If it matters to Scotland it matters to us
Covid-19 infection rates in Scotland are higher than any other part of the UK, according to the latest weekly data.
Around one in 540 people are estimated to have tested positive for the virus in the week ending June 5, in figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), compared to one in 560 in England, one in 700 in Northern Ireland and one in 1,300 in Wales.
Teachers have threatened the Scottish Government and councils with strike action if an agreement is not reached on a programme for securing maximum class sizes of 20.
On the first day of their Annual General Meeting (AGM), members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, overwhelmingly backed a motion that seeks the establishment of nine-year targets for phased, incremental reductions in class sizes and contact time.
AN SNP MSP has been loudly jeered at Holyrood after promoting independence while Nicola Sturgeon gave an update on the Covid pandemic.
Kenneth Gibson was barracked after he accused Unionist politicians of “talking down Scotland” and telling “scare stories” about independence deterring foreign investment.
Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone warned Mr Gibson he was “straying beyond the bounds” of the First Minister’s statement, and asked if she had a “relevant” response.
However she said there had not been a similar rise in hospitalisations, suggesting the vaccination programme was weakening the link between the virus and serious illness.
In the Q&A part of the session, Mr Gibson, the MSP for Cunninghame North, raised a recent EY report showing strong foreign direct investment in Scotland last year.
He said: “Given that across the 12 nations and regions of the UK, Scotland attracted the second highest number of overseas-backed investments after London in very years since 2014, does the First Minister agree it’s time for Unionist politicians to dispense with the scare stories about this Government’s commitment to independence deterring investment, desist from talking down Scotland, and back the outward-looking, innovative nation that Scotland is as we recover from Covid-19?”
To applause from opposition MSPs, Ms Johnstone said: “I would suggest perhaps that the member is straying beyond the bounds of this statement.”
She asked if the First Minister had a “relevant response that may help Mr Gibson”.
Ms Sturgeon sidestepped most of Mr Gibson’s points, but said the EY attractiveness survey should be welcomed by everyone across the chamber.
She said: “What it does show is that in the face fo a global pandemic, Scotland remained the top UK inward investment destination outside of London, and that has been the case for eight of the past 10 years. “We also managed to grow our inward investment at a time when it shrunk across the UK as a whole. So whatever our different political viewpoints, whatever our different ambitions for the country, surely in the face of this really tough time we are facing as a country to welcome thoroughly good news for the Scottish economy.”
The Army is being drafted in to help with Scotland’s vaccination roll-out this week.
More than 60 members of the armed forces will be deployed to NHS Lothian and NHS Lanarkshire as part of ‘Operation Rescript’ for up to five weeks.
It is part of the UK Government’s response to ‘variants of concern’ spreading throughout the country.
It is hoped that the additional support could help scale up the number of vaccines being administered in the areas.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, said: “The armed forces continue to show their incredible versatility and flexibility, deploying wherever and whenever they are needed in support of this national vaccination effort.
“I am delighted to see that across all corners of the UK, military personnel are working side by side with their NHS counterparts to help get the British public vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
Around 3.3 million people aged 18 or over in Scotland have had their first dose of the vaccine – with more than 2.2 million receiving their second.
Speaking to BBC Scotland, national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said: “So far the vaccine – particularly two doses of the vaccine – are successful for the variants we have, but eventually one will probably get away from us and we’ll have to adjust the vaccines over time.
“What we’re trying to do is win the race now, get the incidence down around the world, not just in Scotland, and then the vaccine scientists can work on a new vaccine for us as they monitor the virus around the world.”
Public health officials are pushing to accelerate the vaccine roll-out to protect against the Delta variant – originally found in India – which is spreading rapidly across the UK.
UK Government Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We have vaccinated over three-quarters of UK adults with a first dose and half of adults with a second dose.
“That is a huge effort across the healthcare system and beyond – and I am incredibly grateful for the amazing role our armed forces have played in this.
More than half a billion pounds has been paid out by Scottish public bodies during the coronavirus crisis without any scrutiny.
Analysis by the Herald on Sunday of public contracts show more than 160 were awarded by the NHS, Scottish Government, local authorities, and others directly to suppliers without any competitive process.