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Volunteer constables donate over 25,000 hours since lockdown

Special Constables and police officers
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Special Constables (SPCs) donated over 25,000 hours supporting Police Scotland in the two months after lockdown began.

The special constabulary is a part-time volunteer body consisting of officers with powers identical to those of police officers.

Following an appeal by Police Scotland in March, the number of hours SPCs were deployed for more than doubled, to 25,656, compared to the same period last year.

Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins said: “While SPCs have always been considered a vital and valued feature of policing in Scotland, it is more important than ever that their role is recognised and I would like to sincerely thank them all once again for their efforts."

Retired teachers could help pupils back to school

Retired teachers could be asked to return to work so class sizes can be reduced in the Western Isles.

Bernard Chisholm, education director at local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said it was an option being considered in preparation for schools reopening on 11 August.

He said school buses would have to carry fewer pupils and there would be social distancing measures on the transport.

Education management at Highland Council, meanwhile, is holding discussions on opening its schools on the same date. Its schools were not due to reopen after the summer holidays to pupils until 18 August.

The rules haven't changed yet, police stress

Iain Livingstone

The chief constable of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone, says he wants to thank the "overwhelming majority" of the public for their cooperation over lockdown.

He says that as we progress through the phases of leaving lockdown, it is inevitable that police will move from "explaining, encouraging and where necessary enforcing restrictions" to a greater emphasis on guidance and advice.

Mr Livingstone says the approach of the police has been broadly to rely on the public doing the right thing.

But, he says, "the rules in Scotland have not changed" yet and "as a last resort" officers will enforce the law while they are out proactively policing until the change.

"Please stick with it," he urged.

More than 160 police officers test positive for Covid-19

Paul O'Hare

BBC Scotland News

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More than 800 Police Scotland officers have been tested for coronavirus with 163 positive results.

A report on Operation Talla, the force's response to the pandemic, confirmed the figures as of 29 April.

The paper, prepared for the Scottish Police Authority, reveals the numbers requiring to self-isolate, shield or having displayed Covid-19 symptoms resulted in a peak absence rate of 3,745 on 29 March.

It also notes absence rates remain "slightly higher than would normally be seen" with 1,486 off as of 7 May.

The report described securing suitable personal protective equipment as "challenging" but confirmed more than 11,000 frontline officers and staff have now been trained, equipped or re-supplied with the necessary PPE.

Meanwhile, figures for the end of April show officers engaged with the public 19,000 times in relation to the lockdown restrictions, but enforcement action was only taken in 10% of cases.

The paper also confirmed, as of 7 May, £9.48m has been spent on Police Scotland's response to Covid-19. The figure includes goods ordered, such as PPE, and overtime.

Change to older people's care 'needed'

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A senior Highland councillor says there needs to be a radical change to the way care is provided for older people in the region as a result of lessons being learned from the coronavirus pandemic.

Linda Munro, chairwoman of Highland Council's health and care committee, believes more emphasis should be placed on care at home and in the community.

She says there will always need to be care homes, but more care should be delivered to older people in their own homes.

About a third of deaths from Covid-19 in the NHS Highland area have been in care homes. Ms Munro says the local authority should help to change to care services.

Decline in abuse reports does not reflect reality

Paul O'Hare

BBC Scotland News

Domestic abuse generic
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Domestic abuse reports have "marginally decreased" during the Covid-19 lockdown.

But a report to the Scottish Police Authority suggests this does not reflect the reality.

Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: "We consider that these figures conceal some suppressed vulnerability and risk."

The paper, published ahead of the SPA's board meeting on Wednesday, also highlights the increase in requests to the Disclosure Scotland scheme.

Last month BBC Scotland reported an 18% rise in inquiries to determine whether an individual has an abusive past, with the majority made by police officers and social workers.

There has also been a reduction in the number of child concern reports, which Mr Livingstone said "may have been caused by reduced interaction between children and support professionals".

The chief constable's report also confirms the force investigated six murders from 1-28 April, recovered drugs with a street value of £2.6m and seized more than £1m in cash.

Culture sector will not 'bounce back' overnight

ballet pumps
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Bosses at Scotland's largest single-site arts venue have warned of the long-term impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the culture sector.

