LiveCovid Scotland RECAP: Holiday hopes dashed as no countries added to green travel list | Nicola Sturgeon has ‘full confidence’ in exams body | Douglas Ross brands plans for pupil assessments a ‘shambles’ | Anas Sarwar calls for Scottish Covid inquiry into ‘avoidable deaths’

Live updates on Covid-19 from Scotland, the UK, and around the world.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 8:07 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 1:50 pm

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The latest updates on Covid-19 in Scotland and beyond.

Covid Scotland: The latest updates on Thursday, June 3

Last updated: Thursday, 03 June, 2021, 13:44

  • Nicola Sturgeon insists she has full confidence in the SQA
  • Boris Johnson to chair four-nation coronavirus recovery summit
  • No countries added to green travel list

Sarwar calls for Scottish Covid inquiry into ‘avoidable deaths’

The Scottish people deserve answers about the mistakes made during the coronavirus pandemic, Anas Sarwar has said as he called for a judge-led public inquiry.

At FMQs, the Scottish Labour leader set out a range of decisions made by the Scottish Government around mass gatherings, herd immunity, care homes and Covid-19 testing that were in “lockstep” or slower than the UK Government.

Mr Sarwar urged Nicola Sturgeon to establish a Scotland-specific inquiry into how her government responded.

He said: “The Scottish people deserve more than just rhetoric, they deserve answers. They deserve more than being told that the Government cares, they deserve answers because we can’t allow Scottish exceptionalism to stop us from learning critical lessons.

“It’s always easier to focus on failures elsewhere but we must learn from mistakes here at home.

“We don’t need to wait for the UK Government, work can begin right now, to establish a judge-led, Scottish-specific public inquiry on the decisions made in Scotland.”

In response, the First Minister suggested the public could judge whether she has an “inability to face up to mistakes” but her focus was now on the vaccine rollout because Scotland could be “in the foothills of a third wave of this virus”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I think what they’re hearing from me is a candid admission that we would not – like many other governments across the world – have got everything right, and not just a willingness [but] a desire to face up to that and learn from that.

“I could paper the walls with bits of papers and timeline but, actually, my focus right now as First Minister is getting the vaccination programme delivered to keep people safe in the future, to make sure that we’re taking the right decisions – criticised by many for being too cautious and too slow – to keep people safe.”

On the issue of a public inquiry into her Government’s handling of the pandemic, Ms Sturgeon continued: “I’ve given that commitment, that commitment stands.

“I want to see that up and running before the end of this year.

“The UK Government has announced plans for a public inquiry and have asked for four-nations discussion about remit and where there might be overlaps.”

She added: “Having led this country to the best of my ability – far from perfectly – through this pandemic, I want, as much as anybody wants, to make sure that we learn the right lessons.”

Following FMQs, Mr Sarwar said: “The First Minister has always been better at spinning her failures than Boris Johnson.

“But many of the failures exposed by Dominic Cummings – the lack of PPE, insufficient testing, Covid positive patients being sent into care homes, and inconsistent and delayed decision making – will be failures that people recognise in Scotland.

“They weren’t decisions made by a UK Government but by the Scottish Government.

“We must guard against a Scottish exceptionalism, an idea that just because decisions were made in Scotland that somehow they were automatically better or the right ones.

“The reality is that one in 10 of our care home residents in Scotland lost their lives to Covid, 3,774 deaths, a third of the total.

“I gave three examples of decisions made here in Scotland where bad decisions led to unnecessary and avoidable deaths.

“I could have given more; a failure to have adequate PPE supplies, the failure to adequately ramp up testing, the failure to introduce strict testing and quarantine at our airports.

“None of this was the fault of our hardworking NHS staff. We are questioning the decision-making of the Scottish Government.

Holiday hopes dashed with no countries added to green travel list

No new destinations will be added to the green travel list in the Government’s latest update, the PA news agency understands.

Summer hotspots such as Spanish and Greek islands plus Malta had hoped to be awarded green status on Thursday.

But no additions are expected to be made amid concerns about rising coronavirus case rates in the UK.

There is speculation that Portugal – the only viable major tourist destination currently on the green list – could be moved to the amber tier.

That would mean people currently on holiday in Portugal would be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days if they return after the changes are implemented, which would probably be next week.

Additions to the red list are expected on Thursday, with Bahrain, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Thailand among the potential candidates.

People returning to the UK from red list locations must stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750 for solo travellers.

British pubs facing ‘acute’ staff shortages

British pubs are facing an “acute” shortage of staff, leading some to reduce capacity or close entirely, the sector has warned.

Labour-intensive social distancing restrictions such as table service only are requiring more staff, while employees are finding the work physically demanding with some walking up to 15 miles a day on the job, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said.

Shortages had been intensified by some EU nationals not returning to the UK and a loss of furloughed staff who had moved away from the uncertainty surrounding the hospitality sector.

