Toughest virus restrictions ‘possible’ in west of Scotland

Councils told they could be moved into level four of the Covid alert system next week.

Non-essential shops in Glasgow and Lanarkshire could be forced to close. Emma Farrer via Getty Images
Non-essential shops in Glasgow and Lanarkshire could be forced to close.

Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire could be put under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions next week.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said councils in the two health board areas had been contacted about the possibility of being moved to level four of the Covid alert system.

The eight councils in those areas are: City of Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire.

Level four is the closest stage to a full lockdown, and would see non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants forced to close.


Full details of the rules under each tier of the five-level system can be found here.

A decision will be made during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning and announced to parliament in the afternoon.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, Swinney said: “I can confirm that officials from the Scottish Government have been in touch with a number of local authorities in the west of Scotland about the possibility of the area having to be increased from level three to level four.

“Those are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire health board areas.”


Contact has also been made with Stirling Council – currently in level three – and Aberdeenshire, in level two, over concerns about the number of cases.

First Minister set to ease restrictions on outdoor meet-ups

The First Minister will make a statement in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

Russell Cheyne/PA via PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon could announce an easing of restrictions on outdoor meetings.

An easing of the restrictions on outdoor meetings could be announced by Nicola Sturgeon in her latest coronavirus update.

The First Minister is due to give a statement on the ongoing fight against Covid-19 to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

She has already indicated a change in the rules on outdoor meetings – which at the moment only allow for two people from two different households to get together – could be coming.

On Friday, Sturgeon indicated “good progress” with the vaccination programme and the falling number of infections could mean that “greater normality is firmly on the horizon”.

“The First Minister has been clear that we will try to relax lockdown as quickly as we possibly can do, but we have to do it in a sustainable manner.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney

She said then she was “hopeful” the Scottish Government may be able to make some “relatively minor, but I think important, changes in our ability to meet outdoors and also how young people are able to interact with their friends outdoors”.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed on Monday any changes to the current lockdown regime would be set out by Sturgeon.

He added: “The First Minister has been clear that we will try to relax lockdown as quickly as we possibly can do, but we have to do it in a sustainable manner.

“That means taking the appropriate steps in the appropriate sequence to make sure we don’t run the risk of the virus running away from us again.”


The easing of lockdown restrictions began in February when children in the first three years of primary, as well as nursery youngsters, were able to return to the classroom.

Older primary children are expected to return to school full time from next Monday, March 15 – with secondary school pupils also to get some time back in the classroom from this date, before returning full-time after the Easter holiday.

Reaction to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview

A series of shocking claims were made by the couple during a two hour interview covering racism, mental health and the Royal Family.

Joe Pugliese via Harpo Productions
The interview with Oprah Winfrey was broadcast on STV on Monday night.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have said the institution of the Royal Family failed to care for them while their mental health suffered or protect them from racism in the tabloid press.

Harry and Meghan made a series of shocking statements during their interview with Oprah Winfrey broadcast on STV on Monday night.

Meghan said she had suicidal thoughts and was refused help by senior staff in the Royal household.

She also told Ms Winfrey that Harry had been asked about “how dark” their son’s skin would be. The Duke said he would never reveal the details of the conversation had with an unamed family member, but Ms Winfrey later said that it was not the Queen or Prince Philip.


During the two hour interview, which was first aired in the US overnight on Sunday, the couple revealed their second child, due in the summer, is a girl.

Harry and Meghan moved to the US in 2019 after deciding to “step-back” as working royals. Meghan said that the Royal Family institution failed to protect her and Harry from false stories in the tabloid press.

In a previously unseen section of the interview, Harry said the British tabloid media is “bigoted” and that this filtered out to the rest of society.

Asked about the Royal Family, Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to comment beyond praising the Queen.


At the Downing Street press conference on Monday, he said: “I have always had the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth.”

But on “all other matters to do with the royal family, I have spent a long time now not commenting on royal family matters and I don’t intend to depart from that today”.

