Indoor gatherings banned in Glasgow amid Covid-19 surge

People living in Glasgow City, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire council areas face new restrictions.

Glasgow City Council

Restrictions have been reinstated for indoor gatherings in three council areas, including the city of Glasgow, after days of surging coronavirus cases.

Nicola Sturgeon said people living in Glasgow City, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire cannot host or visit other households indoors for at least two weeks.

The policy starts from midnight.

The First Minister made the announcement after chairing a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee (SGoRR) over Tuesday afternoon. 

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With more than 400 new Covid-19 infections recorded in Scotland in the last three days, a total of 174 of them have been found in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area.

Over the last 24 hours, 154 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Scotland, with 66 in the Glasgow health board region.

The Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire areas have experienced several local Covid clusters in recent weeks including in a pharmacy, schools and one out of Low Moss prison.

The First Minister said there is especially high prevalence of the virus in three local authority areas: the city of Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire.

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West Dunbartonshire’s daily incidence rate of Covid-19 nearly 33 new cases per 100,000 people, with the figure at 22 in Glasgow and around 19 in East Renfrewshire.

That compares to a Scotland-wide average of slightly more than ten in 100,000.

Sturgeon said that in these three areas, the virus appears to be spreading “primarily as a result of household gatherings” rather than in pubs or restaurants.

As a result, households in this trio of council areas should not meet up with people from other households at either of their homes.

The only exceptions to this rule are emergencies, or meeting people you have formed an “extended household” with – a policy brought in during lockdown for people like relatives living alone or non-cohabiting partners to spend time with their loved ones.

The restrictions will be in place for at least a fortnight but reviewed after one week.

In other new measures, the whole household of a person who is identified as a close contact linked to Greater Glasgow cluster should self-isolate for 14 days.

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Visiting care homes will also be restricted to outdoor visits only and hospitals will allow essential visitors only.

Sturgeon said she understands people may be frustrated with the restrictions but added it shows Covid has not gone away.

As a Glasgow resident herself, she added: “I won’t be able to have my family visit me at home and nor will I be able to travel to a different local authority, in my case Ayrshire, to visit them.”

More to follow.

‘Astounding’: Outcry as students hit with pubs ban

UCU Scotland accuses principals of 'blaming students' for Covid outbreaks after 'encouraging' them back to campuses.

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Students: Pop-up Covid testing at Glasgow University's Murano Street complex.

Scotland’s universities union has described the decision to ban students from pubs and restaurants and to threaten them with expulsion as “astounding”.

UCU Scotland accused Scottish ministers and university principals of “blaming students” for coronavirus outbreaks at campuses around the country.

The union said universities had actively “encouraged” people to return to student campuses.

It comes after students staying in halls were told they cannot visit their parents’ homes indoors under current national restrictions, as they are no longer counted as in the same household.

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On Thursday, the higher education governing body Universities Scotland announced a weekend ban on students going to hospitality venues or socialising with anyone outside their accommodation.

It’s a bid to keep Covid-19 under control amid hundreds of cases on uni campuses since students returned, with more than 1000 students self-isolating around Scotland.

But the move has been met with a storm of criticism by organisations, student bodies and political parties.

In a statement, Universities Scotland insisted safeguards had been in place for the return of students and blamed the latest measures on a “minority” for not following public health guidance.

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It warned that a “yellow card/red card approach” is in place for anyone who breaks the new rules, with the possibility of students having their studies discontinued as a last-resort punishment.

But UCU Scotland official Mary Senior hit back: “It is astounding that the Scottish Government and principals are blaming students for Covid outbreaks on university campuses.

“This is an incredibly contagious virus and students were encouraged to return to campuses.

“UCU has argued that the default position for universities should be remote and online working, in line with other workplaces.

“That is what the Scottish Government should be introducing today, not threatening students with red cards and banning them from going out.

“Students have the same rights as any other member of the community and should not be treated as second-class citizens.”

The National Union of Students also criticised the decision and questioned the situation for the significant proportion of students who work in the hospitality sector.

