Sturgeon ‘forgot’ meeting about Salmond sex allegations

The First Minister has submitted evidence to Holyrood's Alex Salmond inquiry.

The First Minister has claimed she “forgot” about an encounter with Alex Salmond’s former chief of staff in March 2018 in which he mentioned “allegations of a sexual nature” against her predecessor.

Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs she first learned of harassment complaints against the former First Minister when he told her himself at a meeting between the pair on April 2, 2018.

But it later emerged she had met Salmond’s former top adviser Geoff Aberdein four days previously in the Scottish Parliament on March 29.

The First Minister has explained the events in newly-published written evidence to the Holyrood’s Salmond inquiry, while her husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, has also written to the committee.

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Mr Murrell said he had “expressed himself poorly” in texts in January 2019 in which he suggested it was a “good time” to pressurise police over Salmond’s criminal case

But he added: “The messages have been presented in a way that suggests a meaning that they do not in reality have.”

Sturgeon was challenged over her husband’s messages in fiery exchanges at last week’s First Minister’s Questions, while she has also been accused of misleading parliament after pledging her government would fully cooperate with the inquiry.

The First Minister insisted she had personally submitted her written evidence months ago and that the committee had not yet chosen to publish it.

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The inquiry published Sturgeon’s submission on Wednesday as part of a tranche of new evidence, in which she looks to explain her role in the handling of complaints against Salmond that led to her predecessor successfully suing her government for more than £512,000 in damages.

Salmond was then cleared of sexual offences in a separate and subsequent criminal trial earlier this year.

Sturgeon described how the circumstances had caused her “a great deal of personal anguish” and a “breakdown” in her 30-year friendship with Salmond, but that she had “tried to do the right thing”.

And she refuted “in the strongest possible terms” any idea she conspired against her predecessor, adding: “It seems to me that what some want to present as ‘conspiracy’ is in actual fact my refusal to ‘collude’ or ‘cover up’.”

Included in her evidence is a stream of WhatsApp messages between herself and the former first minister dated from April to July 2018 in which they discuss meetings and aspects of the government’s investigation into Salmond.

The First Minister also sought to outline what she knew and when after her meeting with Mr Aberdein was revealed in the media in July and sparked suggestions then that she had misled MSPs.

Sturgeon wrote: “Alex Salmond told me on April 2, 2018 at a meeting at my home that complaints against him were being investigated under (the Scottish Government’s new complaints) procedure.

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“At that meeting, he showed me a copy of the letter he had received outlining the detail of the complaints.

“As has been reported already, four days earlier – March 29, 2018 – I had spoken with Geoff Aberdein (former chief of staff to Alex Salmond) in my office at the Scottish Parliament.

“Mr Aberdein was in parliament to see a former colleague and while there came to see me.

“I had forgotten that this encounter had taken place until I was reminded of it in, I think, late January/early February 2019.”

She added: “For context, I think the meeting took place not long after the weekly session of FMQs and in the midst of a busy day in which I would have been dealing with a multitude of other matters.

“However, from what I recall, the discussion covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature.”

The First Minister said her understanding around this time was Salmond was in “a state of considerable distress” and was considering resigning his SNP party membership.

But she insisted: “While I suspected the nature of what he wanted to tell me… it was Alex Salmond who told me on April 2 that he was being investigated under the procedure – and what the detail of the complaints was.

“It is this meeting – due to the nature of the information shared with me at it – that has always been significant in my mind.”

Sturgeon continued: “I suspected the reason Alex Salmond wanted to see me on April 2 was that he was facing an allegation of sexual misconduct.

“Although my contact with Mr Aberdein on March 29, 2018 may have contributed to that suspicion, it was not the only factor.”

She highlighted that in November 2017 she was aware of the SNP receiving an enquiry from Sky News about sexual misconduct claims against Salmond dating back to an alleged incident at Edinburgh Airport in 2008.

