Sturgeon challenged over ‘husband’s WhatsApp messages’

SNP chief Peter Murrell is alleged to have sent messages that suggest 'pressurising' police over the Alex Salmond case.

SNP: Nicola Sturgeon with husband and party chief exec Peter Murrell. Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
SNP: Nicola Sturgeon with husband and party chief exec Peter Murrell.

Nicola Sturgeon has faced questions about WhatsApp messages allegedly from her husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, in which he seemed to suggest putting pressure on police over the Alex Salmond case.

At First Minister’s Questions, Ruth Davidson challenged her over the issue after the messages purportedly from Mr Murrell to an unknown person were leaked.

The First Minister refused to say if the messages were from her husband due to the ongoing police probe into how the communications were obtained.

Sent at the start of the year, around the time criminal proceedings were beginning against Salmond, one message appears to suggest it would be a “good time to pressurise” police about the case.

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Another suggests London’s Metropolitan Police should open a second investigation into the former first minister.

Mr Murrell’s message reportedly read: “The more fronts he is having to firefight on the better for all complainers.”

Davidson, who is the stand-in at Holyrood for Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, attacked Sturgeon over the Holyrood inquiry into her government’s botched handling of harassment complaints made against Salmond in 2018.

She asked why the FM had chosen to “break her word” to parliament that her government would cooperate fully and be as transparent as possible with the inquiry.

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Davidson accused the Scottish Government of a “shabby abuse of power” due to key documents being withheld or heavily redacted.

Sturgeon hit back that any files that had not been provided were due to legal restrictions and said the government had supplied the special committee of MSPs with “a thousand or more pages of material”.

She denied her administration is “obstructing” the inquiry – a claim made earlier this week by the committee’s convener and SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, who said the inquiry “simply cannot proceed” at present due to a lack of evidence.

In a letter to the Court of Session, Fabiani appealed directly to access the “essential” evidence currently caught up in legal wrangling.

The First Minister was pressed by Davidson on the WhatsApp messages apparently sent by her husband in fiery exchanges on Thursday.

The Scottish Tory MSP asked: “Are these messages genuine or not?”

Sturgeon refused to say, arguing: “The obtaining of these messages is currently a matter, as I understand it, of a police investigation.”

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She added: “I do not think it is reasonable for me to be asked questions about things that other people might or might not have done.

“Call the people who the messages are purported to come from and ask them the questions.”

The messages were revealed in the Daily Record by East Lothian MP and Salmond ally Kenny MacAskill, who says he was leaked them anonymously.

Davidson insisted the police probe concerns how the messages were provided to MacAskill and “does not preclude” the First Minister admitting whether they are genuine or not.

Thursday’s row at FMQs also comes after Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell was rejected from the Holyrood chamber for accusing the First Minister of “lying” to parliament.

Regarding the committee’s work, on January 17 Sturgeon told MSPs: “The inquiries will be able to request whatever material they want, and I undertake today that we will provide whatever material they request.”

Mundell refused to apologise for branding the FM a liar in the chamber, which is deemed unparliamentary language, saying it was the “most appropriate” term to use.

On this issue, Davidson asked the First Minister what had made her “break her word” to MSPs.

Sturgeon said she took the inquiry “very seriously”, adding that the Conservative accusations were “not an accurate characterisation of the position”.

The First Minister said “a thousand or more pages of material” and “ten hours of oral evidence” have already been provided by Scottish Government officials to the special cross-party committee.

She added she was herself ready to give oral evidence at any point but has not yet been asked.

The inquiry has decided not to invite any more oral witnesses until it has the evidence it says it needs.

The FM said she had already personally written a submission to the inquiry “months ago” but it has not yet been published.

She went on: “As I understand it the only material that hasn’t been provided is material where there are legal reasons why it cannot be provided, including the issue of legal privilege…

“The idea that the SNP or the Scottish government is trying to obstruct this committee bears no scrutiny whatsoever.” 

But Davidson said the First Minister could furnish the committee with the evidence it wants “with the snap of her fingers” and condemned “the shabby abuse of power that this affair has revealed”.

The Tory group leader added: “We have the head of the civil service having to be recalled to the inquiry because she can’t remember or won’t answer key questions.

“A tranche of government emails related to the inquiry deleted, committee hearings having to be suspended because they can’t continue due to obstruction, and the committee chairwoman having to write to the courts to get information that the First Minister promised 18 months ago that she would undertake to provide.”

