Amber alert in place as heavy snow hits parts of Scotland

Drivers warned of delays on main roads with up to 30cm of snow due over the next few hours.

Heavy snow is expected in Scotland over the next few hours after an amber weather warning was issued.

As much as 30cm of snow could fall in parts of the country on Tuesday, with commuters told to expect delays on main roads, including the A7, A702 and A76.

Sections of the M74 could get as much as 15-20cm of snow, while even more could fall in Wanlockhead, the highest village in the Highlands.

Higher ground in Ayrshire, and the likes of East Kilbride and Fenwick could get between 5-10cm.

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Disruption elsewhere saw the Queensferry Crossing closed until Wednesday after ice fell from cables onto vehicles.

STV Meteorologist Sean Batty said: “It seems like Mother Nature has held back winter’s arrival for months and thrown it all at us in one week.

“This wintry week is going to be bookended by storms – Ciara last weekend and Dennis on his way this weekend.

“Wintry showers will continue with a few centimetres of snow to low levels in a few spots away from the coasts, but the bulk of the snow will be at higher levels.

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“A spell of heavy snow will affect the Highlands and north Stirlingshire for a time this evening and overnight. Blizzard-like conditions can be expected over high ground where up to 20cm of snow may fall. At low levels this will again be a mix of rain, sleet and wet snow.

“Rain and hill snow will affect Orkney on Wednesday, with a few centimetres likely over high ground here.

“Elsewhere wintry showers will continue to move into the west, although not as many as in previous days.

“Aberdeenshire and Angus will enjoy a sunny day, however a very cold night will follow with temperatures possibly dropping as low as -12C in the Highlands, in areas where there is lying snow.

“More rain and hill snow will move into southern Scotland on Thursday along with stronger winds.”

Sean said he expected the wind to ease little in the coming days but to return by the weekend when Storm Dennis arrives.

He said: “Winds will be strongest in the north and north west on Sunday with severe gales. There’s already been a lot of disruption in the last week to the ferries and it’s likely that this weekend will see further issues.

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“There is a little good news. Some of the forecast models are suggesting that high pressure will ridge in from the south next week.

“This means that the weather should settle a bit with drier conditions, especially in the south.”

Family of four seriously injured after explosion rips through home

At least one house was completely destroyed after huge blast at housing estate in Ayr on Monday night.

Katielee Arrowsmith via SWNS

Four members of the same family are in a serious condition after their home was destroyed by a huge explosion in Ayr.

A mum and dad and their two children were all inside the house when the blast happened on Monday night.

Police said on Tuesday that a 43-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy are currently being treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

A 47-year-old man has been taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and an 11-year-old boy is being cared for at the Royal Hospital for Children.

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They all suffered serious injuries during the blast in the Kincaidston area of the town, which was heard for miles around.

The other residents of the houses affected by the blast have all been accounted for.

Drone footage taken on Tuesday morning showed extensive damage to properties in Gorse Park. At least one house has been completely destroyed.

Residents have been evacuated from the area and two rest centres have been set up to assist those affected.

Katielee Arrowsmith via SWNS
Several properties have been destroyed after an explosion in Ayr.
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Chief inspector Derrick Johnston, area commander for South Ayrshire, said: “This is a complex incident and a number of different agencies are working together to establish the full circumstances of what happened.

“Our thoughts are with the family and everyone within the local community affected by this. A joint investigation with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is being carried out.

Emergency services were called to the scene at around 7.10pm on Monday, police said, adding that local road closures were in place and the public are advised to avoid the area.

Councillor Chris Cullen from South Ayrshire Council said: “It’s absolutely devastating what’s happened, it’s not something you expect.

“You come home, you cook your tea and next thing ‘boom’ there’s an explosion beside you. There’s a lot of people who are just totally shook, didn’t know what was happening.”

‘You come home, you cook your tea and next thing ‘boom’ there’s an explosion beside you.’

Councillor Chris Cullen

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “We dispatched a number of resources to the scene, including three specialist operations vehicles, six ambulances and an air ambulance.”

Euan Bryson, who lives in the adjacent housing estate, tweeted a video showing a fire engine on a smoke-filled street in the aftermath of the explosion.

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He said: “(It) was chaotic. There was personal property and rubble all over the scene.

Another resident told STV News: “It was like an earthquake. I thought (my wife) was up the stairs and I thought she fell. The next door neighbour said it was an explosion.”

Gas distribution company SGN is helping the emergency services.

A spokesman said: “Our engineers are currently assisting the emergency services to ensure the immediate vicinity is made safe in our role as the gas emergency service.”

STV News
Damaged car following explosion in Ayr.