Sturgeon stressed Salmond denied the allegations when she spoke to him about it and, given the party had no knowledge of the complainers, there was “no further action” possible to take.

However, the First Minister said “even though he assured me to the contrary, all of the circumstances surrounding this episode left me with a lingering concern that allegations about Mr Salmond could materialise at some stage”.

Sturgeon explained the reasons she had agreed to the April 2 meeting with Salmond despite suspecting what it was about were “both political and personal”.

She went on: “I thought Mr Salmond may be about to resign from the SNP and that, as a result of this or other aspects of how he intended to handle the matter he was dealing with, the party could have been facing a public/media issue that we would require to respond to.”

“There is also the personal aspect,” the FM added.

“Mr Salmond has been closer to me than probably any other person outside my family for the past 30 years, and I was being told he was very upset and wanted to see me personally.”

Despite her suspicions, Sturgeon said she was “shocked and upset by the reality of what I read” during the April 2 meeting at her Glasgow home, when Salmond showed her a letter summarising the complaints against him.

She continued: “He gave me his reaction to the complaints – in the main he denied them, though in relation to one matter he said that he had previously apologised and considered it out of order for it to be raised again – and said that it was his intention to seek a process of mediation between himself and the complainers.

“It was also clear – contrary to what I had anticipated – that he did not intend to resign his party membership or do anything to make the matter public at that stage.

“I made clear to him that I had no role in the process and would not seek to intervene in it.”

The pair spoke again by phone later in April, she said, and she declined an invitation to meet at the end of May.

Then, on June 3, the “tone and content” of a text message he sent Sturgeon led her “to conclude that legal action by Mr Salmond against the Scottish Government was a serious prospect”.

Salmond’s message reveals his lawyers had prepared a draft petition for a judicial review, which he tells Sturgeon he has been advised has “excellent” prospects of success.

“You are perfectly entitled to intervene if it is brought to your attention that there is a risk of your government acting unlawfully in a process of which you had no knowledge,” he told the First Minister.

The Court of Session would go on in January 2019 to rule the Scottish Government’s handling of the complaints against Salmond was “unlawful”, “procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias”.

Three days after Salmond’s text, on June 6, Sturgeon wrote to the Scottish Government’s top civil servant – permanent secretary Leslie Evans – to make her aware of the situation and the potential for legal action against them.

The day after that, on June 7, the First Minister met her predecessor again in Aberdeen.

Part of the reason she decided to have this meeting was so she wasn’t “cornered” by Salmond at the SNP’s party conference in Aberdeen, she said, which started on June 8.

Sturgeon said she had not seen Salmond since July 14, when the pair had a “third and final” meeting at her home, and had not been in any kind of contact since July 20.

Concluding her submission to the committee, the First Minister wrote: “In what was a very difficult situation – personally, politically and professionally – I tried to do the right thing.

“Whether I always got it absolutely right is something I still reflect on, and the committee will consider, but I sought all along to act in good faith and to strike the right balance of judgment given the difficult issues I was confronted with.

“In the light of the #MeToo movement, I sought to ensure that the Scottish Government developed a process that allowed allegations of sexual harassment – including allegations of a historic nature – to be fully and fairly considered.”

She continued: “For the sake of the complainers, the Scottish Government and indeed Alex Salmond himself, I acted in a way that I judged would best protect the independence and confidentiality of the investigation.

“However, when I became aware of a serious risk of legal action against my
government, I felt I had a duty to make the permanent secretary aware of it.

“My view throughout was that complaints must be properly and fairly considered, no matter who the subject of them might be, or how politically inconvenient the investigations may be.

“And that remains my view, even though the circumstances and consequences of this particular investigation have caused me – and others, in many cases to an even greater extent – a great deal of personal anguish, and resulted in the breakdown of a relationship that had been very important to me, politically and personally, for most of my life.”