Sturgeon said that as the inquiry dealt with her own conduct, she had recused herself from any role in deciding which government materials are provided and how they are presented.

The FM continued: “I stand ready any time – today, next week, the week after that – to turn up at this committee and give evidence to it orally.

“I have not had an invitation to do that yet.

“The committee can convene this afternoon and I will answer questions for my conduct before that committee.

“The committee has now for two months been in possession of substantial written evidence from me personally.

“That has not been published and that is entirely the committee’s decision.

“But it is a bit galling for me to hear, often members of the committee from the Conservative benches, somehow saying I am not answering questions.”

The special committee was set up in early 2019 after the Court of Session ruled the way the Scottish Government dealt with harassment complaints against Salmond had been “unlawful”, “procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias”.

The Scottish Government was forced to pay the former first minister more than £512,000 in damages.

The harassment claims were made in 2018 – shortly after the Scottish Government changed its complaints procedure – but dated back to Salmond’s time in Bute House in 2013.

While not directly related, it went on to trigger Police Scotland’s separate investigation into the former First Minister, and ultimately, a criminal trial.

Salmond was cleared of 13 charges of sexual offences by a jury in the High Court in March.

Teenage boy dies in hospital following incident inside train station

The 14-year-old was taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital with serious injuries but later died. 

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Death: A 14-year-old boy has died following an incident at a train station.

A 14-year-old boy has died following an incident in a train station in Glasgow.

Emergency services were called to High Street station around 3.45pm on Saturday following the incident. 

The boy was taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital with serious injuries but later died. 

ScotRail said High Street station had been closed following the incident and there would be no trains between Bellgrove and Partick via Glasgow Queen Street low level for the rest of the day.

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Replacement buses will carry passengers between Bellgrove and Glasgow Queen Street station.

Detective Inspector Iain Nelson of Greater Glasgow Division said: “This has been a shocking loss of a young life and a significant investigation is underway.

“Specialist officers are supporting the boy’s family at this incredibly difficult time. Enquiries continue to establish the full circumstances and anyone who can help is urged to get in touch as soon as possible.”

Those who were in the area at the time, or have information which may be relevant, can contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident 2280 of Saturday October 16.

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Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


Holyrood MSPs to get additional security after ‘attack on democracy’

Police Scotland in process of contacting all MSPs following the killing of MP Sir David Amess in Essex.

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MSPs are being individually contacted by Police Scotland about security following the fatal stabbing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess.

Alison Johnstone, the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, confirmed the move in a letter sent to all MSPs at Holyrood.

Officers will provide security advice and an opportunity for MSPs to discuss any concerns.

It comes after Sir David, who had been an MP since 1983, was fatally injured while meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea near Southend in Essex at midday on Friday.

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His death has sparked a wave of tributes and some MPs have called for a review of safety procedures before resuming meetings with constituents.

Johnstone said: “Whilst all our thoughts are with Sir David’s family, friends and colleagues, it is understandable that at a time like this we reflect on our own work and the challenges we face.

“Representing our constituents is one of the greatest privileges of being a member of the Scottish Parliament, but it is one that, sadly, can bring with it threats and fears for the safety of ourselves, our staff and families.

“I am grateful to Police Scotland for writing to all MSPs last night. As we reflect on the tragic events of the past 24 hours, what is clear to me is the dedication and commitment of all members of the Scottish Parliament.”

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The parliament’s corporate body has already said it would fund any security upgrades at MSPs constituency offices based on police recommendations.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said it was a time to “calmly reflect on the security that we have in place for MPs and their staff”.

He told STV News: “I think it’s important in our democracy that we have that openness, that we have the ability for constituents to lobby to meet with their parliamentarian but of course we are going to have to review the rules.

“I’m grateful that the House authorities are taking this with the utmost seriousness and indeed that the police forces right throughout Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom have been in touch with every Member of Parliament over the last 24 hours, so we’ll review security, we’ll do that calmly.”

Pam Duncan-Glancy, Labour MSP for the Glasgow region, said: “It’s not just the people who represent us, but it’s not only elected officials, that are at risk, it’s the people who work with us as well and that’s incredibly important, that we make sure that everybody is safe.

“But it’s also really important that we maintain that face-to-face contact with constituents, I think that is something that we really have to hold dear and we shouldn’t allow this to stop us doing that, and our democracy and our good values must prevail.”

Barack Obama to attend COP26 climate summit in Glasgow

Former US president will meet young activists and deliver remarks 'putting the threat of the climate crisis into broader context'.

