Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 549

Issue # 549                                                Week ending Saturday 25th April  2020

We Will Need A Holiday After this But Maybe Not to Richard Branson’s Island
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

We were planning a summer holiday but now it may have to be in the back garden. It is difficult to plan a trip with Mrs X at the best of times as she is so fussy about the places we stay in. There has to be a thorough inspection of the reviews and the bathroom arrangements have to be confirmed well in advance. She does not want to share a WC. She is unanimous in that.

She shudders at the very thought of venturing out into a corridor in the middle of the night. I’m not quite so bothered. When I was in the services I briefly stayed at a place with, er, outside conveniences. We didn’t usually have to go out in the middle of the night. We all just went potty - that was what we had to do. The only problem was when you made the mistake of having four or five pints just before retiring. So now I agree to careful planning.

Talking of planning, are you organising your TV schedule as you’ve little else to do? My favourites are whodunnits - both fictional and true crime. One TV highlight in the past week or so was that programme Quiz about the alleged cunning plan to swindle Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? What drama. Not as much a whodunnit as a whocoughed. It left me convinced that the Ingrams, the other Charles and Diana, done it.

Now I see digging is being done which may show they may not actually have cheated. But we saw ... Oh, it was a drama. Of course. The main prosecution witnesses were ITV people. The videos which appeared to show what happened were edited by, er, ITV. Did they show who coughed? The witnesses didn’t produce that evidence. Who didn’t? ITV. Oh right.

The then quizmaster Chris Tarrant, who at the time thought nothing untoward had happened, now says the Ingrams are guilty. Hmm, why the change? The current quizmaster, a chap called Jeremy Clarkson, also says the Ingrams are “guilty as sin”. Now which TV channel do we see him on most nowadays? That’d be ITV. I’m sure he is as unbiased as ever.

Now the real Ingrams' lawyer has revealed that she may appeal to try to overturn the guilty verdicts after 17 years because new technology - not available at the time, apparently - may show who was actually doing the, ahem, coughing. The Ingrams have a lot at stake - well, they haven’t had their smackeroonies yet.

Like Sir Richard Branson, Sir Philip Green and Victoria Beckham. They are just some of the fantastically rich people who want the UK government to pay their staff’s emergency wages. Their businesses are suffering, like everyone else’s, but their situations are very different.

Multiple yacht-owning Sir Philip’s wife officially is the boss of Arcadia which owns clobber shops like TopMan, TopShop and Dorothy Perkins. The company, like herself, is based in Monaco and pays no UK tax. Nope, none. Yet they want me and you to pay the emergency wages of their 14,500 staff? Here’s an idea, Mr and Mrs Green. Flog one of your yachts.

Posh wag Victoria Beckham also wants us to pay for her 30 staff. This is the same Vicki Beckham who with her man has just bought a £17 million Miami penthouse to go with their £25 million mansion in London, and a £6 million barn conversion along the road from my daughter in the Cotswolds. My Vicki hasn’t strolled round to David’s Vicki for a cup of sugar yet, but give it time. You want us to pay your staff’s wages, Posh? Here’s an idea. Flog a pad.

Meanwhile, airline boss Sir Richard Branson is getting in a pickle. Said to be worth a cool $4 billion and owning a 75-acre island playground in the Caribbean, Sir Rich wants UK help of £500 million or he says the Virgin Atlantic airline may collapse. A loan would do, he says. Oh well, in that case ... Wait, Diane Abbott MP has just tweeted: “Branson has not paid tax in this country for 14 years.” Here’s a better idea, Sir Rich. Flog your island.

Nothing here to flog so we have pastimes to get us through lockdown. Some are intense. For instance, I have only just gone and burned 2,000 calories. That’s the last time I leave brownies in the oven while I have my afternoon nap. The government says we must keep up physical exercise. I’ve been so bored recently that I decided to take up fencing. Unfortunately, the neighbours say they will call the cops unless I put it back.

When this lockdown is over, we’ll have to take a proper break - probably in six months’ time. I remembered Mrs X let slip she would like to go to the south of France so I will book that. I have just told her that I am going to treat her to a 10-day holiday. Did she fancy Toulouse? Without looking away from The Chase, she said that would be fine as long as one was en-suite.

