Cluster of coronavirus cases linked to bowling club
NHS Highland says 13 positive Covid-19 tests related to private event held in Argyll and Bute.
A cluster of coronavirus cases in Argyll and Bute has been linked to a bowling club.
NHS Highland says 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19 are related to a private event that took place at Cove and Kilcreggan Bowling Club on September 7.
The board said its health protection team was now carrying out testing and tracing.
Dr Jenny Wares, NHS Highland’s consultant in public health medicine, said: “This is an evolving situation and work is continuing to follow up cases and their contacts with those contacted being advised to self-isolate and seek testing if symptomatic.
“We would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the virus can recur even in rural communities and so everyone should continue to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, wear a face-covering when in enclosed spaces, clean your hands and surfaces regularly and immediately self-isolate if you develop symptoms.”
No changes will be made to the school Christmas holidays, the education secretary has said.
Talks had taken place about standardising the break across Scotland from December 18 to January 11.
The proposal was designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus after families were told they could gather at Christmas.
John Swinney told the Covid-19 committee: “I’ve written this morning to the education and skills committee to confirm that the government intends to make no change to the school holiday arrangements.”
He had been responding to Donald Cameron MSP, committee convener, who had asked for an update on the government’s position on a possible extension to the school holidays.
However, individual councils could still take the decision to extend the holidays in their local authority.
In his letter to Clare Adamson MSP, convener of the education and skills committee, Swinney said: “The public health advice that I received is to keep schools open as planned as the controlled school environment is more preferable to social mixing outside of school if schools are closed early.
“In addition, vulnerable children may be at greater risk if they are out of school for an extended period. The view of the chief social work advisor is that being in school is a very significant protective factor for the most vulnerable children and the longer children are out of school the more chance there is of hidden harm.
“Public health advice is, on balance, that there would be less transmission of Covid-19 through children and young people being in school than mixing out of school.
“Adding this to the issues around vulnerable children and the need for childcare for key worker children, public health advice is to not change term dates at either end. I am also mindful that an extension to the school holidays could cause significant difficulties for working parents.”
In late November, it was confirmed up to three households will be allowed to mix indoors over a five-day period at Christmas.
They will be able to travel between council areas and across the UK during December 23 and 27 to form a ‘bubble’ – but each household must only join one bubble.
The bubbles should contain a maximum of eight people, however children under the age of 12 do not count towards that total.
Teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said its members would be disappointed and angry.
General secretary Larry Flanagan said the decision showed “a complete disregard for the concerns and welfare of teachers” and described the position as “political”.
He added: The EIS had asked that schools move to remote learning in the final week to ensure that senior staff did not find themselves having to work during the Christmas break to deal with any Covid outbreaks and also to minimise the risk for staff, pupils and parents of infections ruining the Christmas break.
“Allowing this would have helped protect staff, students and their families during the festive season and reduce the risk of pupils or teachers being required to self-isolate over Christmas – while also ensuring that education provision continued via remote learning.”
However, parents group UsForThem Scotland said its members welcomed the decision.
Organiser Jo Bisset said: “Taking children out of school for another week would have damaged their education at a time when it’s never been under greater threat.
“It would also have caused parents a severe headache in terms of childcare, especially those who rely on shift work for income.
“The Scottish Government has been right to keep schools open in the face of pressure from the unions, and parents will be very grateful for this latest commitment to education.”
Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) has entered administration after Scottish ministers ruled out nationalising the company.
Canada-based DF Barnes bought the engineering firm in 2018 but said it was “not an investable company at the time” and it was understood the Scottish Government would be the “primary financiers”.
That was after BiFab, which has yards in Burntisland and Methil in Fife as well as one on Lewis, had to be rescued by the Scottish Government in 2017.
The firm had been preparing to put up to 500 employees back to work on a wind turbine scheme when it emerged ministers could no longer provide the necessary financial support.
A £2bn deal subsequently collapsed to manufacture eight turbine jackets at its yard in Methil as part of the Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) project.
In a statement, the firm said: “BiFab can confirm that the board has agreed to place the company in administration following the Scottish Government’s decision to remove contract assurances.
“The company has worked tirelessly to bring jobs into Fife and Lewis with some success.
“However, the absence of supply chain protections in Scotland and the wider UK have consistently undermined our ability to compete with government-owned and government-supported yards outside and inside the European Union.
“We would urge the Scottish and UK Governments to address these structural challenges as a matter of urgency in order to ensure that the benefits of offshore renewables are shared more widely with communities across the country.”
The Scottish Government argued state aid rules prevented it from bailing out the company.
Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “I know this will be an extremely worrying time for BiFab’s workers and we will continue to do everything in our power to support them and stand ready to work with any company interesting in taking on the yards.
