What to expect from the 12 Premiership clubs this season

The Premiership gets under way this weekend with hopes high a vintage season could lie ahead.

The battle for the Premiership title begins this weekend. Craig Williamson via SNS Group
The battle for the Premiership title begins this weekend.

The friendlies have finished, the League Cup is on the back burner and the European competitions can be forgotten this weekend – the Premiership is back.

After the strangest season in history, fans are looking for a return to normality, insofar as Scottish football is ever normal.

The numbers may not be at the levels anyone wants yet, but there will be supporters in every stadium on the opening weekend, and they’ll all have hopes and expectations.

The promotion of Hearts and Dundee brings back a couple of city derbies, and clubs across the league have been strengthening.

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We’ve looked at each side and how they are prepared for the challenges ahead.

Aberdeen

Jay Emanuel-Thomas and Christian Ramirez make up a new-look Aberdeen attack. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Stephen Glass may have taken charge towards the end of last season, but this summer feels like the start of something new at Pittodrie. Scott Brown has joined as player-coach, along with a handful of exciting new signings.

The first major test was encouraging, with a 5-1 demolition of Hacken thrilling fans, but there’s a big challenge ahead to finish high in the Premiership and compete for silverware. Last season brought a fourth-place finish and a points tally closer to the bottom than the top.

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Improvement is expected and excitement around the club is high.

Celtic

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Ange Postecoglou has taken on the job of revamping and reviving Celtic’s squad. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

After their domestic dominance ended in spectacular fashion, Celtic start this campaign under a new manager; Ange Postecoglou has vowed to deliver attacking, entertaining football.

He’ll attempt to do so with a new-look squad. Five players have been added and many more are needed as they attempt to mount a title challenge. Kristoffer Ajer – a mainstay in the defence – has gone and striker Odsonne Eduoard is set to follow suit.

A big turnaround of players will present challenges, not least how quickly they settle and gel. The club’s elimination from the Champions League has already put them behind the eight ball.

Supporters’ anger following the defeat to Midtylland is directed towards the board, not Postecogolou, who at his first media conferences warned he needed new signings ‘’yesterday’’.

Unless the Australian gets the backing he needs to win trophies, this could be another long season for the Celtic faithful.

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Dundee

Dundee’s attack will be vital to their survival hopes. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

James McPake’s side earned their Premiership place the hard way, coming through the play-offs after a testing Championship season, and they’ll find no respite on their return to the top flight.

The core of last season’s team remains, with Charlie Adam’s experience and skill a hugely valuable asset. Cillian Sheridan and Luke McCowan have arrived to offer new options in an attack that already features Jason Cummings.

The return of derbies against United will be a welcome addition to the calendar, but in the bigger picture, Dundee’s main task is to steer clear of the drop zone.

Local bragging rights are a bonus.

Dundee United

Dundee United have put their faith in Tam Courts (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

United were a year ahead of their city neighbours in returning to the top division and made a decent fist of re-establishing themselves with a ninth-place finish.

Regardless, the club made a big change, allowing manager Micky Mellon to return to Tranmere and promoting Tam Courts from within. Courts will be expected to showcase the young talent the club has traditionally produced, and deliver attacking football while climbing the table. It’s no small task.

There hasn’t been much in the way of recruitment, but Charlie Mulgrew has returned and his know-how could be crucial. A flawless record in the League Cup group stage was an encouraging start for Courts and the new project, but the pressure could be on if a difficult-looking start sees the team fail to deliver points.

Hearts

Hearts have made a strong start in the League Cup. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Hearts did exactly what was required of them last season, lifting the Championship trophy to ensure their controversial exit from the Premiership lasted just one season. The Tynecastle club returns with greater ambition than just staying up.

Any notion that manager Robbie Neilson came out of promotion as a conquering hero should be set aside, though. Cup exits to Alloa and Brora last year brought anger from fans, and the team’s performances at times throughout the league season means he faces a job to win around the support.

