If it feels like all this has been going on for a while, it’s because it has.
Almost two-and-a-half years since the allegations against Alex Salmond broke. More than two years since he won the judicial review against the Scottish Government. A year since he was acquitted of criminal charges in the High Court.
But today Nicola Sturgeon was on trial – politically at least – and this report by the Irish barrister James Hamilton has cleared her of breaching the ministerial code.
There were no leaks from this committee – the Scottish Government didn’t even know they were definitely getting it today, until today.
James Hamilton dealt with a couple of big government scandals as Ireland’s chief prosecutor and is considered above reproach.
That’s why so much was riding on this report. It will be enough to gain the Greens support in the confidence vote tomorrow.
But the Conservatives will still press that vote, particularly on the back of the (Holyrood) committee’s findings tomorrow.
We know from leaks that report will claim Nicola Sturgeon has breached the ministerial code, but after today that will be like water off a duck’s back.
To the First Minister, the committee report is political – she believes opposition MSPs set out to get her.
This report (by James Hamilton) is independent and it clears her but it won’t be the last word.
Alex Salmond accused Nicola Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code – he will make a statement later this week. The women who complained in the first place are angry at leaks from the committee after their evidence in private and the whole issue of trust will now be a big issue in the Scottish Parliament election campaign.
This will have damaged Nicola Sturgeon, but it hasn’t brought her down.
Tartan Army fans gathered in London to celebrate Scotland’s 0-0 draw with England.
Scotland put in a superb performance to earn a draw with England at Wembley on Friday night in their second game of Euro 2020.
A win over Croatia at Hampden on Tuesday should be enough to reach their first ever major tournament knockout stage.
Supporters were out in force in London celebrating the result which keeps Scotland’s Euro 2020 hopes alive.
A large-scale clean-up is under way on Saturday morning at Leicester Square after fans congregated in the area the night before to celebrate the much-anticipated match.
Red flares were set off as crowds gathered together following the result.
Many fans were wearing kilts and draped in Scotland flags, singing and cheering in the popular tourist spot.
Others kicked footballs and many belted out the Scottish national anthem and chanted “No Scotland, no party”.
The Metropolitan Police said officers entered Leicester Square at about 12.45am and encouraged those still at the scene to leave the area, with the square finally cleared by 1.15am.
A total of 30 people were arrested in central London as part of the policing operation for the Euros clash.
The force added 25 of the arrests were in central London while five people were arrested in the vicinity of Wembley.
Scotland Yard said in a tweet: “13 arrests were for public order offences, six for drunk and disorderly, four for assault on police, three for assault, two related to Class A drugs and one each for breaching a dispersal order and breaching a banning order.”
Meanwhile in Scotland, fans displayed their home support by gathering in Glasgow’s George Square to celebrate the result.
Supporters also gathered at an official Euros fan zone in Glasgow to watch the Auld Enemy clash.
It was the biggest event in the city since the pandemic began despite concerns it could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.
Up to 6000 people each day – split into two 3000 sessions – have been able to watch Euros matches at Glasgow Green if they have a ticket.
Following the game, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Yes, sir, you all boogied.”
This week, thousands of Scotland fans travelled to London despite warnings they should not go unless they have a match ticket, or a safe place to watch the game.
Wembley only had 25% capacity for the game, and Scotland supporters were not able to access the traditional Trafalgar Square meeting place as it had been reserved as a fan zone for key workers.
The First Minister urged members of the Tartan Army to “please, please, please try to behave in a way that is a safe as possible”.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Covid briefing on Friday, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The virus doesn’t care about football, it is not going to give you a free pass because you are there celebrating a football match.”
It’s been the fixture of Jim Baxter, of Kenny Dalglish, and of Leigh Griffiths. It’s also been the fixture of Paul Gascoigne and Paul Scholes and countless others over the 149 years these rivals have been competing on the pitch.
On Friday night at Wembley, Scotland’s current crop stepped into the match that matters more than any others – and showed they can compete as well as anyone.
Steve Clarke’s players couldn’t quite come away from the spiritual home of English football with a victory, but an impressive showing let viewers across the continent know that Scotland are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the bigger names at Euro 2020.
It would be easy to look at the scoreline and assume this was a backs-to-the-wall, heroic defence under siege, or a battling ‘gerrintaethum’ blood and thunder battle. It was neither.