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party, said: “The issues that Meghan has raised of race and mental health are really serious issues.

“It’s a reminder that there’s a lot more to do. Nobody but nobody should be prejudiced because of the colour of their skin or mental health issues.

“Well they’re serious allegations, and we’ll have to see how the institution reacts to this.

“It’s bigger in a sense than just the Royal Family, because that experience of racism, I’m sad to say, is too prevalent still in the 21st century. We have to take that very, very seriously.”

The Society of Editors said the UK media “is not bigoted and will not be swayed from its vital role holding the rich and powerful to account”.


Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: “It is not acceptable for the Duke and Duchess to make such claims without providing any supporting evidence.”

Buckingham Palace is yet to publicly respond to the interview.

If you or someone you know needs help, Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. Or, if you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at

Man accused of murdering woman and two-year-old girl

Andrew Inness is accused of murdering Bennylyn Burke, 25, and two-year-old Jellica Burke.

Avon and Somerset Police via Facebook
The charge states that Bennylyn Burke was repeatedly hit with a hammer.

A man has appeared in court charged with murdering a woman and her two-year-old daughter.

Andrew Innes, 50, appeared at Dundee Sheriff Court on Monday.

He was charged with repeatedly hitting 25-year-old Bennylyn Burke with a hammer and murdering her.

Innes is also accused of assaulting Jellica Burke by “means unknown” and murdering the two-year-old.


It’s alleged both murders took place at a property in Troon Avenue, Dundee, between February 17 and March 5.

Innes, who made no plea, was held in custody following the hearing while the case was continued for further examination.

Teen charged after ‘attempted murders’ at football pitches

Three men were taken to hospital after being stabbed in Glasgow.

Police Scotland
The stabbings happened at Greenfield Football Centre on Duror Street.

A teenager has been arrested and charged in connection with two attempted murders and a serious assault in Glasgow.

Three men, two 21-year-olds and a 19-year-old, were stabbed at Greenfield Park football pitches on Duror Street, in the east of the city, on Saturday, February 27.

A 19-year-old has been charged in connection with the incident which happened at around 8.20pm and resulted in the three men being taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary with serious injuries.

Detective sergeant Stephen Greenshields, of Shettleston CID, said: “We would like to thank the local community for helping us with our investigation and providing information.”

© Google Maps 2020
Greenfield Football Centre on Duror Street (Google Maps)

The 19-year-old is due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday, March 9.

Autistic teen sends almost 700 thank you cards to NHS staff

Paddy Joyce hopes to send more than 5,000 letters by the end of the year.

Paddy Joyce has sent almost 700 thank you letters to hospital staff.

An autistic teenager has sent almost 700 thank you cards to staff at a hospital to share messages of support with those on the front line dealing with Covid-19.

Paddy Joyce, 17, from Glasgow, began writing to healthcare staff in mid-January as a way to help with his anxiety after he became very upset over the death statistics.

With the assistance of staff at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI), he has now been able to hand-write 663 individually named cards to members of the team.

So far Paddy, who has autism with significant global development delays, has written more than 1,000 cards and hopes to send more than 5,000 by the end of the year.

Hospital staff have been touched to receive the cards (NHSGGC/PA)

He said: “I saw how sad and upset they were on the news. My mum said I should write to someone, so I asked her to find someone and lots of people wanted one, so I want to write to everyone.”

His mother Indra said writing the letters helps with Paddy’s concerns about Covid.

She said: “Statistics make sense to him because they are numbers and organised.

“He honed in on Covid death stats and they made him very upset, but he couldn’t stop looking at them.


“Now, he’ll read them, and they make him determined to write more cards so he can help make the doctors and nurses happy.

“And because a fair few respond to him, he feels he is making a difference. He now feels he has purpose.”

The first of the cards were opened by people working in the intensive care unit (ICU) at GRI and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said staff have been touched by Paddy’s gesture of kindness.

Pat Cruickshanks, charge nurse within the ICU, said: “This last year has been so different to anything we’ve known and it’s not over yet.

