It can be hard to keep up with the news. That’s why we do the hard work for you, making sure everything is written up each Sunday ‘For The Record’.
New Covid restrictions led the headlines in local news this week. Earlier in the week, speculation about the potential for a short ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown ran wild. The rumours died down after Nicola Sturgeon announced there would be no new travel ban, but resurfaced before her mid-week announcement of new rules. These turned out to be largely focused on ‘central Scotland’ – which it turns out does not include Fife – but further national controls were implemented too.
Coming into effect on Friday, the new rules meant that pubs and restaurants were forced to close at 6pm. For two weeks, they will now be unable to serve alcohol indoors, and will be allowed to open only between 6am and 6pm. The sale of alcohol for outdoor areas, such as pub gardens, will be permitted. There were other minor changes to guidance on things like social distancing and one-way systems in shops, too.
Bar workers in Glasgow and Edinburgh dumped piles of unused ice into the streets in protest on Friday evening. UK Hospitality’s executive director for Scotland, Willie Macleod, said “Many businesses won’t survive and I’m afraid we’re going to see tens of thousands of job losses.”
The Scottish Government also announced its plans for National 5 exams in 2021 – they’re cancelled. Higher and Advanced Higher exams will take place, but two weeks later than usual. Education Secretary John Swinney called National 5 exams “too big a risk” amidst the ongoing pandemic.
In St Andrews, removal of parking spaces to support social distancing measures was criticised by local businesses. 57 owners of local shops, cafes, bars and more wrote to Fife Council condemning the move, citing a fear that reduced parking will put off potential customers. The Council agreed to move the restrictions. Other developments, such as the marquee outside The Adamson, have been approved by the Council.
Finally, the University received the happy news this week that Holyrood’s health and sport committee are seeking views on a bill which would allow St Andrews to confer medical and dentistry degrees again, for the first time in over 50 years.
This week in national news, there were two recurring themes: business, and coronavirus.
Business headlines ranged from gloomy to bleak. Car sales hit a twenty-year low. Greene King announced intent to cut 800 jobs and shut 79 pubs and restaurants. EasyJet called for urgent government intervention to support airlines. The state pension age rose to 66. The economy’s growth slowed, despite the effects of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced measures to address these concerns, including an 80% furlough wage scheme for areas in local lockdown due to Covid. However, Northern mayors issued a joint statement in response, calling on MPs to demand a vote on the measures and vote them down – claiming they didn’t go far enough.
The local leaders went further, criticising the government’s local lockdowns in England. Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said people will not be surrendered to hardship, as northern authorities claimed they were ‘not consulted’ on new rules. Labour Leader Keir Starmer also challenged the government on policies such as the 10pm curfew for pubs, demanding to see scientific evidence to support the measure.
This just after 16,000 Covid cases were lost from daily tallies due to a ‘technical error’ involving Microsoft Excel, and just before Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce stricter rules on Monday.
Closing out the national news, here are a few topical headlines from the week:
Global headlines were captured by the Nobel prizes this week. Notable stories included the medicine prize for work on hepatitis C, a breakthrough on black hole formation which won the prize for physics, and the chemistry prize awarded for ‘genetic scissors’. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the UN World Food Programme this year.
In Europe, headlines were spread across the continent. France passed a new law to protect child influencers. Germany warned that Covid could spread ‘uncontrollably’. Masks were made mandatory outdoors across Italy. The leader of Neo-fascist group Golden Dawn and ex-MPs were found guilty in a landmark trial in Greece. Spain imposed a Covid state of emergency on Madrid. And the UK withdrew its ambassador from Belarus, following ongoing protests after the disputed election of Alexander Lukashenko.
From the US, all headlines this week were political. The arching story was of Trump’s return to the White House from hospital. Before fully recovering, he was criticised for a car-ride to see supporters which Democrats called a ‘stunt’ that put the health of secret service members – who had to ride with him – at risk. Then, upon his return, he told the world ‘don’t be afraid’ of Covid. Doubling down, he said that getting Covid was a ‘blessing from God’, and praised the novel treatments which he claimed were the key to his recovery.
This came as scrutiny increased on the ‘super-spreader’ event hosted by the White House prior to Trump’s diagnosis. Further members of the President’s inner circle tested positive this week, with all signs pointing towards an event held on the White House lawn, devoid of masks and social distancing.
Due to Trump’s illness, the presidential debate commission initially offered a digital alternative, before cancelling the second debate altogether. Trump is set to hold an in-person rally instead. Meanwhile, this week also saw the vice-presidential debate between incumbent Mike Pence and challenger Kamala Harris – the debate was largely reported as unmemorable. Look up the video of the fly landing on Pence’s head, if you want the highlight.
In a bizarre turn of events, the other major story in the US this week was the FBI bust which led to the arrest of six men, who have been charged in relation to a plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan governor. Whitmer was aware of the plot and was moved around by the FBI as they tracked her would-be kidnappers, according to the state’s attorney general.
In Asia, just two stories made notable waves in mainstream UK news this week. First, in Nagorno-Karabakh a shaky ceasefire was agreed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The deal was brokered by Russia, who offered to host talks earlier in the week. Both sides immediately accused the other of breaking the truce, however.
Secondly, the results of an election in Kyrgyzstan were annulled following mass protests. Demonstrations became violent after only four of sixteen political parties passed the threshold for entry into parliament in Sunday’s election. Three of said four have close ties to the President, Sooronbai Jeenbekov. The decision to annul the results was taken by the electoral commission.