Clarke’s players were executing a clever game plan for sure, but they exhibited a level of control and assurance, while showcasing their own abilities. Storms had to be weathered at times, but Scotland weren’t just huff and puff and had their more fancied opponents rattled.
The result was vindication for the head coach, who had bristled at some of the reaction to the opening-day loss to Czech Republic. Clarke felt that criticism of the performance at Hampden was over the top, given the 23-year exile from major tournament football that preceded.
Nevertheless, he made changes to his team, with four coming in to the side and all excelling alongside teammates who raised their game.
‘Gilmour the cream of the crop’
Pick of the crop was Billy Gilmour, the Chelsea 20-year-old who was handed his first start. His inclusion was what everyone was talking about when the team sheets came out, his performance was what they were raving about long after the final whistle.
Gilmour now looks a near-cert to face Croatia and to be a part of every Scotland game from here on in. His movement and passing helped set the tempo from the off, and if there was one thing needed to help settle the nerves, it was of the slight, unassuming youngster at the heart of the action, radiating confidence as he received the ball in tight spots only to emerge, head up, with options to survey.
Flanked by committed, energetic and intelligent performances from Callum McGregor and John McGinn, Scotland had a heart that was steady and drove the team on.
Clarke also made changes to the defence and it was an area that had prompted concern from plenty in the build-up.
There were plenty who worried that watching Harry Kane would be punishment, and fears that seeing Phil Foden pick holes in the back line would be like spending 90 minutes in a dentist’s chair.
Instead Kieran Tierney returned to the back line and added a layer of solidity, alongside Grant Hanley, who has arguably been Scotland’s best player across the two Euro 2020 matches. With Scott McTominay dropping back to play on the right, the trio took on the direct battles and won them. Kane came into the game with 34 international goals, only two less than the entire Scotland squad, but he was restricted to just 19 touches and England’s leader and captain was hooked in the second half. He walked off with the look of a man who knows that his markers had ensured plenty of column inches about his crisis in form.
In attack, Clarke named two forwards in Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes, a statement that his side weren’t in London just to defend, and the pair exemplified the attitude the coach has instilled in his side. Both worked tirelessly, with Adams’ first touch ensuring that he always had space to bring others into the play or to have a pop at goal when he could.
On the flanks, captain Andy Robertson was his usual self, leading by example and contributing to defence and attack in equal measure. But on the other side of the park was a player who had been the subject of plenty pre-match discussion.
‘O’Donnell led by example’
Stephen O’Donnell did not have a good game against Czech Republic and it was understandable and fair that people discussed the other options within the squad. O’Donnell was more than aware of the widespread criticism, but Clarke stuck by him and was rewarded with a display of tenacity, belief, discipline and no little skill. Had Jordan Pickford not got a hand to his well-struck volley, he would also have been the scorer of a goal that would have gone down in Scotland folklore.
It’s one of football’s well-worn phrases to talk about how young players who want to reach the top might want to watch one star or another and learn the tricks of the trade. If you’re looking for a model to demonstrate how to shake off a poor performance, tune out the critics and excel in adversity, O’Donnell is the man to point out to your young Scotland hopeful.
After considering all the positives from memorable night at Wembley, it’s almost a bit of a jolt to realise that to build on the point and make progress, Scotland really need to beat the World Cup finalists in a few days’ time.
Clarke might make tweaks here and there but it’s hard to imagine that he won’t keep together a system and personnel that went so well together.
As they return to training at their base camp in Darlington, none of the Scotland squad will be thinking they have an easy task ahead, but after a defeat to England and a draw against Czech Republic, all accounts have Croatia down as a shadow of the side of three years ago.
If given one wish, you might wonder if Scotland could only field the national team of three years from now. There’s a sense that Clarke is on to something with his approach and of all the options available to him, the majority still have room to develop and improve, especially in international games. As O’Donnell said after the match, even for the experienced players, “all of this is new to all of us”.
Instead, it will be a case of building on a performance to be proud of. Home advantage and a feeling of optimism will buoy the squad but an equally smart and controlled performance will be required to rattle Luka Modric and company.
After a long exile, Scotland have come a long way in just a few days from their opening match defeat. Having found their stride against England, all eyes now turn to the Croatia game and a chance for the national team to take a historic and significant step forward.
Funding of £215m pledged to close schools’ attainment gap
It will see head teachers across the country share £147m in Pupil Equity Funding in 2021-22.
