Sturgeon brands fans breaking lockdown rules ‘disgraceful’

The First Minister urged Rangers fans who had gathered in Glasgow to 'go home'.

Sturgeon: First Minister urges football fans to go home. Craig Foy via SNS Group
Sturgeon: First Minister urges football fans to go home.

The First Minister has branded Rangers fans who broke lockdown rules to celebrate the team’s Premiership win as “disgraceful”.

Police said a ‘small number’ of arrests had been made after fans gathered at George Square and Ibrox stadium in Glasgow following the team’s title win.

Fixed penalties have also been issued to those breaking coronavirus restrictions, behaving in a disordered manner and setting off pyrotechnic devices. 

It is the second time supporters have broken lockdown rules in two days, after an early ‘title party’ was held outside Ibrox on Saturday.

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Rangers fans have gathered at George Square in Glasgow to celebrate the team’s title win.
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On Sunday, fans began celebrating after Celtic drew with Dundee United, meaning Rangers cannot be caught at the top of the table and win their 55th top flight title.

The First Minister congratulated the team on their win, but warned supporters gathering in crowds could “delay exit from lockdown for everyone else”.

As supporters continued to gather in public spaces across the city, Nicola Sturgeon later said the actions of those flouting restrictions was “infuriating and disgraceful”.

She tweeted: “I share folks’ anger at this. Everyone has made so many sacrifices in the past year and seeing a minority risk our progress is infuriating and disgraceful. 

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“It is deeply unfair to the entire country, and the police have a hard enough job already.”

She added: “Please ask fans to go home Rangers FC.”


Police lock Kelvingrove Park gates amid alcohol crackdown

The move comes after more than 400 people with alcohol were refused entry to the beauty spot last weekend.

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Police have locked gates to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park as part of a crackdown on drinking alcohol in public.

It comes after more than 400 people with alcohol were refused entry to the beauty spot last weekend.

Nine of the park’s 16 gates will be shut on Friday and Saturday.

Officers from the council’s community enforcement team and Police Scotland knocked back 413 groups or individuals trying to enter with alcohol last week.

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Many others were also ejected from the park for consuming alcohol, in violation of a city by-law, and some young people aged between 14 and 17 were so intoxicated they had to be taken home by police.

Officers had to clear the busiest areas of the park twice due to concerns over a lack of social distancing among people who had gathered in large numbers.

Coronavirus travel restrictions and meeting limits were eased across Scotland last Friday.

Stephen Egan, the council’s head of parks and street scene, said: “Kelvingrove Park remains a stunning open space but we cannot tolerate the anti-social behaviour that is being experienced in the park.

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“So much of that behaviour is being fuelled by alcohol and we have to take steps to protect the park for everyone who wants to visit.

“Sadly, it is young people who are invariably involved in the disorder and we are increasingly concerned that many are actually putting themselves in harm’s way.

“We are very clear that alcohol is not welcome in Kelvingrove Park and we are urging parents and guardians to help us convey that message to their children.”

Warm weather is expected to continue this weekend and many people are again expected to head to Kelvingrove.

The local authority and Police Scotland have been working on a plan to manage access to the park through a limited number of open gates this Friday and Saturday – closing nine of the 16 entry points.

Chief inspector Natalie Carr said: “Police Scotland is working closely with Glasgow City Council to prevent repeated incidents of anti-social behaviour from occurring in Kelvingrove Park.

“Officers will be visible and accessible to park users should they need police assistance.

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“We have received reports of children and young people getting into vulnerable situations and I would like to appeal to parents and guardians to make sure they know their children’s whereabouts.

“One person has already been arrested, charged and is due to appear at court following an assault on a 19-year-old.

“We would like to remind anyone planning on visiting the park that alcohol is not permitted and should incidents of anti-social behaviour take place, then those responsible will be dealt with robustly.”

Meanwhile, there will also be additional patrols by park rangers and environment enforcement officers in Edinburgh over the weekend.

Police had to disperse crowds at the popular park in the capital earlier this month, while a video surfaced of a mass brawl between young people.

One officer suffered a facial injury while trying to enforce coronavirus laws as people gathered to enjoy the sun over the Easter weekend.

Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey said: “We’ve been working closely with colleagues in Police Scotland to address the issues and put in place an action plan that will drive home the message that this anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.”


Coronavirus: One death and 255 new cases reported

The death total in Scotland now stands at 7647 under the daily measurement.

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Coronavirus: Cases increase slightly from Thursday.

One person has died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus in the past 24 hours, latest figures have shown.

