{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"scotland","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/slow-economic-growth-to-hit-scottish-tax-intake-by-2-1bn-1-4640398","id":"1.4640398","articleHeadline": "Slow economic growth to hit Scottish tax intake by £2.1bn","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513361251000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s public services are set to lose more than £2 billion in income tax receipts over the next four years as a result of slowing economic growth, the Conservatives have warned.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4640397.1513351377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay's budget came with "subdued" growth forecasts"} ,"articleBody": "

Disappointing growth forecasts predicted by the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) have seen a downwards revision of the income tax revenue, which will be collected in Scotland.

Forecasts made by the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) showed lower than expected growth with GDP reaching just 0.7 per cent next year and only rising to 1.1 per cent by 2022.

READ MORE: Scotland set to lag behind UK with growth below 1% until 2022

The SFC warned that growth would be “subdued” and well below the two per cent experienced before the financial crisis. Scotland’s GDP is also expected to lag behind the rest of the UK.

The SFC report “Scotland’s Economic and Fiscal Forecasts December 2017”, published alongside Derek Mackay’s budget, warns: “The outlook for income tax is driven by the outlook for earnings and employment. Slow growth in the economy means slow growth in income tax revenues. As a result, the Commission is forecasting significantly lower revenue from income tax than previously forecast by the Scottish Government.”

READ MORE: Scottish Budget 2017: Private schools hit with £5m rates hike

When the SFC’s forecasts are compared with official Scottish Government projections made in February this year Scotland is now expected to raise £2.1 billion less.

Next year alone (2018/19), the lost revenue due to lower growth is expected to be £205 million compared to projections earlier this year.

READ MORE: Scottish Budget 2017: Income tax to be increased

That figure arises from the difference between February’s forecast of £12,320 million to £12,115 million this week.

A similar effect is predicted for 2019/20 when February’s forecast has been revised down from £12,943 million to £12,582 million – a difference of £361 million.

In 2020/21 the forecasts have been revised down from £13,681 million to £13,084 million – a reduction of £597 million.

While 2021/22 has seen the forecast revised down from £14,595 million to £13,662 million – a reduction in tax take of £933 million.

When the overall difference between February’s forecasts and this week’s SFC revised estimates were calculated the total came to almost a £2.1 billion loss of income tax receipts.

Shadow Finance Secretary Murdo Fraser made the point that the reduction in tax take for each of the next four years was more than the £164 million that ministers expect to raise from their reformed income tax system.

Mr Mackay’s budget announced two new tax bands that would deliver a small tax cut for the lower paid, but would see all those earning more than £26,000 pay more income tax than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

Mr Fraser MSP said: “Thanks to the coming Sturgeon slowdown, the Scottish Government is projected to raise £2 billion less than expected over the remainder of this Parliament. That’s £2 billion less going to schools and hospitals because of the failure to match levels of growth we are seeing elsewhere in the UK.
“The SNP’s answer is to introduce a new Nat Tax - but these figures show if we had higher growth, there would be no need to do so.
“The SNP’s Nat tax isn’t just a broken promise, it’s bad economics. Hanging a sign at the border saying higher taxes will drive away jobs and leave Scotland further behind other parts of the UK.
“Nicola Sturgeon broke her promise on tax this week. She said she wouldn’t increase taxes on basic rate taxpayers, but that’s exactly what she’s done. 
“It is time she apologised, and instead focussed her government on delivering the growth we need to support our vital public services.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There is no black hole. The independent Scottish Fiscal Commission – who provide these figures for the budget – clearly state that revenues rise year-on-year.

“Under the Fiscal Framework, all forecasts of the Income Tax revenues are founded on revenues in 2016-17, the year before devolution of full Scottish income tax powers.

“The SFC forecast that growth in Income Tax revenues will outstrip growth in the rest of the UK and provide extra support for public services. Far from their being a black hole, therefore, Scotland is on course to outperform the rest of the UK.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4640397.1513351377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4640397.1513351377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Derek Mackay's budget came with "subdued" growth forecasts","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay's budget came with "subdued" growth forecasts","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4640397.1513351377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5680204816001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/education/more-scottish-teachers-but-primary-classes-stay-the-same-size-1-4637299","id":"1.4637299","articleHeadline": "More Scottish teachers but primary classes stay the same size","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513087615000 ,"articleLead": "

The number of teachers in Scotland has increased by 543 in the last year but primary school class sizes have remained the same, according to official statistics.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4637297.1513091035!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland sees 543 more teachers"} ,"articleBody": "

Scottish Government data has revealed that the total number of primary, secondary and special teachers stands at 51,513 this year compared with 50,970 in 2016.

The increase in teachers has been accompanied by a rise in the number of school children by 4,611 to 688,959 this year, meaning that the overall pupil/teacher ratios have only fallen from 13.7 in 2016 to 13.6 this year.

The Scottish Government has had a long-standing target to reduce primary one to three classes to 18.

READ MORE: Scottish classroom left in tears as 20th teacher in four years quits

However the data showed that average class sizes in primaries one to three were 23.2 this year, a slight fall from 23.3 recorded in 2016. The average class size for all primary pupils was 23.5, the same as last year.

The proportion of children in primaries one to three in class sizes of 18 or fewer had fallen.

In 2017, 20,997 (12.2 per cent) of primaries one to three pupils were in classes of 18 or fewer, compared with 21,906 (12.7 per cent) last year.

READ MORE: Scotland’s weather: A full list of school closures

There were still 44,965 pupils taught in classes of 26 pupils or more (the equivalent of 26.1 per cent) – although that was decrease from last year when 46,293 pupils (26.8 per cent) were in classes of 26 and over.

The increased teacher numbers were welcomed as a step in the right direction, but opposition parties pointed out that the statistics were still 3,570 teachers behind staffing levels when the SNP came to power in 2007.

The figures illustrated how the gap in academic performance between children from deprived and affluent areas widens throughout primary school.

In reading, writing, listening and talking and numeracy a higher proportion of those living in the wealthiest areas of Scotland achieve the expected Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) level compared to pupils from the poorest parts.

The 2016/17 Achievement of CfE Levels Return, which is based on the professional judgement of teachers, shows the gap between the most and least deprived in P1 is 17 points for reading, rising to 20 points by P7.

For writing, the gap in those achieving the expected level widens from 18 points to 22 between P1 and P7, in listening and talking it grows from 12 points to 17 and for numeracy it widens from 14 points to 20.

Lib Dem education spokesman Tavish Scott said the SNP’s class size policy was “in tatters”.

“Smaller classes matter because they help pupils learn and give teachers more contact time with those children who need extra help. Increasing class sizes only make it harder to close the attainment gap.  

“Today’s figures show that after a decade in power the SNP Government has comprehensively failed to deliver on its commitment of smaller class sizes, particularly for our youngest pupils.”

Green MSP Ross Greer said the Government had to use cash earmarked for closing the attainment gap to plug education cuts.

Mr Greer said: “An increase in teacher numbers, however small, is welcome but it’s also very clear from these statistics that schools have only been able to reverse a fraction of the cuts of the last decade and they’ve had to use their attainment funding to do it. This funding is for targeted interventions to reduce the attainment gap, not to firefight the worse damage from ten years of budget cuts.”

Education Secretary John Swinney said: “Education is this government’s number one priority and we are investing heavily to ensure every child in Scotland has an equal chance to realise their full potential. We can now see that our decision to give headteachers more money and more power to decide for themselves how to close the attainment gap is paying off.

“Hundreds of additional teachers are now in Scottish classrooms, benefiting pupils the length and breadth of Scotland, as a result of that decision. That’s good news for teachers, parents and pupils.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4637297.1513091035!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4637297.1513091035!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scotland sees 543 more teachers","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland sees 543 more teachers","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4637297.1513091035!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/leader-comment-any-income-tax-rise-must-aid-front-line-services-1-4635421","id":"1.4635421","articleHeadline": "Leader comment: Any income tax rise must aid front line services","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512891482000 ,"articleLead": "

The contents of this week’s Scottish budget are eagerly awaited, or at least, as eagerly as it is possible to muster enthusiasm for an announcement on government spending commitments.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635420.1512891488!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. Picture: Lisa Ferguson"} ,"articleBody": "

The key issue for most observers will be income tax, and whether or not the Scottish Government will vary taxation rates and create a system where someone living north of the border will pay more than if they chose to stay south of the border.

Taxation is sure to make the headlines when Finance Secretary Derek Mackay reveals all on Thursday, but even if change is coming, it will only affect a section of society. The issue that will be felt by all of us is the level of funding that is to be made available to local authorities.

In our Insight feature this week, we examine how years of austerity have impacted on the provision of local services in our biggest council areas, and the overall picture is one of unremitting cutbacks, job losses and threats to future provision of services we might consider to be core.

It could be argued that we should expect no different, because the warnings have often been sounded – UK-wide – that austerity has some way to go before we are through it.

But within the restrictions of the wider economic picture, there is still room for manoeuvre. Mackay and his cabinet colleagues know that an income tax rise could ask for trouble, even if there is support at Holyrood from some opposition parties for the measure. The electorate is likely to be influenced more by an increased tax take than loyalty to a particular political party.

If the Scottish Government is to take that risk with taxation, it would do well to come up with an acceptable reason for doing so, and it would make sense to tie such a rise to an increase in local authority funding.

The Scottish Government has played hard-ball with councils in recent years to force the issue of responsible spending. It should consider that intention to have been achieved. Now, as front line services are clearly failing to make ends meet, it is time for respite.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4635420.1512891488!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635420.1512891488!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4635420.1512891488!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/dani-garavelli-paisley-finds-itself-despite-losing-contest-1-4635146","id":"1.4635146","articleHeadline": "Dani Garavelli: Paisley finds itself despite losing contest","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512863098000 ,"articleLead": "

Confession time. Even though I have lived on the west coast of Scotland for most of my life, I had rarely been to Paisley before this year. Brought up in Prestwick, I had travelled through it, of course, on the train to Glasgow: Troon, Barassie, Irvine, Kilwinning, Dalry, Lochwinnoch and then Gilmour Street. Seeing that last sign brought a frisson of excitement, not in its own right, but because you knew it was the last stop before the bright lights and the big city; the place before the place you actually wanted to go.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635145.1512838619!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Paisley Abbey lit up in anticipation of the City of Culture 2021 result last week. Picture: Kieran Chambers"} ,"articleBody": "

As an adult, I went mostly to cover stories; and most of those stories were about deprivation. I suppose I came to associate the whole town with post-industrial gloom and low life expectancy. That and its horrible one-way system, in which I seemed fated to become ensnared.

