Police target Portlethen

Anti-social behaviour in Portlethen has been the target of police action, according to the Facebook page of the North East division of Police Scotland.

The posting says: “In response to a number of calls from concerned residents relating to anti-social behaviour by young people in Portlethen, officers from the Kincardine and Mearns Community Policing Team, supported by local Special Constables, have carried out dedicated patrols to target this.

“The week-long operation saw officers engage with over 35 young people in the Portlethen area. Four youths were also spoken to in front of their parents regarding their conduct.

“PC Maria Popovicova, who ran the initiative, said: ‘’These recent incidents have been upsetting for local residents and the behaviour that has been reported to us is completely unacceptable. Anti-social behaviour of any kind will not be tolerated and I urge people to continue letting us know of any concerns so action can be taken. I also want to remind young people and parents of the Scottish Government’s regulations on gatherings. Young people, aged 12 to 17, can meet outdoors in groups of up to four from separate households. The coronavirus regulations have had a significant impact on our lives and I would like to thank the vast majority of people who are sticking to the rules and doing the right thing to avoid the spread of the virus. Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to engage with the public, explain the legislation and encourage compliance, but we will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers as a last resort.’ “

Anyone who has concerns about anti-social behaviour can contact officers by any of the following methods:
 Phone – 101 – Non emergency;
 Email – StonehavenLowerDeesideCPT@Scotland.pnn.police.uk
 Twitter – @NorthEPolice
 Facebook – www.Facebook.com/NorthEastPoliceDivision
 Web – www.scotland.police.uk
 Phone – 999 – Emergency;
 Phone – 0800 555 111 – Crimestoppers.

New local radio station

Local radio station Mearns FM is now available in the Portlethen area.

In a Facebook posting the station – which is staffed by volunteers – said it is now broadcasting in Portlethen on 105.1FM. “We hope you enjoy the music and please get involved with your local station!”

Mearns FM is headquartered in Stonehaven. In April last year Mearns FM was successful in a bid to increase power at all three transmitters and install a new transmitter at Portlethen church hall. This was to improve coverage across South Aberdeenshire. Half the funding needed was a grant from Aberdeenshire Council. The station was also planning to open a new studio in Portlethen Church hall, part-financed by the National Lottery’s Awards for All awards programme.

You can find out more at https://www.mearnsfm.org.uk/, and listen live through the internet,

Vaccination programme on track

The vaccination programme continues with all clinics open from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday including the public holidays tomorrow and Monday. In Aberdeenshire, as of 31 March, 118,168 people have had their first jag, and 17,411 their second jag.

Second dose vaccinations for the over 80s are underway with GP practices organising local pop-up clinics. To date 4,168 of the over 80s are now fully vaccinated against covid-19 which represents 34.1% of that cohort.

The most recent cohort to be invited for vaccination is the over-50s and Aberdeenshire has now completed 52.3% of first dose vaccinations for the 50-54 cohort and 89.1% of the 55-59 cohort.

Aberdeenshire Health & Social Care Partnership says the current supply of vaccine is sufficient to ensure that they can complete all of the first dose vaccinations for JVCI priority groups 1-9 by mid-April.

They have also been assured that there is sufficient supply to administer second dose vaccinations as needed. However, there will be a dip in supplies of the Astra Zeneca vaccine from week commencing 29 March, which may impact on when they are able to begin vaccinating future cohorts.

Currently the national estimate is that there will be 500,000 fewer doses of Astra Zeneca available across Scotland over the coming weeks.

A group of anti-vaxxers are spreading misinformation about the various vaccines. Please go to https://www.nhsinform.scot/covid-19-vaccine for factual information.

Parents get exams information

Laurence Findlay, Aberdeenshire Council’s director of education and children’s services, is sending a letter today – via schools – to all S4/5/6 parents about the new qualification process.

This replaces the 2021 SQA exam diet for National 5, Higher and Advanced Highers which was cancelled by the Scottish Government due to the disruption caused by the covid-19 pandemic.

As a result, an alternative certification model has been put in place to determine results for candidates at these levels. This differs from the 2020 model in some significant aspects and this letter aims to provide parents with an understanding of the process of how candidate grades are being awarded within our schools.

