Department for Education defends Toby Young appointment

The Department for Education (DfE) has defended the appointment of Toby Young to the government’s new higher education watchdog in the face of mounting concerns over his suitability for public office.

The ex-journalist and free schools advocate was appointed to the board of the Office for Students (OfS) by the education secretary, Justine Greening, earlier this week and immediately faced claims he was under-qualified.

Since then further questions have been raised about his suitability after a string of lewd comments he has made in the past about women, working class people and eugenics were brought to light.

Young, who appeared on the US TV series Top Chef with Padma Lakshmi, referred repeatedly to the size of her breasts on Twitter. He made similar comments about other women, including the television presenter Claudia Winkleman and a Labour MP.

After sustained criticism over the comments, tens of thousands of tweets disappeared from Young’s account on Wednesday. Young had told the Guardian on Tuesday he had tweeted more than 56,000 times; by Wednesday afternoon, fewer than 8,500 remained.

A job specification drawn up by the government said ministers expected board members to display “high standards of … personal conduct”, and required “openness” and “transparency”.

Responding to questions about Young’s past comments on Wednesday, a DfE spokeswoman said he had already “expressed his regrets”.

“Public appointments, including to the OfS, are made in line with the code of governance for public appointments,” she said.

Young refused to answer questions when contacted by the Guardian on Wednesday but has previously acknowledged posting “sophomoric” and “politically incorrect” tweets.

In a post on Facebook on Wednesday, he said: “I think it would be a shame if people who have said controversial things in the past, or who hold heterodox opinions, are prohibited from serving on public bodies.”

According to the job specification, when making appointments to the board, Greening is legally obliged to consider the importance of whether or not the applicants had previously worked in higher education.

The DfE had claimed that Young held teaching posts at Harvard and Cambridge universities, but he has acknowledged that he has never had a job in academia. He carried out undergraduate supervision during his time as a student, as is usual for postgraduates.

On Wednesday, the DfE said that in considering people for the board it was “interested in hearing from applicants who have knowledge of or experience in one or more areas, including promoting the experience of students, understanding of the needs of consumers, and market regulation and competition across all sectors, not limited to higher education.

“This is reflected in the diverse experience of the board, which includes the managing director of a leading employer, the chief executive of a global law firm and a current university student.”

Dawn Butler, the shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, told the Guardian she planned to question both the prime minister and the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, about the appointment.

She said Labour would write a series of letters to senior figures and hoped to find a way to secure a parliamentary debate on the issue, forcing ministers to defend Young’s previous comments.

Jess Phillips, the MP who chairs the women’s parliamentary Labour party, said: “How would Theresa May feel and look when inevitably every ill thought out word about poor people, women, lesbians and people without education is read out to her in parliament? It is not a good look.”

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said there had been a “ridiculous outcry” over the appointment and he believed Young would “bring independence, rigour and caustic wit” to the OfS. “Ideal man for job,” Johnson tweeted.

In response to Johnson, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, tweeted: “Quite right too – how many of Toby Young’s critics have worked night and day to provide great state schools for children of every background?”

The Conservative MP, Margot James, said Young was “worthy of his appointment”, but that it was a “mistake for him to belittle sexist comments by labelling them ‘politically incorrect’, a term frequently used to dismiss unacceptable comments about, and behaviour towards, women and minorities”.

According to the DfE, appointments to the board were expected to be made for an initial period of up to five years, with an option for this to be extended by ministers.


Scotland weather: Delays expected on major roads tonight

Near freezing temperatures are causing delays and disruptions across Scotland this evening.

The Met Office has issued yellow warnings for snow and ice from 10pm tonight until midday on Friday. Hazardous driving conditions can be expected in Glasgow and Strathclyde, Edinburgh and the Lothians, Fife, Tayside, the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, the Highlands and the Western Isles.

A yellow warning has been issued.

A yellow warning has been issued.

Several accidents on the country’s busiest roads are causing queues for commuters heading home.

Roads affected (at time of writing):

-M80 J5 (Auchenkilns) – J6 (Old Inns): A two vehicle road traffic accident blocking one lane.

Yellow warnings are in place for today and tomorrow. Picture Met Office

Yellow warnings are in place for today and tomorrow. Picture Met Office

-M80 J4 (Mollinsburn) – between slips: Three lanes restricted indefinitely.

