Ticks and crosses: Village’s novel way of tackling Covid-19

Ballachulish in the Highlands has amassed a team of around 50 volunteers in just a few days.

The idea is simple.

If you’re healthy and able to go about your daily business, you put a green tick on your window or front door. If you’re not so well or otherwise need help, you put up a red cross.

That’s the innovative approach to looking after the community during the coronavirus pandemic being taken in Ballachulish.

Like so many other communities in Scotland, this Highland village is trying to band together and look out for one another, particularly the most vulnerable among them.


For local councillor Niall McLean, it’s partly about taking at least some of the weight off the shoulders of public services and government both locally and nationally.

“At the beginning of all this, I was quite worried because I thought, you know, what have we got?” he said.

“We’re in a small village, we’re reasonably isolated, we’ve got one shop.”

A team of locals decided on Saturday to take matters into their own hands – and in the space of a few days, they’ve amassed 50 volunteers from all walks of life, from doctors to joiners to plumbers.


The self-styled community “resilience group” had, within 24 hours, 20 vehicles at its disposal – everything from cars, to vans, to a snowplough.

The team has already been able to install public hand-wash stations, like the one outside the village’s main shop, the Co-op.

“I was absolutely astounded with what came forward when we started this initiative,” said Mr McLean.

“We’re a strong community and I think you’ll find as well in your community that there is a huge amount of strength and it just needs identified.”

As governments try to coordinate their response to the virus, he feels the inherent bureaucracy in their processes means they will inevitably struggle to act quickly enough given the scale of the crisis – a comment he doesn’t mean as a criticism but just as a fact.

Mr McLean said: “We’ve pulled together the resources in the village, we’ve looked at who’s in need and we’ve looked at who’s got extra and who’s got capability.”

He added: “A lot of people are worried about whether or not the cavalry’s coming. Well, we decided: we are the cavalry, and we’ve got the horses.”


With the group’s ever-growing team of volunteers, they had the capacity to deliver the green tick and red cross flags to every one of Ballachulish’s roughly 700 inhabitants.

Mr McLean believes the concept could take hold in communities across Scotland and the UK and benefit them massively, giving them a clear idea of local needs.

Already, nearby villages in the Highlands, as well as groups as far afield as Cornwall and Wales, have been inspired to take up the idea for their own.

So that any community anywhere in the UK can launch a similar project if they wish, the Ballachulish group has put all the materials they use onto a new website, covidgo.uk.

“If we can carry out this initiative here in Ballachulish, anyone can do it,” said Mr McLean.

FM to urge ‘credible action’ on climate change from world leaders

More than 120 world leaders will attend the COP26 summit.

georgeclerk via IStock
The summit takes place at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will call on world leaders to take “credible actions” to achieve net zero in a speech ahead of the Cop26 UN climate change conference.

She will say that keeping the prospect of limiting global warning to less than 1.5C alive cannot simply be a “face-saving slogan” but must be real.

In a keynote speech to an audience of young people and students in Glasgow, she will call on international leaders to act to limit global temperature increases and deliver a fair financial package for the global south.

More than 120 world leaders will attend the COP26 summit, which takes place at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.


The First Minister will say that Scotland is in a unique position to make the event a success and will act as a “bridge”, creating spaces and dialogues and promoting understanding.

She will say: “We will take seriously the responsibility of all governments, at all levels, to show ambition, and to galvanise action.

“If we do that, we can all contribute towards a successful summit.

“I have said that small countries can lead the way in this, and they can, but in the coming days, it is the countries which emit the most, who most need to step up.


“They need to make ambitious pledges to achieve net zero. And those pledges must be backed by credible actions.

“The idea of ‘keeping 1.5 alive’, cannot simply be a face-saving slogan. It must be real.

“And there must be progress in Glasgow which makes that outcome more likely.”

The talks in Glasgow have been billed as the last best chance to limit global warming to 1.5C in the long term.

Sturgeon is expected to say that Scotland will do what it can to contribute to a successful outcome at the Glasgow summit.

She will say: “Scotland is in a unique position to help make COP a success.

