Beer gardens and hairdressers set to reopen in July

Nicola Sturgeon set out a range of 'indicative dates' for when she plans to lift certain lockdown restrictions.

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Beer gardens should be able to reopen from July 6 while hairdressers are expected to resume work on July 15, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister set out a range of “indicative dates” for when the Scottish Government plans to lift certain restrictions and enter different phases of the route map out of lockdown.

Under the plans, Scots will be allowed to travel around the country for recreation and leisure, rather than the current guidelines of a five-mile limit, from July 3.

It would also allow people to visit self-catering accommodation like holiday cottages or caravans.

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Beer gardens and other outdoor hospitality like restaurants and cafes are expected to open their doors again on July 6 provided coronavirus continues to be suppressed.

On July 13, the plan is to allow shopping centres to open their doors again, while organised sport for children and young people should also resume.

And by July 15, the government hopes indoor meetings between members of two different households will be safe enough to be permitted.

That same day, the tourism sector should be up and running once more – including restaurants and pubs indoors and outdoors, hotels, B&Bs, museums and art galleries.

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However, there will likely to be significant restrictions and “a number of conditions” in place for that, and Sturgeon confirmed two-metre social distancing remains in place for now.

Also reopening on that date, it is hoped, are hairdressers and barbers.

The Scottish Government has earmarked July 10 as the date for when outdoor meetings, such as in parks of private gardens, will be allowed between multiple households, rather than the current maximum of three.

Addressing MSPs, the First Minister said that day could also see the expansion of the extended household initiative, which currently allows people living alone to join one other household and behave as a single household.

She stated she would also look at measures that would allow young people and children to mix more with their peers.

On the provisional dates, the First Minister said: “This greater clarity is possible because of the progress we have made against the virus – but delivering on the milestones depends on that progress continuing.”

As part of the updated route map for Scotland, Sturgeon said she hopes phase three will begin on July 9, after the official lockdown review which takes place every three weeks.

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But she warned that if Covid-19 begins to take hold again, the move out of lockdown “will be halted” and could even be reversed.

The FM said: “Our challenge – not an easy one – is to manage all of this change while keeping the virus firmly under control.

“If at any stage there appears to be a risk of its resurgence, our path out of lockdown will be halted and we may even have to go backwards.

“To avoid that, we must get as close as possible to elimination of the virus now and build confidence in our ability to control it in future through surveillance, testing, contact tracing and, where necessary, targeted suppression measures.

“If we can do that, then the move from phase three to phase four will become possible, perhaps as we go into August.

“That won’t be easy and it certainly cannot be taken for granted. But we can all play a part in making it happen.”

By phase four, according to the Scottish Government’s route map, life should begin to feel much more like normal.

Back in business: hairdressers could be set to reopen.

It comes as four new deaths of Scots with coronavirus were reported in the last day, taking the death toll combining confirmed and presumed Covid deaths in Scotland to 4127.

But weekly deaths fell to 49 in the week ending June 21, their lowest level since before lockdown began, while just nine new cases of the virus were recorded in the last 24 hours, the smallest figure since March 11.

Sturgeon said: “The choices we have made to date as individuals, and collectively as a society, have brought us this far – albeit with a lot of sorrow along the way.

“But arguably, the choices we make in the coming weeks will be even more important, as we learn to work, socialise and live alongside each other again, but in a way that keeps the virus under control.

“For us to meet each other indoors again, for more businesses to reopen, for children to return to school on a full time basis in August – all of that depends on all of us acting for the common good.”

FM to urge ‘credible action’ on climate change from world leaders

More than 120 world leaders will attend the COP26 summit.

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The summit takes place at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will call on world leaders to take “credible actions” to achieve net zero in a speech ahead of the Cop26 UN climate change conference.

She will say that keeping the prospect of limiting global warning to less than 1.5C alive cannot simply be a “face-saving slogan” but must be real.

In a keynote speech to an audience of young people and students in Glasgow, she will call on international leaders to act to limit global temperature increases and deliver a fair financial package for the global south.