Armed Police Called to Incident in Perthshire Village

Armed police were called to an incident in a Perthshire village on Monday evening with witnesses describing a large number of emergency response units present on a Scone street. Around ten police vehicles, including numerous armed officers, and an ambulance raced to the scene in the Birch Avenue area of the village at around 8.30pm.  Police Scotland confirmed armed officers had been called to the scene.  A spokesperson for the force said: “Around 8:30pm on Monday April 20 police received a concern for person call in Birch Row, Perth.  Officers attended and a woman was assessed and treated by paramedics at the scene.  There is no further police action.”

University Draws on History to Face Crisis
by Professor George Boyne
With a history dating back 525 years, Aberdeen University has survived many challenges and threats, including the plague in the 17th Century and two world wars.  But when we held celebrations in February to mark our landmark birthday, we could not have foreseen that 2020 would become a year of such difficulty for the world.  As it has for everyone, Covid-19 put paid to many of the plans we had for this year – in particular our series of public events to celebrate, as an institution, our centuries of academic achievement and service to the north-east since our foundation.  Nonetheless, reflecting upon the long history of the university and the adversity we have overcome through the centuries has helped us through a period of rapid change.  Becoming a “virtual” university practically overnight required a huge endeavour from our staff and enormous adaptability from our students.  It has been incredibly heart-warming to see the way in which the whole of our community has pulled together to support this.  Teaching has been delivered in brand new ways, assessments have been rewritten at short notice so they can be delivered remotely if required and our counselling and student support services have moved online.  Our core of essential workers continue to assist those still living in our halls of residence and to support the running of our large estate. These workers deserve huge credit for their dedication to maintaining the physical fabric of our university and supporting our students.  But universities have a much bigger role to play in the fight against Covid-19. Here in Aberdeen, the university is well placed to support the NHS through our expertise, facilities and the good will of our community.  We can look back to numerous examples in our past which demonstrate the “can do” attitude which continues to prevail today.  During the First World War, an Aberdeen University war work party was formed and produced thousands of war dressings and garments every week. Similarly, many students undertook fundraising activities such as selling flags in aid of the Belgian Refugee Fund while others served meals to soldiers at the railway station or worked on farms during the summer vacation.  A few weeks ago, when we sought volunteers from our community to assist the NHS, more than 700 answered the call in less than 24 hours. Other staff members are sewing scrubs for the NHS or providing healthy recipes as part of food delivery services for the vulnerable.  All clinical academics are now prioritising clinical care, with NHS Grampian deploying them based on where they can be most effective. Administrative and technical staff are helping to increase NHS Grampian’s capacity for Covid-19 testing.  In addition, with guidance from the General Medical Council, on Friday we held a virtual graduation service for our final year medical students who have completed the necessary academic requirements so that they can be available to respond to the needs of the NHS. Many other students from health care, biomedical sciences and other areas have come forward to assist wherever they are required.  The university’s Suttie Centre has been repurposed for training – including correct face-fitting of masks and the briefing of retired staff who are returning to the NHS to help deal with the impact of coronavirus. Our public health experts are undertaking scenario modelling – assisting the NHS to prepare to respond to the rapidly evolving situation.  Looking forward, research will be needed to answer emerging questions, and our experts will play a vital role in this. When the Scottish Government put out a call to universities to identify how they can assist, our academic colleagues from across all areas of the university put forward 25 proposals within just a few days.  Naturally, the focus at this time is getting through the crisis but, as this subsides, it will again be universities that lead the way – not only in Covid-19 related research from finding vaccines to understanding transmission but in understanding the social and economic impact of this upon our communities, the lessons we can learn and positive changes we can take forward.  At the start of the year we set out a vision which would guide us through the next two decades and one of the pillars of this was interdisciplinary work which will see academics from all subject areas work together to provide answers to the challenges of our time. Aberdeen University – as it has over the course of its long history – will get through this challenge but these are difficult times for all sectors. The university remains, as we have since 1495, open to all (albeit virtually for now) and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others in the north-east and the wider world. Professor George Boyne is principal and vice-chancellor of Aberdeen University