It wasn’t until I came to write a feature about its efforts to be named UK City Of Culture 2021 that I properly saw it; in the space of a few hours, I had my eyes opened to its rich heritage and stunning architecture.

The catalyst for this epiphany was meeting bid director Jean Cameron. If you haven’t encountered Cameron (and she’s been fairly ubiquitous over the past few days, so you probably have), she is an irrepressible force of nature. Small with jet-black hair and bright red lipstick, she brims over with such positivity she could probably have got Slough on to the shortlist; but Paisley is her hometown, so she had added motivation to evangelise about its many strengths.

On a blustery day in May, Cameron showed me around: my own personal tour guide. And what an inspiring tour guide she was, with an interesting snippet of information to match every sight. “Look,” she said, pointing at an imposing statue of a medieval knight on horseback on top of the town’s cenotaph, “one of the very few British war memorials created by a woman [Alice Meredith Williams]”. And then, as we gazed at the newly renovated Art Deco Russell Institute, a former clinic, with its great bronze angel clutching two babies: “I remember being brought here as a child for my jags.”

But it wasn’t merely Paisley’s history – its famous teardrop pattern imported from Persia, or the plethora of buildings paid for by the Coats and the Clarks, the town’s competing thread mill families – that was the focus of Cameron’s zeal. Without trying to underplay the town’s obvious problems – its poverty, drugs and high unemployment – she eulogised about its creativity, its art groups and its festivals and about how culture could be transformative; how it could revolutionise people’s lives.

I came away from Paisley that day feeling energised and uplifted; and a few weeks later I returned with my youngest son, to show him the museum, the Abbey and the many vibrant murals in lanes and on gable ends.

What Cameron did for me, the bid team replicated on a national scale. Those at the helm, including Renfrewshire Council chief executive, Sandra Black, and head of marketing, Louisa Mahon, created an unprecedented buzz around the town. They believed in its worth and its potential, and, because they did, others began to believe in it too. Such was Paisley’s conspicuous need that local MP Mhairi Black referred to the bid as “a cry for help”, but it was more like a yell of defiance. In Ferguslie Park, which in 2016 topped the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation for the second consecutive time, there was a renewed determination to challenge the stigma and demonstrate its vigour and resilience.

The solidarity engendered by the process was palpable on Thursday as the countdown to the UK City of Culture 2021 announcement began. From the evening before, Paisley – which had already won endorsements from famous natives such as Gerard Butler, Paolo Nutini, David Tennant and John Byrne – was being bombarded by good luck messages from across Scotland.

There was a degree of self-confidence too. No-one knew for sure what the politics of the decision would be – might Dundee’s failure to win in 2013 and its Brexit-related exclusion from the European City of Culture 2023 encourage the judges to throw Scotland a bone? Or would the possibility of an independence vote before 2021 prove a disincentive? But Paisley was the bookies’ favourite and it had laid out a pretty compelling case for its own success.

In the end, of course, it was not to be. The envelope was opened to reveal the word “Coventry” and those who had gathered in the University of the West of Scotland for the big reveal were temporarily crestfallen.

Still, all is not lost. Paisley (a town, not a city) is the smallest place to have made it this far in the process – a huge achievement in itself. And simply producing the bid has created a momentum that cannot be stopped by something as trivial as losing out to a rival.

When Dundee lost to Hull in 2013, it pledged to press ahead with a waterfront development that will see the opening of the £45m V&A building, and set its sights on becoming the European City of Culture 2023: an accolade which would have brought an estimated £128m to the economy.

The news last month that it was being ruled out of the latter was a huge blow because it meant money had been invested in plans that never had any chance of coming to fruition. But even so, the publicity around its attempt has kept Dundee and its cultural regeneration in the public eye.

Simply taking part in such competitions increases resources and raises a city’s profile. In the past few years, Paisley has attracted national events such as the Royal National Mod and the Say Awards, while the annual Spree festival, now in its sixth year, includes a collaboration between the RSNO and a pop group in Paisley Abbey; overall, visitor figures have been on the rise.

The town now has a better platform from which to attract even greater investment and is already committed to a multi-million-pound transformation of the town centre; included in this is an extension to the museum which will allow it to better showcase its superb collection of Paisley Pattern shawls.

But none of this is as important as what the experience has done for Paisley’s battered morale. A town which suffered once with the decline of the textile industry and then again with the decline of shipbuilding has rediscovered its sense of self. Though its troubles are still evident in the vacant high street shops and the beggars, there is no mistaking the shift in spirit. Thanks to the bid, Paisley is now walking a wee bit taller. And that’s something money alone can’t buy.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Dani Garavelli"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4635145.1512838619!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635145.1512838619!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Paisley Abbey lit up in anticipation of the City of Culture 2021 result last week. Picture: Kieran Chambers","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Paisley Abbey lit up in anticipation of the City of Culture 2021 result last week. Picture: Kieran Chambers","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4635145.1512838619!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-labour-frustrated-with-richard-leonard-s-cabinet-delay-1-4635240","id":"1.4635240","articleHeadline": "Scottish Labour frustrated with Richard Leonard’s cabinet delay","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512861861000 ,"articleLead": "

Richard Leonard’s delay in appointing a Scottish Labour front bench team is causing frustration within the party and leading to speculation that he is waiting to give Alex Rowley a job.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635239.1512891785!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Insiders speculate Richard Leonard is waiting for Alex Rowley to be cleared. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Scotland on Sunday understands that senior figures in Scottish Labour believe the new leader risks losing any momentum built up by his victory over Anas Sarwar in the party’s leadership contest.

Leonard was elected the new Scottish Labour leader three weeks ago, but has yet to put his own stamp on the party’s front bench.

“It is perplexing,” a Labour insider told Scotland on Sunday. “There has been no explanation as to why there has been this delay. There is a theory that they are waiting for Rowley to be cleared so that he can be given something big.”

Rowley acted as caretaker leader following Kezia Dugdale’s sudden resignation. During the leadership campaign, Rowley was embroiled in controversy when he admitted his preference was for Leonard to beat Sarwar, even though he was supposed to maintain a neutral stance as acting leader. His view came to light in a conversation that was secretly recorded at Labour conference.

Since then Rowley has been suspended by Labour while an investigation is conducted into allegations that he bombarded his former partner with abusive messages during a three-year harassment campaign.

Rowley has denied any wrong-doing and has vowed to clear his name.

As Scottish Labour’s best known politician, Dugdale is also a contender for a front bench position. But she has been absent from Holyrood while taking part in I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!.

Yesterday, Dugdale insisted she would devote her life to the party as she dampened speculation that she would defect to the SNP. Some have suggested that Dugdale’s absence may have contributed to Leonard’s decision to take his time.

But a Labour insider said: “I would be surprised if this was about Kez. I’m not sure if she wants a prime position and I’m not sure if Richard wants to give her one. But the delay does seem incredibly disorganised and it is ironic that someone who stood on a platform of real change doesn’t seem to have any idea of what or who they want to change. Politically, it doesn’t make any sense because you lose all sense of momentum.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Richard Leonard has been meeting Labour MSPs on a one-to-one basis and will announce his Shadow Cabinet in due course. Alex Rowley has been suspended from the Labour group, pending an investigation. We don’t comment on ongoing investigations.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4635239.1512891785!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635239.1512891785!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Insiders speculate Richard Leonard is waiting for Alex Rowley to be cleared. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Insiders speculate Richard Leonard is waiting for Alex Rowley to be cleared. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4635239.1512891785!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/euan-mccolm-nicola-sturgeon-s-chance-to-forge-lasting-legacy-1-4635118","id":"1.4635118","articleHeadline": "Euan McColm: Nicola Sturgeon’s chance to forge lasting legacy","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512861301000 ,"articleLead": "

During the Brexit chaos that dominates our national agenda and continues to expose Theresa May as a prime minister of uncommon incompetence, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed her status as one of the most skilled politicians anywhere in the United Kingdom.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635117.1512892112!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sturgeon shakes Ruth Davidsons hand after a head-to-head TV debate. They should be able to find common ground on Scotlands future relationship with Europe. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

As the UK government fought to escape a whirlpool created by its failure, early last week, to find a satisfactory answer to the question of how, post-Brexit, the border with Ireland might operate, Sturgeon stamped her mark on proceedings, making the strong case that if Northern Ireland could expect some kind of unique status after the UK leaves the EU, so could, say, Scotland.

The Scottish Government has been arguing since the result of last June’s referendum was declared that Scotland should have a special agreement on issues ranging from immigration to membership of the single market. These had been pie-in-the-sky demands, based on political calculation rather than the realistic prospect of achieving them, until it seemed Northern Ireland might have special status. Suddenly, the First Minister had a case.

Politics can create the most unlikely alliances and so, while Sturgeon was making her argument, Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson issued a statement saying that if a frictionless border with Ireland required some alignment in the north with EU regulations, the PM should conclude that such arrangements should apply across the UK.

Both the First Minister and the Scottish Tory leader echoed the hopes of many Remain voters, and not just in Scotland. Not for the first time, while chaos engulfed the UK government, Davidson and Sturgeon tried to change the direction of the UK’s departure from the EU, moving away from the “sod-the-lot-of-you” approach favoured by hard Brexiteers and finding a path which would lead to the closest possible relationship between Britain and Europe after the country’s departure from the European club in 2019.

It was not long before Sturgeon and Davidson’s differences were exposed, however. When, on Friday, the Prime Minister announced that talks between the UK and the EU were progressing (though, since there is to be no agreement until the end of this negotiating process, it will be some time before we know whether that is truly the case) and that there would be no hard border, post-Brexit, dividing Northern Ireland from the Republic, the First Minister pointed out that this meant an end to Unionist claims that an independent Scotland would have to have a hard border with England.

Sturgeon had a point, though her Tory opponent wasn’t having it. It didn’t take much for the First Minister to start “banging the indy drum”, said Davidson.

I suspect many Scottish remain voters will have felt similarly disheartened by Sturgeon’s insistence on trying to make this issue about Scottish independence.

The First Minister can be a confusing figure for the pro-UK and pro-EU Scottish voter. Her warnings about the catastrophic impact of Brexit may elicit nods of agreement but it remains the case that many of those who agree with Sturgeon on the EU think she is completely wrong about the UK.

The intellectual incoherence of the First Minister’s case – remaining in one political and trading union is essential while remaining in another is madness – does, I’m afraid, rather undermine it and so Sturgeon’s line about borders was understandably tempting but not at all politically savvy.

What a depressing state of affairs this is for the Scottish Remainer. Right now, with the UK government in such a shambolic state, what’s needed from Sturgeon is focus on the central issue, not sniping about her own constitutional obsession.