More than 120 world leaders will attend the COP26 summit, which takes place at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.

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The First Minister will say that Scotland is in a unique position to make the event a success and will act as a “bridge”, creating spaces and dialogues and promoting understanding.

She will say: “We will take seriously the responsibility of all governments, at all levels, to show ambition, and to galvanise action.

“If we do that, we can all contribute towards a successful summit.

“I have said that small countries can lead the way in this, and they can, but in the coming days, it is the countries which emit the most, who most need to step up.

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“They need to make ambitious pledges to achieve net zero. And those pledges must be backed by credible actions.

“The idea of ‘keeping 1.5 alive’, cannot simply be a face-saving slogan. It must be real.

“And there must be progress in Glasgow which makes that outcome more likely.”

The talks in Glasgow have been billed as the last best chance to limit global warming to 1.5C in the long term.

Sturgeon is expected to say that Scotland will do what it can to contribute to a successful outcome at the Glasgow summit.

She will say: “Scotland is in a unique position to help make COP a success.

“And one of the ways in which we will do that, over the next three weeks, is by acting as a bridge.

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“We will use our position, as the venue for COP, to create spaces and dialogues which encourage empathy, promote understanding and help people share perspectives.

“We will encourage national governments to match the ambition of cities, regions and state governments.

“We will help those around the negotiating table to hear from activists in the developed world and from the global South.”

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Girl backs candle-free Halloween after hair fire horror

Karla Peacock suffered serious burns after being set on fire by a candle.

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Karla Peacock was practising blowing out candles ahead of her fifth birthday when her hair suddenly became engulfed in flames.

Instead of celebrating with friends and family, she endured eight weeks in hospital with second and third-degree burns to her scalp and has been left with lasting nerve damage.

Now 16, Karla is backing a new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) campaign urging people to abandon real candles this Halloween in favour of battery-operated alternatives.

Karla, from Port Glasgow, said: “All I can remember was shouting ‘fire, fire’, and my mum screaming and then me being in an ambulance. I was in hospital for a long time and I’ve had multiple operations since.

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“My injury has had an impact, not just on my appearance, but also how I feel about myself. With the skin grafts, my scars are only visible now if I point them out, but they are always visible to me.

“Due to my surgeries I’ve been left with nerve damage and spinal pain and I also get panicked when I smell smoke and hear alarms or sirens.”

Karla is now in college studying theatre make-up and construction, and credits her recovery to help and support received from the Scottish Burned Children’s Club.

She said: “This Halloween, my advice is to go flameless and switch to reusable candles. With no naked flame it totally removes any risk of injury.

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“Children are curious and don’t see the dangers others are more aware of. I want to share my story to stop another child having to experience what I have.”

The SFRS Go Flameless campaign is warning that Halloween costumes can often burn more quickly than normal clothing.

Deputy assistant chief officer Alasdair Perry said: “I commend Karla for her bravery in sharing her story, which shows only too starkly why children should never be left alone near a naked flame and lit candles should never be left unattended.

“We want everyone to have a fun Halloween, but we also want it to be safe. We’re urging people to swap tealight and other candles with a naked flame for a reusable flameless type instead as this simple step completely removes the risk of fire and the dangers it brings.”

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First weekend of enforcement of vaccine passport scheme ‘unmitigated disaster’

The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) say staff have faced' intolerable levels of abuse' and some venues saw a drop in footfall of up to 40%.

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There are calls for the Scottish Government to scrap the scheme, which has been legally enforceable since October 18.

The first weekend of enforcement of Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme has been an “unmitigated disaster”, according to a hospitality sector body.

The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) said that staff have faced “intolerable levels of abuse” and some venues saw a drop in footfall of up to 40%.

It is calling on the Scottish Government to scrap the scheme, which has been legally enforceable since October 18.

Proof of full vaccination is required to enter nightclubs and large events as part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus and increase vaccine take-up.

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The measures technically came into effect from October 1, but an 18-day grace period was announced following backlash from affected industries and significant problems with the new app.

SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “The first weekend of the vaccine passports scheme has been one of unmitigated disaster – and that responsibility lies entirely at the door of the Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Hospitality Group has been warning the government for weeks that their vaccine passports scheme is not ready – but the government’s attitude has been to tell us to ‘get on with it’ whilst offering no safety net of support for businesses or our hard-working staff.

“The experience of this weekend shows that the result has been intolerable levels of abuse of our staff, and the creation of an atmosphere that will totally undermine anyone’s enjoyment of our night-time venues.”

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The SHG comprises many restaurant and bar businesses, including the DRG Group, Buzzworks Holdings, Signature Pubs, Montpeliers and Manorview Group.

It said that over the weekend members reported more than 550 instances where venue staff had to refuse entry to a customer because they had no vaccine passport, an ineligible vaccine passport, or a potentially fraudulent vaccine passport.

There were also a “concerning number” of reports of abuse of hospitality staff over rejections and queues at venues, and continuing problems were reported with the vaccine passport app and its update.

The vaccine certification scheme applies to late-night premises with music, alcohol and dancing between midnight and 5am.

Montgomery said the SHG is seeing some venues closing at midnight to “take themselves out of scope of the regulation for reasons around recruitment and staff welfare”.

He said: “The Scottish hospitality industry as a whole has paid enough for government failures in this pandemic, and it’s time the Scottish Government scrapped this scheme altogether.”

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.


‘Donald Trump said he would buy me a beer… but he never did’

Ten memorable moments to celebrate ten years of STV current affairs show Scotland Tonight.

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Happy birthday, Scotland Tonight! The STV current affairs show is celebrating ten years of debate and discussion across news, politics and entertainment.

Here, we look back at some of the stand-out moments from the show’s history, with memories from presenters John MacKay and Rona Dougall.

Donald Trump becomes first ever guest – October 24, 2011

Five years before his stunning election as US President, Donald Trump was interviewed from Trump Tower in New York.

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At the time, he was embroiled in a row with the Scottish Government and Aberdeenshire Council over plans for a wind farm off the coast of his new golf course.

Trump got the new show off to a flier – but the first star name to appear on Scotland Tonight very nearly didn’t…

“The cost of the satellite was too expensive, so we had a clever workaround,” recalls John. “Donald Trump was sitting in Trump Tower in NYC listening to my questions from the studio down a phone line.

“An American film crew in his office filmed his responses, which were then sent back to us in Glasgow, where they would be cut together with my questions. 

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“Only problem was there was a major delay in the footage from the States reaching us. With a short time to go until our debut programme, it looked as if it was going to be a disaster. 

“Fortunately, it all came together. Donald Trump said he’d buy me a beer next time was in Scotland. He never did.”

Graeme Obree discusses suicide – November 30, 2011

Record-breaking cycling champion Graeme Obree took part in a discussion on the subject of suicide, following the death of Wales football manager Gary Speed.

In a moving interview – which John describes as “one of the most memorable” he’s ever done – Obree revealed that he had twice attempted to take his own life.

“I asked the question many people might ask,” recalls John. “How could he have tried to do this with a wife and family needing him? His answer was compelling. 

“He said that people in that desperate situation genuinely believe they are doing their family a favour by leaving them. He described it as attending a party you don’t want to be at. You participate and smile, but all the while you really don’t want to be there. 

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“Intensify that tenfold every single day, he said, and that’s what it’s like for someone who thinks life is not worth living.”

Sturgeon starstruck by Sidse – February 4, 2013

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took over the Scotland Tonight interviewer’s chair to grill the Danish Prime Minister… or at least a fictional version.

Sidse Babett Knudsen had become well known for playing the role in the acclaimed political drama Borgen – and found a firm fan in Sturgeon.

Wrestlemania in the studio – June 18, 2013

Greg Hemphill and Rab Florence were interviewed about their forthcoming comedy wrestling bout at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow – when they decided to scrap in the studio.