“And one of the ways in which we will do that, over the next three weeks, is by acting as a bridge.


“We will use our position, as the venue for COP, to create spaces and dialogues which encourage empathy, promote understanding and help people share perspectives.

“We will encourage national governments to match the ambition of cities, regions and state governments.

“We will help those around the negotiating table to hear from activists in the developed world and from the global South.”

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Girl backs candle-free Halloween after hair fire horror

Karla Peacock suffered serious burns after being set on fire by a candle.

STV News

Karla Peacock was practising blowing out candles ahead of her fifth birthday when her hair suddenly became engulfed in flames.

Instead of celebrating with friends and family, she endured eight weeks in hospital with second and third-degree burns to her scalp and has been left with lasting nerve damage.

Now 16, Karla is backing a new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) campaign urging people to abandon real candles this Halloween in favour of battery-operated alternatives.

Karla, from Port Glasgow, said: “All I can remember was shouting ‘fire, fire’, and my mum screaming and then me being in an ambulance. I was in hospital for a long time and I’ve had multiple operations since.


“My injury has had an impact, not just on my appearance, but also how I feel about myself. With the skin grafts, my scars are only visible now if I point them out, but they are always visible to me.

“Due to my surgeries I’ve been left with nerve damage and spinal pain and I also get panicked when I smell smoke and hear alarms or sirens.”

Karla is now in college studying theatre make-up and construction, and credits her recovery to help and support received from the Scottish Burned Children’s Club.

She said: “This Halloween, my advice is to go flameless and switch to reusable candles. With no naked flame it totally removes any risk of injury.


“Children are curious and don’t see the dangers others are more aware of. I want to share my story to stop another child having to experience what I have.”

The SFRS Go Flameless campaign is warning that Halloween costumes can often burn more quickly than normal clothing.

Deputy assistant chief officer Alasdair Perry said: “I commend Karla for her bravery in sharing her story, which shows only too starkly why children should never be left alone near a naked flame and lit candles should never be left unattended.

“We want everyone to have a fun Halloween, but we also want it to be safe. We’re urging people to swap tealight and other candles with a naked flame for a reusable flameless type instead as this simple step completely removes the risk of fire and the dangers it brings.”

Stop, Drop and Roll

What to do if you or someone else catches fire:

  • Stop what you are doing.
  • Drop to the ground.
  • Roll around to extinguish the flame.

First weekend of enforcement of vaccine passport scheme ‘unmitigated disaster’

The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) say staff have faced' intolerable levels of abuse' and some venues saw a drop in footfall of up to 40%.

STV News
There are calls for the Scottish Government to scrap the scheme, which has been legally enforceable since October 18.

The first weekend of enforcement of Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme has been an “unmitigated disaster”, according to a hospitality sector body.

The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) said that staff have faced “intolerable levels of abuse” and some venues saw a drop in footfall of up to 40%.

It is calling on the Scottish Government to scrap the scheme, which has been legally enforceable since October 18.

Proof of full vaccination is required to enter nightclubs and large events as part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus and increase vaccine take-up.


The measures technically came into effect from October 1, but an 18-day grace period was announced following backlash from affected industries and significant problems with the new app.

SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “The first weekend of the vaccine passports scheme has been one of unmitigated disaster – and that responsibility lies entirely at the door of the Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Hospitality Group has been warning the government for weeks that their vaccine passports scheme is not ready – but the government’s attitude has been to tell us to ‘get on with it’ whilst offering no safety net of support for businesses or our hard-working staff.

“The experience of this weekend shows that the result has been intolerable levels of abuse of our staff, and the creation of an atmosphere that will totally undermine anyone’s enjoyment of our night-time venues.”


The SHG comprises many restaurant and bar businesses, including the DRG Group, Buzzworks Holdings, Signature Pubs, Montpeliers and Manorview Group.

It said that over the weekend members reported more than 550 instances where venue staff had to refuse entry to a customer because they had no vaccine passport, an ineligible vaccine passport, or a potentially fraudulent vaccine passport.

There were also a “concerning number” of reports of abuse of hospitality staff over rejections and queues at venues, and continuing problems were reported with the vaccine passport app and its update.