“The Scottish Government has been working for more than three years to support BiFab through the financial difficulties it has faced and remains committed to securing a future for the yards and the workforce.
“As a minority shareholder, we have been exhaustive in our consideration of the options available to us to support BiFab. There is no legal route for either the Scottish Government or the UK Government to provide further financial support to the company as things stand.
“In order to successfully secure and deliver new contracts, BiFab required working capital, the provision of appropriate assurance packages by the shareholders, and plans for investment at the sites.
“Despite commitments made at the time of acquisition, this is something the majority shareholder JV Driver was not willing to provide to secure future work.”
Unions said the lack of further financial support had left “industrial ruins” in Fife and Lewis.
In a joint statement, GMB Scotland and Unite Scotland said: “BiFab’s administration exposes the myth of Scotland’s renewables revolution as well as a decade of political hypocrisy and failure, in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“The workers and communities dependent on these yards have fought so hard for a future and everyone was hoping that 2021 would finally be the turning point.
“Shamefully the Scottish Government has buried these hopes just in time for Christmas and they have worked together with UK Government in doing so.
“A decade on from the promise of a ‘Saudi Arabia of renewables’ and 28,000 full time jobs in offshore wind manufacturing, we’ve been left with industrial ruins in Fife and Lewis.”
So the party conference season, in so far as it resembled one, is over. Our tribunes will now go through the parliamentary motions until Christmas, ready for the battle ahead and the sixth election to the Scottish Parliament since its inception in 1999.
Yesterday’s Ipsos MORI poll for STV gives the SNP a commanding lead and should the figures of that poll translate into hard votes, then the party would win an outright majority next May.
Based on voting preference, the SNP would win 73 seats as against 27 for the Tories, 19 for Scottish Labour and five each for the Greens and Lib Dems.
In so doing, a pro-independence majority would herald a period of entrenched wrangling with Westminster over the holding of a second referendum. With 55% of the vote in Scotland’s constituencies in our poll, the Nationalists will argue their mandate is beyond reproach if such a scenario plays out.
The poll is consistent with others and begs a simple question, can anything prevent an SNP landslide?
Psephologists will always animate their health warnings: a poll is not an election, it is a mere snapshot of opinion. Events can change and so can voter responses to them, altering electoral dynamics.
But given the election will still be fought in the shadow of Covid and bearing in mind the First Minister’s approval ratings for her stewardship of public health messages, it is difficult to see what can happen to throw the established order of the polls off course.
Opposition MSPs had hoped that the parliamentary committee probing the government’s handling of harassment allegations against Alex Salmond would lead to a run on Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership and ignite a publicly fought war within the SNP which would lead to a fall in support.
From a distance it seems to this observer that the efforts of the committee are akin to sprinting on ice and it does not look likely, at least at this stage, that it will lead to the kind of schism that will lead to voters thinking twice about their support for the SNP.
The government has frequently been on the backfoot these last five years. From health waiting time targets that are missed to inadequate progress in closing the attainment gap in education, in policy area after policy area the report card on any objective reading concludes ‘must do better’.
And yet there is no voter revolt, there is no downside when things go wrong. In part, that is down to two factors. Many voters haven’t left the post-2014 referendum bubble and continued support for the SNP is a reflection that constitutional concerns trumps any misgivings over the party’s record in government. Brexit has hardened that attitude.
The other factor that works in the SNP’s favour is the failure of the opposition parties to make any real progress. Our poll gives Scottish Labour 14%. The support for the Scottish Conservatives at 22% reflects their status as choice for the more hardened unionist.
Given the number of times ministers are on the backfoot in parliament, it is impossible not to conclude that a large section of the voting public prefer the SNP because they simply would not entrust government to any opposition party.
The poll ratings for the SNP are remarkable given they have been in power for 13 years. In part, they are also an excoriating indictment of Holyrood’s opposition parties. Over a decade of the SNP in government, the opposition and not the party in power preside over electoral decline.
This is especially true of Scottish Labour. There was a rather clumsy attempt to politically assassinate Richard Leonard a few months back but the hit squad brought pea shooters to the gunfight.
Scottish Labour’s position is in contrast to the party south of the border. A poll this week put the party within a point of the Tories a year on from the Johnson landslide. Sir Keir Starmer is generally well regarded by voters in sharp contrast to the aforementioned Leonard.
If Labour’s poll ratings translate to actual votes in Scotland then Leonard will go the same way of Jeremy Corbyn. At FMQs he often picks good subjects but frequently fails to make an impact. Older party heads must think, oh for a John Smith or a Donald Dewar, how different things might be.
It is not only the lack of gravitas that afflicts Scottish Labour. They have nothing sellable, let alone unique, to say on the constitution and that does not bode well when it is the very issue of how the country is governed that takes primacy over policy areas in the eyes of voters who not so long ago gave Labour their support.