Eden Court in Inverness said the arts would not "bounce back" overnight or return to "normal" once social distancing were lifted.

It said said the culture sector could take up to 24 months to recover, and would need government support.

In a submission to a Scottish government inquiry into the impact of the virus on culture and tourism, Eden Court said the pandemic represented the "largest risk" to its existence in its 44-year history.

Summer COP26 would pose 'significant challenge' for police

Paul O'Hare

BBC Scotland News

Scottish Event Campus
Scottish Event Campus

A new date for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow is expected to be set next month.

Dozens of world leaders and around 30,000 delegates were due to attend the conference in November but it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A Scottish Police Authority paper revealed Police Scotland was asked to assess the impact of staging the global gathering at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) over spring, summer or winter 2021.

The force identified the summer as the only period of time that would provide a "significant challenge".

This follows as Glasgow is also scheduled to host 11 matches during the rescheduled European Football Championships.

Police praise for 'remarkable level of compliance'

Drivetime with Fiona Stalker

BBC Radio Scotland

A poster about social distancing guidelines on a park gate in Glasgow
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Police Scotland's Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham insists the people of Scotland have "stepped forward to an extraordinary level" during six weeks of lockdown.

"To have only issued just over 2,200 fixed notice penalties from a nation of over five million demonstrates a remarkable level of compliance," he tells BBC Radio Scotland.

Asked if lockdown is gradually unravelling, he replies: "The evidence doesn't show that the increase in footfall or people using facilities like parks is as great as perhaps some of the anecdotes or media pictures would suggest.

"Yes, there are a few more people out and about but there are those legitimately getting back to work and things are open that weren't open previously."

My message is clear - thank you for your co-operation, keep it up."

Malcolm GrahamPolice Scotland Deputy Chief Constable

Public urged to contact police over domestic abuse concerns

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone urges anyone who may be experiencing any form of domestic abuse, harm or neglect, or has concerns about others, to contact Police Scotland.

I know private spaces, and indeed virtual spaces, are not always safe places for everyone. If you need police assistance or intervention, contact us and we will help

Iain LivingstonePolice Scotland Chief Constable

Mr Livingstone acknowledges the police officers and staff who are working "around the clock" and at times "putting themselves in harm’s way".

He also asks the people of Scotland to continue working together in their “shared mission” to reduce the spread of the virus, protect each other and save lives.

Police vehicle

Communities 'have stepped forward to do their duty'

Chief Constable

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone says Police Scotland's response to helping support coronavirus measures will be assessed by:

1) How the work of officers and staff to support physical distancing contributes in some way to reducing the mortality rate

2) Whether it can maintain, and possibly enhance, a very strong relationship of trust the police have with the public

3) Whether they protect the health and safety of all officers and staff and their families

The chief constable says communities have stepped forward collectively and individually to "do their duty and help each other".

He highlights sacrifices young people are making as the are forced to miss "milestone events" and says officers are experiencing "higher levels of consent" from citizens coping with "very restrictive measures on personal freedoms".

Mr Livingstone adds that recent independent surveys suggest public confjdence in the police "remains solid" and is perhaps "even higher than it was before this emergency".

Mourners line the streets to pay tribute to paramedic

Robert black funeral
PA Media
People lined the streets of Campbeltown to pay their respects to Robert Black

People have lined the streets of Campbeltown to pay their respects to a paramedic who died after contracting Covid-19.

Robert Black, who was in his 50s and from the Argyll town, worked for the Scottish Ambulance Service but died in hospital with coronavirus.

The funeral cortege passed through Campbeltown before Mr Black was laid to rest at nearby Kilkerran Cemetery.

Scottish Ambulance Service staff across the country held a minute's silence at midday in memory of their colleague.

Police Scotland emphasises lockdown measures remain in place

Paramedic who died from Covid-19 named locally

A paramedic from Argyll who died after contracting Covid-19 has been named locally as Robert Black.

Mr Black, from Campbeltown, died in hospital in Glasgow on Saturday.

Argyll FM, where Mr Black did some work, said on its Facebook page that he was "a much loved member" of the team and would be "sorely missed".

The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), which did not name Mr Black, said it was "greatly saddened" by the loss of a "dear colleague".

