Independent Scotland as far away as ever – The Irish Times

The election of another pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament underlines the degree to which Brexit has imperilled the unity of the United Kingdom.

However, despite the victory of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and their pro-independence allies, the route to separation from the UK remains strewn with legal, political and economic obstacles that, counterintuitively, Brexit has made more difficult to overcome.

Legally, it is clear that the question of Scottish independence is a matter for the UK parliament. The 2014 independence referendum happened only because Westminster agreed to give a one-off power to the Scottish parliament to hold a vote. This power lapsed once the vote was held.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has made it clear that he will not agree to hold a further referendum any time soon and first minister of Scotland and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out following the Catalan example of an illegal vote. While this means that Scotland will not see equivalents of the dramatic and troubling events in Catalonia such as the imposition of lengthy prison sentences on leaders of Catalan pro-independence political parties, this does not mean that the UK authorities can put off the issue of independence indefinitely.

Unlike Spain the UK has accepted the principle that Scotland can become an independent state. If pro-independence forces win election after election, it will eventually become untenable to refuse a second vote.

Consultative referendum

Even in the short term, while it is clear the UK parliament has exclusive jurisdiction over the legal issue of independence, the Scottish government has other options. One such option would be to hold organise a consultative referendum that could generate a political, if not a legal, mandate for independence that would be hard to resist. Whether organising such a vote is within the powers of the Scottish parliament is unclear and is likely to be hotly contested before the UK supreme court.

Scottish voters may not have expected that their 62 per cent remain vote would stop the Brexit process altogether

That said, even if such a vote goes ahead, the obstacles in the way of independence remain considerable. Pro-union parties which together still command about 50 per cent of the vote may refuse to participate.

Furthermore, Brexit itself may complicate the task of gaining a majority vote in favour of independence. This is somewhat counterintuitive. On one level Brexit makes the case for independence easier.

Scottish voters may not have expected that their 62 per cent remain vote would stop the Brexit process altogether. But they could reasonably have thought that, in a state based on union between different nations, some account would be taken of the wishes of their nation and a moderate form of Brexit would be pursued.

Instead, the Johnson government gave no weight to Scottish desires and pursued a hard Brexit, thus increasing feelings of alienation in Scotland and thereby fuelling demand for a second referendum.

However, this hard Brexit may also make winning that referendum more difficult for the pro-independence side. With Johnson’s hard Brexit in place, if Scotland leaves the UK and joins the European Union there will be a hard economic border between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The requirements of EU law mean that leaving the UK and joining the would be very disruptive economically, at least in the medium term

Scotland’s economy is very closely tied to the UK. Scotland exports more than three times as much to the rest of the UK as to the EU. This means that independence would result in an enormous economic hit, even before one considers the very considerable difference between level of public spending in Scotland and the tax raised there which is currently bridged by funding from the rest of the UK.

EU single market

This has caused some pro-independence figures to morph into Scottish versions of the Brexiteers who insisted that the UK could ‘have its cake and eat it’ by having the freedom to set their own rules and have full access to the EU single market.

The significant obstacles now faced by UK businesses exporting to the EU reveals this ‘cakeist’ approach to be a fantasy. It is equally fanciful to suggest that Scotland could leave the UK, join the EU and still have unfettered access to the UK market. As an EU member Scotland would be required to police the EU customs border and to check ensure goods and services from the EU comply with the requirements of EU law.

In 1973, Ireland was too economically dependent on the UK to have joined the EEC on its own. Fifty years of membership loosened economic ties so that when Brexit came it made both economic and emotional sense for Ireland to choose its links to the EU over its links to the UK.

Scotland in 2021 is not in that position. The Scottish economy is heavily dependent on the UK. While Brexit has fuelled the emotional case for independence the requirements of EU law mean that leaving the UK and joining the would be very disruptive economically, at least in the medium term.

That said, nationhood and independence are not all about money. Most people in Algeria in the 1960s or Ireland in the 1920s did not care that independence might have an economic cost, they wanted to be free and, as Robert Emmet said, to take their place among the nations of the world. Given the very different history of Scotland’s membership of the UK, whether the Scottish people have a similar determination remains to be seen.