Chip Somodevilla / Staff via Getty Images
Barack Obama is attending COP26 in Glasgow.

Former US President Barack Obama has confirmed he will attend the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.

He will meet with young activists and deliver remarks “putting the threat of the climate crisis into broader context”, an Obama spokeswoman told US broadcaster CNN.

Obama will join US President Joe Biden and more than 120 heads of state at the conference, which begins at the Scottish Event Campus on October 31.

Biden will come to the UK for two days after attending the G20 leaders’ summit in Rome, which will also be attended by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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Ahead of the talks, COP26 President Alok Sharma has urged world leaders to honour the Paris Agreement in 2015, which committed countries to try to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C – beyond which the most dangerous climate impacts will be felt.

But current action and pledges leave the world well off track to meeting the goal and avoiding the most dangerous heat waves, floods, damage to natural systems, rising sea levels and spread of diseases that higher temperatures will bring.

The UN climate talks in less than three weeks must secure agreement to accelerate climate action this decade to keep the 1.5C goal alive, Sharma has warned.

Countries are expected to bring forward more ambitious plans before COP26, under a five-year cycle, to get the world on track to meet the Paris goals and the summit is being seen as the most significant since the talks in the French capital.

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All G7 nations, including the UK and US, have put forward new, more ambitious plans – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement – for cutting emissions ahead of the talks.

But other major economies in the G20 group – including China, the world’s largest polluter – have yet to submit new versions of their plans, with time running out to honour their promise to do so before COP26 – making the G20 summit in Rome a potentially critical moment for climate action.

Tributes paid to much-loved pensioner in west end community

Friends and church leaders have shared fond memories of Esther Brown following her killer's guilty plea.

STV News / Woodlands Community Development Trust via Website

Friends and church leaders have paid tribute to a much-loved member of the Woodlands community in Glasgow’s west end.

A man pleaded guilty on Friday to the rape and murder of 67-year-old Esther Brown, whose body was found at her address in West Princes Street in June.

Jason Graham, 30, appeared at the High Court in Glasgow, where he admitted to assaulting and killing Esther.

But those who knew her say they don’t want the manner of her death to be her legacy.

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James Lapping of St Silas Church said: “It was incredibly tragic her circumstances and it was a really wicked and bad thing for something like that to happen to such a lovely lady.

“But we would never want the circumstances of her passing to be overshadowed by the largeness of her heart and her life that was lived well.”

Close friend Susie Reid said Esther was involved in many different aspects of community life.

“There were so many different organisations that she was involved with – the refugees, the street pastors, community gardens, our prayer group, the church, just so many different things,” she said.

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“Everybody felt that she was theirs, ‘it’s our Esther that has gone, it’s our Esther that has been taken’ rather than ‘she was just involved with us’, so you felt that she was passionately involved in everything and gave her all to everything, so therefore, there are so many different places that feel her loss because she had given so much of herself to it.”

Lord Armstrong deferred sentence on Graham until November 12 at the High Court in Edinburgh for reports, including on his psychiatric history.

Graham, who appeared in court wearing a blue jumper and blue jeans, remains subject to Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

Police Scotland welcomed the conviction and paid tribute to the local community for their support during the murder investigation.


Several major tourist attractions to be closed during COP26

Glasgow Life say six sites will be closed to 'minimise disruption' during UN climate change conference.

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum will be closed during COP26.

Several major tourist attractions in Glasgow will close during the UN climate summit being hosted on the banks of the Clyde.

Glasgow Life, which runs the city’s culture and leisure venues, announced six sites would be closed to “minimise disruption” during COP26.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Riverside Transport Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art will be closed throughout the conference.

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The Gallery of Modern Art

A statement from the organisation said COP26 would have an “inevitable” impact on operations in the city.

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But across the venues that have reopened since the easing of coronavirus restrictions, Glasgow Life said it hoped to “operate business as usual as far as possible”.

Glasgow Life, which runs the venues on behalf of the city council, said it had lost £38m due to the closure of venues during the pandemic.

Hundreds of jobs are to be cut at the organisation which runs libraries and sports centres, due to its struggling finances.

GlasgowLife via GlasgowLife
Riverside Museum

Glasgow is set to see “extreme” traffic disruption as a large area of the city centre is to be locked down during the United Nations climate summit.

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COP26 is being hosted by the River Clyde at the Scottish Exhibition Centre and routes around the area will be closed on the lead-up to the conference as well as during, between October 31 and November 12, and afterwards.