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Greg Hemphill chucks a glass of water at Rab Florence.

“I knew they were hamming it up, but I did start to think they were maybe getting a bit serious as the insults started to fly,” recalls Rona. “I was horrified when Greg chucked the glass of water. I thought ‘yikes, what next?’. 

“Looking back, I’m proud of myself for not swearing!”

‘Help me, Rona’ – November 27, 2013

In what became known as the ‘Help me, Rona’ moment – although he didn’t actually use that exact phrase – then-Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael appealed for assistance during a head-to-head independence referendum debate with then-Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“I think it’s very cool that I inspired a catchphrase, even if he didn’t actually say that,” says Rona. 

“These debates were a fantastic format and I really enjoyed doing them. The run-up to the referendum was such an exciting time in politics in Scotland, and I really felt like I had a front-row seat as it all unfolded.”

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Alistair Carmichael appealed for help during an independence referendum debate with Nicola Sturgeon.

Powerful reflection 20 years after Dunblane massacre – March 8, 2016

Isabel Wilson, whose five-year-old daughter died in the 1996 Dunblane Primary School massacre, gave her first interview to mark the 20th anniversary.

“I was at Dunblane on the day of the shooting and reported on the subsequent inquiry,” says John. “It remains the story that has affected me most in my career.

“Isabel Wilson spoke for the first time on the 20th anniversary. She emphasised that she would not be identified as the mother of a Dunblane victim. She would not be defined by that. It was as powerful a testimony as I have ever heard.”

The guest who didn’t say anything – June 15, 2017

Not easy carrying out an interview when the guest won’t say anything, but that’s exactly what happened when American comedy magic duo Penn and Teller appeared in the studio.

Only Penn would answer questions – and perform a trick with Rona and a jellybean – while Teller remained silent.

Rona recalls: “These guys were, well, magic. I was having a great chat with them both in the green room before we went on air, but as soon as the interview started, Teller didn’t say a word. 

“It’s his thing to be the mute half of the act. Quite disconcerting, though, to have one of your interviewees sit resolutely silent.   

“They did perform a brilliant trick, which resulted in a jellybean appearing out of a nose. Still wonder how the heck they did that.”

Doddie Weir on his battle with MND – August 29, 2017

Scottish rugby great Doddie Weir left Rona in tears as he told of his determination to find new treatments for motor neurone disease.

Weir went on to set up his own foundation, My Name is Doddie, to raise money for research into the muscle-wasting condition.

“I think Doddie was a bit nervous before the interview in case he became too emotional, but I was the one who shed the tears in the end,” says Rona. 

“It was very unprofessional, but I was so moved by his courage and determination to try and change the treatment and life outcomes of people diagnosed with MND.”

Big win with the Big Yin – March 12, 2020

Shortly before Scotland locked down, John carried out an extended interview with Sir Billy Connolly.

Despite suffering from Parkinson’s, the comedy legend was in great form as he launched an art exhibition in Glasgow.

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Billy Connolly was in top form.

“He kept walking past me as he went from one interview to another and apologised for ‘keeping this man waiting’,” recalls John. “We were last because we were doing an extended interview to which the entire programme was devoted. 

“As well as being very, very funny, he was also very reflective. He has been one of the major Scottish figures of my lifetime and to find him as engaged and funny as I hoped was a joy.”

Covid Q&A with Jason Leitch – March 19, 2020

In what was to become the first of many Scotland Tonight appearances, national clinical director Jason Leitch answered viewers’ questions about coronavirus as the pandemic started to take hold.

Scotland was just days away from the first major lockdown and viewers had no shortage of questions about how life was set to change.

Leitch was soon to become a household name as he tried to help Scots navigate their way through new rules and regulations.

“Jason Leitch is a great communicator and obviously really enjoys the process of being interviewed, which made my job easy,” says Rona.   

“When we did this first interview with him, viewers were hungry for answers as it was such a difficult time and so much was unclear. The only problem was trying to fit all the questions in. I think viewers appreciated the chance to get some clarity.”