On Friday, statistics released by the Scottish Government showed there were 255 new cases of coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, an increase of 24 from the previous day.

The daily test positivity rate now stands at 1.5%, up from 1.1% on Thursday.

The death toll of those who tested positive currently stands at 7647, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now more than 10,000.

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Meanwhile 93 people were being treated in hospital have recently tested positive for coronavirus, with 12 in intensive care.

The figures also revealed that 2,758,381 people have received the first dose of the Covid vaccination and 949,228 have received their second dose.

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Education: The lessons that must be learned after election

Teachers and pupils on the key issues facing education ahead of the Holyrood election.

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Justine Milne has been on one-year contracts since graduating from teacher training in 2018.

Every time the summer holidays roll around, she is left without a job and has to rely on supply work until another fixed-term position becomes available.

She’s currently working in a Covid recovery role as a physical education teacher, however the funding ends in June and once again she’ll be unemployed.

“There’s not enough jobs for people to get into the profession and get a permanent post,” Justine says.

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“All the political parties are saying we’ll recruit this amount of teachers, but it’s not about recruiting more teachers.

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Justine Milne

“There’s plenty of us sitting here. It’s a case of finding a way to make them permanent positions.

“We want them to push for smaller class sizes. That would then increase permanent posts for people, and help with the Covid recovery and closing the attainment gap.”

Education is a key issue in the Holyrood election campaign as parties set out how they propose to support pupils and teachers who have spent long spells out of the classroom.

What do the numbers tell us?

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Figures show the number of probationary teachers going into temporary contracts is at its highest level since 2007.

In 2019-20, 1404 probationary teachers went into fixed-term jobs – up from 972 the year before, a 44% increase.

Justine is one of more than 1700 staff who wrote an open letter saying they are unable to secure permanent work because of local authority policy and practices.

They highlighted that the majority of the 1400 posts created with Covid-19 funding were due to end in June and said fewer posts were being advertised at a time when pupils needed the most support.

Unions have warned that councils are unwilling to create permanent posts using temporary Covid funding.

They say one in 10 teachers is on a temporary contract with the frustration driving many from the profession.

‘I might have to walk away’

Justine is among those losing patience.

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“If I’m in this position again next year, going on to my fourth year of it, I think I’m going to have to walk away,” she says.

“It’s so stressful. It’s so worrying. It gets you to the point where you just want to cry about it.

“You’ve got no stability in life whatsoever. You can’t try and think about the future because you have no idea where you’re going to be.”

For pupils, the end of the Easter holidays meant a full return to the classroom for the first time since Christmas.

“It’s been difficult being at home, trying to motivate yourself and keep going, but being back at school is good,” says sixth-year pupil Innes.

Senior pupils are facing a second consecutive year without sitting exams, so grades will be determined by teacher judgement and backed up by evidence.

The approach varies across schools, with some complaining assessments are formal exams by another name.

The confusion has led to calls for reform of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to ensure greater transparency and accountability.

The SQA says it has made it clear that there is no requirement to replicate full formal exam or prelims.

What do pupils think?

Gabby: “It’s not based on one or two exams, it’s based on your overall performance of the whole year so the teachers get to see you and you can do monthly tests.”

Amelia: “I tend to get really anxious and nervous. I think it’s such a good opportunity to get a better grade that you could actually use in the future.”

Kyle: “I think it’s a better system than last year. We’ve been more prepared for it, so I think it will be a bit more fair on the pupils.”

Closing the gap

The pandemic has also laid bare inequalities; Audit Scotland recently found the gap between the achievements of the least and most well-off pupils remains wide.

Many teachers feel a gulf has opened between them and policymakers when it comes to helping the most disadvantaged pupils.

Teacher Zem Chefeke says: “If pupils feel that their wellbeing has been taken care of, if they feel safe in our classrooms and our schools, if their mental health is something that we value and take seriously and we work to address that, then the attainment will come.

“But we’re not being asked that, and even if we are being asked, it doesn’t seem that what we are asking is being put in place.”

A survey of more than 2000 teachers on a support group agreed the focus should be on teacher numbers.

Nuzhat Uthmani was among those who carried out the survey.

“The number one priority, said 66 per cent of respondents, is smaller class sizes above anything else that we really need to make an impact on our teaching and learning experiences both for staff and for pupils.”

Smaller classes and more jobs creates an “opportunity to build something better” after the election, says teacher Gemma Clark.

She adds: “There are thousands of teachers who are on zero-hours contracts that could be given jobs and there are also student teachers who have been left in a difficult position who have been told they haven’t completed enough placement time because of the pandemic to be allowed to qualify.”