The cards have been sent to staff at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (NHSGGC/PA)

“We’re still very busy with both Covid and non-Covid patients and gestures like these provide something of a boost to keep us going.

“I know that everyone in the team and across the hospital is really grateful and I hope, at some point, we all get to meet Paddy to say thanks to him in person. He should be so proud of what he has done.”

Margaret Cooper, an auxiliary within the ICU, said: “You sometimes think that no-one else cares or sees what you are going through, so it’s just nice to feel that we’re not forgotten.


“It’s amazing that he’s thought of all of us and the amount of work he’s put in is just fantastic. I really do appreciate it. He sounds like a very kind young man and I hope we can see him soon.”

Paddy will soon be starting sixth year at secondary school and despite his complex needs, he hopes to follow a pathway which could lead to him working within the NHS.

Dr Barbara Crooks, consultant anaesthetist at the GRI, who helped to co-ordinate the task of getting names together for Paddy to write the cards, said: “I know this was a tremendous effort from Paddy to write an individual thank you to so many of our team.

“They have been blown away by Paddy’s heartfelt messages, which have been quite touching and certainly lifted our spirits.

“Thank you to Paddy and his mum Indra for providing a much-needed morale boost.”

Cancer patients ‘relying on handouts for heating and clothes’

Figures show Macmillan Cancer Support provided £1.2m in grants last year to almost 3700 people.

Rui Vieira via PA Wire
Necessities: Figures show Macmillan Cancer Support provided £1.2m in grants last year to almost 3700 people.

Scots cancer patients are relying on “handouts” to pay for essentials such as heating and clothes, according to a charity.

Figures show Macmillan Cancer Support provided £1.2m in grants last year to almost 3700 people to help them pay for necessities.

The charity says this highlights the financial stresses cancer causes and called on political parties in Scotland to pledge their support for the rapid rollout of a model of support, ahead of the Holyrood elections in May.

Janice Preston, head of Macmillan in Scotland, said: “No one dealing with a life-threatening illness should have to worry about how to pay their rent or heat their home.


“While I’m pleased Macmillan was able to give one-off grants to so many people in urgent need, these figures show just how badly cancer can affect people financially.

“That’s why it’s vital everyone with cancer in Scotland is offered an in-depth assessment of their needs, followed by the right support, from benefits advice to counselling.

“In 2019, Macmillan and the Scottish Government pledged £9m each to fund the Transforming Cancer Care programme which aims to make this a reality, and the need for the programme in a post-Covid world was made clear in the recent cancer recovery plan.

“We’re calling on all political parties and candidates to pledge their support for the programme and its rapid rollout across the country.”

Handout via PA Wire
Derek McKeown and Jacqueline O’Neill (handout)

About £150,000 was given to people with cancer to help them afford new beds, mattresses and bedding, while about £85,500 went to cover hospital travel costs.

The charity also provided almost £457,000 to help pay for heating, while another £370,000 was awarded to help them buy new clothes, often needed due to a change in body shape resulting from treatment.

Derek McKeown, a security guard from Inverclyde, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in October.

The 55-year-old was given a £350 Macmillan grant to buy new clothes, which he used to buy a suit for his wedding with Jacqueline O’Neill after losing three stone.

He said: “We are able to sleep at night a little easier thanks to all the help. I’m now two sizes smaller than I was, so the Macmillan grant has also helped to buy a new suit for the wedding.”

Call for school starting age to be raised to seven

The Liberal Democrats want youngsters to have a 'truly play-based' education.

Free-Photos via Pixabay
School: The Liberal Democrats want youngsters to have a 'truly play-based' education.

Liberal Democrats have called for the age youngsters start formal schooling to be raised to seven in an “historic change” in Scotland’s education system.

Until then, Lib Dems want youngsters to have a “truly play-based” education.

The party insists the change could be part of improving Scotland’s education, tackling the attainment gap and giving youngsters the best start in life.

