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Tory candidate suspended by party over comments about ‘fat’ food bank users
A Scottish Conservative candidate for the Holyrood election has been suspended by the party after claiming “fat” food bank users are “far from starving”. Craig Ross, the Tory candidate for Glasgow Pollok, also expressed scepticism about the UK Government listening to campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford about food poverty and feeding hungry children.

Craig Ross, the Tory candidate for Glasgow Pollok, also expressed scepticism about the UK Government listening to campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford about food poverty and feeding hungry children.

The Scottish Tories have now suspended Mr Ross over the “unacceptable comments”, which were unearthed by the Daily Record newspaper.

The current MSP for Glasgow Pollok, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, called for him to be dropped as the Tory candidate.

Speaking on his podcast, Mr Ross – who earlier this year posted a video challenging SNP election candidates to complete 18 pull-ups – discussed coverage of people using food banks and said: “Their biggest risk is not starvation, it’s diabetes.”

He claimed Manchester United star Rashford organised an “online mob” to pressure the Government to change its policy on free school meals for pupils.

Mr Ross said: “Has Marcus Rashford stood for election to anything? Not that I’m aware of.

“So should we turn our welfare policy upside down in order to suit Rashford’s view as to what would be decent?”

In his podcast, which aired on June 29, the former lecturer said: “In this world of such tremendous hunger, in this world where people are routinely struggling to eat, in this world where people appear on Channel 4 News and talk about how their children eat but they don’t because they can’t afford to – almost everybody in that world is grossly overweight.

“And again people can’t accept this. People have no idea how fat they are.

“I’m not saying that every single person who claims to be really hungry and is reliant on charity is also very overweight, but what I am saying is if Channel 4 News is having a reasonable go at showing the reality of food bank usage, then we know that the people that they film are far from starving.”

In the wide-ranging podcast, Mr Ross argued food potentially has less “meaning” now than for generations, reflecting on how he and his family used to “stuff themselves” when food was available.

“Food had a meaning in the 1980s earlier for a lot of folk that perhaps it doesn’t have now,” he said.

“There isn’t really an expectation any longer that you should eat simple things that are full of energy.

“If someone was forced to consider the number of calories in a foodstuff and whether it’s the sort of thing you should buy, that would be thought to be indecent.

“It seems much much better to encourage people to behave unwisely and then end up in a situation where they’re in great need, and then – and only then – we can address their need and suggest that the state has to change this entire welfare policy in order to address that need, which could have been avoided if someone had stood with a packet of ramen noodles some point earlier and recognise what a tremendous good pie they were at that price.”

The would-be MSP also lamented the findings of a report published in the wake of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence that found the Metropolitan Police was “institutionally racist”.

He said: “I remember my pal, the Metropolitan police officer, and his mates, and their reaction to that.

“How nauseated they were, how utterly sickened they were, to be told that there was something called institutional racism and that they worked in the institution and therefore they by implication were racists.

“This is the least racist country in the world.”

A Scottish Conservative Party spokesman said: “We have suspended this candidate and an investigation is under way.

“These unacceptable comments do not reflect the views of the party.”

On Twitter, Mr Yousaf wrote: “The @ScotTories must sack their candidate for Glasgow Pollok.

“His remarks that those who use foodbanks ‘are far from starving’ are utterly heartless.

“To then go on to deny institutional racism in the context of the murder of Stephen Lawrence is deplorable.”

Published: 15/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Supreme Court ‘substantially allows’ FCA appeal on coronavirus insurance claims
The Supreme Court has “substantially allowed” an appeal brought by the Financial Conduct Authority in a landmark £1.2 billion legal battle over businesses’ ability to claim on insurance for coronavirus-related disruption. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last year brought a test case, which could affect around 370,000 businesses, over the wording of business interruption insurance policies, which some insurers argued did not cover the Covid-19 pandemic.

The City watchdog previously said it was bringing the legal action following “widespread concern” over “the lack of clarity and certainty” for businesses seeking to cover substantial losses incurred by the pandemic and subsequent national lockdown.

In September, the High Court ruled on several “lead” insurance policies issued by eight separate insurers largely in favour of the FCA, which welcomed the judgment as “a significant step in resolving the uncertainty being faced by policyholders”.

The regulator, however, argued the judgment “paved the way for many insurance policies to pay indemnities on Covid-19 business interruption claims”, but also “took something away with one hand after giving more substantially and in detail with the other”.

Six of the insurers – Arch, Argenta, Hiscox, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA – also appealed against aspects of the High Court’s ruling, as did the Hiscox Action Group, which represents around 400 businesses insured by Hiscox.

In November, the UK’s highest court heard “leapfrog” appeals – which have bypassed the Court of Appeal – in a case which could have implications for hundreds of thousands of businesses affected by coronavirus.

