Warning over cancellations of parents’ nights

Wednesday, October 5, 2021

Parents’ nights across Scotland are being moved to video or phonecalls because of “excessive” Covid restrictions, it has been warned.

Families in various local authorities said the traditional face-to-face appointments in schools were now being swapped for short, digital exchanges.

Parents group UFTScotland, which has more than 14,000 members, said continued failure to hold in-person parents’ evenings would erode trust between schools and families.

It added that there was no good reason for such events not to happen physically while the rest of the country has almost entirely opened back up.

Parents in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Dunbartonshire, Argyll and Bute, Fife and Inverclyde all said telephone or video calls were being offered.

If schools continue to scrap in-person parents’ evenings it will mean some haven’t been able to speak to their child’s teachers for more than two years.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UFTScotland, said:

“Parents need to have the option for a face-to-face meeting with teachers in their child’s school.

“For some it’s the only opportunity they ever get to see inside the building their child spends every day.

“It’s also important that parents and teachers can build positive relationships, and that’s far easier face-to-face than a rushed phone or video call.

“Of course some parents may prefer a video call and that should be an option – but the outright scrapping of a physical parents’ evening is excessive and damaging.

“Life has more or less returned to normal in everywhere but schools.

“There is no good reason not to hold in-person parents’ nights in schools, and the Scottish Government should make clear that these should be offered.”

Women’s health plan must focus on 12k Scots a year who suffer miscarriage

Sunday, September 27, 2021

A new strategy for women’s health must place serious focus on the estimated 12,000 women who suffer miscarriage in Scotland each year, an expert on female wellbeing has said.

The Scottish Government recently revealed its four-year ‘Women’s Health Plan’ which includes more paid leave following a miscarriage and the establishing of a “dignified and compassionate” service.

Lisa Kitching, director of Edinburgh-based Baby Fit, said while these moves were welcome, urgent support was needed for women who up to now have little in the way of help.

The Scottish Public Health Observatory estimates at least one in every five pregnancies ends in miscarriage.

In 2020, there were 46,809 births which, by ScotPHO’s projection, means there were 11,702 miscarriages.

Baby Fit is a personal training business which specialises in providing fitness classes to women who have recently had a baby.

It also works with couples attempting to conceive and going through IVF, as well as women who have suffered miscarriage and are trying again for a baby.

Lisa Kitching, director of Baby Fit, said:

“Everyone says miscarriages are common, but I don’t think current services reflect the fact there were around 12,000 miscarriages in Scotland last year alone.

“Many of my clients have suffered miscarriages, and it’s clear just how alone they’ve felt throughout that process.

“Often they’ve just been given a tablet to take and sent home, despite that being among the worst moments of their lives.

“Even women who are further on in their pregnancy and need hospital care sometimes have to go through the miscarriage on a labour ward where other women are giving birth to healthy babies in the next room.

“Aside from the great work of some charities, there is very little emotional help for women and their partners going through this awful experience.

“It’s definitely welcome that the Scottish Government has recognised this, but it will need to go beyond paid leave and the promise of better services.

“We need to see urgent action to ensure every woman who suffers a miscarriage can access the help they need.

“Through this plan Scotland has a chance to be a world-leader in miscarriage care.

“For the sake of thousands of women every year I really hope it happens.”


Case study: Amy Falconer

“It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Amy Falconer, a magazine account director from Edinburgh.

Even after the safe arrival of her son Rocco in July, the 38-year-old’s first miscarriage still haunts her.

“There was just no support whatsoever. I was absolutely traumatised by it, but you just get sent home to deal with it. You’re completely alone.

“Nobody phones to check on you, no-one makes any appointments to see if you’re coping or to offer tests to find out what went wrong.

“There’s no other part of the health system where this happens.

“Once you’ve had a baby, there’s so much help and support and expertise – but where is that for those who lose one?”

Amy, who had four miscarriages before giving birth with her fiancé Fraser Rutherford, first fell pregnant in December 2018.

“After about nine weeks things began to change, I stopped feeling the changes that had happened in the early part of the pregnancy.

“But I was told everything would be ok, not to worry, basically made to feel like I was just being silly.

“So of course I just kept going, but deep down I knew something was wrong.

“Two weeks later – it was on Valentine’s Day – I got an early scan because I’d been spotting. I went in, had the scan, and there was no heartbeat.

“I knew the baby had died two weeks ago because all the symptoms had gone, but here we were.”

Amy feels wider education about miscarriage would help people discuss the issue more generally.

“No-one knows what to say, so they end up saying things that are really insensitive, even though they don’t mean it to be, they mean it to be the opposite,” she explained.

“They say things like ‘oh it just wasn’t meant to be’ which is just the worst thing anyone can say.

“It’s a death of a baby, that’s what it is. But because we never speak about it as a society, no-one knows how to deal with it.

“I was on a Zoom call not so long ago with five other women, and four of us had gone through a miscarriage. None of us had known previously, that was the first time any of us had mentioned it to each other.”

Amy continued: “It’s so traumatic, but after the third and fourth, I didn’t even tell my family. What was the point?”

Amy’s fourth miscarriage had added complications. It was an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby grows outside of the womb, a scenario which means the baby can’t be born safely, and exposes mothers to huge risk too.

“That was bad because I had to go in for tests every two days at the Royal Infirmary,” she said.

“Every two days, walking into the labour ward, past mums who’d just had their babies and people with ‘congratulations’ balloons.

“You’re not telling me in a hospital the size of the Royal, or any other hospital, that they can’t make sure people going through something like that are seen in a different place, where they didn’t have to walk past it all the time. It’s horrific.”

By the time her newborn baby arrived safely, the couple were scarcely able to believe it had happened.

Amy said: “You just don’t believe it’ll turn out ok. We were too scared to buy anything; cots, prams, clothes.

“Even after he’d arrived it took us a couple of weeks to properly process the reality of it all.

“Before I got pregnant for the fifth time, we’d began talking about alternatives. We spoke about the extra money we would have for the rest of our lives, and all the extravagant holidays we’d be able to go on.

“We were basically filling our lives up with the things neither of us actually wanted to do. It’s a life that would have been void of the one thing we wanted.

“And of course it makes everything so much better when you’re able to successfully have a baby.

“But that first miscarriage will never, ever leave me.”

Amy added: “As a young woman in your teens and 20s, you try absolutely everything not to get pregnant.

“Then you settle down, get your life together, and when the pregnancy doesn’t happen it can be really upsetting.

“And when miscarriage does happen, there’s no support even when you ask for it.

“The very least women in this situation should get is an assessment with a professional and access to tests to find out what went wrong, and psychological help to deal with the death of a baby.”

Notes to editors:

The Scottish Public Health Observatory states: “It is estimated that approximately one in five of all known pregnancies miscarry. The figure for all pregnancies will be higher than this because miscarriages can often occur before the woman is aware she is pregnant.”


There were 46,809 births in Scotland in 2020. Using the ScotPHO ratio of one in five pregnancies resulting in miscarriage, that means there will have been at least 11,702 miscarriages.


The full Scottish Government Women’s Health Plan can be viewed here:


For more information on Baby Fit visit: www.baby-fit.co.uk

Music lessons backed by 65-year-old who’s learning the drums

Sunday, September 19, 2021

A Scottish music school is appealing to retirees to consider learning a musical instrument in later life – and is being backed by a 65-year-old former nurse who’s taken up the drums.

Morningside School of Music has received increasing interest from adults with more time on their hands following the pandemic and associated lockdown.

Now they are calling for older participants to consider getting involved, pointing to the numerous physical and mental health benefits it brings.

Since retiring just before the Covid pandemic struck, Helen King planned to use her newfound free time productively.

She is now three months into drumming lessons with the school, and has an electric kit to practice at her Edinburgh home in-between classes.

“It’s the quickest half hour of my week,” she said.

“When I leave the lesson I can’t wait to get back home and use what I’ve just learned to try and get better.

“I find it exhilarating, I would recommend it to everyone.”

The multiple health benefits which come from musical activity are one of the driving motivations for her getting involved.

“Obviously drumming is a physical activity, but it’s a mental one too – you have to concentrate the whole time on keeping your mind and body in sync.

“To me, sitting down is death – it’s so important as you get older to do things that keep you physically and mentally active.

“I believe in lifelong learning. Since I started lessons in July I’ve had a couple of friends who are also retired asking about it, showing an interest in taking up an instrument.

“I still get a little nervous when I first go into the practice room and it takes me a few minutes to get settled. It’s just the build up to putting everything you've practiced through the week together and showing the teacher you’re making progress, which I think I am.”

Helen added that for those concerned about Covid, the lessons within the school itself were completely safe.

“It feels very secure when you’re in there,” she said. “Everything is completely clean and there’s distance and Perspex screens between you and the teacher.”

And with the school open during the day and evening, she said that learning an instrument can fit in with anyone's schedule.

“I've plenty to do in the evenings and it’s during the day I have the time. So the availability of day time lessons really suits me.”

Linda Boyd, director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“Many of our older students point to the many health benefits they get from taking up an instrument.

“There have been all kinds of studies showing that learning an instrument can help ward off common diseases like dementia.

“It also opens up opportunities to people who perhaps hadn’t considered doing things like playing with others or even in concert.

“Since lockdown we’ve seen more and more adults come forward looking for something different in their life.

“We’re here to cater for everyone, and we take great pleasure from giving these learning opportunities to people, however unlikely they might once have thought it.”

New online community launched to boost Edinburgh women’s health

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A new online community has been set up to bring together women looking for health and fitness classes and those who provide them.

The Women’s Fit Edinburgh resource means people can share exactly what kind of support they are looking for.

Providers from personal trainers, fitness coaches and diet experts have been invited to join to seek business too.

The free-to-access page was created by Edinburgh-based Baby Fit, which specialises in supporting women across the east of Scotland who have recently had a baby, or are in the process of trying for one.

Director Lisa Kitching said the new Facebook page would mean women didn’t need to post in multiple groups in pursuit of the service they wanted.

She added that businesses who themselves have been forced to adapt following Covid restrictions would benefit from being involved.

Launched only four days ago the page already has almost 200 members from across the city.

Lisa Kitching, director of Baby Fit, said:

“This is an online community which supports women’s health across Edinburgh and also enables businesses to reach out to potential clients too.

“Times have changed and it’s not so easy for women to get out there and find the fitness classes they need.

“There aren’t as many physical places they can go to find out about these services, so it’s common to turn to social media for help.

“This will bring all those people into a single place.

“If someone lives in Portobello and wants a personal trainer, they can post that and immediately find what they’re looking for.

“Previously, they might have had to post in different types of groups and have to sift through 50 irrelevant replies before getting what they needed.

“This will also allow Edinburgh-based people working in health and fitness to promote their services.

“The aim is to make it easier for women of all ages to access and learn about health and fitness, regardless of where they live or what they do.

“Participation in these classes doesn’t just improve your physical health, it produces great results for mental health and overall wellbeing too.”

Notes to editors:

The new page can be joined at: www.facebook.com/groups/1697374160456218 or by searching ‘Women’s Fit Edinburgh’ on Facebook.

For more information on Baby Fit visit: www.baby-fit.co.uk

Kids across Lothians offered free music lessons

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

School children across the Lothians are being offered free trial music lessons ahead of a return to the classroom later this month.

Morningside School of Music said it would give a free lesson in a range of instruments to the first 100 youngsters who signed up.

The offer includes half-hour lessons in guitar, piano, singing, drums, bass and saxophone.

Sessions worth £29 can also be accessed in composition and song-writing.

Each one would take place with a highly-qualified and experienced teacher with no requirement to sign up to future sessions.

The school, which has around 700 pupils across the east of Scotland, said children who learned a musical instrument tended to perform better across other academic areas.

Being part of lessons at the school often led to opportunities to join bands and perform at live events, they added.

