Nicola Sturgeon has condemned an anti-lockdown protest that took place in Glasgow on Saturday after hundreds of people gathered in George Square.
Some of the protestors had signs saying Covid-19 is a hoax and with another wearing an armband adorned with the Star of David and the word “unvaccinated” underneath it.
The SNP leader compared the scenes with the reality of what was happening in India where crematoria and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by a surge of coronavirus infections.
She also slammed the notion that the virus was a hoax saying that thousands of bereaved Scottish families know how real it is.
The demonstration, which took place around noon on Saturday, April 24, was against the implementation of coronavirus restrictions and the idea of health passports.
Sturgeon said: “Covid is not a hoax – as more than 10,000 grieving families in Scotland know, it is very real.
“The juxtaposition of this and the catastrophe unfolding in India is quite upsetting.
“Thankfully, things are getting better here and restrictions are easing – but we must still take care.”
A march took place near the city’s Queen Park earlier in the day, with some protestors walking to and from Glasgow Green as well.
A large demonstration took place in London on Saturday, with thousands of protestors marching against restrictions.
The death toll of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days now stands at 7652.
A further 176 positive cases were also reported by the Scottish Government on Sunday, meaning a total of 225,204 people have tested positive in Scotland since the start of the pandemic.
Hospital numbers are not updated at the weekend but, on Friday, 93 people were being treated in hospital having recently tested positive for coronavirus, of these 12 were in intensive care.
From Monday, restaurants, cafes and non-essential shops are able to welcome customers back following the easing of coronavirus regulations.
Libraries, gyms and swimming pools, and visitor attractions such as museums and art galleries, can also reopen as the country moves from level four to level three of the Scottish Government’s five-tier Covid alert system.
The formal election of Scotland’s First Minister is set to take place at Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.
MSPs will vote to choose the First Minister from 2pm, with the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon expected to continue leading the country following the Scottish Parliament election earlier this month.
Nominees for the position must put themselves forward by 1.30pm, ahead of the vote that is overseen by the new Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone.
Candidates will have five minutes to appeal for support from other MSPs who will each be able to cast one vote.
In the case of only one candidate, MSPs will be asked to vote for, against or abstain. If that candidate obtains a simple majority, he or she will be declared as the Parliament’s nomination for First Minister.
If there are two candidates, a candidate is selected if they obtain a simple majority of votes in their favour.
Where there are more than two candidates, a winner would be elected if they exceed the total number of votes for all other candidates.
If they fall short of an absolute majority, the candidate with the smallest number of votes is eliminated and further rounds of voting take place until a candidate is selected.
Scotland’s unemployment rate fell slightly in the last quarter, according to the latest figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the unemployment rate between January and March this year for those aged 16 and over was 4.3%, a 0.2% drop on the previous quarter.
This was lower than the UK-wide unemployment rate of 4.8% for those aged 16 and over.
The employment rate for those aged 16-64 in Scotland was 74.4%, a 0.7% increase on the previous quarter.
There were 2.560 million people aged 16-64 in employment between January and March, while 116,000 people in that age range were unemployed.
Across the whole UK, the number of workers on payrolls surged for the fifth month in a row in April as the lifting of lockdown restrictions saw the reopening of shops and outdoor dining, official figures have shown.
The ONS said the number of payroll workers rose by 97,000 between March and April, while it added that job vacancies also continued to increase as the economy jumped back into life.
The fall in the overall rate of unemployment – to 4.8% in the period from January to March – represents the largest quarterly decrease since September to November 2015.
But the data also showed the toll taken by the crisis on the jobs market, with 772,000 fewer UK workers on payrolls than before the pandemic struck last spring.
Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “The number of employees on payroll rose strongly in April as the economy began to reopen, continuing the improvement from its November trough.
“There remains, however, three quarters of a million people fewer on the payroll compared with the pre-pandemic peak.
“With many businesses reopening, the recent recovery in job vacancies continued into April, especially in sectors such as hospitality and entertainment.
“The renewed lockdown at the beginning of 2021 saw a sharp rise in the number of previously unemployed people no longer looking for work, helping the unemployment rate to fall on the quarter.
“This mirrored what happened during the first lockdown.”
