UK coronavirus live: 20-minute Covid test could be widely available ‘over coming months’, says Hancock

Sturgeon accused of showing lockdown favouritism to Glasgow over Aberdeen

Eminent Aberdeen University professor Hugh Pennington has accused the Scottish government of “letting Glasgow off the hook”, after Nicola Sturgeon introduced far less onerous local restrictions in the central belt than those experienced by the Granite City.

Pennington, who is emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen and chaired inquiries into E coli outbreaks in Scotland and South Wales, told the Press and Journal that Aberdeen was “hammered and punished” by last month’s three-week shutdown which included the closure of all pubs, cafes and restaurants, a five-mile travel restriction as well as a ban on indoor gatherings and hospital visits.

By comparison, in Glasgow, East Renfewshire and West Dumbartonshire, the Scottish government earlier this week issued guidance banning indoor gatherings in private residences.

Pennington said:

It looks as though we were almost being punished for having an outbreak while Glasgow is, to some degree, being let off the hook”.

The Glasgow outbreaks are associated with domesticated settings – and these are even more difficult to control. So why aren’t they being more draconian with central Scotland than in Aberdeen? It looks as though we got hammered with a punitive element rather than a public health one, compared to Glasgow.

The intervention comes after Aberdeen city council co-leader Douglas Lumsden, a Conservative, accused the Scottish government of “double standards” over the local lockdowns in Aberdeen and Glasgow. Both Labour and Conservative co-leaders of the city council were at odds with the Holyrood government after the lockdown measures continued despite their calls to re-open the city.

The centre of Aberdeen early last month, after a strict local lockdown was imposed.

The centre of Aberdeen early last month, after a strict local lockdown was imposed. Photograph: Michał Wachucik/AFP/Getty Images

Government faces legal action over care home visiting guidance in England


Starmer ally Rachel Reeves joins calls for Scottish Labour leader to quit

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, has become the first member of Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet to call on the Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, to resign, after a revolt by his MSPs at Holyrood. Reeves, who is seen as close to Starmer, told Sky News:

I think that Richard Leonard needs to think about his position. The opinion polls in Scotland are pretty dire for Labour, we’ve got important elections next year, but those are decisions for Scottish Labour.

The latest poll put support for Scottish Labour at 14%, a distant third behind the Scottish National party and the Conservatives, eight months before next May’s Scottish parliament election; the polls suggest Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are on course to win an overall majority.

Four Labour MSPs called on Leonard to step down yesterday, with two – James Kelly and Mark Griffin – resigning from their shadow cabinet posts in protest at his refusal to quit.

Reeves’s remarks are a breach of generally-upheld protocol that UK Labour cabinet members do not comment on the Scottish party’s internal affairs, but Leonard’s critics say there is growing alarm in Westminster about his failure to reverse Labour’s decline.

Last week Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor and the most senior Scot in the shadow cabinet, declined to comment on Leonard’s future during a short visit to Edinburgh but refused to say he was the right leader for the party.

Leonard told BBC Radio Scotland this morning that he would not quit. He said:

Rachel Reeves is not a member of the Scottish Labour party and I’m elected by members of the Scottish Labour party; that’s who I’m accountable to … I’ve received a huge number of messages of support from right across the party, the trade unions and I’m confident I have got the backing of the members who elected me just under three years ago.


Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Archie Bland.

Matt Hancock is being criticised this morning for his defence of the government’s decision (or reported decision – it has not been confirmed yet) to appoint the former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott as a UK trade envoy. (See 8.06am.) When it was put to him that Abbott was a misogynist and homophobe, Hancock implied this did not matter too much because he was a trade expert. But Abbott isn’t – according to the Dmitry Grozoubinski – who is a former Australian trade negotiator.

Dmitry Grozoubinski

In what universe?

September 3, 2020

Dmitry Grozoubinski

By his own admission his contribution to Australian FTAs was to tell negotiators not to sweat the technical details and to just get ‘er dun.

I’m not saying he has no experience to contribute on trade, but “expert” is pushing it.

September 3, 2020

The shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, said Hancock seemed to be admitting that Abbott’s views on women and homosexuality did not matter.

David Lammy

Kay Burley: “Tony Abbott is a homophobe and a misogynist”

Health Secretary @MattHancock: “He’s also an expert on trade”.

So the government admits Tony Abbott is a homophobe and a misogynist, it just doesn’t care.

September 3, 2020


Meanwhile, the Today programme has been talking to the independent reviewer of terror legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, who has just published a report listing a catalogue of failings on the way that people convicted of terror related offences are monitored by the authorities. (There’s a story on the report here.)

The report was commissioned after the convicted terrorist Usman Khan, who was released on licence from prison, killed two people near London Bridge on 29 November.

Hall says “I think you’ve got to start with the premise [that risk assessing prisoners for release] is very very difficult” and that what prisoners say about their offending is “taken too much at face value and not challenged enough

What you’ve got to understand about people who show terrorist risk is that they may be very good at acting in what you’d call a pro-social way, they may have a very good family life, they may even have been at work, and it’s not surprising that they’d behave well in prison.

In his report he says he argues that you have to be “very humble” about assessing terrorist risk and always “challenge what you see”.

Hall says that release meetings are often focused on the perspective of the released prisoner and what the impact on them of restrictions was, rather than thinking critically about risk. “Probation officers are used to effectively caring for individuals as they move from prison into the community, which is excellent, because everyone including terror offenders needs to be rehabilitated,” he says.

But what I particularly found is that quite a lot of the probation officers didn’t have the ‘full fat’ intelligence or understanding of the risk posed by the people they were managing.

His main concern, he says, is that “very powerful” probation officers managing terrorist risk weren’t always in possession of the right information, and that even very sensitive information from police and MI5 needs to be shared more widely.

He also says that he endorses the government’s plan to have terrorist offenders undergo polygraph testing, the efficacy of which has in the past been controversial. “Since polygraph testing is an ethical and effective way of dealing with sex offenders, it must also be of terror offenders,” he says.

That’s it from me. Andrew Sparrow will be taking over now.



Sturgeon warns of ‘tsunami of avoidable redundancies’ unless furlough scheme extended






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