Linda Boyd, director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“It’s well established that children who learn a musical instrument enjoy many other benefits as a result.

“We want to encourage as many youngsters across Edinburgh and the Lothians as possible to have these opportunities.

“As such, the first 100 children who come forward for a free trial will be able to access a lesson in instruments such as guitar and piano just to get a feel for it and see if they want to take it further.

“It also gives them a chance to explore song-writing and composition.

“These lessons would be taken by highly-qualified and experienced teachers who have a fun and modern approach to music tuition.

“Lessons over a longer term can lead to children playing music with other their own age, forming bands and choirs and performing at live gigs and concerts.” 

Notes to editors:

To sign children up for a free lesson visit: www.morningsideschoolofmusic.co.uk/new-client-sign-up-page/

End isolation rules for Scottish pupils in time for new term

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Isolation rules which result in thousands of healthy children being sent home from school must be lifted in time for the new term in August, parents have said.

Ministers in England are expected to announce today that pupils there will no longer have to isolate after contact with a positive contact case.

UFTScotland said the Scottish Government should bring in similar guidelines to ensure minimal disruption to the 2021/22 academic year.

All across Scotland entire classes in schools and nurseries have been sent home after a single positive coronavirus test.

In some cases, whole schools have shut on that basis, meaning thousands of youngsters have been left at home with no remote learning or support with education.

UFTScotland, which has 14,000 members, said the rules must change so that only children with positive tests should be asked to leave school for the required period.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UFTScotland, said:

“No-one’s disputing that an unwell child with a positive Covid-19 test should go home to get better.

“But in recent weeks and months, whole classes have been sent home because of a single result.

“In many cases, healthy children have been sent home for blocks of isolation more than once.

“That’s incredibly disruptive not just to their education but to their overall wellbeing and social development.

“The government in England has belatedly recognised this, and it’s time ministers in Scotland arrived at the same decision.

“When the schools come back in August, it’s essential pupils have a clear run at the year without unnecessary disruption and begin recovery from this dreadful period.”

Notes to editors:

It was reported this morning that ministers in England are set to abolish the current isolation rules:


Cliff edge fears for Scots arts community with nearly 1/3 still on furlough

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Time is running out for Scotland’s arts and entertainment community with nearly one in three still on a furlough scheme which ends in September, it has been warned.

New figures have revealed that 29.1 per cent of people who work in the industry are still on the job retention scheme, more than three times the overall rate of furlough.

And with the initiative reducing in its generosity and set to end within three months, it has been warned that Scots working in the sector face a “cliff edge”.

Morningside School of Music, which has 700 pupils of all ages across the east of Scotland, said many of the people it works with are “seriously concerned” about their future.

They called for an urgent plan to help the industry get moving again, and said support schemes should be continued if artists are repeatedly denied to opportunity to work.

The statistics were revealed in the Scottish Government’s Business Insight and Conditions Survey.

It asked 1162 business between May 17 and May 30 about their situation with furlough.

And while 9.6 per cent of workers are estimated to be on furlough, that rises to 29.1 per cent for those in “arts, entertainment and recreation”.

Linda Boyd, director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“Many of our clients are employed in the arts industry and they’re seriously concerned about what’s going to happen next.

“They’re facing a cliff edge moment.

“The furlough scheme has been a great support net from them, but they know it can’t last forever and they just need an opportunity to work.

“It’s incredible to think that nearly one in three people in this industry are still on furlough after this long, more than pretty much any other sector.

“This has happened through absolutely no fault of their own.

“They are desperate to get to work, and the public are desperate to be entertained by their work.

“We really need to see an urgent plan to open venues up safely or we risk losing these people and their skills altogether.

“And if that can’t happen, governments need to come up with ways to financially support them until they’ve found a way to let them work again.”

Notes to editors:

The Scottish Government’s Business Insight and Conditions Survey revealed the following number of people on furlough by industry between May 17 and May 30:

Manufacturing – 5.6 per cent

Construction – 3.3 per cent

Wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles – 5.4 per cent

Transport and storage – 11.8 per cent

Accommodation and food services – 30.9 per cent

Information and communication – 6.2 per cent

Prof, scientific, technical activity – 5.5 per cent

Admin and support services – 10.8 per cent

Arts, entertainment and recreation – 29.1 per cent

Overall – 9.6 per cent

The full breakdown can be accessed here (second excel file, table 13): https://www.gov.scot/publications/bics-weighted-scotland-estimates-data-to-wave-31/

For more information on Morningside School of Music visit: https://morningsideschoolofmusic.co.uk/

Calls to put on ‘summer schools’ for new businesses set up in pandemic

Monday, June 7, 2021

A series of summer school events should be launched for new businesses or those who were forced to diversify through the pandemic, a development expert has said.

The free classes would help new enterprises learn how to scale up their business and attract investment, turning the dire situation of the last year into an opportunity.

Finlay Kerr, managing director of business development firm Frejz, said thousands of Scots had been plunged into a new working environment and would now need support in taking the next step.

Writing in today’s Herald, he said harnessing the “accidental entrepreneurs” would help local economies and create jobs, and that councils and government had a duty to help them move forward.

He added that investors across the country were ready and willing to put their money into new set-ups in their area, and that a “link-up” operation should begin between them and new businesses.

Finlay Kerr, managing director of Frejz, said:

“All over Scotland there are new businesses which have sprung up, as so many great enterprises do, through necessity and adversity.

“Many of these people will be decades into their careers, and probably never contemplated setting up their own business.

“But thanks to coronavirus, a needs-must approach has kicked in, and now we have accidental entrepreneurs everywhere.

“This is where councils, the government, Business Gateway and the wider entrepreneurship eco-system have to come in.

“Free summer schools would deliver the skills and pointers these accidental entrepreneurs need to continue their new adventure – it will also get them thinking about the next stage.

“We need to seize on the opportunities that have been created and harness the talented workforce who know their trade inside-out but haven’t yet got the business know-how to develop things further.

“Doing this successfully could turbo-charge Scotland’s economy, and lead a recovery which we can all benefit from and be proud of.”

Notes to editors:

The piece by Finlay Kerr, managing director of Frejz, can be seen on p15 of today’s Herald.

The text is available here:


Hundreds of kids waiting more than a year for surgery

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The number of children waiting for surgery for longer than a year has rocketed to its highest ever level, new figures released today have revealed.

According to official statistics, there are now 638 patients who’ve been awaiting paediatric surgery for more than 12 months, 40 per cent of the total number on the list.

That’s nearly double the rate of just three months ago, and considerably higher than at any other point since records began in 2013.

Today’s ISD Scotland report showed there are 1595 inpatient or day cases on the list for paediatric surgery.

But it’s the proportion of those who’ve been hanging on for more than a year that’s noticeable.

In December, there were 373 waiting beyond that timescale, and 219 in September.

A year ago the figure was just 40, and in March 2013 there weren’t any youngsters waiting longer than a year.

Parents group UFTScotland said the new data was further proof of how children had suffered during lockdown.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UFTScotland, said:

“There can always be the odd case of a young person whose surgery is delayed for a considerable time for a variety of reasons.

“But now we have a situation where hundreds of kids waiting for important surgery have been left exposed for longer than a year.

“That’s nearly half of all those who are waiting – the situation is nothing short of a disgrace.

“Children have been failed by the education system during the pandemic, and now it seems they’re being let down by the NHS too.

“Leaders need to get their act together and start fighting back for our young people.

“Lockdown has ruined young lives and caused irreversible damage – it’s time for politicians to start making children a priority before things get any worse.”

Notes to editors:

The figures were published by ISD Scotland today:


The data on paediatric surgery can be seen on first spreadsheet, table 2.6 (select paediatric surgery from the drop down menu).

It shows the following number of patients waiting for paediatric surgery, with those waiting more than a year in brackets:

March 2021 – 1595 (638)

December 2020 – 1552 (373)

September 2020 – 1577 (219)

June 2020 – 1468 (90)

March 2020 – 1327 (40)

March 2019 – 1579 (218)

March 2018 – 1097 (75)

March 2013 – 862 (0)

More firms than ever contemplating permanent home-working in Scotland

Monday, May 24, 2021

More Scottish firms see increased staff members working at home as a “permanent business model” than at any other time during the pandemic, it has been revealed.

In a study of more than 1000 companies, nearly one in five now say employees won’t return to the office with the same regulatory as before.

That increases to 41.9 per cent for businesses with more than 250 people, according to the Scottish Government findings.

The Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) was carried out between April 19 and May 2.

It found 18.3 per cent of businesses “intend to use increased homeworking as a permanent business model going forward” while 25.1 per cent were unsure.

That compares to 14.8 per cent in February and 13.9 per cent last October.

Firms in the information and communication sector were most likely to permanently establish home working (46.8 per cent) with accommodation and food services the least likely (5.2 per cent).

Of those who said they would change their approach to office-based working, 36.7 per cent said it would allow them to recruit from a wider geographical pool, 80 per cent said it would improve staff wellbeing, and 30.9 per cent cited reduced stress levels.

Among those businesses who said they would not change, 11.6 per cent feared reduced productivity, and 17.2 per cent poorer communication.

Glasgow-based MCC Accountants said government taxation systems had to change with the times to maximise any boost to the economy developing patterns would have.

Director Andrew Morrison added that support may be required for those businesses in retail and hospitality who would lose out from the widespread closure of city centre offices.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“It’s clear from this study that, after a year of working from home, more businesses are viewing this as a permanent solution.

“That will bring challenges and opportunities, and it’s important both the UK and Scottish Governments are able to respond to both.

“In terms of moving large workforces out of city centres, there’s definitely more that could be done to help businesses establish satellite offices in smaller towns to help spread economic productivity.

“This would give employers and employees the best of both worlds - lower rents, collaborative working, retaining the social aspect of work with less time wasted commuting.

“But help will also be needed for businesses like cafes and shops which rely upon city centre footfall from office workers.

“If the culture of going to the office five days a week is changing, then governments have to embrace it.

“And while it may suit many workers, we need to remember that for those starting their career and entering new industries, there is much to be lost from not being surrounded by more experienced colleagues.”

Notes to editors:

The latest Business Insights and Conditions Survey can be seen here:


Details on home working are on the attached spreadsheet on tabs 152 to 154.

It shows the following answer to the question: Does your business intend to use increased homeworking as a permanent business model going forward?

Yes – 18.3 per cent

No – 56.6 per cent

Not sure – 25.1 per cent

The breakdown shows the following proportion who said YES to the question:

Size 250+ employees – 41.9 per cent

Information and communication sector – 46.8 per cent

Professional, scientific and technical activities sector – 34.1 per cent

'Gruelling, but IVF gave me my special boys'

Originally published in the Sunday Post (by Alice Hinds)
Sunday, May 23, 2021

Lisa Kitching knows more than most the gruelling toll fertility treatment can have on the body. For more than five years, the 37-year-old battled through hormone injections and invasive treatments as she desperately tried to build a family, and even found herself admitted to hospital during one particularly tough round of IVF.

The journey, she admits, was stressful, lonely and fraught, not least because she was only in her mid-20s and had no idea just how long the road ahead might be.

“Initially I suppose I was quite naive,” explained Lisa, from Edinburgh, who is married to Jamie, 40.“I didn’t really know a lot about IVF. In all honesty, when we first found out that we weren’t going to be able to conceive naturally, I thought that, like anything, doctors might be able to just give my husband a pill and make it all better.”

The couple were initially told it would be possible to retrieve Jamie’s sperm and fertilise Lisa’s eggs in the hopes of a successful implantation and pregnancy. However, the procedure was unsuccessful, and a later insemination with donor sperm subsequently ended in miscarriage, devastating the pair who longed for a family.

Lisa was then later also told her eggs weren’t viable, meaning both her and Jamie were infertile, and the pair reached their “lowest point” in the journey to conceive. But they didn’t give up.