Announcing the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, Lord Hamblen said: “The appeals of the Financial Conduct Authority and the Hiscox Action Group are substantially allowed and the insurers’ appeals are dismissed.”

Published: 15/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

R rate drops below 1 in several regions, Cambridge researchers say
The number of Covid-19 infections across England is falling as a whole, with the reproductive rate – the R – below 1 in some regions, University of Cambridge researchers have said. The Medical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics Unit Covid-19 Working Group said the current estimate of the daily number of new infections occurring across England is 60,200.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is due to release its own figures later, while Government scientists will release their own R rate, which refers to the number of people an infected person will pass the virus on to.

The Cambridge researchers said regions with a current R rate below 1 are the East of England, London, the South East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.

They say it is above 1 in the South West, North West, North East and East Midlands.

The team suggests the proportion of the population who have ever been infected could stand at 30% in London, 26% in the North West and 21% in the North East, dropping to 13% in the South East and 8% in the South West.

They added: “The growth rate for England is now estimated to be -0.02 per day. This means that, nationally, the number of infections is declining but with a high degree of regional variation.

“Infections are still increasing in the South West and North East, whilst plateauing in the West Midlands and East Midlands.”

The team also predicts that the number of deaths occurring daily is likely to be between 518 and 860 on January 28.

It comes as Public Health England (PHE) released data on Wednesday showing infection rates had fallen in most regions of England across all age groups apart from the over-80s.

At the same time, however, the PHE surveillance report noted that there were more people being admitted to hospitals and intensive care units.

NHS England data shows that around one in five major hospital trusts in England had no spare adult critical care beds on January 10.

Elsewhere, the Zoe Covid Symptom Study UK Infection Survey from King’s College London put the UK R rate at 0.9.

It said cases have also plateaued in most age groups.

Tim Spector, who is leading the study, said: “It’s great to see case numbers falling in most regions but numbers are still worryingly high and hospitals will stay under pressure for some time yet.

“With such high numbers and growing evidence new strains are highly transmissible, things can still take a turn for the worse. We need numbers to keep falling before we make any changes to current restrictions.”

Published: 15/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Andy Murray Australian Open appearance in doubt after positive test for Covid
Andy Murray’s participation at the Australian Open is in doubt after he tested positive for coronavirus. The former world number one was due to travel to Australia on one of the 18 charter flights laid on by tournament organisers but is still isolating at home.

Its understood that Murray, who is said to be in good health, is hoping to be able to arrive in Australia at a later date and participate in the year’s first grand slam, which begins on February 8 in Melbourne.

Murray and his team are working closely with tournament director Craig Tiley to try to come up with an acceptable solution.

Tournament organisers spent several months negotiating an arrangement that was acceptable to local and national government agencies regarding the admission of more than 1,000 tennis players and associated personnel to Australia.

Players are due to begin arriving in the country within the next 24 hours.

They will then complete a two-week period of quarantine, during which they are allowed out of their rooms to practise for five hours a day.

They were told that a positive test prior to flying would mean they were not allowed to travel to Australia.

Published: 14/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Halfords enjoys lockdown cycle boom but motoring sales fall
Halfords continued to enjoy impressive rises in sales as the nation turned to cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic in the run up to Christmas. Bosses said sales jumped 11.7% in the 13 weeks to January 1 – with cycling particularly strong, up 35.4% compared with the same period a year ago.

This was partly due to cyclists who bought bikes during the spring lockdown turning to Halfords for repairs and tweaks.

However the company, which also runs Autocentre garages, said it suffered from disruption at UK ports as the border with France shut due to Covid-19 in the latter part of 2020.

Halfords said this knocked sales slightly and growth was not quite as strong towards the end of the quarter, while also adding that the travel restrictions hurt sales of motoring products.

It said: “LFL (like-for-like) rates as we exited the quarter were lower than quarter averages as increased lockdowns weakened demand and supply chain disruption delayed stock arriving into the business.”

While cycling jumped 35.4%, motoring was down 8.4%. Autocentres’ sales rose 21.1%.

Chief executive Graham Stapleton said: “We are pleased to have delivered a strong performance under hugely challenging circumstances, including our best-ever Christmas week.

“Despite a large reduction in traffic on the roads, our strategically important Autocentres business saw significant growth, with particularly strong demand for the services of our growing fleet of Halfords Mobile Expert vans.

“We are currently carrying out over half a million services and repair jobs on cars and bikes each month, and therefore continue to play an essential role in keeping the UK moving during this pandemic.”

Despite the strong sales, enjoyed because Halfords is classed as an “essential” retailer, the company said it was still reviewing whether to pay back money claimed from the furlough scheme.