Indyref2 already slipping off political agenda, says Salmond – STV News

Scotland may never get the chance to have a second referendum if the issue of independence is allowed to “slip off the political agenda”, Alba Party leader Alex Salmond has warned.

The former first minister, whose new party failed to win any seats in this month’s Scottish election, said politicians at Holyrood should be “forcing the issue”.

With the new Scottish Parliament having a majority of MSPs who support independence, he insisted the country had “never been stronger in political terms”.

In contrast, he said the position at Westminster had “never been weaker”.

His comments came in a message to Alba’s 5,500-plus members – with the party claiming new recruits have increased by 10% since the May 6 election.

It has already pledged to stand candidates in the 2022 council elections in Scotland, with the former SNP leader saying: “Local government is an area that we are going to be concentrating a great deal of attention.”

However, he claimed that just two weeks on from the Holyrood vote, the “constitutional issue is already gradually slipping off the political agenda”.

Mr Salmond insisted: “Independence should be right up there, first and foremost, in terms of dealing with the pandemic, in terms of recovery and economic recovery from it.

“We should be talking about the constitutional question in Scotland, we should be forcing the issue because London has never been weaker and Scotland has never been stronger in political terms.

“But if we allow it to slip off the political agenda to allow the (Boris) Johnson Government to regain its political balance, then the chance may be missed, and may never come again.

“An absolute majority of the Scottish electorate, two weeks ago in the Scottish elections, voted for parties committed to Scottish independence, a mandate that is unarguable but one that has to be used because mandates that are not used can sometimes be lost.”

Patients moved unlawfully from hospitals to Scottish care homes during first wave, report finds – The Scotsman

Thousands of elderly patients were discharged from hospitals to care homes in the early months of the pandemic to free up hospital beds in a move the Scottish Government later admitted was a “mistake”

In a report, Authority to Discharge, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland has analysed around 10 per cent of these moves – 457 patients – and found 20 were unlawful.

The “disappointing” findings expose “endemic examples of poor practice”, the commission said, some of which pre-dates the pandemic.

A lack of understanding of the law, power of attorney and good practice mean many more than 20 patients are likely to have been moved unlawfully, said Julie Paterson, chief executive of the commission.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour health spokesperson, called the moves “scandalous”.

Scottish Care, which is a representative body for independent social care, said the report made for “disturbing reading”.

A previous report from Public Health Scotland found that it “could not rule out” a link between hospital discharges and later Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes. Thousands of patients were moved without Covid-19 tests and some were moved even after testing positive.

It comes as a rise in Covid cases was reported in Glasgow and East Renfrewshire, as door-to-door PCR testing commenced in Pollokshields.

Case rates have fallen in Midlothian and the situation in Moray continues to improve.

Scotland recorded its highest daily case total in almost a month on Wednesday, at 394. However, test positivity is still relatively low at 1.6 per cent.

Unlawful moves from hospitals to care homes were made across 11 different Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCPs) around the country, the report found, although the specific locations were not listed in the document.

Practice was not consistent across HSCPs, or in some cases within the same HSCP.

In some cases vulnerable patients were moved under new legislation drawn up during the Covid-19 pandemic, which had not actually been activated.

In other cases laws around power of attorney or guardianship had not been correctly followed.

Ms Paterson said: “People who lack mental capacity and who are being cared for and treated in care homes and hospitals are among the most vulnerable in our society.

“The focus of this report was to examine the detail of a sample number of hospital to care home moves of people from across Scotland, to check that those moves were done in accordance with the law during the early stages of the pandemic.

“Some of our concerns relate specifically to the significant pressures of the pandemic.

“But worryingly, the report also finds more endemic examples of poor practice. Lack of understanding of the law, lack of understanding of good practice, confusion over the nature of placements, misunderstanding over power of attorney.

“These findings are very disappointing and may mean that many more moves were made without valid legal authority.

“This report also finds a lack of uniformity from one HSCP to another, with different approaches to national legislation and guidance adopted in different areas.”