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NUS Scotland president Matt Crilly said: “Tonight’s announcement by Universities Scotland, and endorsed by the Scottish Government, unfairly blames students for the spread of coronavirus and takes the unjustified step of applying different rules to students over and above the rest of the adult population.
 
“These measures are deeply concerning – not least to those students who rely on income from hospitality jobs.

“Having different rules for students makes it even more confusing to stay within guidance, which could make things less safe and the rules show a complete disregard for students’ mental health and wellbeing.

“We need better.”

Meanwhile, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has said it is “concerned about the human rights implications” of the ban on students returning home.

Scotland’s higher education minister Richard Leonard denied the new policies are “stigmatising students”.

He told the BBC: “Universities are asking the students jointly across Scotland this weekend – given we’ve got a number of outbreaks of the virus and some campuses across Scotland – to have the weekend off from socialising outwith the households.

“The vast majority of students have been so responsible, it’s a very tough time for them.

“Imagine being a 17 or 18 or 19-year-old going to university for the first time and of course we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and they’re not able to do what the previous generations were able to do.

“This is about all of us working together, it’s not stigmatising students, it’s not about saying they’re particularly to blame for what’s happening.”

But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said it was “not right” for students to be treated the way they had.

He said: “This group of young people have had their education disrupted like no other.

“Their parents have sent them off to university and, above all else, they just want them to be safe and happy.  

“But in their first week, students are being threatened with expulsion and handed last-minute mixed messages, creating uncertainty about if they can go home or if they’ll miss Christmas with their families. 

“We need to remember that in many cases we are talking about young people, as young as 17, living away from home for the first time and facing the possibility of not being able to return to their parents for what could be six months.”

Ross added: “Some students have taken up expensive leases and they’re now in limbo waiting for clear answers. 

“Treating them this way is just not right.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the Scottish Government had “utterly failed to anticipate, prepare or plan for this”.

He added: “Students should not be paying the price of government incompetence.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrats branded the situation a “catastrophe” and issued a five-point plan to fix it include mass routine asymptomatic testing in universities to try to catch more positive cases.

The Lib Dems said students who tested negative under this system should then be given the option to return home, and that rent money should be returned to students who leave their accommodation temporarily or permanently.

Party leader Willie Rennie said: “It should have been little surprise to the Scottish Government that these outbreaks would happen, but they were still caught flat-footed. 

“We have been warning for weeks that students going back to university was the biggest movement of people since the lockdown and required extra measures to prevent outbreaks.

“They missed the opportunity to test international students on arrival and now reject our calls for asymptomatic testing for all students. 

“It is an extra safety measure that we should take to ensure that we can hunt down the virus even in those people who don’t know they have it.”

He added: “Students have been treated shabbily and as second-class citizens. 

“Last minute panicked changes to the rules and laws has left students feeling cheated at being trapped in expensive accommodation, unable to go home and with no in-person teaching for months.”

In a tweet on Friday morning, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon vowed to address the matter at the daily coronavirus briefing.

Four people taken to hospital after house fire

The casualties were treated for smoke inhalation by medics, with four of them taken to hospital.

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Fire: Six people were injured in the blaze.

Six people have been injured following a fire in Glasgow.

The casualties were treated for smoke inhalation by medics, with four of them taken to hospital.

Emergency services were alerted to the blaze at a house in Govan’s Elder Street shortly after 6am on Friday.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) sent six engines to extinguish the flames. One remains at the scene.

Emergency Services currently at an ongoing incident on Govan Road / Elder Street an hour ago, reports of a house fire. We hope everyone is OK & Safe.

Posted by Sunny Govan Memories on Friday, September 25, 2020
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Sunny Govan Memories posted a picture of the emergency response, adding: “We hope everyone is ok and safe.”

A SFRS spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 6.12am on Friday, September 25 to reports of a dwelling fire in Glasgow.

“Operations control mobilised six appliances to the city’s Elder Street, where firefighters extinguished the fire.

“Six casualties were passed into the care of paramedics suffering from mild to moderate smoke inhalation.

