BREAKING: ‘Strong but unconfirmed reports’ IS bride’s baby has died

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The lawyer for IS bride Shamima Begum has said there is ‘strong but as yet unconfirmed reports’ that her baby son has died. 

The 19-year-old Islamic State bride and her newborn son Jarrah had been living in a Syrian refugee camp after she had her British citizenship revoked.

Begum – who has previously lost two children – revealed last month that her young son was unwell and she would not allow him to return to the UK alone.

Begum’s husband, Dutch IS fighter Yago Riedijk, told Sky News they both made a mistake when they joined the terror group. He married the British teenager just weeks after she arrived in IS territory as a 15-year-old in 2015.

Begum was 15 when she left London to join IS, along with two other schoolgirls from Bethnal Green.

She gained media attention whilst heavily pregnant last month, speaking of her desire to return to the UK.

Scottish Government plans to tackle pay gap

In celebration of International Women’s Day, the Scottish Government has announced its first Gender Pay Gap Action Plan.

The action plan has been put in place to tackle gender discrimination and inequalities in the workplace. The gender pay gap in Scotland for full-time employees has decreased to 5.7% in 2018, from 6.6% in 2017.

The plan will help the Scottish Government to meet its target of reducing the gender pay gap by 2021. The plan includes over 50 actions, including:

  • Supporting 2,000 women on their return to work after a career break through the new Women Returners Programme, worth £5 million over three years, building on the success of a pilot project run since 2017.
  • Improving workplace practices, including support for women during menopause and for victims of domestic abuse, through the expansion of the Workplace Equality Fund.
  • Refreshing the gender and diversity element of the Scottish Business Pledge.
  • Urging the UK Government to strengthen and enforce the protection of women and carers against discrimination and dismissal – including strengthening paternity leave rights and introducing ‘safe leave’ which would provide victims of domestic violence with additional leave.
  • Promoting gender equality within early learning and child care; schools, colleges, and universities; and within employment support or social security systems.
  • Commissioning a feasibility study for a ‘What Works Centre for Flexible Work’ to design, test and embed new approaches to increasing the availability of flexible working – in particularly for low income parents.
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(Credit: Creative Commons)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the plan today (March 8th) at Business Gateway’s Woman in Business event, to mark International Women’s Day. She said: “The package of measures set out in Scotland’s first Gender Pay Gap Action Plan are a historic landmark in our march to achieving gender equality and closing the gender pay gap.

“While the gender pay gap in Scotland is now the lowest on record and lower than the UK as a whole we still have much progress to make, which requires long term solutions not short term fixes.”

The First Minister  also laid out the specifics of the action plan: “Our plan sets out a whole system approach across public, private and third sectors and looks at breaking down the cause of the gender pay gap throughout a young girl’s life – from challenging gender stereotyping in early years learning and schools to supporting employers to adopt inclusive and flexible workplace practices to help mothers return to work after a career break.

“This plan is not just about supporting girls and women to participate equally in our labour market. It is also about promoting and installing fair work principles and setting out the benefits these can bring to all individuals, employers and the Scottish economy.”

 

BREAKING: Teachers’ strike ballot called off

 

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Scotland’s largest teachers’ union has called off its planned strike ballot after an improved pay offer was made.

The ballot of EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland) members was due to take place on Monday. However an offer from the Scottish Government was discussed by the union’s national council and they are expected to urge members to accept it.

The EIS is calling the development “a significant success for Scottish teachers.”

The new offer is:

  • A 3% pay rise effective from last April
  • A 7% rise this April
  • A further 3% rise next April

This represents a compound increase of 13.51% over three years.

The EIS received a letter outlining the new offer this morning, following a campaign which has continued for more than a year.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The EIS launched the Value Education, Value Teachers campaign in January last year, with the aim of securing a fair pay settlement for Scotland’s teachers.”

Education minister John Swinney welcomed the decision to suspend the ballot. He said: “This landmark agreement brings together a partnership with local authorities and professional associations to tackle critical issues, in tandem with a settlement on pay.”

Increase in number of Modern Apprenticeships

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The Scottish Government has increased the number of Modern Apprenticeships available to young people, in a continued effort to support youth employment.

Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships are jobs which allow people to work and learn, mostly targeted at those who have just left school, or will be leaving soon. They are a way to gain skills and qualifications, and be given the opportunity to start a career, without having to study full-time.

Fair Work Minister Jamie Hepburn announced that more than 29,000 people will benefit from Modern Apprenticeships next year. The target includes Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships and means Scotland is on course to reach its longstanding commitment of 30,000 new apprenticeships each year by 2020. The 2018/19 target of 28,000 new Modern Apprentices is on course to be achieved, with 27,145 people starting Modern Apprenticeships in 2017/18, surpassing the initial target of 27,000.

Mr Hepburn said: “It is vital we continue to develop Scotland’s young workforce to meet the emerging needs and opportunities of our employers and economy. That is why we are expanding the number of Modern Apprenticeship places available to 29,000 next year, meaning even more people can access a wide variety of work-based learning.