The vaccine certification scheme applies to late-night premises with music, alcohol and dancing between midnight and 5am.

Montgomery said the SHG is seeing some venues closing at midnight to “take themselves out of scope of the regulation for reasons around recruitment and staff welfare”.

He said: “The Scottish hospitality industry as a whole has paid enough for government failures in this pandemic, and it’s time the Scottish Government scrapped this scheme altogether.”

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.

‘Donald Trump said he would buy me a beer… but he never did’

Ten memorable moments to celebrate ten years of STV current affairs show Scotland Tonight.

STV News

Happy birthday, Scotland Tonight! The STV current affairs show is celebrating ten years of debate and discussion across news, politics and entertainment.

Here, we look back at some of the stand-out moments from the show’s history, with memories from presenters John MacKay and Rona Dougall.

Donald Trump becomes first ever guest – October 24, 2011

Five years before his stunning election as US President, Donald Trump was interviewed from Trump Tower in New York.


At the time, he was embroiled in a row with the Scottish Government and Aberdeenshire Council over plans for a wind farm off the coast of his new golf course.

Trump got the new show off to a flier – but the first star name to appear on Scotland Tonight very nearly didn’t…

“The cost of the satellite was too expensive, so we had a clever workaround,” recalls John. “Donald Trump was sitting in Trump Tower in NYC listening to my questions from the studio down a phone line.

“An American film crew in his office filmed his responses, which were then sent back to us in Glasgow, where they would be cut together with my questions. 


“Only problem was there was a major delay in the footage from the States reaching us. With a short time to go until our debut programme, it looked as if it was going to be a disaster. 

“Fortunately, it all came together. Donald Trump said he’d buy me a beer next time was in Scotland. He never did.”

Graeme Obree discusses suicide – November 30, 2011

Record-breaking cycling champion Graeme Obree took part in a discussion on the subject of suicide, following the death of Wales football manager Gary Speed.

In a moving interview – which John describes as “one of the most memorable” he’s ever done – Obree revealed that he had twice attempted to take his own life.

“I asked the question many people might ask,” recalls John. “How could he have tried to do this with a wife and family needing him? His answer was compelling. 

“He said that people in that desperate situation genuinely believe they are doing their family a favour by leaving them. He described it as attending a party you don’t want to be at. You participate and smile, but all the while you really don’t want to be there. 


“Intensify that tenfold every single day, he said, and that’s what it’s like for someone who thinks life is not worth living.”

Sturgeon starstruck by Sidse – February 4, 2013

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took over the Scotland Tonight interviewer’s chair to grill the Danish Prime Minister… or at least a fictional version.

Sidse Babett Knudsen had become well known for playing the role in the acclaimed political drama Borgen – and found a firm fan in Sturgeon.

Wrestlemania in the studio – June 18, 2013

Greg Hemphill and Rab Florence were interviewed about their forthcoming comedy wrestling bout at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow – when they decided to scrap in the studio.

STV News
Greg Hemphill chucks a glass of water at Rab Florence.

“I knew they were hamming it up, but I did start to think they were maybe getting a bit serious as the insults started to fly,” recalls Rona. “I was horrified when Greg chucked the glass of water. I thought ‘yikes, what next?’. 

“Looking back, I’m proud of myself for not swearing!”

‘Help me, Rona’ – November 27, 2013

In what became known as the ‘Help me, Rona’ moment – although he didn’t actually use that exact phrase – then-Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael appealed for assistance during a head-to-head independence referendum debate with then-Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“I think it’s very cool that I inspired a catchphrase, even if he didn’t actually say that,” says Rona. 

“These debates were a fantastic format and I really enjoyed doing them. The run-up to the referendum was such an exciting time in politics in Scotland, and I really felt like I had a front-row seat as it all unfolded.”

STV News
Alistair Carmichael appealed for help during an independence referendum debate with Nicola Sturgeon.

Powerful reflection 20 years after Dunblane massacre – March 8, 2016

Isabel Wilson, whose five-year-old daughter died in the 1996 Dunblane Primary School massacre, gave her first interview to mark the 20th anniversary.

