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London Marathon: Four mistakes to avoid as the big day looms | UK News

It’s crunch time now for those who have been training for this year’s London Marathon.

While the bulk of training is done now, there’s perhaps more to think about than ever for the nearly 50,000 people running on 21 April.

We’ve spoken to a sports therapist, a dietitian and a man who has run every London Marathon to find out the most common pitfalls before and during a race – and how you can avoid them.

“This is the time when a lot of people lose their head,” warns sports therapist and physio Gabriel Segall.

So how much should you be running now? Should you make changes to your diet? What should you eat before the race – and how can you avoid the dreaded wall?

Preparedness for a marathon can be broken down into three main categories, says Gabriel:

  • Training load
  • Recovery
  • Diet

Training load, he says, should be largely covered by now, with all your gruelling trial runs out of the way ahead of the 26.2-mile challenge.

He says participants will hopefully have tried to complete 20 to 23 miles in their training runs, as that will have given their bodies “the experience of having that stress through it” and some muscle memory when it comes to coping with a marathon.

But the week before the marathon is crucial, and often where people make mistakes that will hinder their success.

Mistake #1 – Cramming

Cramming in last-minute work like you’re revising for a test simply won’t cut it. In fact, it will likely be detrimental to your performance, Gabriel warns.

“If you keep pushing and train too hard, a lot of people get injured or ill because they don’t give themselves enough time to recover. And that’s where people can struggle.”

A four-time marathon runner himself, Gabriel instead suggests accepting where you are in your training and adjusting your target finishing time accordingly.

Chris Finill is one of just seven people who has completed all 43 London Marathons since its inception in 1981. He and his wife – who has also been to every event with her husband, either supporting him, medal hanging or running herself – have seen a lot of runners come and go over the years, and unrealistic targets have been the downfall of many.

The 1981 Gillette London Marathon
Chris after finishing the first London Marathon in 1981

Speaking to Sky News in the lead-up to his 44th, the 64-year-old says: “People tend to choose an unrealistic target and are too optimistic in the time they can achieve. And once they’ve worked out what pace they need to run right to achieve that unrealistic time, they run even faster than that in the early stages because they feel so fresh.

“So the golden rule is to preserve energy and hold back however excited, exuberant or energetic you feel in those first few miles.”

Mistake #2 – Not winding down before the race

People should be winding down their training and focusing on recovery, Gabriel says, in what’s known as tapering.

Chris, who’s hoping to finish in under three hours, says he’ll “hardly run at all” in the last three or four days before the marathon, though he may complete a two-mile jog the day before.

“The tapering period is a time to let the body relax,” Gabriel says. “You’re not going to have a massive increase in fitness or performance in the last couple of weeks.”

He highlights the pyramid of recovery, which outlines the optimal recovery strategies for athletes, going from bottom to top in terms of importance.

He also warns against being too influenced by social media when it comes to your preparation.

“You see lots of athlete and runner influencers online talking about the best ways to recover,” he says. “They seem to go out, run really hard and use all these products that they probably influence and get you discounts on, then they go out for a pub night and get two hours’ sleep.”

This form of training might seem idyllic, Gabriel says, but it’s not realistic.

“There’s one real way to recover – and that’s sleep,” he says. “Sleep is your absolute best recovery.”

Chris, who is retired, says he does his best to be in bed by 11pm latest and gets up no earlier than 7.30am if he can help it.

Beyond sleep, Gabriel says “active recovery days” are becoming increasingly popular, where you do some form of very low intensity exercise like going for a walk, stretching or similar activities that relax your body.

Mistake #3 – Getting the carbs wrong – and last-minute diet changes

A runner’s diet is different to what you typically associate with a healthy one, and it’s well-known that the most important thing is carbohydrates, says nutritional therapist Monica Price.

“It breaks down into glucose, and then we store that in our body aside as glycogen, and then that’s stored in our liver and our muscles, and our body uses that to give us energy,” she tells Sky News.

She says those training should already have upped their intake significantly, and “at least 70% of your diet should be carbs” going into the last week.

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So if you’re peckish and go to grab an apple, trade it for a slice of toast or a scone, she says.