Labour urges SNP to ‘get a grip’ as hospital-onset Covid cases rise

Latest Public Health Scotland data showed an increase in cases.

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Scottish Labour are calling on the SNP to do more to keep hospitals safe and ensure staff can get their booster vaccines.

Scottish Labour has called on the SNP to “get a grip on hospital safety” as cases of hospital-onset Covid reached a seven-month high.

Latest Public Health Scotland data showed an increase in cases classed as “definite hospital onset”, where the first positive specimen date was 15 or more days after admission.

They rose from 37 cases in the week ending September 19 to 63 in the week ending September 26, taking levels to their highest point since mid-February.

In the week ending February 14, a total of 137 cases were reported as definite hospital onset, up from 109 the previous week.

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In addition to the 63 definite cases in the week ending September 26, there were a further 36 “probable” cases of hospital-onset Covid while 34 were classed as “indeterminate” hospital onset.

Scottish Labour are calling on the SNP to do more to keep hospitals safe and ensure staff can get their booster vaccines.

The party’s health and Covid recovery spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “It is disgraceful that so many people going into hospital for help to get better are then exposed to a life-threatening virus.

“Things are now the worst that they have been since the early days of the vaccine programme.

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“This is yet another sign of the immense pressure services are under.

“NHS staff are working tirelessly to keep hospitals running and keep patients safe, but they are being badly let down.

“It’s sheer complacency from the SNP that has let us get to this point.

“This spike in cases must be a wake-up call for them to get a grip on hospital safety.

“The SNP must act with the urgency needed to roll out the booster programme and make sure hospitals have everything they need to keep patients and staff safe.”

According to latest data from Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infection (ARHAI) Scotland, 4095 cases of definite hospital onset Covid-19 were recorded between the week ending March 1 2020 and the week ending September 26 2021, accounting for 0.7% of cases.

The Scottish Government is being asked for comment.

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Missing people chat service launched after demand rises during pandemic

Phone calls to the national Missing People helpline have risen more than a third (39%) in a year.

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The new service is confidential, anonymous, non-judgmental and free.

A charity for missing people has launched an online chat service for vulnerable adults in response to rising demand and cases of increased severity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Phone calls to the national Missing People helpline have risen more than a third (39%) in a year, from just under 1000 calls between 2019-2020 to 1384 recorded over the following year.

Overall, the number of adults helped by the charity has jumped 16% over the same period, from 2373 to 2747 adults.

An increasing number of these people were assessed as being at serious risk, it said – a trend which has continued throughout 2021.

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The charity, which reunites families in the UK, has launched the chat service after it noted a 13% rise in adults using its existing service intended for children and young people.

The new service is confidential, anonymous, non-judgmental and free.

Sophie Lapham, director of services at Missing People, said: “Over the past year or so, in particular, we have been speaking to people who have felt ‘like they just want to disappear’ or ‘feel trapped’ and ‘need to get away’.

“They say they ‘don’t want to be here anymore’ and feel like their families and friends ‘would be better off without them’. These are their words.”

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She added: “More people prefer the speed and anonymity of instant chat, particularly young adults.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people in crisis to get the help they need.”

The charity said people go missing or think about disappearing for multiple reasons, but poor mental health is a common factor in most scenarios.

Problems with work, money, debt or relationship breakdowns can also be key factors.

Ju Blencowe, who went missing in 2017 during a mental health crisis following the death of her mother, said the new service could “build a bridge to others who feel like I once did”.

She said: “You can share your pain with as little or as much anonymity as you feel you need.

“It’s less intrusive and yet still vitally in touch with another person whose sole purpose is to listen without judgment and support without fear of reprisal.”

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Increasingly police are asking the charity to text a missing person through its Suicide Risk Text Safe, and broader Text Safe services.

This involves the charity texting a missing person with its contact details and details of the Samaritans.

It has seen a rise of 72% per quarter on average in demand for its Suicide Risk Text Safe service – sending 545 texts per quarter since April 2021, up from 316 texts per quarter in 2020/21.