‘As many holes as Swiss cheese’

Opposition party MSPs seized on the First Minister’s written evidence as having “as many holes as Swiss cheese”.

Scottish Conservative spokesman on the Salmond inquiry, Murdo Fraser, said: “The SNP’s excuses are incredible and simply beyond belief. 

“We are expected to accept that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister renowned for her grasp of detail, has the memory of a sieve when she’s told that her mentor of 30 years is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. 

“A meeting that would be seared in most people’s memory was immediately forgot all about. 

“She then went on to meet with Mr Salmond again and again, on what was clearly government business, all while pretending it was solely about the SNP. 

“It’s hard to know what’s more shocking – this evidence, the fact they think we’ll believe this pile of nonsense, or that this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

He added: “It’s now a matter of fact that the First Minister misled parliament.

“She did not find out on April 2 and she did not find out from Alex Salmond.”

Committee member and Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The First Minister’s evidence to this committee raises many questions and could be described as having as many holes as a swiss cheese. 

“Despite senior figures in the SNP knowing of the alleged incident at Edinburgh Airport as early as 2008, the First Minister claims to have asked the First Minister about the veracity of the allegations in late 2017. 

“Was this because she ignored the allegations at the time or is it because the information had been sat on by other senior figures in the SNP, including her husband?”

Liberal Democrat committee member Alex Cole-Hamilton said the new evidence reveals there was “an offer on the table of independent arbitration which could have helped to resolve the issues at hand with a fraction of the cost and embarrassment that the Scottish Government eventually endured”.

He continued: “Alex Salmond’s messages are clear that his legal advisors considered his case at the judicial review to be a slam dunk.

“Surely that should have been sounding alarm bells in the Scottish Government. Instead they ploughed ahead at huge cost to the taxpayer.”

The Scottish Lib Dem MSP warned Sturgeon her evidence “leaves the committee with more questions than answers” – adding she will face “more detailed questions in person” when called to give oral evidence to the inquiry.

As well as Sturgeon’s submission, the committee also published on Wednesday written evidence from deputy FM John Swinney, advisers Liz Lloyd and Duncan Hamilton – and from SNP chief Mr Murrell.

The party chief executive, who married Sturgeon in 2010 when she was deputy first minister, said he wished he had “expressed myself more appropriately” concerning text messages about Salmond.

The messages, sent after the former SNP leader had been charged with various offences in January 2019, suggested it was “good time to be pressurising” police over the case, and that the “more fronts” the former First Minister is “having to firefight on the better”.

Writing to MSPs, Mr Murrell said: “The messages were sent the day after Mr Salmond had been charged with a number of serious offences.

“In the aftermath of this, the SNP was contacted by individuals who had specific, personal questions in relation to that criminal case.

“My intention was to advise that their questions should be addressed to the police and not the SNP.

“I acknowledge that I did not express myself well but I suggest that in the context of such a criminal case, directing people to the police was the only responsible thing to advise.”

He continued: “In relation to the second message, this has been presented as following on immediately from the first. That is inaccurate.

“However, my intended meaning was that any and all complaints should be appropriately investigated.

“The tone of it is a reflection of the shock, hurt and upset that I, and so many others in the SNP, felt that day given the events that had unfolded in court the previous day.

“As most people will appreciate, the immediacy of text messages lend themselves to informal, shorthand forms of expression but, even so, I would wish on reflection to have expressed myself more appropriately.”

Shell pulls out of controversial Cambo oil field development

Shell has a 30% stake in the controversial development.

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Shell has a 30% stake in the project off the coast of Shetland originally licensed in 2001.

Oil and gas giant Shell has pulled out of the proposed Cambo oilfield development saying the economic case lacked strength.

The company confirmed the move to STV News on Thursday evening following what it described as a “comprehensive” screening of the project.

Shell has a 30% stake in the controversial development, off the coast of Shetland, originally licensed in 2001.

Citing the potential for delay and a lack of strength in the economics, the multinational company said it had concluded against investment.