Moray IT Firm Offers Support to Businesses to Make Switch to Home-working A Moray IT business that has been helping the region adapt to ever-changing computing needs for the last 35 years believes the coronavirus lockdown could usher in a new revolution.  Cullen-based A P Systems was formed in 1985 with the aim of showing companies how revolutionary computers could speed up accounting and book-keeping. Today chief executive David Anderson believes some smaller firms have been caught out by the sudden need to switch to home working.  And he suspects it may be a change that some companies in the north-east will never go back from once they have adapted.  He said: “During the remainder of the lockdown people will have to continue to adapt to working from home.  However, I have heard a school of thought that once this is over there will be some who have begun working from home will not go back.  I don’t know to what extent that will happen but changes like that will require a certain amount of infrastructure to make that possible, which some small or medium-sized businesses may struggle with if they don’t have an IT specialist.”  The company, which also has bases in Aberdeen and Glasgow, has specialised in sourcing technology as well as resolving IT issues for small and medium-sized firms with a team of technicians.  However, Mr Anderson has offered the services of his company to local businesses at no cost to help them make the change to homeworking. The offer includes three hours of service as well as supplying up to 10 laptops and five printers at cost price.  Mr Anderson added: “We felt we needed to do something to play our part, and with the technology existing to enable a number of job functions to be performed from home and thus reducing workplace contact, this is the ideal way for us to help make a difference.”

Longest Period with No Mountain Rescue in 19 Years
Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR) says its teams have not been called to a mountain rescue since 22 March.  The organisation said it was the longest time between call outs since the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.  The crisis, the worst to hit agriculture in decades, led to months long restrictions on access to land.  Last month, SMR urged people to heed advice around coronavirus and to stay at home.    Glencoe and Lochaber mountain rescue teams, who are not members of SMR, also issued appeals urging people not to visit Scotland's hills and mountains.  They warned an incident potentially risked exposing rescuers and the wider public to the virus.  It would also divert the emergency services and NHS from their work dealing with Covid-19.  On Friday, SMR said it had been 26 days since its teams had been called to a mountain rescue.  Thanking the public for heeding last month's warning, SMR said: "We can do this. Stay safe, stay local, stay well."  Over the weekend of March 21 and 22, Skye, Lomond and Braemar mountain rescue teams were involved in mountain rescues. SMR teams are typically involved in a more than 400 rescue operations a year, with the vast majority involving hillwalking in summer.

First Peacetime Cancellation of Halkirk Highland Games in 134-year History
Halkirk Highland Games 2020 have been cancelled for the first time during peacetime in 134 years.  Games chairman Iain Mackenzie said: "The only games that haven't happened before were during the two world wars.  We have been fairly lucky in the grand scheme of things – I really did not want to do it. It is pretty sad."  He explained that a vote had been put to the organising committee and the consensus was that this year's games, scheduled for July 25, would be cancelled and the members would concentrate on making 2021 "a bit more special".  Mr Mackenzie questioned whether the games would have managed to bring in sponsorship during the coronavirus crisis or attract international competitors, given all the cancellations.  "I have seen the number of games that have been cancelled rising every day," he said. "We are just joining a long list – it is going to be a long, horrible summer." A post on the organisation's Facebook page stated: "It’s a sad day and unfortunately due to the current Covid-19 virus issues the committee have taken the decision to cancel ‘e games this year." The games were reported to have first taken place on September 16, 1886, organised by the Halkirk Athletic Club and held in a field adjoining the new Gerston Distillery.

