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Scottish ministers to release 14,000 Covid WhatsApp messages

The deputy first minister said that “all requested messages held will be shared in full and unredacted” by Monday…reports Asian Lite News

The Scottish government will hand over more than 14,000 electronic messages, mainly WhatsApps, to the UK Covid Inquiry, Deputy First Minister Shona Robison has announced. She also said First Minister Humza Yousaf would share his messages.

The government had been criticised for not handing over all relevant data to the UK Covid Inquiry, with senior figures accused of deleting files. Nicola Sturgeon refused to say whether or not she had erased any messages.

Speaking to reporters in the Scottish Parliament, the former first minister said she had “nothing to hide”. “I did not manage the Covid response by WhatsApp,” said the ex-SNP leader, who is alleged to have manually deleted messages.

“For example, I was not a member of any WhatsApp groups. I managed the Covid response from my office in St Andrews House.”

She added: “I will set out in full to the inquiry how I operated, what I hold, what I don’t hold and the reasons for that.”

During a statement to parliament, Robison apologised to bereaved families for “any lack of clarity” about material provided to the inquiries.

She said the Scottish government received a request in September from the UK Covid Inquiry to hand over WhatsApp messages from officials, ministers and former ministers related to the pandemic.

Robison confirmed the Scottish government had been issued a formal legal order, under section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005, to release the material, which she said was necessary due to data privacy concerns.

The deputy first minister said that “all requested messages held will be shared in full and unredacted” by Monday.

In addition to “hundreds” of messages already submitted, Ms Robison said this would include more than 14,000 mainly WhatsApp messages from officials, ministers and former ministers.

“It will be for individuals to explain to the inquiries they have taken in relation to record retention,” she told MSPs. She added that First Minister Humza Yousaf would hand over unredacted WhatsApp messages to the inquiry in the coming days.

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Yousaf signals change in independence strategy

It comes as the SNP’s annual conference starts in Aberdeen. The leadership was under pressure to alter its plan ahead of a key debate and vote on the party’s independence strategy...reports Asian Lite News

Humza Yousaf has said he would welcome an independence referendum “tomorrow” as he signalled a change in his preferred strategy. The first minister said a majority of Scottish seats (or 29) in a general election would provide a mandate to begin negotiations for a referendum. He previously tabled a proposal based on the SNP winning the most seats, which would be a lower threshold.

It comes as the SNP’s annual conference starts in Aberdeen. The leadership was under pressure to alter its plan ahead of a key debate and vote on the party’s independence strategy. Party insiders believe a majority of seats will give them a stronger mandate for independence talks. If the party won “most” seats, the figure could be much lower than 29 if many other parties won seats. The first minister said that “mandate after mandate” for an independence vote have been denied by successive Conservative governments. He said the next test of the proposition will be in a general election, which is expected to be held next year. Yousaf said if the SNP win the majority of seats it would give the Scottish government a mandate to begin negotiations with the UK government on “how to give that [the mandate] democratic effect”. He said several options would then be on the table, including a referendum.

Yousaf has said previously he wanted to build “sustained” support for independence. He said that would mean 50% plus one backing for Yes, adding that we would hold a referendum “tomorrow”.

“If Westminster parties want to test the proposition for 50% plus one, I’m happy to do that. That has to be through a referendum to test propositions for popular support,” he told the Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme. “We want a referendum, demand a referendum. We’ve been elected on a mandate for a referendum. “If you want one, bring it on. We’ll do it tomorrow. I guarantee you, independence will be here sooner rather than later.”

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Scottish first minister says he feels helpless, powerless   

Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla had traveled to Gaza last week to visit Maged’s 93-year-old mother….reports Asian Lite News

Scotland’s first minister said he feels “helpless and powerless” to save his parents-in-law who are trapped in Gaza amid fears of a massive Israeli ground invasion.

In an interview with Channel 4, Humza Yousaf broke down in tears as he described the “suffering” of his in-laws, who are sheltering near Gaza City.

Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla had traveled to Gaza last week to visit Maged’s 93-year-old mother.

Yousaf told Channel 4: “I’ll be honest. I may be first minister of Scotland, but in this situation I feel powerless. I can raise my voice, I can tell the story, but beyond that, I’m watching my mother-in-law and my father-in-law suffer.

“And anybody knows, any human being, your first instinct is to protect your family as best you possibly can, and we feel helpless.”