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Siccar Point Energy, Shell’s partners in the development, said it was disappointed at Shell’s change of position but that it remained confident in the merits of the project.

The company’s CEO Jonathan Roger said it would continue to engage with the UK Government.

Siccar Point Energy via UK Government
Location of the proposed Cambo field development

“Cambo remains critical to the UK’s energy security and economy,” he said.

“Whilst we are disappointed at Shell’s change of position, we remain confident about the qualities of a project that will not only create over 1000 direct jobs as well as thousands more in the supply chain, but also help ease the UK’s transition to a low carbon future through responsibly produced domestic oil instead of becoming even more dependent on imports, with a relatively higher carbon intensity.

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“Given Shell’s decision, we are now in discussions with our contractors, supply chain and wider stakeholders to review options for this important development.”

The plans for the Cambo oil field have been the subject of climate campaigners calling for an end to fossil fuel production.

Tessa Khan, director of Uplift, which is coordinating the Stop Cambo campaign, said: “This is the end for Cambo. Shell has seen the writing on the wall.

“Its statement makes it clear that the economics are against new oil and gas developments. But the widespread public and political pressure is what’s made Cambo untenable. There is now broad understanding that there can be no new oil and gas projects anywhere if we’re going to maintain a safe climate.

“This is a message to the government that there is no case for new oil and gas. It must put Cambo out of its misery and reject it now.”

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The UK’s trade association for the offshore oil and gas industry, OGUK, said the announcement that Shell had suspended its involvement did not change the need for investment in the sector.

Jenny Stanning, OGUK’s external relations director, said: “This is a commercial decision between partners but doesn’t change the facts that the UK will continue to need new oil and gas projects if we are to protect security of supply, avoid increasing reliance on imports and support jobs.

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“However, we know that to deliver the transition to a lower carbon future, investor confidence remains essential.

“Gas and oil has a critical role to play in the nation’s future energy supply and we will continue to work with governments, industry and politicians of all parties to make this case.”

The Cambo field will produce 170 million barrels of oil equivalent during its 25-year operational life and 53.5 billion cubic feet of gas, enough to power 1.5 million homes for a year, accoring to Siccar Point Energy.

The UK Government said the investment in oil and gas was necessary to avoid a cliff-edge putting jobs and industries in the country at risk.

A Shell spokesperson said: “Before taking investment decisions on any project we conduct detailed assessments to ensure the best returns for the business and our shareholders. After comprehensive screening of the proposed Cambo development, we have concluded the economic case for investment in this project is not strong enough at this time, as well as having the potential for delays.

“However, continued investment in oil and gas in the UK remains critical to the country’s energy security. As Shell works to help accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy, we remain committed to supplying UK customers with the fuels they still rely on, including oil and gas.

“We believe the North Sea – and Shell in it – have a critical role to play in the UK’s energy mix, supporting the jobs and skills to enable a smooth transition to Britain’s low-carbon future.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “This is a commercial decision that has been taken independently by Shell.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have said previously that unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations and we continue to call on the UK Government, who have the power to act in this instance, to urgently reassess all approved oil licenses where drilling has not yet commenced against our climate commitments.

“A just transition must be delivered across all of our communities, including those that have a dependency on oil and gas.

“That is why we are undertaking a programme of work and analysis to better understand Scotland’s energy requirements as we transition to net zero, ensuring an approach that supports and protects our energy security and our highly skilled workforce whilst meeting our climate obligations.

“We are already investing in the sector’s net zero transformation. Our £500m Just Transition Fund – which we have called on the UK Government multiple times to match – will support the north east and Moray as one of Scotland’s centres of excellence for the transition to a net zero economy, with our investment supporting transformation across the region.”



People turned away from Covid booster appointment face booking block

All adults in Scotland are now eligible for a coronavirus booster jab three months after their last dose.

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People queue for vaccines at Glasgow Central Mosque.

