‘No quick fix’ getting HGV licence amid supply chain and fuel woes

Ritchies Training in Glasgow is extremely busy, with the UK estimated to be short of more than 100,000 lorry drivers.

STV News

One of the country’s biggest HGV training centres in Glasgow is working hard to get more qualified lorry drivers on the roads in a bid to help companies suffering supply chain issues.

Ritchies Training, in the north of the city, say they are extremely busy at the moment, with people booked in for lessons on how to drive lorries, buses and forklifts.

But getting an HGV licence can be a lengthy process – and time is of the essence as the UK is estimated to be short of more than 100,000 lorry drivers, according to a Road Haulage Association survey of its members.

The UK Government has announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5000 foreign HGV drivers and 5500 poultry workers allowed into the UK on three-month contracts up to Christmas Eve in an attempt to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys and tackle fuel delivery difficulties.


But workers at Ritchie’s say there is no quick fix to resolving the situation, partly due to long waiting times for people looking to sit their theory test.

And Brian Meechan, an instructor at Ritchie’s since 2004, told STV News the hard work only begins once people have actually passed their test.

He said: There’s a lot involved, it’s not as easy as jumping in a truck and going – they’ve got to know exactly where they’re going, watch out for low bridges, weak roads, weak bridges.

“I think it’s basically the conditions, the companies are not willing to pay their drivers the money so they’re losing them, they’re going elsewhere, abroad. I mean the Polish drivers, I believe they’ve been given a big incentive to go back to their own country.”


The problem is being made even worse by a backlog in the processing of HGV driving licences.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) says there are 54,191 applications for vocational driving licences that still need processed.

Around 4000 provisional HGV licence applications are in that queue.

A DVLA spokesperson said: “We are prioritising HGV provisional licence applications which are currently being issued in around five days and we are looking at ways to speed up this process even further. More complex transactions, for example if medical investigations are needed as part of a driving licence application, may face longer delays.

“The majority of applications waiting are for renewals. Once a driver has submitted their application they may be able to continue to drive while we are processing it, provided they have not been told by their doctor or optician they should not drive”.

Scotland’s deputy first minister said on Wednesday shortages at filling stations in the country are “more acute” than normal, though he insisted that the situation was “improving”.

John Swinney spoke out as the UK Government put 150 military drivers on stand-by to help deliver petrol and diesel to forecourts if needed.


But David, an instructor at Ritchie’s training group for eight years, said driving lorries is a big change from the army.

“It can be, but the boys do their best,” he said.

“Years ago we done different things, ambulance strikes, everything else. We just did what he had to do at that time but now it’s a big, big ask, things have changed that much through the industry, like five days’ training ADR.

“These young men are trained in a big, big way – they’ll be able to do the job, they will, if asked.

“The crisis of the driving, there is a shortage but there was still a shortage six months ago, a year ago, before Covid, so what is the difference now?

“Low wages, long hours, there’s that many different things, sleeping in the cab five days a week, six days a week, away from your family, people don’t like that.

“It’s not an easy job. People think you just go in there, you drive your vehicle and that’s it – the things you’ve got to think about is your load, security, everything else. If you’ve not done your job right you’re going to get a heavy fine, you can get penalty points, there’s a lot to think about.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday the situation on the filling station forecourts is “stabilising” as he urged motorists to go about their business in the normal way.

Following days of chaos, with long queues for petrol and stations running dry, the Prime Minister said he understood the frustration felt by drivers as they struggled to fill up.

However, he said that the indications from the industry were that the situation was beginning to improve with supplies returning to normal levels.

Swinney said the UK Government’s decision to put military drivers on stand by to deliver fuel “may well be helpful”.

However he stated: “There are other options available. The UK Government has access to additional tanker capacity that can be used should there be driver capacity available, and we obviously are looking at what are the options there and working closely with the distribution companies in Scotland as well.”