He added: “In my heart of hearts, I can’t tell you whether my mother-in-law will be back or not. And that’s tough for me and incredibly distressing for my wife.”

Yousaf’s wife Nadia El-Nakla told the BBC that her parents are “now caught up in a war situation,” adding: “My mother says that there’s continual bombardment from land, sea and air.”

Elizabeth “has not slept since Monday” and feels as if “every part of her body is shaking,” Nadia said, adding that her parents “are just terrified, absolutely terrified, about what’s to come and what’s happening right now as we speak.”

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have reduced the homes of her aunt and cousin to rubble. Yousaf on said Israel is “going too far” in its conflict with Hamas, warning that innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip “couldn’t be used as collateral damage.”

He called for the international community to “step up” its efforts to ensure a ceasefire in Gaza, and for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to allow supplies into the enclave and to allow people to leave.

“There’s a humanitarian catastrophe that’s unfolding, and the collective punishment of 2.2 million Gazans just can’t be justified,” he said.

This week, Yousaf wrote a letter to UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly asking him to request the Israeli government to allow civilians to flee through the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

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Scotland registers big win

Ireland’s 133-run defeat to Sri Lanka at Queen Sports Club had ensured that both Oman and Scotland made it to the Super Six stage…reports Asian Lite News

Top-order batter Brandon McMullen’s 136 followed by 5/53 from leg-spinner Chris Greaves set up Scotland’s convincing 76-run win over Oman in their Group B match of Men’s ODI World Cup Qualifiers at the Bulawayo Athletic Club on Sunday.

Ireland’s 133-run defeat to Sri Lanka at Queen Sports Club had ensured that both Oman and Scotland made it to the Super Six stage. But Scotland will now have the added advantage of carrying two points from their win over Oman on Sunday in progressing to the next stage.

Bilal Khan gave Oman the perfect start when he trapped Christopher McBride lbw off the very third ball of the game. Scotland found the going tough against a disciplined new-ball effort from Oman, making only two runs in their first four overs. McMullen and Matthew Cross gradually settled in and added 82 runs for the second wicket partnership, with the former bringing up his half-century during the stand.

In the 19th over, Jay Odedra finally brought a breakthrough for Oman when he got Cross (27) to chop on to his stumps. Skipper Richie Berrington then joined hands with McMullen to steady the innings.

After Berrington grew comfortable at the crease, McMullen continued at a swift pace to bring up his maiden ODI century in the 32nd over. The pair shared a 138-run partnership for third wicket, with Berrington also reaching his fifty.

The Scotland captain was finally run out in the 39th over when trying to take a run off a misfield, departing for 60. A few overs later, McMullen (136) also fell to Bilal while trying to up the scoring rate.

A couple of more strikes by Bilal pegged the Scottish innings back. But crucial contributions from Tomas Mackintosh (32) and Mark Watt (25) late in the game helped the European side cross 300. Bilal was the pick of Oman bowlers, finishing with 5/55.

In reply, Oman got off to a slow start, with Kashyap Prajapati and Jatinder Singh adding just 25 runs in the first 10 overs, thanks to disciplined effort from Scotland bowlers. The pressure led to Prajapati’s fall in the 11th over when centurion McMullen cleaned him up. Soon after, Jatinder (14) also fell to Adrian Neil.

Zeeshan Maqsood and Aqib Ilyas then held the innings together with a 32-run stand, before Maqsood went for a slog sweep and was bowled by Michael Leask. One brought two as Aqib Ilyas was dismissed by Mark Watt in the very next over.

With Mohammad Nadeem’s fall in the 30th over, Oman had lost half their side and needed almost 11 runs an over to win the game. An enterprising seventh-wicket partnership of 105 between Naseem Khushi (69) and Shoaib Khan (36) tried delaying the inevitable. But by then Scotland’s grasp over the encounter was complete as Greaves picked his maiden five-for in men’s ODI during the match.

Brief Scores: Scotland 320 all out in 50 overs (Brandon McMullen 136, Richie Berrington 60; Bilal Khan 5/55, Fayyaz Butt 2/68) beat Oman 244/9 in 50 overs (Naseem Khushi 69, Shoaib Khan 36; Chris Greaves 5/53) by 76 runs

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Scotland’s first minister Sturgeon resigns

The SNP’s polling has dipped, making a dent in its grip on Scottish politics. The independence movement has stalled, with no real chance of a referendum on the cards any time soon…reports Asian Lite News

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday unexpectedly announced she would resign after eight years as Scotland’s first minister.