-M74 J1 Seaward St – Slip On: One lane restricted Northbound indefinitely.

-M8 J2 (Claylands) – M8 J1 (Hermiston Gait): M8 eastbound between junction 2 and 1- Lane 1 of 2 is blocked due to a road traffic incident.

-M8 J19 West – Slip On: One lane restricted Westbound indefinitely

-A87 A87 Skye Bridge – High winds: road users advised to drive with care.

-A701 Amisfield Town – Parkgate: Road closed in both directions due to a road traffic incident

Earlier, the Met Office tweeted: “For many Wednesday morning will be the coldest of the week, with a hard #frost, #ice and some #snow. Scrapers at the ready!

“Snow showers in the southeast easing through afternoon. A few wintry showers possible in west Wales and Cornwall. Cloudier across Scotland and Northern Ireland with rain, sleet and snow edging southeastwards.”



Aberdeen first city in Scotland to get full fibre broadband

Image copyrightGetty Images

Aberdeen is to be the first city in Scotland to receive “full fibre” internet connections to nearly all its homes and businesses.

Broadband network specialist CityFibre is investing at least £40m in the project in partnership with Vodafone.

Work on building the network will begin this summer, with customers expected to receive gigabit speeds – 1,000 megabits per second or higher.

The companies said it would mean a “superior product at a lower cost”.

CityFibre and Vodafone said it was chosen “because of the city’s emergent tech sector, the council’s forward-looking commitment to ‘smart city’ initiatives, and the strength of its support for the project”.

‘Transform daily lives’

Greg Mesch, chief executive at CityFibre, said: “Our existing network in Aberdeen provides us with an 18-month head-start on a full fibre rollout to nearly every home and business in the city.”

Vodafone UK chief executive Nick Jeffery said the project “will help Aberdeen build on its credentials in innovation and as one of the best places to start a business”.

He added: “It will also transform consumers’ daily lives through superior internet access. We’re committed to helping businesses, entrepreneurs and residents embrace the new gigabit society in Aberdeen, the technological heart of Scotland.”

“Full fibre” broadband refers to the fact that fibre-optic cables run directly to properties, rather than relying on copper cables to connect the buildings to roadside cabinets.

This provides a more robust and faster connection, but is more expensive to deploy.

The Scottish government welcomed the Aberdeen project, which it said showed its “Reaching 100%” plan to make Scotland one of the best connected countries in Europe was working.

Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for the rural economy and connectivity, said: “It will help transform Aberdeen into one of the UK’s best connected cities and contribute to our goal of an economically and digitally future-proofed Scotland.

“I am delighted that the Scottish government’s recent £2m investment to increase broadband speeds for key public buildings across Aberdeen has helped pave the way for this deal.”

Urban upgrade

Openreach, which currently supplies broadband across the UK, said it welcomed the competition the CityFibre/Vodafone move would bring.

A spokesman said: “For many years we’ve been the largest investor in Aberdeen’s digital infrastructure, and as a result it’s now one of the best connected places in Britain.

“Nearly all of Aberdeen (96%) can order ‘superfast’ (above 30Mbps) broadband services today from a choice of retailers over our network, and just 0.7% of households can’t access a service of at least 10Mbps. Businesses can also order 1Gbps Ethernet connections across the city.

“We’ve invested more than £11bn into our network over the last decade and we’re continuing to upgrade urban areas like Aberdeen as well as more rural locations that are much harder to serve.”



Scotland fans praise Paul O’Connell for ‘shutting down’ John Inverdale

Scotland fans took to social media to praise former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell, after the ex-Munster lock took John Inverdale to task over his comments following the 25-13 Calcutta Cup victory over England at Murrayfield.

– Gregor Townsend sets Scotland heroes a Dublin challenge

The Limerick man was part of the BBC’s coverage of the Six Nations clash, alongside fellow ex-internationals Jeremy Guscott, Martin Johnson and Andy Nicol.

Twice in the second half, England fans may have assumed their team had clawed the game back with two vital tries, but on both occasions, referee Nigel Owens halted the celebrations.