Holidaymaker dies in Crete while rescuing grandsons from sea

Jonathan Smith, from Carluke, got into difficulty in the water near Gouves as he tried to save the two boys.

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A Scottish man has died after rescuing his two grandsons from the sea off the coast of a Greek island.

It is understood that Jonathan Smith, from Carluke, was on holiday in Crete with family when two boys got into trouble in the water near Gouves, a resort east of Heraklion.

The 61-year-old was able to save the two grandchildren before getting into difficulty himself.

A spokesperson for the National Center for First Aid (EKAB) in Crete told Greek TV that the boys were unharmed but were taken to hospital as a precaution.

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An eyewitness told Greek broadcasters that he and other rescuers threw lifejackets out to the children and Mr Smith.

“The two children we got them out, we saved them, but the man we couldn’t save, there’s rocks here so he may have hurt himself,” he said.

“And we couldn’t save him, we didn’t have the time, the water took him in. The children were scared when they got onto the boat, I realised it was their grandad, they started crying, as soon as they got onto the boat they were shaking through fear.

“I’m proud that we saved the children, that was our priority, but the man we didn’t make it to save him. We feel guilty but we did what we could.”

‘The children were scared when they got onto the boat, I realised it was their grandad, they started crying, as soon as they got onto the boat they were shaking through fear.’


Mr Smith previously worked for North Lanarkshire Council and was central to developing its Syrian Resettlement Programme in 2015.

The project assisted a number of families who have fled ongoing conflict and provided a safe and secure future for them.

Des Murray, chief executive of North Lanarkshire Council said: “The news about Jonathan has been a terrible shock to everyone who knew and worked with him at the council and beyond over many years.

“Jonathan was held in the highest regard, and the work he did to forge long-lasting links and friendships with communities and partners across North Lanarkshire is testament to the passion and tireless dedication he gave to everything he did.

“He was also pivotal in community engagement and participation, maintaining relationships with many of our local community groups and addressing local needs.

“He was a wonderful, kind and considerate family man, who will be deeply missed and all our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Central Scotland Conservative MSP Meghan Gallacher said: “This is really sad news. Jonathon worked alongside local communities and councillors during his time at North Lanarkshire Council.


“Thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.”

The UK Foreign Office told STV News it was supporting the family of a British man who had died in Crete and was in contact with the Greek authorities.

The Cretapost website reported life jackets were thrown into the water to assist the man.

A local worker said: “We tried to pull him ashore but the currents were very strong and we could not.”

Two arrested after man injured in ‘altercation’ outside Central Station

An area at Glasgow Central's Union Street entrance was taped off by police on Thursday.

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The incident took place at around 1.10pm on Thursday, October 21.

A man has been taken to hospital after an altercation involving three people outside Glasgow Central Station.

Police taped off an area at station’s Union Street entrance following the incident on Thursday afternoon.

Officers have confirmed that a man and woman have been arrested, whilst enquires are carried out.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers were called to Union Street, outside Glasgow Central Station, at around 1.10pm on Thursday, October 21, 2021, following an altercation involving three people.


“A man and a woman have been arrested in connection with the incident, and a second man taken to hospital for treatment.

“A police presence remains while enquiries are conducted at the scene.”

Clarkston Disaster: ‘The shops were blown to bits’

50th anniversary of the day 22 people were killed when a gas explosion ripped through a row of shops.

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Engineers were trying to find a gas leak when an explosion ripped through a row of shops at Clarkston Toll shortly before 3pm on October 21, 1971.

Twenty-two people – 20 women and two men – were killed as ten shops were blown out and vehicles plunged into the debris from a rooftop car park.

More than 100 others were hurt, including some who were rescued hours later as emergency workers and good samaritans dug desperately through the rubble.

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Vehicles plunged from the rooftop car park into the shops following the blast.

Most of the victims were customers and shop workers, and even though many of them had already complained that week about a smell of gas, no-one was held responsible for the blast.


