UK ministers pledge more support for fishing industry

Cash grants are being made available for more fishing businesses as criteria for a support fund are being expanded.

Cash grants are being made available for more fishing businesses. Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Cash grants are being made available for more fishing businesses.

The fishing industry will be able to draw on more support as it deals with post-Brexit export issues and the impact of coronavirus, UK ministers say.

Cash grants are being made available for more fishing businesses as criteria for a support fund are being expanded.

These will draw on a £23m fund announced in January to help seafood exporters who were struggling to get produce to their usual markets in the EU.

The fishing industry has also been hit by a drop in demand from the hospitality sector.


A new UK-wide scheme, similar to last year’s Fisheries Response Fund, will open in early March.

Earlier this month, a taskforce made up of the UK Government, the Scottish Government and the seafood industry met to discuss the way forward.

Environment secretary George Eustice said: “Our fishermen are at the heart of many of our coastal communities and we recognise the impact of coronavirus and the end of the transition period on them.

“This expansion of our £23m support package will ensure many more businesses can benefit from Government support.


“The coronavirus pandemic has led to the closure of critical markets, and this has been exacerbated by issues faced by exporters at the border.

“We will continue to ensure we are listening to our fishing and seafood industry as we work to resolve these issues, and work with them to build up the industry in the months and years ahead.”

The scheme will involve a single payment which covers a portion of fixed costs over a three-month period from January to March 2021.

Scotland Office minister David Duguid said: “Over the last few months, we have been listening to the seafood industry and have continued to monitor the impacts that the pandemic and export disruption has played on prices, exports and the market.

“I am confident in the quality of Scottish fish and seafood but for many fishing businesses the lack of demand in the hospitality trade in the UK and further afield has had a real impact on market prices.

“While we continue to take steps to beat this virus and work with the sector to resolve export issues – this expanded support scheme will help the many small and medium-sized fishing businesses that support so many of our coastal communities.”

Sturgeon brands Salmond conspiracy claims ‘absurd’

The First Minister is giving evidence to MSPs amid calls for her to resign.

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Nicola Sturgeon has described claims of a plot against her predecessor Alex Salmond as “absurd”.

The First Minister is giving evidence to MSPs investigating the Scottish Government’s botched investigation into harassment allegations against Salmond.

The failed legal case in 2018 eventually cost taxpayers around £600,000.

Sturgeon apologised to two women who made complaints against Salmond, admitting they were let down by a “very serious error”.


Salmond claimed in his evidence to the inquiry on Friday that there had been a “malicious scheme” to damage his reputation.

But Sturgeon dismissed his claims during her opening statement to the Holyrood committee on Wednesday morning.

She said: “I feel I must rebut the absurd suggestion that anyone acted with malice or as part of a plot against Alex Salmond. That claim is not based in any fact.

“What happened is this and it is simple. A number of women made complaints against Alex Salmond. The government, despite the mistake it undoubtedly made, tried to do the right thing.


“As First Minister I refused to follow the age old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants.

“The police conducted an independent criminal investigation. The Crown Office considered there was a case to answer.

“Now this committee is considering what happened and why.”

Sturgeon told the inquiry that Salmond’s account to her of his “deeply inappropriate behaviour” was a “moment in my life that I will never forget”, as she maintained she did not intervene in the Scottish Government’s investigation into her predecessor.

She said the details of complaints against Salmond were “shocking” and his behaviour “was not always appropriate”.

Describing a meeting with Salmond in her home on April 2, 2018, she said, while he denied the complaints against him, he gave his account of the incident which “he said he had apologised for at the time”.

Sturgeon has also been accused of breaching the ministerial code over the Salmond affair – which would put her under huge pressure to resign if proved.


A separate investigation is taking place into the code breach allegations, which Sturgeon denies.

Salmond was cleared of a string of sexual assaults following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh in 2020.

The Scottish Conservatives called for Sturgeon to resign the night before she gave evidence, saying there was “no doubt” she had misled parliament.

Party leader Douglas Ross said: “The weight of the evidence is overwhelming. Nicola Sturgeon must resign.

“We will be submitting a vote of no confidence in the First Minister.”