SFRS area commander Ian McMeekin, the local senior officer for East, North and South Ayrshire, said: “Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this incident.

“This has been an extremely complex and challenging incident, which significantly damaged multiple properties in the area and resulted in the evacuation of other nearby homes. We will remain in attendance for some time as we work with our partners to ensure the area is safe.

“A joint investigation alongside Police Scotland will be carried out in due course to establish the full facts and circumstances.”

Siobhian Brown, the MSP for Ayr, Prestwick and Troon, urged people to avoid the area.

On her Facebook page, she wrote: “Our thoughts are with those affected in the Kincaidston area as we hear reports of an explosion.

“Please avoid the area if you can and let the emergency services do their jobs.”

Teen appears in court charged with murder of boy at railway station

The 16-year-old allegedly attacked Justin McLaughlin at Glasgow's High Street station on Saturday afternoon.

Police Scotland
Justin McLaughlin died at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

A teenager has appeared in court charged with the murder of a 14-year-old schoolboy.

The 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, allegedly attacked Justin McLaughlin at Glasgow’s High Street train station on October 16.

The boy was found seriously injured at the station at around 3.45pm and taken to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

As well as the murder allegation, the 16-year-old is also charged with assault to severe injury, threatening behaviour and having a bladed item in a public place.

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The suspect made no plea at a private hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

He was remanded in custody pending further examination by Sheriff Paul Reid.

The teenager will appear in court again within the next eight days.


COP26 president says Glasgow summit will be safe event despite concerns

Alok Sharma spoke to STV News ahead of the global climate conference on October 31.

STV News

By Lewis McKenzie and Colin Mackay

Alok Sharma has pledged that COP26 will be a safe event – despite concerns over a potential rise in Covid cases, and disruption caused by protesters and striking public sector workers.

The COP26 president said there is a “detailed regime” in place to ensure that the climate summit in Glasgow is Covid secure.

It comes just days after Professor Linda Bauld said that mass events are still “risky” despite declining rates of Covid-19.

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“Safety is absolutely paramount,” Sharma told STV News ahead of the start of COP26 on October 31.

“Right from the start of planning for this event, we wanted to ensure that this was a safe event.

“One, of course, from a health perspective in terms of Covid, but of course working very closely with Police Scotland and other agencies round the UK to make sure that this is a safe event for everyone who is attending.

“But, also particularly for the people of Glasgow.

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“So, there is a detailed regime to ensure this is Covid secure… we will have daily testing taking place, there’s going to be social distancing.

“You know, regular cleaning of the venue and the rooms.”

Asked whether people will be required to wear masks, the UK Government minister said: “Well, people will have to wear masks if they are moving around in the venue.

“And of course, we’ve set all of this out to delegates.

“So, we are going to ensure that this is a safe event and of course, that is really important if we’re going to have success, and at the end of the day, that we’re going to come forward with a negotiation.”

Mass protests are set to take place during the summit, with significant disruption expected throughout the city.

Meanwhile, ScotRail workers are set for strike action, as well as bin workers and school support staff.

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But, Sharma indicated that steps are being taken to ensure that delegates will be able to get back and forth from the COP26 venue.

He said: “Protest is something that happens as part of these events and I’m someone who is very supportive of people being able to protest in a lawful way and that’s right and proper.

“Of course, we need to make sure that that is how people approach this.

“And in terms of public sector workers, obviously we are talking to all our delivery partners, including our transport partners in Scotland to make sure that actually we are able to ensure that delegates can get to the venue, and get back to where they’re staying.”

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Businesses urged to download updated version of vaccine passport app

Health secretary Humza Yousaf is encouraging bosses to download the latest version, with an update for users due on Thursday.

PA Media
The app will now show a green tick when a person’s details have been correctly scanned.

The app used to read vaccine passports in Scotland has been updated, with businesses being urged to download the new version.

It will now show a green tick when a person’s details have been correctly scanned and they are allowed entry into large events or nightclubs.

The change comes in the days after the scheme became enforceable.

A further update to the consumer app, which will present a QR code to venues as opposed to the dates of both vaccinations, will also be released from noon on Thursday, health secretary Humza Yousaf has said.

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This change is set to occur after concerns have been raised about the amount of medical data shown to gain entry.

Current versions of the smartphone app will stop working from next week, forcing users to download the update to continue to access events.

“The rollout of the green tick display when QR codes are checked will reduce the amount of information shared and confirm only that a person has a valid certificate for use across Scotland,” Yousaf said.

“The app is now working well after being introduced more than two weeks ago and updates are an important feature of this kind of technology to ensure it continues to run smoothly.

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“Everyone who has the app should download the new version and those who don’t yet have the app should download it from their app store before they need to use it.”