However, not all carbs are created equal, and there is such a thing as overdoing it.

Having too many carbs when your body isn’t used to it could mean you feel like you’re running “after a Christmas dinner”.

Monica suggests “simple” carbs such as bread, pasta with tomato sauce, rice, potatoes, chicken, fish and tofu. While brown carbs are often encouraged by dieticians for their fibre, for runners they’re more likely to upset your stomach, Monica says.

It’s vital you don’t change too much about your diet leading up to the big day, she adds, because changes should be largely “trialled and tested” beforehand.

Mistake #4 – Incorrect fuelling = hitting “the wall”

The wall has long been a part of marathon folklore. Also known as “bonking”, it is “a wall of fatigue,” Gabriel explains.

“Some runners, not all, just hit this wall where they can’t do anything more. It can happen for multiple reasons, but it’s often due to not fuelling correctly.”

Monica adds: “You’re physically exhausted. Your legs can’t move, you go into muscle cramps, you have a spasm, you see, you feel dizzy and you completely collapse – and your brain is saying ‘no more’.

“And that happens because your body is running out of glycogen. In other words, you haven’t had enough carbs in your diet.

“That’s why you see runners collapse to the ground. It’s also key that during the race you have plenty of fluids, including sports drinks.”

Gabriel says pacing yourself will reduce your chances of hitting the wall, as Chris attests.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve ever hit it [the wall] in any significant way. I’ve had good races and bad races, but I’ve generally managed it by taking gels, having an energy drink and not going off too fast,” Chris says.

It can impact you mentally too, Gabriel says, because the brain requires glucose, which it isn’t getting if you aren’t fuelling correctly.

While refuelling and pacing yourself is a necessity, he says, mental fortitude is just as important.

“Focus on why you want to run and on the strategies you’ve learned during your training,” he says. “Trust yourself and the work you put in. This is just the home stretch.”

So how should you prepare the day before?

Monica says runners typically eat smaller, easily digestible meals every few hours the day before a race, while keeping carbs in mind. Think breads, sandwiches and bagels, as well as things like chicken, rice and noodles.

“And keep drinking water,” she says. “That’s always essential.”

Chris adds: “I always suggest people should eat relatively early, so you’re not going to bed on a full stomach – say by 7pm. But don’t go to bed too early.

“It sounds slightly counter-intuitive, but I think if you go to bed early because you’ve got a big day to follow, you just lie there and toss and turn. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep the night before, it’s not that important if you slept well on the nights before that.

“If you wake up on Sunday morning feeling like you’ve only slept for a couple of hours, I really wouldn’t worry about that. Try to put it to the back of your mind and just focus on the day ahead.”

What to eat on Sunday morning

Monica recommends a bagel with peanut butter and banana, as it’s got the carbs, protein and potassium you’ll need – though she concedes most runners tend to go with porridge or Weetabix.

It’s not uncommon, however, for nerves to prevent you being able to eat anything at all.

“Most runners are going to be nervous – professional runners or novices,” she says. “So don’t panic if you haven’t been able to stomach the breakfast or you’ve tried and brought it back up – that happens.”

She says it’s more important that you have carbs stored up from the hours and days before Sunday.

Accept that something will probably go wrong

Most runners know that 9/10 runs “aren’t great”, says Gabriel.

“You can do all the training you need to for the months and months and sometimes it just doesn’t hit. You don’t have a good day. Your legs might feel rubbish or your breathing may feel off,” he says.

“Don’t panic, or stress, whatever happens,” Gabriel says.

“Take a minute to just sort yourself out if you need to. Have a drink, have a gel, and remind yourself of why you’re doing it.

“That can really push you through, and the beauty of the London Marathon is there’s so many runners around you all on the same journey.”

How to avoid food poisoning this Christmas – and the dreaded freezer burn | UK News

Nothing spoils Christmas quite like food poisoning – although wasting all of your leftover Turkey comes in at a close second.

That’s why the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has shared some top tips to help keep your Christmas safe and minimise food waste over the festive period.

From safe Turkey storage to correct defrosting and cooking methods – plus a look at how to avoid the dreaded freezer burn – here’s everything you need to know.