The commission has made eight recommendations for HSCPs, including asking each to conduct a full training needs analysis and programme for staff to ensure they understand the law, capacity and assessment.

There are two recommendations for the Care Inspectorate, including taking account of this report in their inspection activity, and one for the Scottish Government, that it monitors delivery of the recommendations and ensures consistency across HSCPs.

A spokesperson for Scottish Care said the report exposed “very real knowledge and skills’ gaps in discharge practice from hospital to care homes and the community”.

Nearly half of violent criminals in Scotland are avoiding prison sentences, figures reveal – The Telegraph

Violent crime has surged in Scotland but more than half of those responsible are avoiding prison sentences, according to official figures published yesterday that prompted claims the SNP are letting them “off the hook.”…

SNP are peddling myths to public – Glasgow Evening Times

THE response of the newly reappointed First Minister to the results of the Scottish election is as depressing as it is predictable.

Following a mostly presidential campaign, emphasising Sturgeon’s handling of the pandemic, we are now told that there is a cast-iron mandate for another referendum and independence is around the corner.

At Full Council last Thursday, the SNP group were akin to religious zealots announcing the second coming. Independence was shoehorned into almost every single contribution and promoted as the cure all for every single problem. We face another five years of this triumphalist nonsense.

Like all nationalists, the SNP are desperately keen to promote a sense of exceptionalism, that Scots are somehow different from our neighbours with unique traditions and distinct, not to say superior, values. Scotland, they argue, could be so much better if we were not held back by Westminster. Westminster, of course, being no more than a euphemism for England.

In the two weeks since the election, this line of reasoning and myth making has been ratcheted up. We are told that the Scottish people have spoken and are being held against our will by the rule of law rather than democracy. This is a ridiculous argument as it ignores the fact that the rule of law is essential to any functioning democracy. In a democracy, laws can be changed but they cannot be ignored or dismissed simply because they are inconvenient.

Nationalists continuously argue that Scotland is almost unique among nations in that the people have always been sovereign. In doing so they hark back to a historical conceit concocted by George Buchanan almost 500 years ago to justify the overthrow of Queen Mary in 1567. It was trotted out again a century later to excuse the revolution against James VII. It was based on myth and invented history then, it remains a constitutional nonsense today.

Similarly, the SNP have jumped on the recent events in Kenmure Street to peddle not one but two myths. Firstly, that the Scots are more welcoming and tolerant than our near neighbours and secondly that, in an independent country, there would be no such thing as illegal immigrants. Survey after survey has proved that Scots are only marginally more liberal in their attitudes to immigration than the rest of the UK. Scotland, unfortunately, has its fair share of racists and sectarian bigots. That is an issue we have to tackle but it does not make us unique and certainly no better than our English and Welsh cousins.

An independent Scotland, like every country in the world, would have immigration laws. If, as the SNP hope, our neighbours agreed to a common travel area, those laws would have to be clear and effectively enforced. The alternative would be passport control at Berwick and Gretna. Instead of admitting this, our First Minister promulgates a falsehood that in a uniquely tolerant and progressive Scotland all such issues and difficulties will evaporate.

I fully expect the next several years to be entirely dominated by constitutional wrangling at the expense of using the powers and considerable resources of the Scottish Parliament to address the very real problems we all face.

These problems range from the strategic to the mundane. Independence is not required to improve the quality of our health service, it is already fully devolved. Freedom will not empty our bins or keep our libraries open.

There is no indisputable mandate for a referendum, still less is there any evidence that there is even a narrow majority for independence. Sadly, the SNP can never admit that because their myths are more important than any inconvenient reality.

Child poverty rising in every council area, campaigners warn – STV News

Child poverty has risen in every Scottish council area since 2015, even before the impact of the pandemic is considered, campaigners have warned.

The End Child Poverty coalition points to research from Loughborough University which shows estimates of children living in poverty in each local authority have increased.

Child poverty rates for 2019-20 range from 15.8% in the Shetland Islands to 32.2% in Glasgow, though figures were calculated before the onset of coronavirus.

At 24%, Scotland has lower levels of child poverty than England (30%) or Wales (31%).