“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for all employers to invest in their workforce and provide the skills the economy needs now and in the future. The Scottish Government are funding more apprentices than ever before and we remain firmly on track to achieve our ambitious target of 30,000 new apprenticeship starts by 2020.”

Around 1,300 Graduate Apprenticeships will be available across 13 different subject, with 5,000 Foundation Apprenticeships available for secondary school pupils to choose alongside their other school subjects. Scottish Apprenticeship Week (which ends today) is a nationwide campaign aimed at encouraging employers to take on apprentices. The year’s theme is ‘Skills for the Future’, recognising the importance of investing in the workforce.

If you have an interest in becoming an apprentice, click here for information on applying.

Universities express concern over student visa plans

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The University of Edinburgh (Credit: Kim Trainer)

Scottish universities are demanding urgent changes to student visa plans in the event of a no deal Brexit.

The Home Office has said it will offer EU students temporary leave to remain in Britain for up to three years, which has come under fire from the University of Glasgow.

University Principal, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli said the plan was “crass” as Scottish degrees can take four years to complete.

Scottish universities are already worried regarding Brexit, as it may make it harder for them to attract European students, staff and funding. Student recruitment may be hampered if there is a no deal departure due to the three year plan.

Sir Anton said: “I think it could be really serious. I think for a lot of students it could put them off.”

Roughly nine percent of Scottish university students are from EU countries, with more than 4,000 enrolled through UCAS.

In a statement, the Home Office said: “We recognise there are a number of students on courses longer than three years, including at some Scottish universities. For these students, in the event of a no deal there are options available to enable them to remain in the UK for the entirety of their studies.”

Whilst visiting Glasgow University, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The Home Secretary is looking at that very closely and we want to make sure that our immigration policy works with the Scottish education system, as it does for the rest of the UK.

Stay tuned for EN4News reporter David Paul’s Brexit round up coming later today.

Virgin Atlantic drops mandatory make-up requirement

Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day, a focal point in the movement for women’s rights.

Travel giant Virgin Atlantic have removed their mandatory requirement that all female cabin crew must wear make-up whilst on duty. Female cabin crew will now be offered trousers automatically, as opposed to when requested – the uniform currently features a tight, red skirt. The move sees a significant change in the airline industry, which has not been progressive when it comes to uniform.

Newer airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet take a relaxed stance when it comes to uniform and make-up, whereas more established airlines have strict rules on what female members of staff must wear when at work.

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Virgin Atlantic have said cabin crew could now attend work without wearing make-up, but those who still wish to wear it could do so by following the companies guidelines.

Virgin Atlantic Executive Vice President of Customer Mark Anderson said:

“Our world famous red uniform is something all of us at Virgin Atlantic are incredibly proud of. As an airline, we have always stood out from the crowd and done things differently to the rest of the industry. We want our uniform to truly reflect who we are as individuals while maintaining that famous Virgin Atlantic style. We have been listening to the views of our people and as a result have announced some changes to our styling and grooming policy that support this. Not only do the new guidelines offer an increased level of comfort, they also provide our team with more choice on how they want to express themselves at work. Helping people to be themselves is core to our desire to be the most loved travel company.”

British Airways gave female staff the option to wear trousers in 2016, but still requires them to wear make-up.

The reaction on Twitter has been positive, with many praising Virgin Atlantic for bringing their guidelines into the 21st Century. Journalist Jess Brammar said: “Female cabin crew working for Virgin Atlantic are no longer required to wear make-up, the airline has announced. Which, you know, shouldn’t feel like an exciting step forward as it’s TWENTY NINETEEN, but it does.”

‘Suspicious item’ found near mosque in Edinburgh

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Police officers have sealed off part of Annandale Street, to the east of the city centre, after a suspicious item was found near the Annandale mosque.

The alarm was raised at 11:50 this morning after the discovery of the item, with bomb disposal experts from the Royal Logistic Corps attending the scene with a robotic vehicle to examine the object.

The police have asked people to stay away from the area and have since evacuated homes in the neighbouring area, and postponed a funeral that was taking place. Witnesses have been describing the scene, with around eight to ten police vehicles in attendance.

A police spokesperson said:

“Police in Edinburgh are currently in attendance following the discovery of a suspicious item in the Annandale Street area. Officers are currently investigating the circumstances at the scene and the public are advised to avoid the area where possible.”

Update: 

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team carried out a controlled explosion of the device at around 2:50pm. The police reopened the road at 4:30pm.

Beavers given protected status by Scottish Government

Beavers have been given protected status in Scotland, meaning it is now illegal to kill, injure or capture the animal.

The Eurasian or European species of beaver will be added to the list of European Protected Species of Animals, protected under Scottish law. This means that from May 1st 2019, shooting of the animals will only be allowed under licence, managed by the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Any licences given will be issued in accordance with the law on European Protected Species.

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Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“The Scottish Government believes in the highest standards of animal welfare – for both wild and domestic animals – and we felt it was high time that beavers enjoyed the same legal protection as other species like bats, dolphins, wildcats and otters.

“There are few species that have such a significant and largely positive, influence on the health and function of our ecosystems. The importance of beavers to Scotland’s biodiversity is huge.”