“I was at Dunblane on the day of the shooting and reported on the subsequent inquiry,” says John. “It remains the story that has affected me most in my career.

“Isabel Wilson spoke for the first time on the 20th anniversary. She emphasised that she would not be identified as the mother of a Dunblane victim. She would not be defined by that. It was as powerful a testimony as I have ever heard.”

The guest who didn’t say anything – June 15, 2017

Not easy carrying out an interview when the guest won’t say anything, but that’s exactly what happened when American comedy magic duo Penn and Teller appeared in the studio.

Only Penn would answer questions – and perform a trick with Rona and a jellybean – while Teller remained silent.

Rona recalls: “These guys were, well, magic. I was having a great chat with them both in the green room before we went on air, but as soon as the interview started, Teller didn’t say a word. 

“It’s his thing to be the mute half of the act. Quite disconcerting, though, to have one of your interviewees sit resolutely silent.   

“They did perform a brilliant trick, which resulted in a jellybean appearing out of a nose. Still wonder how the heck they did that.”

Doddie Weir on his battle with MND – August 29, 2017

Scottish rugby great Doddie Weir left Rona in tears as he told of his determination to find new treatments for motor neurone disease.

Weir went on to set up his own foundation, My Name is Doddie, to raise money for research into the muscle-wasting condition.

“I think Doddie was a bit nervous before the interview in case he became too emotional, but I was the one who shed the tears in the end,” says Rona. 

“It was very unprofessional, but I was so moved by his courage and determination to try and change the treatment and life outcomes of people diagnosed with MND.”

Big win with the Big Yin – March 12, 2020

Shortly before Scotland locked down, John carried out an extended interview with Sir Billy Connolly.

Despite suffering from Parkinson’s, the comedy legend was in great form as he launched an art exhibition in Glasgow.

STV News
Billy Connolly was in top form.

“He kept walking past me as he went from one interview to another and apologised for ‘keeping this man waiting’,” recalls John. “We were last because we were doing an extended interview to which the entire programme was devoted. 

“As well as being very, very funny, he was also very reflective. He has been one of the major Scottish figures of my lifetime and to find him as engaged and funny as I hoped was a joy.”

Covid Q&A with Jason Leitch – March 19, 2020

In what was to become the first of many Scotland Tonight appearances, national clinical director Jason Leitch answered viewers’ questions about coronavirus as the pandemic started to take hold.

Scotland was just days away from the first major lockdown and viewers had no shortage of questions about how life was set to change.

Leitch was soon to become a household name as he tried to help Scots navigate their way through new rules and regulations.

“Jason Leitch is a great communicator and obviously really enjoys the process of being interviewed, which made my job easy,” says Rona.   

“When we did this first interview with him, viewers were hungry for answers as it was such a difficult time and so much was unclear. The only problem was trying to fit all the questions in. I think viewers appreciated the chance to get some clarity.”

Labour urges SNP to ‘get a grip’ as hospital-onset Covid cases rise

Latest Public Health Scotland data showed an increase in cases.

sudok1 via IStock
Scottish Labour are calling on the SNP to do more to keep hospitals safe and ensure staff can get their booster vaccines.

Scottish Labour has called on the SNP to “get a grip on hospital safety” as cases of hospital-onset Covid reached a seven-month high.

Latest Public Health Scotland data showed an increase in cases classed as “definite hospital onset”, where the first positive specimen date was 15 or more days after admission.

They rose from 37 cases in the week ending September 19 to 63 in the week ending September 26, taking levels to their highest point since mid-February.

In the week ending February 14, a total of 137 cases were reported as definite hospital onset, up from 109 the previous week.


In addition to the 63 definite cases in the week ending September 26, there were a further 36 “probable” cases of hospital-onset Covid while 34 were classed as “indeterminate” hospital onset.

Scottish Labour are calling on the SNP to do more to keep hospitals safe and ensure staff can get their booster vaccines.

The party’s health and Covid recovery spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “It is disgraceful that so many people going into hospital for help to get better are then exposed to a life-threatening virus.

“Things are now the worst that they have been since the early days of the vaccine programme.