Neilson hasn’t added extensively to his squad, yet, but the team that came up has plenty of top-level experience and doesn’t lack for leadership. The League Cup has provided a smooth warm-up, with four wins from four, but two games against Celtic and a match against Aberdeen before the end of August mean that Hearts fans will have a clearer idea of their side’s prospects sooner rather than later.

Hibernian

Hibs hope to juggle European football with domestic competition. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

League Cup semi-finalists, Scottish Cup finalists and third in the Premiership last season. On paper it’s a successful season, but the Hibs faithful feel opportunities were missed.

This time around, Jack Ross has the unenviable task of delivering progress on what’s already a reasonably high bar. The manager started his recruitment early, landing Daniel MacKay from Inverness, made Jamie Murphy’s move from Rangers permanent and added Jake Doyle-Hayes from St Mirren.

There will be further additions, most likely, but Hibs’ hopes may also hinge on whether there are departures. Interest in Ryan Porteous and Kevin Nisbet was rebuffed last season and with a new chief executive in place, Hibs aim to build on what they have. That ambition could be tested, especially if progress in Europe means a juggling of priorities.

Livingston

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David Martindale hopes to mastermind another impressive league campaign. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

From the point David Martindale stepped into the manager’s job last season, it quickly became a memorable one for the Livi fans. A long, long unbeaten run helped the team to a top-six finish and the League Cup final.

Now, the work is on to match or better what surprised most of Scottish football last term. Ten new faces have arrived, including Andrew Shinnie and Bruce Anderson, but just as many have left the club. Martindale will have to hope the new signings click if they are to avoid taking a step backwards.

The fixture list has already given Livi a tough task in the early weeks, with matches against last season’s top four within the first six games.

Motherwell

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Graham Alexander will look to deliver an improvement on last season. (Photo by Bruce White / SNS Group)

For the club that finished third in the shortened 2019-20 season, last term was a depressing drop in standards for the Steelmen.

Now Graham Alexander has had a transfer window and a pre-season to put his mark on the squad. Declan Gallagher and Devante Cole are among the departures and leave huge shoes to fill, but Alexander has made nine signings, including the impressive Liam Kelly on a permanent deal. Dutch striker Kevin van Veen worked with the manager before, suggesting he’s far from a gamble.

The side came through the League Cup group stages with nine points, but narrow wins over Queen’s Park and Queen of the South, as well as a surprise 2-0 loss to Airdrie, indicate that Motherwell are far from flying.

Rangers

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Rangers have strengthened as they aim to defend their title. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

After steering Rangers to their first title in ten years, Steven Gerrard is hungry for more success. And supporters want more, too. Unsurprisingly, they are odds-on favourites with the bookies to win the Premiership, but success in the cups will also be a target. By Gerrard’s own admission, one trophy out of nine under his watch is ”not good enough”.  

The big and early test comes in Europe. They must successfully negotiate two qualifying rounds to reach the lucrative group stage of the Champions League, something the club last achieved a decade ago.

The signing of Fashion Sakala looks a tidy bit of business, as does the capture of John Lundstram. Departures? Alfredo Morelos’ future is again a hot topic. In a recent interview, the Rangers manager was unable to answer if the striker would be at the club this season. Glen Kamara may have caught the eye of potential suitors after impressing for Finland at the Euros.

With [just over] a month to go before the transfer window closes, speculation over players’ futures will no doubt continue.

Ross County

County have turned to Malky Mackay to lead the team this season. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

While Rangers are odds-on to win the league, Ross County are the shortest price to finish bottom and it’s easy to see why. John Hughes steered the club to a narrow escape from the drop last year, but promptly left to seek new challenges, leaving the club to lick its wounds.

Enter Malky Mackay, a controversial choice given his past, but also a manager with extensive experience.

Mackay has brought in players, including Ross Callachan from Hamilton, and stated an intent to make an impression on the league, but County look the least well-equipped at this stage and face an uphill struggle. Late signings may make a difference, but a relegation battle looks inevitable.

St Johnstone

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St Johnstone had a season to remember in 2020/21. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

What constitutes success for St Johnstone this season after the incredible heroics that saw them win both cups and finish fifth in the league?

