Richard Leonard has criticised the SNP government for ignoring scientific advice on coronavirus lockdown restrictions and argued that the new measures have “resulted in ambiguity and confusion” for Scottish people.
The Scottish Labour leader declared that the government had imposed new rules without any “engagement of those affected” in response to a Holyrood statement on the pandemic made by Nicola Sturgeon today.
Commenting on the scientific advice, Scottish Labour leader Leonard said: “We have seen the minutes of the SAGE [the scientific advisory group for emergencies] meeting of the 21st September attended by Scottish government advisors.
“We now know that they concluded that over the next six to nine months multiple circuit breakers may be needed. And to be effective, measures must be in their words “consistent”, “without ambiguity or contradiction”, that they should be equality proofed and in their words “co-produced” with “the early engagement of those most likely to be affected”.
“Despite this, the First Minister last week chose measures, which were imposed with no engagement of those affected, that have resulted in ambiguity and confusion, and which will hit hardest those on the lowest incomes.
“Meanwhile, the current test and trace strategy and system is not good enough. Can the First Minister explain to us why she ignored that scientific advice?”
The Scottish Labour leader’s intervention comes after it was revealed that politicians in Holyrood and Westminster ignored advice in late September from SAGE to implement a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown to combat the spread of the virus.
Scientific advisors reported that the measure, which would see the country undergo a short lockdown period to quash the spread of the virus, was the best way to effectively “prevent this exponential rise in cases“.
But the UK government instead decided to implement a new three-tiered system for England this week, in which regions face different levels of lockdowns. SNP officials chose to introduce new restrictions on the nation’s hospitality sector.
UK Labour leader Keir Starmer called for a nationwide ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown on Monday night in light of the reported advice from SAGE and warned the country is going to “sleep walk into a long and bleak winter” if the UK does not change course.
Scottish Labour’s criticism of the ambiguity and confusion around the alternate restrictions chosen by Sturgeon followed the First Minister telling Scottish people not to travel to English towns to visit pubs and restaurants.
Under the Scottish rules implemented last Friday, hospitalist businesses in the devolved nation are not allowed to serve any alcohol inside, but are still permitted to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks to customers from 6am to 6pm.
In five areas in the central belt of Scotland, including cities Edinburgh and Glasgow, all licensed premises with the exception of hotels were told to completely close their doors to customers for a period of 16 days.
Leonard took a tough line on the restrictions when the measures were first announced, saying that the SNP government were treating the hospitality sector like “Sodom and Gomorrah”.