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“Four of the casualties were then taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“One fire appliance currently remains at the scene.”


Golden eagle feared dead after tag found wrapped in lead

The bird of prey has been missing since its tag stopped transmitting suddenly on a grouse moor in Perthshire in 2016.

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Missing: The golden eagle is feared dead after its tag was found wrapped in lead.

A wildlife charity is on the hunt for a potential golden eagle killer after the bird’s satellite tag was found wrapped in heavy lead at a river.

The bird of prey has been missing since its tag stopped transmitting suddenly on a grouse moor in Perthshire in 2016.

Despite searches, it was never found.

Following the recovery of its tag, RSPB Scotland now believe it was illegally killed and said it shows the “lengths raptor killers will go to conceal crime”.

Discovery: The tag was wrapped in heavy lead and dumped at River Braan. RSPB SCOTLAND
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Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations said: “As is the case in virtually every raptor persecution investigation, nobody seemed to know anything and, as is the case with every suspicious satellite-tagged raptor disappearance on a grouse moor, spurious alternative theories as to what may have happened to the bird and tag were suggested.

“However, now we know the truth. This young eagle was killed illegally.

“The tag was clearly removed from the bird, its antenna was cut off, and the tag was then wrapped in a piece of lead sheeting, presumably because the perpetrator thought this would stop it transmitting. 

“The package was then cast into the river, never to be seen again. Or so they thought.”

River Braan: A walker and his son found the package. RSPB SCOTLAND
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After fledging from its nest, the young eagle had remained on its parents’ territory until November 2014. 

Over the following 18 months, it explored Scotland’s uplands before it moved onto Strathbraan. 

On May 1, 2016, his tag “suddenly and inexplicably stopped”.

Four years later, the lead package was discovered by a walker and his son on the banks of the River Braan near Dunkeld on May 21, just a few miles away from the bird’s last known location.

It’s now in the hands of Police Scotland for forensic analysis in the hope to catch those responsible.

Mr Thomson added: “This discovery gives unequivocal proof not only of what is happening to these birds, but also the lengths to which the criminals involved in the killing of our raptors will go to dispose of evidence and evade justice.”


Covid wrecked our wedding plans but it’s time to say ‘I do’

Angelina Franchitti and Gordon Murray have rearranged their big day three times since the pandemic hit.

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For Angelina Franchitti, marrying her partner Gordon Murray on her 40th birthday was something she had been looking forward to for months. 

The couple had everything arranged for their big day in April, right down to the date printed on bags that guests would fill with treats from a sweetie cart. 

When coronavirus hit, they rearranged their wedding for 200 guests to November but it soon became clear that a large wedding wouldn’t be possible for the pair during the pandemic.

“At the beginning of August we decided let’s either put it off completely until next year or bring it forward and have something small in the garden,” Angelina said.

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“We just wanted to get married this year,” Gordon added.

“We’ve been planning it for the last year and we were all geared up for the big wedding and at the end of the day when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how many people are there, it’s all about getting married and having the day together.”

Due to the regulations, the couple decided to rearrange their wedding and reception to be held in their garden for just 20 guests on Friday, 

“Bringing down the numbers feels a bit unfair, there are so many people who really want to be here and you want them to be here but you’re limited,” Gordon said.

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“But it is what it is, you’re limited in what you can do and ultimately we just want to get married.”

‘I think the fact that we’ve been left in limbo has been nothing more than torturous to be honest, it’s been cruel.’

Angelina Franchitti

But just two weeks before the big day, the regulations changed again and the couple discovered they needed to hold their reception in a regulated venue, rather than a marquee they planned to build in their garden.

“We frantically rang round to find a venue because we didn’t have anything booked at all with literally two weeks to go,” Angelina said.

“I’ve never been so stressed wondering if it was even going to go ahead.”

Angelina believes that couples have been left behind as they seek to rearrange their weddings, adding that she had to go searching for the latest restrictions following the First Minister’s update on Tuesday.

“I think the fact that we’ve been left in limbo has been nothing more than torturous to be honest, it’s been cruel,” she says.