Ever the pragmatist, Callum Davidson’s first aim will be to stay in the Premiership, but the team that played with such assurance last year should have no worries on that score and will make a top-six place a more realistic target. Beyond that, it may be down to how many of the core of that side are prised away before the window closes – and how they are replaced.

On-loan centre-back Hayden Muller looks capable of maintaining Saints’ defensive solidity, while left-back Reece Devine joined from Manchester United for the season and looks to be another shrewd addition

On paper, another solid season, with the capability for another cup run or two, looks in the offing, with the added excitement and demands of European football, where an intriguing tie against Galatasaray will result in either Europa League progress or a Conference League play-off place.

Davidson showed last season he could squeeze the maximum out of a small squad with discipline, attitude and belief, as well as no little talent. Pulling off a repeat with league expectations, defence of two trophies and continental competition would add to his rapidly growing reputation.

St Mirren

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Jim Goodwin believes he can make St Mirren a top-six team. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

After falling short of their publicly stated top-six ambition by the finest of margins, Jim Goodwin and his side are setting out with exactly the same target this time around.

The buzz around St Mirren following the completion of the supporters’ buy-out adds another positive in Paisley and hopes will be high that the new era can start off with success.

So far, Saints have held on to the stars of last season, and made it clear that anyone coming for Jamie McGrath will be paying a good price, and paying early enough that a quality replacement can be found. It’s not just about the goal-scoring midfielder, though, a dependable defence remains together for now and the club’s young talents like Ethan Erhahon and Jay Henderson will only get better.

Goodwin has also added wisely, bringing in players with experience of the league. Greg Kiltie and Alan Power joined from relegated Kilmarnock, while Charles Dunne arrived from Motherwell and Curtis Main has bolstered the attack.

Last season showed real progress from a club that had been accustomed to a relegation battle and, even given the increased competition in the league, Goodwin and his players will be focused on taking that next step and a top-half finish.


Murder probe launched into death of teenager at railway station

Justin McLaughlin, 14, died following an incident at High Street station in Glasgow on Saturday afternoon.

Police Scotland

Police have launched a murder inquiry following the death of a 14-year-old boy at a Glasgow railway station.

Justin McLaughlin was found seriously injured at High Street train station after being attacked with a knife at around 3.45pm on Saturday, October 16.

He was taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

An extensive investigation into Justin’s death is under way and police are appealing to members of the public to assist with their enquiries.

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Detective chief inspector Brian Geddes, of Police Scotland’s major investigation team and the senior investigating officer, said: “Our thoughts very much remain with Justin’s family and friends. His family have asked for their privacy to be respected at this very difficult time, and they are being supported by specialist officers.

“Although enquiries are at an early stage, what we do know is that an incident took place at High Street train station and we are sure that there will be people who may have witnessed something in the lead up to this.

“The area would have been busy with members of the public and commuters and we are urging those who have any information, no matter how small, to get in contact with police.”

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James McParland, Justin’s headmaster at St Ambrose High School in Coatbridge, paid tribute to the teenager and said pupils will be given additional support upon their return to school on Monday.

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Mr McPartland said: “The community of St Ambrose High School is shocked and saddened by the death of Justin McLaughlin.

“Justin was a valued member of our community and his loss will be felt by staff and pupils alike.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends, and additional pastoral support will be available to young people within the school on their return on Monday morning.”

Detectives have set up an online portal to encourage members of the public to submit information.

The Major Incident Public Portal (MIPP) is a website that gives the public access to a form so they can send information directly to the major incident teams based at the Scottish Crime Campus:

Detective inspector Marc Francey, of British Transport Police, said: “This was a shocking act of violence in broad daylight, which has seen a boy tragically lose his life.

“We are working closely with Police Scotland and doing all we can to find those responsible, and I would urge any witnesses, or anyone who was in the area at the time and saw anything suspicious, to contact us as soon as possible.