What we know about the Alex Salmond Holyrood inquiry

Nicola Sturgeon is due to appear before the committee on Wednesday following Alex Salmond's appearance last week.

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Inquiry: Former first minister Alex Salmond.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will appear before the Holyrood inquiry into her government’s unlawful investigation of Alex Salmond on Wednesday.

She has said she is looking forward to challenging allegations made against her.

Why was the committee established?

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up to look into the Scottish Government investigation of the allegations against the former first minister.


MSPs have so far taken evidence from civil servants, including repeated sessions from permanent secretary Leslie Evans, trade unions and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – who is Sturgeon’s husband – and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.

Salmond himself gave evidence to the inquiry on Friday, February 26, when he claimed the Scottish Government hoped his criminal trial would “ride to the rescue” and prevent its unlawful investigation of him suffering a “cataclysmic” civil court defeat.

Why did Salmond take legal action?

The former first minister did not feel his treatment by the Scottish Government was fair.


It was later found that the lead investigator of the complaints had prior contact with some of the female complainers, with Judge Lord Pentland saying the investigation was “tainted with apparent bias”.

How has the inquiry gone so far?

The committee has repeatedly voiced frustration with how slow the handing over of evidence has been from a number of parties.

The Scottish Government was accused of obstruction last year, with the committee saying it was “completely frustrated” with the lack of evidence.

Both the committee and the Scottish Government were at loggerheads over legal advice provided as part of the judicial review process.

MSPs wanted to know when the Scottish Government was advised it would likely lose the challenge raised by Salmond, but ministers said handing over the advice would breach the ministerial code.

On two occasions, MSPs voted for the evidence to be released, with a deal eventually being struck in December to disclose the advice only to MSPs on the committee.


Didn’t Salmond face trial on sexual misconduct charges?

Yes. The former first minister was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh in March last year, after being arrested in January 2019.

What were the issues with Salmond’s evidence?

Salmond and the committee have been wrangling in recent weeks over evidence published by the inquiry.

Earlier this month the former first minister said he would not appear, after the committee decided not to publish his submission to a separate investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code, over fears it may identify some of the complainers in Salmond’s criminal trial last year.

However, an alteration made to a court order by Judge Lady Dorrian meant the evidence could potentially be made public.

While the committee voted against publication, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) made the decision to publish anyway.

The evidence, which was released last Monday evening, was online for less than 24 hours before the Crown Office raised concerns with Holyrood about it, asking for redactions to be made.

In his submission, the former first minister accused some in the Scottish Government and SNP of a “malicious and concerted attempt to damage my reputation and remove me from public life in Scotland”.

Sturgeon said her predecessor did not have “a shred of evidence” to support his claims.

Last Tuesday the submission was re-released, with a number of paragraphs relating to the set-up of a meeting between Salmond and his successor redacted.

Is the committee inquiry the only investigation into the matter?

No. Sturgeon is currently under investigation by James Hamilton QC, to establish if she breached the ministerial code.

Sturgeon referred herself after being accused of misleading parliament over when she knew of the complaints against Salmond.

She previously said she had been told about the allegations by Salmond himself during a meeting in her home on April 2, 2018.

However, it was later found that Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had met the First Minister in her Holyrood office four days prior to that, where she was told of the complaints.

Did the Scottish Government publish legal advice it received over the Salmond case?

Deputy first minister John Swinney agreed to hand over legal advice under threat of a no-confidence vote from opposition parties, and the advice was published on Tuesday evening.

Documents showed that lawyers warned the Scottish Government in September 2018 that there “is a real risk that the court may be persuaded by the petitioner’s case in respect of the ground of challenge based on ‘procedural unfairness’”.

On December 6, 2018 legal advisers told ministers that in their view the “least worst option” would be to concede the petition.

Following publication of the legal advice, the Scottish Conservatives called on Sturgeon to resign and said they would submit a vote of no confidence in her.

A spokesman for the First Minister said on Tuesday evening that to call a vote of no confidence in the middle of a pandemic, before hearing a single word of the First Minister’s evidence, is “utterly irresponsible”.