After many sleepless nights researching their options, Lisa and Jamie decided to pursue embryo adoption, travelling to Spain where anonymous egg and sperm donations would finally enable them to conceive. And, after three attempts, Lisa became pregnant with her first son, Joseph, now eight, while another baby, Leon, now five, followed four years later.

Looking back now, with her two boys running around at her feet, Lisa says the route to motherhood may have been filled with stress and anxiety, but she wouldn’t change it for the world.

“I view my whole fertility journey with light now,” she explained.“i wouldn’t change a single thing because, for every door that was closed, another one opened. Without those doors initially being closed, Joseph and Leon wouldn’t be in our lives, and we wouldn’t have the family that we have. They’re very special little boys, and though they’re not genetically connected siblings, they are incredibly close.

“It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve got so much love for these people that I don’t even know – the women that donated the eggs, and the men that donated their sperm. I’ll never find out who they were but I love them more than anything because they’ve given me and my husband everything we could have ever wanted in this world.”

Although she’s now a mum, Lisa’s connection to IVF isn’t over just yet. Working as a personal trainer, she is using her experience to help other people going through the same arduous process, creating tailored programmes that help women feel strong and supported.

The holistic approach involves everything from nutrition and exercise to massages and breathing techniques, all influenced by Lisa’s own difficulties.

She explained:“ivf takes a massive toll on your body and your mind. I felt like there was nowhere to turn and no one to talk to – I was just trying to get through, day to day.

“Nowadays there are lots of people talking about fertility issues, especially on social media, and it’s not as much of a taboo subject, but back then, the only thing I knew about IVF was the phrase ‘test tube baby’.

Everything I do is about building people’s confidence ● Lisa with Joseph and Leon

“When I look back at pictures from that time I just don’t look healthy. It is a gruelling process. I remember asking a doctor whether there was anything I could do to help improve my fertility. He said I should try putting on some weight but, honestly, eating and exercise, at that point, felt like the only thing I could control in my life. I wouldn’t say I had an eating disorder but I was very thin, and a lot of that was to do with the anxiety of the process.

“So now I want to make it more enjoyable for other people, mentally and physically preparing women’s bodies for the journey ahead.”

Helping women from preconception and conception, birth and beyond, Lisa’s Baby Fit programme is available online, in small groups, and through one-to-one sessions, and she hopes she can use her intimate knowledge of IVF to make women feel strong and more confident.

She continued:“everything I do is about building people’s confidence, and allowing them to take back some control. It’s also about providing somebody to listen, and somebody who will go on that journey with them, so they can feel stronger throughout.

“People come to me and they’re very overwhelmed because they’ve had all this news, they’ve been in so many clinical settings, and they’re just looking for something to make everything feel better. So, I listen to their story and we put a plan in place together.

“I know how gruelling the treatments really are, so to be able to work with somebody and support them through that journey is so rewarding.”

Delays caused by the pandemic has meant many couples face an even heavier burden embarking on IVF.

When the UK went into lockdown last March, procedures, were halted.

Sharon Martin, from Fertility Network Scotland, says calls to the charity’s support network increased by 300%

She explained: “One of the big things for anyone going through fertility treatment is that age is against them – their biological clock did not stop ticking because of lockdown.

“The majority of people seeking IVF tend to be in their mid to late 30s so a delay of a year could have a massive impact on their ability to conceive. Women’s egg quality starts deteriorating from age 35 onwards, and people are coming to parenthood much later than they once did.

“Women came to us seeking emotional support. Even now, looking back over the past year, we’re dealing with 100% more people than we were pre-pandemic. It is a really stressful journey.

“In Scotland, NHS treatment is cut off at the age of 42, so women who were 41 at the turn of the pandemic thought that they had lost their opportunity. The NHS has said no woman will be disadvantaged by age because of the pandemic, so any delay will be taken into account. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that their egg quality is now down to such low levels that their chance of success through IVF is around seven to 9%.”

For advice, visit fertilitynetworkuk.org

Music school to make online lessons permanent

Friday, May 21, 2021

A Scottish music school is to make online music lessons a permanent fixture following a surge in interest during lockdown.

Morningside School of Music will now employ four teachers exclusively to conduct lessons via applications like Zoom.

The Edinburgh school, which has around 700 pupils of all ages, said while in-person lessons would form the main basis of their teaching going forward, many customers wanted to stay online.

They said it would enable those who lived outside the capital to avoid long commutes to lessons, and that others were just more comfortable learning their instrument from home.

Staff at the school were concerned at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic about the impact lockdown restrictions would have on teaching.

However, more adults with time on their hands and extra cash from not being able to indulge in other leisure interests suddenly rekindled an interest in music, causing a rise in participants.

Linda Boyd, director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“At the beginning of lockdown we didn’t really think online lessons would last or be sustainable for either teachers or pupils.

“But some pupils have really benefited from them, and it’s opened up music lessons to people who don’t live near a large town or city and therefore can’t always access these things.

“As such, we’re keeping four teachers purely for online lessons.

“We still believe in-person tuition offers the best way to develop skills and play with others, and that will always be the focus of our business.

“But there’s no denying that lessons over Zoom suit some pupils better, either because it saves them journey time or they are just more relaxed playing from a more familiar environment at home.

“The concept of doing things remotely is clearly here to stay for considerable numbers of people, so we need to embrace that and provide services which fit.”

Notes to editors:

The school previously wrote in the Herald about the unlikely benefits of online tuition:


40% of businesses say cash will run out within 6 months

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Two-fifths of Scottish businesses fear they will run out of cash within the next six months, a new study has found.

According to the official Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) 39.3 per cent of firms’ cash reserves won’t last beyond half a year.

Of those asked, 20.6 per cent said their reserves would last between one and three months, 16 per cent between four and six months, with 2.7 per cent saying they’d be out of money within just a few weeks.

Glasgow-based business development firm Frejz said the statistics showed the need for more government support in the form of loans and grants.

They also called for more work to be done in linking new and diversifying businesses with angel investors across the country to help them expand.

The BICS, which is run by the Office for National Statistics, asked more than 1200 business across Scotland between April 6 and April 18.

In the survey, 36.9 per cent said their finances would last beyond the six-month mark, while 20.6 per cent said they were unsure.

In addition, 3.1 per cent said they had no cash reserves as things stood.

Finlay Kerr, managing director of Frejz, said:

“These figures are really worrying and show the severity of the cash-flow challenges facing so many Scottish businesses.

“While it might feel like things are getting back to normal after the pandemic, it’s clear that for thousands of businesses there are still significant problems to be solved.

“Investors across Scotland are ready and willing to bolster Scotland’s economy as we come out of the pandemic.

“But their role is to help scale these businesses up, creating jobs and boosting tax receipts in the process.

“That’s why it’s so essential businesses can continue to access grants and loans to get through these rough times and enjoy a far better future at the other side.

“These are good businesses and good people who know their trade and their job inside out.

“But now they need a bit of assistance taking the next step, accessing grants and loans, and pitching to investors who can help secure their immediate future and increase potential going forward.

“Both the UK and Scottish Governments have already supplied major support for businesses, but now it’s more important than ever not to cut things off.

“By injecting new support it won’t only protect jobs and companies now, it will help them grow and bolster the economy going forward too.”

Notes to editors:

The Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) was carried out between April 6 and April 18. It showed how long the following number of businesses thought their cash reserves would last:

Less than a month – 2.7 per cent

1-3 months – 20.6 per cent

4-6 months – 16 per cent

More than 6 months – 36.9 per cent

Not sure – 20.6 per cent

No reserves – 3.1 per cent

The full table can be seen at tab 217 on the Excel file at the following link:


Musicians’ plea for live entertainment to be at heart of hospitality recovery

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Live music should be at the very heart of the recovery of Scotland’s hospitality industry, a group of Edinburgh musicians have said.

Pubs across the country are beginning to reopen, with increased levels of indoor and outdoor visitors expected in coming months.

Now Morningside School of Music has joined with performers across Edinburgh in the hope of persuading bars to put on live music for customers as soon as restrictions allow.

The school said Edinburgh’s live music scene was thriving before the pandemic struck, and that scores of musicians across the country – many of whom have been out of work altogether for a year – are standing ready to oblige.

Morningside School of Music has around 700 pupils across the east of Scotland.

Linda Boyd, director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“We’re almost at the point now where pubs can fully reopen assuming the progress that’s been made with infection levels continues.

“Venues will have to hit the ground running after a year of closure, and there’s no better way to do that than to make the most of live music.

“It brings more customers in, adds atmosphere and keeps people in for longer.

“The modest outlay for live musicians is soon paid back in extra custom, and Scots and tourists alike will be keen to hear the sound of live entertainment again.

“The live music sector and hospitality have been on ice for more than a year, but now they can work together to ensure a really prosperous future together.”

Ali Ferguson, a session musician and live performer from Edinburgh, said:

“Both the music and the hospitality industries have been so badly hit. Many jobs and careers have been lost or changed irrevocably.

“I think lockdown has shown us how important music and socialising is – now there’s a chance for both of these industries to come together and help each other recover.

“By putting music back at the heart of our bars and venues, we will put it back at the heart of people’s social lives and communities too.

“That’s where it belongs.”

Mike Paterson, who’s worked as a live musician in Edinburgh for more than a decade, said:

“Live music is what I live for – it’s been my life for 16 years and I can’t wait to get back playing again.

“This will be a time when people need cheered up and reminded what’s great about life – and live music will be just the ticket.

“Live music might be one of the last things to get back to normal, and that’s why it’s so important.

“I will do whatever it takes to get back to playing live music.”

Sandy Tweeddale, who plays in bands and solo across Scotland and runs open mic nights, said:

“I’m in the house band at Whighams Wine Bar – we have a jam night on the first and third Tuesday of the month called Blues Tuesday.

“This isn’t just a case of people playing in a pub – it’s a social event that gets people out and mixing with each other, and playing music somewhere different from their own home.

“It always brings extra custom to the bar and tourists too.

“If both the live music and pub industries are to recover, the best way to make that happen is by working together.”

Scotland’s landscape must be protected amid green recovery

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Scotland’s unique landscape should not be sacrificed for more onshore windfarms as politicians look to new environmental and economic policies, a campaign group has said.

Writing in today’s Times, Save Our Hills said they recognised the importance of renewable energy both in reducing carbon emissions and helping the country recover from the financial ruin of Covid-19.

However, spokesman Iain Milligan said large parts of Scotland were already at “saturation point” with onshore turbines, and that the next Scottish Government should place more emphasis on other renewable sources like offshore wind and hydro.

He said ministers should follow the approach taken in England where onshore windfarms tend only to be approved if there is community support.

Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:

“From party manifestos to think-tank reports on how to bounce back from Covid-19, onshore wind energy has become the posterboy for change.

“But for people in rural communities, the idea of even more onshore windfarms is troubling, with large parts of the country already at saturation point.

“We agree that renewable energy is important in terms of environmental and economic policy, but the unabated march of developers seeking to plaster the countryside with turbines must cease.

“Our unspoilt scenery is the envy of the world and we have a valuable tourism sector which depends upon it.

“The headlong rush has to stop and the next Scottish Government must do more to investigate the virtues of offshore windfarms, tidal, hydro and other solutions.

“If they don’t, the landscape will be sacrificed on the altar of half-baked supposedly green policies.”

Notes to editors:

To see the full Thunderer piece in today's Times, visit: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/talk-of-wind-farms-benefiting-locals-is-just-a-lot-of-hot-air-vfz...

For more information on Save Our Hills, visit: https://www.saveourhillsdumfriesandgalloway.co.uk/

Seven-year high in public sector workforce could cause taxation headache

Monday, April 19, 2021

The soaring number of people working in Scotland’s public sector could pose taxation issues for the next Scottish Government, it has been argued.

New figures have revealed the 573,200 people employed by the state is the highest since 2013, and represents 21.8 per cent of the country’s workforce.