“This is yet another sign of the immense pressure services are under.

“NHS staff are working tirelessly to keep hospitals running and keep patients safe, but they are being badly let down.

“It’s sheer complacency from the SNP that has let us get to this point.

“This spike in cases must be a wake-up call for them to get a grip on hospital safety.

“The SNP must act with the urgency needed to roll out the booster programme and make sure hospitals have everything they need to keep patients and staff safe.”

According to latest data from Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infection (ARHAI) Scotland, 4095 cases of definite hospital onset Covid-19 were recorded between the week ending March 1 2020 and the week ending September 26 2021, accounting for 0.7% of cases.

The Scottish Government is being asked for comment.

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I said it would never last… happy birthday, Scotland Tonight

The inside track on ten years of STV's four-nights-a-week current affairs programme.

STV News
Sir Billy Connolly appeared on Scotland Tonight just before lockdown.

When it was first mooted that STV would run a four-nights-a-week current affairs programme, I remember telling producer Stephen Townsend: “It will never last. There isn’t a market for it.”

As I say ‘happy birthday, Scotland Tonight’, I do so whilst eating a large portion of humble pie.

I had been brought up on the politics programme Ways and Means (1973-86), had briefly co-presented Scottish Questions (1986-93), anchored Platform (1996-2003) and latterly hosted Politics Now (2004-11). I thought I knew our audience and what they liked.

Perhaps my scepticism was born from the experience of the BBC’s Newsnight Scotland – a worthy but dull four-days-a-week affair presented by the excellent Gordon Brewer.


Broad horizons

So where has Scotland Tonight scored where other programmes have failed to hit the mark? In part, it is down to the presenters, John MacKay and Rona Dougall. They create an atmosphere that is serious without being overly earnest and never patronising.

The programme, although anchored in political discussion, has broad horizons. Presiding over the ten years is current affairs producer Stephen Townsend. A political bibliophile, Townsend has driven all of the set-piece current affairs programmes for a very long time. He will blush to be called a veteran but such is his experience that he is within touching distance of the sobriquet.

He sums up the appeal of the programme well when he says: “We came on air in the early days of the independence referendum debate and I like to think that we were the right programme at the right time. The guts of our format is engaging debate and analysis of the big issues affecting Scotland.”


Beginning with a belter

All new current affairs programmes like to start with a big interview and Scotland Tonight was no exception. John MacKay recalls: “On that first night, we interviewed Donald Trump, in the days before his presidency when he was just a Scottish golf club owner. The cost of the satellite for such an interview was extortionate, so we had a camera crew with him in Trump Tower filming ‘The Donald’ as he listened to my questions through a telephone earpiece.”

STV News
Donald Trump appeared on the first ever episode of Scotland Tonight.

If you cover serious topics in a nation of hardened opinion, you will divide. My sense is that the mainstream audience appreciate the programme, although social media posts suggest that on occasion some are left infuriated by the editorial. Frankly, that is as it should be. If a programme is universally liked, then it is failing in its core function to stand above entrenched views.

STV’s political editor Colin MacKay says: “For a decade, Scotland Tonight has given the country a front-row seat for some of the biggest events in our history.” He is correct in asserting that the audience in the main are “highly informed and involved”. I know this to be true as viewers are never short in telling me what they like and dislike, what they enjoy and what they hate.

It is also a programme that opinion formers like to appear on and opine. Westminster correspondent Kathryn Samson told me: “Scottish MPs are prepared to stand on that freezing patch of grass with me until 11pm. Some MPs would literally run out after late-night votes in the Commons, arriving slightly breathless. Most would bypass network broadcasters to make their way to us first.”


Of course, it is not all heavy politics. Rona Dougall cites her most memorable interview as the one she conducted with comedians Greg Hemphill and Robert Florence. She said: “They started chucking water at each other during a live interview. I think I responded with ‘let’s fight with words, guys’. The crew knew it was going to happen, wish they’d told me.”

STV News
Greg Hemphill and Rab Florence make a splash.

On the point about the crew, I pay tribute to our technical team and the behind-the-scenes researchers. All are thoroughly professional people and are, more often than not, the key people who make television work.