Sturgeon said she knows the “time is now” for her to stand down, adding that it is “right for me, for my party and for the country.” The Scottish National Party leader made the announcement at a press conference in Edinburgh. She will stay in office until a new SNP leader is appointed.

Less than a month ago, Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon said she still had “plenty in the tank” following the shock resignation of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Now the 52-year-old is headed out the door.

“First, though I know it will be tempting to see it as such, this decision is not a reaction to short-term pressures,” said Sturgeon, who has been facing increasing tensions with the UK government in London over Scottish independence, as well as Westminster’s decision to block a Scottish law intended to allow trans people in Scotland to change their legal gender without a medical diagnosis.

“This decision comes from a deeper and longer-term assessment,” she added.

Sturgeon said she could no longer give her full energy to the job, and that she felt she must say so now. “I have been wrestling with it, albeit with oscillating levels of intensity for some weeks,” the 52-year-old leader said. “Giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it.”

She said it was difficult to have a private life, noting it was hard to “meet friends for a coffee or go for a walk on your own” and observed that there was a “brutality” to life at the top.

Sturgeon added that she hoped her successor would be “someone who is not subject to the same polarized opinions, fair or unfair, as I now am.”

Wednesday’s shock announcement led to breathless speculation over Sturgeon’s timing, particularly as she had only recently pledged to make the next British general election a de-facto second referendum on Scottish independence.

While Sturgeon underlined that she felt she didn’t have enough left in the tank to perform her duties, her list of political headaches has grown.

The SNP’s polling has dipped, making a dent in its grip on Scottish politics. The independence movement has stalled, with no real chance of a referendum on the cards any time soon.

She has lost support in her party since she attempted to introduce the controversial bill on gender identification, with some polls suggesting a majority of Scots supported the decision of the UK government to use its powers to block the proposal.

And her husband was caught in a scandal at the end of last year, after it was reported he had personally loaned the SNP Pound 100,000.

Notably, when Scotland held a referendum in 2014, voters rejected the prospect of independence by 55 per cent to 45 per cent – but the political landscape then changed, mostly because of Brexit.

A majority of people in Scotland voted to remain in the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and the SNP successfully used Brexit as a wedge issue, arguing that Scots were dragged out of the EU against their will.

The SNP is due to have a special conference on independence next month. It is now likely it will go into that conference divided and without any certainty of its direction. All of which will make those opposed to independence very happy indeed. (ANI)

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Sunak and Sturgeon hold private talks in Scotland

The U.K.-wide government has repeatedly said that the matter was settled in a 2014 referendum, when Scottish voters rejected independence by a margin of 55% to 45%…reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to highlight the benefits of remaining in the U.K. when he meets with the Scottish leader on Thursday during his first visit to Scotland since taking office.

Sunak will meet for private, informal talks with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wants to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

Downing Street said Sunak and Sturgeon will focus on “the shared challenges that people in Scotland and across the rest of the U.K. face,” and how both governments can cooperate meaningfully.

Sturgeon’s relationship with Sunak’s two predecessors, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, had been frosty and the governments in London and Edinburgh have been at loggerheads over Sturgeon’s push for Scottish independence.

The U.K.-wide government has repeatedly said that the matter was settled in a 2014 referendum, when Scottish voters rejected independence by a margin of 55% to 45%.

Sturgeon disagreed, and her semiautonomous government has pushed for a new plebiscite. But in November, the U.K. Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Sturgeon’s government didn’t have the power to hold a new independence referendum without the consent of the British government.

Sunak and Sturgeon are also expected to jointly announce on Friday millions in U.K. government funding to boost investments in the Scottish economy.

Sunak’s office said the funding aims to create thousands of high-skilled green jobs and drive growth across Scotland.

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UAE delegation in Scotland to discuss renewable energy projects

The delegation visited the Scottish Enterprise, which highlighted its efforts to transform Scotland’s economy through innovation and investment…reports Asian Lite News

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, led an Emirati delegation of business and investment leaders on a visit to Scotland, to discuss renewable energy projects and other potential areas of cooperation, such as science.

The delegation included Rashid Abdul Karim Al Balooshi, Under-Secretary of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), and Mansour Abdullah Khalfan Belhoul, UAE Ambassador to the UK.