Writing in today’s Herald, Glasgow-based MCC Accountants said that while it was clear the public sector played a vital role in supporting good-quality jobs, the high proportion could impact on Scotland’s tax receipts.

Director Andrew Morrison pointed out that taxation raised from public sector isn’t “new” money, and that the public purse benefits from more taxation being taken from workers in the private sector.

And with income tax now devolved, he said the challenge for the next Scottish Government would be creating more private sector jobs, in order to generate the cash needed to support council, NHS and other public services.

The official government statistics show that 2,059,400 are employed in the private sector north of the border, 78.2 per cent of the workforce.

However, across the UK the proportion of private sector workers is around 83 per cent, meaning more taxation raised is “new” money for the public purse.

The data in Scotland shows 172,600 are working in the NHS, 254,000 for local authorities, 28,200 in the emergency services and 21,600 in the civil services.

Other public bodies account for 15,600 jobs, colleges support 13,400 roles and 14,000 work for public corporations.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“Public sector jobs are absolutely vital, and of course the country couldn’t operate without them.

“But the more people who work in the public sector, the more of a problem that creates for the government in terms of taxation.

“With income tax now devolved, we’re facing a situation where we need to create more private sector jobs in order to save the public sector.

“The proportions need to move closer to those of the whole UK.

“The more Scotland’s economy can benefit from new taxation the better – while the receipts from public sector workers are welcome, it is essentially just money going back to where it came from.

“These are difficult arguments for politicians to make, especially ahead of an election, but the debate needs to take place.

“All of Scotland’s public services are struggling financially.

“Creating an environment where more high-quality private sector jobs are up for grabs could be the solution everyone would benefit from.”

Notes to editors:

To piece appears on p14 of today’s Herald

The data on public and private sector workers is available here:


It shows the following number of public sector employees in Scotland:

Q4 2020 – 573,200

Q3 2020 – 569,800

Q2 2020 – 572,000

Q1 2020 – 562,600

Q4 2019 – 561,300

Q3 2019 – 560,000

Q2 2019 – 557,700

Q1 2019 – 555,000

Q4 2018 – 551,700

Q3 2018 – 560,000

Q2 2018 – 558,500

Q1 2018 – 559,900

Q4 2017 – 558,500

Q3 2017 – 558,100

Q2 2017 – 558,400

Q1 2017 – 559,000

Q4 2016 – 558,600

Q3 2016 – 558,100

Q2 2016 – 560,600

Q1 2016 – 562,200

Q4 2015 – 560,900

Q3 2015 – 560,200

Q2 2015 – 560,800

Q1 2015 – 561,900

Q4 2014 – 561,100

Q3 2014 – 560,500

Q2 2014 – 562,800

Q1 2014 – 563,700

Q4 2013 – 584,800

Only 1 in 5 new windfarm bids to ministers are from Scottish-owned firms

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Just a fifth of windfarm bids under consideration by the Scottish Government have come from Scottish-owned developers, it has emerged.

There are currently 39 proposals in front of ministers which are either too large for councils to determine or are subject to appeal after local authority rejection.

But only eight are from Scottish-owned firms, with 19 submitted by overseas companies, and a further 10 from English-owned firms.

Campaign group Save Our Hills said the statistics show yet again that the Scottish Government was viewed as a “soft touch” by foreign-owned developers keen to make money from renewable energy.

It also scotches any claim that every onshore windfarm provides economic benefits for Scotland, when so many of these plans would result in profits either going abroad or south of the border.

Among the foreign-owned companies to target Scotland for windfarm development are those from Canada, France and Germany.

Even major firms owned by the Norwegian and Swedish governments are involved.

The data was obtained by Save Our Hills through Freedom of Information.

Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:

“It is clear from these statistics that foreign-owned energy companies consider Scotland a soft touch when it comes to windfarm development.

“They are lining up to cover our landscape in turbines in the hope of making considerable profits at our expense.

“It is a complete myth to suggest Scotland always stands to benefit economically from the seemingly limitless spread of windfarms.

“They create little in the way of good, sustainable jobs for local communities, and most of the big money leaves Scotland straight to the bank accounts of big business either overseas or south of the border.

“It’s time the Scottish Government stood up to these developers and sent them packing.

“We’re at saturation point with windfarm development, and ministers must now consider other forms of renewable energy for the sake of our economy – which is so dependent on tourism - and our precious landscape.”

Notes to editors:

Below is the list of windfarms being considered by the Scottish Government, and their developers by nationality


Arecleoch Extension (South Ayrshire/Dumfries and Galloway) – Scottish Power

Clauchrie (South Ayrshire/Dumfries and Galloway) – Scottish Power

Cumberhead West (South Lanarkshire) – Cumberhead Ltd

Energy Isles (Shetland) – Energy Isles Ltd

Euchanhead (Dumfries and Galloway/East Ayrshire) – Scottish Power

Kilgallioch extension (Dumfries and Galloway) – Scottish Power

Pencloe variation (East Ayrshire) – Pencloe Ltd

Sheirdrim Hill (Argyll and Bute) – Scottish Power


Blarghour (Argyll and Bute) – Coriolis Energy

Cloiche (Highland) – SSE

Douglas West extension (South Lanarkshire) – 3R Energy

Glendye (Aberdeenshire) – Coriolis Energy

Glenshero (Highland) – SIMEC

Greenburn Wind Park (East Ayrshire) – REG Power Management

Kirkan (Highland) – Coriolis Energy

Limekiln Extension (Highland) – Infinergy Ltd

Sanquhar 2 (Dumfries and Galloway/East Ayrshire) – Community Wind Power

Scoop Hill (Dumfries and Galloway) – Community Wind Power

Shepherds Rig (Dumfries and Galloway) – Infinergy Ltd

Strathy South Variation (Highland) – SSE


Berry Burn extension (Moray) – Statkraft (Norway)

Clash Gour (Moray) – EDF (France)

Clashindarroch II (Aberdeenshire) – Vattenfall (Sweden)

Corriegarth 2 (Highland) – BayWa (Germany)

Craiginmoddie (South Ayrshire) – EnergieKontor (Germany)

Crystal Rig IV (Borders/East Lothian) – Fred Olsen (Norway)

Enoch Hill Variation (East Ayrshire) – RWE (Germany)

Faw Side (Borders/Dumfries and Galloway) – CWL (Canada)

Fetteresso (Aberdeenshire) – Fred Olsen (Norway)

Golticlay (Highland) – E.ON (Germany)

Kennoxhead Extension (South Lanarkshire) – Brookfield (Canada)

Narachan (Argyll and Bute) – EnergieKontor (Germany)

North Kyle (East Ayrshire) – Ramboll (Denmark)

Rothes III (Moray) – Fred Olsen (Norway)

Stornoway 2018 (Western Isles) – EDF (France)

Stranoch 2 (Dumfries and Galloway) – EDF (France)

Strathy Wood (Highland) – E.ON (Germany)

Whitelaw Brae Variation (Borders) – BayWa (Germany)

Windy Standard III (Dumfries and Galloway) – Fred Olsen (Norway)

Councils should act now to support the Covid ‘accidental entrepreneurs’

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Councils and the government should start making plans to support the many “accidental entrepreneurs” who’ve emerged in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic, a business expert has said.

Workers all over the country have been forced to diversify their own business or set up on their own as restrictions have hit the economy.

Writing in today’s Times, Glasgow-based business development firm Frejz said local authorities should be reaching out now to such individuals to help them expand their enterprises and create jobs.

Managing director Finlay Kerr said while those who’d adapted in the last year would be good at their trade, many may lack the business connections and links to investors to go to the next step.

He urged councils to get to work in linking new business owners with investment, and ensuring courses and tuition was on offer to those who had the potential to expand.

This could lead to increased job creation, providing a boost for local economies all over Scotland and kickstarting a Covid-19 recovery.

Finlay Kerr, managing director of Frejz, said:

“Scotland is now full of accidental entrepreneurs – people and companies who have been forced into massive change through necessity rather than choice.

“They may not fit the stereotype of a successful business owner, but they hold the key to growth and job creation.

“Local authorities as well as both of Scotland’s governments need to step in now to ensure they reach their potential.

“Given the lack of notice the pandemic provided, many of these skilled individuals won’t have prepared for a life in business or thought about scaling up.

“So cash should now be set aside to incentivise these brilliant people to become ever better.

“The economic climate has been such that thousands have been forced to do something new.

“But that’s also the sort of climate which can produce the very best new businesses.

“If done correctly, the dividends in tax receipts and economic activity could be significant for the whole country.

“The pandemic hasn’t presented many win-win opportunities, so when one arrives we need to take it.”

Notes to editors:

To see the article in today’s Times, visit: www.thetimes.co.uk/article/embrace-accidental-entrepreneurs-for-inclusive-recovery-6q60xvb5q

City business to start accepting cryptocurrency from customers

Tuesday, March 31, 2021

An Edinburgh music school is to start accepting payments from customers in the form of cryptocurrency.

Morningside School of Music said it was responding to requests from students and believed the payment format would eventually become the norm.

Director Linda Boyd said many of the school’s adult pupils work in the Capital’s growing fintech industry and had suggested the new service.

The school has 700 pupils across the east of Scotland and has recently invested in technology to carry out more music lessons online.

Cryptocurrency involves a digital transaction of virtual money traded over computer networks and not typically backed up by banks.

It is estimated there are now more than 100 million cryptocurrency users around the world.

Linda Boyd, director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“Some larger companies across the world are already doing this, so it’s just a matter of time before smaller businesses like ours start doing the same.

“It’s just about giving our customers another way of paying and making life easier for them.

“Edinburgh’s got a big fintech industry and many of our pupils work or study in that sector, so for them this is a perfectly natural way to pay.

“We sometimes use things like Bitcoin to pay for goods for the school, so we know how fast and easy it is and want our music students to be able to do the same.

“Cryptocurrency is here to stay and will eventually become a routine way for people to pay for services of all descriptions.”

Notes to editors:

For more information on the new payment system, visit:


Scot Gov report reveals ‘unprecedented increase’ in child eating disorders

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Eating disorder services have recorded “an unprecedented increase” in child patients during lockdown and cases are “increasing in severity”, a new Scottish Government report has stated.

There has been an 86 per cent rise in referrals since 2019, with some health board areas reporting a hike of 280 per cent.

The Scottish Eating Disorder Services Review stated that eating disorders “thrive on isolation” and have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

It states: “The Scottish Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) eating disorder leads have reported an unprecedented increase in the number and severity of children and young people presenting with eating disorders.

“This increase in number and severity has also resulted in an increase in adolescent psychiatric admissions.”

The report adds that UK eating disorder charity Beat saw an increase in calls from Scotland between April and October of 162 per cent.

UsForThem Scotland, which has campaigned for schools to remain open through lockdown to minimise the impact of restrictions on children, said the report showed the need for urgent action.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“This report makes for harrowing reading and shows once again just how badly young people are suffering through lockdown.

“They are isolated, missing out on vital social experiences and being hung out to try by decision-makers.

“Schools staying open as normal throughout lockdown may not have solved everything, but it would have at least allowed young people to retain a largely normal life.

“Instead they’ve been locked up at home and left to suffer.

“This report from the Scottish Government’s own experts makes clear that eating disorders have become a massively bigger problem through the period of lockdown.

“It will be no consolation to see crocodile tears from politicians on this issue months down the line.

“They need to step in now to stop this unbelievable harm being caused to an entire generation.”

Notes to editors:

The full report can be accessed here:


Make online retailers pay more tax to help out the post-pandemic high street

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Online retailers who’ve enjoyed a “boomtime” through the Covid-19 pandemic should be forced to pay more taxes to help out those who have suffered, it has been argued.

Glasgow-based tax specialists MCC Accountants said companies like Amazon had enjoyed too lenient a tax regime even before the coronavirus crisis.