Issues around the rollout of coronavirus booster vaccines have continued with those turned away from appointments marked as having received their third jab by the NHS system.

The mistake means they are unable to make a new appointment to get the extra dose despite being urged to do so “as soon as possible”.

People were turned away from booked booster appointments following changes to Covid-19 jab plans.

The UK-wide Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued advice after the emergence of the new Omicron variant making all over-18s eligible for a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine three months after their second.

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Catriona Mowat was turned away from Glasgow Central Mosque.
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But the change had not filtered down to health boards with several people at vaccine centres told they could not be jabbed because they needed to wait 24 weeks from their previous dose.

Catriona Mowat told STV News: “When I went along and I went to the desk, they said I couldn’t have it because it wasn’t the 24 weeks yet and their guidance hadn’t yet changed, so I got turned away

“But now that I’ve had an appointment, to get my booster jab, it wont let me reschedule or book a new one, I should say, online on the portal

“So I, instead, phoned up the national helpline, and the woman I spoke to there said that’s fine she could reschedule it for me but then said she couldn’t reschedule until 24 weeks had passed because their guidance hadn’t been updated.”

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The Scottish Government said those who had gone to the vaccine centre and were turned away attended before “necessary protocols were in place”.

On Thursday, the First Minister apologised for what had happened with failed booster appointments.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am very sorry to anyone who was turned away from a vaccine clinic yesterday.

“When advice changes, and the JCVI advice changed on Monday, then because this is a clinical procedure, there is a process for updating protocols and materials to make sure that everything is being done in line with clinical protocols.

“In the normal course of events that is a process that would take around a week. That has happened now already.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC) announced that those eligible for booster shots could book appointments online or by phone on Monday.

The health board has apologised to those who were turned away.

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On Monday, Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “Booster appointments are currently being offered to all those over 40 years old and we encourage anyone who is eligible for a booster – or who is still to have any dose of the Covid-19 vaccine – to book an appointment and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Ten cases of the Omicron variant have been found in Scotland, with nine linked to a single birthday party.

The Scottish Government announced it intended for all adults to be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine by the end of January.

The JCVI said both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines can be used as boosters for adults.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the government’s communications on booster jags had been a mess.

“We are still hearing this morning of people turning up on Thursday to get the vaccine they had booked and they were turned away, turned away despite having an appointment,” he said.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said every health board had been spoken to and he did not expect anyone who has booked an appointment to be turned away.

“Of course concerns should be raised, by public, politicians [and] press, when things don’t go quite right,” he said.

“But I hope [people] recognise what an amazing team there is, many behind the scenes, including brilliant civil servants working tirelessly to make this programme a success.”

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the health board was “fully committed” to implementing the new guidelines as soon as possible and said it have already started to do so in all clinics.

“We apologise to anyone who booked their booster vaccination three months after their second dose, if they were not able to receive it when they attended and we would ask those individuals to please rebook their appointment.

“Our teams have worked exceptionally hard to make sure that all of our vaccinators have now received the appropriate clinical documentation needed for them to move to the next stage of the programme and ensure we implement the changes within all of our clinics as swiftly and safely as possible.

“We would like to sincerely thank members of the public for their patience while we implement these new guidelines.”


Scots arrested under Terrorism Act after trying to leave country

The two men, from Glasgow and Clydebank, were stopped in the port of Dover on Tuesday.

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Terror Act: Searches of properties in Glasgow and Clydebank have taken place.

Two men from Scotland have been arrested in relation to terrorism offences after they were stopped in the port of Dover.

A 44-year-old from Glasgow and a 40-year-old from Clydebank were stopped while trying to leave the UK on Tuesday by counter terror officers, police said on Thursday.

After a search of the vehicle they were travelling in, the pair were arrested on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism.

Counter Terrorism Policing South East said a vehicle and several digital devices were seized.

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Searches of properties in Glasgow and Clydebank in Scotland have taken place and both men have been bailed pending further inquiries.


