Some coronavirus travel restrictions have been removed in Scotland and more people are now able to meet up outdoors.
The latest stage in lockdown easing was announced at an unscheduled Covid-19 briefing by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.
She said the continued decline in virus cases meant the restrictions can be eased earlier than planned.
Scots can now travel across local authority boundaries for outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise.
But they must follow the “stay local” order for other purposes such as non-essential shopping, and travel to some islands is not allowed.
Rules on gatherings have also been relaxed, with groups of up to six adults from six households now allowed to meet outdoors.
Children under 12 do not count towards the limit.
As the changes took effect, the latest Scottish Government coronavirus figures showed three deaths of Covid patients and 204 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours,
Friday’s data brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7640.
The daily test positivity rate is 1.4%, up from 1.2% on Thursday.
There are now 109 people in hospital in Scotland confirmed to have the virus, down six in 24 hours, and of these 18 patients are in intensive care – up two.
A total of 2,722,084 people north of the border have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 688,761 have had their second.
Among those heading further afield on Friday was Andrew McVie, 27, from Glasgow, who told the PA news agency he was “super excited” to be visiting Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae for a cycling day trip for the first time in more than two years.
The clerical assistant said he has enjoyed returning to the scenic island – a short ferry ride from Largs on the North Ayrshire coast – after visiting as a child with his mother.
He said: “I try and go with a bike when I’m free on weekends and day trips, I really enjoy it and it’s dead handy to get to and dead easy to cycle around, you can do it in about two hours if you don’t stop.
“It’s why a lot of people like it, there’s great scenery and it’s a really nice, friendly, welcoming place and it’s a beautiful day.
“I’ve missed it so much not being able to go because of the travel restrictions, but I’ll still be taking precautions.
“And tomorrow I’m going through to Edinburgh with a couple of friends for the first time in over a year which will be good.”
The latest lockdown easing comes after barbers and hairdressers opened on April 5 and ahead of a more substantial unlocking of the country on April 26.
On that date, Scotland will move from level four to level three of the four-tier system of restrictions.
Cafes, restaurants and beer gardens can then reopen, along with shops, gyms, libraries and museums.
Travel between Scotland, England and Wales will be permitted and tourist accommodation can welcome back visitors.
Other restrictions will ease in May and over the summer if Covid-19 continues to be suppressed.
Announcing the measures on Tuesday, Sturgeon said: “We have always said we will keep plans under review and accelerate the lifting of restrictions if possible.
“The improved data does not allow us to throw caution to the wind – not if we are sensible – but it does give us a bit of limited headroom.
“So from the end of this week, you will be able to meet up with family and friends who live in different parts of the country.
“Many of those reunions will be long-awaited, and much anticipated. Please do remember that meetings at this stage must still be outdoors – you cannot socialise in people’s homes – and remember due to physical distancing, public transport capacity remains relatively limited.”
But on Thursday, the First Minister told the PA news agency it was “positive” that the easing of travel restrictions had been brought forward, but cautioned Scots not to allow their guard to drop.
“Don’t go to crowded places, if you’re headed to a beach or a park and it’s crowded please come away again because crowded places are not safe places to be.
“Please stick to all of the rules and advice, remember your face covering, remember, as I say, to avoid crowded places, hand hygiene, keep your two metre distancing.”
The First Minister added: “As long as we all stick to the advice that’s still in place, this easing of restrictions tomorrow should be the first of many and I think, not least because of the vaccine programme, we can all afford to be just that bit more optimistic right now.”
One in six UK adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with more than two million second doses delivered in the past seven days, latest figures show.
A total of 8.9 million people have now received both jabs – the equivalent of 17.0% of the adult population.
In Scotland, over 15% of the adults have been given two doses, some way behind Wales where an estimated 22.8% have and Northern Ireland (17.2%), with England sitting at 16.8%.
The figures are for vaccinations reported by the UK’s health agencies up to April 15, and reflect the pace at which second doses are being ramped up across the country.
Some 2.4 million second doses were recorded in the seven days to April 15, compared with 1.6 million, 1.9 million and just under one million in the previous three weeks.
Second doses of Covid-19 vaccines must follow within 12 weeks of the first, meaning the millions of people who received their initial jab in January and early February have recently had a follow-up dose, or are due to get the jab shortly.
People aged 80 and over were among the first groups on the priority list for vaccines, with initial doses offered from early December.