The First Minister has already been forced by the prospect of devastating defeat to postpone plans for a second independence referendum. This being so (and, perhaps, with an eye to her own legacy) Sturgeon should be thinking about what she might actually achieve in the interests of the majority of Scots (even those who did not vote for her).

There is an opportunity, as some powers to be repatriated from the EU go to Holyrood rather than Westminster, for the First Minister to look again at the devolution settlement. And she should not approach this as a combatant but, instead, should look across parties at Holyrood to build support.

There are, on the Tory benches, many who would support a more muscular devolution agreement. Should Sturgeon push for something approaching full fiscal autonomy, increased borrowing powers and full control over welfare, she may find that some kind of consensus can be reached in the Scottish Parliament.

In these fractious times, with Scotland divided by one constitutional line and the UK divided by another, we are crying out for the restoration of some calm.

The First Minister can play a lasting role in achieving that, in Scotland at least.

We need MSPs to look at the mess of Brexit and ask how, by the end of the miserable process of departure from the EU, they can make a positive difference.

Davidson has made it perfectly clear that, after leading the Scottish Tories past Labour and into second place in Scotland, she intends to steal Sturgeon’s crown at the next Holyrood election.

This is quite the ambition which, if she is to achieve it, will require anything but amicable relations with the current First Minister. Pity.

Having voted by a substantial majority to remain in the EU last year, Scots are now watching the unfurling of a chaotic divorce they didn’t want. There is very little that political champions of these voters – whether in the shape of the First Minister or the Scottish Conservative leader – can do now to change the shape of Brexit.

But Sturgeon, Davidson, and others at Holyrood could try to restore some stability amid the current political turbulence.

If Brexit – with all of its miserable consequences – must happen, then I’d rather like MSPs to do what they can to ensure Scotland is in the best possible shape to deal with it.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Euan McColm"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4635117.1512892112!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635117.1512892112!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Sturgeon shakes Ruth Davidsons hand after a head-to-head TV debate. They should be able to find common ground on Scotlands future relationship with Europe. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sturgeon shakes Ruth Davidsons hand after a head-to-head TV debate. They should be able to find common ground on Scotlands future relationship with Europe. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4635117.1512892112!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/fmqs-council-cuts-leading-to-dickensian-scotland-says-leonard-1-4633552","id":"1.4633552","articleHeadline": "FMQs: Council cuts leading to `Dickensian’ Scotland, says Leonard","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512657922000 ,"articleLead": "

Teachers for children with additional support needs are being axed, childcare is being “cut to the bone” and breakfast clubs are closing, Labour leader Richard Leonard has claimed.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4633551.1512659892!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard"} ,"articleBody": "

At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Leonard said the SNP-led Falkirk Council was being forced to take such action as he challenged Nicola Sturgeon to do more to combat the “Dickensian” conditions caused in Scotland by austerity.

Mr Leonard called on the First Minister to use next week’s Scottish budget to give more cash to councils as he produced statistics revealing the proportion of Scottish children in material deprivation.

READ MORE: SNP’s Named Person scheme on brink of collapse

A break down of Scottish Government figures by local authority area showed that 39 per cent of children in Falkirk were classified as being in material deprivation.

READ MORE: Storm Caroline: Travel chaos, school closures and power cuts strike Scotland

The figure for Dundee City Council was 54.1 per cent with Glasgow close behind with 53.5 per cent.

Mr Leonard said Falkirk Council was planning to cut childcare “to the bone”, “was planning to close down breakfast clubs and is planning to axe teachers for children with additional support needs.”

He asked: “Does the FM believe that if she fails next week to properly resource councils to properly invest in local services that we will see this material deprivation faced by Scotland’s children go down? Or will it go up?”

Ms Sturgeon said the government was doing “everything we possibly can to protect front line services from the impact of Tory imposed austerity”.

She added: “We face in the coming financial year a cut to our day to day spending in real terms of more than £200 million imposed by the Tory Government – that Richard Leonard still prefers to have control over these issues than he would prefer it to be a government in this parliament...The only councils that haven’t taken the opportunity to maximise their revenues through the council tax were Labour led councils.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4633551.1512659892!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4633551.1512659892!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4633551.1512659892!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/scotland-s-hospitals-see-10-per-cent-rise-in-consultant-vacancies-1-4631713","id":"1.4631713","articleHeadline": "Scotland’s hospitals see 10 per cent rise in consultant vacancies","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512497406000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s hospitals have seen a 10 per cent increase in consultant vacancies in the last year with more than 250 posts lying empty for at least six months, new figures have shown.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4631712.1512497412!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Shona Robison says NHS staffing at record high"} ,"articleBody": "

Official data from the NHS revealed that at the end of September 2017 the whole time equivalent (WTE) of 430.5 consultant posts were unfilled - a drop from 476.4 in June but a rise of 10.4 per cent over the last 12 months.

These included 254.3 WTE consultant jobs that had been empty for a minimum of six months - an increase of 38.6 per cent from September 2016 when the total was 183.5.

Almost one in six (15.9 per cent) of all clinical radiology consultant posts were unfilled, with the figures showing 59.5 WTE posts empty at the end of September, with 45.4 of these having been vacant for at least six months.

READ MORE: More hospitals under report waiting times

The figures were included in the latest NHS workforce statistics for Scotland, which showed a record number of people employed across the health service.

At the end of September 2017, the WTE number of staff had risen to 139,492.1, the fifth year in a row it has increased.

However, the data revealed a slowdown in jobs growth in the NHS, falling from 1.8 per cent to 0.6 per cent over the period.

For consultants, jobs growth had “decreased significantly”, falling from 2.9% in September 2016 to 0.3 per cent a year later.

Overall, 7.7 per cent of all consultants’ jobs were vacant, with the figures from the end of September also showing a slight rise in the number of nursing and midwifery posts that were unfilled.

The vacancy rate for these increased from 4.3 per cent in September 2016 to 4.5 per cent 12 months later - meaning there were 2,789.2 WTE jobs without someone in post, including 826.9 WTE which had been empty for at least three months.

READ MORE: Drink related hospital stays on the rise

Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar claimed the “scale of unfilled posts in our health service is simply staggering”, with “over 400 consultant posts lying empty alongside nearly 3,000 nursing and midwifery posts unfilled”.

He added: “No wonder NHS staff feel overworked and undervalued - the support they should be getting simply isn’t there.

“It was Nicola Sturgeon as health secretary who slashed training posts for nurses and midwives, and cut funding for medical students. This failure lies at her door.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “NHS staffing in Scotland is at a new record high level and has increased by over 12,400 under this government.

“This has been backed by our record high investment in the NHS, supporting more doctors, nurses and midwives, and care workers looking after the people of Scotland.

“We’re taking firm action to ensure we recruit, develop and retain the next generation of health service workers.

“Just this week, Ucas figures showed the highest-ever number of acceptances to study nursing at Scottish universities, with an eight per cent increase compared to a three per cent decrease in England.

“In Scotland we have retained bursaries for our nursing and midwifery students as well as making sure their tuition is free - in contrast the UK Government has scrapped bursaries and brought in tuition fees for nursing students in England.

“To support our ambitions further we have increased nursing and midwifery intakes by 4.7 per cent this year - the fifth successive rise.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4631712.1512497412!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4631712.1512497412!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Shona Robison says NHS staffing at record high","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Shona Robison says NHS staffing at record high","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4631712.1512497412!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/acting-police-chief-s-plea-for-less-political-interference-1-4629556","id":"1.4629556","articleHeadline": "Acting police chief’s plea for less political interference","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512281755000 ,"articleLead": "

The senior officer leading Scotland’s embattled police force has called for space to make decisions free of political interference.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4629555.1512281727!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Livingstone would consider taking the job of chief constable if it fell vacant. Picture: Jon Savage"} ,"articleBody": "

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said he and his colleagues had been unprepared for the “intense” scrutiny Police Scotland would be under when it was formed in 2013.

And he said the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the body charged with holding his force to account, needed to be stronger and have a higher public profile.

Livingstone cancelled his retirement plans in September after Chief Constable Phil Gormley took a leave of absence to allow bullying allegations against him to be investigated.

A former detective and senior officer with Lothian and Borders Police, Livingstone said he decided to call time on his police career after seeing the impact on former colleagues including former chief constable Sir Stephen House. But he said he reconsidered after being asked to do so by the Scottish Government and might consider the job of chief constable if it became available.

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday from Police Scotland’s headquarters at Tulliallan Castle, Livingstone said he hoped policing would return to being what he called “an apolitical public service”.

“The level of political and media focus is significant,” he said. “When we came into the new organisation, we knew it would be increased from our experience in the legacy arrangements. We knew it would increase, but we didn’t realise the intensity.

“I don’t think anyone would have anticipated it. If you look at the number of freedom of information requests we receive and the demands on us as individuals which are quite intrusive – the impact that puts on you and your family – it’s far more than we experienced under the legacy structures.”

Livingstone said the “upside” to that is greater accountability and scrutiny of policing, but he said the body set up to hold the chief constable to account – the SPA – had so far struggled to keep pace.

New SPA chair Susan Deacon, a former cabinet minister in the then Scottish Executive, takes up her post tomorrow.

Livingstone said he hoped that would help usher in a new era of higher visibility for the Authority.

“The SPA has not operated as robustly or as efficiently as it could,” he said.

“Undoubtedly there’s an expectation there will be improvements in that regard. Its primary purpose is to maintain policing, that’s partly governance and oversight, but also providing support and advocating for and explaining policing. Very often, the authority did not have a presence in the public eye. I think the new chair – with her background – will have a higher public profile.”

Livingstone said he would remain in post for the “foreseeable future” until the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) concludes its work looking at the allegations against Gormley.

The chief constable faces dismissal if found to have acted in a way which amounts to gross misconduct. He denies any wrongdoing.

A separate SPA investigation into criminal conduct has led to the suspension of Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins and Superintendent Kirk Kinnell amid claims the two men used a firing range at Jackton, East Kilbride, for unauthorised purposes.

The level of media interest in the force led Justice Secretary Michael Matheson to make a statement on 
Police Scotland at Holyrood last week, while HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, Derek Penman, issued a statement denying there is a “crisis” in Scottish policing.

Livingstone said he hoped the constant political interest in policing would stop.

“It would be helpful if issues around government policy and the political debate that goes on in Scotland, if policing wasn’t part of that,” he said.

“That’s what at times makes it difficult for senior officers and operational officers and staff, if [policing] gets moved around as a political issue. Core policing in its essence is apolitical.”

On the issue of armed policing, which attracted considerable interest at Holyrood, Livingstone said the matter had simply been a “failure of engagement” on the part of the police service.