Holyrood has unanimously passed legislation requiring the Scottish Government to ensure fewer than 18% of children are living in poverty by 2023/24, on course to less than 10% by 2030.

Campaigners say there can be no complacency if these targets are to be met.

Speaking on behalf of the End Child Poverty coalition, John Dickie said: “Solid foundations have been laid in Scotland for future progress on child poverty, not least the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment and an increasing focus on action at local level.

“But this new data is a stark reminder that child poverty was still rising in every part of Scotland, even before the pandemic struck.

“The challenge now is for government at all levels to use every power they have to boost family incomes and reduce the costs that struggling parents face.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While child poverty levels remain lower than in England and Wales, we are not complacent and are doing all we can to tackle and reduce child poverty in Scotland.

“We are providing support worth about £5000 by the time a child turns six through the Best Start Grant, Best Start Foods and Scottish Child Payment.

“This payment, worth £40 every four weeks, is already reaching thousands of families on low incomes – we are working to deliver it to all eligible children under 16 by the end of 2022 and doubling the value of the payment by the end of this Parliamentary term.

“The 2021-22 Scottish Budget commits further investment to tackle child poverty, including £100 million to support struggling families through new Pandemic Support Payments and £49.75m for expanded free school meal support.

“These statistics highlight that, even before the pandemic began, the challenge of negotiating the UK’s welfare system has left many people in desperate need of help.

“The UK Government must act now to match our action and commit to making permanent the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, and extend this to people on other benefits.”

Sturgeon’s new cabinet reveals a dearth of talent – The Spectator

Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet reshuffle is an object lesson in making a very limited talent pool go a long way. John Swinney, who has been education secretary since 2016, has been shifted into a new brief in charge of the Covid recovery. Swinney’s tenure at education won’t be fondly remembered, presiding as he did over the SNP’s fundamentally flawed Curriculum for Excellence, a stubborn attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils, a long-running teacher shortage and the 2020 exams fiasco.

Any other minister in any other government would have been sent on his merry way long ago but Swinney is too valuable an ally for Sturgeon, having proved his political worth most recently in the Holyrood inquiry into the Sturgeon-Salmond affair. He remains deputy first minister and minister for Scotland Tonight, the Holyrood equivalent of minister for Newsnight. Swinney is not a terribly adept minister but he is a skilled tactician with a gift for verbal thuggishness that comes in handy with the Scottish parliament’s easily cowed opposition parties.

The education brief goes to Shirley-Anne Somerville, hitherto in charge of Sturgeon’s stalled plans to gut the Gender Recognition Act in favour of the self-declaration model that removes medical experts from the process and is favoured by trans activists. Meanwhile, Humza Yousaf has been moved from justice, where he spearheaded the authoritarian Hate Crime Bill which will soon see Scots at risk of prosecution for remarks uttered in the privacy of their own homes. Yousaf has solid patter but might be a more accomplished minister if he spent more time with his briefing papers and less with his Twitter account. His appointment to the health brief is unlikely to further his leadership ambitions.

Sturgeon is the only health minister since devolution to become First Minister and only then because she got out in time. Yousaf will be responsible for the reopening of the NHS post-Covid; a forthcoming public inquiry on the handling of the pandemic; tackling the worst drugs-deaths rate in Europe; rolling out the proposed National Care Service and abolition of dental fees; addressing shortages of GPs, doctors and nurses; and meeting long-missed waiting times targets. If Yousaf has any sense, he’ll get out in time, too.

Replacing him at justice is Keith Brown, the SNP’s deputy leader. A former Royal Marine who served in the Falklands War, Brown is a political bruiser who previously held ministerial roles on the economy, infrastructure, transport and skills. Popular among the party’s grassroots for his unapologetic nationalism, Brown’s return to the fold suggests Sturgeon is mindful of the need to keep her impatient activists on side even if she can’t give them the second independence referendum she’s been promising for almost seven years. Brown’s new title is cabinet secretary for justice but his more important role will be as Nicola Sturgeon’s ambassador to her party’s membership.