It also said a decision to pay back money saved from the business rates holiday for retailers also remains under review – despite rival “essential” retailers including Tesco, B&M and Lidl all agreeing to pay their rates bills in full.

Looking forward, bosses said they expect the third English national lockdown and rise in Covid-19 cases to “inevitably impact demand for our motoring products and services, with fewer car journeys being made across the UK”.

They added it is expected this will have a less severe impact than the spring lockdown of 2020 but warned the cycling market is unlikely to offset the fall due to the poorer weather during the winter versus the spring.

Published: 14/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

China sees new coronavirus case spike ahead of WHO research visit
China is experiencing a new surge in coronavirus cases and has reported its first Covid-related death in months. It comes as a World Health Organisation (WHO) team has arrived in the country to probe the origins of the pandemic.

The latest death raises the toll to 4,635 among 87,844 cases, and China’s relatively low case figures are a testimony to the effectiveness of strict containment, tracing and quarantine measures.

However, the figures have also raised questions about the tight hold the government maintains on all information related to the outbreak.

CGTN, the English-language channel of state broadcaster CCTV, reported the WHO team’s arrival in the early hours of Thursday.

A government spokesman said this week they will “exchange views” with Chinese scientists but gave no indication whether they would be allowed to gather evidence.

The WHO team will undergo a two-week quarantine as well as a throat swab test and an antibody test for Covid-19, according to a post on CGTN’s official Weibo account, but will start working with Chinese experts via video conference while in quarantine.

Meanwhile, the National Health Commission said Heilongjiang province in the region traditionally known as Manchuria recorded 43 new cases, most of them centred on the city of Suihua outside the provincial capital of Harbin.

The northern province of Hebei just outside Beijing, which has seen China’s most serious recent outbreak, recorded another 81 cases, marking the second straight day the country’s total number of local infections has risen into triple digits.

Another 14 cases were brought from outside the country.

China has put more than 20 million people under varying degrees of lockdown in Hebei, Beijing and other areas in hopes of stemming infections ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.

The government has cut travel links to and from several cities, urged people to stay put for the holiday, postponed important political gatherings and plans to let schools out a week early to reduce the chances of infection.

Scientists suspect the virus that has killed 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest.

The WHO team includes virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.

Published: 14/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

High street pharmacies to start vaccines as UK records worst day of Covid deaths
High street pharmacies are to begin rolling out Covid vaccines, as the virus death toll across the UK climbed above 100,000. Boots and Superdrug branches will be among the six stores across England which will be able to administer the jabs from Thursday while the Government aims to hit its target of vaccinating all people in the four most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month.

Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford, and Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes will be in the first group to hand out the injections, alongside Boots in Halifax, and Superdrug in Guildford.

Those who are eligible for a vaccine will be contacted and invited to make an appointment through a new national booking service.

This gives them the option of having a vaccine at a pharmacy or in a GP-led vaccination centre.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that distribution “will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can” but said supply of doses remains the main barrier.

The Scottish Government published its vaccine delivery plan on Wednesday evening, including details of how many doses it expects to receive for each week until the end of May, prompting a row with London, which has declined to publish its numbers.

The six pharmacies have been picked because they can deliver large volumes of the vaccine and allow for social distancing, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is “fantastic” that jabs will be available on the high street.

“Pharmacies sit at the heart of local communities and will make a big difference to our rollout programme by providing even more local, convenient places for those that are eligible to get their jab,” he said.

By the end of the month more than 200 community chemists with capacity for 1,000 doses a week will be able to give vaccines, according to NHS England.

The pharmacies join the 200 hospitals, around 800 GP clinics and seven mass vaccination centres where jabs are already being handed out.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged ministers to go further and use England’s 11,500 pharmacies to deliver round-the-clock vaccinations by the end of next month.

The expanded vaccination service in England comes as the daily reported UK death toll reached a new high on Wednesday, with 1,564 fatalities recorded within 28 days of a positive test.

The latest figures meant the grim milestone of more than 100,000 deaths involving coronavirus has now been passed in the UK, according to official data.

The Prime Minister warned that hospital intensive care units (ICUs) face being overwhelmed unless coronavirus rates are brought under control, with the latest official figures showing more than 36,000 people are in hospital with coronavirus, including almost 3,500 on ventilation.

He told MPs: “If you ask me when do we think that the ICU capacity is likely to be overtopped, I can’t give you a prediction for that.

“But all I can say is that the risk is very substantial and we have to keep the pressure off the NHS and the only way to do that is to follow the current lockdown.”

Mr Johnson told the Commons Liaison Committee that “the situation is very, very tough indeed in the NHS” and “the strain is colossal” on staff.

The Scottish Government published a 16-page document setting out how it intends to vaccinate 4.5 million people, including 400,000 a week from the end of February.

It set out the supply of vaccine from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna from the start of April that it expects to receive each week.