Writing in today’s Scotsman, director Andrew Morrison said the UK and Scottish governments had to work together to develop a new taxation system which would ensure web-based retailers would pay the same as their counterparts with physical stores.

The extra revenue generated could help revive town and city centres across the country, and go toward the public finances rebuild.

One possibility would be creating a virtual “footfall” levy, where big companies would be taxed according to online visitors, much in the way high street shops with prime locations pay more in rates because they can attract a higher volume of customers.

Small businesses which operate online should still be given the same tax breaks as small shops, ensuring any measure focused only on those who made large profits which are then often diverted overseas.

MCC Accountants represents around 150 small-to-medium sized businesses across Scotland.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“The restrictions brought in by coronavirus have really shone a light on the need for tax reform.

“It’s time for those web-based companies who’ve made a pretty penny from the stay-at-home culture to stump up the tax needed to bail out the high street.

“A system needs to be urgently developed which forces mega-rich companies – who’ve enjoyed a boomtime pandemic – to cough up the sort of tax they’d be paying if they had city centre stores in prime locations.

“This is clearly the right and fair thing to do, and the government would benefit from significantly increased tax receipts.

“Many will argue these levers should have been installed long before the pandemic.

“But now everything’s being shaken up, the government must finally act to end these glaring discrepancies and get us all back on the road to financial sustainability.”

Notes to editors:

The full piece in today’s Scotsman:


Scotland’s ‘open door policy’ on windfarms must change after appeals revelation

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Scotland must reverse its “open door” policy on windfarms, after it emerged ministers overruled councils on 19 controversial developments in the last five years.

Research by campaign group Save Our Hills has revealed 24 occasions where local authorities have booted out onshore windfarm applications, only for the developers to go over their heads to the Scottish Government for permission.

And on 19 of those instances, ministers in Edinburgh dismissed local democracy and granted the application.

It means the success rate of appeals for onshore windfarms is almost 80 per cent, compared to the wider planning permission appeal rate of one in three.

The information, obtained by Save Our Hills through Freedom of Information, comes as one major developer conceded windfarm companies see Scotland as a soft touch compared to England.

Praising Scotland’s “open door policy”, Frank Elsworth, Vattenfall’s UK development director, added: “England has primarily pushed everything offshore. It has introduced policy which is quite a barrier to development.

“We’re having this conversation in Scotland and this conversation can’t happen in the rest of the UK because they haven’t provided the opportunities.”

Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:

“It’s astounding that the Scottish Government has overturned this many applications for windfarms in the last few years.

“The message it sends to windfarm developers is not to worry when local people say no, community councils say no, and the local authority says no.

“Just pass it up the chain to ministers in Edinburgh and you’ll almost certainly get approval.

“This attitude from the Scottish Government encourages developers from across Europe who now see Scotland as a soft touch.

“That means our landscape is far more likely to be wrecked by huge windfarm developments than anywhere else in the UK and, what is more, largely by foreign-owned developers who care not a jot for Scotland’s landscape.

“Vattenfall, one such developer, has basically admitted that it targets Scotland because it knows it’s easier to get through the planning system here.

“Everyone accepts the need for sustainable, renewable energy for the sake of supply and the environment.

“But Scotland is at saturation point, and we need a government that is more willing to look at other ways of producing energy that doesn’t cause irreparable harm to our unique and world-famous landscape.”

Notes to editors:

The Freedom of Information response from the Scottish Government is available by contacting Shorthand PR. It shows 19 of 24 onshore windfarm planning appeals were allowed in the last five years.

The general success rate for planning appeals of all types is around one in three:


Vattenfall recently admitted Scotland had an “open door policy” when it came to windfarm development, in contrast to England:


Fresh concerns for kids as eating disorder admissions soar

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Fresh concerns have been voiced for the welfare of children after it emerged admissions to Scotland’s main eating disorder facility rose sharply during lockdown.

Research by UsForThem Scotland has revealed there were 46 girls aged between 12 and 17 taken to the specialist ward at the Sick Kids hospital in Glasgow last year.

That compares to just 10 in 2019.

The figures were obtained through Freedom of Information from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, who run the Ward 4 unit in the city.

Their response added: “Colleagues in the service have noticed that there seems to be a national trend of more eating disorder presentations in that last quarter of 2020.”

Although the girls were treated in Glasgow, the facility takes patients from across the country.

UsForThem Scotland, which campaigns for the full reopening of schools and has more than 13,000 members, said the statistics showed the increasing problems facing young people.

The FoI response also stated that boys and girls aged between five and 11 had been admitted, but the numbers were too small to disclose full details.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Lockdown is hard for everyone, and the decision on whether or not to reopen schools is of course a very difficult one to make.

“But we’re beginning to see the dreadful harms across the UK being caused to children through a lack of education and social isolation.

“The fact eating disorder admissions among teenage girls has increased so starkly suggests there are major problems to deal with as a result of the pandemic and its impact on young people.

“Not all of these admissions will necessarily be related to lockdown, but we really need decision-makers to start taking into account the damage schools closures is doing to the welfare of vulnerable young people.”

Ministers urged to take a stance over 11 large-scale windfarm applications

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ministers have been urged to stand up for Scotland’s countryside by facing down a number of large-scale windfarm applications due for decision.

Research has revealed there are 11 proposed developments comprising 258 turbines which have bypassed local planners and gone straight to the Scottish Government for approval.

However, newly-formed campaign group Save Our Hills have said Scotland is at saturation point and should reject any more onshore windfarms, at least until development has been planned for Scotland as a whole, and not on the current piecemeal basis.

They said the live applications, which involve communities from Dumfries and Galloway to the Highlands, presented ministers with a chance to prove their commitment to Scotland’s landscapes.

Data from the official Scottish Government planning portal reveals there are 11 live Section 36 windfarm applications.

Those are windfarm developments deemed too large to be considered by council planning departments.

10 have been allocated to the planning reporter, while ministers will decide imminently on the 11th.

They include a 48-turbine proposal at Sanquhar in Dumfries in Galloway, an 18-turbine plan in South Ayrshire, a 39-blade submission in the Highlands and an application for 48 turbines in Moray.

Save Our Hills said while it accepted the need for windfarms as part of a mixed-energy approach, too much focus was being placed on onshore wind, often at the expense of scenery and the local economy, and without any comprehensive plan.

Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:

“The Scottish Government has some huge projects in front of it and has the chance to either wave them through or stand up for Scotland’s landscape.

“Communities across the country feel that we are at saturation point and it’s time for the Scottish Government to start pushing back against these massive developments.

“Too often they ruin the landscape, as one developer after another picks off an area where the last one left off, and offer very little in the way of local employment or profit for the community.

“In many cases where tourism and hospitality is involved, they result in a net loss.

“We completely understand the need for clean energy, and don’t expect every single application for a windfarm to be rejected.

“But it’s time for the Scottish Government to change tack and start siding with Scotland’s unique scenery over the current incoherent planning and piecemeal windfarm developments.”

Notes to editors:

Below is a list of live section 36 windfarm applications before the Scottish Government:

Sanquhar ii Community Windfarm, Dumfries and Galloway – 48 turbines


Limekiln Windfarm Extension, Caithness, Highlands – 5 turbines


Shepherds Rig Windfarm, Dumfries and Galloway – 17 turbines


Clauchrie Windfarm, Barrhill, South Ayrshire – 18 turbines


Strathy Wood Windfarm, Sutherland, Highlands – 13 turbines


Arecleoch extension, Barrhill, South Ayrshire – 13 turbines


Glenshero Windfarm, Laggan, Highlands – 39 turbines


Blarghour Windfarm, Inveraray, Argyll and Bute – 17 turbines


Rothes iii Windfarm, Moray – 29 turbines


Clash Gour Windfarm, Moray – 48 turbines


Crystal Rig iv Windfarm, Borders – 11 turbines


Survey reveals toll of school closures on mental health of kids and parents

Friday, January 29, 2021

The mental health impact of schools being closed on pupils and their families has been revealed in a survey completed by almost 500 people.

UsForThem Scotland asked members to detail the impact of home-schooling in the weeks since schools have been shut.

Three-quarters of parents said the situation had caused them increased anxiety, 71 per cent said they felt isolated on a daily basis, and 72 per cent said they felt “low or depressed”.

The exercise patterns in children had changed for 88 per cent of families, while more than a third said their child didn’t spend any time outside.

In addition, nearly three-quarters said their child felt isolated again, while 61 per cent reported their youngster to be “low or depressed”.

In total, UsForThem Scotland received 474 responses to the survey, with feedback from every local authority area except Shetland.

82 per cent of parents said they were getting less sleep.

The Scottish Government is expected to announce on Tuesday if school closures are to continue and for how long.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“This survey offers a snapshot of the impact of school closures on children and parents.

“It’s clear that the vast majority of families forced into home-schooling are struggling on a number of fronts.

“These problems don’t just make for a miserable present, they stack up problems for the future too.

“We understand the decision on schools isn’t an easy one for governments to make.

“But we really need to see ministers taking into account the impact these prolonged closures are having.

“It’s affecting every part of a child and their family’s day – from diet and exercise to how much sleep they’re able to get.

“Parents across Scotland are desperate for schools to open again, and will be watching closely when the Scottish Government provides an update next week.”

Notes to editors:

Key points from the survey are below. 

Þ     For parents, 76% have anxiety with almost all of these feeling this impacts their daily life.

Þ     71% of parents feel isolated again with almost all of those feeling this impacts daily life.

Þ     72% of parents feel low or depressed with the majority feeling this all the time

Þ     88% of children’s exercise patterns have changed, with virtually all of these having less exercise

Þ     37% of children do not spend time outside

Þ     66% of children have anxiety with virtually all of these feeling it impacts their daily life

Þ     73% of children feel isolated, again with almost all of them feeling this impacts their life

Þ     61% of children feel low or depressed and half of them feeling like this all the time.

Boost for Scottish small businesses as tax deadline extended

Monday, January 25, 2021

Small businesses across Scotland have been handed a tax boost after it emerged they would be handed a month’s grace for filing self-assessment returns.

HMRC said today anyone submitting tax returns by the end of February would avoid a fine because of the unique circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, MCC Accountants said the January 31 deadline should be extended as millions of small and medium-sized businesses would be struggling to get records together.

Director Andrew Morrison said it would give hardworking owners some breathing space after a year of uncertainty and changed working environments.

HMRC announced that while they wanted as many as possible to file on the usual January deadline, the waiving of a penalty until February 28 would provide some comfort for those affected by the pandemic.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“Having spoken to the small businesses we represent, we knew it was vital HMRC extended this deadline given the unique circumstances.

“I’m glad the plea of SMEs across the UK has been heard – this is some rare good news after a dreadful year.

“It just enables them to have that bit more time to gather all the necessary records and get their accounts together.

“As a society, we’ve become used to delaying and postponing because of this virus, so there’s no downside to this decision.

“If anything, HMRC has done itself a favour because hundreds of thousands of appeals from across the UK will now have been averted.”

Notes to editors:

The HMRC decision can be seen here:


MCC Accountants called for the move in the Scotsman earlier this month:


Push back self-assessment deadline to help SMEs

Friday, January 8, 2021

The UK Government should push back the self-assessment tax deadline of January 31 to help small businesses across the country, a Glasgow-based accountancy firm has said.

Writing in today’s Scotsman, MCC Accountants argued that firms needed more breathing space after a chaotic year, and that that extending the deadline by a couple of months would benefit everyone.

Director Andrew Morrison pointed out that many business owners will have been unable to gather all the necessary information for a tax return because of Covid-19 restrictions, or even suffering the effects of the virus themselves.

Those who have been shielding would have found it particularly difficult to meet with accountants or travel to banks and Post Offices.

And given so many SMEs have been operating a working-from-home strategy, that would also make gathering records more difficult.