Seafood Fishermen Adapt to Catch Local Markets

Much of the Scottish fishing fleet is tied up because continental markets have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.  But some fishermen are having to be creative in what they do so they can still make a living.  The seafood and shellfish which is still being caught is being made available locally, sold online or delivered direct to customers' doors.    And there is a hope this might continue post-coronavirus.  Rhys Kennedy is based in Cromarty on the Black Isle and is the skipper of the boat Amelia Rose.  "Previous to the coronavirus outbreak I was supplying the Spanish market with velvet crab, lobster and brown crab," he says. "Come the coronavirus, we have had to adapt our means to avoid the boats being tied up." Rhys says he asked the community if there was any interest in a local market.  "It has been absolutely fantastic," he says. "We realised the European market was a useful asset but in times like this it's nothing you can count on," adds Rhys, who has also started delivering his produce to customers.  And he is not alone. In small communities around Scotland similar things are happening.  Bally Phillip, who fishes out of Kyleakin, says: "I have been doing local sales every Thursday and several of the other boats have been doing sales on alternate days.  "Although there is not a huge market here within the local community we are getting a lot of support. We are hoping that this might be something that continues and something that develops over time," he says.  In Ullapool business is brisk for fishmonger David Mackenzie. With the restrictions allowing only one person in his shop at a time, people wait in line, observing social distancing. David has also started up a local delivery service as well. "The demand is definitely there," he says. "It's stronger than it was prior to the virus, there is no question about that. "We do deliveries every day. It's hard work but it's working."  Some campaigners say the changes being seen to the markets for seafood could be continued post-coronavirus, and offer significant opportunities for coastal communities. Nick Underdown, from campaign group Open Seas, says: "Our supply chains are long and our inshore fleet's markets are far away.  If we want to re-localise our supply we are going to have to start investing in our infrastructure for that. We are going to have to re-localise some of those processing jobs and I think that would be good for the local economy in Scotland." For fisherman Rhys there is no doubt coronavirus has changed things and will continue to do so.  He says: "If coronavirus didn't happen when it did what I am doing now wouldn't have happened at all. It didn't even cross my mind.  It has shone a light on what's here and it's a market I hope to fulfil post-coronavirus and to carry on into the future."

Airports 'At Risk' of Closure As Flights Drop 90%

Some airports are "at risk" of closure because of the loss of business during the coronavirus pandemic, experts have warned.  Nine out of 10 flights have been grounded since the UK went into lockdown.  Airports said cargo flights were running and shareholders were being supportive as they worked to cut costs.  Flight tracking website Flightradar24 recorded just 711 departures from the UK's 10 biggest airports last week.  This compares with 7,865 in the week up to the UK's lockdown.  Independent aviation analyst Martin Evans said there was a "risk" some airports would fold.  "Regional airports, just before the lockdown, were hit by the administration of Flybe," he said. "So they had already lost a substantial amount of income.  Now is the start of the period when they should be getting maximum revenue. If things return to normal by winter, that's the point they are at their quietest.  There is a risk that we could see airports close. That could mean an airport company folds but that the buildings and facilities are still there and someone else would take over, but there is a risk at the moment."  He said airports would still have to cover fixed costs - ranging from management to air traffic control - whether there were flights or not.  Julian Bray, an aviation expert and broadcaster, said some grounded aircraft may "never return to the skies".  He said systems would need to be thoroughly serviced before they could fly again.  Mr Bray added: "We will see some smaller airports go to the wall unless a rescue deal can be arranged."  He said he expected passenger numbers to be low even when restrictions were lifted as people choose not to travel.  "Some are getting one or two departures a day, but it is pretty bleak at the moment."  EasyJet said it expected a pre-tax loss of between £185m and £205m for the six months to 31 March, although this would mark an improvement after a £275m loss in the same period a year earlier.  It has said it is likely to keep its middle seats empty once flights resume to maintain social distancing triggered by the pandemic.

Campaign to Rescue Greenock's Inchgreen Dry Dock Favourably Received by Scottish Government

A campaign to rescue Greenock's Inchgreen Dry Dock and breathe fresh industrial life into the facility has been favourably received by the Scottish Government.  An exchange of letters between the council and the government's economic development directorate confirms that Ferguson's shipyard is keen to explore the possibility of an expansion utilising Inchgreen. The directorate's 'Clyde Mission' department - responding to the council on behalf of economy secretary Fiona Hyslop - confirmed that it has now held talks with the dry dock's owner Peel Ports.  Richard Rollison, of the Clyde Mission, said: "As head of the Mission, I am of course interested in the development of existing assets on and around the Clyde, including Inchgreen Dry Dock.  We remain in contact with Peel Ports and we will continue to work with them around their ambitions for Inchgreen and their wider asset base around the Clyde.  We recognise the potential that Inchgreen could offer to a range of industries, including shipbuilding, and we also understand that Ferguson Marine is considering its future facilities requirements and that Inchgreen Dry Dock will be part of those considerations."  Inverclyde Council voted unanimously in February to 'support the need to return Inchgreen Dry Dock to a fully operational facility providing work and skilled jobs and thereby contribute towards the regeneration of our marine engineering industries providing improved prospects for our community'.  Campaigners fighting to reinvigorate the 'amazing asset' — which was built with public funding — have launched a vision for its future as an extension of Ferguson's as well as a repair and maintenance facility for Scotland's ferry fleet.  Former shipyard worker Robert Buirds, who has spearheaded the campaign, welcomed the latest developments.  Mr Buirds said: "I think it is very progressive and a complete change from where we we've been in the last two years, because trying to get the government interested has been a challenge.  There is new momentum to our demand for a fresh focus for Inchgreen and Ferguson's needs to be part of that."

