronavirus: 12 deaths and 55 new cases reported.

A further 12 people have died from coronavirus and 555 new cases have been reported in the past 24 hours. 

It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7421.

On Saturday, the Scottish Government said there are 639 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 27 in 24 hours.

Of that number, 63 patients were in intensive care, a decrease of one from Friday.


By 8.30am on Saturday, a total of 1,743,869 Scots had received their first coronavirus vaccine, an increase of 26,197 from the previous day.

Meanwhile, a total of 114,081 people have had their second jab, an increase of 5884.

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