“I think a few words, a few sentences could have given a lot of clarity. Weddings weren’t even mentioned, I had to go and find out if anything had changed.

‘At the end of the day what’s important is getting married, you can have a big party once everything is back to normal.’

Gordon Murray
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“We have sat on the edge of our seat waiting to find out if our special day could go ahead.”

With their dream day set to go ahead on Friday despite the issues they’ve faced, Gordon says the most important thing is that they are finally tying the knot.

“At the end of the day what’s important is getting married, you can have a big party once everything is back to normal,” Gordon said.

“If you can go forward and have a small event then I would recommend it because that strips it right back to what’s important about a wedding.”

Angelina added that it was important for her that she wed Gordon in 2020, no matter how big or small their wedding would be. 

“The main thing that decided it for me in the end was last year putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it and thinking next year when we do this we will be married,” she said.

“Thinking of putting it off, I didn’t want to do that.”


Attacker left man with fractured skull in attempted murder

Graeme Robertson targeted Robert Cochran just hours after meeting him in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, in April.

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Jailed: Graeme Robertson was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow.

An attacker who left his murder bid victim with a fractured skull has been jailed for six years.

Graeme Robertson, 30, targeted Robert Cochran just hours after meeting him in the street and going to his home.

When police arrived, blood-soaked Robertson initially refused to let them in and then told them “I’m fine”, while Mr Cochran was lying inside seriously injured.

At the High Court in Glasgow, judge Lord Mulholland told Robertson, who appeared via a video link from prison: “You pled guilty to attempted murder and left your victim with life-threatening injuries. You are no stranger to violence.”

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The court heard that Robertson, a dad-of-one, has six previous convictions for violence.

He was ordered to be monitored in the community for two years after his release from jail.

Robertson stabbed and battered Mr Cochran at his flat in Cameron Crescent, Hamilton, Lanarkshire on April 20 this year.

Mr Cochran suffered bleeding on the brain and skull fractures.

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Roberston initially refused to let police in and then told them: “This is just from an incident that happened earlier. I am fine.”

 Mr Cochran was lying in the kitchen injured at the time with a knife nearby.

Robertson said: “He took a swing at me, so I took a swing at him.”

Robertson pled guilty to attempted murder.

Jennifer Bain, defending, said: “He went out for a walk that day and met Robert Cochran, who was previously unknown to him.

“He agreed to return to his flat with him. He knows there is no excuse for his behaviour and has expressed horror at the consequences of his actions.”


‘Half of childminders fear for future without support’

The Scottish Childminders Association polled 900 people working in the sector.

Childminders: Half fear for future.

Almost half of all childminders in Scotland say they will not be financially viable in six months without Government support, a new survey has found.

The Scottish Childminders Association (SCMA) polled 900 people working in the sector, and found 46% said they may not be able to last until the spring unless the Scottish Government steps in.

Another 28% said they have run up debt to supplement their income.
Childminders have seen an increase in operating costs since the Covid-19 pandemic began due to the need for extra hygiene measures.

Around 80% of those asked also said they have seen a reduction in the number of children in their settings.

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Scottish Labour MSP Mary Fee has called on the Scottish Government to lend more support to childminders.

She said: “It is a cause of great concern to hear that nearly half of Scotland’s childminding businesses are in financial danger.

“Childminding plays a vital role in enabling many parents to go to work with the peace of mind that they have the childcare they need.

“If Scotland’s childminding businesses are at threat then it puts the jobs of childminders and the working patterns of thousands of parents and carers at risk too.

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“Scotland’s childminders and the families that they support must not be forgotten in this crisis. The time has come for the Scottish Government to take swift action to see that this sector is protected from the financial shockwaves of the pandemic.”

Lib Dem education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart also called for the Scottish Government to step in “meaningfully and urgently”.

She said: “Keeping childcare services going throughout this pandemic is going to be pivotal to recovery.

“Childminders are going to considerable expense and effort to ensure their premises are safe to allow these services to continue.