The issue is being raised at Holyrood after Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie used his party conference speech to call for every available teacher to have a guaranteed job, in a bid to cut class sizes and boost learning after the coronavirus pandemic saw school closures and disruption to learning.


Currently, youngsters start primary school when they are just four or five-years-old – with Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart saying this practice dated back to the Victorians.

She insisted that raising the starting age for formal schooling was “an important part of our plans for the next parliament to make Scottish education the best again”.

Wishart will use the Holyrood debate to set out the party’s “commitment to making education truly play-based until the age of seven”.

She insisted education will “still be mandatory” under their proposals, but would “focus on child development, social skills, outdoor learning, and physical and mental health”.


She said: “Countries excelling in education and equity show that this approach better prepares children to shine in literacy and numeracy.

“They might start a bit later but they quickly surge past us. By learning together through play, children develop the critical skills needed for better long-term development and outcomes. I want Scotland’s children to get the same long-term benefits.”

The Liberal Democrat continued: “The best way to close the attainment gap is not to open it in the first place.

“The Victorians didn’t give us the best way to start school. Now we have the SNP conducting national testing of four and five-year-olds against the will of parliament.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats will always be the party of education. It’s time for a historic change to give our children the best start in life.”

But a Scottish Government spokeswoman said there were no plans to increase the school starting age.

She said: “We want Scotland to be the best place to grow up and have almost doubled the entitlement to high quality, funded early learning and childcare to 1140 hours from this August – a transformational policy that will benefit children and families, with quality of children’s experiences and supporting wellbeing at its heart.


“Scotland’s curriculum is already rooted in play for the early years, with a strong focus on ensuring all children benefit from rich outdoor learning experiences. We have no plans to change the school starting age.”

Face coverings mandatory for all secondary school pupils

Deputy first minister says all pupils and staff must wear coverings in classrooms, corridors and communal areas.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
All secondary school pupils must wear masks when they return to in-person learning.

All secondary pupils and staff must wear face coverings – in classrooms, corridors and communal areas – when they return to school.

Deputy first minister John Swinney said the updated guidance now applies to S1-S3 pupils – and not just those in the senior phase of their school education (S4-S6) – unless medically exempt.

Phase two of the Scottish Government’s plan to get pupils back into the classroom commences next Monday.

That will see all children in primary school years 4-7 returning on a full-time basis. Primary 1-3 pupils went back on February 22.


Next Monday also sees the start of a phased return for secondary pupils

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, Swinney said: “All staff and secondary school pupils should wear face coverings in classrooms, in communal areas and when moving about the school.

“The guidance also highlights the importance of two metre physical distancing during the phased return.

“We currently expect – subject to our progress in suppressing the virus and to further scientific advice – that all secondary school pupils will return to full-time in-person learning after the Easter holidays”


The Scottish Government’s decision on face coverings is in contrast to the stance taken by the UK Government, which has decided against making their use mandatory due to “pupil anxiety”.

As millions of pupils in England begin to return to class on Monday after months of remote learning, children’s minister Vicky Ford said secondary school pupils should be “strongly encouraged” to wear masks.

But their usage is not mandatory as some will be “anxious and nervous” about wearing them, Ford said.

The UK Department for Education (DfE) is advising secondary school and college students to wear face coverings wherever social distancing cannot be maintained, including in the classroom.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is providing members with a template letter that they can use in response to letters some schools have received objecting to the use of face coverings.

The letter says a school’s risk assessment could be undermined, health and safety problems created and there could be insurance ramifications if a high percentage of students choose not to wear face masks.

Meanwhile, Swinney said he is “confident” that the return of younger students to Scotland’s primary schools has not resulted in an increase in coronavirus cases.


He said that infection levels had continued to fall, despite children in nurseries and Primary 1-3 returning to the classroom two weeks ahead of schoolchildren in England.

Swinney, also the education secretary, insisted that earlier return had happened “because we felt that was a safe thing for us to be able to do because of the low prevalence amongst younger children”.

And Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith, said since then there had only been “one or two small outbreaks” of coronavirus.