Police believe rapist is the ‘person you’d least suspect’

Police have linked two sex attacks on young women that happened more than five years ago following DNA advancements.

Police Scotland
Newmills Road: A housing estate has since been built in the area.

Police are on the hunt for the “person you’d least suspect” after linking two sex attacks on young women that happened more than five years ago following DNA advancements.

The sexual assaults took place in the south west of Edinburgh in August 2015.

The first victim was grabbed from behind and sexually assaulted in Craiglockhart Quadrant on Wednesday, August 5.

The 21-year-old had got off a bus in nearby Colinton Road shortly before the attack at around 10.30pm. Police said the man had not been on the bus.


Three weeks later, on Thursday, August 27, the attacker struck again but this time raped his victim.

The 19-year-old victim had got off a bus in Lanark Road West shortly after midnight.

The man approached her in the Newmills Road area and claimed he had a knife. He then led her to a nearby field, where she was seriously sexually assaulted.

DNA advancements have enabled investigators to establish that both attacks were carried out by the same person.


Police have a full DNA profile for the man responsible, but need the public’s help to find him.

Detectives are asking people to think back to August 2015.

At that time, Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe was taking place. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo’s theme was East Meets West and marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Detective inspector Jon Pleasance said: “We believe we’re looking for the person you’d least suspect; someone whose community wouldn’t think is responsible for such horrific offences.

“We’re asking everyone, please think back to the summer of 2015. Was there someone in your life – a friend, family member or colleague – acting different? Was their behaviour around this time at all unusual for them?

“Don’t dismiss your concerns, no matter how small they seem. We have a full DNA profile of the person responsible and so can quickly and completely rule people out. Help us find who did this.”

If you have any information, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Forbes: Budget ‘must respect devolution and not cut funding’

Rishi Sunak is due to set out his spending plans in the House of Commons at 12.30pm.

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Budget: 'Must respect devolution'.

The Chancellor’s Budget must provide adequate funding and respect devolution, Scotland’s finance secretary has said.

As Scotland’s political parties set out their requests for Rishi Sunak, Kate Forbes said decision-making should not be centralised at Westminster.

Sunak is due to set out his spending plans in the House of Commons at 12.30pm on Wednesday.

Ahead of his statement, SNP minister Forbes said: “The Chancellor must not turn this into a budget that centralises resources and decision-making at Westminster.


“We are still in the throes of a national emergency and it is vital we receive the funds needed to continue to support Scottish businesses and livelihoods.

“The Scottish Government has acted decisively to provide our economy with stability and certainly whenever possible.

“As well as extending non-domestic rates relief by 12 months for the sectors worst hit by pandemic, we have an ongoing commitment to provide Covid-19 grants to businesses as lockdown measures begin ease.

“This lifeline support is contingent on the receipt of additional consequential funding from today’s budget.


“It is therefore more important than ever that the Chancellor today respects the devolution settlement and allows the Scottish Government to effectively develop its ongoing response to the pandemic.”

She said it would be “unacceptable” if the Scottish Government’s budget was cut to pay for UK Government policies.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said businesses needed a clear recovery plan which would protect jobs.

He said: “The top priority for governments in both Edinburgh and London must be bringing our country together so that we can recover from the pandemic.

“Labour is committed to delivering growth across the entire UK, supporting our high streets to thrive, and protecting family finances.

“We understand that having good businesses is vital to creating good jobs, which is why under my leadership we will be a pro-business party – and I will work hard to rebuild our party’s relationship with employers.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross set out eight priorities, including funding for free ports, city deals, extending the £20 Universal Credit uplift and backing key infrastructure projects.


He said: “The pandemic has shown us that Scotland’s place in the UK has been vital in securing jobs and businesses and protecting the most vulnerable in society.

“We have benefitted from almost £10bn of extra funding as well as UK-wide support schemes such as furlough.

“While the sleazy SNP rip themselves apart and plot to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK, my budget asks are all about how best to support and grow the Scottish economy as we emerge from the pandemic.

“The Chancellor has an incredibly tough job but I am confident he will continue to deliver for the people of Scotland.”

