‘Our roads are a catastrophic accident waiting to happen’

Roads campaigners in Caithness are urging the Scottish Government to spend millions on repairs.

Road to ruin: 'Huge public anger' over the condition of surfaces in Caithness. STV News
Road to ruin: 'Huge public anger' over the condition of surfaces in Caithness.

Roads campaigners in Caithness are urging the Scottish Government to provide a multi-million pound package of emergency funding for repairs

Hundreds of people have backed the call from a new action group ‘Caithness Roads Recovery’, signing up to an online community plea for help.

One of the founders, retired area police commander Iain Gregory, said he had been inundated with messages of support amid “huge public anger” about the deteriorating state of some routes.

Mr Gregory and fellow resident Helen Campbell have honed in on long stretches of mainly non-trunk roads in Caithness that bear vast potholes and crumbling surfaces.

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The campaign group, which has registered the same issues in parts of neighbouring north-west Sutherland, has warned of “catastrophic accidents waiting to happen”.

It states on its new campaign page: “Our roads are a vital lifeline for us all and their ever-deteriorating state is seriously impacting that lifeline.

“The practice used over the past two decades of quick, short-term repairs is no longer acceptable. Our community cannot continue to function properly and thrive on such poor roads.”

There needs to be a long-term, robust plan that will provide the region with a permanent solution.”

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Attributing a huge increase in the volume of traffic in recent years to extra tourism and windfarm construction, Mr Gregory – who served with the police for more than 30 years – said action was needed “at a senior level” to push for emergency funding.

Highland councillor Matthew Reiss, another former area police chief in the county, echoed the concerns.

He said: “The problem has built up over many years and the recent spell of severe weather, whilst not unexpected in a Highland winter, has been the final straw for a lot of the local roads.

“It is clear that the sum required to repair the roads is millions of pounds, which is way beyond the ability of the local authority.

“The Highlands needs an emergency package of funding from the Scottish Government.”

He highlighted priorities routes linking Halkirk and Calder, and Halkirk and Glengolly.

Mr Reiss added: “I’ve a particular concern for emergency service drivers who might be responding to a really serious incident.”

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Caithness Roads Recovery is collating data aimed at demonstrating the impact of deteriorating roads on people’s daily life, safety and finances.

Liability for vehicle damage due to poorly maintained non-trunk roads often falls on Highland Council.

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “We have a process in place regarding potholes and defects on council maintained roads and all incidents that are reported are followed up.

“Our roads service has continued to deliver frontline services throughout the Covid-19 restrictions. Our focus has been urgent road defects and winter maintenance – and remains so.

“Where resources and restrictions have permitted, we have undertaken routine maintenance works. In the meantime, we refer people to our factsheet on potholes on our website.

“We encourage anyone to report any defects using the online reporting form or they can phone 01349 886601.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The A9 is a vital lifeline route for the far north of Scotland which supports commerce, industry, education, health, tourism and the social wellbeing of all the communities it serves.

“We recognise this importance and through our Trunk Road management and maintenance contract invest significantly the operation and maintenance of the A9. Since 2007 to November 2020, the Scottish Government has invested almost £254m in the maintenance of the A9 and £7.4m on the A99.

“Our Operating Company BEAR Scotland continues with their weekly safety inspections of trunk roads, prioritising repairs as required.

“In addition, the delivery of the £9.6m A9 Berriedale Braes Improvement Project is delivering safety benefits for road users by removing an existing hairpin bend and improving the road alignment.”


Holyrood pays tribute to ‘extraordinary’ Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, passed away on Friday morning at Windsor Castle.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led tributes to the late Duke of Edinburgh at Holyrood.

The Scottish Parliament was recalled on Monday for only the sixth time in its history so as MSPs could show their respect to Prince Philip in a motion of condolence.

The 99-year-old, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, passed away on Friday morning at Windsor Castle.

The Duke and the Queen were married for more than 70 years and Philip dedicated decades of his life to royal duty, serving the nation at the monarch’s side.