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“We will also be increasing our uniformed patrols in the local area in the coming days to help reassure the travelling public.”

STV News

Police Scotland can be contacted by calling 101 and quoting incident number 2280 of Saturday October 16. 

BTP can also be contacted by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 394 of 16/10/21.

Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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Two children in critical condition after motorway crash

Two women and a man were also seriously injured in the crash on the M8 on Sunday morning.

Police Scotland
Crash: Two children are in a critical condition and three adults seriously injured following collision.

Two children are in hospital in a critical condition after a motorway crash in West Lothian.

Police said the incident, which involved a Ford Focus and a Volkswagen Golf, happened on the M8 at junction 4, near Whitburn, at around 9.50am on Sunday.

A woman, a man and two children who were in the Ford were seriously injured and taken to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People.

The children, aged six and 14, are in a critical condition.

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The female driver of the Volkswagen Golf was taken to University Hospital Wishaw with serious injuries.

The road reopened at 2.35pm.

Sergeant Jennifer Forbes said: “We’re asking for anyone who witnessed the collision or has any potential dashcam footage of the cars involved to please come forward.

“If you believe you can assist our investigation, please call 101, quoting incident 1158 of October 17.”


Former Scottish Labour MP Ernie Ross dies aged 79

Mr Ross, who was the MP for Dundee West from 1979 until 2005, died on Sunday.

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Death: Tributes paid to former MP Ernie Ross.

Former Labour MP Ernie Ross has died at the age of 79.

Mr Ross, who was the MP for Dundee West from 1979 until 2005, died on Sunday in the city.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar paid tribute, saying Mr Ross was a “passionate voice against injustice, not just in Dundee but across the world”.

He added: “Whether campaigning to save the local dental hospital or for human rights abroad, he knew the importance of using the privilege afforded to him by politics to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves.

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“Across the parliament and the Labour Party he was a trusted confidante, adviser and friend.

“My thoughts and the thoughts of the entire Scottish Labour family are with June, his beloved family and his many friends.”

Michael Marra , shadow cabinet secretary for education and skills, said the former Dundee MP was “utterly devoted to his family”.

He wrote on Twitter: “He and June were such good friends to my wife and I and to so many in the party. Always full of encouragement and advice. A very good man who I loved dearly and who I will always miss. RIP.”


Fisherman missing after failing to return from boat trip

Joe Masson left his home in Fraserburgh at 10am on Saturday to go out on his creel boat.

Police Scotland
Missing: Joe Masson has not been seen for more than 24 hours.

A fisherman has gone missing after failing to return home following a trip on his creel boat in Aberdeenshire. 

Joe Masson left his home in Fraserburgh at 10am on Saturday to go out on his boat and was last seen around 1.30pm on board the vessel from Cairnbulg Harbour, Cairnbulg.

The 73-year-old’s family reported him missing after he failed to return home later that day and a search involving police, HMS Coastguard, the MOD and the RNLI has been ongoing to trace him.

Inspector Mark Young from Ellon Police Station said: “We have had significant resources in the area searching for Mr Masson, including the Coastguard helicopter, and search activity will continue in the meantime.

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“The harbour is popular with fishermen and local walkers and I am keen to hear from anyone who was in the area between 10am and 6pm yesterday who may have seen Mr Masson or his blue creel boat ‘Goodway FR23’

“Please call Police Scotland on 101 quoting reference number 3854 of Saturday October 16 2021 if you have seen Mr Masson or have any information that will assist officers with their enquiries.”


Pupils eligible for free school meals ‘should be given food packages’

Families in Midlothian have been given money to help buy packed lunches due to a lack of hot school meals.

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Plea: Councillor urges for families to be given food packages rather than cash.

Families of primary school children who are still missing out on hot school meals should be given food packages rather than cash to support them, a councillor has said.

Hot meals are still off the menu for older primary school children in Midlothian with the local authority giving families who qualify for free meals cash to buy their own packed lunches.

However councillor Kelly Parry has become so concerned by the situation she contacted the cabinet secretary for education Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP seeking advice.