In the first incident, an intercept try for Danny Care – who crossed twice in England’s 61-21 mauling of Scotland last year – was called back by Owens for a penalty against Joe Launchbury in a ruck.

And later, Owen Farrell touched down only for the TMO to reveal a knock-on by Courtney Lawes in a tackle on Scotland skipper John Barclay.

During the post-match discussion, Inverdale suggested that Owens’ performance could come under scrutiny, saying: “A lot of debate is going to be about how Nigel Owens handled the game, particularly in the second half and one or two key decisions that were made.”

Replays of both incidents were then shown on the BBC’s coverage of the match, with Johnson commenting “Technically… Nigel’s right” following playback of the Care incident, but O’Connell replied: “If you want to do a forensic analysis of the game… if you’re an England supporter then you can look at every ruck and see a penalty for you; you can see one for Scotland if you’re a Scotland supporter.

“But – in my eyes – I thought Nigel Owens had a good game.”

Several Scotland fans backed up O’Connell’s comments on social media, with one writing: “Well done Paul O’Connell. Shutting down any nonsense about Nigel Owens’ excellent performance. Great game and top unbiased analysis.”

David Power said: “Fair play to Paul O’Connell for not going along with John Inverdale’s s***e about Nigel Owens” while Clive Morgan added: “My favourite moment was John Inverdale suggesting post match that England lost because of Nigel Owens. Paul O’Connell put him right on that and said he had a good game.”

Hamish Hamilton tweeted: “Love Paul O’Connell just putting John Inverdale’s bias in the bin. Scotland were the better team, end of!”

Owens’ performance also won plaudits from former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward and ex-England centre Will Greenwood.

Woodward sent a message to Owens on Twitter, saying: “Once again excellent performance from you and both teams know the right team won – well done again, it was a great 6 nations game and will I think be the making of both teams – it should be anyway.”

Greenwood, capped 55 times by England, added: “Embarrassed by some of the comments made towards Nigel Owens – watched game for second time – particular focus on key decisions… England can have no complaints about Scotland win.

“Many things to blame – None of them Nigel.”

– England blame Scotland as teams told to explain tunnel scuffle


Your pictures of Scotland: 27 April

Your pictures of Scotland: 27 April – 4 May

A selection of your pictures of Scotland sent in between 27 April – 4 May. Send your photos to or via Instagram at #bbcscotlandpics

Image copyrightDave Stewart
Image caption Dave Stewart reckons the moon looks like a giant snowball rolling down Buachaille Etive Beag in this picture which he took at dawn on Monday.
Image copyrightRon Bisset
Image caption Ron Bisset enjoyed an incredible view from his tent on top of Sgurr na Stri on Skyre during a weekend camping trip.
Image copyrightJohn Moffat
Image caption Here’s another impressive view – this time Jess is looking down from Ben Ledi in Perthshire.
Image copyrightGordie Bain
Image caption Gordie Bain snapped this colourful image of wedding day fun on the shore of Loch Ness.
Image copyrightEwan Baird
Image caption Ewan Baird made the trip to Dundee from Falkirk this week – he’s excited about the opening of the new V&A in September.
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View from Beinn Sgritheall looking along Loch HournImage copyrightBill Cameron
Image caption Bill Cameron has sent us this exceptional panorama, from Beinn Sgritheall looking along Loch Hourn, near Glenelg.
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Image copyrightMALCOLM PARNELL
Image caption Spring is the best time of year at the Newhailes Estate, just outside Edinburgh, says Malcolm Parnell. “I love the way the sun shines through the new leaves on the trees and lights the carpet of wildflowers underneath,” he says.
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Image copyrightMike Forbes
Image caption Mike Forbes sent us this picture of racing yachts off Helensburgh.
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Image copyrightIain Brooks
Image caption This stunning shot of a short-eared owl was taken at Lochindorb in the Highlands, by Iain Brooks.
Image copyrightJane Collins
Image caption Jane Collins snapped this gannet diving for fish at Carnish Bay in Uig while on holiday on Lewis.
Image copyrightStewart Kerr
Image caption This was the first car home at the end of the Flying Scotsman car rally in Edinburgh on Sunday, says Stewart Kerr.
Image copyrightNiall Barnett
Image caption Fife Sea Kayaking Club were rewarded with great weather when they made their annual trip to Arisaig.
Image copyrightSarah Greggan
Image caption Sarah Greggon spent a week at Carrick Shore in Dumfries and Galloway to celebrate her 80th birthday.
Image copyrightNorie Williamson
Image caption Norie Williamson said the six hour trek through boggy terrain was well worth the effort when they reached Glengarrisdale Bay on Jura’s west coast.
Image copyrightNeil Mason
Image caption Neil Mason said he took his father out to watch April’s pink moon rising. The village of Little Ferry, Sutherland, is in the foreground and Tarbat Ness lighthouse beyond.