As well as pressure from road users, up to 100,000 people are expected to take part in an activist march on November 6, with other “unofficial fringe activity” possible throughout the twelve days.

The Riverside Museum will be closed from Saturday, October 23, until Tuesday, November 16, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum’s doors will be shut from October 28 to November 14, and the Gallery of Modern Art in the city centre will close on October 31 not to reopen until November 14.

Kelvin Hall will be closed from October 28 to November 1 and the Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls and Tennis Centre will also be shut from October 31 to November 2.

The People’s Palace, which is closed for “essential maintenance”, will remain shut to the public.

The Emirates Arena will remain open throughout but may be busier than usual as certain areas will be supporting the delivery of COP26.

Glasgow Life said all the dates were subject to change as citing requirements for the climate summit and the major security operation surrounding the event.


Residents call for ‘noisy’ cobbled streets to be tarmacked

Neighbours in Comely Bank in Edinburgh have appealed to the council to cover the cobbled stones.

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Noise: Edinburgh residents complain drivers speeding over cobbled streets is keeping them up at night.

Residents are lobbying for iconic cobbled streets in Edinburgh to be covered with tarmac because they are “too noisy”.

Neighbours in the Comely Bank area of Edinburgh have appealed to have the streets – which are protected by heritage conservation rules – smoothed over because the noise of drivers speeding over the stones is keeping them awake at night.

The City of Edinburgh Council has described the cobbled stones, known as “setts” as “adding significant historic and cultural value to the streets of Edinburgh and are an important feature of our cityscape”.

But neighbours have complained they are in poor condition and the noise of a car travelling over them is loud enough to wake people up.

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Resident Chris Bradley presented a petition to the local authority’s Transport and Environment Committee.

At a virtual meeting of the committee, Mr Bradley said: “These three roads have become major thoroughfares for more and more traffic as time goes by and the covering on the roads is quite badly damaged.

“The issue we have got is one of noise and the health implications of the noise.

“A taxi can come up Comely Bank Avenue at 40mph in the middle of the night and it wakes me up.

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“When I was doing the petition I went round and knocked on a lot of doors and there were many people who were well into the idea of some sort of traffic-calming measures and/or tarmacking of the streets.

“The setts are in very poor condition and we have a huge traffic volume.”

The roads mooted to be covered in tarmac are Comely Bank Avenue, Dean Park Crescent and Learmonth Terrace, where house prices are around £790,000 for a four-bed house.

Hal Osler, Lib Dem councillor for Inverleith, which includes Comely Bank, said she backed the council policy of retaining setted streets and urged an inspection of the streets and traffic speed surveys.

However, she claimed one resident using a decibel app on her phone had found an average noise level of 86 decibels and pointed out the level at which employers had to provide hearing protection for staff was 85.

Max Mitchell, a Conservative councillor for the ward, said he would struggle to support tarmac-ing over the cobbles but suggested setted humps could help reduce speeds.

Despite claims about the poor state of the streets, a council official told the committee a recent inspection did not find any issues which required urgent repairs.

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A report said physical traffic calming measures were generally only considered where there was either a history of speed-related collisions or average speeds remained excessively high after other speed reduction measures had been tried.

Committee convener Lesley Macinnes said the call for smoothing over the cobbles ran completely counter to the council’s policy on setted streets and proposed noise monitoring should be carried out.

She said: “Let’s establish the scale of the issue and that would help us to understand what the next steps might be.

“I don’t believe we should be sending officers down a route when we haven’t established the scale of the issue.”


Coronavirus: 21 deaths and 2581 new cases recorded in Scotland

The latest statistics show that there were 181 fewer cases reported on Saturday compared to Friday's figures.

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Coronavirus: Scottish Government release latest statistics.

Scotland has recorded 2581 new cases of Covid-19 and 21 deaths of people who had recently contracted the virus.

The latest coronavirus statistics show a fall of 181 cases and eight fewer deaths compared to Friday’s figures.

Infected patients in hospitals fell by ten to 841 but the number in intensive care rose by two to 47.

Another 3195 people received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine and 2176 received their second.

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It takes the number of fully vaccinated Scots to 3,875,966, while there are 4,282,132 people who have had at least one dose.

Commenting on the latest vaccination figures, Scotland’s chief medical officer Gregor Smith tweeted: “Really encouraging to see children & young people so engaged & informed about Covid-19 vaccination.