Hillside School thriving

Hillside’s acting head teacher Jordan Leslie gave parents a glowing report last night of the return to schooling after lockdown.

The 500 pupils have settled back positively, with lockdown not being an altogether negative experience. He was very proud of how they have come back.

Pupils have settled into the new extension, though the playground still has to be fully reinstated. The nursery garden is complete, with the nursery children being able to access 900 hours from 19 April in the journey towards 1140 hours a year.

Substantive head teacher Lesley-Anne Munro will be returning to her post in mid-June on a permanent part-time basis. Applications are being sought for the remainder of the job-share post.

The parent group also heard about the success of recent fund-raising which in addition to their own efforts attracted donations from Asda, Portlethen Town Association and the Leathan Arms.

Latest scams warnings

Here is the latest bulletin from Aberdeenshire Council’s Trading Standards service about doorstep crime and scams.

Doorstep crime


There have been a small number of reports recently of a group of cold callers, workmen from a ‘national’ company, attending at peoples’ doors, offering to tar or repair driveways or short pieces of roadway using spare materials from nearby jobs (this is a classic rogue trader ruse).

The workmen return in the next few days looking for payment, sometimes when little or no work has been done or it has been done to a very poor standard. Where payment has not been forthcoming, they have been quite insistent, sometimes to the alarm of the householder.

Our advice is consistent: be polite but firm, decline their offer and stick to your guns.

Allowing this sort of workman onto your property could cost you dearly and may be giving them the opportunity to ‘scout’ your property for anything they take a fancy to later returning when they think it’s safe to come back and steal that item.

If you have these types of workmen come to your door please remember to note descriptions of the workmen, their vehicles and retain any paperwork they might give you before reporting the matter to Trading Standards or Police Scotland.

Scams

Following our recent post about prize competition businesses, we’ve been asked about the legalities of Facebook raffles.

Similar to prize competition businesses, those promoting raffles in the UK must take care that they are not running an illegal lottery, which is a form of gambling, and subject to laws about how they can be run and who can run them. Those running an illegal raffle may:
• Be committing a criminal offence
• Breach the terms and conditions of the site
• Risk having their profile removed.

Most Facebook raffles are run from secret groups. While we can’t comment on individual raffles, we have and will continue to pass concerns regarding local Facebook raffles to the Gambling Commission for consideration.

Should you have concerns about prizes not being awarded or being awarded unfairly, we may be able to investigate these claims under Fair Trading law.

Please note that HMRC scams continue to be reported. We have discussed these in previous bulletins but in summary, this is where a caller purports to be calling on behalf of HMRC to advise the recipient that they are owe unpaid taxes and that a warrant has been granted for their arrest unless a payment is made immediately.

Remember that this is the classic move of panicking a victim into acting irrationally to part with money. HMRC will NOT do this.

Similar scams involve callers saying they are calling from the DWP about the misuse of someone’s National Insurance number. If you cannot verify the identity of the caller or ‘rush’ tactics are being used, it’s probably a scam so:
• Don’t divulge personal information or bank details
• Don’t be drawn into a conversation with the caller
• Don’t press ‘1’ or any other number at the caller’s request
• Simply, hang up.

Our colleagues in Police Scotland advise us that over the last few weeks they have become aware of similar scams from callers pretending to be from HMRC, Police Scotland, Royal Mail, Amazon and BT seeking to gain payment of one sort or another by way of Amazon or iTune vouchers.

None of these organisations operate in this fashion and none of them seek payment in gift vouchers. Cash, cheque, card payment or an intermediary service such as PayPal are the only acceptable forms of transaction.

Contact

For urgent Trading Standards matters, contact Aberdeenshire Council’s Trading Standards at 01467 537222. For non-urgent enquiries, contact Consumer Advice Scotland at https://www.consumeradvice.scot/ or on 0808 164 600.

Contact Police Scotland on 999 if you need urgent assistance or 101 for non-urgent matters.

For more information about scams please visit Friends Against Scams at https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/

Dates for library and pool re-opening

Aberdeenshire Council services are gearing up to reopen as lockdown eases. Programmes of outdoor exercise have already commenced. All dates are subject to changes in national guidance.