Key dates in the Salmond saga as Sturgeon to appear at inquiry

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will give evidence to the Holyrood committee later on Wednesday.

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Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon is due to give evidence to the Holyrood committee examining the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment allegations made against Alex Salmond.

The inquiry was established after Scotland’s former first minister successfully challenged the government’s apparently biased investigation, resulting in a £512,250 payout.

Here are the key dates as the saga has unfolded:

October 31, 2017


First Minister Nicola Sturgeon orders a review of the Scottish Government’s “policies and processes for addressing inappropriate conduct” in the wake of the MeToo movement.

The review is led by the government’s most senior civil servant, permanent secretary Leslie Evans.

November 4

Sturgeon is informed about an inquiry by Sky News relating to Salmond’s alleged behaviour towards female staff at Edinburgh Airport.


December 20

Sturgeon approves the “Handling of Harassment Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers” procedure.

January, 2018

Two female staff members make formal complaints to the Scottish Government about Salmond’s conduct in December 2013 when he was first minister.

An internal investigation is established and investigating officer Judith Mackinnon is appointed.

March 7

The permanent secretary tells Salmond about the investigation.


March 29

Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, meets Sturgeon at Holyrood and discusses the allegations.

In her written evidence to the committee in 2020, Sturgeon says she forgot about this meeting until “late January/early February” 2019.

April 2

Salmond meets Sturgeon at her home in Glasgow and tells her that he is under investigation.

In Salmond’s later written evidence, he states the First Minister “suggested that she would intervene in favour of a mediation process at an appropriate stage” but subsequently decided against intervening.

Sturgeon has argued she thought this was a party meeting, rather than a government one.

April 23

Salmond calls Sturgeon twice, asking her to encourage the permanent secretary to accept his mediation request.

June 7

Sturgeon meets Salmond in Aberdeen, ahead of the SNP conference.

July 14

Sturgeon and Salmond meet at the First Minister’s Glasgow home.

August 21

The Crown Office passes complaints about Salmond to police.

August 22

Salmond is told the government inquiry is complete.

August 23

The Scottish Government tells Salmond’s lawyers it intends to release a public statement about the investigation, but agrees not to until an interim interdict application seeking to block publication has been heard.

The Daily Record newspaper breaks news of the allegations against Salmond via a tweet.

He denies misconduct and calls some of the allegations “patently ridiculous”.

August 28

Salmond lodges a petition for a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

August 29

Salmond resigns from the SNP, but says he will apply to rejoin once he has cleared his name.

He launches a crowdfunding appeal for the review, which quickly reaches more than £100,000.

September 14

Police confirm they have launched an investigation into the complaints against Salmond, separate from the government’s investigation and the judicial review process.

January 8, 2019

A week before the full judicial review is due to start, the Scottish Government concedes defeat at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The government’s lawyers accept that investigating officer Ms Mackinnon has had previous contact with the complainers.

The court concludes the investigation was “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias”.

Ms Evans releases a statement apologising to “all involved” and Salmond calls for her to consider her position.

January 13

Sturgeon refers herself to independent advisers to rule on whether she breached the ministerial code in her meetings with Salmond.

January 15

MSPs agree to hold a Holyrood inquiry into the government’s handling of the complaints against Salmond.

January 23

Police Scotland arrest Salmond.

January 24

Salmond appears at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and is charged with several sexual offences, including attempted rape, which he denies.

August 2

The Scottish Government pays £511,250 to Salmond in connection with the judicial review.

February 26, 2020

The Scottish Parliament Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaint meets for the first time.

March 9

Salmond’s criminal trial starts at the High Court in Edinburgh.

March 23

Salmond is acquitted on all charges.

The jury returns not guilty verdicts on 12 charges, including attempted rape, and a further not proven verdict is returned on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape.

August 18

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints hears evidence from its first witness, the permanent secretary.

September 29

Committee convener Linda Fabiani warns their investigation is being “completely frustrated” by a lack of evidence from key witnesses, and accuses the Scottish Government of “obstruction”.

November 4

The Scottish Parliament passes a motion demanding the government reveals the legal advice it received during the judicial review.