The National Farmers Union (NFU) of Scotland has given a mixed reaction to the announcement. NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick acknowledged how important beavers can be and what they can add to Scotland’s biodiversity, but he also mention the population has rapidly grown in the last few years and will “have an effect on farmers in years to come”. NFU Scotland said proper management of the species is key to avoid a substantial impact on the Scottish agriculture. A number of farmers have spoken out regarding the considerable damage beavers have done to their farmland.

Adrian Ivory, a livestock and arable farmer in Strathmore, mentioned it was costing him up to £5,000 a year to remove dams from his land. He said:

“In the past six years there’s been far more damage being created, more bank erosion, more trees coming down, more dams being built, more and more evidence of them causing issues”.

A SNH report published in October 2018 estimated there was about 430 beavers living in more than 100 active beaver territories on Tayside. Beavers initially became extinct in Britain in the 16th century, mainly due to over-hunting. Between 2009 and 2014, sixteen Eurasian beavers were introduced to Argyll and Bute. It was the first successful reintroduction of any wild mammal to the UK.

Parents told not to panic over Momo Challenge

Parents across the UK have been warning their kids about a viral internet challenge – which has been deemed a hoax.

The Momo Challenge features a picture of a woman’s face with bulging eyes attached to a bird’s body. The image is being circulated around social media platforms – mostly YouTube and WhatsApp – encouraging children to partake in violent dares. Most of the dares involve self-harming or harming others, with the final dare encouraging the viewer to take their own life.

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Photograph credit: Lauren Archer

A number of videos featuring Fortnite or Peppa Pig – which are popular with children – have been edited to to include the image of Momo and the violent messages.

A Scots mum found her four-year-old son with pills in his hand after being targeted by the Momo Challenge online. Brad told mum Rachel, from Fife, that he had been told to do “bad things” by the bug-eyed character including hit himself with a hammer. Rachel said her son had been traumatised after watching the video – which she believes was added into a children’s show on YouTube – forcing him to wake up screaming “Momo” in the middle of the night.

Rachel said: “Brad told me she had been telling him to do bad things – find a hammer and hit himself with it, go in the bath when there were no adults there. He had started sneaking off to the bathroom and randomly putting the taps on and we found him with a pill packet two weeks ago. This is him starting to do what they have been telling him to do”.

This isn’t the first instance of a viral challenge encouraging kids to commit suicide. The Blue Whale Challenge featured online in 2016, with the same ending as the Momo Challenge: committing suicide. A number of suicides were connected with the Blue Whale Challenge but none were confirmed to be a result of playing the game.

YouTube have insisted they have no evidence of the videos that allegedly promote the challenge. A spokesman said: “Contrary to press reports, we’ve not received any recent evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube. Content of this kind would be in violation of our policies and removed immediately”.

Police Scotland released a warning, telling parents and guardians: “We would encourage parents not to panic, but instead sit down with their children and talk about all aspects of their online world and explain the potential dangers”.

Scotland to suffer under UK immigration proposals

The number of workers in Scotland could reduce by up to five percent over the next twenty years due to the UK Government immigration plans, an expert panel has warned.

The independent panel indicated that the proposals put forward in the UK Government’s White Paper, released in December 2018, could see net migration to Scotland reduce between one third and one half after 2020.

The White Paper recommends a minimum salary threshold of £30,000, meaning those wishing to come into the United Kingdom must earn more than £30,000 yearly. However, the independent report found that 63% of workers in Scotland currently earn less than the threshold. The group also suggests that the threshold would exclude a greater number of women compared to men, as well as young people who are looking to begin their careers.

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The Scottish border (Credit: Kim Traynor)

One area that would be severely affected by a threshold is social care. In Scotland, less than 10% of those in caring personal service occupations earn above £25,000 and none earn more than £30,000. Local authorities are currently facing pressure to save money, leaving no room to raise salaries to attract more UK workers. This forces the friends and families of those in care to assume responsibility for their personal care, with female family members more likely to have to take up the role.

The report also found that the UK Government’s proposals would harm Scotland’s economy, public services and future population growth significantly. UK evidence suggests that EU migrants contribute more through tax revenues than they consume via public services. Like the rest of the UK, EU migrants coming into Scotland are typically young and relatively active, meaning they are consuming a small amount of public services due to their lack of use of health care services and are less likely to receive welfare benefits. If these migrants remain in Scotland or choose to have children, they will inevitably consume health services or publicly provided education services but their long-term contribution to tax revenues will outweigh the financial cost they will receive in services.

Ben Macpherson, Migration Minister said: “The Scottish Government has been consistently clear that freedom of movement has enriched Scotland and should be allowed to continue. The UK Government’s focus on reducing immigration will damage Scotland and does not reflect the needs of our economy, our public services or our communities.

“This independent report raises additional concerns about the effect UK Government immigration proposals will have on Scotland’s rural and suburban areas and demographics.”

Mr Macpherson said the report shows that Westminster should consider devolving immigration powers to allow Holyrood to support Scottish economic growth, public services and rural communities in ways that will benefit them.

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