The health secretary also praised the hospitality sector for its implementation of the scheme, saying: “I understand the night-time industry has made major adjustments for the introduction of this scheme and other measures, but the sector has complied extraordinarily well with the regulations so far.

“This is a very limited scheme and we hope this will allow businesses to remain open and prevent any further restrictions as we head into autumn and winter.

“I also want to ensure that as many people get vaccinated as possible and particularly to increase uptake in the younger age cohort, so anything to incentivise that is helpful.”

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Secondary pupils still required to wear face coverings in school

The Scottish Government said it had made the decision following advice from senior clinicians.

Mixetto via IStock
Covid-19: Secondary pupils will still have to wear a face covering at school.

Secondary pupils will still be expected to wear face coverings in classrooms as they return to school after the October break.

The students, as well as staff in both primary and secondary schools across Scotland, will also have to wear a mask in communal areas and when moving around the building.

On Tuesday, the Scottish Government said it had made the decision to keep the existing Covid-19 safety mitigations in place following advice from senior clinicians.

The chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, advised that a more cautious approach would allow more time for 12 to 15-year-olds to take up the vaccination.

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Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “In recent weeks we have seen the previous sharp decline in Covid-19 case numbers starting to level off, and that is why we have decided to adopt a cautious approach and maintain safety mitigations in school for the time being.

“Progress with vaccinating 12-15-year-olds has been remarkable and is already over 40%.

“However, this was only rolled out a few weeks ago and allowing further time will mean that that encouraging figure rises even higher.

“This decision is based on advice from senior clinicians and takes account of the most recent data. We will continue to monitor case rates on a weekly basis, with a view to lifting restrictions at earliest possible time. 

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“While I fully understand that this will be disappointing news for some young people and their parents, as has been the situation throughout, the safety of children, young people, and all education staff remains the overriding priority.

“There is no room for complacency and we must all continue to remain vigilant to reduce the spread of Covid-19.”

Teachers’ leaders welcomed the move.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said the union had “argued for great caution in any easing of school mitigations, especially in light of continuing high levels of infection and the incomplete rollout of vaccinations for pupils”.

Mr Flanagan added: “The priority is to keep schools open but as safe as possible, so this delay from the Scottish Government, with regard to easing mitigations, is welcome and will allow, also, more time for ventilation challenges to be met ahead of winter.”

MSP Oliver Mundell, the Scottish Conservatives’ shadow cabinet secretary for education, said the move will “come as a massive disappointment to pupils and parents given the SNP strongly indicated that masks in classrooms would end after the October break”.  

He added: “Scotland’s schools should have been a priority for the SNP but with face masks in classrooms remaining, young people have once again been sent to the back of the queue.

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“These glaring inconsistencies will be difficult to comprehend for pupils and parents, especially with such an incredible uptake of the vaccine in 12-15-year-olds.

“Pupils, parents and teachers need to see a plan from the SNP for a return to normal learning as soon as possible.”

Taxi driver who sexually abused young boy he drove to school jailed

John Walls preyed on his victim starting when he was just aged 11.

© Google Maps 2020
The crimes spanned between March 2016 and September 2020.

A taxi driver who regularly abused a young boy he drove to school has been jailed for four years and eight months.

John Walls preyed on his victim starting when he was just aged 11.

The married 59-year-old cabbie worked for a firm in the Dumfries area who had a contract with the local council.

This involved Walls taking the boy to and from the child’s school and home.

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Walls later admitted what he had done during a “family summit” with relatives.

He was sentenced on Tuesday at the High Court in Glasgow.

Walls had previously pled guilty to charges of sexual assault and rape.

Lord Clark told him: “This was deplorable abuse which must have caused lasting distress for this vulnerable young boy.”

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Walls, also of Dumfries, will also be supervised for a further three years on his release.

The crimes spanned between March 2016 and September 2020.

Prosecutor Kath Harper told how Walls targeted the child when they were alone in his taxi.

She added: “The boy has found it difficult to estimate the number of times this conduct occurred.”

When the victim moved school, Walls continued to keep in touch including on social media.

Walls would meet him in his taxi and stop at various places in Dumfries to again abuse him.

The boy’s mum eventually became worried when she clocked the pervert siting in his cab near her home.

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She later spoke with police before her son told a teacher he had been preyed upon by a taxi driver.

Lorraine Glancy, defending, said Walls had made no comment when initially quizzed by police.

But, the advocate went on: “It would appear the shame and remorse – that he continues to display – was apparent when he got home and he told his wife.

“His wife then summoned other relatives for a family summit and, therein, he made full and frank admissions.”