The number of text safe requests has risen 20% on average per quarter – from 3539 per quarter in 2020/21 up to 4231 per quarter so far since April.

The charity said some of the rise could be down to more police forces starting to use the service, but it believes a genuine increase in need is also driving the trend.

Neil Goulden, from the Trustee Gamesys Foundation, which is funding the new chat service, said: “Missing People today launch their powerful new online chat service for adults who are missing or thinking of going missing.

“The Gamesys Foundation are proud and delighted to support Missing People and fund this service, especially around the areas of mental health which is commonly experienced by missing people.”

For help, advice or support, or to pass on information about a missing person, you can call or text Missing People, confidentially, on 116 000, email 116000@missingpeople.org.uk or visit www.missingpeople.org.uk/get-help to access Online Chat.


Dividends soar as companies hand out Covid cash reserves

Payouts hit £34.9bn between July and September, 89% higher than the same period last year.

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Payouts halved in the same period last year as the pandemic took hold and left businesses guarding cash reserves.

Shareholder dividends paid to investors soared this year as companies handed out cash hoarded during the pandemic, according to new data.

Payouts hit £34.9bn between July and September, 89% higher than the same period last year, according to financial data firm Link Group.

The sharp jump was in part due to large one-off dividends, but regular dividends also soared by 52.6% to £27.7bn.

Payouts halved in the same period last year as the pandemic took hold and left businesses guarding cash reserves.

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Link’s Ian Stokes said: “The good news is that we have consistently seen companies deliver more in dividends than we thought likely at the beginning of the year in the depths of the UK’s longest, strictest lockdown.

“The boom in special dividends reflects how some companies are making catch-up payments, some are capitalising on very strong demand, and others are seizing the moment to sell assets at a time of high prices and numerous cash-rich potential buyers.”

Mining investors enjoyed the biggest rise with payouts quadrupling to £12.8bn and outgunning the next five biggest sectors combined.

As a result mining firms will be responsible for nearly £1 in every £4 distributed by UK-listed companies this year. Shareholders in Ferrexpo and Rio Tinto have already seen two special dividend payments this year as soaring iron ore prices bolstered profits at the firms.

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But Link Group warned that falling commodity prices would lead to a drop in mining dividend payouts next year.

Banking dividends played a large part in growth between July and September after the Bank of England lifted all restrictions on payouts in July.

The Bank had ordered lenders to scrap nearly £8bn worth of dividends last year to free up cash which lenders could use to support the economy.

Link Group’s monitor showed that almost all travel and hospitality firms are yet to restart dividend payments after a difficult 18 months in which lockdowns have severely restricted revenues.


Yousaf confident any COP26 coronavirus case rise can be ‘countered’

Some 25,000 people are expected to come to Scotland for the climate conference.

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Glasgow: Some 25,000 people are expected to come to Scotland for COP26.

The Scottish Government can take the necessary steps to counter a potential spike in Covid-19 cases caused by the COP26 gathering, health secretary Humza Yousaf has said.

As many as 25,000 people are set to arrive in Glasgow for the key climate summit, billed as the “last chance” to counter the effects of climate change.

But experts, including key government advisers, have raised concerns over a potential increase in cases associated with so many people being in a relatively small area.

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Yousaf said “of course” there will be Covid-19 cases associated with the event, but he was confident these could be contained.

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“There’s not a public health expert in the world that would say there’s no risk in the middle of a global pandemic to have tens of thousands of people descending onto largely one city,” he said.

“There is absolutely a risk of Covid cases rising thereafter, but we’ll do everything we can to mitigate that.”

He added: “We are also very, very assured by the protocols we’ve got in place (at the conference) to be able to isolate those cases as best as we possibly can.”

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Scottish Government: Health secretary Humza Yousaf.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The health secretary simply had no answers to the potential impact of COP26 on our NHS.

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“We need to see action to speed up the booster programme, ramp up testing and to secure surge capacity for our NHS.