The victims of the Clarkston Disaster will be remembered during a 50th anniversary memorial service in the East Renfrewshire town on Thursday afternoon.

‘Shortly after that, it blew up’

Ted Flannigan’s life was saved by chance – he went into a restaurant in Clarkston for something to eat, but changed his mind and left the scene just minutes before the explosion.

“By almost a whim, I saved my own life,” the 75-year-old told STV News as he returned to the scene half a century later.


“I came out of a restaurant and drove up the road a little bit – shortly after that, it blew up.

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Two passengers were killed after getting off this bus just before the explosion.

“The roof had come down, crashed through the shops, the front and back of the shops were blown to bits and poor people who were either shopping or working lost their lives.

“As an engineer, I’ve seen various things in my life, but nothing quite as horrendous as this.

“I spent three nights working there, trying to do anything that I could do. People were all mucking in, everybody was trying to help.”

What happened in Clarkston?

Shopworkers had reported a smell of gas in the six-year-old shopping centre on Busby Road, but engineers were unable to find out where it was coming from.

Unbeknown to them, gas was actually leaking through a crack in a pipe three feet below the road surface into empty, unventilated cellars beneath the shops.

STV News

Engineers were still on the scene when the gas was ignited by a spark, causing an explosion so fierce that it killed two people who had just got off a bus – and injured passengers still in their seats.

A fatal accident inquiry reached its conclusions within just four months of the explosion, a jury deciding that no one was to blame.

STV News
This car was left covered in rubble following the blast.

Remembering the victims

A special 50th anniversary service will take place for victims’ families and survivors on Thursday at the memorial tree in the Clarkston Halls car park.

There will also be a minute’s silence across East Renfrewshire at 2.50pm.

The full story of the Clarkston Disaster was also told in an episode of The People’s History Show, which is available on the STV Player.

COP26 ‘will see Covid cases spike and may lead to new restrictions’

Professor Devi Sridhar said she believes the 13-day UN summit will lead to an increase in Covid-19 cases.

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Coronavirus restrictions may have to be imposed in the aftermath of the COP26.

Coronavirus restrictions may have to be imposed in the aftermath of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, a scientific adviser to Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

Professor Devi Sridhar said she believes the 13-day UN summit will lead to an increase in Covid-19 cases and put further pressure on the health service, triggering the “need for further restrictions”.

Prof Sridhar, who sits on the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 advisory group, tweeted the warning in response to a question about whether COP26 will make the Covid situation in Scotland worse and lead to new curbs on freedoms.

The professor of global public health at Edinburgh University wrote: “I could be wrong (and hope I am) but yes.


“A mass event (with major movement of people in & out) with an infectious virus will cause an increase in cases. While in the case of Covid will put stress on limited health services. Which triggers need for further restrictions.”

The summit is being held at the Scottish Event Campus, with up to 30,000 people travelling to the city between October 31 and November 12.

Prof Sridhar’s comments echo those of another Scottish Government adviser, Professor Linda Bauld, who said last week that holding the large-scale event is “risky”.

Prof Bauld told Times Radio: “Yes, I am worried about a Glaswegian spike, and I’m not worried just about Glasgow. The central belt is interconnected.


“And we’re seeing declines here but we may not be able to hang on to those gains.

“We’re trying to open up and everything’s trying to operate more normally.

“Everybody’s delighted to be able to go to the cinema or a concert or have more people in their homes.

“This is hard-won progress thanks to vaccines and other things.

“But having huge mass events at the moment, I think it is risky.”

In response to Prof Sridhar’s tweet, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “Whilst not entirely surprising, it is nevertheless troubling to hear Professor Sridhar warn of a potential spike in cases as a result of COP26 taking place in Glasgow.

“Covid cases are already far too high and lives are being lost.


“If we are to prevent cases spiking, and the inevitable additional pressure that would put on our NHS, we need the SNP Government to speed up the sluggish rollout of the booster jab and ensure the NHS has surge capacity.