This angered ministers in London, with a senior Government source warning: “Publication of numbers like these risks suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.

“These vaccines are a finite resource and as we have said throughout – supply is the limiting step.”

Amid the warnings of struggling hospitals, the Government’s top scientist also warned the country is “in for a pretty grim period” of deaths which will not “reduce quickly”.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told ITV’s Peston programme: “The daily numbers jump around a bit but I think we are in a position now – when you look at the number of infections we’ve had over the past few weeks and how this is likely to continue, so I don’t think they’re going to drop very quickly – that I’m afraid we’re in a period of high death numbers that’s going to carry on for some weeks.

“It’s not going to come down quickly even if the measures that are in place now start to reduce the infection numbers.

“So we’re in for a pretty grim period, I’m afraid.”

In his two-hour questioning from a committee of MPs, the Prime Minister also acknowledged concerns about a new strain of coronavirus from Brazil, but stopped short of promising a travel ban on the South American country.

“We already have tough measures … to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad,” he said.

“We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant.”

Meanwhile, a new study has found that Covid infection provides some immunity for at least five months, but people may still carry and transmit the virus.

The first report from Public Health England’s Siren study found that antibodies from past infection provide 83% protection against reinfection for at least five months.

Published: 14/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Trump becomes first US president to be impeached for a second time
President Donald Trump has been impeached by the US House of Representatives for a historic second time. Mr Trump was charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly mob siege of the Capitol in a swift and stunning collapse of his final days in office.

With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Mr Trump.

The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with representatives voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the US Capitol, egged on by the president’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the election results.

Ten Republicans joined Democrats who said Mr Trump needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a “clear and present danger” if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Mr Trump is the only US president to be impeached twice. It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than against Bill Clinton in 1998.

The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered politicians, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power.

The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Mr Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, imploring colleagues to uphold their oath to defend the US constitution from all enemies, foreign “and domestic”.

She said of Mr Trump: “He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Holed up at the White House, watching the proceedings on TV, Mr Trump later released a video statement in which he made no mention at all of the impeachment but appealed to his supporters to refrain from any further violence or disruption of Mr Biden’s inauguration.

He said: “Like all of you, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the calamity at the Capitol last week.

The president appealed for unity “to move forward” and said: “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement.”

Mr Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit. He is the first to be impeached twice. None has been convicted by the Senate, but Republicans said that could change in the rapidly shifting political environment as officeholders, donors, big business and others peel away from the defeated president.

The soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Mr Trump is already set to leave the White House, Mr McConnell’s office said. The legislation is also intended to prevent Mr Trump from ever running again.

Mr McConnell believes Mr Trump committed impeachable offences and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on his party, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press.

Mr McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was finished with Mr Trump, said the strategist.

In a note to colleagues on Wednesday, Mr McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote”.

Unlike his first time, Mr Trump faces this impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own re-election as well as the Senate Republican majority.

Even Mr Trump’s ally Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, shifted his position and said the president bears responsibility for the horrifying day at the Capitol.

In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanours” demanded in the constitution, the approved four-page impeachment resolution relies on Mr Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Mr Biden’s election victory, including at a rally near the White House on the day of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalising Mr Biden’s victory.

Published: 14/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Rolls-Royce factory workers reach deal after strike action over job cuts
Action was being taken at the plant in Barnoldswick in Lancashire
A long-running dispute at a Rolls-Royce factory has been resolved after workers accepted a deal.

Members of the Unite union at the Rolls-Royce plant in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, started taking industrial action last November in protest at plans to cut jobs and move work making aeroplane fan blades to Singapore.

Unite said the deal, which has been supported overwhelmingly by the workforce, will give the historic site a new lease of life as a core manufacturing facility and make it host to a new centre of excellence.

Steve Turner, Unite’s assistant general secretary, said: “Today is a day for celebration at the Barnoldswick plant and their community.

“They demonstrated real solidarity in the face of a genuine threat, stood together and have won a future. True local heroes who have inspired a generation.

Published: 14/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Boots and Superdrug among pharmacies to start high street vaccine rollout
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has praised the work of pharmacies throughout the pandemic
High street pharmacies in England will be able to distribute coronavirus vaccines from Thursday, the NHS has said.

Boots and Superdrug branches will be among the six stores across the country which will be able to administer the jabs.

Boots in Halifax, and Superdrug in Guildford, will be in the first group to hand out the injections, alongside Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford and Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes.

The stores have been picked because they are capable of delivering large volumes of the medicine and allow for social distancing, while still giving a spread across the country.

By the end of the month, more than 200 community chemists will be able to give vaccines, according to NHS England.

The pharmacies join the 200 hospitals, around 800 GP clinics and seven mass vaccination centres where jabs are already being handed out.

Published: 14/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub


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