The Tories made progress last time around replacing Labour as the main opposition party but the brakes on further progress appear have been hit. The ‘Boris’ factor may be a positive, albeit a diminishing one in England but he simply does not play here and Scottish Tories know that.
Add Brexit to the mix and you sense that the setback the Scottish Conservatives endured last December will orchestrate an uncomfortable mood music going into the election.
Objectively, it’s hard to see the SNP being blown off course. In politics nothing is certain. Events can recast the status quo at frightening speed.
For all that, the current trends would suggest removing Nicola Sturgeon from Bute House is an eviction beyond the ken of Messrs Ross, Leonard, Rennie and Harvie.
Parts of Scotland have woken up to snow and ice following a yellow weather warning.
The Met Office issued a warning for snow and ice for the central belt, parts of the Borders and the Highlands up until midday on Thursday.
Traffic Scotland warned drivers of wintery conditions on the roads and gritters were deployed across most of Scotland to treat the roads.
A number of roads were closed in the early hours following a series of crashes, Traffic Scotland said.
Scots in the north west were expected to see 2cm of snow by Thursday morning, with 2-5cm above 200m and up to 10cm over some of the highest routes.
Some snow could also reach the Southern Uplands, according to the weather warning.
STV meteorologist Sean Batty said: “I’d say this is going to be the first ‘proper cold’ we’ve had so far this season with snow settling on high ground down to about 200m in some areas, something we’ve not experienced since spring.”
Lord Maginnis should be suspended from the House of Lords for at least 18 months for the bullying and harassment of SNP MP Hannah Bardell and three other complainants, the peers’ standards watchdog has recommended.
The recommendation from the Lords Conduct Committee follows an investigation into the Northern Irish peer’s treatment of Ms Bardell, as well as a parliamentary security officer and MPs Luke Pollard and Toby Perkins.
Lord Maginnis was investigated after being “verbally abusive” to security officer Christian Bombolo when asked to show his parliamentary pass in January.
Ms Bardell witnessed the incident with Mr Bombolo and complained that when she attempted to intervene she was treated “rudely and aggressively by Lord Maginnis, who later used “homophobic and derogatory language about her” in comments to the media.
Lord Maginnis was also investigated for using homophobic language in relation to Mr Pollard in February.
Ms Bardell said the experience had made a profound impact on her mental and emotional health.
She said: “I appreciate that an 18-month ban is a serious sanction and that Lord Maginnis’ return to the House of Lords will be dependant on him undertaking a ‘dedicated course of bespoke behaviour change and coaching’.
“However, I consider it likely that if this had happened in any normal workplace in the UK and someone behaved in such a systematically abusive, bullying and homophobic way, which the report clearly states he has, they would be shown the door.”
The Lords Conduct Committee suggested Lord Maginnis’ suspension could be extended if he does not undergo training and change his ways.
Peers will have to approve the report before the suspension comes into force.
Gold poured at Scotland’s first commercial goldmine
The milestone happened on Monday at Scotgold Resources Cononish gold and silver mine near Stirling.
Gold has been poured at Scotland’s first commercial goldmine.
The milestone happened on Monday at Scotgold Resources Cononish gold and silver mine near Stirling.
Production is planned to be ramped up in the new year, and it is hoped an annual rate of ore production of 36,000 tonnes and total gold production of 9910 ounces can be achieved in 2021.
The company said it is now focused on completing an accelerated expansion plan to increase production at the mine to 23,500 ounces a year.
The current first phase is targeting an annual rate of ore production of 36,000 tonnes and total gold production of 9910 ounces in 2021.
Phase two will focus on doubling the annual rate of ore production to 72,000 tonnes and more than doubling average annual gold production to 23,500 ounces.
The company is fully funded to achieve phase two expansion by May 2022, 17 months from the start of phase one production.
Richard Gray, Scotgold chief executive, said: “Our first gold pour is not only a significant milestone in the development of our Cononish gold and silver project but a milestone on the road to a Scottish gold mining industry.
“Today’s news is therefore a landmark event both for the company and for Scotland.
“I would like to take this opportunity to commend the work of the Scotgold team both at the operational and managerial levels.
“All our personnel have worked tirelessly to make this happen in the face of unprecedented challenges caused not least by the ongoing pandemic and associated restrictions.
“I would also like to thank our shareholders, contractors, advisers, regulatory agencies, the Scottish Government and all stakeholders in the project for their support throughout this journey.”
It’s been the toughest of years for businesses across the length and breadth of the country.
Coronavirus and the restrictions which have been enforced on the way we live will have long-lasting consequences for all aspects of society.
Many firms have been forced to close, lots of jobs have been lost and there are fears the fallout is only just beginning.
STV current affairs show Scotland Tonight – to be broadcast at 7.30pm on Thursday – spoke to a range of business owners and workers about the year they’ve had and what the future might hold.