Twins accused of ‘murdering cyclist and attempting to cover up crime’

Tony Parsons' remains were discovered more than three years after he disappeared.

STV News / Police Scotland
Police: Tony Parsons' remains were discovered more than three years after he disappeared.

Twin brothers have appeared in court accused of murdering a cyclist who disappeared more than four years ago and attempting to cover up the alleged crime.

Anthony Parsons, also known as Tony, travelled from his home in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, to Fort William in the Highlands for a charity cycle on September 29, 2017, but failed to return home.

The 63-year-old former Navy petty officer travelled south on the A82 and was last seen on October 2 at around 11.30pm outside the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, Argyll and Bute.

On January 12 this year, specialist search officers, supported by forensic scientists, discovered his remains in a remote area of ground close to a farm near the A82 at Bridge of Orchy.

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Investigation: Anthony Parsons’ remains were found earlier this year.
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On Thursday morning, Police Scotland confirmed that two men had been arrested and charged in connection with Mr Parsons’ death.

In addition to the murder charge, twins Alexander and Robert McKellar, both 29, have also been accused of conspiracy to murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Alexander McKellar faces a further charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

The pair, who are due to turn 30 on Friday, made no plea when they appeared at Dumbarton Sheriff Court, West Dunbartonshire, on Thursday afternoon.

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The case was committed for further examination.

The McKellars, from Argyll and Bute, were remanded in custody meantime and will return to court within the next eight days.

Earlier on Thursday, detective inspector John McFall said: “I would like to offer my thanks to the local community for all their help and assistance throughout this investigation and to those who came forward with significant information.”

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Man charged and due in court over death of teenager Amber Gibson

The 16-year-old was reported missing from Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, after failing to return home last Friday night.

Police Scotland

A man has been charged and is due in court in connection with the death of 16-year-old Amber Gibson.

The teenager was reported missing from Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, after failing to return home last Friday night.

Her body was eventually discovered in the town’s Cadzow Glen park on Sunday morning.

Amber’s death was initially treated as unexplained, but police later launched a murder inquiry following a post-mortem examination.

STV News
Hamilton: Flowers left in tribute to the murdered teen.
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On Wednesday evening, Police Scotland confirmed a 19-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the death.

On Thursday, a force spokesperson confirmed the suspect had now been charged and is due to appear at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Friday.

They said: “Police Scotland can confirm that the 19-year-old man who had been arrested last night, Wednesday, December 1, has now been charged.

“A report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.”

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Controversial Furuhashi goal earns Celtic narrow victory over Hearts

Celtic moved to within four points of Rangers with a 1-0 home win.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Kyogo Furuhashi scored the only goal of the game at Celtic Park.

A controversial goal from Kyogo Furuhashi was enough to give Celtic victory over Hearts in a close encounter at Parkhead.

The Japan forward looked like he might be marginally offside as he converted Anthony Ralston’s cross in the 33rd minute but Bobby Madden and his officials gave the goal.

Celtic had other chances but Hearts came back strongly after the break with Barrie McKay causing a number of problems before missing an excellent late chance in an exciting finale.

The 1-0 victory took Celtic back to four points behind Rangers after the leaders won by the same score against Hibernian 24 hours earlier following a much-debated penalty award.

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Celtic had Carl Starfelt and Tom Rogic back in the team following injury while James Forrest also came in. Defender Cameron Carter-Vickers was missing because of a personal issue and Jota and Stephen Welsh both went off injured in the second half.

Hearts made four changes with Andy Halliday and the injured Beni Baningime among those dropping out. Josh Ginnelly replaced Liam Boyce up front as Robbie Neilson looked for pace to cause Celtic problems with attacking midfielders Ben Woodburn, Aaron McEneff and McKay also starting ahead of a back four.