Mr Morrison, whose firm represents 150 Scottish SMEs, added that HMRC itself would benefit from an extension.

Last year, 700,000 people missed the self-assessment deadline, with that number likely to increase significantly this time around.

Many of those would appeal any penalty handed down, causing the tax office considerable administrative problems further down the line.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“Both the UK and Scottish governments have worked together well to help out firms struggling through the pandemic, but now HMRC could step in with further assistance.

“Many small and medium-sized businesses use the festive period to get their books in order, but for thousands across the country that just won’t have been possible because of the pandemic.

“Extending the self-assessment deadline by a couple of months would be a much-needed fillip for thousands of small businesses, and wouldn’t have any material impact on the public purse.

“It may even prove cost-effective when you consider the number of people who could miss the deadline then launch very credible appeals against penalties.

“Over these past 10 months the world has become used to events being cancelled and milestones delayed, from local town galas to the Olympic Games.

“Handing 60 days’ grace to SMEs after the year they’ve just had would be a welcome and uncomplicated move, and one that should be announced as a matter of urgency.”

Get teachers to front of vaccine queue and keep schools open

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Teachers should be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccinations in a bid to keep schools in Scotland open, a parents campaign group has said.

Schools won’t return until January 18, and there are fears that may be pushed back further.

Now UsForThem Scotland have said teachers should be offered the coronavirus jab as a matter of urgency to help in efforts to open schools.

They have warned that forcing children to be home-schooled would be damaging for education and the welfare of young people, particularly those from deprived areas.

The latest Scottish Government science shows teachers aren’t at increased risk of contracting the disease, and that children don’t generally transmit it.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Either teachers are at more risk of contracting Covid-19 and therefore need to be vaccinated as a matter of urgency.

“Or they are not and therefore schools should remain open as they have since August.

“Whatever the scenario, if we move teachers to the front of the queue to be offered the vaccine, it will ensure schools definitely stay open.

“As it stands, the re-opening date is January 18 but already there is significant agitation for that date to be extended.

“And if it is, schools simply won’t open again this academic year, and that will be a catastrophe for young people and struggling families.

“It’s the responsibility of this government to ensure children receive a good education, and the only way to do that is keeping the school gates open.

“If that means moving teachers to the front of the vaccination queue, then that’s what has to happen.”

Revealed: 31% rise in under 10s going missing through lockdown

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The number of children under the age of 10 going missing through the first eight months of lockdown rose by nearly a third, new research has revealed.

According to Police Scotland figures, the force received 151 reports of youngsters aged nine and under vanishing between April and November.

That compares to just 115 reports for the same period in 2019.

The statistics were obtained by parents campaign group UsForThem Scotland through Freedom of Information.

They reveal that, since restrictions were imposed, officers received 5692 reports of missing young people (aged 0-18), the equivalent of 23 a day.

The organisation said the figures showed lockdown may have caused more vulnerable children to go missing, and urged the Scottish Government to consider the impact of restrictions on the most vulnerable youngsters.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Clearly lockdown restrictions made life incredibly tough for young people, particularly those who are vulnerable or from deprived areas.

“It’s impossible to say for sure, but we need to be open to the possibility that lockdown caused this increase in very young people running away.

“The Scottish Government is now considering what to do next in terms of restrictions for the coming weeks and months and whether or not to keep schools open.

“We would urge ministers to look at these statistics in relation to children aged nine and under and reflect on the further difficulties closing schools may cause.

“Keeping schools open normally is the best way to ensure children, especially vulnerable ones, can access education, support and as normal a way of life as possible through this very challenging period.” 

Notes to editors:

The full FoI response from Police Scotland is attached to this press release.

It shows the following number of reports of missing children aged 0-9 over the following times frames:

First eight months of lockdown:

Nov 20 – 17

Oct 20 – 19

Sep 20 – 31

Aug 20 – 25

July 20 – 23

June 20 – 21

May 20 – 10

April 20 – 5

Total – 151

Same period for 2019:

Nov 19 – 24

Oct 19 – 11

Sep 19 – 11

Aug 19 – 8

July 19 – 11

June 19 – 16

May 19 – 15

Apr 19 – 19

Total – 115

Group launched to protect Scotland’s landscape from mass onshore windfarm development

Sunday, December 27, 2020

A campaign group has been launched to force a policy change on windfarm applications at council and Scottish Government level.

Save Our Hills will mount a nationwide appeal to bring together communities fed up with large-scale windfarm developments in their local area.

The group will also work to persuade decision-makers in local authorities and within government to slow the spread of onshore developments.

The campaigners said while they were supportive of green energy, many parts of the country were at saturation point and the time had come to look at alternatives.

Work has already begun in Dumfries and Galloway to rally local people about the rise in planning applications there – an increase which has left the council’s planning department overwhelmed.

And they’ve demanded that all windfarms in the planning stage extend their consultation periods until Covid-19 restrictions have eased to allow for maximum local scrutiny.

Save Our Hills has a steering group of 12 people in the south-west of Scotland, but will now work to expand to other areas, particularly those popular with windfarm developers like Perth and Kinross and Aberdeenshire.

The campaign will make a number of demands, including compensation for residents and businesses adversely affected by turbines.

And they want to see fewer foreign-owned companies and absentee landlords profiting from developments.

Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:

“Scotland is in the process of considering what its energy future may look like, and that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for any government to do.

“But communities, particularly in the south-west, are at saturation point with onshore windfarm development.

“We feel it’s time for other sources to be investigated, and for government to understand that a fairer balance has to be struck between onshore windfarm development and the importance of protecting residents and preserving Scotland’s landscape.

“Many of these developers are owned by foreign companies and built on land owned by people who don’t live anywhere near them.

“That means the profits generated by these developments don’t stay in the local area, and indeed don’t even stay in the country.

“People have had enough and will not put up with the further spread of enormous windfarms which wreck the landscape and local ecology, risk damaging property prices, jeopardise businesses – particularly tourism - and bring nothing of significant benefit to the community.

“We need to see the decision-makers take a tougher stance on these applications, and begin to ensure that when windfarms do receive planning permission, it is with the blessing of those affected by them.

“All over Scotland there are groups who oppose one development here or another there.

“We will bring those groups together and force a meaningful change.

“Scotland has some of the best scenery in the world and, as it stands, mass windfarm development poses a grave risk to that.”

Scots firms innovating through lockdown could be missing out on millions in tax rebates

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Scottish firms who have been forced to innovate and develop new ways of working through lockdown could be missing out on millions of pounds in tax rebates.

Businesses of all sizes have been urged to investigate whether or not they qualify for hefty bonuses through the UK Government’s Research and Development tax credits.

Writing in today’s Times, Glasgow-based MCC Accountants said many firms which have had to adapt as a result of Covid-19 may unwittingly be missing out.

Director Andrew Morrison said anyone from distilleries which had changed practices to make sanitiser, to restaurants who’ve developed technology to allow them to deliver home meals, should look into it.

Last year, around 2000 Scottish companies claimed £300 million in R&D tax credits.

The credits allow companies to claim 230 per cent of tax back on investment in innovation.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“The phrase research and development tends to evoke images of folk in white coats and test tubes.

“But as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, any business which has had to adapt their practices and develop new ways of working may qualify.

“Basically, anyone who’s developed something of their own using a degree of trial and error should be looking into this.

“There could be millions of pounds waiting to come back from government into Scotland’s small business economy as a result of this.

“The R&D tax credits scheme won’t have been applicable for many firms before but, in the chaotic and unprecedented year we’ve just had, it could be now.”

Notes to editors:

To see the full article in today’s Times, visit: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/thunderer-taxman-may-have-a-bonus-for-shrewd-small-businesses-pdz0qbhps

For more information on MCC Accountants, visit: www.morrisonscca.co.uk

Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Nurseries should be allowed to stay open through new lockdown

Monday, December 21, 2020

Nurseries should be allowed to stay open should they want to through new lockdown restrictions, a parents group has said.

As it stands, nurseries across the country won’t be able to open their doors until January 18 at the earliest as part of new Scottish Government measures, in line with school closures.

However, UsForThem Scotland said facilities which care for babies and toddlers should be allowed to continue with agreement from staff and parents.

By allowing at least some childcare and education facilities to remain open, it would take some strain of parents who need to go to work or have older children who will need to now be home-schooled.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“We’ve spoken to a number of parents of nursery-aged children and some nursery workers themselves in recent days.

“It is clear to us that many want to stay working, and are only closing because the government is forcing them to do so.

“They value the education and care they provide and understand there is basically no risk of Covid-19 spreading among babies and toddlers.

“That’s why the Scottish Government should devolve that decision to the nursery businesses themselves: if they want to stay open through these next few weeks, then they should be able to do so.

“The closure of nurseries will really harm the development of young children, for whom time passes extremely quickly and even a few weeks away from key activities can be damaging.

“This would also help working parents – it’s hard to home-school children of that age, but it’s impossible to hold down a job and care for a baby or toddler at the same time.”

The following piece appeared in the Scotsman on Saturday, December 12, 2020


By Linda Boyd, director of Morningside School of Music

It’s been a turgid year for professional musicians – and that’s probably an understatement when you consider the dire situation many are now facing.

The traditionally dead two months of January and February have been immediately followed by another 10 of enforced inactivity.

The phrase “stick together” has become commonplace throughout the pandemic, almost to the point it has lost its meaning.

But for musicians across Scotland, sticking together might be even more essential when the venues they play in reopen. The battle to save the live music sector in Scotland is only just beginning.

Many high-profile recording artists have spoken of the problems caused by streaming music services replacing traditional means of buying music.

It makes it harder than ever for people to make money from writing, recording and producing music, and world-famous acts like Elbow and Taylor Swift have long called for collective action.

Good luck to them, but a more urgent coalition may be required from those who make their money in pubs and restaurants as cash-strapped businesses vie for custom after a year of financial hell.

We recently received a call from a major entertainment venue asking for musicians to perform at a future city centre event.

Their payment? Food and drink.

Of course, the workers pulling pints at this event would have been paid, as would the door staff, the organisers, the promoters and the cleaners.

But for those laying on the entertainment, drawing the customers in and keeping them happy, there was no financial reward.

They would be expected to offer up their professional services - with skills acquired over hundreds of hours of practice and often professional tuition, along with their thousands of pounds of equipment – for nothing but a poke of chips and a glass of cola.

Of no other trade in the world would this be expected, but perhaps everyone directly and indirectly involved in the live music scene have made it a little bit too easy for penny-pinchers over the years.

Now, the only way to beat it will be if the musicians of Scotland stick together.

Owners must respect the hard yards performers have put in to advance their own discipline. At Morningside School of Music we see hundreds of pupils who quite literally dedicate their life to their music.

Over lockdown, and in the absence of opportunities to perform, these people have been shutting themselves away in their bedrooms and improving their skills and talents even further.

We cannot reach a situation where venues know they don’t have to pay bands because, if one says no on those grounds, there will be another 10 willing to do it for nothing.

There always have and always will be venues that try this, sometimes through ignorance but usually through malevolent design.

I’m worried that, with such intense financial pressure on these businesses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, this will become commonplace as the hospitality industry enters a recovery phase.

It’s important to say that many venues across the country are passionate about live music and committed to paying their acts fairly and on time.

And let’s not forget that for these businesses 2020 has been awful. They’ve been shut suddenly, urged to invest in new equipment for social distancing, then closed down again.

Publicans in Edinburgh have had to watch on while huge sporting occasions, the Festival and the Christmas Party season have all passed without reward. Usually these places depend on such set-pieces to pay the bills for the rest of the year, so who knows how they’ll manage now.

Going forward, it’s vital musicians share their positive stories with each other about these venues and, more importantly, call out those who are taking liberties.

A failure to stick together in this way will only damage the earning potential of musicians who’ve been so acutely hit by this pandemic.