She has urged the council’s chief executive Grace Vickers to take onboard the advice from the MSP, who said local authorities need to step in and provide food not money to families who are struggling to find nutritious meals.

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Councillor Parry said: “I have been contacted by so many families who are concerned about the lack of hot school meals being provided to their children.

“It is so difficult and stressful for many parents, some of whom are working two jobs, to find the food items they need to make sure their children have a proper lunch.

“The supermarket shelves are not well stocked at the moment and costs are rising making it hard to shop for items.

“I would go so far as to say it is a breach of children’s human rights and a national scandal that Midlothian is not providing balanced and nutritious meals in the way other local authorities are doing.”

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At a council meeting last month Midlothian Council’s executive director Kevin Anderson said plans were in place to reintroduce a hot meal option across all ages in October, telling councillors: “It is restricted to a large extent by the school estate and social distancing. There are some restrictions that we still want to apply.”

However councillor Parry said parents whose children qualify for free school meals have received payment to buy packed lunches up to the end of October suggesting the council has missed its deadline.

She raised concerns about the fact only P1 to P4 youngsters were receiving hot school meals across the county while P5 to P7 children entitled to a free meal were receiving payments to buy packed lunches.

Neighbouring East Lothian Council opened its dining halls in primary schools at the start of September but Midlothian primary schools are still serving lunches to P1 to P4 in their classrooms.

Councillor Parry said when she asked officials if money was being saved by not serving hot school meals to older children, she did not receive any “clarity”.

She said: “I would not like to think they are balancing the books over children’s nutritional needs.”

A Midlothian Council spokesperson said moves were underway to reintroduce hot meals for older children.

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They said: “The education service is working closely with the council’s catering service on a phased re-opening of our school dining halls after the October break.

“Parents and carers will be informed by their child’s school as to when the school lunch service in dining halls will reopen after the October break.

“Payments will continue to be paid to parents and carers of P5 to P7 pupils eligible for free school meals until the service resumes.

“In the meantime though, P1s to P4s continue to be offered free school lunches, including a hot meal option, which they are having in classrooms.”

Reporting by Local Democracy Reporter Marie Sharp


Harry Potter trolley appears at Waverley train station

Fans will be able to recreate the moment the young wizard discovered Platform 9 ¾.

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Harry Potter: Trolley appears in Edinburgh to celebrate 20 years since the first movie's release.

A magical trolley has appeared at Edinburgh Waverley station to celebrate 20 years since the premiere of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Fans will be able to recreate the moment the young wizard rushes through the magical wall to discover Platform 9 ¾ and the Hogwarts Express.

The trolley, which is a symbol of the gateway between the ‘Muggle’ and wizarding world, is usually situated on the concourse of King’s Cross Station and is visited every year by more than two million people.

The installation will be available at Edinburgh Waverley for Harry Potter fans to visit until October 18 before heading to Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast and Dublin.

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Harry Potter fans gathered at the unveiling of the trolley in Edinburgh on Saturday and were delighted to recreate the magical moment for themselves. 

Alex McKenzie, 27, said: “I have been a huge Harry Potter fan from since I can remember so it feels great to be a part of the 20th anniversary celebrations. 

“The trolley is such a classic scene from the films and recreating it here has been magical”

Seven-year-old Jenna Marshall added: “Posing with the trolley was just like I was actually going to go to Hogwarts. I felt so excited, it was so realistic!”

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The trolley tour was launched to thank the fan community for their support over the past two decades and help them capture their own version of this iconic moment from the first film.

The official 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone will be celebrated on November 16.


Pensioner dies at scene of early morning house fire

The 79-year-old man died following the blaze on Finavon Terrace, Dundee on Sunday morning.

© Google Maps 2020
Death: Man dies following early morning house fire.

A pensioner has died following a house fire in Dundee.

Emergency services were called to the blaze at a property on Finavon Terrace around 7.20am on Sunday. 

A 79-year-old man died at the scene. 

The Scottish Fire and Rescue service extinguished the fire and enquiries into the cause of the blaze are ongoing. 