Figures released on Thursday by NHS England suggest around three-quarters of people in England in this age group have now had both doses of vaccine.
In Scotland, 72% of people 80 and over are estimated to have had both jabs, along with 67% in Wales and 41% in Northern Ireland.
Wales leads the field in both first and second doses of vaccine, with nearly two-thirds of its adult population having received the first jab (65.7%), followed by England (61.8%), Scotland (61.4%) and Northern Ireland (58.5%).
Scottish actor Kevin Guthrie has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a vulnerable actress.
The Sunshine on Leith star, 33, took advantage of the 29-year-old woman who had appeared unwell after a night out.
The incident occurred at the flat of fellow actor Scott Reid – Methadone Mick in BBC’s Still Game.
Guthrie had insisted he had only “helped” the woman that night – but his DNA was found on the inside of her underwear.
He wept and said “why?” as the verdict was delivered at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday.
He had denied a sexual assault charge during a four-day trial.
Sheriff Tom Hughes told him: “You took advantage of this woman while she was in a vulnerable position.
“The jury say you were found in a position of trust while you were supposed to be looking after her.
“Your position stands in direct contrast to the one of your friend Scott Reid whose actions were highly commendable.
“He rushed to her aid when something happened outside his home and he cared for her.
“He was constantly trying to get help through NHS 24 and did absolutely anything to help her.
“This must carry a custodial sentence for this serious matter you have been found guilty of.”
Guthrie, of the city’s Yorkhill, was put on the sex offenders’ list.
He was bailed pending sentencing next month.
The attack occurred between September 30 and October 1, 2017.
The woman had been due to meet Guthrie and Scott at a bar on the night of the alleged attack.
Scott received a call from a taxi driver to collect her as she appeared ill.
He and Guthrie helped the woman into the flat in Glasgow’s Kelvindale and put her on a bed.
Scott called NHS 24 leaving Guthrie in the room “to make sure she was okay”.
The woman recalled Scott not being in the room and bed covers then “being moved down my body”.
She went on: “I remember my top being lifted up and my bra being held down.”
The woman was groped by Guthrie before he performed a sex act on her.
Guthrie – who also starred in the Fantastic Beasts film and Netflix series The English Game – carried out a further two sexual acts and kissed her on the mouth. He would stop when Scott would come into the room.
She added: “I was unsure about what was happening, I could not believe it was happening.”
Prosecutor Harry Findlay asked why she did not say anything.
She replied: “I couldn’t. I found it difficult to communicate in any way.
“I think I was frozen as well.”
Guthrie refuted the accusations agreeing with his QC Gordon Jackson that it had instead been a “panic situation” due to the woman’s condition.
However, his DNA was found on the inside of the woman’s underpants.
Mr Findlay asked Guthrie to explain why this was.
He said: “I can’t for the life of me explain in any rational sense how that happened.”
Sentence was deferred until next month for background reports.
Labour has called for a recovery plan for the aviation industry, as Sir Keir Starmer visited Edinburgh Airport.
He met with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and the airport’s chief executive Gordon Dewar as he travelled to Scotland on Friday.
Mr Dewar said the Scottish Government had failed to provide any plan for how international travel could resume when conditions allow.
It comes as Labour pledges to create 170,000 jobs through a variety of schemes as part of its election promises.
Sir Keir said airport executives had stressed the need for a plan on how air travel could resume, while aviation would be crucial to the economic recovery.
The Labour leader told the PA news agency: “What they are most concerned about is that there needs to be a plan for the future, the uncertainty is having a huge effect on the airport, on those employed at the airport and everybody associated with it.
“So there needs to be a plan for the recovery. That’s why here in Scotland the central focus has to be on the recovery and that’s why Scottish Labour are today launching this 170,000 jobs package for the future.”
Mr Sarwar called for the aviation sector to have a transitional support fund as travel returned to pre-Covid levels, limiting the unemployment resulting from low passenger numbers.
He said: “It’s going to take time to get us back to even pre-Covid levels, never mind going beyond those levels, and that’s why we need to have support for businesses across the country, that includes support for the aviation industry.
“So we can have people coming to Scotland, enjoying Scotland, spending money in Scotland and doing trade in Scotland if we are going to come through this as a stronger and fairer nation.”
Mr Dewar said the mood at his airport was currently “downbeat”.
He said: “It’s a very, very quiet place to be, it’s a very uncertain future in front of us at the moment.