James McAvoy joins appeal to aid children affected by Covid
STV Children’s Appeal launches campaign to help young people whose mental health has been impacted by the pandemic.
The STV Children’s Appeal has launched a new fundraising campaign focused on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Scotland’s children and young people, following research that suggests the Covid-19 pandemic will have a damaging long-term impact on young minds.
Glasgow-born Hollywood actor James McAvoy has joined other top Scottish talent – TV presenter Gail Porter, Booker Prize-winning author Douglas Stuart, comedian Janey Godley, Love Island star Laura Anderson and singer-songwriter Joesef – in recording video messages of support for the campaign.
A lockdown survey highlighted that 67% of young people believe the pandemic will be harmful to their mental health in the long-term.
In response, the STV Children’s Appeal – which was first launched in 2011 – will begin airing a new TV campaign voiced by long-time trustee Lorraine Kelly, which asks viewers to consider the impact of a year of lockdowns on youth mental health, and donate to support the recovery phase.
The campaign highlights the particularly detrimental impact of the pandemic on the one in four children currently living in poverty in Scotland.
Most lifelong mental illness begins in childhood and those living in deprivation are three times more likely to experience it, according to the British Medical Association. 100% of the money raised will be quickly distributed by the STV Children’s Appeal to fund vital counselling sessions and peer support groups in communities right across Scotland.
It will also support local projects which give children access to sports, art, music and other means of essential peer-to-peer connection, of which they might otherwise be deprived.
Lorraine Kelly, STV Children’s Appeal trustee, said: “It’s so important we help to raise funds and awareness of our children’s mental health.
“They’ve been through such a lot and we need to make sure they are looked after with kindness and compassion.
“I’m always so inspired by the response of the Scottish public who are incredibly generous and I’m sure we will be able to make life so much better for all the children who need that extra support.”
Jacqueline Cassidy, director of Scotland at children’s mental health charity and STV Children’s Appeal partner organisation Place2Be, said: “For some young people, this pandemic has been a nightmare. We are seeing increased levels of anxiety and emotional worry within the schools and wider communities in which we work.
“Our evidence shows when young people get the right support at the right time, their school performance improves and so do their life chances. And that stays with them as they grow.
“Thanks to the STV Children’s Appeal, we have been able to provide specialist support for parents and carers in Glasgow, as well as training for youth workers across Scotland to build their skills and confidence in responding to the mental health needs of children and young people.
“We are hugely grateful for STV’s support which means we can reach many more young people across Scotland before it’s too late.”
It’s a puzzle that Steve Clarke has been chewing over pretty much since the minute David Marshall saved the penalty that sent Scotland to the European Championship.
Who do you take to Euro 2020?
And who do you leave out?
On Wednesday, those questions will be answered when the Scottish FA reveals the final selection.
When Marshall saved the crucial penalty in Belgrade, the finals were seven months away. Circumstances have given the national team boss an extra year on top of that to consider the best blend of players and the possible teams he might field in three group games and hopefully more beyond that.
Just over three weeks ago, Clarke had settled on his choices “more or less”. And then UEFA announced that they were increasing squad sizes from 23 to 26, reasoning that after a shortened, concentrated season it may ease the workload on top players.
You might think that the increase would have been popular with managers, allowing them a bigger hand to choose from, and leaving them with fewer difficult phone calls to players who missed out.
But Clarke saw it differently.
“Obviously it will make the job when you’re there more difficult because you’re leaving players out that won’t be involved in the games,” he told Sky. “But it’s a chance for some players that might have missed out to be in the squad and to experience the whole atmosphere of a major tournament, which will be good.”
A traditional 23-man squad might have ramped up tension about who would be left out. Clarke has worked to build a club mentality in the squad and embed his ideas at individual and team level and that has meant a consistency in selection.
A few weeks ago – when Clarke knew his top 23 “more or less” – anyone who’s followed the national team could have had a fair stab at knowing it too.
Now, a combination of factors means it’s a little different and there could be some interesting choices on Wednesday.
Injuries have already ruled out a couple of almost definite picks and opened up space, UEFA’s increase to 26 players gives more room and end of season form may have seen some potential picks push harder than others.
Between the sticks
The one area where Clarke is unlikely to spring a major surprise is his goalkeeper selection.