What are the parties pledging?

SNP

  • Invest £1bn over the next parliament to close the school attainment gap;
  • Recruit additional 3500 teachers and classroom assistants

Scottish Conservatives

  • Recruit 3000 more teachers;
  • Set up a £35m national tutoring programme

Scottish Labour

  • Provide every pupil with a personal comeback plan;
  • Scrap national standardised assessments.

Scottish Greens

  • Recruit 5500 additional permanent teachers;
  • Reform the SQA and Education Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Guarantee every qualified teacher a job to cut class sizes;
  • Minimum teacher starting salary of £30,000.


Witness accused of ‘untruths’ over Trainspotting actor’s death

Bradley Welsh was fatally shot at his flat in the west end of Edinburgh on April 17, 2019.

Ross Parker via SNS Group
Bradley Welsh was fatally shot in 2019.

A witness who told police of plans to murder a T2 Trainspotting actor in the month before his death has been accused of speaking “fantastic untruths” to try and help officers.

Bradley Welsh, 48, was fatally shot at his flat in the west end of Edinburgh on April 17 2019.

Sean Orman, 30, has pleaded not guilty to all 15 charges against him, including murder, attempted murder, firearms and drugs offences, and is on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Dean White previously told the court he had seen the accused at his brother Robert’s home in Duddingston Row with a man known as Peem, James Davidson, in March 2019.

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The 49-year-old said the accused spoke about attacking a man and his son with a machete in the Oxgangs area for money.

It was heard Orman also claimed he was being paid £10,000 to “get” Mr Welsh with a shotgun.

On Friday, Mr White was repeatedly questioned by defence counsel Ian Duguid QC about his recollection of events and why they did not always match with his statements given to police.

The lawyer put it to Mr White that he was “not afraid of anything in this scenario” and had made up events about a Ford Kuga’s involvement in the incident to help police.

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Mr Duguid said: “The reason you mentioned the Kuga is because police have apparently revealed information that there was a Kuga believed to be involved in Bradley Welsh’s murder.

“I would suggest it’s a fantasy, you are speaking fantastic untruths.”

The witness said: “No, I’m not fantasising, I’m telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

He added: “I have been removed from my loving family I will never see again because of the statements I gave.

“I told police exactly what was going to happen, this guy would still be alive today.

“I have been removed and I can’t have any contact with my family today.

“If I wasn’t afraid, I would still be in Edinburgh.”

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He then accused the lawyer of trying to confuse him over his version of events.

Mr Duguid explained he was not trying to confuse the witness but instead wanted to clarify the timeline of events.

The lawyer then put it to Mr White that other people, his brother and Mr Davidson, should be able to give the court evidence which corroborates his version of events.

Mr White said: “They won’t, because they’re not grasses.”

The court also heard Mr White had been smoking cannabis at the time of that meeting while also on prescription drugs and methadone to fight heroin addiction.

Orman is also accused of driving at speeds up to 123mph on the Edinburgh bypass on April 22 2019, where the limit is 70mph, and failing to stop for uniformed police officers.

He faces an accusation of having driven on the opposing side of the carriageway of Clovenstone Road “in excess of 92mph”, where the limit is 30mph.

Another charge alleges he drove without insurance and was in possession of the class A drug diamorphine and class C drug diazepam.

The trial, before judge Lord Beckett, continues.


International travel this summer ‘will be challenging’

National clinical director says officials are working on a 'digital solution' but says we 'dont want to burst what we've achieved'.

PA Media via PA Media
Summer holidays in destinations like Tenerife might not be possible this year.

Foreign summer holidays this year will be challenging, Scotland’s national clinical director has said.

Officials in Scotland are currently working on a “digital solution” to how to prove who has been tested and vaccinated against coronavirus, and how that could potentially assist the reopening of society.

Professor Jason Leitch said the question of what such “Covid certification” would allow you to do is one for politicians and policy makers, and airlines.

He said there have been high levels of cases recently in countries such as India, Estonia, Hungary and Bulgaria, and he warned “we’ve got to be careful, we don’t want to burst what we’ve achieved”.

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He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday: “I think international leisure travel in the summer will be challenging.

“I’m hopeful that some of it might exist, I would like to go, I’m hopeful that bits of that will exist, I think it will be gradual, I don’t think it will be suddenly we’re all back to normal, all bets are off, we can all go to the beach.

“I think there will be time and countries that we bring back gradually because it’s crucial both for individuals and society but it’s also crucial for the industries that rely on that travel, the airlines, the travel industry more broadly.”

