Lowest number of Covid care home deaths since October

National Records of Scotland figures show a 62% reduction in care home deaths over last three weeks.

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Care home deaths linked to coronavirus have fallen to a level last seen around the end of October, according to National Records of Scotland (NRS) statistics published on Wednesday.

The NRS figures show that in the last three weeks there has been a 62% reduction in care home deaths where Covid-19 is a confirmed or contributory factor.

For the first time since November, deaths of those aged 85 and over are now lower than deaths among 75-84 year olds, according to the NRS.

Between February 8 and 14, 323 Covid-related deaths were registered in all locations– a decrease of 54 fatalities from the previous week.

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That means the number of deaths where coronavirus was a confirmed or suspected factor has now fallen for three consecutive weeks.

A further 113 deaths of patients who tested positive for Covid-19 have been announced since February 14.

In total, there have been 9166 coronavirus-linked deaths registered in Scotland.

Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services at the NRS, said: “Over 9000 deaths have now been registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate and they represent loss and grief for families and communities across the country.  

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“Today’s statistics show some signs of progress, for the third consecutive week, we have seen a welcome reduction in the number of deaths. Deaths in care homes over the last three weeks have fallen at a faster rate than deaths in other locations.

“The number of deaths in the 85 and over age group have also fallen more steeply than younger age groups.  

“There were 146 excess deaths across all locations in the last week, 12% above average for this time of year. This figure remains high, but has fallen steadily in recent weeks.”

The NRS statistics are published weekly and cover all deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

They differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish Government because the NRS figures include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, during First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland had recorded 64 deaths of coronavirus patients in the past 24 hours.

The death toll under this measurement – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 6828.

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A further 1121 positive cases were also reported by the Scottish Government in the last 24 hours – 5.2% of those newly-tested.

There are 1317 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 66 in 24 hours, and 99 patients are in intensive care, a decrease of one.

Sturgeon said: “Deaths overall have fallen now for three consecutive weeks. Deaths that occurred in hospitals have fallen over that three week period by 11% and deaths occurring in people’s own homes or other non-institutional settings have fallen by 29%.

“However, deaths in care homes, which were the early focus of the vaccination programme, have fallen by 62%.

“In fact, with the exception of one week at the end of August when there were only two Covid deaths registered overall, care homes accounted for a smaller proportion of overall Covid deaths last week than at any time since March of last year.”

The First Minister also pointed out people aged over 80 living in the community had been the next priority of the vaccination programme, after care home residents.

She said: “It is reasonable to take some heart from this because it strongly suggests the vaccine programme is having the hoped-for effect of reducing the death toll from the virus.”

Live: Sturgeon brands Salmond conspiracy claims ‘absurd’

First Minister brands claims of a plot against her predecessor as 'absurd'.

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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”.

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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.

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“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 later denied any suggestion she had wanted to “get” Salmond, who she described as a “tough and challenging” person to work for.

SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said some have claimed the government’s revised harassment procedure, which were also applied to former ministers was “created to get Alex Salmond”.

But Sturgeon said: “It wasn’t. Absolutely, emphatically not. Alex Salmond has been, and I have said this many times, one of the closest people to me in my entire life.

“I would never have wanted to get Alex Salmond, and I would never, ever have wanted any of this to happen. If I could have, short of brushing complaints under the carpet which would have been wrong to me, if I could turn the clock back and find legitimate ways that none of this would ever have happened, then I would.

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“Alex Salmond has been for most of my life, since I was about 20, 21 years old, not just a very close political colleague, a friend, someone in my younger days who I looked up to and revered.

“I had no motive, intention, desire to get Alex Salmond.”

Sturgeon was asked about the claim that a senior member of her team had leaked the name of one of the complainers to Geoff Aberdein, who had previously been Salmond’s chief of staff.

Labour’s Jackie Bailie pressed the First Minister on the issue, saying in an “extraordinary breach of confidentiality” Mr Aberdein had passed the details to Salmond.

Baillie said in any other position doing this would be a “sackable offence” as she demanded to know if the First Minister or the Permanent Secretary had authorised this.

Sturgeon said: “I am not accepting that that happened, therefore I am clearly not accepting that was authorised.”

The First Minister accepted this was a “matter of contention”.

She added: “Certainly in relation to one of the complainants Alex Salmond was pretty clear he had found out through investigations of Scottish Government social media accounts he had found out who that was.

“And in relation to the other one, and this is the bit I am perhaps speculating on, it must have been the case when he got that letter, because he knew about the incident because he had apologised to the person.

“So my assumption would be that he would have known that without anybody having to tell him. And I know from what he told me he found out the identity of the other one through his own investigations.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.


Man sexually assaulted mum in front of child at gunpoint

William Trainor sentenced to two years in jail after being found guilty of assaulting woman with intent to rape.

STV News
William Trainor was sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh.