“Parliament should have an interest in armed policing,” he said. “But the practice of armed officers in Scotland is almost identical to the practice in England and Wales, yet I can’t remember the last time there was a debate on armed policing in Westminster. I would like to take policing out of the constant political debate and discussion and go back to policing as an apolitical public service based on human rights.”

He added: “At times I think there is a danger of the Holyrood bubble. Having said that, the concerns that have been raised are legitimate. But policing is like football, it’s something everyone has an opinion on regardless of experience or insight.”

Livingstone, who was interviewed for the job of chief constable at the same time as Gormley, said he had planned to retire earlier this year after seeing the damage a career in policing and the intense media scrutiny had done to close colleagues.

“I had been a deputy chief constable for almost five years,” he said. “My judgment at that time was that Phil Gormley was going to stay for another two or three years. I didn’t want to keep doing that job I was doing. I saw close friends and colleagues of mine such as Stephen House and [former deputy chief constable] Neil Richardson. I knew the impact the job had had on them when they retired. So I wanted to retire when I still felt optimistic.

“They hadn’t been crushed, but as individuals it was very difficult circumstances they retired in, having given their life to policing.”

He said he had been asked to cancel his retirement plans by the Scottish Government.

“I was asked to reconsider my retirement and I genuinely felt it was my duty to do so. It could have been for a month, three months, six months. It was about stepping in for the foreseeable future and taking leadership of the force.”

Asked if he would consider being chief constable in the future, he said: “I might. But I would consider that at the time. The starting point for me would be the interests and views of my wife and family.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Chris Marshall"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4629555.1512281727!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4629555.1512281727!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Livingstone would consider taking the job of chief constable if it fell vacant. Picture: Jon Savage","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Livingstone would consider taking the job of chief constable if it fell vacant. Picture: Jon Savage","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4629555.1512281727!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/sport/more-in-sport/robin-strang-rates-u-turn-highlights-vital-role-of-trusts-1-4629466","id":"1.4629466","articleHeadline": "Robin Strang: Rates U-turn highlights vital role of trusts","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512257814000 ,"articleLead": "

It is no exaggeration to state that the F'inance Secretary Derek Mackay’s decision on Tuesday to drop the Barclay Review’s recommendation to remove rates relief from charitable trusts saved several hundred of Scotland’s leisure centres, swimming pools, public libraries and town and community halls from closing their doors for good in 2018-19.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4629465.1512240146!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Without rates relief swimming would be unaffordable for most"} ,"articleBody": "

There were fundamental flaws in Barclay’s thinking that brought this threat to the horizon. One was the assertion that these charitable trusts were council “tax avoidance vehicles” unfairly benefiting from relief, when the reality is that trusts were created as an innovative measure to protect sport, leisure and cultural facilities and services facing closure due to increasing financial pressure on local government budgets.

Charitable trusts benefit from rates relief so by transferring facilities to a trust councils saved millions of pounds – money that was used not only to save facilities from closure, but that led to increased income and more local people using facilities and being employed within sport, leisure and culture.

That is the simple story of trust evolution across Scotland, since Perth and Kinross pioneered the move in 1965. The rates saving was a catalyst for change but it was only one part of the rationale. A charitable trust brings with it a community board of local people with key skills, expertise and entrepreneurial approaches, who make decisions and spend its money based on community need rather political desires.

Trusts have evolved from their council roots and with over 16,000 staff, an annual combined budget of more than £400m and the ability to source external funding – trusts have brought in over £200m. It is, ironically, the one body in Scotland with the greatest potential to kick-start the Scottish Government’s much-needed preventative health agenda.

In fact, Glasgow Life has stopped running programmes that were mostly benefiting people in affluent areas with exercise options, and switched funding to Govan, Drumchapel and other areas where they believe the need is greater.

Trusts are now focusing serious attention on the inactive in communities, with GP Referral and falls prevention schemes, staff in hospitals, care homes and mental health units, and daily work around obesity, cardiac and stroke rehab, cancer recovery, mid and long-term illnesses, homelessness, anti-social behaviour and educational attainment, with a variety of partners.

There is space for private gym operators and trusts, one group catering for the mass market and generating profits for directors and shareholders, while the other uses every penny of income to sustain community facilities and services that are unprofitable on their own, but which remain valuable social lifelines, particularly in deprived and rural communities.

Even busy public swimming pools do not make profits. Through trusts, the taxpayer subsidises every swim on average by £3-£5. The subsidy in some aged pools is almost £10 per person, so if trusts lost rates relief and operated privately that swim would cost around £12 per adult; eight lessons for a child there would rise from £30 to £70. Unaffordable to most. So the facility, its staff and a vital resource would go, and a wealth of physical and mental health activity is lost.

The Cabinet Secretary, and his colleagues, understood this and recognised the need to support investment in these community services. There has also been a clear message received by SPORTA and VOCAL that we need to better evidence, publicise and celebrate our work to inspire more people to be active in sport, leisure and culture.

The wider challenges concerning health, wellbeing and inequality are not going away, and will be compounded by an older population forecast to increase by over 100 percent in the next 20 years.

The future remains uncertain. Investment in Scotland’s sport, leisure and culture services is declining every year and one council chief executive warned this month that council funding could fall to zero by 2020. So trusts are having to think differently. Without them, many pools, leisure centres and libraries would have been mothballed years ago. However, as they look to new partners, including NHS Scotland, trusts are well placed at the heart of our communities to support and drive forward the government’s vision in areas such as health and wellbeing, educational attainment and economic development.

Robin Strang is chairman of SPORTA Scotland

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Robin Strang"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4629465.1512240146!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4629465.1512240146!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Without rates relief swimming would be unaffordable for most","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Without rates relief swimming would be unaffordable for most","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4629465.1512240146!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/alex-salmond-questions-lockerbie-bomber-megrahi-conviction-on-rt-show-1-4627456","id":"1.4627456","articleHeadline": "Alex Salmond questions Lockerbie bomber Megrahi conviction on RT show","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512050398000 ,"articleLead": "

Alex Salmond has questioned the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber by suggesting he believes Abdelbaset al Megrahi may have been “wrongly convicted” of the atrocity.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4616129.1512387497!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond's RT chat show launched last month"} ,"articleBody": "

The former SNP leader, who was First Minister when Megrahi was controversially freed from a Scottish jail, said the evidence used to convict him was “open to question”.

The claim was made by Mr Salmond on his television programme “The Alex Salmond Show”, broadcast on Kremlin-backed RT.

READ MORE: Queensferry Crossing: Nicola Sturgeon under fire over `snagging’

READ MORE: Largs Union Jack flag row could end up in court

He was speaking after interviewing Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary who announced the release of Megrahi in August 2009 having served eight and a half years of a life sentence.

Mr Salmond said: “As Kenny MacAskill has told us he made his decision to release Mr Megrahi according to the law of Scotland and on compassionate grounds.

“Here is my view: Is it possible for someone to be guilty, yet wrongly convicted? Yes it is.

“Kenny MacAskill was correct, the forensic evidence complied by the Scottish authorities and the FBI clearly identified Libyan involvement and Malta as the place where the bomb was planted.

“Mr Megrahi was a high ranking Libyan intelligence official on the scene at the time. This supports the charge that he, acting with others, was part of the Lockerbie conspiracy.

“However, his conviction was not just based on the strength of that evidence but on identification evidence which is to say the least open to question.

“Back in 2009 Kenny MacAskill was aware of this, as was I as Scotland’s First Minister. And we were aware of something else the total cynicism of some of those who attacked the Scottish Government for our decision.

Mr Salmond added: “Throughout this period the British government, of first Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown, were secretly acting to promote Mr Megrahi’s release. And not on the grounds of compassion or justice, but for trade, for big business and for oil. Such is State hypocrisy.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4616129.1512387497!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4616129.1512387497!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alex Salmond's RT chat show launched last month","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond's RT chat show launched last month","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4616129.1512387497!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/scots-doctor-wins-top-us-heart-study-award-1-4623248","id":"1.4623248","articleHeadline": "Scots doctor wins top US heart study award","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1511653046000 ,"articleLead": "

A Scottish medical researcher has won a prestigious award at the American Heart Association’s international conference.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4623247.1511706906!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Dr Andrew Chapman and Caroline Scally show off their awards."} ,"articleBody": "

Dr Andrew Chapman picked up the Young Investigator Award for his groundbreaking work as part of a team from the University of Edinburgh who improved the system used to diagnose whether a patient has suffered a heart attack.

The 29-year-old was in Los Angeles last week along with Caroline Scally from Aberdeen University, who also made the final international shortlist of five for her work on tako-tsubo or “broken heart syndrome”.

Dr Chapman studied new ways to measure troponin, a protein that is an integral part of the heart and is used as an indicator of whether someone has had a cardiac arrest.

His team, led by Dr Nick Mills together with British Heart Foundation (BHF) Prof David Newby, developed a test using fluorescent resolution that shines brightly and allows them to detect quickly if someone has suffered cardiac arrest.

He explained how this would work for patients who present at hospital with chest pains : “The real benefit for patients here is that by using this test in this new way we can tell extremely quickly if someone is or is not having a heart attack.

“If someone is not having a heart attack and the doctor knows that sooner it means they are able to actually look for the patient’s real cause of their symptoms and they don’t need to come into hospital for 12 hours to wait to be told that they’re not having a heart attack, we can tell them straight away.”

The former Stewart’s Melville College pupil from Edinburgh, paid tribute to his parents for supporting him through his studies and his mentor cardiologist Dr Anoop Shah, saying the award was a team effort.

He added: “The conference is one of the main three cardiology conferences [in the world] that happen throughout the year. The award is in memory of a chap called Samuel A. Levine who was one of the most prominent cardiologists in the world. He was one of the first people to recognise that pain in the chest was coming from the heart.

“My supervisors nominated me for the award on the basis of work that we’ve done for this worldwide project.

“It was great to win it, I got a plaque and $2,500, which was nice, and obviously it’s a great honour in any way being associated with Levine.”

James Cant, director of BHF Scotland, said: “We’d like to congratulate Andrew on winning this award, and Caroline for being short-listed.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "KEVAN CHRISTIE"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4623247.1511706906!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4623247.1511706906!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Dr Andrew Chapman and Caroline Scally show off their awards.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Dr Andrew Chapman and Caroline Scally show off their awards.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4623247.1511706906!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/drink-related-hospital-stays-on-the-rise-1-4619230","id":"1.4619230","articleHeadline": "Drink related hospital stays on the rise","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1511269352000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland has seen an increase in the number of people hospitalised for alcohol abuse with a total of 36,235 admissions last year.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4619229.1512158850!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol could save lives, experts say."} ,"articleBody": "

NHS statistics also revealed rising numbers of admissions for those will liver disease as well as a divide showing people from poor backgrounds are more likely to require hospital treatment for drink related problems than those from rich areas.