Keep it on the low

You should ideally store raw meat and fish covered on the bottom shelf of your fridge to avoid cross-contamination or spillages affecting ready-to-eat food and vegetables, according to the FSA.

They recommend keeping Turkey and ready-to-eat food apart even while completing your initial Christmas shop, so make sure you bring enough bags.

Your fridge needs to be set at 5C or below to keep your Turkey top-notch, they add.

Leave plenty of defrosting time

No one wants to be tucking into their Christmas turkeys on Boxing Day.

So bear in mind that a whole turkey can take up to five days to fully defrost – and that you shouldn’t take shortcuts by thawing it out of the fridge.

Always check the packaging for instructions, as some turkeys that are bought frozen can also be cooked from frozen.

But as a general guide, the FSA says you should allow around 10-12 hours of defrosting time per kg.

A typical large turkey weighing 6-7kg could take as long as four days to fully defrost in the fridge, they add.

It’s absolutely vital that the turkey is thawed throughout, as it may cook unevenly if not, potentially leaving harmful bacteria in your meal.

Preparing and cooking your turkey

It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap whenever handling raw meat. Also, be sure to wash any utensils and surfaces it has come into contact with.

A common misconception is that your turkey isn’t clean until you’ve washed it. But the FSA says it should absolutely not be washed before cooking, as this spreads germs onto your hands, clothes, utensils, and worktops.

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You’ve heard of a partridge in a pear tree, but how about an owl in a Christmas tree?

If you’re cooking stuffing, be sure to do so in a separate roasting tin, rather than inside the turkey, as a stuffed turkey will take longer to cook and may not cook thoroughly.

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If there are no cooking instructions on the packaging, here’s what the FSA says you should do: In an oven preheated to 180ºC (350ºF or Gas Mark 4):

• Allow 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes for a turkey that weighs under 4.5kg

• 40 minutes per kg for a turkey that weighs between 4.5kg and 6.5kg

• 35 minutes per kg for a turkey that weighs over 6.5kg

How you’ll know if the turkey’s done

You need to check that it’s steaming hot and cooked all the way through.

If you do not have a meat thermometer or temperature probe, cut into the thickest part of the meat, check that none of the meat is pink and that any juices run clear.

Avoiding freezer burn

Whether you’re cooking for many people or few, you’d rather have too much food than too little.

It’s therefore incredibly common to end up with huge portions of leftover Christmas cooking.

Fear not: you can freeze almost anything, including your cooked turkey, potatoes, veg and more.

Be decisive if you want to get things frozen, as it should be done within one or two hours of the food reaching room temperature.

It will be safe in the freezer for a long time, but the FSA warns of freezer burn.

Freezer burn is when foods in the freezer are exposed to cold, dry air, which causes them to dehydrate and form ice crystals.

It’s not typically dangerous, but it does reduce the quality of the food once you’ve defrosted it.

You can avoid freezer burn by eating the meat within 2-3 months. You can leave baked goods, fruit and veg for between 3-4 months before the burn kicks in.

When you’re ready for a second Christmas lunch, be sure to defrost food slowly in the fridge or in a microwave on the defrost setting, rather than at room temperature.

Once it’s defrosted, the FSA says to eat it within 24 hours. Be sure to have it all, as you can’t freeze it again afterwards.

Shoppers told to avoid fake Wonka and Prime-branded chocolate bars | UK News

Shoppers have been warned not to buy or eat fake and potentially unsafe Prime or Wonka chocolate bars.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it had received reports of fake branded chocolate on sale and was working with Trading Standards to protect consumers.

Prime, the popular drinks brand, does not make any Prime-branded food products, meaning the chocolate bars are fake and could be unsafe.

The FSA also said any Wonka bars sold in a shop, online or on a market stall “will not be the real thing”.

It warned the ingredients list might not be correct and allergen labels may not have been applied correctly.

Fake Wonka Bars were removed from sale last year after having been found to contain allergens that were not listed on the label, posing a major health risk to anyone who suffers from a food allergy or intolerance.

Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA, said: “With Christmas coming up, don’t waste your money on fake branded chocolate for your children, friends or family – you won’t be getting what you think you are paying for and you don’t know what is in them.