December 18

The inquiry into the Salmond affair reaches an agreement with the Scottish Government over access to previously undisclosed material.

January 13, 2021

Salmond rejects an invitation to appear before the committee in person on February 19, citing public health grounds.

January 20

Salmond alleges the Scottish Government’s “reprehensible” failure to release “crucial” documents had put him at a disadvantage in both his criminal trial and legal challenge against the government’s investigation.

In written evidence to the committee, he says his legal team will ask the Lord Advocate whether the government was in contempt of court over the “withholding of relevant evidence”.

January 26

Salmond refuses another offer to appear before the committee the following week.

January 27

The committee offers a final date – February 8 – for Salmond to appear to give evidence.

January 29

The Crown Office confirms it has handed over evidence to the Holyrood inquiry.

It allows the unprecedented step of MSPs issuing a notice to the Crown Office under part of the Scotland Act, demanding the release of documents detailing text or WhatsApp communications between SNP chief operating officer Susan Ruddick and Scottish Government ministers, civil servants or special advisers.

It also asks for any documents linked to the leaking of complaints to the Daily Record newspaper in August 2018.

February 3

Salmond brands the behaviour of the current Scottish Government a “disgrace”, in a written submission to the inquiry.

He accuses Ms Evans of having a “bias” against him.

He also claims the “overwhelming likelihood” is that someone in the government leaked details of the case against him to the press.

February 8

Salmond declines to appear before the harassment committee over concerns about the committee not publishing his evidence.

His submission, published elsewhere online, accused Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code with “false and manifestly untrue” statements to parliament, which she denies.

Salmond’s lawyers say he “cannot take his oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth” until a number of concerns were addressed, including the publication of the evidence by the committee and concerns about him being “in legal jeopardy”.

February 25

Alex Salmond agrees to appear before the Holyrood inquiry after his evidence is published in a redacted form following a long drawn-out saga.

February 26

Salmond gives evidence to the Holyrood committee.

He says Scotland’s “leadership has failed” and calls for the Lord Advocate and the head of Scotland’s civil service, Leslie Evans, to resign over the handling of the complaints against him.

He says he has “no doubt” Sturgeon broke rules governing the behaviour of ministers, but stops short of saying she should resign.

March 2

The Scottish Conservatives call on Sturgeon to resign after the Scottish Government published legal advice related to the botched investigation.

Deputy first minister John Swinney agreed to hand over the legal advice under threat of a no-confidence vote, and acknowledged “reservations were raised” by government lawyers about the way allegations about Salmond were investigated.

The Scottish Conservatives say they will submit a no-confidence motion in the First Minister.

Furlough scheme to be extended until September at 80%

Rishi Sunak is expected to confirm an extension to the furlough scheme as he reveals the government's budget plan.

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Sunak: Set to announce extension of furlough scheme.

The chancellor is set to announce that the government’s furlough scheme will be extended until September.

Rishi Sunak is expected to confirm the decision as he reveals the government’s budget plan on Wednesday.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has protected around 11 million jobs throughout the UK since the start of the pandemic.

And Wednesday’s announcement will mean that businesses and individuals will now continue to be supported through the next stage of lockdown with furlough payments remaining at 80% of the employees salary.


Although employers will now be asked to pay a percentage towards their staff’s furlough payments.

Sunak is also set to announce that more than 600,000 people will now be able to claim direct cash grants under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).  

The chancellor said: “Our Covid support schemes have been a lifeline to millions, protecting jobs and incomes across the UK.

“There’s now light at the end of the tunnel with a roadmap for reopening, so it’s only right that we continue to help business and individuals through the challenging months ahead – and beyond.”


A statement released by the UK government on Tuesday said: “As restrictions are eased and the economy begins to reopen, businesses will be asked to contribute alongside the taxpayer to the cost of paying their employees for hours not worked.

“The government will ask for a small contribution of just 10% in July and 20% in August and September towards the hours their staff do not work.”

Study into vaccine in patients with impaired immune systems

The new trial - a collaborative research project - is funded by the Medical Research Council.

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Vaccine: The trial is funded by the Medical Research Council.