“It is not good enough to wait for cases to spike before taking action. The Health Secretary must act, and act now.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “We saw from the G7 in Cornwall that these major gatherings can bring with them a spike in Covid cases.

“The Scottish Government should set out what proactive measures it is putting in place to enable NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and others to deal with any rise in cases associated with COP26.

“With experts like Professor Sridhar already warning of the risk, there is no excuse for the Health Secretary to be taken by surprise. He should move to support our NHS now.”

Bar implements new measures following alleged spiking by injection

Nice N Sleazy, in Glasgow, has unveiled a number of new measures to help improve safety.

© Google Maps 2020
It comes after police said they are investigating a number of reports at different venues in the UK.

A bar where a woman was allegedly spiked by injection has vowed to carry out random body searches.

Cops launched an investigation into the alleged spiking at Nice N Sleazy, on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, last Thursday.

Club bosses said they are implementing precautionary measures ahead of the weekend, including body searches, bag searches and ensuring no drinks are left unattended.

It comes amid reports of young women being injected during nights out in cities across the UK – including Nottingham, Edinburgh and Dundee.


Victims say they have been pierced with a needle in their leg, hands and back and woke up to no recollection of the night.

They are left with a pinprick mark surrounded by a giant bruise with risks of shared or unclean needles being used, posing threats of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

A spokesperson for Nice N Sleazy said: “We are very concerned about the incident which came to light on social media this week.

“Unfortunately, the incident was not reported to our staff on the night and we were not able to offer support and help.


“We hope that anyone who might be a victim of these crimes in the future will communicate all concerns they have to our staff should anything occur inside or indeed outside our venue.

“We will give the best support we can to any individual in distress, but would also urge any victim subjected to attacks of this kind to report it immediately to the police for investigation.

“It is also crucial to report to NHS services as soon as possible so that they can be properly treated for substance effects and given blood screenings for any viruses.”

They continued: “We have updated signage throughout the premises in regards to spiking and the processes that should be followed if someone is thought to have been spiked.

“We have implemented random body searches to our entrance policy and continue to be vigilant with bag searches and ensuring no drinks are left unattended.

“We are in contact with multiple organisations over this issue including Police Scotland, the Night Time Industry Association (NTIA), the Scottish Music Industry Association and the Music Venue Trust as well as Good Night Out.”

The spokesperson added: “We have excellent CCTV cameras in operation throughout the premises and as such, Police Scotland and ourselves would urge anyone connected with said incident to step forward.


“We can use any information gained to aid in the investigation and catch the assailant.”

Owner of the Garage nightclub Donald MacLeod urged revellers to report a suspected spiking urgently to members of staff on nights out.

MacLeod, who is the convener for Glasgow’s Licensing Forum, said: “If you suspect that you or any of your friends have been spiked, we want to be the first people to know about it.

“The sooner we know something is going on, the sooner we can provide help and get these people off the streets – there is a maximum 10-year prison sentence for this offense.

“We take this very seriously – it is a real threat to our customers, our staff and our livelihoods.

“We want our venues to be as safe as they possibly can be for our nightclubbers. The only way we can tackle this is by standing together, reporting it and talking about it.

“The venue is there to help you. We want to catch these people who are doing this to our customers for whatever reason.”

Their pleas come as clubs across the city face a boycott after the spiking reports.

Students from Girls Night In Glasgow are leading the campaign – which urges revellers to snub major city bars for a night in or for a flat party on Thursday, October 28.

A spokesperson from the group said: “The violation of anyone’s body should strike a chord with everyone, which is why we are trying to make our movement as inclusive as possible.

“Drink spiking and rape culture must be addressed at a systematic level, by both clubs/organisers and government.

“We demand serious reforms and accountability for the unsafe environment that the ignorance and evil certain groups of people are causing.”

