LiveCovid Scotand RECAP: Daily coronavirus cases hit new high with almost 3,000 recorded | First Minister pressed for answers on future of school exams | Nicola Sturgeon vows to ‘do everything we possibly can’ to save McVitie’s factory

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Nicola Sturgeon will give an update on the pandemic in Scotland today.
Nicola Sturgeon will give an update on the pandemic in Scotland today.

Scroll down to see the latest news on the pandemic on Thursday, June 24.

Covid Scotland: The latest updates on Thursday, June 24

Last updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2021, 17:04

Key Events

  • Daily cases hit new high with almost 3,000 recorded
  • Sturgeon vows to save McVitie’s factory
  • First Minister pressed for answers on future of school exams
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First Minister pressed for answers on future of school exams

Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire at Holyrood after she refused to say if schoolchildren will sit exams next year – or whether her Government could scrap the traditional assessments.

Exams were cancelled this year and last due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the First Minister said ministers will monitor the situation with the virus over the summer before announcing in August if they will take place in 2022.

She added that experts at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will submit a report to ministers that same month, which will “help to inform” decisions on the future of exams.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said “there is a debate in Scotland right now about what the correct balance between traditional exams and continuous assessment is”.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross challenged her on that issue, saying: “After being in government for 14 years, First Minister for seven, and having pledged education would be her number one priority, I think people across Scotland will expect the First Minister to be able to say if she is for or against exams.”

Ms Sturgeon stressed there is a need to “get all of this right” as she said ministers have to carefully consider the place of “traditional exams” within the “future of qualifications”.

She added: “No decisions have been taken around that.”

Mr Ross cited comments from education expert Professor Lindsay Paterson that it is “unlikely that a system that relied wholly on coursework would ever command public confidence”.

The Conservative leader urged the First Minister not to ditch traditional school assessments.

“Scottish Conservatives firmly believe that traditional exams are the best and fairest way for young people to show what they know and what they can do,” he said.

“Her Government no longer seems to value the traditions that have served us well, that helped the First Minister and I get from a great local school to this Parliament.

“Our education system has always been distinct, it is uniquely our own, a cornerstone of what makes us Scottish.

“If the SNP remove the focus on fundamentals, if they stop valuing core knowledge, if they ditch exams, isn’t her Government abandoning the very things that made Scotland’s schools great?”

Ms Sturgeon said exams “are important”, but the “most important principle” is for the country to “have a robust and respected system for awarding qualifications to young people”.

She added: “We have asked the OECD to do further work, they will report to us in August, we will take account of all of that and this Parliament then will have the opportunity to debate this.”

The exchanges came as youngsters across Scotland are preparing to find out what grades they have been awarded for qualifications based on teacher assessments.

While the Scottish Qualifications Authority is to be scrapped, Ms Sturgeon said she still has “confidence” in the work it is currently doing “around the certification of national qualifications”.

Daily coronavirus cases hit new high with almost 3,000 recorded

Almost 3,000 coronavirus cases have been recorded in Scotland in the last 24 hours – the second day in a row the number has hit a record high.

The latest data shows there were 2,999 positive tests for the virus, which is a slight increase on the 2,969 recorded on Wednesday.

The test positivity rate is at 7.7%, up from 7.3% the previous day, according to figures published by the Scottish Government on Thursday.

A total of 40,952 tests were carried out, down from 42,310 the previous day.

Five deaths of coronavirus patients were recorded, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 7,706.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said the vaccination programme is breaking the link between cases and the number of serious illnesses from Covid-19.

But she cautioned that a rise in cases will still put “huge pressure” on the NHS and “cause suffering and loss”.

Thursday’s statistics also show there were 177 people in hospital on Wednesday with recently confirmed Covid-19 – up six in 24 hours – and 17 patients in intensive care, down one.

Sturgeon vows to ‘do everything we possibly can’ to save McVitie’s factory

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to make Pladis “an offer they cannot refuse” to stop the closure of the McVitie’s factory in Glasgow.

Almost 500 jobs are at risk after the firm issued redundancy notices to workers at the Tollcross site, which produces biscuits including Hobnobs and Rich Tea.

Workers who are part of the GMB trade union were campaigning outside Holyrood on Thursday before delivering a petition with more than 72,000 signatures to the Scottish Government.

During First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour MSP Pauline McNeill thanked the Finance Secretary and the working group set up to save the factory from closure but urged Ms Sturgeon to “lead the charge”.

Issuing a challenge reminiscent of a famous line in the Godfather movie, Ms McNeill said: “Will the First Minister use her international recognition and skills that she has to eyeball directly the owners of McVitie’s and put everything on the table that is possible to make sure that they are presented with an offer they cannot refuse?

“First Minister, I believe that you need to lead this charge and we will all be behind you in doing so.

“The McVitie’s factory in Glasgow cannot be allowed to close.”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “As Pauline McNeill is aware, the Finance Secretary with the leader of Glasgow City Council co-chairs an action group to try to save the McVitie’s plant in the east end, which I am 100% behind.

“The Finance Secretary is communicating just this week with Pladis senior management to make very clear our disappointment at the lack of constructive engagement about the options with Scottish Government support for saving that site.

“We will not give up. We will do everything we possibly can.