Another political resurrection is that of Shona Robison, a personal friend of Sturgeon who was forced to resign in 2018 amid near-universal criticism of her management of the health brief. She takes on the social justice, housing and local government portfolio. If she fails again, it’s unlikely Sturgeon will be so forgiving a second time, even if she is a mate. Transport minister Michael Matheson remains in post, though his title has been rejigged to ‘net zero, energy and transport’. He will take forward the SNP’s plans to nationalise the ScotRail train franchise, address the ongoing island ferries row and achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. Matheson is the invisible man of the cabinet and, though having no discernible achievements to his name, has survived so long by being blandly forgettable. It’s hard to get the sack when even the First Minister would struggle to remember your name and what you do.

Kate Forbes stays on as finance minister and assumes the economy role too, a sign of Sturgeon’s confidence in the 31-year-old. Forbes has proved a safe pair of hands in the job but discontent is growing in the business sector over the SNP’s prioritising of a second referendum, delays in passing on Treasury Covid cash to small firms, and a general lack of economic direction. While the bulk of fiscal and economic policy failings either pre-date Forbes’ tenure or should more properly be laid at her boss’s door, it falls to the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP to rekindle business confidence and encourage the economy in a pro-growth direction.

A fellow member of the 2016 intake, Mairi Gougeon, is bumped up from public health minister to cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the islands. Gougeon has largely kept her head down and put the work in, particularly in her earlier posting as a junior rural affairs minister, and her promotion should be seen as a reward for living up to the faith Sturgeon showed in her in 2018, when she found herself a minister after just two years at Holyrood. It is telling, perhaps, that the two ministers who have shown the most capability each have only five years as MSPs.

The generation who became involved in politics at a time when the phrase ‘SNP government’ was barely computable have a decidedly mixed record in ministerial office. The generation for whom government by any party other than the SNP is just as unfathomable so far look more impressive. Successful parties typically attract more capable politicians (plus a tonne of dreck, careerists and chancers) and it will help sustain the SNP longer in power if that trend holds up.

Rounding off Sturgeon’s gender-balanced cabinet (because of course) is Angus Robertson, the former Westminster leader of the Nationalists who lost his Moray seat in 2017 to Douglas Ross, who is now the Scottish Tory leader. On May 6, Robertson got into Holyrood by winning Edinburgh Central, which had previously been held by Ruth Davidson, who is no longer the Scottish Tory leader. Robertson will be constitution, external affairs and culture secretary, even though the first two of those are reserved powers. The way devolution works is that Holyrood unilaterally makes policy on Westminster matters and when Westminster eventually notices and objects, Holyrood accuses it of a ‘power grab’.

Robertson’s role will come into play when Sturgeon decides to fire up the independence juggernaut again but until then expect more of the routine undermining of the Union, including internationally, which the Scottish government doesn’t even bother to do quietly anymore.

Among those getting the boot are rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing, a right-winger (in SNP terms) accused of, though denies, bullying civil servants, and Fiona Hyslop, the Nicola Murray-esque economy, fair work and culture secretary who has been a cabinet minister for 14 straight, inexplicable, years. Noticeably unpromoted are Europe and international development minister Jenny Gilruth and public finance and migration minister Ben Macpherson, neither of whom has caused any headaches deserving of a snub.

Overall, this is less a reshuffle than a meh-shuffle. Even though major portfolios are changing hands and big-ticket policies are in the offing — a National Care Service, rail nationalisation — there just isn’t enough talent at cabinet level to get excited about. Plus, few if any of these ministers are likely to be judged on any failure to deliver. The SNP has a death-grip on the 40 or 45 per cent of Scots who want independence and are willing to look the other way on health, education and economic outcomes until they get it. There is no incentive for improvement when, in all likelihood, you’ve already won the next election anyway. Sturgeon’s new cabinet is a B-level team for a B-level government, but B-level is what the public keeps voting for.

Violence ‘becoming normalised’ in Scottish schools, warns union – STV News

Teachers leaders are demanding action amid concerns that “workplace violence” is “becoming normalised” in Scotland’s schools.

The NASUWT teaching union has claimed that in “too many schools, verbal and physical abuse against teachers is going unchallenged”.