Police Scotland said the alleged incidents across Scotland do not appear to be linked.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who raised the matter in Scottish Parliament, said: “Reports of spiking incidents in Glasgow and elsewhere are deeply troubling.

“We know these wicked crimes are mostly perpetrated by men who feel entitled to harm and abuse women. It’s unacceptable and must be stamped out.”

A spokesperson for the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said: “In response to recent reports, operators across the UK have been working with the police, local authorities and key stakeholders, focusing on safeguarding customers – particularly women, at night.

“Many cities already have well-established networks among operators and community support representatives and work very closely with authorities, communicating on a regular basis to highlight increases in crime or disorder.

“The truth is though, very real challenges still exist.

“We know this a societal problem but it is very difficult to say with any real certainty what the scale of this problem is.

“Drink spiking is currently criminalised under an offense which encompasses many other types of incident and it is also not possible to ascertain whether an incident occurred within a licensed venue or in some other setting.

“The result is that police data revealed through Freedom of Information does not give an accurate picture of what’s happening, or lend itself to specifically categorising this particular crime.”

A spokesman for Rape Crisis Scotland said: “Reports of spiking by injection are obviously deeply concerning and are having a very real impact on how safe particularly women are feeling entering bars and clubs.

“We agree with all those calling for venues to do better and ensure that they are taking every possible measure to prevent abusive men from having access to their premises and being able to perpetuate harm, and in responding robustly to reports when this does happen.

“The extent to which women are simply expected to navigate the world with such an acute and credible fear of men’s violence is deeply unjust.

“This violence is not inevitable and it’s not something that we should accept as such. Women deserve to feel and be safe – venues have a responsibility to make this a reality.”

By Ellie Forbes and Ruth Suter, SWNS

TSSA union ends dispute with ScotRail as members accept pay increase

The union said its members have voted to accept an improved pay offer.

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Scotland’s railways have been crippled for months by strikes, with most Sunday services cancelled.

A union has ended its dispute with ScotRail and will no longer take part in industrial action after accepting a pay deal.

The TSSA represents managers in the conductor and revenue teams at Scotland’s train operator.

The union said its members have voted to accept an improved pay offer.

Scotland’s railways have been crippled for months by strikes, with most Sunday services cancelled.


The RMT union currently plans to strike during the COP26 climate conference being staged in Glasgow.

In September it launched a campaign with TSSA, Aslef and Unite to “save” the railway, protesting outside Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister in Edinburgh.

TSSA said it has now accepted an offer that amounts to a 2.5% pay increase backdated to April 1, 2021, and a 2.2% increase effective from April 1, 2022.

There will also be a one-off £300 payment for staff working during COP26.

One house demolished as work continues to make Ayr blast scene safe

A family of four were taken to hospital following the blast on Monday evening in Gorse Park, which could be heard for miles around.

Katielee Arrowsmith via SWNS

One house has been demolished as work continues to make an area safe following an explosion which ripped through a property in Ayr.

South Ayrshire Council said 35 homes remain cordoned off in the Kincaidston area and one or two other houses may also need to be demolished.

A family of four were taken to hospital following the blast on Monday evening in Gorse Park, which could be heard for miles around.

The council’s building standards team is carrying out individual inspections of all homes in the affected area to assess them for safety.


As of 11.30am on Thursday, 303 properties in Kincaidston have been inspected and deemed suitable for people to return to.

Katielee Arrowsmith via SWNS
Several properties have been destroyed after an explosion in Ayr.

The council said a “complex exercise” is under way as it works with emergency services to inspect homes and make as many as possible safe.

A 43-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy were taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, a 47-year-old man to the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and an 11-year-old boy to the Royal Hospital for Children following the explosion.

Inquiries are ongoing to establish the cause of the blast.


South Ayrshire Council said: “There are 35 homes which remain cordoned off following the explosion in Kincaidston. They have been cordoned off because some have been damaged, others have varying degrees of debris on or around the property and some are in close proximity to the site of the explosion, which is currently under the control of the emergency services and the utility companies.