Professor Leitch said Covid certification could include information about things such as a person’s test status, whether they have been vaccinated, if they have undergone antibody testing or have had Covid-19, as well as details about where they live.

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He said: “That kind of Covid certification I think will become something that the world needs and the WHO (World Health Organisation) are looking at that even as we speak.

“Remember how quickly we did the vaccination programme, we went from zero to tens of thousands in days and have continued that process, another 50,000 done yesterday, so in parallel with that process and so as not to delay it, we’re also working on a digital solution to who’s been tested, who’s been vaccinated.

“But the more important question is almost what does that mean, and that’s not really for clinical advisers, that’s really more for policy leaders and politicians about what it will allow you to do, and the private sector, the airlines and others, about who will make choices about who they allow on their planes and who they allow into their institutions.”

Primark stores set to open from 7am as restrictions ease

Some shops will open early in a bid to reduce queues and make shopping safer as Covid restrictions are relaxed.

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Primark: Chain to open some stores as early as 7am.

A number of Primark stores across Scotland are set to open from 7am on Monday as coronavirus restrictions are eased. 

The retail chain has announced earlier opening times for most stores following months of closures due to the pandemic. 

Stores at Braehead Shopping Centre, Glasgow’s Argyle Street, East Kilbride, Dundee and Motherwell will open from 7am, with other units set to open from 7.30am, 8am and 8.30am across the country.  

The company said that by opening stores earlier, queues will be reduced and customers will be given more time to be able to shop safely.

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Primark CEO, Paul Marchant, said: “We saw a great response to our reopening by our customers in England and Wales last week, and we know our customers in Scotland will love our new Spring/Summer offering too. 

“Safety remains at the front of our minds. We have extended opening hours across almost all of our stores in Scotland to help meet demand safely but we’re also asking our customers to keep up the support and spirit they showed last year, particularly if queuing outside or in-store.”

Restrictions on non-essential stores are due to be relaxed from Monday, as the number of cases of coronavirus continue to fall. 

Braehead Shopping Centre said some of its stores would open from 8am, including Marks and Spencer, New Look, Mac Cosmetics and Next.

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Braehead centre director, Peter Beagley said: “We have a raft of measures in place to make sure everyone is protected from the Covid virus.

“They include social distancing, insisting people wear a mask unless they have dispensation, floor stickers and signage showing a one-way system for getting around the centre, enhanced cleaning regimes and free hand sanitisers throughout the centre.

Gyms, pubs and restaurants will also be able to open from Monday under the new guidance, which was confirmed by the First Minister during Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing.


Fox ‘lucky to be alive’ after being stuck in glue trap overnight

Rescuers say the baby fox was 'lucky to survive' the ordeal after he was glued to the trap overnight.

Scottish SPCA via Scottish SPCA
The fox cub's fur was badly matted following the ordeal.

An animal welfare charity has called for a ban on glue traps after a fox cub was trapped overnight.

The baby fox, who rescuers say was lucky to survive, was covered in glue after getting caught in the trap on April 10.

The device is a tray coated with a sticky adhesive typically used to trap rodents and animals classed as vermin.

The stricken cub was heard wailing in pain through the night before rescuers were called in to save him.

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He was then taken to the Scottish SPCA’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre.

His fur was badly matted by the adhesive and needed to be shaved despite attempts to remove the glue through a mix of Fairy liquid, vegetable oil and soapy water.

Rescuers named the cub Sticky following his ordeal and he is now “happy and playul” with 19 other cubs to play with.

Sticky will be released later in the year when he is old enough to fend for himself in the wild.

Scottish SPCA wildlife manager Steve Gray said: “The prognosis for Sticky wasn’t good.

Scottish SPCA via Scottish SPCA
Sticky two weeks after his rescue.

“The glue trap had seriously damaged his fur and skin.

“The team spent hours treating him on arrival and their efforts have really paid off.

“Now, he’s a happy, playful baby fox who is getting on well with the other cubs we’ve grouped him with.

“In a few months’, we will release Sticky at a suitable release site where we hope he will have a long, happy life in the wild.”

The Scottish SPCA is fiercely opposed to the use of glue traps in any form.

Chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We understand a pest control firm supplied the address with glue traps to deter vermin.

“Shockingly, glue traps are still legal in the UK.

“This poor fox cub’s lucky escape is further proof that they are an ineffective form of pest control.

“The Scottish SPCA has long advocated a total ban on glue traps.

“Thankfully, our brilliant rescuer and wildlife team have been able to save and care for Sticky, but many other wild animals aren’t so lucky.”