“There could be a food safety risk, especially for those with food intolerances or allergies.”

Undated handout photo issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) of a fake Prime branded chocolate bar. The FSA is warning members of the public not to buy or eat fake Wonka Bars or Prime chocolate bars for safety reasons. Issue date: Monday December 4, 2023.

He added: “We know there is a problem with potentially unsafe fake chocolate bars such as Wonka and Prime bars and we’re working with Trading Standards to protect consumers.

“Please do not buy or eat these bars and if you think you’ve bought a fake chocolate bar, or if you see something that does not seem right when you are shopping, report it to your Local Authority.”

The warning follows quantities of hallucinogenic drugs found in “a small number” of chocolate bars sold at Mansfield Market in Nottinghamshire late last month.

Nottinghamshire Police received reports of people falling ill after consuming chocolate both labelled as Cali-Gold and unbranded, and later said Psilocin – found in magic mushrooms – and THC – a substance found in cannabis – were discovered in some of the bars.

Black Friday tips to stay safe and avoid scams while shopping online | Science & Tech News

The threat of fraud and cyber scams is a 365-days-a-year problem when it comes to online shopping.

But just as the rate at which retailers hit you with promo emails scales up at this time of year, so too does the risk of falling foul of criminals trying to access your bank account.

According to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), shoppers lost more than £10m to cyber criminals over last year’s festive shopping period.

With Black Friday sales under way and Christmas on the horizon, Sky News enlisted some cybersecurity experts to offer advice on how best to stay safe and avoid scams this year.

Spotting a dodgy email

A favourite tactic of fraudsters is to draw you in with an email that looks remarkably legitimate, seemingly offering an exclusive deal at one of your favoured retailers.

It is, as Mike McLellan of Secureworks puts it, a “classic scenario we’d expect to see around Black Friday”.

An important thing to look out for is the domain name of the sender’s email address – is it a close match, but with something slightly off? Think, for example.

“On smartphones, that kind of detail is usually hidden,” advises Mr McLellan. “So tap on it and check where the email has come from.”

You should also keep an eye out for misspellings and odd formatting.

However, the NCSC has warned that criminals are likely to use increasingly accessible AI tools to produce even more convincing scam emails, websites, and adverts than usual.

If you’re at all unsure, it’s good practice to go to the website directly, rather than click on any links in the email.

Fake websites

Some scams may direct you to a retailer’s login page to enter your account information.

It could look perfectly normal, and you go ahead and pop in your username and password, while in the background, criminals capture that information and use it themselves.

Chris Bluvshtein, of VPNOverview, says: “Every website should have a valid security certificate, and you can tell by the little padlock icon next to the URL.

“If a website doesn’t have one of these, then don’t give your bank details or valuable information.”

These can be some of the hardest scams to notice yourself, but banks have become very good at alerting you to “unusual logins” and flagging any subsequent dodgy transactions.

“If you suspect something bad has happened, consider changing your password,” Mr McLellan says. “And checking your bank activity.”

Text message scams

Another classic of the Black Friday scam genre is a text message suggesting you have a parcel waiting with DHL, Royal Mail, or some other delivery provider.

“Quite often you will be expecting something when you get these texts – but again keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look normal,” says Mr McLellan.

A good indicator that something is amiss is if the text asks you for payment and includes a link.

You should not click on these.

An example of a text message scam. Pic: Royal Mail
An example of a text message scam. Pic: Royal Mail

The rise of ‘Qishing’

An emerging threat over the past year is an extension of phishing using QR codes.

Secureworks has dubbed it “Qishing”, when criminals use them to direct unsuspecting consumers to fraudulent websites that could steal their personal information.

Director of threat intelligence, Rafe Pilling, says: “We’re so used to seeing ‘scan this code’ to register, view a menu, order drinks or food to a table, or even enter competitions via the big screen at events stadiums, that consumers are thinking less about what they’re actually scanning.

“As the hype around holidays like Black Friday drives more urgency in consumer actions, we can expect to see more cyber criminals taking advantage with Qishing.”

Password managers and mobile payments

Modern smartphones and web browsers offer some useful baked-in features to help you stay safe.