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a report around 7.20am on Sunday October 17 of a fire at a property in Finavon Terrace, Dundee.

“Emergency services attended. A 79-year-old man sadly died at the scene.

“The fire was extinguished by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and enquiries into the cause of the fire are ongoing.”


Councillors back plans for new service station near A90

The proposed facility near Laurencekirk would feature retail outlets, a restaurant and a hotel.

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Service station: Councillors back plans for the facility near Laurencekirk.

Councillors have backed plans to build a new service station near Laurencekirk, paving the way for the creation of 30 new jobs.

A J Developments had applied to Aberdeenshire Council seeking planning permission in principle for the facility.

The development, to be located next to the A90/A937 junction, is expected to include retail units, a restaurant, a ten-bay petrol station and a 100-bed hotel.

The initial proposal states the site would also feature a children’s play area, toilets and parking as well as charging for electric vehicles.

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The development is expected to create 30 new jobs.

The addition of two drive-thru restaurants and a drive-thru coffee shop to the site had also been proposed, however these plans were later removed.

The new development will be constructed separately to the Scottish Government’s A90/A937 Junction Improvement Scheme.

Mearns Community Council supported the application but raised concerns over “safe” pedestrian access to Denlethen Wood and the diversion of vehicles should an accident occur on the A90.

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Council planners recommended the plan be approved stating the proposed hotel would “cater for a gap in the current market” following the closure of facilities in and around Laurencekirk over recent years.

They also said the development could be constructed “without detriment” to the character of the surrounding area and would provide “clear public economic benefits” by creating local jobs.

At Tuesday’s meeting councillor George Carr moved a motion in support of the application and said he believes the new facility would help the town and wider area.

He said: “The 100-bed hotel could well be a great advantage for the Mearns, it provides an anchor for people to stop off then forage out to support and enjoy other businesses and communities that would greatly benefit from this development.”

Provost Bill Howatson backed the motion and the committee agreed to refer the application to the Infrastructure Services Committee for determination.

Reporting by Local Democracy Reporter Kirstie Topp


Barclays set to reveal £1.6bn profits with more Covid cash released

The bank set aside £3.7bn as a rainy day fund last year and released £742m earlier this year.

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Barclays is set to reveal a rise in profits next week.

Barclays is set to reveal a rise in profits next week driven by a buoyant investment banking division and the release of bad loan provisions set aside due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bank set aside £3.7bn as a rainy day fund last year and released £742m earlier this year. Investors will be looking to see how much more will be released on Thursday as the economy recovers.

Bosses revealed a strong profit rebound when they updated the City on the first six months of the year in July, recording pre-tax profits of £5bn against just £1.3bn in the same period in 2020.

Analysts are expecting the group to post profits of £1.6bn in the three months to October against £1.1bn made a year ago.

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Between July and October last year, the bank took further bad loan provisions of £608m to cover itself from any Covid-19 losses.

The City is expecting the release of these funds to provide a boost to profits for the same period this year, although how much remains uncertain.

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Last year, the group put aside swathes of money in case customers defaulted on payments, but these provisions are being unwound – which helped profits substantially in the first half.

“It’s a short-term tailwind, but one which we think will have continued into this quarter.”

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But she warned that low interest rates will continue to drag on the profitability of Barclays’ loans.

Russ Mould and Danni Hewson, financial analysts at AJ Bell, said the performance of the investment bank would also be scrutinised closely by analysts and investors.

They said: “The unit had a good first half, generating £3.4bn of pre-tax profit against £2.2bn in the prior period in 2020, helped by active bond and equity markets, plenty of primary and secondary equity market activity and a good dollop of mergers and acquisitions on top.”

Analysts expect the division to post profits of £1.8bn for the period between July and October.

The pair also said that shareholders will be looking for any update on when Barclays’ chief executive may stand down after churn in the management team in the last year.

They said: “There have been hints that boss Jes Staley may leave by the end of 2021, especially after a reshuffle of management heads at this time a year ago.”

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