Richard Leonard has accused the SNP government of “punishing” Scottish students for its own “incompetence” after they were told by Nicola Sturgeon’s administration not to visit pubs or restaurants over the weekend.
Stricter coronavirus restrictions announced by the Scottish government today have told students to “avoid all socialising outside of their households and outside of their accommodation” and not to visit hospitality venues.
After Nicola Sturgeon was criticised for “singling out” students, the First Minister tweeted a message to students that she was “so sorry Covid is making this special time of your lives so tough” but urged them to “please do what’s being asked of you”.
The First Minister of Scotland also clarified that the newly released Universities Scotland guidance is “just for this weekend”, rather than starting from this weekend as some reporters had assumed from the way the rules were originally phrased.
At the daily briefing, Sturgeon responded to the backlash by saying: “I want to be clear as some of you feel blamed for spread of Covid right now. Nobody deserves to be facing this and this is not your fault. The sooner we get this under control, the sooner you will enjoy normal student life.”
Commenting on the concerns over the rules for students, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “It is becoming clearer with every passing hour that Scotland’s students are being punished for the SNP government’s incompetence and lack of foresight.
“Hundreds of students are being forced to remain in cramped student accommodation, and the guidance is as clear as mud. The Scottish government has serious questions to answer.
“International evidence has highlighted the risks of allowing students to return physically to university and college, and senior experts such as Professor Linda Bauld have raised concerns over the ban on students returning home.”
Linda Bauld, professor of public health at Edinburgh University said self-isolating students should be allowed to return home, and added that government guidance should include ways of reducing the risk of transmission within households.
Universities Scotland has warned students that they risk discontinuation of their study if they break the new coronavirus rules by joining parties or socialising with anyone outside of their households or accommodation.
558 new Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Scotland since yesterday, which amounts to 9.7% of newly tested people and brings the total number of cases to 26,518. 89 people are being treated in hospital for suspected or confirmed coronavirus.