Speaking about the phased return, and the contrast with the approach taken in England, Swinney added: “We judge that to be a sustainable route to take forward.

“We think we have got to exercise caution, we have got to monitor the effect of particular changes we make to make sure there is not a detrimental effect on the spread of the virus.

“As we look at the data just now, with P1 to P3 and early learning having been back since February 22, we can see that there doesn’t appear to be, on the face of it, any damaging effect on the reduction of the prevalence of the virus”.

He added: “We’re obviously seeing continued falls in the number of cases, despite the fact that early learning and childcare and P1 to P3 have been back.

“So I think on data we can be confident that that move has not resulted in any negative impact on virus prevalence.”

Police chief hits out at Rangers over ‘disgraceful’ fans

Supporters breached Covid regulations at the weekend as they celebrated the Light Blues’ first top-flight title in ten years.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Glasgow: Rangers fans breached coronavirus regulations at the weekend.

A police chief has hit out at Rangers Football Club for its “lack of support” over the “disgraceful” behaviour of fans at the weekend.

Supporters breached coronavirus regulations on Saturday and Sunday as they celebrated the Light Blues’ first top-flight title in ten years.

As well as gathering outside Ibrox Stadium to sing and set off red, white and blue smoke bombs, fans also congregated in Glasgow’s George Square – leaving memorial benches destroyed and litter strewn across the area.

On Monday night, deputy chief constable Malcolm Graham branded the scenes “disgraceful”.


He said: “The behaviour which we saw at the weekend was disgraceful and I utterly condemn the individuals who chose to completely disregard the coronavirus regulations, putting both the wider community and our officers at risk.

“I also strongly condemn the lack of support from Rangers Football Club over the messages we repeatedly asked them to put out to persuade fans not to go out celebrating and encourage those who did gather in large numbers to return home.”

STV News
George Square: Memorial benches were damaged.

Police made 28 arrests and seven people were issued with fixed penalty notices or will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Reasons for arrest included assaulting police officers, breaching coronavirus regulations, disorder, use of flares and sectarian breaches of the peace.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday, deputy first minister John Swinney said Rangers had a “duty” to tell fans not to gather and messages from them on Sunday could have helped disperse the crowds, adding: “The silence from Rangers was deafening.”


Chief medical officer Gregor Smith told the briefing there’s a “real risk” of a rise in Covid-19 infections following the gatherings.

Swinney warned this could mean “difficult decisions” regarding lockdown easing.

In a statement, Rangers said they had initiated open dialogue with key stakeholders in respect to a potential league win.

The club said: “We have proactively engaged with our local MP, the justice minister, the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the SPFL in relation to maintaining a cohesive message regarding public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The club added that they understood the “jubilance” of their fans and highlighted “frustration” over the closure of stadiums.

The statement added: “We reiterate the message from our manager, Steven Gerrard, who highlighted that fans should adhere to government guidelines: stay safe, socially distance and look after each other in this difficult time.”

The club said they would continue talks ahead of future milestones to “maintain a cohesive message in relation to government guidance”.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Ibrox: Fans gathered outside the stadium.

DCC Graham added: “We’ve been planning for the conclusion of the football season for some time since the league was allowed to resume and the sport is in a very privileged position given the restrictions seen across the country for almost a year.

“It was very clear through the lack of messaging that Rangers did not take seriously their responsibilities in terms of seeking to persuade their fans to celebrate safely and responsibly.

“I commend the officers who delivered a policing operation which was entirely consistent with our approach throughout this pandemic to maintain public safety and minimise disorder, disruption and damage to property. 

“They did this faced with considerable danger, all of which was completely unnecessary and avoidable.

“Where large numbers of people gather at an unplanned event such as this we use established crowd control measures to ensure we are keeping the public safe and manage those who are refusing to disperse.

“We will work with football clubs, local authorities and the Scottish Government to ensure we do everything we can to persuade people that none of these scenes can be repeated as the football season continues.”

Rangers has been contacted for comment.

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