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Royal: Holyrood paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh.
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Following a one-minute silence in remembrance, Sturgeon said: “The tributes paid to the Duke of Edinburgh over these last three days show the affection in which he was held here in Scotland, across the United Kingdom and indeed around the world.

“On behalf of the people of Scotland I express my deepest sympathy to Her Majesty The Queen, who is grieving the loss of her strength and stay, her husband of almost 74 years, and also to the Duke’s children and to the wider Royal Family.”

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Holyrood: A minute’s silence was held for the Duke of Edinburgh.

The First Minister highlighted his life-saving efforts during the Second World War, and like so many of his generation the Duke had “endured difficulties and faced dangers that generations since can barely comprehend”.

Sturgeon described the relationship between The Queen and the Duke as a “true partnership”.

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She said: “He faced the additional challenge of being the husband of a powerful woman at a time when that was even more of an exception than it is today.

“That reversal of the more traditional dynamic was highly unusual in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and even now isn’t as common as it might be.

“Yet, the Duke of Edinburgh was devoted to supporting the Queen – they were a true partnership.”

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Braemar Gathering: The Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The FM said she enjoyed speaking to the Duke about the books they were reading when she would stay at Balmoral.

She added: “He was a thoughtful man, deeply interesting and fiercely intelligent.

“He was also a serious book worm, which I am too, so talking about the books we were reading was often for me a real highlight of our conversations.”

Sturgeon highlighted his interest in industry and science and said he was “far-sighted” in his early support for conservation.

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She added: “Indeed, as far back as 1969 in a speech here in Edinburgh he warned of the risks of ‘virtually indestructible’ plastics.

“Of course, in 1956 he founded the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which now every year provides opportunity, hope and inspiration to more than one million young people in more than 100 countries across the world.”

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Just married: Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day.

The First Minister said “it is right that our parliament pays tribute” to the Duke.

She added: “In doing so, we mourn his passing and we extend our deepest sympathy to Her Majesty The Queen and her family.

“We reflect on his distinguished war-time record, his love and support for The Queen and his decades of public service to Scotland, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

“Above all, we celebrate and we honour an extraordinary life.”

The Scottish Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson said she couldn’t imagine what “it is like to be married to someone for 73 years”.

She added: “And I can’t imagine what it is to have to get up and face every future day without them – what that absence feels like.

“And I think the recognition of the enormity of such a loss is what has led so many over the past few days to look past the titles and the 41 gun salutes and have such a sense of feeling for Her Majesty on such a human level.”

Davidson described the Duke as a “dashing young naval officer” who went on to become a “palace moderniser”.

She said: “He was a man that was born before the discovery of penicillin, before the creation of the United Nations or the invention of the television or the jet engine.

“But a moderniser he was in life, as well as in work. How many men in the 1950s gave up their job for their wife’s career?”

She also recalled how he had once asked former Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie about her underwear, at an event in Holyrood held to mark Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland.

Davidson said: “Seeing Iain Gray [former Scottish Labour leader] sporting a tie in the papal tartan, the Duke turned to Tory leader Annabel Goldie to ask if she had a pair of knickers made out of this.

“Quite properly, Annabel retorted, ‘I couldn’t possibly comment, and even if I did I couldn’t possibly exhibit them’.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he’d “never had the privilege” of meeting Prince Philip, so didn’t have a personal anecdote to share.

However he retold the story of a man called Jon Watts, who was jailed at the age of 17.

Sarwar said: “Jon recalled ‘there was lots of alcohol and no aspirations for people like me’, is what he said.

“But while in prison he came across the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, which he said gave him a new sense of direction.

“He camped out for his first award not on a Scottish mountainside, but in a tent on the artificial grass of a prison football pitch.

“Jon went on to get the bronze, silver and gold award while serving a six-year sentence.

“The skill he learned during the programme was cooking, and upon leaving prison he set up his very own catering business, now helping other young people to learn new skills and find jobs. ‘It saved my life’, Jon said last week.

“That’s just one life that the Prince helped save; there will be countless others from different walks of life.”

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Edinburgh: Members of the 105th Regiment Royal Artillery fire a 41-round gun salute.

Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, also paid tribute despite the party wishing for an elected head of state.

Highlighting all the lives lost during the coronavirus pandemic, he added: “Today is a moment to extend our thoughts to Prince Philip’s family and to all those who are grieving for their loved ones in a spirit of respect for the equal value of every human life.”

Scottish Lib Dems leader Willie Rennie recalled a meeting in which Prince Philip asked him about a “little blue man” badge he used to wear.

He said: “The Duke of Edinburgh spotted it at a reception. He bounced up, demanding to know what it was. ‘To show support for the prostate cancer campaign’, I said.

“He looked at me closely. He says, ‘have you got it or are you against it?’ Then he bounced off again.

“The engagement was only 30 seconds long, but it has stayed with me and to be retold numerous times over the years.

“It seems that he left lasting impressions with so many others too. Some less repeatable than others, but so many were fun and memorable.”

Old Firm moved to Sunday to avoid clash with Duke’s funeral

The Scottish FA has changed all fixtures scheduled for the date.

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The Scottish Cup Fourth Round fixtures have been rescheduled.

The Old Firm game will kick-off at 3pm on Sunday after the Rangers and Celtic match was rescheduled to avoid clashing with Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

The Scottish Football Association said the change of plans was made following the announcement that Prince Philip’s funeral will take place at 3pm on Saturday, April 17.

All the Scottish Cup Fourth Round fixtures scheduled for the date have been changed.

Rangers versus Celtic was due to kick-off at 4pm on Saturday.

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St. Mirren versus Inverness Caledonian and Motherwell versus Greenock Morton will be played on Friday night.

Kilmarnock versus Montrose will kick-off at 11.45am on Saturday, to ensure any extra time and penalties do not overlap with the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral ceremony.

A Scottish FA spokesperson said: “In cognisance of the funeral ceremony of HRH Prince Philip this Saturday, April 17, the Scottish FA can now confirm revised kick-off times for the weekend’s Scottish Cup fourth-round ties.

“These amendments have been made in consultation with broadcast partners, relevant government officials, Police Scotland and participating clubs.”

Man arrested after blaze rips through community centre

Emergency services were called to a charity-run eco village in Findhorn in the early hours of Monday morning.

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Blaze: Extensive damage to community centre following fire.

A man has been arrested after a fire ripped through a community centre in Moray. 

Emergency services were called to The Park, an ecovillage run by the Findhorn Foundation, in the early hours of Monday morning following reports of a fire.

Six appliances were sent to the scene alongside specialist resources in order to extinguish the blaze.

Police have confirmed a 49-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident.

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A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 2am on Monday, April 12 to reports of a fire within the Findhorn Foundation Park, Findhorn, Forres, Moray.

“Operations Control mobilised six fire appliances as well as specialist resources to the scene to extinguish the fire.

“There were no reported casualties.

“Firefighters left after ensuring the area was safe.”

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The foundation said “extensive damage” has been caused to the community centre and main sanctuary at the eco village.

In a statement on Facebook, Findhorn Foundation said: “We’re so sad to tell you that there was a serious fire here in the early hours of the morning, causing extensive damage to the community centre and the main sanctuary. 

“Thankfully no-one has been hurt.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We were called around 2.05am on Monday, 12 April to a report of a fire at a community centre in The Park, Findhorn, Moray. 

“A 49-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident and enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.”


Many Scots pessimistic over summer holiday travel hopes

Concerns over isolation and possible resort restrictions were given as the key reasons to choose a staycation over a foreign trip.

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Many Scots remain unconvinced that they will be able to book a holiday abroad this year.

STV News spoke to people around Aberdeen city centre on Monday to find out if they are confident planning a break in the sun later this year.

Concerns over the requirement to isolate on return and possible resort restrictions were given as the key reasons to choose a staycation over a foreign trip.

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said that those in England “could start to think” about booking overseas travel as restrictions eased across the country.

However, the Scottish Government said “where possible” it will look to adopt a four-nation approach, but the position in Scotland “remains that it’s not permitted to travel abroad without an essential reason”.