“I will certainly do everything I can to make sure that any option there is to save that site, to save those jobs, is taken forward by the Government.

“We cannot force a company to accept offers of help that we give, but we will do everything we can to make sure that those offers are credible and do everything to make sure that they are accepted.”

Ms Sturgeon explained she was unable to accept the petition personally because she was heading to the funeral of former SNP MSP and MP Andrew Welsh, who died last week, but that a minister would accept it on the Government’s behalf.

She added: “The workers do not have to petition me and the Scottish Government, we are on their side and we will do everything we can to save their jobs.”

Greens urge Government to end use of Amazon services

The Scottish Government has been urged to stop using the services of web giant Amazon, after reports claimed its Fife-based warehouse destroys unsold items.

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater pushed the Scottish Government, which paid millions last year to the company for “web services”, to end the deal.

Ms Slater also urged Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions to enshrine circular economy principles in law to curb the waste said to take place at the warehouse.

She said: “(Amazon) is a company that has refused to pay the living wage, uses zero-hour contracts and keeps its workers in such a state of desperation that some of them are reduced to sleeping in tents.

“It is a company that has resisted trade unions and avoids paying corporation tax.

“The Scottish Greens have previously challenged the millions of pounds given to Amazon through Scottish Enterprise – in the last financial year the Scottish Government gave them £4.7 million for web services.

“Can the First Minister tell us when her Government will stop giving Amazon money?”

Ms Sturgeon said the Government ensures fair work conditions are attached to any grants given by Scottish Enterprise – the commercial wing of the Government – but she added she is willing to look into the specific grants raised by Ms Slater.

She added: “We all have a duty to (become more sustainable) but companies certainly do and destroying things in the way that has been reported this week I do think raises real questions about the acceptability of that.”

Ms Slater pushed for the Scottish Government to enshrine circular economy principles – which attempt to limit waste and stress the reuse of products made from finite resources – into law in Scotland.

“It is shocking that a company of this size would rather destroy new items than give them away to people in need,” Ms Slater said.

“This shocking revelation underlines that governments must do more to force companies to reduce waste, with regulation and fines where they fail to act.”

The Scottish Conservatives have signalled their intention to bring forward a circular economy Bill during this parliamentary term.

Ms Sturgeon added: “Our commitments to a circular economy and legislating for a circular economy are known and I look forward to taking that forward with co-operation across the Parliament.

“I do think governments have to do more to persuade everybody, to lead by example, to persuade individuals and certainly to persuade companies to cut down on waste and to become much more responsible environmentally more generally.

“But I don’t think a company the size and scale of Amazon should need a government to tell that it shouldn’t be destroying large amounts of things that could actually be, and Lorna Slater’s right, given to people in need.”

Full impact of Brexit on Scotland may take years to assess, report warns

Assessing the “real impact” of the vote to leave the European Union will take many years, the Scottish Government has said five years on from the Brexit referendum.

A new report says “many of the negative impacts which were envisaged” at the time of the vote in June 2016 are only now “starting to crystallise”.

The Scottish Government paper claims Brexit is damaging business, migration and even devolution itself, with External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson insisting “Scotland has to consider its future path” when the coronavirus pandemic is over.

The report states: “We can already say with confidence that across a wide range of areas, Brexit is having a tangible and harmful impact on the quality of life of the people of Scotland and on Scottish businesses.

“It is not yet possible to describe the full impact that decision will have on the people of Scotland.

“Some consequences, such as parts of the new rules on trade into the UK, are not yet fully in force. For those that are, assessing the real impact will take many years.”

The Scottish Government has already warned that the “basic” trade deal agreed between the UK and EU could result in Scottish GDP being £9 billion lower by 2030, compared to if the UK had remained part of Europe.

UK Government defends ‘completely proper’ use of Covid funds on union polling

Using Covid cash to fund polling on attitudes to the union was “completely proper and justifiable”, according to Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The Commons Leader defended the Government’s spending and said the polling helped inform a communications strategy linked to messages about staying at home and wearing facemasks during the pandemic.

The Herald Scotland newspaper had reported a request to poll attitudes to the union was submitted as part of a Covid-19 contract given to Public First.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford used Prime Minister’s Questions to press for a “full public inquiry” over the spending.

Anum Qaisar-Javed, the SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts, told the Commons on Thursday: “Yesterday in the news we found out that this Government used taxpayers’ money – that should have been used on Covid recovery – on polling for independence.”

She went on to raise concerns about “secret” polling before inviting Mr Rees-Mogg and other Tory MPs to visit her constituency as they are “fantastic advocates for Scottish independence”.

Mr Rees-Mogg accepted the invitation before replying: “The work undertaken on attitudes to the union was a reasonable thing to poll for.

“It’s really important when you’re developing a communications strategy to work out how it will land most effectively, and there was a great deal of work to be done to communicate the messages about staying at home, about working from home, about wearing facemasks and so on and so forth, and I think this was completely proper and justifiable.

“I imagine other governments in similar circumstances would have done much the same.”

    Lorna Slater, Scottish Greens co-leader, raised the issue of an “obscene” amount of waste at Amazon’s facility in Dunfermline

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the Scottish Government has sent out mixed messages on coronavirus rules over the past few weeks

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