The figures from the NHS’s Information Services Division (ISD) showed that alcohol related stay rate per 100,000 population in general acute hospitals was 685.2, compared with 673.2 the previous year.

Admissions to hospital for alcohol-related liver disease rose for the fourth consecutive year.

In 2016/17 there were 140.0 patients admitted with liver disease, a figure that almost reached the peak of 140.1 recorded in 2007/08 and which was the highest recorded since 1997/98.

The rate of alcohol-related stays in psychiatric hospitals in 2015/16 is unchanged from previous year (2014/15) at 54.4 per 100,000 population.

There is a difference in the pattern of alcohol-related admissions by deprivation. In the general acute setting in 2016/17, there were nearly eight times as many people (per 100,000 population) admitted from the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas.

In the psychiatric setting in 2015/16, the difference was more pronounced, with just over 15 times as many people from the most deprived areas.

Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These numbers show that Scotland continues to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, with 100 people a day admitted to hospital. 

“In excess alcohol hurts individuals, families and communities while alcohol-related admissions put immense pressure on our hardworking NHS staff. This is especially shocking when you see that admission rates are nearly 8 times higher for people from the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas. 

“The Scottish Government has belatedly recognised Liberal Democrat calls to reverse their damaging 20% cut to drug and alcohol support services but there is much more to do. Now we finally have the go ahead for minimum unit pricing I urge the Government to act swiftly and put it into practice as part of a new push to win the battle with the bottle” 

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4619229.1512158850!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4619229.1512158850!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol could save lives, experts say.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol could save lives, experts say.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4619229.1512158850!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/jacobite-leader-in-fight-over-battlefield-roundabout-plan-1-4574629","id":"1.4574629","articleHeadline": "Jacobite leader in fight over battlefield roundabout plan","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1511190264000 ,"articleLead": "

A move to “reclaim” land where Jacobite soldiers are believed to be buried has begun after developers turned the site into a roundabout.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4574628.1506791840!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Hanging Tree at Clifton in Cumbria, where a dozen Scots supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie died. Photograph: John Black"} ,"articleBody": "

Historian John Black set up a crowdfunding page after the land below the Rebel Tree in Clifton, Cumbria, where around a dozen Scots were killed in the last Jacobite battle on English soil, became a roundabout at the entrance to a luxury housing development. According to one interpretation, the song The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond is about these very soldiers.

The tree is where the Jacobites were reportedly hanged following the Battle of Clifton on 18 December, 1745, is now at the centre of the roundabout entry to The Oaks, a Story Homes development. Black, from Helensburgh, has called the move a desecration of a war grave.

He is now appealing for Scots and the Scottish diaspora to support his campaign to buy back the land around tree from the developers.

Black is also calling for a Scottish Government agency, such as Historic Environment Scotland, to put up official signage detailing the history, given a recent surge of interest from fans of the television series Outlander.

Set in the Jacobite era, Outlander has sparked renewed curiosity about battle sites featured in the programme and is behind a growth in visitors to Scotland from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“Story Homes have put three wooden posts on the roundabout with a brief background to the battle and the Jacobites and named one of their streets Jacobite Gardens. But they don’t mentioned any of it in their sales literature. Nor is there any acknowledgement from any official Scottish organisation,” said Black, leader of the Scottish Jacobite Party who stood as an Independent at the 2013 Dunfermline by-election.

“Ideally I’d like to raise enough money to buy back and bulldoze the luxury homes and turn the site into a battlefield memorial.

“At the very least there should be an appropriate sign compiled by an authoritative historian. This is a Scottish war grave and needs to be respected. It shouldn’t be used as a centre-piece to an upmarket housing estate.

He added: “It used to be a quiet place for reflection which all the clan people visited. That is the sort of dignified atmosphere I’d like to recreate.”

Historian Christopher Duffy in his book The ’45 quoted an account by Jacobite chief Cluny of MacPherson given in the aftermath of the Duke of Cumberland’s occupation of Clifton.

Duffy writes: “Cluny Macpherson notes that one sergeant and 12 of his men lost their lives, and the five Jacobite dead who are buried at the southern edge of the village by the ‘Rebel Tree’ are almost certainly members of his clan.

“A number of the bodies were discovered by ‘some frolicsome soldiers’ who ‘dug a deep hole in the ground, and put one of them into it with his feet downwards, and so filled the earth about his body that nothing but his head and shoulders were above the earth, and in that position left him.”

Professor James Hunter, emeritus professor of history at the University of the Highland and Islands, said: “The folk who are campaigning should get in touch with Historic Environment Scotland and see if they can get something done.”

Wardell Armstrong Archaeology carried out a dig of the site near the tree in January 2016, prior to planning application for the housing development being submitted to Eden Council

However, although trenches were dug within 100 yards of the tree and battle artefacts were found, archaeologists were not allowed to dig close to the tree because it has a protection order.

Frank Giecco, the company’s technical director for northern operations, said: “There may well be bodies under the tree, but is impossible to prove without excavation. Because the tree is under protection we can’t go anywhere near.

“If there are bodies under the tree, they are now protected under it.”

Adam McNally, land manager for Story Homes, said: “The site is called the Oaks, after the large oak tree, also known as ‘The Rebel Tree’, which forms a striking entrance to our development.

“It is said this tree marks the graves of Jacobites killed in a skirmish of 1745 between the English forces of the Duke of Cumberland and the regiment that served Bonnie Prince Charlie. We have sensitively designed the development to protect the tree and erected interpretation boards with approval from the local bodies.”

A spokesman for Historic Environment Scotland said the site was outwith their remit but staff would be happy to advise on wording for a sign marking the history.

“If the campaigner wants to install any kind of memorial then it will be up to them and the local authority to decide on what form that might take.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "SHN Ross"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4574628.1506791840!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4574628.1506791840!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Hanging Tree at Clifton in Cumbria, where a dozen Scots supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie died. Photograph: John Black","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Hanging Tree at Clifton in Cumbria, where a dozen Scots supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie died. Photograph: John Black","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4574628.1506791840!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tom-peterkin-anas-sarwar-role-will-set-tone-for-reconciliation-1-4617503","id":"1.4617503","articleHeadline": "Tom Peterkin: Anas Sarwar role will set tone for reconciliation","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1511088251000 ,"articleLead": "

The last leader is jetting off to the Australian jungle to take part in a rather demeaning reality TV show.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4617502.1511088267!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Anas Sarwar, centre, lost out in the leadership race. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Her erstwhile deputy, who was accused of scheming and plotting against her, has just been suspended following claims of harassment by an ex-girlfriend.

Never mind the jungle, welcome to the Scottish Labour Party, November 2017. As it emerges from a bitterly divisive leadership contest, Richard Leonard inherits a party that appears more dysfunctional than ever before.

Following his election as the seventh Scottish leader in little more than a decade the left-winger’s in-tray is full to overflowing.

Notwithstanding Rowley’s difficulties or the hugely unhelpful distraction caused by Dugdale’s decision to appear on I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!, Leonard faces multiple challenges. His most pressing is how to unite a party which is riven by division.

When it comes to this task he is helped by the reasonably comprehensive nature of his victory. In the run-up to yesterday’s result some had forecast that Leonard would win courtesy of trade union members who had the right to vote in the election.

The theory was that Anas Sarwar would prove more popular amongst fully signed up Labour members. Had that happened there would have been a fault line between the unions and the bona fide members. Leonard, however, not only comfortably won the union vote, he also won the members’ vote, albeit by a much narrower margin. Therefore he has a mandate that cannot easily be challenged.

In doing so he has maintained the momentum that left-wingers have built north of the border under Jeremy Corbyn’s UK leadership.

His victory sets the seal on gains made by the left on the Scottish party’s ruling executive. Leonard hesitates to describe himself as a Corbynista seeing himself as more of an old-fashioned trade union leader in the style of Campbell Christie or Bill Speirs. Nevertheless, the defeat of Sarwar will increase Corbyn’s influence in Scotland. Leonard will aim to build a party on socialist principles – an aspiration that will not go down well with the substantial body of opinion which believes that a lurch to the left will not help Labour’s electoral prospects.

Moderates will also be very concerned that the work done by Jim Murphy and Dugdale to give the Scottish party more autonomy could be undone.

Even though Leonard’s mandate is secure, it should not be forgotten that a majority of MSPs favoured a Sarwar leadership.

This means he has some vital decisions to make in terms of the team he builds in the Scottish Parliament.

All eyes will be on what jobs he gives to key supporters like Neil Findlay and Monica Lennon.

There will be even more interest in what happens to centrists like Sarwar and Jackie Baillie, one of the party’s more formidable operators.

Leonard signalled that there would be an important role for Sarwar in a magnanimous post-result press conference. Giving him a plum job would only be the start of a very big unification job.

Leonard will have to display mountains of guts, enthusiasm and leadership or else he may find himself in an unwanted game of “I’m a Scottish Labour leader...Get Me Out of Here”.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4617502.1511088267!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4617502.1511088267!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Anas Sarwar, centre, lost out in the leadership race. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Anas Sarwar, centre, lost out in the leadership race. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4617502.1511088267!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/richard-leonard-vows-to-unite-scottish-labour-with-socialist-agenda-1-4617296","id":"1.4617296","articleHeadline": "Richard Leonard vows to unite Scottish Labour with socialist agenda","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1511048369000 ,"articleLead": "

New Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard yesterday said he would lead the party as a “movement for socialism” as he promised to win back lost voters with his radical policy agenda.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4617295.1511087920!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Richard Leonard outside the Glasgow Science Centre where the result was revealed. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Leonard also promised a zero tolerance approach to “sexism, misogyny and sexual harassment” as he took over the leadership at a time when Westminster and Holyrood politics has been dogged with allegations of politicians acting inappropriately.

The former trade union organiser became the ninth Scottish Labour leader since devolution after comfortably defeating Anas Sarwar in a hard-fought battle for the Scottish Labour leadership.

The victory of the left-winger over the more moderate candidate will secure Jeremy Corbyn’s influence on the party north of the border.

In his victory speech, Leonard said he would lead Scottish Labour “as a movement for real change, a movement for democracy and, yes, a movement for socialism”.

After one of the most bitter leadership elections seen in Scotland, Leonard secured a majority of votes amongst trade unionists and party members to defeat Sarwar.

As expected, Leonard won the vast majority of trade union votes, taking the affiliated category by 3,281 votes compared with 961 for Sarwar. Leonard won by a far narrower margin when it came to Labour members, polling 9,150 (51.8 per cent) compared with 8,514 (48.2 per cent) for Sarwar.