Concerns Over Cross-border Lockdown Exit Strategy
An MSP has raised concerns about potential inconsistencies in lockdown exit strategy between the UK and Scottish governments.  Colin Smyth said there was “little difference” in the path of coronavirus in areas like Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway.  He said any variance in strategies would only “add to confusion” and be “impossible to implement”.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said such issues would be considered.  Mr Smyth, a Scottish Labour MSP for the South Scotland region, told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday that a co-ordinated approach was particularly important in border communities. He said that areas like the Borders and Northumberland needed to see “the right exit strategy for both sides of the border”.  He warned about the dangers of nearby communities having “completely different” approaches.  His concerns were later reiterated by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme.  "We are strongly of the view that there needs to be a cross-border approach," he said.  "The national clinical director said recently that Orkney is not the same as Oxford Street but that raises considerations about what the implication of a differentiated approach would be to the south of Scotland.  We think there needs to be cross-party but also a cross-border approach." Ms Sturgeon said the decision on how to exit lockdown was not an ideological or political one and would be based on what was right “in order to protect the people whom we serve”. “People move around the different parts of the UK - that issue will be particularly acute in the border communities to which the member referred," she said.  "It is also the case that for simplicity of messaging, the more uniformity and consistency there is, the easier it is to get messages across.  "However, I will be driven by what the advice, with my judgement applied, tells me is the right thing to do to protect people in Scotland.”  She said that meant that when it was “right to do so” they would operate on a consistent UK-wide basis.  However, she said that when they thought it was right to do something “slightly differently” in Scotland they would.

Coronavirus in Scotland: Total Number of Deaths Rises to More Than 1,600

The total number of deaths in Scotland linked to coronavirus has risen to 1,616, new statistics have shown. The National Records of Scotland figures include all deaths where coronavirus was believed to have been present, rather than just confirmed cases.  They showed that 651 deaths were registered between 13 and 19 April - up from 610 the previous week.  A third of the deaths were recorded in care homes.  The number of deaths linked to the virus in care homes has more than doubled in a week, from 237 to 537.  Of the 1,616 deaths where the virus has been mentioned on the death certificate either as a confirmed or suspected factor, 910 (56%) were in hospitals, while 537 (33%) were in care homes and 168 (10%) were at home or in non-institutional settings.  Almost three-quarters of the total deaths were of people aged 75 or older, with only 10 of those who died aged under 45.  Of all deaths to date involving Covid-19 in Scotland, 55% were male and 45% were female.  Scottish government data that was also released on Wednesday showed that there have now been a total of 2,085 suspected cases of the virus recorded in the country's care homes - an increase of 212 since yesterday.  The figures also showed that 495 (46%) care homes have recorded at least one suspected case - of which 308 have recorded more than one case. More than a third - 384 or 35% - of care homes have a current outbreak of suspected Covid-19, meaning at least one resident has shown symptoms during the past fortnight.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the figures were "extremely difficult" to hear and were "higher than we would ever want to think about". But she said the data was "really important" to provide as full a picture as possible of the spread of the virus.  Ms Sturgeon said: "It's not unusual for people to become sick in care homes. Residents are often frail and nearing the end of their lives.  But that does not mean that we consider any of these cases to be inevitable or that we don't do everything we possibly can to prevent them.  Older people in care homes require as much, if not more, support and protection as anyone else in our society and we're working with care homes and other partners to provide that." Speaking at her daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon said 1,776 patients were currently in hospital with the virus, 155 of whom were in intensive care.  Both of these figures have been falling in recent days, which Ms Sturgeon said was "a cause for cautious optimism".  However, she warned that "even a very small easing up" in restrictions and social distancing "could throw all of that progress into reverse".  The National Records of Scotland (NRS) figures also showed that the total number of people who died in Scotland in the week to 19 April was 1,911 - nearly 80% higher than the average number registered in the same week over the past five years (1,067).  Of these 844 excess deaths, three quarters were deaths where Covid-19 was the underlying cause, while 38 were attributed to cancer and 83 to dementia and Alzheimers.  More than 100 of the "excess" deaths for that week are still to be explained, and Ms Sturgeon said "this is an issue we need to do further work on to make sure we understand it fully".  Doctors have urged people to continue to come forward with non-coronavirus health concerns, with referral rates for suspected cancer cases falling by 72%.  NRS figures available to 19 April. Registrations can be up to eight days after actual date of death.  The figures announced each day by the Scottish government at its regular briefing come from Health Protection Scotland (HPS), and only include deaths where coronavirus has been confirmed by laboratory testing.  The stats which come out on Wednesdays from NRS provide a much wider picture, covering all cases where coronavirus is mentioned on a death certificate - even if the patient was not in hospital and had not been tested, and where the virus is suspected or assumed to have been present.  This is why they are referred to by NRS as cases "involving" coronavirus - the data captures all deaths where the virus was a confirmed, suspected or probable cause of death, either as an underlying cause or directly contributing to it.