“This survey shows that there now is a real risk that they won’t see the other side of this pandemic. It could be a near wipeout, at the very moment they should be at the heart of the rollout of additional early learning and childcare.

“For children who have been starved of socialisation during lockdown, and parents who need flexible and high-quality childcare available if they are to keep their jobs, that would be an utter disaster.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are deeply grateful to everyone in the childcare sector, including childminders, who have supported key worker families and vulnerable children during the health crisis, and recognise that lockdown has hit incomes in many areas.

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“This remains a time of unprecedented challenge, and there are significant demands and pressures on the government to support businesses and people all across Scotland who are being impacted by the pandemic and the necessary public health response.

“We remain committed to working with the whole childcare sector to respond to the continued need to follow public health guidance while progressing the recovery.”


Pelvic pain drug ‘no more effective than a placebo’

Researchers are now recommending against routinely prescribing the drug gabapentin for women with the condition.

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Pelvic pain: Researchers are now recommending against routinely prescribing the drug gabapentin.

A drug that is regularly used to treat chronic pelvic pain in women has been found to be no more effective than a placebo, a new study has found.

Researchers are now recommending against routinely prescribing the drug gabapentin for women with the condition, as a result of the findings.

Chronic pelvic pain affects up to 24% of women worldwide to varying degrees, while it is also estimated as many as one million in the UK are affected by the condition.

Professor Andrew Horne, lead researcher from the University of Edinburgh, said: “We have been prescribing this drug for many years with little evidence of its effectiveness.

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“As a result of our study, we can confidently conclude that gabapentin is not effective for chronic pelvic pain in women where no cause has been identified.

“More research is needed to explore if other therapies can help instead.”

Gabapentin is used to manage many forms of chronic pain. In two separate surveys, 74% of GPs and 92% of gynaecologists said that they would consider prescribing the drug for chronic pelvic pain.

Researchers from the universities of Edinburgh, Birmingham, Oxford and Nottingham tested the drug’s effectiveness in treating chronic pelvic pain through a randomised clinical trial involving 306 women with the condition and no known underlying cause.

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As part of the study, 153 women received gabapentin and 153 received placebo for 16 weeks.

Neither group nor the prescribing clinicians knew what they were receiving.

The women were asked to rate their average pain and worst pain, using a scale from zero to ten, on a weekly basis.

Scores were then averaged for the drug and placebo groups.

The team found there was very little difference between the reported pain in both groups.

However, the group that received gabapentin reported experiencing more side-effects – including dizziness, drowsiness and changes of mood – than the placebo group.

The researchers say that gabapentin should no longer be considered in the treatment of chronic pelvic pain where no cause has been identified.

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They also argue other avenues of treatment should be explored, such as different drugs, physiotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.


‘World’s largest private whisky collection’ up for auction

The £3.9m collection of 9000 bottles was built up by a man who initially did not enjoy the drink.

Whisky Auctioneer
Up for auction: The 9000 bottles are expected to fetch £3.9m.

A £3.9m whisky collection of 9000 bottles built up by a man who initially did not enjoy the drink is to go on sale in an online auction.

The whisky collector, known only as Pat as he wishes to remain anonymous, created what is said to be the world’s largest and most diverse private collection over the course of 15 years.

He bought his first whiskies based on the recommendation of a colleague, but became “hooked” on collecting and went on to source bottles from more than 150 Scottish distilleries as well as bourbon and rare Scotch releases from independent bottlers in Europe, and whisky from other distilleries across the globe.

Whisky: The collector initially didn’t like the drink then became ‘hooked’.

It will be sold in an auction on WhiskyAuctioneer.com, founded and based in Perth, with the sale running from September 25 to October 5.

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Iain McClune, the founder of Whisky Auctioneer, said: “The entire collection has an estimated hammer price of approximately $5m, however the focus for starting the project was never on ultra-premium priced whiskies.

“The value of the collection lies in its completeness, with many of the most lauded series from some of the finest distilleries in the world featured here in their entirety.