“We’re just hoping we can get engagement with government to start talking about how we’re going to trade our way out of this in the future.
“But unfortunately at the moment that doesn’t seem to be happening.”
Mr Dewar said the UK Government was introducing a traffic light system to allow international travel to start again, but there was no equivalent plan for Scotland.
He continued: “We’re going to be falling behind. Government not only doesn’t have a plan, they refuse to talk about a plan.
“So it’s really worrying about how we’re meant to explain to airlines, to passengers, to everyone that relies on aviation in Scotland what to expect in the coming future.”
Mr Dewar said he was not currently asking for financial support from government, but was seeking clarity on when and how trading could resume.
He added: “The UK currently has started to open up – Scotland hasn’t.
“There is no plan whatsoever of any description or any timing for international travel.
“We’re being told we are the price of the recovery.
“I just think that’s utterly unacceptable and I don’t see how any government can know it’s making good decisions if they haven’t done the work to know what a good decision looks like.”
Hunt for man who asked schoolgirl to ‘get into his van’
A manhunt is under way after the incident in Fife on Thursday evening was reported to police.
A man reportedly asked a ten-year-old girl to get into his van outside a main streetshop in a Fife village.
At around 6.30pm on Thursday, the schoolgirl was with her friends outside the Spar on Freuchie’s High Street when the man is said to have approached them.
Police said he had previously been inside the store and, after he spoke to the girl, got into his black van and drove away.
Officers are searching for the man and have asked anyone with any information to get in touch.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police enquiries are ongoing following a report of a ten-year-old girl approached by a man outside the Spar on High Street, Freuchie, around 6.30pm on Thursday, April 15.
“The man had been in the shop before the incident and he drove off in a black van.
“The young girl was with her friends at the time and officers are currently carrying out enquiries to establish more information and trace the man involved.
“Anyone with information should contact officers through 101, quoting reference number 3550 of April 15.”
The discovery of 77 UK cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India could be a cause for concern, an expert has said.
Public Health England (PHE) reported that 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been confirmed in England as well as four cases in Scotland.
The figures come from the latest update of PHE’s surveillance of the distribution of different variants across the UK, based on data up to April 7.
Officials have designated it a “variant under investigation” (VUI) rather than a “variant of concern” (VOC), such as the Manaus (Brazil) or South African variants.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the variant features two “escape mutations” – E484Q and L452R – which “are causing people to be concerned”.
“There’s laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations,” he said.
“Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviruses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by vaccine.
“But we don’t know that for certain at the moment.”
In India, Covid-19 rates are soaring, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deats.
Prof Hunter said it is “not surprising” that the variant has come from India.
“If you think about where the main variants have arisen – South Africa, the UK, California, Brazil, and now India – all of these are countries that have really struggled to keep case numbers down.
“So it’s not surprising. India has got a huge pandemic, and therefore that’s where you’re going to be getting the variant.”
He added: “The big, big anxiety with this one is that it seems – and again this is still a little bit speculative because it hasn’t been confirmed – but… there are two mutations here that are causing people to be concerned.”
A young woman with autism and cerebral palsy has praised the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for giving her an “amazing sense of achievement”.
Kayleigh Ptak, from Perthshire, told STV News that Prince Philip’s youth awards programme has given her more independence and confidence.
The 19-year-old, who has attained a silver award, said: “It’s shown me that I can do anything, because I never thought Duke of Edinburgh was something I would be able to do and it has shown me that anything is possible.
“It’s given me more independence and confidence, and it’s just given me more motivation and it’s given me an amazing sense of achievement.
“And I hope, in the future, if I continue with DofE to inspire others to take part if they get the opportunities I have, because it’s just something that I am so passionate about.”
Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, passed away on April 9 at Windsor Castle.
The Duke and the Queen were married for more than 70 years and Philip dedicated decades of his life to royal duty, serving the nation at the monarch’s side.
The 99-year-old, who’s funeral takes place on Saturday, established the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 1956.
The awards programme – which operates in more than 140 countries – aims to inspire and transform the lives of young people through volunteering, physical activities and expeditions.
Kayleigh added: “It came along at a time where I didn’t really know what I was doing. So, I don’t think if I had DofE in my life when it first arrived, I don’t know what I would be doing.
“I’ve met a great bunch of people who, although we all have different needs and abilities, we all support each other and look out for each other when we need it, and we just get on so well as a team.”