Human-to-cat Covid-19 transmission identified by scientists

Scientists from the University of Glasgow found two cases of the virus in cats.

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The cats displayed mild to severe respiratory signs.

Two cases of human-to-cat transmission of Covid-19 have been identified by researchers.

Scientists from the University of Glasgow found the cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission as part of a screening programme of the feline population in the UK.

The cats, of different breeds, were living in separate households and displayed mild to severe respiratory signs.

Researchers believe both pets were infected by their owners, who had Covid-19 symptoms before the cats became unwell.

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The study, published in the Veterinary Record, said there is currently no evidence of cat-to-human transmission or that cats, dogs or other domestic animals play any appreciable role in the epidemiology of human Covid infections.

But the scientists said domestic animals could potentially act as a “viral reservoir” allowing continued transmission, and said it is important to improve understanding of whether pets can play a role in infecting humans.

Professor Margaret Hosie, from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and lead author of the study, said: “These two cases of human-to-animal transmission, found in the feline population in the UK, demonstrate why it is important that we improve our understanding of animal SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“Currently, animal-to-human transmission represents a relatively low risk to public health in areas where human-to-human transmission remains high.

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“However as human cases decrease, the prospect of transmission among animals becomes increasingly important as a potential source of SARS-CoV-2 reintroduction to humans.

“It is therefore important to improve our understanding of whether exposed animals could play any role in transmission.”

Researchers at the centre worked in partnership with the Veterinary Diagnostic Service (VDS) at the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine on the study.

The first cat was a four-month-old female Ragdoll kitten from a household in which the owner developed symptoms that were consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection at the end of March 2020, although they were not tested.

The kitten was taken to a vet with breathing difficulties in April 2020 but its condition deteriorated and it later had to be put down.

Post-mortem lung samples revealed damage consistent with a viral pneumonia and there was evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The second cat was a six-year-old female Siamese from a household where one owner tested positive for Covid-19.

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The cat was taken to the vet with nasal discharge and conjunctivitis, but its symptoms remained mild and the cat later recovered.

Covid-19 infection was confirmed in a retrospective survey of swabs submitted to VDS between March and July 2020 for routine pathogen testing.

Scientists believe the two cases are likely to be an underestimate of the true frequency of human-to-animal transmission, as animal testing is limited.

It is not known whether cats with Covid-19 could naturally transmit the virus to other animals, or back to humans.

Since the pandemic began there have been reports of cats from Covid-positive households in countries including Hong Kong, Belgium, the USA, France and Spain that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and were presumed to be infected from their owners.

Professor James Wood, head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, said: “These are important and interesting findings, adding to the body of evidence that humans can infect their pets, in some cases, as here, leading to clinical disease in the animals.

“Cats and dogs have been reported to be infected. This is a high quality study, including whole genome sequencing to confirm transmission links.”

The study was funded by the Wellcome ISSF Covid Response Fund and supported by the Medical Research Council.

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Rennie: Vaccine certificate work should be on hold for election

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader’s took an 'invigorating' karate lesson in the Meadows as campaigning continues.

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Willie Rennie took a karate lesson in the Meadows.

Work on a coronavirus vaccine certification system should be put on hold until Parliament has had a chance to debate it, Willie Rennie has said.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader’s comments came after he took an “invigorating” karate lesson in the Meadows, Edinburgh, as campaigning continues for the election on May 6.

The Scottish Government is working on a digital system which would allow people to prove their Covid vaccination status and provide other data, in preparation for an international requirement for so-called Covid passports.

Speaking to the PA news agency on Friday, Rennie said: “I think the plan should be delayed at least until we get a chance to debate it properly in the Parliament, to explore how far this is going to go.

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“I think it’s going to be an expensive administrative process and it’s also going to divide society.

“Lots of people have made huge sacrifices over the last year but they’ve also not had the vaccine, so why should they be left out of accessing wider services?

“So let’s call a halt to this just now until we can have a wider debate in Parliament.”

Earlier, national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said discussions on a potential certification system are ongoing.

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The digital system currently being developed would allow people to show if they have been vaccinated, recently had a negative test, or have natural immunity after a previous Covid infection.

Prof Leitch told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme: “We’re also working on a digital solution to ‘Who’s been tested, who’s been vaccinated?’

“But the more important question is what does that mean, and that’s not really for clinical advisers, that’s really for policy leaders and politicians – about what it will allow you to do.

“And the private sector, the airlines and others who will make choices about who they allow on the plans or who they allow into their institutions.”


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