Scotland Tonight’s appeal lies in going beyond a narrow political agenda, important though that is. Stephen Townsend gets nostalgic when he recalls: “The darts legend Bobby George was a special guest for me. One night, he went out of his way to go into a London studio to share some hilarious and touching memories of the Scottish sporting hero Jocky Wilson.”

Sturgeon’s coming of age

Nicola Sturgeon is widely viewed as a top politician. For me, she came of age in a series of set-piece debates on the constitution. A number of Scotland Tonight specials saw her cross swords with Michael Moore, Alistair Carmichael and Johann Lamont, although the latter debate was described by yours truly as “‘a stairheid rammy”. It was an example of a programme that thundered but shone no light on anything. It also spoke to a TV truth that not all programmes execute their brief.

STV News
Nicola Sturgeon go head-to-head before the independence referendum Alistair Carmichael.

Recently, Scotland Tonight has premiered in a prime-time slot of 7.30pm on a Thursday. Again, I thought the decision crazy, but the impressive ratings have proved me wrong and demonstrated that our viewers are quite happy to leave behind soap opera for a delve into some serious issues.

For a commercial broadcaster to surrender part of its schedule to the serious when it could showcase an entertainment programme actually speaks to the fact that Scotland is a nation which loves debate. Scotland Tonight in that sense is a conduit of a national characteristic, that which loves to argue and question.

Here’s to the next ten years of argument and analysis. To all who have been a guest, thank you for your insight, but the biggest thanks go to you, the viewers. Without you, it simply wouldn’t exist and flourish. Happy birthday, Scotland Tonight.

Appeal for help in search for woman missing overnight

Kathryn Woods was last seen at around 5pm on Sunday.

Police Scotland
Missing: Kathryn was last seen on Sunday.

A search is underway for a woman who has been missing overnight in the Highlands.

Kathryn Woods, from Nairn, has not been seen since 5pm on Sunday.

Concern over the 29-year-old’s welfare is growing and police are appealing for the public’s help in a bid to trace her.

She is described as being around 5ft2 with long blonde hair and was wearing a green jacket and black salopettes when she was last seen.


Anyone with information regarding her whereabouts should contact Police Scotland via 101.

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Tackling poverty and inequality ‘is top concern for Scots’

A survey found that amongst those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, 38% were concerned about poverty and inequality.

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More than 2000 people across Scotland were questioned for the survey

Tackling poverty and inequality is a key concern for Scots – though those living in the least deprived areas are more likely to be worried about the economy.

Just over a third of people (34%) described dealing with the problem of poverty and inequality as the top issue of concern facing Scotland right now – compared to 26% who cited the economy.

But the first ever Understanding Scotland survey found that amongst those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, 38% were concerned about poverty and inequality – with less than a fifth (19%) worried about the economy.

By contrast, in the least deprived areas the economy was listed as a top concern by 34%.


More than 2000 people across Scotland were questioned for the survey, which has been launched by the research company Diffley Partnership and communications agency Charlotte Street Partners.

It plans to provide quarterly research looking at public attitudes, behaviours and expectations on issues such as society, the economy, and the environment in Scotland.

Its first poll found that the NHS is Scotland’s most trusted institution with almost a fifth (19%) saying they trusted it “entirely” and nearly three quarters of people (72%) giving the service a trust score of seven out of 10 or higher.

Meanwhile the research found that “the Government and the political system more broadly, were among the least trusted institutions overall”.


According to the study, 20% of the Scottish population report that they do not trust the Government at all, compared to only 3% who trust it entirely – with similarly 20% saying they trust the political system and only 2% who trust it entirely.

When asked if Scotland was “heading in the right direction” people were evenly split, with 43% saying it was and the same proportion stating it is not, while 14% were undecided.

“The country is split down the middle on the question of whether Scotland is heading in the right or wrong direction,” the research found.

“Excluding those who are unsure, there is a 50:50 split in public opinion.”

Speaking about the new study, Diffley Partnership founder and director Mark Diffley said: “Assessing the public mood as we emerge from the pandemic and start to deal with the economic headwinds coming towards us provides sobering reading for decision-makers.

