Hunt for vandal who daubed white paint over Banksy mural

The artwork, featuring a rodent sipping a cocktail in a deckchair, was defaced in the early hours of Sunday.

Vandalised: Banksy artwork defaced by vandal. Adam Harnett via SWNS
Vandalised: Banksy artwork defaced by vandal.

Detectives are hunting for a vandal who daubed white paint over a mural by elusive street artist Banksy just a week after it first appeared.

The artwork showing a rodent sipping a cocktail in a deckchair was covered in white paint in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Security guards interrupted the vandal as they defaced the image on a sea wall in Lowestoft, Suffolk but the person managed to escape.

Police now want to speak to anyone who was in the area in the time as they attempt to track down the suspect.

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The vandal struck hours after Banksy confirmed that the mural, along with ten other pieces along the East Anglian coastline, were all his work.

Banksy’s artwork first roused interest when it appeared last week and the artist announced on Friday that he was behind the street art.

A statement from Suffolk Police read: “Police are appealing for witnesses to an incident of criminal damage in Lowestoft.

“It took place at some point between 5.35pm on Saturday 14 and Sunday August 15 at just after midnight where a street mural painted by ‘Banksy’ was painted over with white paint.

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“Police are keen to speak to anyone who visited the artwork after 5.30pm on the Saturday to help police with their investigation and to see if they could assist officers in their efforts to establish a more accurate time of when the offence took place.”


Time is running out to avoid rail strikes during COP26, union warns

With world leaders heading to Scotland for the crucial talks, members of the RMT union are threatening to strike.

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Rail: Could be facing strike action during COP26.

Transport bosses have been told they need to “put pay justice on the agenda” if they want to prevent rail strikes during the global COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

With world leaders heading to Scotland for the crucial talks, members of the RMT union are threatening to strike for the duration of the summit.

Other unions have accepted the deal on the table, but Scotland’s transport minister Graeme Dey has warned he is “not optimistic” of a resolution being reached with the RMT ahead of the deadline set for 5pm on Wednesday.

Dey is already facing calls to quit if a deal cannot be reached to prevent the strike during COP26 – which is set to bring some 30,000 people to Glasgow.

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RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Time is running out to get a fair deal for Scotland’s rail workers and avoid a shutdown during COP26.

“We stand ready to get back round the table right now but the political leadership in Scotland need to lift their arbitrary deadlines and clear the road blocks to getting those talks back on.

“The ball is in the SNP’s court. They need to take responsibility for bringing us to this point and get into a dialogue with the union that puts pay justice on the agenda. We are waiting.”

David Simpson, ScotRail operations director, said he is still “hopeful” that the RMT will reconsider its position and accept the deal for a 4.7% increase over two years.

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That offer has already been accepted by the three other unions representing rail workers, Aslef, Unite and the TSSA.

The 5pm deadline has been set to give ScotRail time to plan for services during the summit, which gets under way on Sunday and runs through to November 12

Mr Simpson told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday that “many” RMT members would like to accept the deal, adding: “We don’t understand why RMT won’t put this offer to their members to give them a say.”

After 5pm on Wednesday, he said the offer will be “off the table”, explaining: “The reason for the deadline is we need to be able to prepare for what service we operate next week.

“We are working in the background on some contingency planning to see what we can run in the event of a strike to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh and serve the routes through the COP26 summit.

“We’ve made very clear this is a significant deal but at 5pm tonight it is off the table and we will have to sadly prepare for industrial action.”

That would see ScotRail focus efforts on running services between Scotland’s two largest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as the low level service to the Scottish Events Campus where the summit is taking place.

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Mr Simpson said: “We absolutely urge RMT to accept this deal, it is a good deal, at least put it to their members and pause the strike action while they do that, or it comes off the table at 5pm tonight.”

More on:

Who’s in charge as Glasgow becomes UN territory at COP26?

Everything you need to know about the law, policing and security during the crunch climate summit.

STV News
Police Scotland officers can only enter the blue zone with UN agreement.

The COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow is being hosted by the United Nations, which means the venue will come under its control.

The summit will take place across two sites – the ‘blue zone’ at the Scottish Event Campus and the ‘green zone’ at Glasgow Science Centre.

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The blue zone is a UN-managed space that hosts the negotiations, bringing together delegations from 197 countries and will become an international territory

The UN will have administrative control of the Scottish Events Campus and will be responsible for security during COP26. While it will be supported by Police Scotland, the UN will remain in charge of all security in the blue zone.

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Police mounted units have been training for COP26.
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Police Scotland may only enter with the consent of the UN secretary general, a standard arrangement for such conferences.