There’s a role for government too, both in Scotland and the UK.

For Westminster’s part, there is some making up to do after the disgraceful – if exaggerated in some quarters – suggestion that those in creative industries should simply retrain in creativity-sapping, 9-5 industries.

That was particularly painful for musicians who’ve already been forced to give up a life’s work in recent months and embark on every kind of trade, from delivery driving to labouring.

The Scottish Government could look at ways to help too, perhaps gathering and publishing information on venues who pay fairly and squarely and promoting those places, or offering tax breaks or cash incentives to them.

Naming and shaming those who don’t would probably be an impossible and controversial step for authorities to take, but perhaps being excluded from such coveted lists would serve a useful purpose in itself.

Governments certainly shouldn’t be afraid to interfere and legislate to protect such a treasured sector which we would all miss were it to vanish.

There may well be the odd musician who accepts a few free pints as compensation for their talents.

But for the vast majority those days are gone. Professional musicians have lives to lead, bills to pay and families to feed.

Venues should resist the temptation to rip off live artists, however bad the books look after a year of destitution.

And if they try, Scotland’s musicians – to a man and women - must rally, hold fast, dig in their heels and ensure it’s not an option.

They’ll be more aware than anyone after these last barren months just how sacred their industry is.


Poorest kids now nearly 3x more likely to miss school

Friday, November 13, 2020

Councils and government must work together to ensure children from the most deprived areas remain in school through the pandemic, after it emerged the gap between rich and poor widened again.

New figures have revealed that, last week, those from the least wealthy backgrounds were nearly three times more likely to miss school than their better off contemporaries.

On November 6, the absence rate among the poorest fifth of Scottish youngsters was 17.6 per cent, compared to just 6.2 per cent at the other end of the scale.

And on November 10, the latest date for which statistics are available, there were a record number of overall absences due to Covid-19, with 29,486 staying at home.

The previous high was 25,022 on August 26.

UsForThem Scotland said children from the poorest areas were increasingly losing out through the coronavirus crisis, and the local authorities and government needed to do more to ensure they stayed in school.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Higher absence rates among children from poorer backgrounds has always been an issue, but the pandemic has increased that gap, and it’s getting wider.

“There is a major problem at the heart of Scottish society if you are nearly three times more likely to miss school purely because of your postcode.

“We already know the least wealthy families suffered most during the first lockdown and, for them, blended learning was nothing short of a disaster.

“But if we don’t take action now, thousands of these children will be lost to the education system, and that will have catastrophic consequences for society.

“The legacy of Covid-19 must not be a widening of the attainment gap and the crushing of hopes and aspirations of children who’ve already had a less privileged start in life.”

Notes to editors:

Statistics for school absences up to November 10 can be seen here:


They show there were 29,486 absences on November 10, a new high.

On November 6, the attendance rate for the poorest quintile was 82.4 per cent. For those in the wealthiest quintile, it was 93.8 per cent.

Scrap air departure tax to revive tourism industry, MSPs urged

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

MSPs have been urged to revisit plans to scrap the tax on flights in a bid to revive the tourism and hospitality sectors in the wake of Covid-19.

In a submission to the Scottish Government, Glasgow-based MCC Accountants said abolishing the levy would encourage an influx of foreign visitors to Scotland as soon as it was safe for them to come.

Writing in today’s Herald, director Andrew Morrison argued that the move would make use of a tax power already held in Holyrood, and would allow a sector badly hit by Covid-19 the chance to recover.

The Scottish Government recently requested the views of businesses and interest groups on how to use devolved powers to trigger a post-pandemic recovery.

The scrapping of air departure tax (ADT) was Scottish Government policy, and backed in principle by the largest opposition party.

However, concerns over the climate emergency declared by the Scottish Government last year led to the policy being dropped.

In today’s article, Mr Morrison argues air travel could be encouraged while government works in other areas to offset the environmental impact.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“Cutting the levy on incoming flights would provide an immediate boost for the hospitality and tourism sectors who have been worst hit by this crisis.

“Making it cheaper to fly to Scotland not only means more people will come here, but they will have additional cash in their pockets to spend during their stay.

“This would make bold use of one of the Scottish Parliament’s most recently-devolved powers.

“Our message to ministers would be to embrace air travel for what it is, then go above and beyond in other areas to offset the environmental concerns.

“Scotland’s economy will simply not recover with the pounds and pence of holiday-makers.”

Notes to editors:

The article by Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, appeared on p15 of today’s Herald.

Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Teachers should be among first to be offered Covid-19 vaccine

Monday, November 2, 2020

Teachers should be among the first group in Scotland to be offered a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19, a parents campaign group has said.

Some reports have suggested early jabs may be available before Christmas for key groups like health and care workers.

UsForThem Scotland said giving teachers the chance to be vaccinated would help keep schools open and ease fears they had about their own safety.

The grassroots organisation has successfully campaigned for schools to remain open even as other parts of society have closed down.

However, Scotland’s largest teaching union wants a return to blended learning for areas which are placed in tier four restrictions, while their counterparts down south have called for schools to close during England’s second lockdown.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Keeping schools open is absolutely vital not just for the education of pupils, but for their mental wellbeing too.

“The best way for that to happen is with Scotland’s teaching community feeling safe when they enter their work each day.

“So if and when a safe vaccination is ready for an initial group of people, we’d like to see teachers to be among the first to be offered it.

“They are every bit as vital as healthcare workers as Scotland battles Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions continue.

“Children suffered so badly during the first lockdown and blended learning proved to be a complete shambles, especially for the most disadvantaged children.

“We can’t afford a repeat of that, so when priority groups are being chosen for initial rounds of a safe and effective vaccine, teachers should absolutely be in that discussion.”

Notes to editors:

Leaked emails from NHS Lothian have suggested healthcare workers could receive a vaccination in around six weeks:


Music school donates ukuleles to children's hospice

Tuesday, October 28, 2020

A Scottish music school has donated £250 worth of ukuleles to the country’s only children’s hospice.

Morningside School of Music, which has 700 pupils and 17 full-time teachers, made the presentation to Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) at its Edinburgh studio.

The wooden instruments are themed with popular children’s characters like Spongebob Squarepants and Dennis the Menace.

The school has a long history raising money for CHAS, including generating thousands though its annual grand ball.

CHAS is the only charity in Scotland that provides hospice services for babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions.

It has two facilities – Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch - while the CHAS home service supports families across Scotland in their own homes.

Through the Covid-19 pandemic it has innovated to launch the UK’s first virtual children’s hospice.

Linda Boyd, managing director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“It’s more important than ever to try and raise money for vital charities like CHAS.

“We’ve worked with them for a number of years and want to continue to find ways of doing so even through the pandemic.

“Hopefully these instruments can bring joy to the children and families who are helped by CHAS and raise much-needed funds for them.”

Sarah Dannfald, community fundraiser for CHAS, said:

“We are so grateful to Morningside School of Music for their continued support of CHAS.

“It really means the world to us to know that they are standing by our side, even when times have been tough over the last few months.

“This donation of ukuleles will bring joy to all who receive them.”

Ministers must watch emotional video by soft-play owner whose business is on the brink

Friday, October 23, 2020

Scottish Government ministers have been urged to watch an emotional video posted by the owner of a soft-play centre whose business is on the verge of collapse.

The plea by Craig Meikle, who runs Saltire Soft Play in Midlothian, has been watched 350,000 times since being posted last night.

In it, he warns his business is only weeks away from going to the wall, having being closed since lockdown was introduced in March.

He pointed out that he hadn’t received any government funding, and that other similar facilities had been allowed to reopen to make money.

He said: “The Scottish Government are still treating us with utter disdain. We’ve now been closed for over seven months.

“I’m watching my business go down the pan so the very least I deserve is an explanation as to why we have to remain closed while other businesses are allowed to be open.”

He added that the government had failed to provide them with guidance, despite asking them for seven months.

His company has had “zero financial assistance” from the government.

There are more than 3500 comments on the video from users of the soft play centre in Dalkeith, and it has been shared 13,000 times.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to watch this video, and so do other decision-makers in government.

“If they do, they will soon change their minds on this cruel and ridiculous rule which forces soft-plays to remain shut.

“As Mr Meikle points out in the video, there is very little risk from children mixing with each other, and other similar facilities have been given the green light to open.

“It’s astonishing the centre hasn’t been given any financial assistance, but the best way to keep these places is going is to let them open their doors and do business.

“These centres are hugely important for the wellbeing and socialisation of children, and also provide an outlet for parents, many of whom have been stuck inside struggling for months.

“It makes no sense to keep these centres closed, and I hope the First Minister takes five minutes out of her day to watch this video and take positive action.”

Notes to editors:

The video can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/saltiresoccercentre

Poorest children more likely to miss school because of Covid-19

Friday, October 16, 2020

New figures have exposed a gulf in coronavirus school absences between pupils from Scotland’s wealthiest and poorest areas.

Analysis has revealed the average attendance rate for the last month was 95.27 per cent among the most privileged youngsters.

But in the least wealthy children, the rate was just 88.14 per cent - a gap of more than seven per cent.

On certain days, the gap in attendance rate between the two quintiles was 11 per cent.

The research was conducted by parents group UsForThem Scotland, which said it provided more evidence that children in areas of poverty have been worst-hit by pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

The Scottish Government figures – which were analysed from September 14 to October 13 – show the gap between rich and poor has extended as a result of Covid-19.

Last year, the overall attendance rate for the poorest 20 per cent was 90.4 per cent, compared to 95.3 per cent for the wealthiest – a gap of 4.9 per cent.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“It’s been long suspected that children in the poorest areas have been worst-hit by coronavirus – now these statistics prove it.

“Schools should be more-or-less running as normal, yet in the last month more one in 10 vulnerable youngsters have missed out on vital education.

“This obviously places them at even more of a disadvantage for now and the future.

“The Scottish Government makes the right noises about keeping schools open even when other parts of society are closed down.

“But that’s not translating into action for children from the least privileged backgrounds, and that will have hugely negative consequences.”

Notes to editors:

The official data is available here and shows the following attendance rates by the 20 per cent least wealthy, and the 20 per cent most wealthy:


October 13 – 87.8 per cent / 94.6 per cent

October 12 – 87.5 per cent / 94.4 per cent

October 9 – 81.5 per cent / 92.6 per cent

October 8 – 85.2 per cent / 94.6 per cent

October 7 – 87.4 per cent / 95 per cent

October 6 – 87.6 per cent / 94.9 per cent

October 5 – 87.7 per cent / 94.9 per cent

October 2 – 86.1 per cent / 95.2 per cent

October 1 – 88.6 per cent / 95.6 per cent

September 30 – 88.6 per cent / 95.6 per cent

September 29 – 89.2 per cent / 95.7 per cent

September 28 – 89.6 per cent / 95.6 per cent

September 25 – 88.1 per cent / 95.2 per cent

September 24 – 88.3 per cent / 95.8 per cent

September 23 – 89.4 per cent / 96 per cent

September 22 – 89.6 per cent / 95.6 per cent

September 21 – 89.4 per cent / 95.8 per cent

September 18 – 88.1 per cent / 95.7 per cent

September 17 – 89.9 per cent / 96.1 per cent

September 16 – 89.8 per cent / 95.9 per cent

September 15 – 89.9 per cent / 95.7 per cent

September 14 – 89.8 per cent / 95.5 per cent

Month average – 88.14 per cent / 95.27 per cent

Statistics for the full 2018/19 year are available here:


They show the following attendance rates:

Least deprived – 95.3 per cent

Most deprived – 90.4 per cent

Government campaign to retrain artists blasted by music school

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A government campaign urging people in the creative industries to retrain has been heavily criticised by a leading Scottish music school.

Adverts appeared yesterday featuring a ballerina with an accompanying message suggesting she could instead work in “cyber”.

