Covid rules will not receive “unquestioning support” from Scottish Labour

Richard Leonard has declared that the new Scottish lockdown framework will not receive “unquestioning support” from Labour, and has criticised the SNP government for failing to secure “public consent”.

During a Holyrood debate on Scotland’s proposed new coronavirus framework today, the Scottish Labour leader expressed fears about people becoming the “victims of a struggle between two governments”.

Leonard said: “This new framework, which comes into force in six days time, like the lockdown of hospitality and like last week’s extension to the lockdown of hospitality, has not won unquestioning support out in the country, and so it does not win unquestioning support from Labour.

“People understand that the choices are stark. But in a democracy, they can only be made with the establishment of trust and so the winning of public consent by persuasion – and not coercion.

“The rising public hesitancy, which the government now faces, is in part born out of a fatigue, a tiredness in the desperate search for the light at the end of this tunnel.

“But it is also born out of growing restlessness and discontent that yet more is being asked without the compelling and persuasive evidence needed to back it up.”

The Scottish Labour leader added: “Now, many working people are facing the grim prospect of unemployment and joblessness in the lead up to Christmas, and that is why they want a government and a parliament which is on their side.

“So it is essential that they do not become the victims of a struggle between two governments. We want the two governments to cooperate, not compete, in the interests of public health of people and of these jobs.

“We agree that the Tory government should increase and extend support for businesses and workers in Scotland, but the SNP government needs to be bolder, too. This framework feels like it’s going to be with us for some time.

“That is why it’s so important that we get it right. That is why we need people to be able to support it – not out fear of the repercussions, but out of a belief that sticking to it will help us all.”

Leonard’s intervention reiterates criticisms of the proposed new lockdown framework for Scotland, with the Scottish Labour leader saying last week that there was a “real danger of confusion among the public” over the new rules.

The new tiered system will see regions placed under one of five tiers, with classifications being reviewed on a weekly basis. It builds on restrictions that were placed on the hospitality sector several weeks before.

The Scottish Labour leader took a tough line on the initial restrictions and declared that the Holyrood administration needed to stop treating the Scottish hospitality sector like “Sodom and Gomorrah”.

Leonard’s comments contrast with the approach taken by UK opposition leader Keir Starmer, who has called for a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown but has not whipped Labour MPs to vote against other measures.

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