General secretary Patrick Roach wants the Scottish Government to make “strong and unequivocal statements about the rights of teachers to a safe working environment”.

The union is to discuss the issue, which it regards as a growing problem, at an Scottish conference on Saturday.

Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Roach said the restorative behaviour policies used to deal with some incidents – which see the pupil responsible required to discuss their actions with staff – are “becoming synonymous in too many cases with no punishment or sanctions for unacceptable behaviour”.

A motion, to be discussed during the online event, “notes with concern that ‘workplace violence’ is becoming normalised as part of teaching” – as well as highlighting the “increased use of restorative conversations across Scotland’s local authorities”.

The motion goes on to claim that “the health of teachers in schools is being put at risk by pupil indiscipline, firstly by the stress induced and secondly by the increased risk of more serious incidents through tolerating this indiscipline”.

Concerns are also raised that the education and wellbeing of children in schools is “being compromised through tolerating this indiscipline and violence”.

Dr Roach insisted: “In too many schools, verbal and physical abuse against teachers is going unchallenged.

“There is a growing culture in schools of ‘blame the teacher’ rather than holding pupils accountable for their behaviour, and this is being aided and abetted in some cases by the misuse and abuse of restorative behaviour policies, which are becoming synonymous in too many cases with no punishment or sanctions for unacceptable behaviour.

“While good behaviour management policies encourage pupils to reflect on their own behaviour, they also have in place clear and consistently enforced sanctions for verbal abuse or physical violence and make clear to all pupils that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

“Evidence shows that positive pupil behaviour stems from a whole school approach where managements lead and support staff in maintaining good discipline.

“No teacher should go to work with the expectation that they will be either verbally or physically abused. All teachers are entitled to dignity at work and a safe working environment.

“Teachers are being disempowered by the failure of government to ensure that across the country, behaviour policies are supporting teachers in maintaining high standards of discipline.

“It’s about time the Scottish Government made strong and unequivocal statements about the rights of teachers to a safe working environment, and took action to ensure that these rights are being delivered.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “No teacher should have to suffer verbal or physical abuse in schools.

“We all want pupils to behave in a respectful manner towards their peers and staff and we have produced guidance for local authorities and schools to prevent exclusions and manage behaviour which they can implement according to local needs and circumstances.

“Through our advisory group on relationships and behaviour, we work with a wide range of partners, including NASUWT, to deliver programmes and resources to support our local authorities and schools promote positive behaviour and relationships.”

SQA ‘misses deadline’ to confirm appeals process for exams in 2021 – The Scotsman

The appeals process was due to be confirmed this month with Fiona Robertson, chief executive of the SQA, telling Holyrood’s education committee she hoped confirmation would be “at the latest” in early May.

However, despite consulting on the process earlier in the year, the SQA have so far failed to publish their process.

The Scottish Greens have criticised the SQA for failing to publish details on the appeals process for 2021 exams

This means many pupils are unaware of what evidence they may need for an appeal in August should they not receive the grades they think they deserve or if they feel they have been discriminated against.

The SQA said in a statement the appeals system would be published “imminently” and that a “comprehensive appeals process will be in place in good time”.

Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens’ education spokesperson, said it was time for the SQA to replace its board due to the failure.

He said: “After last year’s exams debacle, in which the appeals process was an acute point of failure, it’s unbelievable that the SQA have left themselves so completely unprepared for this year’s assessments.

“It’s utterly unacceptable that pupils are being forced through exams in all but name without either they or their teachers having any idea how the appeals process will work, or what evidence they will need to provide for it.

“The SQA has once again proven that it does not work in the interests of those it is supposed to serve. Indeed it doesn’t even seem capable of doing that.

“It’s long past time the Scottish Government overhauled the exams authority, starting by immediately replacing its board.”

Exams for Highers and National 5s were scrapped earlier in the academic year by the-then education secretary John Swinney, but concerns over the alternative certification model being implemented by the SQA have grown stronger in recent months.

The Scottish Government was forced into an embarrassing U-turn after the 2020 results when thousands of pupils saw their grades downgraded by an unfair moderation system.