Celtic started brightly. Starfelt headed wide before Hearts had a huge let-off after David Turnbull robbed Cammy Devlin. Craig Gordon spilled Jota’s resulting shot but Forrest stabbed the loose ball against the post from close range.

Jota twice shot over the bar from outside the box, Ralston was too high from a half chance and Gordon tipped Callum McGregor’s deflected effort wide.

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Hearts were attacking when they could and Joe Hart was called into action when Craig Halkett got a shot away following Stephen Kingsley’s free-kick.

The opener came after Ralston ran round the outside of Rogic and drilled in a cross which Furuhashi turned home at the near post. The Japan international was ahead of the Hearts defence and replays suggested he was also slightly ahead of Ralston when the right-back struck the cross, but offside appeals went unheeded.

Ralston was injured in the process and soon went off for Adam Montgomery, with Juranovic swapping flanks.

Turnbull had several shots diverted behind after the interval, one after a sweeping and silky counter-attack.

Hearts defender Kingsley had a brilliant chance when he ran untracked to the near post to meet McKay’s corner but he cut his header too thinly and it flashed beyond the far post.

Juranovic shot over from a decent chance but Hearts kept threatening.

McKay had an effort saved and set up both Boyce and Halkett for chances, the former fluffing his first opportunity and the defender heading wide. The former Rangers winger set up the second chance while dodging missiles from the standing section behind him.

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Celtic lost Jota and Welsh in quick succession. Nir Bitton came on in central defence before Jota’s replacement, Mikey Johnston, came close with a strike that Furuhashi almost turned in.

Forrest had a great chance to settle matters in the 84th minute when he was played in by Furuhashi but Gordon saved and Hearts were soon away on the counter-attack.

Substitute Gary Mackay-Steven looked set to score but he stumbled and McKay shot just wide from the loose ball with Hart stranded.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was booked as he remonstrated with the officials, claiming Mackay-Steven had his heel clipped.

Turnbull had a shot diverted inches wide in stoppage-time and Celtic saw out the remainder of the game in the Hearts half. 


Family of mother who died after M9 crash awarded more than £1m

Lamara Bell died in hospital after lying undiscovered at side of motorway for three days.

Police Scotland
John Yuill and Lamara Bell died after their car left the M9 near Stirling.

The family of a young mother who died after lying undiscovered in a car for days following a crash on the M9 has been awarded more than £1m in damages.

Lamara Bell and her partner John Yuill both died after their car left the motorway near Stirling on July 5, 2015.

Despite a call being made to police, it took three days for the force to respond and when officers finally arrived at the scene, Yuill was found to be dead while Bell died four days later in hospital.

In a statement, the Bell family said: “Imagine chasing answers, recognition and justice for six years and all you get is silence then in the space of three months you get a conviction and a civil settlement – it is fair say our thoughts and feelings are all over the place right now.

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“Our pain and loss won’t stop just because the legal proceedings are over but there is at least a sense of peace that comes with their conclusion.

“But that peace is fleeting because ultimately we are still without Lamara.

“We are without a daughter and sister and her children are without a mother – such an outcome cannot, and should not ever, go unheeded in a fair society and we are glad to finally have attained that which we sought.

“We’d like to thank our friends, family, community and legal team for all their support but now we really would like to be left alone as we look to the future.”

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Police Scotland was fined £100,000 earlier this year after admitting failings which “materially contributed” to the deaths of Bell and Yuill.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard in September that Bell would probably have survived had she had been found sooner.

Delivering the sentence, Lord Beckett said: “This case arose from terrible events in which two relatively young people died, one of them after days of severe physical suffering when she must have been in an almost unimaginable state of anxiety.

“As days and hours went by she must have been in a state of disbelief that no help arose.”

Lord Beckett said it was “unprecedented” for the police service of Scotland to have been accused and convicted in the High Court.

The office of the Chief Constable of Police Scotland admitted it failed to ensure that people, including Yuill and Bell, were not exposed to risks to their health and safety by failing to provide an “adequate and reliable call-handling system” between April 1 2013 and March 1 2016.