A new study is to investigate the immune response to Covid-19 vaccinations in patients with certain immunosuppressed conditions, including cancer.

People with cancer, inflammatory arthritis, diseases of the kidney or liver or who are having a stem cell transplant may be at increased risk of the more severe complications of Covid-19 infection.

These underlying medical conditions and the treatment that such patients receive as part of their care may weaken the immune system, making vaccines particularly welcome for these groups.

However researchers have said current evidence suggests that people with these medical conditions may not obtain optimal protection from established vaccines.


The new Octave trial will seek to better determine the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines in these clinically at-risk patient groups.

The trial, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), is a collaborative research project involving groups in the universities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Oxford, Liverpool, Imperial College London and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Professor Iain McInnes, head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow, who leads the Octave study, said: “We urgently need to understand if patient populations with chronic conditions such as cancer, inflammatory arthritis and kidney and liver disease are likely to be well-protected by current Covid-19 vaccines.

“The Octave study will give us invaluable new data to help us answer questions of this kind from our patients and their families.”


The Octave study will investigate the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines being used in the UK in 2021, in up to 5000 people within these patient populations.

Using a variety of state-of-the-art immune tests performed on blood samples taken before and/or after Covid-19 vaccination, researchers will determine patients’ Covid-19 immune response and therefore the likelihood that vaccines will fully protect these groups from infection.

Researchers have begun recruiting patients at sites across the UK and will compare results from the study group against control groups of healthy people, without these underlying diseases, who also received Covid-19 vaccines.

Scientists do not yet know how long Covid-19 vaccines provide immunity for, and there may be an ongoing need for vaccination against the disease for years to come.

Professor Fiona Watt, executive chair of the Medical Research Council, which funded the study, said: “This study is investigating the response to the new Covid-19 vaccines in people whose immune systems make them more vulnerable to Covid-19 and other infections.

“This will help ensure that those more at risk from infection receive the best protection possible.”

The Octave study is sponsored by the University of Birmingham and is being run by the University’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU).


University of Birmingham Professor Pam Kearns, Director of the CRCTU, said: “We are pleased to be supporting this important nationally collaborative study that will inform the best use of the Covid-19 vaccines to protect these vulnerable patients.”

Call for Sturgeon to resign over Salmond evidence

The government published legal advice on the Salmond judicial review on Tuesday.

STV News
Former first minister Alex Salmond and his successor Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls to resign after fresh questions were raised about her role in the Alex Salmond affair.

The Scottish Government has published legal advice related to its botched investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against the former first minister.

It showed the government continued the legal fight despite being advised there was a “real risk” it would lose.

The failed action eventually cost taxpayers around £600,000.


Meanwhile, further witness statements released by a Holyrood inquiry have raised questions over Sturgeon’s version of events.

The First Minister is due to give evidence to MSPs on Wednesday, however the Scottish Tories said they would now submit a motion of no confidence her.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Credible witnesses have now backed up Alex Salmond’s claims and the legal advice shows the government knew months in advance that the judicial review was doomed but they still went on to waste more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money.

“There is no longer any doubt that Nicola Sturgeon lied to the Scottish Parliament and broke the ministerial code on numerous counts.”


He added: “The weight of the evidence is overwhelming. Nicola Sturgeon must resign.

“We will be submitting a vote of no confidence in the First Minister.”

Responding to Conservatives’ statement, a spokesperson for the First Minister said: “The First Minister will address all of the issues raised – and much more besides – at the committee tomorrow, while the independent adviser on the ministerial code will report in due course.  

“But to call a vote of no confidence in the middle of a pandemic, before hearing a single word of the First Minister’s evidence, is utterly irresponsible. 

“It is for the public to decide who they want to govern Scotland and – while we continue to fight the Covid pandemic – with the election campaign starting in just 20 days, that is precisely what they will be able to do.”

The Scottish Government launched an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by the former first minister, but it was found to be unlawful, unfair and “tainted by apparent bias” because of prior contact between the investigating officer and two of the women who complained.

Redacted legal advice published by the Scottish Government on Tuesday evening showed that lawyers advised them in September 2018 that there “is a real risk that the court may be persuaded by the petitioner’s case in respect of the ground of challenge based on ‘procedural unfairness’.”