From now …
Synthetic pitches and pitches are available for bookings by clubs. (Toilet facilities are not always available – though access to comfort facilities will be expanded after Easter)
– Outdoor exercise sessions and health walks will be available at most sites – see the Live Life Aberdeenshire website for details: https://www.livelifeaberdeenshire.org.uk/.

From 5 April …
Click and collect services will resume in various libraries including Portlethen.

From 3 or 9 May …
Various swimming pools will open including Portlethen Pool and Fitness Centre.

Country road to be closed

Aberdeenshire Council Roads Service will be carrying out drainage works on the U63K country road from its junction at Millbank Cottage near Kirkton of Maryculter.

This will be commencing Monday 19 April and lasting for five days.

Site notices will be erected in due course indicating the temporary restriction to traffic and the alternative route.

We did clean up, says Network Rail

I was contacted by a number of Newtonhill villagers about the litter left on the railway embankment after the new fencing was installed. So I contacted Network Rail.

Here is what they said: “Thank you for contacting us about litter on the embankment at Elsick Place, Newtonhill. Our maintenance manager has advised that our contractor cleared the litter whilst on site installing a new fence recently.”

Well, now. The old bottles, cans and assorted plastic didn’t arrive in the past few weeks. It was unearthed as they (rightly) shoved the embankment around. No doubt in a few months it will be covered by vegetation, but that’s not the point. I have contacted Network Rail again.

UPDATE 1 April: I’m told someone was out this morning cleaning up the embankment. And they have done a good job.

Covid-19: restrictions easing

A relaxation of lockdown restrictions planned for this Friday and next Monday will take place as previously outlined.

From this Friday, 2 April, the stay-at-home rule which is in place across most of Scotland (except some island communities) will be lifted and replaced with a requirement to ‘stay local’.

That means that current travel restrictions which prevent non-essential travel outside local authority areas will remain in place for another three weeks.

And from next Monday, 5 April, a wider range of changes will take effect as follows:

  • More students, particularly in colleges, will be allowed to return to on-campus learning.
  • Contact sports will resume for 12 to 17-year-olds.
  • There will be a limited reopening of some retail services.
  • All shops will be allowed to operate click and collect services from Monday, although an appointment may be required to pick up goods.
  • Car showrooms and forecourts will reopen, although appointments may be required for access to showrooms.
  • Homeware stores and garden centres will also be able to reopen.
  • Hairdressers and barbers will reopen, and appointments are encouraged.

Changes planned for later in April will be discussed in future updates and are dependent on continued suppression of the virus.

It remains the intention that all secondary school pupils will return to school full time after the Easter break.

Restrictions are due to ease further from Monday, 26 April, by which time all those over the age of 50 are expected to have received a first dose of the vaccine.

The levels system will be reintroduced at that stage, and it is hoped that mainland Scotland will move from Level 4 to Level 3 restrictions on that date. In turn, that is expected to lead to all restrictions on travelling within Scotland coming to an end.

It is also expected that a full reopening of retail premises and a partial reopening of the hospitality sector will take effect from 26 April, and that some of the rules on outdoor meetings can be eased.

The planned changes are expected to be confirmed during an update in three weeks.

Within the next few days, the Scottish Government will publish updated levels tables on their website. The tables will provide more information about changes it is hoped will be made during April, May, and into the summer.

Vaccination update

As of this morning, 2,436,398 people in Scotland have received their first dose of the vaccine, and 338,443 people have received a second dose.

That means that the vaccine has so far been given to:

  • Virtually all over 65-year-olds
  • 98% of 60-64-year-olds
  • 81% of 55 to 59-year-olds
  • 57% of 50 to 54-year-olds

It is expected that by the middle of April a first dose of the vaccine will have been given to all those over 50, all unpaid carers, and all adults with underlying health conditions.

While new cases of coronavirus in Scotland fell throughout January and February, figures are now levelling out.

Maintaining progress

Although restrictions are starting to be eased, sticking to the rules remains important to keep the virus under control.

Everybody should stay local and continue to work from home where possible, and should not meet up with other households inside homes.

The maximum group size for adults outdoors is up to four people from up to two households, and for 12 to 17-year-olds the group of four can be from up to four households.

When businesses such as garden centres do reopen, plan ahead to avoid busy periods. On any occasion you do leave the house, remember FACTS.