All images are copyrighted.



Scotland cashes in on spooky history with Dark Tourist boom

SCOTLAND is cashing in on its spooky history with a boom in ‘dark tourism’.

Overseas visitors are flocking here in the build-up to Halloween to get the frighteners put on them at our scariest attractions and locations.

Scotland is cashing in on its spooky history

Professor John Lennon from Glasgow Caledonian University, who coined the term ‘dark tourism’, believes people are attracted to places associated with death.

He said: “There is a voyeuristic element as people want a thrill.”

Edinburgh Dungeon sees a big rise in visitors in the run-up to October 31.

General manager Edward Evans said: “Halloween is a bumper time of year for us and increasingly we’ve found that customers are looking for something extra special.”

Edinburgh attractions see a big rise

And Jean Burke, from Edinburgh ghost walk company Mercat Tours, sees their uptake almost double.

She said: “On an average October day we’ll run 20 tours a day.

“This year over Halloween, we’ll be running 37.”

Here we take a look at six eerie tourism locations.

Simon Jones – The Sun

Tours can see their numbers almost double


QUITE possibly the most haunted city in the world, the Scots capital is a must for those fascinated by the supernatural.

If you are on the hunt for a spooky spot, head to world-famous Edinburgh Castle where former prisoners are said to haunt the dungeons and a headless drummer has also been sighted.

Or why not join a tour like those run by Mercat Tours who this Halloween will spend the Midnight Hour exploring the Blair Street Underground Vaults.

A lone Highlander is said to still roam the deserted battlefield of Culloden


MORE than 250 years after the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated in a bloody battle at Culloden near Inverness, the bleak moor is said to be still haunted.

Cries and gunfire have all been heard while a lone Highlander is said to still roam the deserted battlefield.

If you are nearby on Halloween you might see the Great Scree of Culloden, a black bat-like creature that hovers overhead and is said to be a harbinger of doom.


THIS popular attraction in Angus is reputed to be one of the most-haunted castles in Scotland.

A ghost named the Grey Lady is said to roam the chapel while legends state a monster is kept in one of the castle’s many secret rooms. The historic venue has already sold out open-air screenings of horror movie favourites Halloween and Hocus Pocus.

But visitors can spend an eerie evening exploring the castle and the ghostly grounds with tours running this weekend.

Crathes Castle is said to be home to the spirit of the Green Lady


THIS might look like something from a fairytale but Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire is said to be home to the spirit of the Green Lady, a ghostly apparition dressed in a robe.

In the 1800s, skeletal remains were found behind the fireplace in a room she was spotted in.

It is reported that some visitors to the castle refuse to enter the Green Lady’s room — despite not knowing the story. Halloween sees the castle open after hours for terrifying tours.

Skiall House is said to be built on top of an ancient Pictish burial ground


THIS historic house on Orkney is said to be built on top of an ancient Pictish burial ground.

Ghostly figures are said to walk through empty rooms while mysterious puffs of cigarette smoke fill the air, apparently from nowhere.

You can venture inside the 17th century mansion built by Bishop George Graham and his bed from 1620 is still there. But you can only find out if the ghost stories are real up until Halloween — after which time the house closes for the season.

Brodick Castle is said to have a Grey Lady who is believed to be the ghost of a plague victim


WITH a long history dating back to 1510, Brodick Castle on Arran has its share of spooky stories — with a Grey Lady who is believed to be the ghost of a plague victim.

A ghostly white stag has also been seen on several occasions whenever a chief of the castle’s former owners, the Hamiltons, is close to death. The castle is closed right now but visitors can still go ghost hunting in the grounds — including its walled garden.

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