Both have password managers and generators, which will come up with randomised options for you to lock your accounts and then store those behind a master password – or even biometrics like facial or fingerprint recognition.

Consider multifactor authentication as well, says Mr McLellan, for an extra layer of security.

Apple and Google Pay are good payment options if the retailer accepts them, as they protect your bank details.

“It’s best to use them instead of your debit card,” says Mr Bluvshtein.

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A customer sets up Face ID on his new iPhone X at the Apple Store Union Square on November 3, 2017, in San Francisco, California. Apple's flagship iPhone X hits stores around the world as the company predicts bumper sales despite the handset's eye-watering price tag, and celebrates a surge in profits. / AFP PHOTO / Elijah Nouvelage (Photo credit should read ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images)
Set up facial recognition on your phone and use it to protect your passwords

Avoid shopping on public networks

Black Friday promotions will often try to entice you with limited time deals, alerting you to them via an app notification, text message or email.

If one arrives while you’re out and about, it could be tempting to jump straight to it.

But shopping on public wi-fi networks, like those you might find at railway stations and on trains, is a bad idea, according to Mr Bluvshtein.

“Public wi-fi rarely has safety protocols such as passwords in place, and hackers can piggyback and steal unsecured banking details and sensitive information without you knowing,” he says.

What to do if you suspect you’ve been scammed

Even with the best will in the world, there may come a moment where you suspect the worst.

But try not to fret – there are steps you can take to limit the damage, or prevent any from occurring at all.

“Keep an eye on bank accounts and if you see anything unusual, get in touch with them,” says Mr McLellan.

“Banks have got very robust fraud controls these days – and that’s why it’s best to use credit cards if possible.

“If you think any of your online accounts have been compromised, change the password, and try not to reuse them across different retailers.

“We do recognise that some of these have a technical bar to them, but if nothing else, at least keep an eye on what’s happening and be vigilant about your online activity.”

EU equality laws to be reinstated to avoid ‘gap in protections’ for workers | Politics News

The government has announced plans to reinstate EU equality laws before they expire at the end of the year – admitting the move is required to avoid a “clear gap in protections” for workers.

Ministers will today lay a statutory instrument intended to “enshrine” key rights and principles derived from the European Union into British law.

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It follows questions over whether some employment protections related to things like equal pay and maternity leave would be scrapped from January when The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill comes into effect.

The controversial legislation – also known as the “Brexit Freedoms Bill” – will dispense with hundreds of Brussels-derived laws still on British statue books. It will also end the supremacy of EU law over UK law, erasing previous case law principles.

Trade unions and employment lawyers had warned this would create uncertainty over key protections for British workers which derive from the EU and don’t exist in British law.

The government said its update today means “that necessary protections are clearly stated in our domestic legislation”.

One legal expert welcomed the announcement – but said it raised “legitimate questions” around what gains had been made from post-Brexit sovereignty if EU laws are simply going to be replicated.

The protections being retained include the “single-source” test, which gives women the right to equal pay with men for doing work of equal value, and preventing women from experiencing less favourable treatment at work because they are breastfeeding.

Other laws being retained include:

• Protecting women from unfavourable treatment after they return from maternity leave, where that treatment is in connection with a pregnancy or a pregnancy-related illness occurring before their return;

• Ensuring that women can continue to receive special treatment from their employer in connection with maternity, for example through enhanced occupational maternity schemes;

• Confirming that the definition of disability in the context of employment will explicitly cover working life;

• Holding employers accountable if they create or allow discriminatory recruitment conditions, such as if they make public discriminatory statements about access to employment in their organisation;

• Providing explicit protections from indirect discrimination by association, so that those who may be caught up and disadvantaged by discrimination against others are also protected.

The move could risk angering Eurosceptic Tories, who want to see the UK move away from the EU’s influence.

Max Winthrop, the chair of the Law Society’s Employment Law Committee, welcomed the clarification that vital rights “would not be for the legislative dustbin as of December 31st”.

However, he said the move does raise “legitimate questions” about the point of Brexit, from a sovereignty standpoint.