Mr Swinney, who narrowly survived a motion of no confidence on the issue, directed the SQA to award grades based on teacher judgement and said a similar process would be used in 2021.

However, many teachers, parents and pupils have expressed their concern around non-exam exams where pupils are sitting multiple assessments in one day as part of ‘evidence gathering’ for the SQA.

This is due to a requirement for “demonstrated attainment” as part of the awards process.

Responding to Mr Greer’s comments, a spokesperson for the SQA said: “The outcomes of the appeals consultation are currently being finalised, following the public consultation. We aim to announce details of the appeals process imminently.

“Learners should be reassured that a comprehensive appeals process will be in place in good time. The current focus should be on maximising teaching and learning and the gathering of evidence to support the development of provisional grades.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said “We understand this is an anxious time for young people.

“We asked the SQA to review their appeals system for 2021 to ensure it best meets the needs of young people. Details are expected to be announced soon.”

PM announces plan for ‘Global Pandemic Radar’ –

The Prime Minister has today (21 May 2021) launched plans for a new ‘Global Pandemic Radar’ to identify emerging COVID-19 variants and track new diseases around the world, ahead of the Global Health Summit hosted by Italy and the EU.

The pathogen surveillance network will save lives and protect health systems by spotting diseases before they cause future pandemics and enabling the rapid development of vaccines, treatments and tests.

The Prime Minister spoke to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus and Director of the Wellcome Trust, Jeremy Farrar yesterday (20 May 2021) to agree the next steps ahead of the G7.

WHO will lead an implementation group, supported by the Wellcome Trust, to launch this new international partnership to identify, track and share data on new coronavirus variants and monitor vaccine resistance in populations.

The PM was updated on work already happening in this area, including the newly-opened global WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence based in Berlin. WHO surveillance has also identified the B.1.617 variant, first found in India, in more than 50 countries so far.

The ‘Global Pandemic Radar’ is expected to be fully up and running with a network of surveillance hubs before the end of 2021, significantly improving global health security going into next year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

Tackling COVID-19 globally and ensuring we are better prepared for future health threats is an absolute priority for the UK’s G7 presidency.

The world must never be caught unawares again by a virus spreading among us unchecked. We need to build a system of disease surveillance fit for the 21st century, with real-time data sharing and rapid genomic sequencing and response.

A Global Pandemic Radar will ensure that we are vigilant to new variants and emerging pathogens, and can rapidly develop the vaccines and treatments needed to stop them in their tracks.

The Prime Minister first called for a global network of disease surveillance centres as part of ‘5 point plan’ at the UN Security Council last September.

The UK commissioned a report from the Wellcome Trust and has been working with WHO, other governments’ centres of disease control, NGOs and research organisations to take it forward as part of our G7 Presidency.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO:

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the vital need for a robust, modern system to keep the world ahead of emerging diseases through active monitoring at the community level, swift and accurate sequencing of new pathogens, and data-sharing across the globe.

The UK has set a strong example for pathogen surveillance and sequencing, as well as vaccine development. I am delighted that under PM Johnson, the UK will partner with WHO to contribute to stronger global surveillance and a safer world.

This announcement follows the publication today of new analysis commissioned by the UK government from Jeremy Farrar, Chair of the Wellcome Trust. The report sets out the mechanisms for a global pathogen surveillance system that can identify new variants of COVID-19 and detect other diseases before they become pandemics.

The work builds on existing surveillance mechanisms and data sharing agreements for HIV, TB and malaria.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said:

This pandemic has provided a stark wake-up call to the threat posed by a fast-moving infectious disease. We are long overdue the essential reinforcement of our local, national and international disease surveillance networks.

We failed to address these gaps following other epidemics and we must act now before countries move on from this pandemic. This commitment from the UK, as President of the G7, will be hugely important in achieving these aims. There is no time to spare in making this aspiration a reality.

The Prime Minister will also address the Global Health Summit, convened by G20 President Italy and the European Union, later today [Friday]. The Summit aims to bring countries together to endorse a ‘Rome Declaration’ of principles on dealing with global health crises.