‘Complete freedom of expression’

UN officials, representatives and experts all have immunity from legal process – including prosecution (diplomatic immunity) – inside the blue zone.

Natasha Durkin, a senior associate in Shepherd and Wedderburn’s regulation and markets team, told STV News: “It is a foundational principle of the UN that its property is ‘inviolable’, meaning that UN property is immune from any legal interference wherever it is situated.

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“The main reason for this is to allow the UN full control of its international functions and activities without interference, and reflects the immunities UN personnel have from legal process.

“One important aspect of the blue zone is that it allows the UN to guarantee complete freedom of speech to those participating in UN meetings, regardless of the (possibly restrictive) laws applying in the host state.

“Complete freedom of expression for participants is agreed in Article 2 of the COP26 agreement.”

Year of planning

Police Scotland has been planning and preparing for over a year, alongside the United Nations, UK Government and Glasgow City Council.

Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins said: “We have engaged with the United Nations and this is common practice for UN conferences.

“In consultation with a range of partners, our policing plan takes into account all factors to ensure an appropriate response will be delivered.” 

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Police carry out a training exercise on the ‘Squinty Bridge’ in Glasgow.
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All attendees within the blue zone must be accredited by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Ms Durkin said: “Consistent with having full control of the blue zone, the UN is ‘in charge’.

“However, the COP26 agreement (and again, as is standard) requires the UN to cooperate with UK authorities to ensure the proper administration of justice and to prevent any abuse of the blue zone. 

“In addition to the UN being required to cooperate with the UK in relation to the administration of justice, and to prevent abuse, the secretary general of the UN can waive any immunity applying to the blue zone. 

“As such, if an offence is committed, there are mechanisms for both cooperation between the UK and UN, and the possibility of waiver of immunity. The disposal of an alleged offence committed in the blue zone would ultimately depend on circumstances.”

So what is the green zone?

The green zone is managed by the UK Government and is a platform for the general public, youth groups, civil society, academia, artists, business and others to have their voices heard.

It will host events, exhibitions, workshops and talks promoting dialogue, awareness and education.

Normal domestic law applies there.

Extra staff to be drafted into Glasgow’s A&E during COP26 marches

Additional workers are also being put in place for mental health assessment units and the police custody service.

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A&E: Additional workers are also being put in place for mental health assessment units and the police custody service.

Extra staff are to be drafted into Glasgow’s accident and emergency wards during COP26 when two marches by climate activists are expected to cause a demand for treatment. 

An NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde report reveals a march on Saturday, November 6 has been licenced for up to 100,000 people, and adds it is “likely that the biggest demand for healthcare will be from activists”.

Additional workers are also being put in place for mental health assessment units and the police custody service.

The march on November 6 has been organised by the COP26 Coalition to demand “just and fair solutions to the climate crisis” and will go from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green.

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It will be preceded by a school strike for climate justice on Friday, November 5, when Fridays for Future (FFF) Scotland — the Scottish branch of an international youth movement founded by Greta Thunberg — are set to march from Kelvingrove Park to George Square.

Climate campaigner Thunberg has confirmed she will take part in the march, which is expected to attract thousands of young protesters.

The report, to the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde board meeting on Tuesday, states information “from other COP conferences and the recent G7 summit is that there was a limited demand for hospital admission” during the events and “as such no specific provision has been made for additional inpatient capacity”.

However, it adds: “It is likely that the biggest demand for healthcare will be from activists who will be attending this event and the two activist marches on 5 and 6 of November.

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“The march on November 6 has been licensed for up to 100,000 people. Additional staffing is being sought for the emergency departments.

“Additional staff are being put in place for the mental health assessment units and the police custody service. Facilities and procurement have reviewed delivery routes and stockholdings to ensure there is no impact on service delivery.”

A medical treatment centre, staffed by doctors and advanced paramedics, will be open on the SEC conference site. It aims to deal with “minor ailments and injuries on the site and to direct people to access community pharmacy for any medications required”.

Daily attendance at the conference is capped at 14,000 delegates a day due to social distancing requirements, which is equivalent to the capacity of the Hydro.

“By way of contrast the three main football stadiums have a daily capacity of over 50,000,” the report adds.

It pointed out: “Many delegates are not staying in hotels in Glasgow but will be travelling daily into the city.”

All GPs and some hospital managers have been sent postcode data of areas affected by the conference to plan and communicate to patients who might need access to hospital, such as pregnant women.

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The November 6 march will take place on the conference’s global day of action, an event which has been held at every United Nations climate conference since 2005, with demonstrations held across the world.