Plans to Transform Inverness Castle Into Major Tourist Attraction Move Forward
An application to put up hoarding more than 7ft high and CCTV around Inverness Castle has been lodged – with work expected to start this year on transforming the building into a major tourist attraction.  The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service left its home last month for a new purpose-built justice centre, paving the way to create a new attraction celebrating the spirit of the Highlands.  It follows a long-running campaign to turn the historic building into a “must-see” venue including galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes.  It is regarded as being a vital part in the regeneration of the city centre and the wider tourism economy of the Highland region. The project forms part of the £315 million Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal involving investment from the Scottish and UK governments, Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the University of the Highlands and Islands. The final designs for the attraction are expected to be agreed later this year, while the cost has yet to be determined.  But the council, which is leading the project, hopes work will be completed within five years. LDN Architects of Forres, which is also involved, has submitted an application to put up a 2.4 metre-high hoarding and CCTV to create a boundary for the construction works which are scheduled to be completed by March 3, 2025.   But it states in the application they are likely to be taken down ahead of that date.  Historic Environment Scotland has been consulted for its views.  “We have considered the information received and do not have any comments to make on the proposals,” HES stated in its submission. “Our decision not to provide comments should not be taken as our support for the proposals.”  A landscape architect has been working on initial designs for the surroundings and preliminary ecological assessments will also be undertaken.  A contract for work, including asbestos and timber preservation surveys and structural checks, will be put out to tender in the future. The aim is to create an attraction people will not visit when they simply happen to be in the city, but will travel specifically to Inverness to experience.  In April 2017, the north tower of the castle was opened to the public as a viewpoint.  The sandstone castle was built in 1836 on a mound overlooking the city and the River Ness. In 1848, a building known as the North Block was added and served as a prison.  It is thought there has been a castle on the site from as far back as the 11th century.