Lord Clark told Walls the jail term would have been seven years, but for the guilty pleas.


Record number of Scots spending 12 hours or more in A&E, figures show

The number of patients spending more than half a day in accident and emergency has reached its highest level ever.

Peter Byrne via PA Ready
Latest A&E figures.

The number of patients spending more than half a day in accident and emergency has reached its highest level ever, with more than 600 people waiting 12 hours or more in the first full week of October.

While the Scottish Government’s target states 95% of patients should be seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, in the week ending Sunday October 10 just 71.3% were dealt with in that time.

That exactly matches the record low achieved the previous week.

Meanwhile, the most recent weekly figures from Public Health Scotland show of the 25,335 people who attended at A&E 1,871 of them spent eight hours or more there.

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That includes 612 people who spent 12 hours or longer waiting for treatment – the highest number since weekly records began.

The three island health boards: NHS Shetland, NHS Orkney and NHS Western Isles, all managed to treat more than 95% of A&aE patients within the four hour target time.

But no mainland health boards managed to achieve this and in NHS Forth Valley just four out of 10 (41%) of patients were dealt with in this time.

It comes as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to put the NHS under pressure, with a number of health boards having called for the army to help them deal with staff shortages.

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Health secretary, Humza Yousaf, recently announced an additional £300m for the NHS but warned, despite this, the service still faces an “incredibly difficult winter”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Covid pandemic has inevitably affected A&E attendance and the pressure is being felt across the UK.”

She said that A&E departments in Scotland had performed better than those in the rest of the UK for more than six years, adding: “Our NHS staff have faced unprecedented pressures over recent weeks as they work tirelessly and consistently to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and optimal patient care.

“As part of the NHS Recovery Plan we have committed £27m towards the Redesign of Urgent Care to ensure people receive the right care, at the right place.

“To minimise pressures as much as possible this winter, we’ve recently announced £300 million of measures to help increase NHS and social care capacity in our hospitals and reduce delayed discharges.

“In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with those sites facing the greatest challenges to ensure rapid recovery plans are in place and are in contact daily.”


Second man charged after human remains found at children’s park

William Leiper's body was discovered at the scene of a fire in Househill Park in the Pollok area of Glasgow.

Police Scotland
William Leiper, 31, was found dead on Wednesday, August 4, 2021.

A man has been arrested and charged in connection with the death of a man whose charred remains were found at the scene of a fire in a Glasgow park.

William Leiper’s body was found in Househill Park, near to Hartstone Road in Pollok, at around 7.35am on Wednesday, August 4, 2021.

On Tuesday, Police Scotland said a 25-year-old man had been charged in connection with the 31-year-old’s death.

He is due to appear before Glasgow Sheriff Court.

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On August 14, ten days after the discovery of Mr Leiper’s remains, a 40-year-old man was arrested.

Jude McPhie appeared at the court charged with murder.

He made no plea and was remanded in custody.


Scottish Government accused of pushing back booster vaccination dates

The NHS Inform website now states 'other eligible groups' will be able to book their third dose from 'mid-November'.

South_agency via IStock
Change of plan: Booster vaccination dates.

Booster vaccination dates for some eligible groups appear to have been pushed back by the Scottish Government.

The NHS Inform website now states jabs for the “other eligible groups” – which includes adults over 50 and those between 16 and 49 who are adult, young or unpaid carers, living with someone who is immunosuppressed and those with underlying health conditions – will now be able to book their third dose from “mid-November”.

But an announcement by the Scottish Government on September 14 shows the intention to ensure these groups can book via an online portal from this month.

The guide, which allows Scots to choose from a list of categories which best describes their situation, also says third doses could continue into January.

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The website, which was updated on October 15, said: “A booking portal will be available from mid-November.

“Vaccinations will start from mid-November and run through December and early January.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton accused the Scottish Government of “sneaking out” the changes.

“We know that caseloads are still far too high so there can be no excuses for these delays,” he said.

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“The health secretary needs to tell the public what steps he will take to speed up this rollout.

“I am concerned that we have seen errors creeping into the vaccination programme.

“Elderly constituents are being told they need to travel out of town to get jabbed and there seems to be a lack of joined up thinking in not delivering flu jabs at the same time.

“Last winter we were facing an unprecedented pandemic. There can be no such excuses for the Health Secretary this time around.”

Scottish Tory health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “The SNP are sneakily shifting the goalposts on their own vaccination timelines. These documents show how they have quietly dropped their initial targets.

“When the SNP should be quickening the pace of the vaccine booster jag scheme at every turn, instead, they are slowing it down.

“Humza Yousaf needs to urgently step up his game and guarantee jags will be in the arms of those eligible as soon as possible.”


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