Dr. Al Zeyoudi held a bilateral meeting in Edinburgh with Angus Robertson, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, during which they reviewed the course of relations between the two countries, the importance of their partnership, and their shared vision to enhance cooperation.

Dr. Al Zeyoudi also met Ivan McKee, Scotland’s Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise. Discussions focused on the growing trade and investment relations between the UAE and Scotland, particularly in relation to food and agricultural products and energy projects, and the opportunity to develop key sectors such as tourism.

The delegation visited the Scottish Enterprise, which highlighted its efforts to transform Scotland’s economy through innovation and investment.

The delegation held a meeting at Scottish Development International, where the agency’s CEO, Reuben Aitken, showcased the potential for hydrogen production in Scotland and its rapidly developing space sector.

The Emirati delegation was also briefed on a number of industrial success stories in Scotland, including Storegga, which specialises in carbon capture, removal and storage, and XLCC, a company that produces HVDC cables that run deep under the sea. The visit also included a tour of FinTech Scotland and Heriot-Watt University’s Industrial Decarbonisation Innovation and Research Centre.

During the visit, Dr. Al Zeyoudi and the accompanying delegation held roundtables with a range of senior government and private business leaders in Scotland, focusing on areas related to renewable energy, infrastructure, trade and establishing pioneering companies and projects, in the presence of top executives from a number of large local companies and government agencies concerned, investment and trade.

Al Zeyoudi expressed his belief that there are great prospects for improving cooperation in priority sectors. He said that the UAE’s partnership with Scotland have promising growth prospects, noting that the UAE seeks to enhance comminalities between the two sides to help take economic and trade cooperation to new heights, with a focus on advanced technology, space exploration and carbon neutrality. The UAE is already working on major projects in Scotland through Masdar, such as the offshore wind farm Hywind, and we see plenty of room to develop other projects with a similar impact, Al Zeyoudi added.

The UK is one of the UAE’s top trading partners as the volume of bilateral non-oil trade between the two reached US$7.4 billion in the first nine months of 2022, a 32 percent increase compared to the same period in 2021, and also grew by 22.3 percent and 4.4 percent in the same periods in 2020 and 2019 respectively.

The UAE delegation also included Sharif Habib Al Awadi, Director-General of the Fujairah Free Zone Authority, Mohamed Ghareeb Al Hosani, Chief Experience Officer at KEZAD Group, Hussein Al Meer, Director-General, Masdar, UK, and Sultan Hassan Al Ghafili, Director of Engineering Projects at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation.

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Scotland Yard cracks biggest banking fraud operation  

The average loss from those who reported being targeted is believed to be GBP 10,000…reports Asian Lite News

Scotland Yard said its officers have led a major operation to take down an international “one-stop spoofing shop” in the UK’s biggest-ever banking fraud operation worth millions of pounds and resulting in 120 arrests.

According to the Metropolitan Police, more than 200,000 potential victims in the UK alone were directly targeted through the fraud website iSpoof.

At one stage, almost 20 people every minute of the day were being contacted by scammers hiding behind false identities using the site and posing as representatives of leading banks such as Barclays, Santander, and HSBC.

Losses reported to Action Fraud in the UK as a result of the spoof calls and texts via iSpoof is estimated at around GBP 48 million but as the frauds are vastly under-reported, the full amount is believed to be much higher.

“By taking down iSpoof we have prevented further offences and stopped fraudsters targeting future victims,” said Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, who leads on cybercrime for the Met Police.

“Our message to criminals who have used this website is we have your details and are working hard to locate you, regardless of where you are,” she said.

Over the course of this week, around 70,000 UK phone numbers targeted by criminals will be alerted by the Met Police via text message and asked to contact the force.

Scotland Yard’s Cyber Crime Unit worked with international law enforcement, including authorities in the US and Ukraine, to dismantle the iSpoof website this week. It enabled criminals to appear as if they were calling from banks, tax offices, and other official bodies as they attempted to defraud victims.

“The exploitation of technology by organised criminals is one of the greatest challenges for law enforcement in the 21st century,” said Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley.

“Together with the support of partners across UK policing and internationally, we are reinventing the way fraud is investigated. The Met is targeting the criminals at the centre of these illicit webs that cause misery for thousands. By taking away the tools and systems that have enabled fraudsters to cheat innocent people at scale, this operation shows how we are determined to target corrupt individuals intent on exploiting often vulnerable victims,” he said.