A man who carried out a sex attack on a woman at gunpoint has been sentenced to two years in prison.

William Trainor, 29, from Gretna, was found guilty of assaulting the woman with intent to rape and possessing a handgun, or imitation handgun, at the High Court in Glasgow on 21 January.

Trainor was also found guilty of behaving in a threatening and abusive manner and breaching bail.

The court heard that in the early hours of March 15, 2019, Trainor entered his victim’s home and when she confronted him realised he was holding a gun.

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Trainor pointed the gun at her in front of her young child before making suggestive gestures and indicating that she should follow him.

The woman managed to close a door on him – shouting for him to get out – before he ran out the back door.

Trainor was sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on February 23.

Fraser Gibson, procurator fiscal, said: “William Trainor’s actions caused significant fear and alarm and it is thanks to his victim’s courage in coming forward to report what had happened that he has now been caught and prosecuted.

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“COPFS is committed to bringing sexual offenders to justice and we strongly encourage anyone who has been a victim of any such offence to report this to the police in the confidence that they will be treated with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity by the police and our expert prosecutors.”

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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.”


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.

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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.

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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.


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.

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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.”

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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.”


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

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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.

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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.

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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.


Stephen Hendry beaten on return to professional snooker

The seven-time world champion is making a comeback following his retirement in 2012.

SNS
Hendry said he enjoyed being back despite the defeat.

Stephen Hendry will target eight hundred centuries and a return to the Crucible after making an impressive return to the professional snooker tour despite a 4-1 defeat to Matthew Selt in Milton Keynes.

The seven-times world champion compiled the 776th three-figure break of his career in the second frame of the Gibraltar Open first round match, extending a mark that had stood for so long it forms part of his permanent social media handles.

Hendry insisted: “I think I’ll only change them when I get to 800 – 766 now is not a massive thing. Qualifying for the Crucible is the goal, and making 800 centuries is another goal. I am just enjoying being back really.”

Hendry did little wrong in his first tour match since a 13-2 thrashing by Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals of the 2012 World Championship, which had led the Scot to admit it was an “easy decision” to walk away.

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Despite a foul on his very first shot when he attempted a two-cushion roll-up to the pack of reds, Hendry showed every indication of being equipped for the challenge, culminating in his superb break of 107 to briefly level the match in the second frame.

Hendry added: “I really felt the nerves – when I put my suit on in the hotel room that’s when it really hit me, which is a good sign because without nerves you can’t perform. It just needs to be nerves of excitement, rather than nerves of not knowing what’s going to happen.”

Hendry will next set his sights on an unlikely return to the Crucible via four tough qualifying rounds next month, but admitted: “My safety has to be tighter and my long game has to be better – it’s not ready yet to qualify for the Crucible.

“I think there’s work to do and I’ve got a month of practice to get it better. I’ve tried to keep the expectations down about my comeback. It’s not about winning eight world titles. I’m coming back to play in arenas, hopefully with people in them, and enjoy the buzz of competing.”

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The 52-year-old might have hoped for an easier start than against his good friend Selt, the world number 35 with a ranking title – the 2019 Indian Open – to his name.

Hendry accepted a two-year tour card from World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn in September last year but rumours swirled over his true intentions after he pulled out of a series of projected comeback dates.

His bid was also questioned by a number of the game’s current stars, with world number one Judd Trump describing Hendry’s move as a “strange one”, and Ronnie O’Sullivan warning he will be plunged into a “rat race”.

Despite his initial mistake, Hendry had cause for encouragement in the opening frame, as an impressive long blue set up a break of 38, before a loose safety ultimately handed the advantage to his opponent.

Hendry bounced back in vintage fashion in the following frame, seizing his opportunity after Selt’s missed brown to fashion a superbly-executed break to black of 107.

An immediate response of 65 set Selt up to nudge back in front at 2-1, and the 35-year-old maintained his stellar long-pot success to carve a break of 48 which proved enough to nudge him one frame from victory at 3-1.

Never the biggest fan of safety play, Hendry was left to acknowledge the improvements required in that element of his game if he is to stand a realistic chance of clawing his way back to the Crucible.

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Selt continued his admirably focused display into the fifth frame, when he took two opportunities to build an unassailable advantage and close down his good friend’s comeback with a 4-1 win.

Selt conceded his surprise at the level of his friend’s performance admitting: “I wouldn’t have given him a hope of qualifying for the Crucible coming into this, but he has clearly proved he can get there, for sure.

“He has the one thing that I don’t have and lot of others don’t have – unbelievable amounts of bottle, and he has won everything in the game.

“When the opportunity presents itself, he will take it, whether it’s to win a match or get to the Crucible. It’s a bit early to say he will be competing for titles, but if anyone can do it, after that performance I genuinely think he can make it.”


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.

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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.”

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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).

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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.”


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