In the registered voters category Leonard polled 38 votes to Sarwar’s 41.

When all votes were tallied up, Leonard was out in front by a clear margin, polling 12,469 (57.6 per cent) compared with Sarwar’s 9,516.

In all 21,994 people voted in the election, 62 per cent of the 35,309 eligible to vote.

Leonard becomes leader at a particularly difficult time for the party.

Divisions between the left and moderate wings of the party have been cruelly exposed during a nine week campaign. And the party is having to cope with the suspension last week of deputy leader Alex Rowley following harassment claims made by a former girlfriend.

In his victory speech at the Glasgow Science Centre, Leonard said he would set up a new independent route to deal with complaints and promised to tackle gender inequality in the party.

He said the under-representation of women would be tackled through the establishment of a Training Academy.

“It is clear though that we need to go further,” he said. “We need to change the very political culture. We need zero tolerance of sexism, misogyny and sexual harassment.

“We need training on equality and diversity for all Labour Party representatives and staff. And we all need an independent route for complaints.”

Leonard said he would unite the party under his vision and paid tribute to his “friend and comrade” Sarwar, saying that his defeated rival would have a “vital role” to play in the party. Sarwar said he would be pleased to serve in Leonard’s team.

Leonard added: “Whoever you voted for, we are one party, we are one movement, and we stand or fall together.”

He said Sarwar had helped ensure that the leadership debate had also been one about ideas. “So that there is now a settled consensus established around a radical policy agenda for the Scottish Labour Party of extending public ownership, of tackling inequality, of more progressive taxation and of a redistribution of power.”

Former Labour voters would be won back by the party being “distinctively Labour, by being confident Labour, and under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, by being principled Labour again”.

The last few weeks saw both campaigns mired in a series of controversies. The integrity of the contest was questioned when Rowley was recorded expressing a preference for Leonard when, as caretaker leader, he was supposed to be neutral. Leonard’s spindoctor Stephen Low stood down after being caught using foul language to describe a comment made by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie.

Sarwar also had a difficult campaign. He relinquished shares in his family’s cash and carry firm after it came under fire for failing to recognise trade unions and to pay the living wage to all employers. He has also been criticised for sending his children to a fee-paying school.

Corbyn congratulated Leonard on being elected, and Sarwar on his energetic campaign.

He said: “Richard’s campaign offered a challenge to the rigged system that has benefited a wealthy elite and showed how he will lead Scottish Labour to transform society.

He added: “I look forward to campaigning with him in Scotland next week as we build a movement that will help our party win in Holyrood and Westminster, to transform our country for the many not the few.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4617295.1511087920!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4617295.1511087920!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Richard Leonard outside the Glasgow Science Centre where the result was revealed. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Richard Leonard outside the Glasgow Science Centre where the result was revealed. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4617295.1511087920!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/leader-new-labour-leader-needs-to-rewrite-the-script-1-4617300","id":"1.4617300","articleHeadline": "Leader: New Labour leader needs to rewrite the script","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1511048058000 ,"articleLead": "

Labour is the Holyrood soap opera that keeps on giving. Even on day one of a new leader.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4617299.1511044115!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The party was caught out by the announcement of Kezia Dugdale. Picture: Scott Louden"} ,"articleBody": "

In the last decade six individuals have taken the leading role: Jack (now Lord) McConnell, Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray, Johann Lamont, Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale.

All have tried, and failed, to match the energy, vision and populism of the SNP.

Despite the admirable efforts of Dugdale, Labour is now in a distant second place in Holyrood, behind Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, and with a resurgent Scottish Conservatives, led by Ruth Davidson, on its tail.

And last week – at a time when the party was looking forward to the leadership election – acting leader Alex Rowley stepped down after an ex-girlfriend made harassment allegations against him.

Then, in a further twist yesterday morning, worthy of Hollyoaks or Coronation Street, Dugdale – who is still an MSP – announced she was flying to Australia to be a contestant in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

Today, after a long nine-week campaign, Labour has its new leader in Richard Leonard, who triumphed over Anas Sarwar. It should be a time for renewal and hope. UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the result could lead to Scottish Labour becoming “a real force for change”.

But the road to real power will be long, winding and bumpy.

Scotland needs a strong Labour party but that can’t happen unless it is united. That is surely Leonard’s first priority as leader, a man who easily won the union vote but commanded only a handful of votes amongst Labour MSPs at Holyrood.

Bringing the party together in Scotland will be a huge challenge.

Beyond that, a Labour revival must be based on a strong and wide appeal to voters coupled with radical policies that can grab the imagination. There has been little evidence of this in recent years.

Yorkshire-born Leonard has his work cut out to achieve all of this; just ask all those previous leaders who came up short.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4617299.1511044115!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4617299.1511044115!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The party was caught out by the announcement of Kezia Dugdale. Picture: Scott Louden","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The party was caught out by the announcement of Kezia Dugdale. Picture: Scott Louden","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4617299.1511044115!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon-urged-to-act-over-the-alex-salmond-show-1-4616130","id":"1.4616130","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon urged to act over The Alex Salmond Show","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1510920572000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to reassure Scotland’s European partners that Alex Salmond’s relationship with Kremlin-backed RT does not reflect Scottish Government policy.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4616129.1512387497!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond's RT chat show launched last month"} ,"articleBody": "

The challenge was issued by Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, who warned that Mr Salmond’s decision to broadcast his chat show on RT risked “reputational damage” to Scotland.

In a letter to Ms Sturgeon, Mr Rennie noted that the Estonian Ambassador Tina Intelmann had described RT as Kremlin-backed propaganda when she had appeared before Holyrood’s Europe committee.

Mr Rennie’s letter said: “Countries, particularly along the Russian border, will be deeply concerned that your predecessor as the First Minister of Scotland is now employed by this Russian television channel. Its very objective is to undermine Western democracies and operate information interference. He is directly attached to an organisation which promotes Putin’s destabilisation agenda and which has been complicit in the cover up of events from human rights breaches to the Russian invasion of Crimea.

“While I recognise he is no longer a member of the Scottish Government, our international partners will recognise his very close association with your administration. He led the Scottish Government for seven years and during a time when Scotland’s international profile was high. Past First Ministers do retain an informal ambassadorial status. His actions now therefore pose a serious risk of reputational damage to Scotland and requires your intervention.

“We cannot afford for any country to misconstrue Mr Salmond’s actions as any sort of reflection of the Scottish Government’s policies. I believe it is therefore incumbent upon your government to immediately engage in diplomatic efforts to reassure our European partners about Mr Salmond’s role, or lack thereof.”

He added: “We cannot afford for this government’s embarrassment of its former leader’s actions to compromise its current international standing. I would be grateful if you would set out what steps you will now take.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4616129.1512387497!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4616129.1512387497!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alex Salmond's RT chat show launched last month","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond's RT chat show launched last month","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4616129.1512387497!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/alex-salmond-writes-to-theresa-may-about-his-rt-show-1-4614968","id":"1.4614968","articleHeadline": "Alex Salmond writes to Theresa May about his RT show","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1510841567000 ,"articleLead": "

Alex Salmond has written a letter of complaint to the Prime Minister following reports that Downing Street believed his TV programme on a Kremlin-backed broadcaster was ill-advised.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4614967.1510841562!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond"} ,"articleBody": "

The former First Minister was reacting to reports quoting a Downing Street source saying that he should “reconsider” his “curious” decision to host a programme on RT, a channel criticised for screening pro-Putin propaganda.

READ MORE: Viewers react to the first Alex Salmond Show on RT

In his letter, Mr Salmond claimed that if the quote, originally published on the Politics Home website, reflected Theresa May’s view then there were serious implications for freedom of speech.

Writing ahead of the first screening of The Alex Salmond Show on RT, the former SNP leader said: “Since the first of this series of programmes, produced independently by my own Scottish production company Slainte Media Ltd is due to be screened by RT UK tomorrow morning I require to know urgently if this accurately reflects your position as Prime Minister.

READ MORE: David Cameron rejects Alex Salmond’s offer to be guest on RT show

“I need hardly tell you that using the power of your office to seek to dissuade a private citizen from broadcasting on a channel which is duly licensed by the British broadcasting authority, Ofcom, carries with it the most serious possible implications for freedom of speech in this country.

“Will you now tell me by return if this is a genuine quote or not and whether it reflects your position as Prime Minister?”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4614967.1510841562!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4614967.1510841562!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alex Salmond","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4614967.1510841562!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/education/scot-maths-crisis-as-too-few-students-choose-teaching-1-4613312","id":"1.4613312","articleHeadline": "Scot maths crisis as too few students choose teaching","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1510749732000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s classroom recruitment crisis has been laid bare by new figures showing more than half of the target number of training places for maths teachers are empty.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4613311.1510694775!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Education Secretary John Swinney"} ,"articleBody": "

Data produced by the Scottish Government has identified a shortage of teachers in key subjects.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) - the country’s education funding body - had set the goal of recruiting 237 student maths teachers, this year’s figures show that there are only 112 such students, 47 per cent of the target number.

The number studying to be technology teachers is also less than 30 per cent of the goal set by Scotland’s education funding body.

There are 1,226 people in Scotland currently studying to become secondary schools teachers – 70 per cent of the overall intake target set by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) for 2017-18.

But only 36 of this group are training to be technological education teachers – 29 per cent of the target of 124.

The SFC had also wanted to attract five people to study to become Gaelic teachers, but has failed to recruit any students to this.

Meanwhile some subjects areas are oversubscribed, with universities having 122 per cent of the target number of history teachers and 115 per cent of the target number of modern studies teachers.

New routes into teaching boosted the number of student teachers by 204, provisional data showed.

READ MORE: Scots workers to be offered £20,000 to retrain as STEM teachers

Despite that the number of student teachers was still below the number the SFC had set - with 3,861 people training to teach in either primary or secondary schools, compared to a target of 4,058.

The figures were released by the Scottish Government at the same time as statistics showing that there are a total of 536 vacancies in Scotland’s schools, including head teacher and depute head teacher posts.

Of these 268 jobs had been unfilled for at least three months, according to the data

Schools are currently looking for 77 principal teachers, 29 head or depute head teachers and 71 maths teachers, as well as 65 English teachers and 19 computing teachers.

The maths teacher shortage has been highlighted in high-profile cases. Earlier this year Trinity Academy in Edinburgh asked parents for help after being unable to fill two maths teaching vacancies.

In March this year parents at Blairgowrie High School in Education Secretary John Swinney’s constituency received a letter from its head teacher urging parents with a maths degree to help out as the school was struggling to fill two vacancies.

Meanwhile pupils and staff at Preston Lodge High School in East Lothian last month appeared in a video in an attempt to fill 2.5 vacant maths teacher posts.

Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “Some aspects of these statistics are deeply worrying, most importantly the struggle that many secondary schools are facing when it comes to attracting a sufficient number of qualified teachers in key subject areas such as Maths, English and Computing.

“In recent months, we have seen private appeals being made by some headteachers, parents and even pupils to find teachers who can urgently fill vacancies and ensure that pupils are properly taught.”

The Tory MSP added: “This concern about shortages ties in exactly with the evidence heard by the Education and Skills Committee just two months ago and it is more proof that teacher work force planning is not working well enough.”

READ MORE: Schools facing major crisis as teachers reach breaking-point

Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray also voice his concerns, saying: “Parents, pupils and teachers know all too well there’s a recruitment crisis, and while John Swinney repeatedly says education is his number one priority these new figures show that he has again failed to meet his target when recruiting to teacher training.

“There are hundreds of vacancies in Scotland’s schools, some of which will take up to three years to fill. Under the SNP there are 4,000 fewer teachers, class sizes are rising and parents are being asked to stand in as temporary teachers.

“The SNP has failed to take the real action required to solve the teacher crisis, addressing teachers’ pay and workload to make the profession an attractive one again.

“Instead John Seinney introduces unwanted reforms to centralise schools and cut budgets. What schools need is more funding, more, better paid teachers and more resources.”

The Scottish Government stressed the permanent teacher vacancy rate is 1.6 per cent of the overall teaching workforce.

Ministers also expect that by the end of January 2018 281 students will have taken up one of the 11 new routes into teaching, with the figures showing an over increase of 7.5 per cent in the number of student teachers.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “These new routes are designed to encourage people from a whole range of backgrounds to consider teaching as a profession and I am pleased to see the impact they are having on the number of student teachers.

READ MORE: Scotland’s teachers ‘on their knees’ due to extreme workload

“It is disappointing the targets set for some secondary subjects have not been met. However, alongside the £20,000 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) bursaries I recently announced for career changers and the increased interest we have seen among undergraduates as a result of our recruitment campaign, we expect to see the number of people training as teachers continuing to rise.

“While teacher recruitment is a matter for local authorities, we recognise that challenges remain and have made £88 million available this year so schools can access the right number of teachers, with the right mix of skills.

“We are also putting in place a national approach to the recruitment of teachers from outside Scotland.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4613311.1510694775!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4613311.1510694775!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Education Secretary John Swinney","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Education Secretary John Swinney","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4613311.1510694775!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon-distances-herself-from-alex-salmond-s-rt-show-1-4610054","id":"1.4610054","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon distances herself from Alex Salmond’s RT show","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1510322666000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has said she would have advised Alex Salmond against hosting a television show on the Kremlin-backed Russian broadcaster RT.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4610053.1510336269!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond during the launch of his RT chat show The Alex Salmond Show, at Millbank Tower in London. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The First Minister and the SNP distanced themselves from Mr Salmond’s controversial decision to host his own chat show on the channel, described by critics as a propaganda outlet for President Vladimir Putin.

Ms Sturgeon suggested her predecessor should have arranged to appear on another channel and said that she would not “shy away” from criticising the Russian government.

As criticism of Mr Salmond’s decision to broadcast “The Alex Salmond Show” on RT mounted, Ms Sturgeon and the SNP faced demands to condemn outright the former First Minister.

READ MPRE: Alex Salmond criticised for hosting TV show on Russia Today

Ms Sturgeon said: “I am sure Alex’s show will make interesting viewing – however, his choice of channel would not have been my choice. Of course, Alex is not currently an elected politician and is free to do as he wishes – but had I been asked, I would have advised against RT and suggested he seek a different channel to air what I am sure will be an entertaining show. 

 “Neither myself nor the SNP will shy away from criticising Russian policy when we believe it is merited.”

READ MORE: Largest shareholder in Johnston Press pushes for Alex Salmond to join board

A SNP spokesman issued a statement, which contained withering criticism of President Putin’s regime and which underlined that the party had “no connection” to its former leader’s media career.

 “This is entirely a matter for Alex Salmond , who is not currently an elected politician and as such is free to ‎take on broadcasting and other opportunities of his own choosing, just as those from other parties have done,” the spokesman said.

“The SNP has no connection to Alex’s company or his media interests. 

“The SNP has regularly expressed concern over actions by the Russian government, including reports of persecution on the grounds of race and sexuality, attacks on journalists and concerns about the integrity of the democratic process, and we will continue to pursue these concerns.” 

Mr Salmond will front the show, which will be screened on Thursday nights at 9 pm. While the former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh will produce the programme and take on a role as a roving reporter.

Other SNP figures have expressed their distaste at Mr Salmond’s choice of broadcaster.

The SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire Martin Docherty retweeted a tweet saying: “The Kremlin’s RT and Sputnik are ‘tool of misinformation’.”

In a tweet published alongside his retweet, Mr Docherty added: “I’ve said it once. I’ll say it again.”

The SNP MEP Alyn Smith was quoted saying: “What the f*** is he doing?”

The Scottish Tories called on Ms Sturgeon to condemn Mr Salmond.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “It’s clear that Alex Salmond’s moral compass now points towards Vladimir Putin’s corrupt regime in the Kremlin.
“It beggars belief that a man who led Scotland for seven years should be reduced to a puppet of Russia’s deeply damaging propaganda unit.
“Along with most people, ordinary SNP activists will be appalled by Mr Salmond’s actions.
“Hopefully Nicola Sturgeon will find the courage finally to distance herself from the embarrassing and shameful example being set by her predecessor.
“Old loyalties should not deter the current First Minister from speaking out immediately.”

Scottish Labour leadership contender Anas Sarwar said: “It demonstrates an astonishing lack of judgement for a former First Minister to host a show on Kremlin-backed TV. Alex Salmond’s decision to become Putin’s puppet in the UK is deeply troubling.
“Nicola Sturgeon can’t laugh this one off – she must demonstrate leadership and condemn this shameful decision.”

Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton challenged the former first minister to interview opponents of the Putin regime such as punk band Pussy Riot or Marina Litvinenko, justice campaigner and widow of murdered spy and dissident Alexander Litvinenko.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Frankly, it is quite impressive if Mr Salmond has managed to secure free rein for his chat show on the Russian state broadcaster.

“If this is the case, he should start with a bang and use this as an opportunity to give a platform to some of the courageous opponents of the Putin regime like Pussy Riot, Marina Litvinenko or one of the many prominent gay rights activists standing up in the face of Russian thuggery.

“It’s essential that here in the UK we work with those who share our values to achieve a world in which every person can live, work and flourish without discrimination or repression.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4610053.1510336269!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4610053.1510336269!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alex Salmond during the launch of his RT chat show The Alex Salmond Show, at Millbank Tower in London. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond during the launch of his RT chat show The Alex Salmond Show, at Millbank Tower in London. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4610053.1510336269!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/changing-gender-to-be-made-easier-under-scottish-government-plans-1-4608812","id":"1.4608812","articleHeadline": "Changing gender to be made easier under Scottish Government plans","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1510225615000 ,"articleLead": "

Plans to make it easier for Scots to change gender have been launched by the Scottish Government.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4608811.1510231734!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Equality Secretary Angela Constance"} ,"articleBody": "

Equality Secretary Angela Constance has launched a consultation to make it simpler and less intrusive for transgender people to be legally recognised in their acquired gender.

The proposals include reducing the age at which recognition can be obtained to 16 as well as considering options for under 16s.

READ MORE: SNP plans to allow under 16s to change sex branded ‘child abuse’

The Scottish Government also proposes replacing requirements to provide medical evidence and to live in an acquired gender for two years when seeking legal gender recognition.

The consultation will also look at options for the legal recognition of non-binary people – people who don’t identify as male or female.

Poll: Should under-16s be able to undergo a sex change?

Under the current system, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 makes it possible for an individual to apply to a Gender Recognition Panel and obtain a full Gender Recognition Certificate.

The Scottish Government wants to streamline the process by which an individual’s new gender can be legally recognised.

READ MORE: Under-fire Priti Patel resigns after meeting with Theresa May

READ MORE: Holyrood to launch inquiry after harassment claims

Ms Constance said: “Scotland rightly has a reputation as one of the most progressive countries in relation to LGBTI legal and human rights equality in Europe – but we need to do more to progress equality for trans people. 

“Both our Fairer Scotland Action Plan and this year’s Programme for Government commit to renewing the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. This Act was once considered ahead of its time but it now needs updated so we can ensure we are creating a fairer Scotland for those who are transgender and non-binary.

“By holding a full and wide ranging consultation we can make sure that our law is fit for purpose and in line with international best practice. This is a vital conversation and one which will ensure transgender and non-binary people in Scotland are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.”

The consultation was welcomed by equality campaigners. LGBTI organisations the Scottish Trans Alliance, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland all welcomed the plan..

 Women’s organisations Close the Gap, Engender, Equate Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50 and Zero Tolerance have jointly issued a statement of support for reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

 James Morton, Scottish Trans Alliance Manager, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act.  The current process to change the gender on a trans person’s birth certificate is a humiliating, offensive and expensive red-tape nightmare which requires them to submit intrusive psychiatric evidence to a faceless tribunal panel years after they transitioned. It makes sense for birth certificates to be brought into line with the self-declaration process already used to change all other identity documents when trans people start living in their gender identity.

“Being able to change the gender on their birth certificate to match their other identity documents is important primarily to uphold trans people’s privacy and dignity but also to ensure that their pensions, insurance policies, civil partnerships and marriages are all administered correctly. We urge the Scottish Government to also provide legal gender recognition for non-binary trans people so that all trans people can have equal inclusion and acceptance within Scottish society.”  

 Close the Gap, Engender, Equate Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50 and Zero Tolerance, jointly said: “For over a decade, we have engaged in constructive dialogue with our colleagues in the Scottish Trans Alliance, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland. We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other. We support the Equal Recognition campaign and welcome the reform of the Gender Recognition Act. Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid in Scotland provide trans inclusive services on the basis of self identification. We will continue to work collaboratively with Scottish Trans Alliance and other equality organisations with the aim of ensuring that new processes are appropriately designed and without unintended consequences.”

 Colin Macfarlane, Director of Stonewall Scotland, said: “This reform is desperately needed as it’s time to move the legislation on from being a long complicated bureaucratic process, which treats being trans as a mental illness.  We believe a better Gender Recognition Act is a crucial next step in achieving equality for all trans people and will help reduce the discrimination and abuse that is all too prevalent in our society.”