Morningside School of Music, which has around 700 students, said the campaign was wrongheaded and was “code for abandoning work to which many people in the arts have dedicated decades of their lives”.

Writing in today’s Times Thunderer column, the school’s managing director Linda Boyd also pointed out that musicians were professionals who had spent thousands of hours practicing and had often invested tens of thousands in equipment and training.

Linda Boyd, managing director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“The message is wrong and insults thousands of musicians across the UK who, for months on end, have been denied almost any opportunity to make a living.

“The government should be saying: ‘Stick with it, and once we’re through this pandemic the UK will have the best damned arts scene in the world.’

“Urging musicians to retrain is not a harmless piece of career advice. It is asking them to give up their life’s work.

“When the pandemic is over, people will want to go to pubs with live music again. They will want to go to the theatre with actors, to operas with singers, to nightclubs with DJs and, yes, to the ballet.

“If all the ballerinas have traded their discipline for nine-to-five lives in cyberspace, that does not bode well.”


Notes to editors:

The full article can be seen here:


For more information on the school, visit:


Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Reform corporation tax to embrace to home-working revolution

Monday, October 12, 2020

Corporation tax should be reformed to allow for regional variation in response to the home-working revolution caused by Covid-19, a Scottish accountant has said.

Writing in today’s Scotsman, Andrew Morrison argued a shift in policy would help redistribute wealth from London and improve the quality of life for those who no longer attend the office regularly.

The director of MCC Accountants said allowing businesses to pay lower levels of corporation tax if they set up offices in towns and cities across Scotland would save companies money and “level up” the economy from its London-centric base.

Such a move would also benefit London, he argued, which could start repurposing offices as accommodation in a city which is “bursting at the seams” and has astronomical renting costs and house prices.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“With the working-from-home revolution underway, we need government to get on board and make it work for everyone.

“With the right policy decisions, it could actually make an economic boon out of it, and come good on the ‘levelling up’ rhetoric we saw ahead of the 2019 General Election.

“Scotland stands to benefit from this change as much as anywhere.

“One policy that would achieve this is the introduction of regional corporation tax cuts.

“The would immediately encourage large firms to move out of London, perhaps even just in part, and set up satellite offices in the rest of the UK.

“If people want to work from home, and employers want their teams back together in the office, let’s meet in the middle – let’s look at having teams working together, and collaborating with colleagues in other satellite offices remotely. It’s the best of both worlds.

“As with everything, the balance is critical.

“It’s a balance that has to be investigated now and, if struck correctly, the months of enforced change to working habits could actually become a prosperous future to the benefit of everyone.”

Notes to editors:

To read the full piece in today’s Scotsman, visit:


Huge increase in adults turning to music lessons through lockdown

Friday, October 9, 2020

The number of adults seeking music lessons increased significantly during lockdown, a Scottish music school has revealed.

Morningside School of Music, which teaches around 700 pupils, said restrictions had encouraged people to take up music for the first time.

Analysis of their own figures showed that 71 per cent of bookings are now by adults who want to learn a new skill.

That coincided with the school moving lessons online through technology like Zoom after government restrictions made teaching face-to-face impossible.

It means the Edinburgh school, which was established in 1999 and has 17 teachers, teaches more adults than children for the first time.

Singing lessons are the number one choice for women, the school said, followed by guitar and piano.

Drum lessons are the most popular lessons for men, ahead of guitar and then piano.

Linda Boyd, spokeswoman for Morningside School of Music, said:

“We have seen a significant rise in bookings in recent months as we have had to move most lessons online.

“Our research indicates that the biggest rise is due to adults looking to learn a new skill.

“We have had to take on more teachers to cope with demand, including three singing teachers, two piano teachers and a guitar teacher in the past few months alone.

“We initially thought lockdown was going to be challenging for the school.

“But we’ve adapted the way we work, and adults are obviously pursuing perhaps old hobbies from childhood – or brand new ones – as they have a little more time on their hands.

“The pandemic and changed behaviour within that has led to something of a revolution in learning a musical instrument.”

Notes to editors:

For more information on the school, visit: www.morningsideschoolofmusic.co.uk

Schools must be spared from threat of second lockdown

Friday, September 18, 2020

Schools must be spared from any future lockdown measures being considered by the government, a children’s campaign group has said.

It’s being reported today that ministers may introduce tougher restrictions across a number of areas as Covid-19 cases rise across the UK.

However, UsForThem said schools must be kept running as normal, even if other parts of society and the economy shut down.

They warned that closing schools again would have a severely negative impact on children across the country, and place their prospects and wellbeing in jeopardy.

UsForThem, which has 15,000 members across England, formed in May to campaign for a return to normal schooling and the prioritising of children’s wellbeing.

Christine Brett, co-founder of UsForThem, said:

“If the government is considering the introduction of more restrictions, schools must be spared from this.

“Even if other parts of society and the economy shut down, schools have to carry on as normal.

“UsForThem represents thousands of parents who are already frustrated by classes being sent home to isolate and the threat of schools closing again will be a disaster for many children who are only just re-adapting to school and restarting learning.

“Children are at very low risk of the virus and their overall wellbeing must be prioritised.

“The first lockdown caused children across the UK a great deal of harm – they missed months of education, had friendships disrupted and missed out on so many activities and opportunities.

“A second closure of schools would see that misery repeated, and for a generation of children that’s simply not acceptable.

“Whatever the Government decides to do, it should make an unequivocal statement now that schools will continue as normal.”

Notes to editors:

It’s being reported that the UK Government is considering further lockdown measures:


For more information on UsForThem, visit:


SMEs should be encouraged back to the office to improve GDP

Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Both governments can introduce measures to turn around Scotland’s economy after it emerged GDP slumped by 19 per cent. 

Figures released today confirmed the downturn which has been mirrored across the world as Covid-19 restrictions set in between April and June.

Now MCC Accountants, which represents 150 small and medium businesses in Scotland, said action was needed in Holyrood and Westminster to boost the fortunes of companies.

Director Andrew Morrison said the Scottish Government should start encouraging SMEs to return to the office, as many are struggling to provide the IT infrastructure to keep employees working at home.

He said a number of his clients were keen to open up their offices again, and should be permitted if they can show it can be done safely and with the agreement of staff.

That would also benefit catering and retail businesses which relied upon people working in offices, he added.

He also urged the UK Government to consider extending job retention schemes for sectors which can’t get back to work this year, such as the TV and film industry.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“It was obvious that Scotland’s economy was going to take a pounding just like everywhere else.

“But there are things both governments can do now to ensure things pick up.

“The Scottish Government should now be allowing SMEs to return to the office, which would help their productivity and output.

“I understand the public health requirements to avoid public transport from returning to pre-Covid levels of use.

“But encouraging SMEs with a small workforce to return to the office strikes the right balance between helping those who lack the large administrative support structures while keeping workers safe.

“SMEs often lack the in-house mailroom, admin teams, scanning and IT support systems which are crucial in facilitating people working from home efficiently for the long-term.

“In my experience, company owners are picking up the slack to the detriment of growing their business, and that’s not sustainable for the economy.

“If these companies can show they can operate safely and their employees agree, they should be getting on with returning to the office.

“The UK Government should also consider extending job retention schemes for sectors like TV and film which stand no chance of returning before the end of the year.”

Notes to editors:

The full GDP figures are available here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/first-estimate-of-gdp-2020-q2/

Andrew Morrison called for action to help the TV and film industry in a piece last weekend: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/6034181/outlander-game-of-thrones-james-bond-skyfall-scotland-1917/

Scotland’s film and TV sector at risk unless both governments step in, MSPs told

Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Scotland’s film and television industry will never recover from a loss of talented workers unless both the UK and Scottish governments step in to help, MSPs have been told.

In a submission to Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, it was warned the coronavirus has hit that sector harder than most.

And Glasgow-based MCC Accountants – who represents more than 30 companies in the industry – said huge progress made in growing the sector before Covid-19 was now in jeopardy.

They said an extension of UK Government job retention schemes would be essential for small companies who won’t receive any work until the new year at the earliest.

But director Andrew Morrison also pointed out there were funding schemes the Scottish Government could be investigating to help out too.

In his evidence to the committee, he pointed out the number of enterprises working in Scottish film and TV had increased from 240 to more than 400 in the space of a decade.

But those who ensured that growth happened will be lost to the industry forever unless urgent help is delivered, he warned.

The Scottish Parliament committee called for expert evidence earlier this year into the impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s culture and tourism sector.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“Both Scotland’s governments need to work together urgently to help out this sector.

“Everyone’s been affected by coronavirus and the lockdown that ensued, but TV and film have felt particular pressure.

“For them, there’s no real end in sight, so we need to see the UK Government extend the job retention scheme for that industry and the Scottish Government to investigate more funding packages.

“Failure to do so could see the sector lose these talented people for good – and it would never recover from that.

“Scotland’s film and TV industry was booming before Covid-19 hit. We can’t afford for that progress to be lost.

“It’s vital for the economy and for the hundreds of companies who contribute to the industry.”

Notes to editors:

A full version of the submission is below:



SUBMISSION FROM Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, Glasgow

MCC Accountants represents more than 30 businesses in Scotland’s film and television industry.

As such, we see very starkly just how badly these companies have been affected by coronavirus and the resultant lockdown.

Of course there’s barely an industry in the world which hasn’t been impacted, but the particular problems caused for Scotland’s emerging film and television industry are particularly acute.

We’ve set out some proposals for MSPs to consider which could help these companies through an exceptionally dark time.

Of course, the UK Government’s job retention schemes are the most obvious ways to help this sector, and we appreciate that’s not something this particular committee has any control over. Separately, we are calling for these schemes to be extended at least until the end of the year for this industry.

But beyond that, there are measures the Scottish Government can take to help out.

The television and film industry is a growing one, and before Covid-19 hit there were many exciting initiatives to make Scotland attractive to production companies the world over.

In a post-Covid world, there will be new challenges for these companies, and Scotland can lead the way in meeting them.

It is likely production companies will need larger spaces to account for social distancing, and they will need these spaces for longer as everything will take more time under these restrictions.

As such, the Scottish Government should ramp up its efforts to create large studio space. If it does not, backlogs could occur and that may well drive these companies to look elsewhere to record their productions.

Clients have made representations to me that, pre Covid-19, there was a shortage of such facilities in Scotland, and they expressed desire for developments such as Pentland Studios to progress.

We also have to acknowledge the difficulties faced by these small companies in Scotland.

Before the pandemic, more clients approached my firm for services because they were encouraged by production companies to change from being sole-traders to limited companies, or enter into a PAYE contract, which was and remains financially detrimental to workers within the screen sector.

As a result, those who became limited companies lost out on the government support they would have received had they stayed as sole-traders. That’s because the coronavirus job retentions schemes were only eligibly on the PAYE element of their remuneration, and not dividends, which generally constitute the majority of their drawings.

Many productions that were shelved through the crisis won’t now resume until 2021. That means, when the furlough scheme ends in October, these companies will have to somehow cope with zero income for several more months.

I note the supplementary support previously offered via Screen Scotland in the form of bursaries, and the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 resilience fund, which were both very useful to a number of my clients who fell through such gaps.

Of course it’s the UK Government’s decision whether or not to extend job retention initiatives, but the Scottish Government should also consider some grant support specifically for these individuals who, again, are missing out through no fault of their own.

That’s especially important given the strategic importance of the screen sector to the Scottish economy – research conducted last year showed the number of enterprises within this sector grew from 240 in 2008 to 400 in 2018, a 66 per cent increase.

Scottish film and television had a very bright future before coronavirus, and that was down to the talented individuals who make up the industry north of the border.

Both the Scottish and UK governments now need to work together to ensure these people can be supported through this time, meaning they can get on with boosting Scotland’s cultural economy when the times comes to resume normal work.

Failure to do so could see the sector lose these workers for good, and that’s something from which it would never recover.