David Marshall, Craig Gordon and Jon McLaughlin have been the go-to choices for some time and there hasn’t been a serious case to dislodge any of the trio at this late stage.
It’s been suggested that the manager might make a private phone call to Allan McGregor to sound out the veteran Rangers keeper after a vintage season, but the very reasons it would be private (risk of upsetting the established picks, and McGregor’s history with the Scottish FA) are the same ones that make it unlikely.
Case for the defence
The current preference for a three-man central defence means plenty of places for part of the team where there’s no defined first-choice partnership.
Kieran Tierney, having overcome injury problems, is a certainty for the left of the trio and a good number of players have their eyes on the remaining places.
Grant Hanley, Scott McKenna, Declan Gallagher, Jack Hendry, Andy Considine and Liam Cooper all have claims to make the squad, with the question of who will start against Czech Republic one to answer further down the line.
In the wing-back positions, Andy Robertson is captain and will be the first name on the team-sheet, with Celtic’s Greg Taylor the accepted back-up while Tierney takes on the central role.
On the right flank, Stephen O’Donnell isn’t going to miss out after tireless work over the last couple of years, though Liam Palmer might be nervously checking his phone on Wednesday morning now that James Forrest is back and available as an option.
Midfield is where injury has already sent Clarke’s early plans awry. Ryan Jack, having shown consistently strong performances for Rangers at home and abroad, had already been ruled out before Kenny McLean was cruelly robbed of his place in his last game of the domestic season. The Norwich midfielder has been a solid part of the squad and shown a cool head in penalty shoot-outs.
Scott McTominay’s spell at the back appears to be over and Scotland aren’t going to leave a Manchester United regular behind to watch the Euros on television. Likewise, John McGinn is on the verge of being a talismanic figure and will be in the starting line-up.
Celtic duo Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie will be in Clarke’s plans, as will Stuart Armstrong, while John Fleck’s case for inclusion has probably strengthened with McLean’s absence.
Further up the field, Forrest’s value to Scotland has been proven over the years, even if injury robbed him of most of this season, and Ryan Fraser’s creativity is essential if the team are to entertain hopes of going beyond the group stage.
Going for goals
The Clarke era has unearthed striking options and after persuading Lyndon Dykes to bring his physical and direct play to the dark blue jersey instead of his native Australia, and converting Che Adams to the cause, they will account for two places in the 26.
Kevin Nisbet and Lawrence Shankland looked to have been in direct competition and it’s likely the Hibs striker has nosed ahead in the last couple of months – but there could be room for both.
Oli McBurnie has been ruled out. Off-the-field issues and a Premier League goal return that’s the same as the Liverpool goalkeeper’s meant Clarke might have faced a tough decision on the Sheffield United forward, but McBurnie revealed on Monday that his fractured metatarsal won’t have healed in time for the Euros.
No discussion of Scotland’s forward options can be complete without mention of Leigh Griffiths, especially when England are among the upcoming opponents. The Celtic striker has had a season to forget but there are plenty who would support his case for inclusion based on an ability to deliver something unexpected.
Waiting by their phones
Beyond these names, most of whom have been in multiple squads throughout Clarke’s reign, there is the potential for a big surprise in Wednesday’s announcement.
The manager’s mention of experiencing a major tournament suggests his last places might go to younger players who can use it to further their career at the top.
David Turnbull’s smooth ascent to becoming a key player in midfield for Celtic must have put him in the frame, while Rangers’ young right-back Nathan Patterson would be a real outsider, though one that could give an option in a difficult position. Hibs centre-back Ryan Porteous has already made previous squads and has made no secret of his hopes to force his way in.
The real story would come from a gamble on either one of a pair of diminutive Scottish midfielders who have enjoyed 2020/21. Ryan Gauld’s move to Portugal was always a brave choice and, despite setbacks, he seems to have found his feet. Nine goals and seven assists in a Farense team that’s been in the bottom half of the top flight might be enough to nail a wildcard spot if there’s one going.
Gauld would have competition from one of Clarke’s old clubs. Billy Gilmour earned first-team appearances under Frank Lampard at Chelsea, but appeared to be back at the drawing board when new manager Thomas Tuchel arrived. However, the former Rangers youngster has returned to the team at Stamford Bridge and shown he’s capable up against the EPL’s best.