On December 6, 2018 legal advisers told ministers that in their view the “least worst option” would be to concede the petition.

They wrote: “We understand how unpalatable that advice will be, and we do not tender it lightly.

“But we cannot let the respondents sail forth into January’s hearing without the now very real risks of doing so being crystal clear to all concerned.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the published legal advice showed the Scottish Government were right to carry on with their legal action.

He said: “Today the Scottish Government has taken the exceptional step of releasing key legal advice.

“We have done this in recognition of the overwhelming public interest in rebutting the false allegations made about the advice informing decision-making in the judicial review.

“These documents are clear. Our legal advice was optimistic about the government’s prospects for success at the start. It became gradually but progressively less optimistic over time.

“It was only in December that the advice concluded that our case was no longer stateable and we should concede. Indeed, as late as December 11, ministers were advised that we should continue.

“Within a matter of days of being advised that the case was no stateable, we have taken the decision to concede. That was right and proper.

“Significantly, however, this comprehensively disproves claims that we had continued the case in defiance of legal advice. That is categorically untrue and these documents put that beyond doubt.”

Scottish Labour said the published legal advice showed the government’s handling of the complaints had been “indefensible”.

Deputy lead Jackie Bailie said: “The Scottish Government’s unlawful handling of harassment complaints appears to be indefensible, and I look forward to having the opportunity to question the First Minister on the failings of her government.”

Sturgeon has repeatedly denied breaching the ministerial code over the Salmond saga.

Artist wins £15,000 award with ruined building proposal

Andrew Black won the Margaret Tait Award with his proposed new work, The Besom.

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Creative: Andrew Black has won this year’s £15,000 prize for the Margaret Tait Award.

Artist Andrew Black has won this year’s £15,000 prize for the Margaret Tait Award.

He took the top award for moving image artists in Scotland with his proposed new work, The Besom.

Named after a 19th-century inn, once a site of social gathering, it will explore the traces of different social and industrial pasts which haunt the now-ruined building’s surroundings.

He plans to use local history research practices and experimental production processes to explore strange synchronicities and uncanny presences in a depopulated upland landscape.

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Artist: An image from Mr Black’s work Submerged Village.

Winning the award means the finished work from the Leeds-born artist, who has lived in Glasgow since 2009, will be screened at Glasgow Film Festival next year.

It will also go on show in London and around Scotland.

Mr Black said: “I feel completely stunned to receive the Margaret Tait award this year – it’s a massive deal for anyone who makes moving image in Scotland. It’s all the more humbling considering the quantity of excellent video work being made here – all of the shortlisted artists have practices that I know and love, and I can’t really express how privileged I feel to have been included alongside them.

“I tried to propose a project that can work imaginatively with the limitations of our present situation and create the circumstances for exchange and improvisation.


“It’s a project I’ve wanted to make for a long time, and it seemed to offer an opportunity to explore some of the anxieties and complexities of the current moment, so I’m excited to see where it will lead once we get started.”

He is currently working with Atlas Arts on the Plural Futures community film commission on Skye.

Inspired by pioneering Orcadian filmmaker and poet, Margaret Tait, the award is presented to a Scottish or Scotland-based artist who has established a significant body of work in recent years, is recognised by peers for their contribution to the artists’ moving image sector and can demonstrate the impact the award will have on their development.

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Scenic: A still from Mr Black’s work Eternity Knocker.

Established in 2010, the award is a LUX Scotland commission in partnership with Glasgow Film, supported by Screen Scotland.

Kitty Anderson, LUX Scotland director, congratulated Mr Black on his win.

She said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Andrew over the coming year to realise his proposal, and to premiere the new work as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2022.

“This year’s shortlist: Andrew Black, Christian Noelle Charles, Winnie Herbstein, Mathew Wayne Parkin and Tako Taal, was truly outstanding, and it was a real privilege to be able to spend time with each of the artist’s work.


“My thanks go to all five shortlisted artists for their excellent proposals, and to all the artists that submitted their work for consideration.”

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