FFF Scotland are also a co-organiser for that march, alongside groups including the Scottish Trade Unions Congress and Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Thunberg started FFF in August 2018 when she began a school strike to demand action on the climate crisis. She has since been joined by young people across the world.

COP26 will run from October 31 to November 12, with world leaders expected to arrive for crucial talks at the SEC.

By local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands

Study calls for more tutoring to close school attainment gap

Research by the Poverty Alliance found free tutoring provision for children and young people in Scotland was 'sparse'.

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Report: High-quality tutoring could significantly reduce educational inequalities.

More tutoring and mentoring of pupils should be used in Scotland to help close the attainment gap, a study says.

Research by the Poverty Alliance found free tutoring provision for children and young people in Scotland was “sparse”.

The report, released on Wednesday, said high-quality tutoring could significantly reduce educational inequalities.

In February the Scottish Government announced a £45m fund for educational recovery, however the report said there was no published information on how much of this went towards catch-up tutoring programmes.

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The Poverty Alliance’s research also found there were geographical gaps in the provision of mentoring for children in poverty.

Dr Laura Robertson, lead author of the report, said: “The Scottish Government has put tackling the poverty-based attainment gap at the heart of its agenda. However, inequalities in education attainment remain stark.

“Covid-19 has not only tightened the grip of poverty on the lives of many children and young people, but has also exacerbated these inequalities.

“Now, more than ever, children and young people need access to additional support.

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“This report reveals that – despite the evidence that it works – young people living in poverty still don’t have equal access to high-quality tutoring free of charge.

“In a just society, all children and young people should have access to support that allows them to reach their potential, so the Scottish Government must – if it wants to end the attainment gap – respond with action.”


MP Margaret Ferrier accused of breaching coronavirus rules

No plea was made by her lawyer during a hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service via Website
Court: A further hearing has been set for January next year, whilst Ferrier was granted bail.

Margaret Ferrier has been accused of travelling from Glasgow to London knowing that she had symptoms of coronavirus.

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP, 61, allegedly made several journeys having been told to self-isolate between September 26 and 29 last year.

Prosecutors state the suspended SNP politician ‘culpably and recklessly’ booked a test for Covid-19, stating in the booking application that she had symptoms of the disease.

The charge claims she was told to self-isolate and wilfully exposed people to the risk of infection, illness and death.

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It is alleged this was done by travelling throughout Glasgow and the surrounding areas as well as journeys to and from London.

Allegations state Ferrier was at a variety of locations over the three days.

These include locations in Rutherglen such as Lifestyle Leisure centre, Sweet P Boutique and Vanilla Salon.

Ferrier also allegedly visited Grace and Flavour, Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, as well as St Mungo’s Church, Glasgow and Vic’s Bar in Prestwick, Ayrshire.

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The charge states Ferrier made a taxi journey from her home in Glasgow’s Cambuslang to the city’s Central train station.

It is claimed she travelled to London Euston station and elsewhere in the English capital including the Houses of Parliament.

Ferrier is then said to have made the return journey to Glasgow from London by train.

On Wednesday, no plea was made by her lawyer Paul Kavanagh at a hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court to the single charge.

A further hearing was fixed for January by Sheriff Paul Reid.

Ferrier, whose attendance at court was excused, was granted bail meantime.


Sniffer dogs help discover storm petrel colony on the Isle of May

With the assistance of the dogs, the location and extent of the colony has been detected.

NatureScot via Website
Five professional sniffer dogs were trained over a two-month period to locate the scent of storm petrels underground.

Sniffer dogs have been used for the first time in UK conservation to locate a seabird colony.

Storm petrels, small oceanic birds, were confirmed to be breeding on NatureScot’s Isle of May National Nature Reserve (NNR) in the Firth of Forth.

With the assistance of the dogs, the location and extent of the colony has now been detected.

The birds breed in the UK during the summer months but spend their lives out at sea.

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Five professional sniffer dogs were trained over a two-month period to locate the scent of storm petrels underground.

NatureScot via Website
Simon Chapman from K9 with Molly.

David Steel, reserve manager at the Isle of May, said they were “delighted” to confirm the colony.

“We were really excited to work with the dogs and the dog handlers to find out more about storm petrels on the island,” he said.

“These special seabirds come ashore under the cover of darkness and nest underground in crevices, burrows, cairns or stone-walls, raising a single chick.

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“During that time, their activities – singing away in total darkness, as well as their unique musky smell, make these birds so fascinating and mysterious. We’re delighted to confirm the storm petrel colony after such a great team effort over the last three years by so many people.”

