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It was quite a quiet week in local news; there were few Scottish stories, and few headlines from St Andrews itself. No single headline really seemed to dominate. This gives us the opportunity to dive a little deeper into those stories which did emerge.
The SNP faced two controversies this week – firstly with renewed scrutiny of the relationship between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former First Minister Alex Salmond.
Mr Salmond was accused of sexual assault, but he was acquitted after a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh in March. Ms Sturgeon, formerly Salmond’s protégée, has faced accusations of non-compliance with the Holyrood inquiry set up to investigate her government’s handling of the allegations.
In an interview with Sophie Ridge On Sunday, Sturgeon said that the reason her relationship with Salmond has soured is because “I didn’t cover it up, I didn’t collude with him to make these allegations go away.” Mr Salmond continues to refuse to comment publicly until he is in front of the parliamentary committee, but a source close to him told journalists that Salmond is not angry – “just astonished at the ever shifting sands of her story.”
Secondly, the SNP was criticised after using footage of a woman in a Scout uniform as part of a party political broadcast. A spokeswoman for Scouts Scotland said the matter had been raised with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). ”The Scout Association is not connected with any political body and have rules which state that members when in uniform or when representing the Scouts must not endorse any political party or candidate.”
In St Andrews, the first notable headline this week was the news that a care home has banned all non-essential visitors after an outbreak of Covid-19. The policy was put in place after a member of staff tested positive. The individual is said to be asymptomatic and doing well.
Next came the news that St Andrews could see the return of a rail link in the future. This is one of a list of transport options which are be considered in more detail, after the case for change was approved by Transport Scotland.
Finally the Courier announced a backlash to a backlash, a call for a U-turn on the U-turn made by Fife Council regarding changes to parking in town. Fife Council originally planned to remove parking spaces to enhance social distancing measures, before bowing to pressure from local business. Now, they apparently face calls to review the review of the decision.
National news stuck to similar themes from earlier weeks – Covid and Business – but Brexit also made a return to our headlines. Let’s start there.
The week in Brexit started with news about ferries and fishing, before the headlines focused in on the struggling negotiations between Britain and the EU as another self-imposed deadline approached Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his team. The PM said he was ‘disappointed’ with trade progress, and told the nation we must ‘get ready’ for a no-deal exit. Talks between the UK and EU over a post-Brexit trade agreement are “over”, Downing Street said.
Meanwhile coronavirus continued to make headlines, as Nightingale hospitals were told to prepare for increasing numbers of patients and the rate of infections continued to rise rapidly. The government came under fire for the rising numbers, as it was revealed that ministers decided to ignore Sage advice for a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown weeks ago. Labour pushed for that exact measure this week, as the government continued to defend its record.
Instead of a national lockdown, a three-tier plan was unveiled in England this week instead. Immediately, this was met with controversy. In the North West of England, local leaders faced a standoff against the UK government over Covid rules and, crucially, the associated support for business. In Lancashire, pubs are to close as the area agreed to move into Tier 3 of the Covid alert levels in exchange for £42m support. The mayor of Liverpool suggested an extra half-term week for schools in an effort to bring case numbers down. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham was branded ‘King of the North’ on Twitter. This came after a fiery exchange between the Mayor and the Government over the ‘flawed’ and ‘unfair’ policies proposed for the region.
In other regions of the UK, various new rules made headlines. In Northern Ireland, schools are to close from Monday for two weeks, and there will be new restrictions for pubs and restaurants. In Wales, a fortnight-long lockdown is likely to be announced in the coming days, according to the First Minister.
Business news this week was gloomy as ever – the Bank of England put out feelers for negative interest rates, British Airways faced a £20m fine and leadership crisis, unemployment hit its highest level in three years, and Wetherspoons saw its first loss since 1984. Not looking good.
Closing out national news, here are some notable topical headlines:
For international headlines this week, we’ll stick to just the two election cycles which made waves.
First, New Zealand made big international headlines this week as their general election came to an expected, but still impressive, conclusion. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was triumphant in the final debate, riding high on a wave of popular support. This was realised in the election results: Ardern’s Labour Party won an unprecedented 49.1% of the vote, which translated into a projected 64 seats and an unusual outright parliamentary majority. The opposition centre-right National Party won 26.8% of Saturday’s vote, receiving just 35 of the 120 seats in the assembly.
Second, the US election continued to roll towards November, with no major change in the trends we’ve seen so far. Biden continues to hold a comfortable lead in the polls, and this was reinforced by viewing numbers for the competing Town Halls held by Biden and Trump this week on ABC and NBC. The programmes took the place of the 2nd Presidential debate, after the commission responsible cancelled the event when President Trump refused to entertain a virtual debate.
The US has also seen record-breaking early voting numbers which were released this week. In states where voter information is accessible, the numbers seem to tilt heavily in favour of Biden. However, as Trump continues to campaign in-person, Republicans are sure to hope to tip the scales in the other direction on Election Day.