“When we are effectively replicating legislation from the EU, and I can understand why the government have done that because it would not be particularly popular to say ‘let’s scrap maternity rights’, it does leave the big question as to what exactly is it that we’ve gained from leaving the EU,” he told Sky News.

“We haven’t gained what was sometimes referred to as the Singapore-on-the-Thames approach. In other words, to deregulate the marketplace. So you then have to ask yourself the question, is the loss of seamless trade throughout the European Economic Area really worth the cattle?”.

He added that the announcement shows why the original plan to scrap all remaining EU laws by the end of this year “would have probably been disastrous”.

“It shows the complexity of junking 40 years worth of (EU) legislation, and the sorts of steps we’ve had to go through to maintain the protections that a lot of people probably thought they already had.”

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill was originally intended to scrap all EU-era laws which were kept in place after the Brexit transition period in order to minimise disruption to businesses.

But the promised bonfire of Brussels rules and regulations was dramatically scaled-back in May, with less than 600 now set to be junked by the end of this year.

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Kemi Badenoch was told off in the House of Commons by the Speaker of the House

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said the change was necessary because of the “risks of legal uncertainty” caused by automatically scrapping some 4,000 laws, but there was significant backlash from within the Conservative Party, with arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing the prime minister of “behaving like a Borgia”.

Notes accidently left on the press release announcing today’s measures suggest some concern that retaining the protections could rile up the right wing of the party.

The notes discussed how to answer questions about why the government isn’t scrapping the protections, and whether maintaining discrimination laws would threaten free speech and “make businesses feel they must follow the woke agenda”.

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The document stresses that if the EU laws aren’t retained, “employers would in some circumstances be able to make statements, for example, that they wouldn’t hire people because they are black. That is not right and not in line with Britain’s proud history of equality and fair play”.

“We are only restating laws where there would otherwise be a clear gap in protections: this is an area where we think the law needs to be strong and clear,” the document says.

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that the fundamental rights and freedoms of people in the United Kingdom remain protected.

“Our work is ensuring that necessary protections are retained and will end the inherent uncertainty of relying on judicial interpretations of EU law.

“Today’s update will ensure that Great Britain maintains its proud history of equality and that necessary protections are clearly stated in our domestic legislation.”

King’s Speech live: Watch our special programme on Sky News, hosted by Sophy Ridge, from 10.30am on Tuesday. You will also be able to follow the event live via the Politics Hub on the Sky News app and website.

SNP’s Westminster group submits accounts on time to avoid losing £1.2m in public funds | UK News

The SNP’s Westminster group has filed its audited accounts ahead of a deadline, the party has said.

The party faced missing out on £1.2m in public funds if it failed to meet the 31 May cut-off.

AMS Accountants Group took charge of the SNP’s books earlier this month after it was revealed in April that previous auditors Johnston Carmichael quit in September 2022 following a review of the firm’s client portfolio.

First Minister Humza Yousaf admitted he was unaware of the situation until he became party leader following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation.

With the accounts submitted on time, the SNP should benefit from so-called ‘short money’ – public funds paid to opposition parties at Westminster to support their parliamentary work.

On Wednesday, Peter Grant MP, the SNP’s Westminster group treasurer, said: “I’m pleased to confirm that the annual return for the SNP Westminster group’s ‘short money’ for 2022/23 has received a clean audit certificate and has been submitted, on time, to the parliamentary authorities.

“Throughout this process, SNP MPs have remained focused on standing up for Scotland and supporting our hard-working staff.

“We will continue to hold the Tories and pro-Brexit Labour to account for the damage their policies are inflicting on Scotland.”

The SNP’s next deadline is to file the whole party’s audited accounts with the Electoral Commission by 7 July or risk being fined. AMS Accounting is also carrying out that work.

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News of Johnston Carmichael quitting as auditors emerged as a police investigation into the SNP’s funding and finances ramped up.

Ms Sturgeon’s husband, former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, was arrested as part of the probe along with ex-treasurer Colin Beattie. Both men were subsequently released without charge pending further inquiries.

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Sturgeon: Last few weeks ‘very difficult’

Police Scotland launched Operation Branchform in 2021.