“Over 40% 12-15year olds have opted to receive 1st dose already.”


Fatal stabbing of MP Sir David Amess declared terrorist incident

The 69-year-old was fatally injured while meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Essex.

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Sir David Amess MP was fatally stabbed as he held a surgery in his Southend West constituency.

The fatal stabbing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess has been declared a terrorist incident, the Metropolitan Police has confirmed.

The 69-year-old, who had been an MP since 1983, was fatally injured while meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea near Southend at midday on Friday.

In a statement, the Met said Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, had formally declared the incident as terrorism.

The investigation is being led by counter-terrorism officers.

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The early investigation has revealed “a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”, the force said.

A 25-year-old man arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder is in custody at an Essex police station.

Official sources told the PA news agency the man is believed to be a British national with Somali heritage.

As part of the investigation, officers were also carrying out searches at two addresses in the London area, the Met said.

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The force believe the man acted alone and are not seeking anyone else in connection with the matter at this time, but inquiries into the circumstances of the incident are continuing.

According to reports, the knifeman was waiting among a group of people to see Sir David at the church and launched the attack shortly after the MP arrived.

Local councillor John Lamb, who arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, told the Daily Mail Sir David was with two female members of staff – one from his constituency office and one from his parliamentary office – when a man “literally got a knife out and just began stabbing him”.

Home secretary Priti Patel has asked all police forces to review security arrangements for MPs “with immediate effect” following the attack.

Chief constable of Essex Police Ben-Julian Harrington said 69-year-old Southend West MP Sir David was “simply dispensing his duties when his life was horrifically cut short”.

Tory veteran Sir David, who was described by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics”, had been an MP since 1983 and was married with five children.

Patel met police and representatives of the security and intelligence agencies after the stabbing, which took place as Sir David held a surgery in his Southend West constituency.

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“The Home Secretary has asked all police forces to review security arrangements for MPs with immediate effect and will provide updates in due course,” the spokesman for Patel said.

The Daily Telegraph said the review would examine Operation Bridger, a nationwide police protective security operation established in 2016 after several threats to MPs following Parliamentary debates on Syria.

Patel will make a statement to Parliament on the review on Monday, The Times reported.

The attack on Sir David came just five-and-a-half years after Labour MP Jo Cox was killed by a far right extremist in her Batley and Spen constituency in West Yorkshire.

The Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said police were contacting all MPs to check on their security in the wake of Sir David’s killing.

“It is about doing the right things working with the police constabularies right across the United Kingdom because it is about joining that up,” Sir Lindsay told BBC2’s Newsnight.

“I know that they are contacting all the MPs to check about their safety, to reassure them, because in the end we have got to make sure that is a priority.”

He added: “Those people who do not share our values or share democracy, they will not win and we won’t let them win. We will continue to look at security, that is ongoing and it will continue.”

Sir Lindsay said earlier that while it was right that security was reviewed following the latest incident, it was important to avoid “knee-jerk” reactions.

He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “What we want to do is make sure MPs can carry out their duties. We have got to make sure MPs are safe.”

His sentiments were echoed by the the Father of the House – the longest-serving sitting MP – Sir Peter Bottomley.

“I predict all over the country this weekend, next weekend and in the months to come, MPs will hold advice sessions. That is what we do,” he told the PA news agency.

“There is no perfect security for anybody. My view has always been that in many other walks of life you are at far greater risk than a Member of Parliament.

“MPs may get exceptional publicity. We are not exceptional people. We’re ordinary people trying to do an ordinary job as well as we can. We accept the risks.

“The question is – should MPs stop meeting their constituents face-to-face? The answer is we will go on meeting our constituents face-to-face.”


Van driver taken to hospital following crash with lorry

The lorry and van collided on Ladywell Avenue near to the B741 junction in Girvan on Friday morning.

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Crash: Van driver hurt following lorry crash.

A man has been taken to hospital following a crash between a lorry and a van in Ayrshire.

The crash occurred around 9.30am on Ladywell Avenue in Girvan near to the junction with the B741 on Friday. 

The van driver was taken to hospital for treatment, where he remains.

Sergeant Craig Beaver said: “We’re aware there were a number of other vehicles in the area around the time of the crash, so are appealing to anyone with information to come forward. We are also keen to speak with any motorists with potential dashcam footage.

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“Anyone with information is urged to call police on 101, quoting incident 0762 of October 15.”

Correction: A previous version of this story said a dog had died following the crash. However this is not the case and the animal survived.


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