“We are looking down the barrel at a winter of extreme pressure on our NHS and potentially surging levels of Covid.

“We need action from the health secretary to avoid this, not warm words.”

Cases in Scotland were on the rise throughout the summer as coronavirus restrictions were relaxed, but began to fall in September as the vaccination programme reached its end with young people included, but the drop has levelled off, with cases in October rarely falling below 2000 per day.

Despite the stubborn statistics, the health secretary said there are no immediate plans for a return to tough restrictions.

“We’re not actively considering restrictions,” he said.

“We know the harm restrictions have had in the past and therefore doing things like ensuring as many people get vaccinated as possible, continuing to make face coverings mandatory in certain settings such as indoor public settings and public transport, ensuring that we have that universal testing offer and asking people to test themselves regularly.”

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But Yousaf said it would be “foolish” to speculate on possible restrictions at Christmas.

“I’m not going to tell you what’s happening in a couple of months time,” he said.

Tackling poverty and inequality ‘is top concern for Scots’

A survey found that amongst those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, 38% were concerned about poverty and inequality.

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More than 2000 people across Scotland were questioned for the survey

Tackling poverty and inequality is a key concern for Scots – though those living in the least deprived areas are more likely to be worried about the economy.

Just over a third of people (34%) described dealing with the problem of poverty and inequality as the top issue of concern facing Scotland right now – compared to 26% who cited the economy.

But the first ever Understanding Scotland survey found that amongst those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, 38% were concerned about poverty and inequality – with less than a fifth (19%) worried about the economy.

By contrast, in the least deprived areas the economy was listed as a top concern by 34%.

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More than 2000 people across Scotland were questioned for the survey, which has been launched by the research company Diffley Partnership and communications agency Charlotte Street Partners.

It plans to provide quarterly research looking at public attitudes, behaviours and expectations on issues such as society, the economy, and the environment in Scotland.

Its first poll found that the NHS is Scotland’s most trusted institution with almost a fifth (19%) saying they trusted it “entirely” and nearly three quarters of people (72%) giving the service a trust score of seven out of 10 or higher.

Meanwhile the research found that “the Government and the political system more broadly, were among the least trusted institutions overall”.

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According to the study, 20% of the Scottish population report that they do not trust the Government at all, compared to only 3% who trust it entirely – with similarly 20% saying they trust the political system and only 2% who trust it entirely.

When asked if Scotland was “heading in the right direction” people were evenly split, with 43% saying it was and the same proportion stating it is not, while 14% were undecided.

“The country is split down the middle on the question of whether Scotland is heading in the right or wrong direction,” the research found.

“Excluding those who are unsure, there is a 50:50 split in public opinion.”

Speaking about the new study, Diffley Partnership founder and director Mark Diffley said: “Assessing the public mood as we emerge from the pandemic and start to deal with the economic headwinds coming towards us provides sobering reading for decision-makers.

“The public wants to see a fair recovery, focused both on tackling the inequalities that Covid has exacerbated and building the economic recovery.

“There is also significant concern about the issues dominating current debates, particularly around price rises and the cost of living.”

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He added: “After the collective trauma of the last 18 months, it is unsurprising to see that the NHS is Scotland’s most trusted institution, far outstripping public trust in other institutions.

“This trust in the NHS spans the entire Scottish population, regardless of age, social class, or geographical location, reflecting a widespread respect and admiration for those who have led the front-line response to the Covid crisis.”

Malcolm Robertson, founding partner at Charlotte Street Partners, said: “The last 18 months have highlighted the need for fast but highly informed decision making and we hope the new Understanding Scotland survey will help inform private and public sector organisations and policymakers as they weigh up a range of important decisions in the coming months and years.

“We have felt for a while that Scotland lacks a regular record of public opinion on the range of issues people are concerned about and we hope this new survey, Understanding Scotland, will serve that purpose as we continue to recover from Covid-19 and look ahead to decisive moments for the future of our planet, such as the COP26 gathering in Glasgow.”


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