 

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4608811.1510231734!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4608811.1510231734!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Equality Secretary Angela Constance","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Equality Secretary Angela Constance","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4608811.1510231734!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1496158247544"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/scots-father-told-to-speak-with-his-kids-online-after-visa-rejection-1-4605330","id":"1.4605330","articleHeadline": "Scots father told to speak with his kids online after visa rejection","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1509889266000 ,"articleLead": "

The Home Office has told a Canadian teacher that her Scots husband could communicate with his young children via the internet if the couple moved to Canada together – after turning down her visa application to remain in Scotland.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4605329.1509878413!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Canadian teacher Heather Cattanach with husband Gary McIver"} ,"articleBody": "

Heather Cattanach, who was recruited to teach in the UK two years ago through a jobs fair at her university in British Columbia, applied to stay in the UK indefinitely after marrying her partner, Gary McIver earlier this year.

But she received a letter from the Home Office last week telling her that her visa application had been rejected, saying it could see no “insurmountable obstacles” that would stop the pair from living in Canada together.

It added that Mr McIver, a mechanical engineer who has a son, Ruaridh, five and a daughter, Hannah, 12, from previous relationships, could keep up with his “connections” in the UK through “modern technology”.

In a visa application to allow Ms Cattanach to stay in Scotland, the pair argued that they could not move to Canada as Mr McIver has regular personal contact with his children in Scotland.

Ms Cattanach, who said that Mr McIver’s son spends every other weekend with the couple, said: “They say that Gary can continue his relationship with the kids in Canada by means of ‘modern technology’. Such disregard for the lives of British people. What message does this send? That we don’t value the lives of family.”

Ms Cattanach, who initially took a job at a school in Southampton, successfully applied for work in Scotland and in January 2016 took up a post as a Primary Two class teacher at a rural school in Aberdeenshire, where she met Mr McIver, who was living in Inverness.

Last month, Scotland on Sunday revealed that the teacher was forced to leave her class in the middle of the day in January after she received a phone call telling her that her visa was no longer valid, as her lawyer had submitted her application too late.

The class, at Applegrove Primary School in Forres, remains without a permanent teacher.

The letter said that officials recognised that Ms Cattanach had a “genuine and subsisting” relationship with Mr McIver, but added that they could not see that there would be any “hardship” in the pair moving to Canada together.

It stated: “In regards to the ties your partner has within the UK, he would be able to maintain any friendships or connections he has here from overseas via modern means of communication.”

The documents added that because Mr McIver’s former partners had failed to provide documentation proving his contact with the children, the Home Office had no proof he was involved in their lives.

Ms Cattanach added: “We couldn’t provide school or doctor letters because we get him at the weekends when he’s not in school. He has not once been sick with us at the weekend.”

The letter added that Ms Cattanach had the right to return to Canada and “seek alternative leave to re-enter the UK from overseas”, but her lawyers have told her that even if successful, this could take a long time.

Ms Cattanach had letters of support for her visa application from Laurence Findlay, head of education at Moray Council, who urged that she be allowed to return to work, saying “her ongoing absence is presenting a significant risk in terms of service continuity”.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “All applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, in line with immigration rules and based on the evidence provided by the applicant.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Jane Bradley"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4605329.1509878413!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4605329.1509878413!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Canadian teacher Heather Cattanach with husband Gary McIver","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Canadian teacher Heather Cattanach with husband Gary McIver","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4605329.1509878413!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/salmond-claims-time-is-ripe-for-second-referendum-push-1-4605219","id":"1.4605219","articleHeadline": "Salmond claims time is ripe for second referendum push","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1509839783000 ,"articleLead": "

Alex Salmond last night called on independence supporters to exploit the “disorientation and chaos” of the British establishment, claiming the timing has never been better for another referendum push.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4605218.1510261489!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond"} ,"articleBody": "

The former first minister said indyref2 should be held “at the point of a hard Brexit”, signalling, he believes, a vote could be held as soon as 2019 when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.

Addressing activists at the Scottish Independence Convention, Salmond said an independent Scotland should aim for European Free Trade Association (EFTA) membership.

Speaking to an audience of around 1,600 in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, he confirmed that he now believed EFTA membership was the best approach post independence, a change of stance from his original proposal for an independent Scotland to be in the EU.

He also said that in retrospect he now believed his 2014 Independence White Paper was too detailed and should have been more visionary. Salmond said the correct position to go into another referendum would be arguing for EFTA membership.

“If that were to be decided, that dictates the timing of the referendum,” he said. “In that case the referendum must be, should be, held at the point of a hard Brexit or at the point of a transitional period beyond a hard Brexit. That would be the obvious, logical time to hold it.”

Earlier this year First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was forced to “reset” her second referendum plans following a public backlash to her post-Brexit proposal to have one between autumn next year and spring 2019. Salmond suggested the weakness of Theresa May’s administration was another reason to strike while the iron was hot.

“Understand the weakness of our opponents,” he said. “I have been active in politics for 30-years. I’ve never seen the British state in a state of more disorientation and chaos.

“They are Johnny no mates in Europe. Not a single friend across the continent. The structures of Westminster politics are decaying before our eyes. This is a matter not just of our strength but their weakness. That also dictates the timing of the campaign. That is another factor for us to consider. I would say the timing has never been better for the national cause in Scotland.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4605218.1510261489!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4605218.1510261489!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alex Salmond","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Salmond","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4605218.1510261489!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/bill-jamieson-challenge-holyrood-spendthrifts-tax-agenda-1-4605197","id":"1.4605197","articleHeadline": "Bill Jamieson: Challenge Holyrood spendthrifts’ tax agenda","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1509839767000 ,"articleLead": "

Boy, how our cups runneth over – but not necessarily with joy. A hike in interest rates, the Scottish government unveiling “warm up” proposals for income tax rises – and black clouds of uncertainty over Brexit.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4605196.1509829965!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay and Nicola Sturgeon discuss taxation at the Royal Society of Edinburgh"} ,"articleBody": "

For the past two years the prevailing concern across politics and business has been the squeeze on household incomes, weak consumer confidence and concern that high street spending – one of the great drivers of business and economic growth – has been flat-lining.

It helps to count our blessings. Outright recession has been avoided; we may be at, or close to, “peak inflation” if the fall in the pound has run its course; figures last Friday showed activity in the UK’s dominant services sector grew at the fastest rate for six months in October, helped by stronger order books and “resilient” demand. New orders are rising at the fastest pace since May.

Government borrowing is not only falling but also running lower than forecast in the spring budget. And this has fuelled hopes that Chancellor Philip Hammond will signal business-boosting measures in the Autumn Statement barely five weeks away.

We should also keep the rate rise in proportion. A fractional 0.25 per cent rise in rates to 0.5 per cent still leaves borrowing costs way below the long run average of 4.5 per cent, and with consensus expectation of no further rise until well into next year.

All the Bank of England has done is to reverse the post-Brexit vote rate cut to counter fears at the time of an imminent plunge into recession – one that never came. We are still in historically ultra-low interest rate mode. It can hardly be described as a hammer blow to business investment, while for households there are growing signs of a palpable, albeit slow, rise in average earnings.

But seldom has there been a stronger need for a confidence boost to lift us out of a low growth rut. For Scottish households the combination of a rise in rates and the prospect of higher income tax is likely to have the opposite effect.

As it is, official estimates of economic growth showed an increase of just 0.1 per cent in the second quarter, while growth in the first quarter has also been revised down to 0.6 per cent from 0.8 per cent. Forecasts by Inverness economist Tony Mackay predict 1.2 per cent growth this year, 1.5 per cent in 2018 and 1.7 per cent in 2019. The Fraser of Allander forecasts are little better.

This is the backcloth to the Scottish Government’s position paper on income tax rises. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared that “the time is right” for income tax hikes. But her policy paper including options for those earning as little as £24,000 to pay more income tax was maladroitly unveiled within hours of the Bank of England’s interest rate hike, raising mortgage costs for hundreds of thousands of households across the country.

The paper’s four scenario proposals included rises in the 40p higher rate 
and 45p top rate of income tax in April next year, with three of them also backing a penny rise in the 20p basic rate and a 50p top rate. One proposal argued for the creation of three additional income tax bands, making a total of six rates.

The plans, if introduced, would mean anyone earning more than £24,000 paying higher tax; those earning £50,000 would pay up to £260 more, while a higher earner on £90,000 could face an increase of £810. But the First Minister described the increases as “modest” and said they were needed to maintain vital public services.

The case for them rests on two broad assumptions: first, that they would enjoy widespread public support; and second, that they would work to boost economic growth.

There is a strong predisposition across much of Holyrood for tax rises – championed by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, while Scottish Labour’s tax rise proposals would go even further. Many lower income households would support greater spending on social protection and welfare, while public sector workers would cheer an end to the one per cent limit on pay rises.

But it is one thing for voters to cheer higher public spending; supporting tax rises is quite another. Voter approval for such measures tends to cool in the privacy of the polling booth – as the SNP found to its cost in its “penny for Scotland” campaign in 1999, which was quickly dropped a year later.

And would the outlined rises be enough to meet Holyrood’s spending ambitions? Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie argued last week that the SNP’s tax rises would not be enough. “To end austerity,” she declared, “you need to raise more than £800 million in revenue over the next two years; that’s before we consider additional commitments.” Yet the government’s paper “raises a maximum of £290 million”.

There would also be questions about likely behavioural response: hefty tax rises at the top end would see high earners taking steps to mitigate the effects – switching from conventional earnings, for example, to more tax sheltered dividend payments, accepting lower pay in return for other forms of remuneration, or moving domicile. And if the proposed higher tax rates do not yield the anticipated amount, this opens the prospect of higher taxes lower down the income scale, or other tax raising proposals.

As for beneficial macro-economic effects, it is hard to see how higher tax rates would incentivise people to work harder or longer. And how would Scotland be able to attract middle and high earners from the rest of the UK to move here?

Business reaction is notably apprehensive. Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “Given the options presented, it is possible that over one million Scots could see a cut in their take-home pay… Many households will already be looking at tightening discretionary spending. Therefore, increasing income taxes at a time of already squeezed household incomes may not be the route of enabling economic growth.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, has warned: “Many workers are already contending with rising inflation, higher council tax and pension contributions, causing them to carefully consider what purchases they can afford.”

And Andy Willox, Scottish policy convener of the Federation of Small Businesses, added: “With domestic spending power already under pressure, is this the time to take more from household budgets?”

Debate on these tax raising options must range far wider and deeper than just the Holyrood big spenders.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Bill Jamieson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4605196.1509829965!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4605196.1509829965!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Derek Mackay and Nicola Sturgeon discuss taxation at the Royal Society of Edinburgh","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay and Nicola Sturgeon discuss taxation at the Royal Society of Edinburgh","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4605196.1509829965!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}