“The story behind how the collection started is an intriguing one. The collector came from not even enjoying whisky to becoming hooked and he pursued with zealousness this journey to not only collect, but also gain knowledge and experience in the world of whisky.”

He described it as “a collection for everyone, accessible to all”.

Cheers: Whisky Auctioneer will run the auction between September 25 and October 5.
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The sale includes bottles from Japanese distilleries Karuizawa and Hanyu, and “aged expressions” of Bowmore, Port Ellen, Caperdonich and Highland Park from the Duncan Taylor Tantalus series.

Pat said: “ I have always fought against whisky snobbery and wanted to create a collection for drinking and enjoying responsibly. 

“Good whisky can be discovered literally anywhere and come at any price, wherein lies its beauty.

“The significance of this wide range of whisky styles, from single malts to grain and blends, is that it’s unlikely anybody will ever be able to replicate such a collection on the open market without directly acquiring large private collections. Many bottles included will simply never, or at least rarely, be available again.”


High court trials to begin with remote jury at cinema

From Tuesday, some High Court cases in Edinburgh and Livingston will have juries sitting in five screens of an Odeon cinema.

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Court: The first trials using a cinema complex to host a jury will begin next week.

The first trials using a cinema complex to host a jury will begin next week in a bid to address the court case backlog worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

From Tuesday, some High Court cases sitting in Edinburgh and Livingston will have juries sitting in five screens of the Odeon cinema at Fort Kinnaird retail park in the capital.

Each screen can accommodate 15 physically-distanced jurors, who will feature on a video wall in the courtrooms.

The remote jury centres will initially be in place for six months – after £5.5 million funding from the Scottish Government – but there is an option to extend them for a longer period.

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Tim Barraclough, director of the Judicial Office for Scotland, said: “The key priority remains to provide justice in a safe environment.

“The restarting solemn trials working group, chaired by Lady Dorrian, was greatly assisted by representatives from across the justice and third sectors, and thanks goes out to them all for their commitment to ensure that justice is delivered safely.

“It has been an excellent collaborative effort, and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff have been working extremely hard to ensure that the vision is delivered.”

The cinema screen viewed by jurors is divided into four quadrants showing a general view of the court, the accused, the judge or witness, and the SCTS logo – which can be replaced to show court productions such as physical evidence or CCTV images.

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Courts will have the facility to accommodate up to three accused along with their legal representatives.

Before the pandemic there were around 390 High Court trials waiting to be heard – but this nearly doubled to 750 by the end of August.

Mr Barraclough warned the figure will continue to rise unless courts can fully resume.

As part of the six-month contract, the courts will have exclusive access to the jury centre from 8am on Monday to 6pm on Friday.

Equipment will be packed away for the Odeon to return as a functioning cinema every weekend.

Jurors will be provided with packed sandwiches, individual bottles of water and two servings of tea or coffee each day.

Only the 15 jurors selected in court before the trial will arrive at the cinema, with a small number of substitutes, a court officer and technical specialists.

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Sanitising stations will be placed at entry and exit points, with floor and wall markings to help the flow of people.

Jurors will be able to take their masks off while seated for the trial itself but must wear them when moving around, including to desks with a microphone system in front of the cinema screen for deliberations.

The families of those involved in trials and the media will be seated in courtrooms, with their numbers dictated by social distancing.

More trials are scheduled for the week of October 12 at another jury centre for the High Court in Glasgow, using 11 screens at the Odeon complex in the Braehead shopping centre, Renfrewshire.

If successful the next step will be to consider how the model can be extended to include sheriff court jury trials.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf welcomed the progress, saying: “Next week represents a significant milestone for our criminal justice system as we will see the commencement of the first trial using the jury centre in Edinburgh.

“The Scottish Government has provided £5.5m funding for these remote High Court jury centres which allow many of the most serious criminal cases to proceed, providing assurance to victims, witnesses and accused who have been adversely affected by case delays due to the many challenges presented by Covid-19.

“Work is ongoing to consider what further actions may be required to address the backlog of criminal cases in a way which safeguards the interests of both public health and of justice.”


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