Schools will receive a record £215m funding for efforts to close the poverty attainment gap this year, with the new education secretary saying such work is “more vital than ever” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Shirley-Anne Somerville said the cash, the largest sum ever handed out in a single year to tackle the issue, will fund “targeted help” for the most disadvantaged students.
It will see head teachers across the country share £147m in Pupil Equity Funding in 2021-22, with the money going directly to schools for them to determine how best to use it.
In addition, the nine councils with the highest concentrations of deprivation in Scotland – known as Challenge Authorities – will share a further £43m.
Work to help improve the attainment of youngsters who have been in care, including through schemes such as mentoring programmes, will receive up to £12m.
A further £7m will be shared between 73 additional schools with the highest concentration of pupils from deprived areas, with the same amount going to national programmes, including those run by the third-sector, which work to raise attainment.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously pledged that tackling the attainment gap is a top priority, but her SNP Government has come under fire from opponents on its record in this area.
Somerville, who was appointed education secretary after May’s Holyrood election, stressed “closing the poverty-related attainment gap and ensuring every young person has the chance to fulfil their potential remains central to this Government’s work”.
She added: “Our ambition is a long-term one and we know that the challenges presented by the pandemic mean our efforts to deliver equity in education are more vital than ever.
“This first instalment of the expanded Attainment Scotland Fund, with record funding of more than £215 million, will allow headteachers, schools, councils and other partners to provide targeted help for some of our most disadvantaged pupils.
“We are providing investment across a number of diverse programmes which will benefit looked-after children, support pupils in our most deprived areas and empower headteachers to invest their funding on initiatives that are right for the children in their schools.”
STV’s coverage of Scotland’s much-anticipated Euro 2020 clash with England achieved huge ratings, with an overnight peak audience of 1.938m tuning in.
The coverage, which ended in a goalless draw, scored STV’s highest ever peak audience since records began in 2002, beating the moment Coronation Street serial killer Richard Hillman confessed his crimes to wife Gail in 2003, which attracted 1.932 million viewers to the channel.
The match, which was presented by Raman Bhardwaj and Sheelagh McLaren with punditry from David Moyes, John Collins, Gemma Fay and Kenny McLean, comfortably became STV’s most-watched programme of the last decade and its best watched football match ever. The programme delivered an average overnight audience of 1.381m in Scotland, which was a 73% share of viewing.
The match also delivered the highest ever audience for a live streamed event (380k) on STV Player. Viewers who missed the game can watch it back in full on the streaming service.
As part of its Euro 2020 coverage, STV will be hosting coverage of Scotland’s next Euro 2020 clash, with Croatia, on Tuesday. Raman, Sheelagh, Kenny and Gemma will be joined at Hampden by Gordon Strachan and Stuart McCall for expert insight and analysis.
Bobby Hain, managing director, Broadcast at STV, said: “This was Scotland’s most hotly-anticipated match this century and it’s incredible to see that so many people tuned into STV and STV Player to enjoy it. Those ratings prove that, win, lose or draw, Scotland is undoubtedly a nation of football fans, and we’re looking forward to bringing viewers another nail-biting night of action from Hampden on Tuesday.”
Scotland took a point from England but left their mark on Wembley after a statement performance from Steve Clarke’s side saw the national team keep their hopes of Euro 2020 progress alive.
A draw was a fair result after both sides had chances but failed to take them, but Scotland leave London with more credit after matching a team with a higher reputation and loftier aspirations.
Clarke and his players can now relish Tuesday’s encounter with Croatia at Hampden, hoping to replicate a performance of energy, discipline and purpose, but with added goals if they are to progress to the knockout stages.
After the deflating disappointment of their opening day defeat to Czech Republic, Scotland needed a lift and a pulsating 90 minutes under Wembley’s arch proved that the team aren’t out of place at Europe’s top table this summer.
Clarke and his players had arrived in London full of hope despite the opening day defeat to the Czech Republic that saw the excitement of being back at a major tournament turn to dismay. The head coach had been adamant that the performance of the team had been encouraging, though he knew that his side couldn’t pass up as many chances again.
Both he and Scott McTominay said during their pre-match duties that Scotland would need to take at least a point but for both, not to mention the thousands of fans who had invaded the capital, the appetite was for a victory in this historic fixture.
