The Democrat news in brief

Making a splash

Sailing on Loch Lomond is a huge attraction for visitors to the area.

Visitors to Loch Lomond are being warned to expect queues this weekend. The Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway in Balloch was re-opened on Saturday morning.

Staff at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority have been working to prepare the site for launching and retrieval for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown. 

In light of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 guidelines, new procedures have been put in place to allow the slipway to be used safely in accordance with physical distancing.

Visitors will be asked to wear face coverings, especially when using the pontoon where physical distancing will be more difficult.


A Complex Mesh Removal Surgical Service is being set up for women experiencing complications following vaginal mesh implants.

The national service will be delivered by a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) located within NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and will be supported by more than £1.3 million of government money.

It will provide comprehensive assessments and vaginal mesh removal surgery for women over the age of 16 who have mesh complications from mesh insertion (vaginally or abdominally) for urinary incontinence and prolapse. Psychological support will also be provided.

As NHS Scotland continues to recover from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the service will be gradually introduced from next month.


Funding to remove backlog

The next step in safely remobilising important NHS services will see a £7.8 million investment to address the patient backlog for endoscopies.

Using new technologies and additional capacity, the backlog will be steadily reduced with patients seen on the basis of clinically determined priority.

The NHS Golden Jubilee Hospital, mobile endoscopy units and commissioning of the private sector will all provide additional capacity.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “There’s no question that stopping endoscopy services for all cases except emergencies was a difficult decision to take.  But it was necessary so we could deal with the challenge of Covid-19.


Parents say they feel excluded and anxious about their children’s results after the exams authority announced it would not consult schools about downgrading estimates.

Grades this year will be based on teacher estimates using prelims and coursework after the exams were cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority will also consider the previous performance of the school.

However, it has said it will not contact schools or colleges if previous attainment leads to changes to teacher estimates.

The SQA has also refused to publish the details of its moderation processes until after the results are published on August 4.

Eilieen Prior, executive director at parents group Connect, said: “There is research out there that says they will often get what could be classed as surprising results in the final exams compared to their coursework.

“Parents feel quite excluded from the process and anxious for their young people who have been having a rough time.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the teaching union the EIS, said: “I think the SQA hasn’t been as open as teachers would have liked them to have been around the whole process.”

Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer MSP said: “This has just been another example of the arrogant culture that permeates the SQA.

“They are not interested in engaging honestly, certainly not with teachers. They have not been transparent with the education committee of the parliament.

“They won’t release the details of what they are doing, but they also won’t even commit to publishing the equality impact assessment that they are legally required to do until after the results have been released.”

A spokesperson for the SQA said fairness is at the heart of its approach – “We have published guidance and information on our approach to certification this year.  Further information will be provided on August 4,” the spokesperson said

As it stands, the start of the new term is likely to see a lot of time spent on appeals and course reconsiderations, on top of the need to adjust to new guidelines on protecting everyone’s safety.


RBS: Changing name to NatWest Group.

Cash is available from the Royal Bank as more Clydesdal Banks close.

Royal Bank of Scotland is officially changing its name to Natwest Group from next week.

Branches will continue to trade as RBS and the name will still be heavily associated with the business.

But the lending giant wants to move away from the brand tarnished by a £45bn government bailout in 2008.

New boss Alison Rose unveiled the planned name change in February and it will come into effect from Wednesday, July 22.


Council to buy bulk of Chivas Brothers site

Renfrewshire Council will purchase the bulk of the 24-acre Chivas site at Renfrew Road, Paisley, from the whisky business. The Chivas Brothers site is on Renfrew Road. The company have moved to Kilmalid in Dumbarton.

The local authority will purchase the bulk of the 24-acre site at Renfrew Road from Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers.

Ownership of the site should transfer to the council later this year, with the land considered a possible location for a new Paisley Grammar School.

The site is situated to the north of the town centre, between West College Scotland’s Paisley campus and Abbotsinch Retail Park.

The rest of the land will be bought by Scottish Leather Group, which is converting the North Hall into a car seat upholstery facility – a move which is expected to create 100 jobs.

Jean-Christophe Coutures, chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers, added: “We are delighted to have confirmed the sale of our Paisley site to Renfrewshire Council and Scottish Leather Group.

“Together they bring significant opportunity to the local area, with the latter creating 100 new high-skilled jobs.

“The site has played an important role in the local community for many years, so we’re pleased this sale will allow it to continue to leave a positive economic and cultural legacy in Paisley.”


Alcohol a factor in 90,000 ambulance callouts

An ambulance on emergency call-out work during the pandemic.

As lockdown eases and people increasingly socialise, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has highlighted the need to drink responsibly and said new statistics showing 90,000 ambulance call-outs since 2016 registered alcohol as a factor “emphasise once again the thanks we owe to hardworking NHS staff”. A parliamentary question answered by the Health Secretary revealed that between 2016 and 2019 ambulance crews noted alcohol was a factor in 89,265 callouts. 

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