The long-running inquiry is linked to the spending of around £600,000 raised by supporters to be earmarked for Scottish independence campaigning.

It is understood there have been complaints the ringfenced cash may have been used improperly by being spent elsewhere.

Officers from Police Scotland stand beside by police tape and a police tent outside the home of former chief executive of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Peter Murrell, in Uddingston, Glasgow, after he was arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the party. Picture date: Wednesday April 5, 2023.
Police outside Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell’s home

Police have searched the SNP headquarters and Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell’s home as part of the investigation. A luxury £100,000 motorhome was also seized from outside the home of Mr Murrell’s mother in Dunfermline, Fife.

The SNP said it has been “cooperating fully” with the investigation and would “continue to do so”.

School buildings at risk of collapse must be urgently made safe to avoid disaster, say unions | UK News

The government must take urgent action to ensure deteriorating school buildings “at risk of collapse” are made safe, say unions.

In a letter to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, a coalition asked for a statement on what steps were being taken to keep pupils and staff safe.

Crumbling buildings could end up “costing lives” if they are not repaired, according to school leaders’ union NAHT.

The others that signed the open letter are the National Education Union (NEU), the NASUWT, Unison, Unite, GMB and Community.

They say it is “truly shocking” that a Department for Education (DfE) report conceded that some buildings were at risk of collapse.

Published in December, it warned: “There is a risk of collapse of one or more blocks in some schools which are at or approaching the end of their designed life-expectancy and structural integrity is impaired.

“The risk predominantly exists in those buildings built in the years 1945 to 1970 which used ‘system build’ light frame techniques.”

The DfE admitted the risk was “worsening” – something the unions say shows the situation has “reached absolute rock bottom”.

‘Disaster waiting to happen’

Kevin Courtney, NEU general secretary, said it was “disgraceful” that school buildings had been allowed to fall into a dangerous state, and worrying that the government “does not even know which buildings fall into this category”.

“In one of the most advanced economies in the world it is shocking that many children, young people and school staff work and learn in an environment that is dangerously unsafe,” he said.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, called it a “disaster waiting to happen, which in the worst-case scenario could end up costing lives”.

The unions want a full list of the buildings that could collapse and disclosure of when they will be made safe.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We take the safety of pupils and staff extremely seriously. The department works closely with schools and responsible bodies to ensure all schools buildings are well maintained and safe.

“If the department is made aware of a building that poses an imminent risk of collapsing, immediate action is taken to ensure safety and remediate the situation.

“At present, the department is not aware of any school building that remains open in this state and would expect responsible bodies to immediately approach us if this were the case.”

Eurostar: Hundreds of seats on trains left unsold to avoid long queues at stations | UK News

Hundreds of seats on Eurostar trains from London to the continent are deliberately being left unsold so long queues don’t build up at stations, the company has admitted.

A cut in the number of border officials means it takes nearly 30% longer to process passengers leaving St Pancras International than before Brexit and the pandemic.

Also contributing to the delay is the post-Brexit requirement to stamp UK passports for outbound travel.

Eurostar train

Seat numbers are now being capped to prevent bottlenecks at stations.

The first daily services connecting London to Paris and Brussels can take up to 900 passengers.

But 350 of those seats are intentionally not being sold.

Eurostar runs the only high-speed trains that directly link the UK to France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel.

As well as London’s St Pancras, it also runs UK services from Ebbsfleet and Ashford, both in Kent.

Read more:
Eurostar to axe direct trains between London and Disneyland Paris due to Brexit
France vows financial support to ‘maintain strategic Eurostar link’ with UK

Eurostar chief executive Gwendoline Cazenave said it was vital that the first trains to leave are on time to avoid a knock-on problem.

“If you delay the first train, then you delay the second and then it’s a very bad customer experience,” she said.

“Our customers say it’s awful.”

Eurostar trains at St Pancras
Eurostar trains at St Pancras

Passengers are being urged to arrive up to 90 minutes before their departure so they have sufficient time to get through border checks, which is three times longer than before the pandemic.

Britons urged not to pour meat fats down sink to avoid blockages in water system | UK News

Britons are being urged not to pour their meat fats down the sink today, to avoid blockages in the water system.