“One of the properties within close proximity of the explosion had to be demolished last night to allow work to progress to make the area safe.

“It is likely that another one or two properties in this area may also need to be demolished. Affected householders have been advised.

“There are properties out-with the cordoned off area which have also been damaged by the blast or by debris and where householders have been displaced.”

The local authority said it is making direct contact with residents who are now permitted to go back to their homes, but urged people not to return unless the council has been in touch to say it is safe to do so.

The gas distribution company SGN said it will continue to work with “expert parties” in the coming days to establish the cause of the explosion.

A temporary above-ground gas pipeline has been installed for homes in Kincaidston.


In a statement on Wednesday, SGN said: “We’d like to reiterate our reassurance to the local community that the gas network across the area remains safe and secure to use.

“Our engineers have carried out full safety checks in the area to ensure the safety of all the homes close to the damaged properties.”

The council said anyone affected by the incident in Kincaidstion who needs information or support should call 0300 123 0900.

Smiles all round as gentle alpacas pop in on elderly care home residents

Sid, Eric and Chester took a tour of Advinia Health Care’s Hill View care home in Clydebank on Thursday.

Jane Barlow via PA Media
The animal visits are said to help alleviate stress and depression, as well as combat loneliness.

Residents at a care home in Glasgow had their spirits lifted by some unusual visitors – alpacas.

Sid, Eric and Chester took a tour of Advinia Health Care’s Hill View care home in Clydebank on Thursday.

The three fluffy alpacas, from Larch Green Alpacas, visited residents in their rooms and in the care home’s garden.

The animal visits are said to help alleviate stress and depression, as well as combat loneliness.

Alpacas Sid, Eric and Chester from Larch Green Alpacas meet Isabella Scot, 85 (left) and Maureen Wysoski, 66 (right) during a visit to the Hill View Care Home (Jane Barlow/PA)

Agnes, 82, who has been at the home for 14 months, said: “ This really made my day, they’re so lovely and friendly.

“It’s a shame they can’t move into the garden here permanently.” 

Alpacas, which originate from South America, have become increasingly popular as therapy animals due to their gentle nature and soft fur.

The three fluffy alpacas met Mary Leslie, 92, during a visit to Hill View (Jane Barlow/PA)

Kirsty Goldie, who manages Hill View, said: “Because of the Covid pandemic, it’s been such a tough year for our residents.

“Now that all our residents and staff are vaccinated and we can open up a bit to the outside world, we’ve been doing loads of activities to try to make up for it.


“Elderly people, particularly those living with dementia, benefit greatly from the therapeutic nature of these animals.

“It has also been a lot of fun for the staff, too.”

Advinia Health Care, which has care homes across the UK, has also provided ‘virtual holidays’ for its residents during lockdown for families who were unable to visit their loved ones.

Man charged with murdering Conservative MP David Amess

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has also been charged with preparing terrorist acts, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

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Sir David Amess: A man has been charged with murder.

A man has been charged with murdering the Conservative MP Sir David Amess.

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has also been charged with preparing terrorist acts, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday afternoon.

Sir David, the MP for Southend West, was fatally stabbed on Friday during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.


In a statement, Nick Price, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The CPS has authorised charges against Ali Harbi Ali for the murder of MP Sir David Amess on Friday October 15, 2021.

“We will submit to the court that this murder has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations.

“He has also been charged with the preparation of terrorist acts. This follows a review of the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police in its investigation.

“The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Ali are active and that he has a right to a fair trial.”


On Monday, parliament paid tribute to Sir David as it was announced that Southend would be granted city status, in recognition of his decades-long campaign for the seaside town to be given the honour.

Matt Jukes, assistant commissioner for specialist operations at Scotland Yard, said: “Today’s charge is a significant milestone in the case, but the work from my colleagues in the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command will continue apace.”

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