William pays tribute to ‘extraordinary’ grandfather Philip

The Duke of Cambridge says Philip's life was defined by service to country, Commonwealth, Queen and family.

Duchess of Cambridge via Kensington Palace
Prince Philip with his great-grandson Prince George.

The Duke of Cambridge has paid a heartfelt tribute to his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, describing him as an “extraordinary man and part of an extraordinary generation”.

William’s statement spoke of Philip’s relationship with Kate and expressed his gratitude for the “kindness he showed her”.

The future king summed up the duke saying his “…life was defined by service – to his country and Commonwealth, to his wife and Queen, and to our family”.

Over the weekend the duke’s four children spoke movingly about the loss of their father and how the Queen is stoically coping after her husband of 73 years died peacefully on Friday.

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Prince Harry, Prince Phillip and Prince William in 2015.
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The duke said about Philip: “My grandfather’s century of life was defined by service – to his country and Commonwealth, to his wife and Queen, and to our family.

“I feel lucky to have not just had his example to guide me, but his enduring presence well into my own adult life – both through good times and the hardest days.

“I will always be grateful that my wife had so many years to get to know my grandfather and for the kindness he showed her.

“I will never take for granted the special memories my children will always have of their great-grandpa coming to collect them in his carriage and seeing for themselves his infectious sense of adventure as well as his mischievous sense of humour!

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“My grandfather was an extraordinary man and part of an extraordinary generation. Catherine and I will continue to do what he would have wanted and will support The Queen in the years ahead. I will miss my Grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job.”

Kensington Palace tweeted the duke’s statement together with a touching new photograph of a young Prince George with his great-grandfather Philip.

George, a future King, was pictured sat by the duke’s side on the box seat of a carriage, as Philip held the reins and a whip.

Dressed in shorts and a knitted jumper, George is holding open a picture book in the taken in Norfolk in 2015.

The Duke of Sussex also paid tribute to his grandfather, saying he was “a man of service, honour and great humour”.

In a statement issued through his foundation Archewell, Prince Harry said: “My grandfather was a man of service, honour and great humour. He was authentically himself, with a seriously sharp wit, and could hold the attention of any room due to his charm—and also because you never knew what he might say next.

“He will be remembered as the longest reigning consort to the Monarch, a decorated serviceman, a Prince and a Duke. But to me, like many of you who have lost a loved one or grandparent over the pain of this past year, he was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ‘til the end.

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“He has been a rock for Her Majesty The Queen with unparalleled devotion, by her side for 73 years of marriage, and while I could go on, I know that right now he would say to all of us, beer in hand, ‘Oh do get on with it!’

“So, on that note, Grandpa, thank you for your service, your dedication to Granny, and for always being yourself. You will be sorely missed, but always remembered—by the nation and the world. Meghan, Archie, and I (as well as your future great-granddaughter) will always hold a special place for you in our hearts.

“‘Per Mare, Per Terram.’”

Three in court accused of human trafficking offences

Two men and a woman appeared at Hamilton Sherriff Court on Friday.

Police Scotland
National Human Trafficking Unit police executed search warrants in North Lanarkshire.

Three people have been charged in connection with human trafficking offences after specialist officers raided two properties in North Lanarkshire.

National Human Trafficking Unit police executed search warrants on Dalriada Crescent and Jerviston Court, Motherwell, on Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation.

Two men, Floreau Sandu, 50, and Florian Pietraru, 39, and a 25-year-old woman, Teodora Rotaru, appeared at Hamilton Sherriff Court on Friday, April 9.

All three faced charges under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015.

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They are accused of being involved in the running of a brothel and procuring or attempting to procure a woman or girl to become a prostitute.

They entered no plea and were committed for further examination and released on bail.

They are expected to appear in court at a later date.


Coronavirus: No further deaths as cases rise by 199 overnight

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 154 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

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Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further 199 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

While cases are often lower following a weekend, the figure is the smallest number of new cases since 70 were recorded on September 14.