It also failed to ensure the system was “not vulnerable to unacceptable risks arising from human error” and to ensure that all relevant information reported by members of the public was recorded on a Police Scotland IT system so that it could be considered and a police response provided where appropriate.

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The force admitted that as a result, members of the public were exposed to risks to their health and safety and, in particular, on July 5, 2015, a police officer at the force call-handling centre at Bilston Glen Service Centre failed to record a phone call from a member of the public reporting that a vehicle was at the bottom of an embankment at the side of the eastbound junction nine slip road from the M80 on to the M9.

The phone call was not recorded on any Police Scotland IT system and no action was taken.

The force admitted Bell and Yuill remained “unaided and exposed to the elements” in the car between July 5 and 8, 2015, and that the failings “materially contributed” to Bell’s death on July 12 that year at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

The force pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

David Nellaney, Partner at Digby Brown, added: “The Bell family has endured things very few people could ever comprehend but the patience, resilience and compassion they have shown at all times cannot be understated.

“It is unfortunate Police Scotland did not admit its failings sooner as it might have spared them unnecessary distress but at least we do now have a conclusion and the Bells can rightly focus on themselves and times ahead.”


St Mirren chairman fined over ‘inappropriate’ Rangers tweets

John Needham was found to have broken Scottish FA rules with historic tweets

Ross MacDonald via SNS Group
Needham (right) has apologised for his comments.

St Mirren chairman John Needham has been fined by the Scottish FA over comments he made on social media about Rangers fans.

An independent disciplinary tribunal found that Needham had broken three of the SFA’s rules, and fined him £6,000, with £1,000 suspended until the end of the season.

Needham, who took up the role at the Paisley club this summer and has been a board member since 2020, posted messages on Twitter earlier this year, with an earlier tweet in 2015 calling Rangers fans “h**s”.

Another message earlier this year was in reply to a photograph of thousands of Rangers supporters crossing a Glasgow bridge, with Needham saying: “Here’s hoping the Squinty Bridge tips as well. Second thoughts… the pollution would be awful.” The tweet was followed by a ‘laughing’ emoji.

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Rangers wrote to St Mirren, the SPFL and the SFA about the comments and the governing body charged Needham with bringing the game into disrepute, making comments of a discriminatory or offensive nature, and acting in an improper manner while using indecent or insulting words or behaviour.

When the messages were highlighted, the club chairman made an apology, saying that the messages were “inappropriate” and expressing regret, claiming that they do not reflect his character.

In October, Needham tweeted: “On Friday 22 October a number of Tweets I created in the past referring to Rangers fans were highlighted on Twitter. As a club chairman I have extra responsibility for the conduct and example I show.

“These posts are completely inappropriate and do not reflect my character or beliefs as a person and I very much regret them.

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“I apologise unreservedly to the directors and fans of Rangers and to everyone at St Mirren. I am acutely aware of my responsibilities. This won’t happen again.”


Man killed by falling tree during Storm Arwen named by police

David Lapage died after his Nissan Navara was struck on the B977 in Aberdeenshire.

Police Scotland
David Lapage, 35, died when his vehicle was struck by a falling tree.

A man who died after his vehicle was struck by a falling tree in Aberdeenshire has been formally identified.

David Lapage, 35, died after his Nissan Navara pick-up was struck on the B977 Dyce to Hatton Fintry Road around 5.45pm on Friday, November 26.

In a statement released through Police Scotland, his family said: “The family would like to thank all services involved and greatly appreciate all the messages of support.

“They would ask that their privacy is respected at this time.”

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Sergeant Craig McNeill of the Divisional Road Policing Unit at Inverurie said: “Our thoughts are very much with David’s family and friends at this time.

“Our enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances and anyone with information who hasn’t yet spoken to an officer can call 101 quoting reference 2999 of 26 November.”

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