The supporters, and the squad, were boosted with news that Kieran Tierney had been passed fit to play after the calf injury that kept him out of the loss to the Czechs. Tierney is one of a handful of elite-level players in the squad and the national team would need every one against an England side that has quality in depth.
As expected, the Arsenal defender took his place in the starting line-up in front of a quarter-full Wembley, where the 3200 Scotland fans were making their noisy presence known.
Clarke had a surprise in his selection with four changes, including one bold choice. Billy Gilmour, the 20-year-old who has made a breakthrough into the first-team picture at Champions League winners Chelsea, was handed a starting spot. The midfielder was alongside Callum McGregor and John McGinn in the centre of the park, with Scott McTominay part of the back three. Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams were partnered up front in a team that, on paper, had solidity but also a chance to ask questions of England.
Gareth Southgate had seen his England selection questioned before their opening game but a 1-0 win over Croatia had ensured a positive start for the hosts.
It was Scotland who made a positive start on Friday, with Che Adams taking a touch to control a Stephen O’Donnell cross before firing in a shot that John Stones had to block but the England defender went closer minutes later.
An England corner was curled in and Stone rose unmarked to powerfully head towards goal but saw the ball come off the post. Soon afterwards Phil Foden had a chance and after John McGinn was booked and England’s support smelled blood, things began to look a little fraught.
It just took a spell of possession to restore Scotland’s calm. After holding on to the ball for a little longer than the Wembley crowd expected, murmurs turned to boos from the home fans as the direction of play turned. Gilmour, McGregor and McGinn started to gain the upper hand in midfield, Tierney shot over the bar and Adams and Lyndon Dykes turned over play with constant hustle. There was an intensity in the stadium with what some had predicted as a one-sided game turning out to be a well-matched battle.
Not that Scotland could get comfortable. After a quiet start, Harry Kane reminded the defence of his danger when he headed wide of David Marshall’s goal. The flag was up but the striker’s ability to slip away and find space needed to be noted.
Scotland soon served notice of their own danger with a golden chance of their own. Tierney and Robertson combined on the left and the Arsenal defender arced a ball to the back post. O’Donnell met it as it dropped and his volley was saved by Jordan Pickford and Adams headed the rebound wide. The Tartan Army made their approval known.
England continued to probe and hold possession at length but looked short on ideas and unable to create and with Scotland settling in, the crowd grew restless and a little nervy. As half-time drew near, the sporadic outbreaks of Three Lions has faded away and been replaced by frustrated whistling. England knew they were in a game.
If Clarke had the easier half-time team talk, Southgate had the most effective. England came out roaring, forcing an early corner and then keeping Marshall on his toes when Mason Mount put a shot on target after Kane, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden had combined in the build-up. The Wembley crowd were won over again and were behind their team.
A Robertson break down the wing showed it wasn’t one-way traffic but England were alive again and Foden was electric, bringing fans to their feet with one mazy run and causing concern in the Scotland ranks with his pace and movement.
After riding out a tough spell, the visitors forced a corner just after the hour mark and it brought respite as much as opportunity.
Scotland had another major chance when a corner found its way to Dykes. The forward smashed in a powerful shot but saw Reece James head it away.
England made a change, surprisingly withdrawing Foden to introduce Jack Grealish but the substitution of one elite talent for another made no real impact on Scotland, who continued to defend resolutely but also build play and look for openings in a controlled and confident manner.
Clarke’s side still had to soak up pressure in spells and be wary of England’s big names but there was a demonstration of their effective defending, but also England’s slightly lacklustre showing in attack, when Kane was subbed off for Marcus Rashford.
Scotland made a change of their own when Stuart Armstrong came on to replace Gilmour, who was feted for a performance as good as any on the pitch.
Sterling had claims for a penalty waved away and England seemed desperate as the game entered the final ten minutes. Scotland stroked the ball about to provoke boos from the home support and Kevin Nisbet replaced Adams in a move that signalled that there was still more than a single point to be aimed for.
A chorus of Flower of Scotland started in the 88th minute and its rise in volume over the grumbling of the England fans told the story of who was happier as the final whistle neared.
After a disciplined and clever showing, there was still time for brief panic though. A traditional stramash in the Scotland box had hearts in mouths before McGinn thumped the ball upfield and seconds later the contest was brought to an end.
England trudged off to face questions about their disappointing showing but Scotland took plaudits to go with their point.