No additional deaths have been reported.

The death toll of those who tested positive stands at 7630, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now more than 10,000.

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The daily test positivity rate is 2.4%, up from the 1.8% reported on Sunday when 250 cases were recorded.

Of the new cases reported on Monday, 67 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 28 are in Lothian, 28 are in Lanarkshire, and 21 are in Fife.

The rest of the cases are spread out across six other health board areas.

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 154 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. Out of those, 21 patients are in intensive care.

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The Scottish Government also confirmed that 2,668,723 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 11,145 from the day before.

A total of 590,174 people have received their second dose, a rise of 21,299.


Parts of Scotland experience ‘coldest April night’ on record

Sunshine, snow and hail combined for a twist on an April shower this weekend.

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April cools: Areas across the country recorded the coldest April night in around 30 years.

Parts of Scotland have recorded the coldest April night in around 30 years with temperatures dropping to almost -10C.

People across the country were left baffled when sunshine, snow and hail combined for a twist on an April shower this weekend.

On Saturday night the mercury fell to -6C in Aberdeenshire and as low as -8C in the north and west Highlands.

Temperatures dropped even lower on Sunday night, with Monday morning being an April record-breaker for some areas,

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Tulloch Bridge in the Highlands was the coldest spot with a low of -9.4C recorded, which is almost a whole degree lower than the record for April. Records here go back almost 30 years.

Even further south the temperatures hit the extreme end of cold for April with a low of -7.4C in Tyndrum, -4.5C in Islay, -4.3C in Edinburgh and -4C at Bishopton in Renfrewshire. The lows in Tyndrum and Islay look like new records.

While Scotland has had local records, the all-time record has been safe, with -15.4C recorded back in 1917 at Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway.

STV Meteorologist Sean Batty said: “Cold and snowy weather in April and May can come as a big shock, but this part of spring can be very volatile with some huge day-to-day swings in temperature.

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“So far this year it seems we’ve lacked the extreme warmer spells where we can get the BBQ and sun loungers out, and it’s been more typical to be bundled up against an icy wind.

‘I’ve got bad news for those of you hankering after the other end of extreme, I don’t think we’ll be hitting the 20s until May.’

STV Meteorologist Sean Batty

“In the last few weeks, we’ve had some abnormally cold conditions but we’ve not been alone with central and western Europe colder than usual – including Spain where there was some extreme heat recently.

“Most of the country had some snow showers during the weekend, and where skies cleared at night, there were some very low temperatures.

“As we go through this week it will feel warmer by day with temperatures getting back into double digits by the end of the week, but frosts will still occur by night, although temperatures won’t be as low as recent nights.”

Sean added: “I’ve got bad news for those of you hankering after the other end of extreme, I don’t think we’ll be hitting the 20s until May.”


SPFL matches moved to noon ahead of Duke’s funeral

Nine matches will move ahead of the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral, which is due to take place at 3pm.

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SPFL: Matches moved to noon on day of Duke's funeral.

Football matches scheduled for Saturday will now kick off at midday to accommodate the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, the SPFL have said.

Prince Philip died on Friday morning at the age of 99 at Windsor Castle. 

The Duke’s funeral will take place on Saturday at St George’s Chapel, Windsor at 3pm.

Following discussions with the Scottish FA and other stakeholders, the SPFL announced on Monday that nine games will now begin at 12pm. 

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However it is not yet known if the fourth round of the Scottish Cup will take place this coming weekend.

One lunchtime game and four 3pm matches have been scheduled, with Rangers vs Celtic due to kick off at 4pm on Saturday.

In the Scottish Championship, Alloa Athletic vs Raith Rovers, Arbroath vs Ayr United and Dunfermilne Athletic vs Queen of the South will all begin at noon. 

Scottish League One games that will move will be Cove Rangers vs Falkirk and East Fife v Peterhead. 

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In the Scottish League Two, Annan Athletic will take on Brechin City, Cowdenbeath will face Stirling Albion, Edinburgh City will meet Queen’s Park and Elgin City will go up against Albion Rovers at midday.


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