Two ambulances outside A&E in Glasgow
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How are Scottish artists reacting to the lockdown?

A work by Michael Forbes

During the lockdown, artists continue to work away on projects, even creating new pieces of art influenced by the coronavirus crisis.

Steven McKenzie, BBC Scotland's Highlands and Islands reporter, caught up with a pop surrealist, the “wallpaper pirate” and a gunpowder painter to find out what they are up to.

Read more here

Police call volumes 'higher than average'

Paul O'Hare

BBC Scotland News

Police officer
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Police Scotland is receiving more calls from the public despite the coronavirus lockdown.

A Scottish Police Authority paper revealed there was an initial drop in the volume in the days after the restrictions were introduced.

But a report, by Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs for the Audit Risk & Assurance Committee, said: "Call volume has however increased, and is now higher than average in comparison to last year with a large amount of these calls from members of the public looking for advice and guidance on the new Covid regulations."

At the weekend it emerged recorded crime in Scotland is down more than a quarter since 23 March.

But public nuisance type incidents - mainly people reporting breaches of social distancing guidelines - have more than doubled compared to this time last year.

Looking ahead, the report noted: "Police Scotland is preparing for the medium and longer term implications of Covid-19 and the possible impacts of a number of scenarios e.g. warmer weather or continuation, relaxation or cessation of current social distancing measures."

500 blood samples a week to be tested for virus antibodies

Jeane Freeman

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman gives an update on the antibody testing programme, which is a "further important tool" to monitor the proportion of people with Covid-19. The test indicates if a person has been infected or not.

Ms Freeman reports that Health Protection Scotland has been gathering blood samples in anticipation of a fully validated test becoming available.

Approximately 500 residual samples from labs submitted from primary care will be tested per week at the Scottish Microbiology Reference Laboratory in Inverness.

Double rainbow spotted by police during Clap for Carers tribute

Police Scotland

Police in Dumfries and Galloway captured a double rainbow over the region during Thursday night's tribute to NHS and other key workers.

Road officers spotted the scene at Whauphill near Newton Stewart at 20:00.

Police described them as "beautiful photographs captured during a special moment".

Coronavirus could cost council more than £80m

Highland Council has said it is preparing for a budget gap of over £80m within the current financial year due to the impact of Covid-19.

Revenue from services it provides have fallen over the last month, while "cost pressures" in providing social care and education continue.

It has seen a 63% drop in its planning income alone with a 52% drop in planning applications and a 50% drop in building standards applications compared with the same five-week period last year.

The council's car park income has fallen from £77,000 to just £525, and the council expects to lose £5m in council tax receipts.

Other losses will include licensing fees and income from events and festivals, which have been cancelled due to lockdown restrictions.

Continued police concern over domestic abuse

Domestic abuse victim

Falling crime figures might mask a hidden rise in unreported domestic abuse incidents, Police Scotland deputy chief constable Fiona Taylor has warned.

A slight decrease in domestic abuse incidents contributed to a 25% fall in recorded crime between 24 March and 19 April as a result of the lockdown.

But Ms Taylor said that she is "acutely aware this may not reflect what is happening behind closed doors and we know that people don't always report abuse immediately".

"For some, this period of physical distancing and isolation may expose them to a greater risk of abuse, harm and neglect," she added.

Ms Taylor also cautioned on reading too much into the figures for a short period after the lockdown, saying "it could be months or years before a clear picture" emerged.

College offers virtual open week to students

Inverness College UHI is to hold a virtual open week for potential students amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Those attending will have the opportunity to connect with lecturers from their homes from 27 April to 1 May.

The college, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, will offer one-to-one virtual meetings with lecturers and support staff.

Applicants will also be able to access a 360% virtual tour of the college’s main campus, find out about the range of courses starting this September and learn more about applying, funding available, and student support.

Test facility for key workers to open in Inverness

A drive-through coronavirus testing facility is to open in Inverness as part of the UK government’s UK-wide effort to increase testing for thousands more NHS and other key workers.

The site will operate on an appointments-only basis and provide swab tests to identify whether someone has coronavirus.

The UK government said those who test negative for coronavirus could return to work as soon as possible.