“The public wants to see a fair recovery, focused both on tackling the inequalities that Covid has exacerbated and building the economic recovery.

“There is also significant concern about the issues dominating current debates, particularly around price rises and the cost of living.”


He added: “After the collective trauma of the last 18 months, it is unsurprising to see that the NHS is Scotland’s most trusted institution, far outstripping public trust in other institutions.

“This trust in the NHS spans the entire Scottish population, regardless of age, social class, or geographical location, reflecting a widespread respect and admiration for those who have led the front-line response to the Covid crisis.”

Malcolm Robertson, founding partner at Charlotte Street Partners, said: “The last 18 months have highlighted the need for fast but highly informed decision making and we hope the new Understanding Scotland survey will help inform private and public sector organisations and policymakers as they weigh up a range of important decisions in the coming months and years.

“We have felt for a while that Scotland lacks a regular record of public opinion on the range of issues people are concerned about and we hope this new survey, Understanding Scotland, will serve that purpose as we continue to recover from Covid-19 and look ahead to decisive moments for the future of our planet, such as the COP26 gathering in Glasgow.”

Missing people chat service launched after demand rises during pandemic

Phone calls to the national Missing People helpline have risen more than a third (39%) in a year.

oatawa via IStock
The new service is confidential, anonymous, non-judgmental and free.

A charity for missing people has launched an online chat service for vulnerable adults in response to rising demand and cases of increased severity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Phone calls to the national Missing People helpline have risen more than a third (39%) in a year, from just under 1000 calls between 2019-2020 to 1384 recorded over the following year.

Overall, the number of adults helped by the charity has jumped 16% over the same period, from 2373 to 2747 adults.

An increasing number of these people were assessed as being at serious risk, it said – a trend which has continued throughout 2021.


The charity, which reunites families in the UK, has launched the chat service after it noted a 13% rise in adults using its existing service intended for children and young people.

The new service is confidential, anonymous, non-judgmental and free.

Sophie Lapham, director of services at Missing People, said: “Over the past year or so, in particular, we have been speaking to people who have felt ‘like they just want to disappear’ or ‘feel trapped’ and ‘need to get away’.

“They say they ‘don’t want to be here anymore’ and feel like their families and friends ‘would be better off without them’. These are their words.”


She added: “More people prefer the speed and anonymity of instant chat, particularly young adults.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people in crisis to get the help they need.”

The charity said people go missing or think about disappearing for multiple reasons, but poor mental health is a common factor in most scenarios.

Problems with work, money, debt or relationship breakdowns can also be key factors.

Ju Blencowe, who went missing in 2017 during a mental health crisis following the death of her mother, said the new service could “build a bridge to others who feel like I once did”.

She said: “You can share your pain with as little or as much anonymity as you feel you need.

“It’s less intrusive and yet still vitally in touch with another person whose sole purpose is to listen without judgment and support without fear of reprisal.”


Increasingly police are asking the charity to text a missing person through its Suicide Risk Text Safe, and broader Text Safe services.

This involves the charity texting a missing person with its contact details and details of the Samaritans.

It has seen a rise of 72% per quarter on average in demand for its Suicide Risk Text Safe service – sending 545 texts per quarter since April 2021, up from 316 texts per quarter in 2020/21.

The number of text safe requests has risen 20% on average per quarter – from 3539 per quarter in 2020/21 up to 4231 per quarter so far since April.

The charity said some of the rise could be down to more police forces starting to use the service, but it believes a genuine increase in need is also driving the trend.

Neil Goulden, from the Trustee Gamesys Foundation, which is funding the new chat service, said: “Missing People today launch their powerful new online chat service for adults who are missing or thinking of going missing.

“The Gamesys Foundation are proud and delighted to support Missing People and fund this service, especially around the areas of mental health which is commonly experienced by missing people.”

For help, advice or support, or to pass on information about a missing person, you can call or text Missing People, confidentially, on 116 000, email 116000@missingpeople.org.uk or visit www.missingpeople.org.uk/get-help to access Online Chat.

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