The inclusion of either one would be the headline from Wednesday’s squad reveal, but Clarke’s choices will be debated way beyond this week.
Scotland’s first appearance at a major finals in a generation means every spot in the squad is up for scrutiny.
Whether Clarke’s 26 can make the most of it will be the story of the summer.
Scotland must maintain its guard to keep coronavirus under control, despite “encouraging signs” in tackling the virus, according to John Swinney.
The Deputy First Minister made the comments as he said that a spike in cases in East Renfrewshire has caused concern.
Speaking to STV News, Swinney indicated that case numbers will be reviewed on a daily basis in evaluating whether further action needs to be taken.
It comes as the majority of Scotland moves to level two of Covid restrictions, with the exemption of the City of Glasgow and Moray, with both areas having seen a rise in cases.
East Renfrewshire currently has a case rate of 86.9 per 100,000 – higher than Glasgow’s when it was announced on Friday the city would be kept in Level 3 restrictions.
“We made it very clear when we set out the strategic framework that although we wanted to move down the levels in as unified a fashion as we can across the country, there may be exceptions where we have local outbreaks that we have to take action to strengthen the restrictions,” said Mr Swinney.
“Now, we’ve obviously regrettably had to do that in the City of Glasgow.
“We are looking at the numbers in all local authority areas on a daily basis to make sure that nothing is running away from us and obviously the East Renfrewshire situation is causing some concern.
“And we’ll be reviewing these numbers on a daily basis to make sure that we take prompt, swift action to tackle any spread of the virus because that’s the way in which we’ll be able to maintain and sustain a position of lower restrictions within Scotland if we keep the virus and its prevalence under control.”
Swinney suggested the rise in cases in Glasgow were driven by the so-called Indian variant of the virus.
He said: “We’re at an early stage in understanding some of the most recent data on hospitalisations.
“Obviously, we think that some of the challenge within the City of Glasgow has been driven by the variant of concern that’s emerged in India.
“If that is the case, we need to see what the impact on hospitalisation is out of that particular variant of concern.
“So, we’re watching a range of data – case numbers, we’re looking at hospital admissions, we’re looking at positivity rates, and the welcome today has been the positivity rate has fallen again, case numbers are lower than they have been.
“So, there are encouraging signs, but we have to maintain our guard to make sure we keep the virus under control and the vaccination strategy, which has been very, very successful, is proving to be a very powerful weapon in containing the virus and in providing the public safety and assurance that we require.”
A theatre is bidding to save its 70th anniversary celebrations by setting up stage outdoors for the summer.
For most venues, social-distancing rules and capacity restrictions have made putting on performances simply not worthwhile.
But the Pitlochry Festival Theatre has found a way around the pandemic problem by creating a new amphitheatre and bandstand.
Boasting a vast plot of picturesque land, looking out onto Ben Vrackie, the theatre hopes to offer arts lovers more to feast their eyes on than just what’s on stage.
Artistic director Elizabeth Newman told STV News: “We are still here and gearing up to welcome audiences for the summer, but it has been a really challenging year.
“As soon as the two metres [distancing rule] became a reality we began to plan to move outdoors because that seemed the most likely option for audiences.
“We actually took the decision to prepare for not being able to produce theatre in the way that we’re used to until it becomes safe for audiences, which is why we’re going to be socially distanced outdoors.”
While the 70th anniversary celebrations aren’t quite what they were initially hoping for, the theatre has 17 shows planned, ranging from children’s favourite The Wind in the Willows to David Greig’s new play, Adventures with the Painted People, and evenings of musicals and opera concerts.
Curtains remain closed
Other theatres are not so fortunate, with the Tron in Glasgow recently cancelling its 2021 pantomime.
Meanwhile, Iain Gordon, manager at the city’s Pavilion Theatre, told STV he thinks it will be September before shows can realistically return to the stage there.
Andrew Panton, artistic director of Dundee Rep theatre, which also remains shut at the moment, said: “We would love to see, in the next few weeks, the social distancing come down to one metre.
“Then very quickly we’d work with the Scottish Government to find a safe way to lose that distance completely.
“All we want to do is throw these doors open and see audiences in here, chatting at the bar and heading into the auditorium, seeing the work, but we want to do that when we can do that safely.”