South West Water is looking to avoid the build up of so-called fatbergs over the holiday season, which are often caused by people pouring their foul, fowl juices from their festive feasts down the sink while hot, which clogs up the pipes when they cool.

The firm says a medium-sized turkey, which many of us will be tucking into at some point today, can produce up to three quarters of a pint of fat, meaning if every house covered by South West Water poured their fats down the sink, it would be the equivalent of 2,800 full bath tubs entering the sewer system.

Undated handout photo issued by Thames Water of a fatberg, that had the weight of a small bungalow, under Yabsley Street, Canary Wharf, London, before its removal. Issue date: Friday February 19, 2021.
Water firms want to avoid scenes like this one – from underneath Canary Wharf last year

Guy Doble, the company’s director of wastewater recovery, treatment and networks, said: “Don’t let the fat from your festive feast ruin your Christmas by causing blockages and fatbergs.

“Tens of thousands of litres of waste fat, cooking oil and grease are poured down sinks in the South West each year, along with food waste, which can build up in pipes.

“These mix with wrongly flushed items such as wet wipes, hygiene wipes, cleaning wipes, cleansing pads and sanitary products, causing blocked sewers which can lead to flooding in your homes and in the environment.

“Every year we deal with around 8,500 blocked sewers across our region – around one every hour – and these can increase the risk of flooding and damage to customers’ homes and properties.

“So don’t let fat spoil the festivities this Christmas and play your part by only flushing the 3Ps – pee, paper and poo – down the loo, and avoid pouring fats, oils and greases down your sink.”

Last year, a fatberg the “weight of a bungalow” was removed from a London sewer underneath Canary Wharf, with the process taking more than two weeks.

A fatberg in Birmingham was also removed, which was said to more than a kilometre in length and 300 tonnes in weight – taking more than a month to clear.

South West Water covers more than two million people across Devon and Cornwall and some 450 tonnes of unflushable material is removed from its system every year – including wet wipes, sanitary products and cotton pads.

Passengers ‘waved through’ Border Control to ‘avoid queues’ as workers strike | UK News

Suspicious passengers who might otherwise be stopped at Border Control at airports are being “waved through” by military personnel standing in for striking workers.

Two Border Force staff members told Sky News that passengers were being waved through to avoid queues during strikes and that military personnel do not have the power to stop or detain people.

Members of the Armed Forces are providing cover for public services during strikes over winter.

One Border Force officer at Manchester Airport said several members of staff told them that arriving passengers who would normally be questioned are being “waved through in order to avoid queues building up amid strikes”.

They added: “This order is said to have come from management at Manchester Airport. This would mean that people who are potentially unlawfully entering the UK/wanted by the authorities or police/on a watch list/previously refused entry are entering the UK unchecked.”

Around 1,000 Border Force staff in the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are striking over pay and conditions from 23 December to Boxing Day.

A Border Force staff member at Heathrow Airport told Sky News that the army on immigration control “can’t stop or detain people” as they cannot issue a form known as an IS81.

The form gives immigration officers the authority to detain people for further questioning.

People wait in the arrivals hall at terminal 5 of Heathrow airport

The staff member added: “Our job is to protect the population and the British public, to protect jobs, people from harm.

“Basically the vast majority of the job can’t be done. I have the information from multiple people. If you cannot issue an IS81, you cannot stop someone. All you can do is let them through.

“Managers left managing the control is that unless there is direct evidence of criminality, they are not to stop them. People who are coming in to work illegally, live illegally, study illegally – and that’s not criminal, it’s an immigration issue. Unless you’re aware that this person is a hit on the computer system, wanted by the police, you can’t hold anybody up.”

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “No one’s being stopped because the government has adopted a sticking plaster approach to this problem.

“We warned before the strikes started that military personnel with five days’ training wouldn’t be able to do the jobs of experienced, professional Border Force officers.”

A Home Office spokesperson said it has “robust plans in place to minimise any delays, passengers should be prepared for disruption and take action to plan ahead”.

A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “To be absolutely clear, we as the airport operator are not involved in the immigration process… to our knowledge, the immigration process is operating as normal.”