The Met’s Cyber and Economic Crime Units co-coordinated the operation with Europol, Eurojust, the Dutch authorities and the FBI. In the UK, the vast majority of the arrests are on suspicion of fraud.

iSpoof allowed users, who paid for the service in Bitcoin, to disguise their phone numbers so it appeared they were calling from a trusted source.

This process is known as “spoofing”. Criminals attempt to trick people into handing over money or providing sensitive information, such as one-time passcodes to bank accounts.

The average loss from those who reported being targeted is believed to be GBP 10,000.

The Met’s Cyber Crime Unit began investigating iSpoof in June 2021 under the name of Operation Elaborate.

Investigators infiltrated the site and began gathering information alongside international partners.

The website server contained a “treasure trove” of information in 70 million rows of data, including Bitcoin records.

Because the pool of 59,000 potential suspects is so large, investigators are focusing first on UK users and those who have spent at least GBP 100 of Bitcoin to use the site.

A wave of UK arrests followed with details of other suspects passed onto law enforcement partners in the Netherlands, Australia, France, and Ireland.

Earlier this month the suspected organiser of the website was arrested in east London and has been charged with a range of offences and remanded in custody.

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Queen may appoint new PM in Scotland

A final decision on whether she stays on will be announced publicly next week because the outgoing and incoming prime ministers need advance notice, the newspaper said…reports Asian Lite News

In a historic first, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is likely to conduct the traditional ceremony to appoint a newly elected leader as the country’s prime minister at her Balmoral Castle residence in Scotland.

The 96-year-old monarch, who has been experiencing age-related mobility issues, is on her annual summer vacation in Scotland.

‘The Sun’ newspaper claims that secret plans have been drawn up for her to receive either former Chancellor Rishi Sunak or Foreign Secretary Liz Truss at her Balmoral base rather than make the journey down to Buckingham Palace in London or Windsor Castle in south-east England.

The new Conservative Party leader will be elected on September 5 and is then scheduled for an audience with the Queen the day after to be formally appointed as Boris Johnson’s successor at 10 Downing Street.

A final decision on whether she stays on will be announced publicly next week because the outgoing and incoming prime ministers need advance notice, the newspaper said.

It would be the first time in living memory that the so-called “kissing of the hands” of the monarch by the leader of the majority party in Parliament happens outside London or Windsor.

“But obviously no one tells the Queen what to do and ultimately it is her decision, and as we saw when she made a third appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony at the Jubilee she likes surprises. There are some parts of her role that Prince Charles can do on her behalf but the Queen is adamant that she appoints the Prime Minister,” the source said.

“It may not be the best choice to make the Queen travel 1,000 miles there and back for a 48-hour visit when the Prime Ministers can easily get to Balmoral instead,” the source added.

According to the report, when the Queen arrived in Scotland last month for a 10-week holiday she had hoped to make the journey south once the new prime minister is elected and her Windsor Castle residence in Berkshire had been earmarked for the traditional constitutional ceremony.

It is very rare for any British monarch not to anoint a new prime minister at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. Back in 1952, the Queen conducted the ceremony with her first Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Heathrow after she flew back from Africa as a new monarch following her father King George VI’s death.

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UK, Ireland and Scotland to host Euro 2028

A statement from the five association boards insists a “similar return on investment” will be brought in with a “far lower delivery cost”,, reported on Monday…reports Asian Lite News

Scotland have joined forces with England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland in a bid to land hosting duties for Euro 2028.

“The football associations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland have agreed to focus on a bid to host UEFA EURO 2028, the third-largest sports event in the world,” a joint statement read.

A statement from the five association boards insists a “similar return on investment” will be brought in with a “far lower delivery cost”,, reported on Monday.

While the bid to host Euro 2028 has been launched, the nations have agreed not to submit a bid for the 2030 World Cup.

“The feasibility study included an analysis of the economic impact, the political football landscape, and likely costs of hosting major international tournaments. On balance, the five associations have decided to focus solely on an official bid to host UEFA EURO 2028, and have agreed not to bid for the 2030 FIFA World Cup,” said the statement.

“It would be an honour and a privilege to collectively host UEFA EURO 2028 and to welcome all of Europe. It would also be a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the true impact of hosting a world-class football tournament by driving positive change and leaving a lasting legacy across our communities.

“We believe the UK and the Republic of Ireland can offer UEFA and European football something special in 2028 — a compact and unique five-way hosting collaboration that will provide a great experience for the teams and the fans,” it added.

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