The owners of many soft play and indoor sports facilities say they face financial ruin. Many centres fear they may never reopen.
Craig set up the Saltire Centre in Dalkeith, Midlothian, in 2014 and hasn’t been allowed to open the soft play part of his business since March. He has run out of patience.
He says: “Business owners like ourselves are frustrated at the lack of clarity from the government why certain activities are allowed to take place indoors and others aren’t when common sense would dictate there’s not a higher risk in soft play than trampolining or a climbing centre, for instance.
“My wife and I have spent six years building this business up to be sustainable. Both our businesses, our soft play and football, had no debt last year. None. And now both companies are saddled with loans that’ll need to be paid back, and it’s only going to get worse over the next few months.”
Craig says the business is just weeks away from collapse. Saltire has had no financial help outside the job retention scheme and the business did not qualify for any grants.
His football business took a £50,000 bounce-back loan which sustained them for a while, but it’s not been enough.
“The debts are mounting up,” he says. “Our football business has rent arrears of £34,000. Then there’s another £11,500 due this month, and it’s just going to keep accumulating.”
He is frustrated at not getting the financial help he needs to survive and only being able to earn the bare minimum with children’s football training three nights a week for an hour per evening.
“Our core business is adult men. These guys are the heart and soul of our business and pay our bills. So without these guys playing football, our business is not viable.
“Every day you’re at a point where you’re thinking, is there much point in continuing with this? Does it make more sense to say enough’s enough and call it a day and walk away and close the doors.”
Craig is not alone. In Glasgow, only essential businesses are allowed to open. Footfall for Donald Slessor, who owns Joanna Goodbite sandwich shop in the city centre, is not what it once was.
“It’s been dire,” he says. “I’ve got a business here that requires a lot of people and unfortunately we just have nobody to sell to at the moment.”
He relies on custom from Strathclyde University students and also caters events, both of which haven’t been present since March.
“When the students are here we could see 700 customers a day, now I’m lucky if it’s 70. In anybody’s book that’s a huge drop.”
They are open, but only to try and stay afloat. There are only two of them working, the rest are on furlough.
“Out of the seven or eight staff that we’ve got, we’ll probably have to let one go. And that’s not an easy decision. It’s heartwrenching.”
Donald has had his shop for 27 years and is an institution in the area.
“You can go into debt, you can get soft loans, you can do all those things. But I’ve got a business that’s never had any debt. I’m not getting any younger.
“It’s like starting a business from the beginning. Maybe without the enthusiasm I did all those years ago.
“I don’t think I can look any further ahead than week to week at the moment.”
It’s not just local business owners who are struggling, their employees are too. Earlier this year, Mia committed to studying for a postgraduate degree at Glasgow University and relies on working in a pub to pay her way through.
“The main reason I decided to come back was because I thought I could afford it,” she says. “Because I’ve worked in hospitality the whole time through my degree, I thought I would be fine.
“The first job I applied for I got offered, which was really exciting, but then the reality hit of a 10pm curfew, 16-day reset which turned into two months of restrictions and then it just got worse from there. The reality of what that’s meant for people my age has been quite devastating really.”
Usually at this time of year, Mia would be picking up extra shifts, relying on tips from Christmas nights out and now she’s not able to work at all and is relying on furlough payments.
“It is awful. I’ve gone from earning £200 a week plus tips to £52 a week on furlough.”
Mia wasn’t sure if she would be able to return home to her family home in Liverpool for Christmas, as she couldn’t afford the travel fare.
“One of my friends is offering me a lift home for free but I had to literally message people saying ‘is anyone going down south, can I come with you?’. It’s desperate.”
She thinks young people like her could have been given a lot more support.
“We’re not hearing from the under 25s and how much they’ve been affected by this. They don’t know their rights, they don’t know who to go and speak to and that’s a big issue.
“I think the government just presume that under 25s can just call up their parents and say I need some money this month. And a lot of us just don’t live like that because we are adults, we’re not children.”
Many self-employed workers have also seen their income plummet this year. Nick is a taxi driver in Edinburgh and says the trade for his firm, City Cabs, is down 90% on a year ago.
“Some of the time you can spend four hours out there and get one £6 job,” he says. “And there’s guys that go to the airport and sit for six hours and then don’t have one person getting off a plane.”
This is Nick’s livelihood and a job that he really loves. But he said it’s hard to keep motivated and turn up every day.
“But what do you do? At my age I don’t want to go and do manual work or anything like that. It’s not what I want to do.
“My job description is quite remarkable really. I sit in a nice, warm taxi and drive around one of the greatest cities in the world chatting to people and I get paid for it.
“It’s a really, really horrible situation. I can’t see any light at the end of this tunnel right now.”