Coronavirus: Inside Scotland’s Testing Superlab

Scientists have begun work at Scotland's coronavirus testing "superlab", aiming to transform the way we test for the virus.  Staff dressed in full protective gear including gloves, visors and masks move between a series of rooms that work like an "industrial scale" production line of samples, testing machinery and computer output.  The experts here believe Lighthouse Labs like this one in Glasgow - one of just three similar sites in the UK - could be one way out of the current lockdown.  The World Health Organization has said the key to combating the coronavirus epidemic is to "test, test, test".  The UK has been criticised for falling behind other countries such as Germany in the number of tests it does.  This "superlab" based in repurposed university laboratories at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow is part of the UK and Scottish government's answer.  It is one of three in the UK. The other two are in England.  The tests being analysed here are to see if somebody currently has Covid-19. Other tests in the future will look at antibodies to work out if someone had the disease in the past. Staff process a swab of the nose or throat that has been sent to the lab to look for signs of the virus's genetic material.  Each test has to be securely taken out bags, logged and placed on racks, before the samples are transferred from tubes to plates. The whole testing process takes between two-and-a-half and three hours.  The lab has only been open for two days and head scientist Dr Stuart McElroy says they have the capacity of "many hundreds" tests a day. The aim is to expand that to "many thousands" over the next few weeks.  Dr McElroy says being part of the network of superlabs allows the teams to create standard processes and quality control as well as learning from each other. They can also distribute samples efficiently across the three sites.  Most coronavirus tests are currently carried out in hospitals on seriously ill patients.  However, this lab focuses on testing key workers such as NHS and care professionals. These tests are carried out at drive-through centres. In Scotland, there are sites at Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh airports with a further hub planned for Inverness. Currently health boards also carry out their own key worker tests.  The hope from staff at the Lighthouse Lab is that, as it scales up, they will move beyond key workers into widespread community testing of the general public.  The lab is a collaboration between the University of Glasgow, the private sector, the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and the NHS, and is mostly staffed by volunteers.  The lab has also been set up with help from the armed services and has logistics help from accountancy firm Deloitte.  Dr Jodie Hay, who normally works on testing for cancer, says the skills and techniques she uses in that work is similar to here.  "The nicest thing about this is being able to get people back into the front line," she says.

Nicola Sturgeon Abandons the Pretence by Brian Taylor
Perhaps it is the miasma of partisan politics. Perhaps it is scrutiny from the wicked media. Perhaps it is instinctive.  Whatever the cause, political leaders generally like to exude certainty. They will say: "I believe I have been completely clear about this" Or: "Let me assure the House……"  By contrast, many ministers of my acquaintance have been in an honourable lather of uncertainty much of the time. That is because the decisions confronting them are tough, really tough.  But they pretend otherwise. They fear to let it seem that they are havering or dovering, to use two fine Scots words.  Nicola Sturgeon has, to a large extent, abandoned the pretence. In all her remarkable pronouncements during this quite remarkable period, she has constantly stressed that she may have to change tack, that she is open to other ideas.  That she is, in short, uncertain. Indeed, she used the word "uncertainty" repeatedly today as she set out her framework for a possible exit strategy.  She could not be sure when lockdown would be lifted. She could not be sure when a drug or a vaccine would emerge. She could not be entirely certain about the impact of future policies.  This was honesty, painful frankness from the first minister. And with a purpose. She wants us on her side. She needs us, the public, to engage in discourse about where we go next.  Firstly, to bring out ideas. But, secondly, because we will be more inclined to observe the constraints which will still be necessary if we feel we have played a part in formulating them.  If we feel that this is a collective decision for the common weal, rather than a dictat handed down.  But what a scenario she painted. Even after lockdown is eased, there will be a need for social distancing. That will affect business, sport, arts, leisure and schools.  This will be the new normal, if such a thing can be envisaged.  Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that she had perhaps been somewhat surprised by the extent of compliance with the lockdown. She would not have anticipated such ready backing.  But now, acting on scientific advice, she is asking for more. For continuing constraint. This will be, to use a word she also deployed frequently, tough. It was a powerful performance by a first minister who is plainly working night and day on this issue, disdaining common politics. For example, she was asked in the opening question what she thought of the UK Westminster government's performance. It was an invitation to give Downing street a kicking. She demurred, sticking to her own record.  She was asked whether she could envisage Scotland going it alone on easing lockdown. She could - and was acutely aware of Scotland's distinctive needs.  But she wasn't pushing this. I think she is aware also of the possibility of confused messages for the public. She said - whether it was Scotland or the UK - what counted was tackling the virus. And that was a section of her remarks which struck me. There was no acceptable proportion of infection. We could not let the disease rip. We had to counter it, to defeat it.  That was the primary concern. At the same time, we could not persist in total lockdown for ever and a day. There would be nothing left of the economy and precious little in the way of societal structure. As I wrote here before, it is a question of balance. Against this horrid, vicious virus.