Covid 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.

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

Scroll down to see the latest news on the pandemic on Thursday, June 3.

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.

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