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K9 staff with sniffer dogs, from left to right – Lyn with Pyper, Lorriane with Nelson, Lucy with Esmay, and Simon with Molly and Storm.

Dr Mark Bolton, the leading authority on storm petrels in the UK and a principal conservation scientist for the RSPB, described the search as “ground-breaking”.

He said: “It’s very exciting to discover a new breeding colony of storm petrels in the UK, which considerably extends their known breeding range on the east coast of Britain, and increases their resilience to the many challenges our seabirds face.

“The fact that specially-trained scent dogs were used to locate many of the nesting sites is groundbreaking in the UK, and I hope it heralds a new era of greater use of scent dogs for seabird monitoring here.”

Simon Chapman, senior trainer at K9 Manhunt & ScentWork Scotland, added: “Having trained lots of different dogs over the years on a vast array different odours, this was a first for us to work in conservation and to locate a new colony of nesting seabirds.

“Dogs are a cost effective and fast method to cover the ground when conducting these types of surveys.”


£2.2m campaign launched to double size of new nature reserve

The Langholm Initiative charity hopes to buy 5300 acres of Langholm Moor and three residential properties.

The Langholm Initiative/Tom Hutton via PA Media
An initial crowdfunder on Go Fund Me aims to raise at least £150,000.

A £2.2m fundraising campaign has been launched to double the size of a nature reserve in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Langholm Initiative charity created the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve after raising £3.8m to buy 5200 acres of land and six residential properties.

The campaign was launched last year and the group took ownership of the land in March.

It now hopes to buy 5300 acres of Langholm Moor and three residential properties from Buccleuch Estates.

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This would increase the size of the nature reserve to 10,500 acres.

The community said it needs to raise the funds by May 2022 as the offer from Buccleuch is time limited.

An initial crowdfunder on Go Fund Me aims to raise at least £150,000.

Applications will also be made to grant-funding bodies and a private donor has already pledged £500,000.

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Jenny Barlow, the reserve’s estate manager, said: “We’re aiming to repeat the impossible and open a new chapter in this inspiring story of hope and community by doubling the size of Tarras Valley Nature Reserve – and so doubling the benefits for people, nature and climate.

“We need all the help we can get to achieve a big win for wildlife, climate action and community regeneration – and a legacy for future generations.

“Scotland is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries and it desperately needs projects like this.”

She added that if the land goes onto the open market there is a risk it “will be bought by corporate investment firms, which are currently banking large amounts of land in the area”.

Benny Higgins, Buccleuch’s executive chairman, said: “We were delighted that The Langholm Initiative was able to purchase the initial area from Buccleuch last year, having shown such tenacity and vision.

“Having reached agreement on timeline and value, we wish them every success with this next exciting phase, both for the initiative and the community.”

Langholm said the land is home to wildlife such as black grouse, short-eared owls and merlin, and is a stronghold for hen harriers.


Man left with ‘life changing injuries’ after car collides with bus

The incident took place on the A8 when a car crashed into a double decker bus.

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Ambulance: Man left seriously injured.

A man has been left with potential life-changing injuries after a car crashed into a double-decker bus.

The 52-year-old was driving a blue BMW 3 Series when the crash took place on the A8’s Maybury junction, near the Marriot Hotel, at around 6.50pm on Tuesday.

The car was driving east when it crashed into the passenger bus on the other side of the road.

Emergency services attended and he was taken to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh where medical staff have described his injuries as serious and say they are “potentially life changing”.

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The 44-year-old bus driver, and one of the six passengers who were onboard, also suffered minor injuries.

Police are now appealing for witnesses.

Inspector Roger Park, of the Road Policing Unit, said: “We’re appealing to anyone who witnessed this collision or has dash cam footage to contact us.

“Those with information should contact Police Scotland on 101.”


Inquest set to open into death of MP Sir David Amess

The MP was stabbed to death in Essex on October 15.

UK Parliament via Website
David Amess: Attacked at constituency surgery.

An inquest into the death of MP Sir David Amess, who was stabbed to death during a constituency surgery at a church, is due to be opened and adjourned.

Sir David, 69, was attacked at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex on October 15.

The father-of-five was pronounced dead at the scene at 1.10pm and a preliminary postmortem examination report gave the cause of death as multiple stab wounds to the chest.

An inquest into the death of the Conservative MP for Southend West is due to be opened and adjourned at County Hall in Chelmsford on Wednesday.

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A 25-year-old man is charged with the terrorist murder of Sir David.

Ali Harbi Ali appeared before the Old Bailey last Friday, where he was not asked to enter pleas to charges of murder and preparing acts of terrorism between May 1 2019 and September this year.

He faces a trial in March next year.


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