The BBPA has written to Employment Minister Mims Davies calling on the Government to urgently do what it can to help the sector.

It is of “paramount importance” that the Government sticks to removing restrictions on June 21 in order to show returning and prospective pub and hospitality staff that the sector is a safe and stable employer, it said.

It has also urged the Government to expand the Youth Mobility Scheme to cover more nations and provide a more flexible approach to immigration by reviewing the shortage occupation list, to help support pub and hospitality staffing needs for the long term.

The trade association has launched its “Countdown to Freedom” campaign ahead of June 21, highlighting the cost and impact the remaining restrictions continue to have on the sector.

FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon defends SQA and controversial appeals process

The First Minister has given her backing to the under-fire Scottish Qualifications Authority, and pledged to “listen” to the voices of young people raising concerns about assessments and the new appeals system.

Nicola Sturgeon: “When you look at the different pandemic curves, although we went into lockdown on the same day as the rest of the UK, it was slightly ahead of the pandemic curve on Scotland.”

Nicola Sturgeon: “If I could turn the clock back, would we go into lockdown earlier than we did? Yes, I think that is true. We did move on mass gatherings slightly before the UK Government. We announced the position on schools slightly before the UK Government.”

Nicola Sturgeon: “I have done my level best every single day of this pandemic to get the decisions right.”

Nicola Sturgeon: “I have always accepted that we made mistakes in the handling of this pandemic. I have never tried to shy away from that.”

Nicola Sturgeon insists her government is doing "everything it can in a highly-challenging set of circumstances" to deliver fairness for pupils.

Young people ignored over process to appeal grades, says Youth Parly member

The only young person on a group charged with creating an alternative to exams has hit out at the new qualification appeals process.

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said young people will be able to make free, direct appeals to the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), after the decision was made last year to cancel exams and rely on teacher-reported grades for final marks.

But reports in recent months have claimed that pupils are being forced to sit exam-style assessments in class.

Ms Somerville said the appeals process would be “symmetrical”, meaning grades could be marked down as well as up – as is the case in other years – and that exceptional circumstances are not being taken into account.

Cameron Garrett, who serves as a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, was the only young person who sat on the National Qualifications 2021 group and claims the voice of young people was not heard when the appeals process was being devised.

On Twitter, Mr Garrett said: “As the only young person who sits on @sqanews’s NQ21 group and the only member representing young people, I have not had an equal input into discussions around the appeals process this year at NQ group meetings.

“Young people have been let down and ignored by this process.

“Organisations such as (Children and Young People’s Commissioner) and (SWA: Where’s Our Say?) as well as (Scottish Youth Parliament) have been calling for a no-detriment policy and exceptional circumstances to be taken into consideration as substantive points. Neither have been considered in this process.”

He added: “Young people deserve fairness this year and should be able to have confidence in the system. Neither is currently true.

“Going forward, you’re participation and engagement must improve to ensure young people have at least an equal seat at the decision making table.”

Scottish Youth Parliament vice chair, Liam Fowley, said the process was “not fit for purpose”, adding: “it’s another example of young people being an afterthought.

“We’ve been tirelessly representing young people’s views and experiences for months – only for it to be ignored by the SQA.

“Young people have been let down.”

The new appeals process was attacked across the political spectrum, with Scottish Greens education spokesman, Ross Greer, saying it creates a “perverse gamble” for young people.

Through the new qualifications model, Mr Greer said, teachers would almost certainly send the best evidence of pupils to the SQA, meaning that any subsequent evidence that could be sent as part of an appeal could see their grade dropped further.

Four more arrests over Rangers fans’ title win celebrations

Four more people have been charged in connection with the disorder in Glasgow’s George Square on the day of Rangers’ title win last month.

Thousands of supporters ignored Covid-19 warnings against large gatherings and gathered in the square on Saturday May 15 after the club won their first Scottish Premiership championship since 2011.

Police said that four men, aged 19, 38, 58 and 35, have been arrested and charged in connection with the disorder in the city centre.

They have been released on an undertaking to appear in court at a later date.

A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Service sector growth at 24-year high after coronavirus restrictions ease

The UK’s services sector recorded its biggest jump in activity for 24 years in May as it was boosted by the reopening of thousands of hospitality and leisure businesses, according to new figures.

The closely-watched IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) recorded a reading of 62.9 for May, up from 61 in April, representing the fastest growth in output for 24 years.

A reading above 50 signals growth.

It was ahead of the predictions by analysts who had forecast a 61.8 reading for the month.

Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said: “UK service providers reported the strongest rise in activity for nearly a quarter-century during May as the roll back of pandemic restrictions unleashed pent-up business and consumer spending.

“The latest survey results set the scene for an eye-popping rate of UK GDP growth in the second quarter of 2021, led by the reopening of customer-facing parts of the economy after winter lockdowns.”

The report revealed that services firms recorded a sharp and accelerated rise in new order volumes during May, with the speed of recovery the fastest since October 2013.

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