Nicola Sturgeon has warned coronavirus could “run out of control again” in Scotland this winter as she defended her decision not to ease restrictions in Edinburgh.
The First Minister has come in for fierce criticism for keeping the city under Level 3 restrictions – the second toughest level available in Scotland’s five-tier system.
She argued if the Scottish Government does not apply “real caution” when considering these issues there is a risk Covid-19 infections could rapidly spiral.
Both Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie challenged the First Minister on the failure to move Edinburgh to Level 2 – something many had expected to happen this week.
Ms Sturgeon warned going down a level and easing restrictions “gives the virus more opportunity to spread”.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, she said: “If we do that on a position, a foundation, that we don’t consider is stable and sustainable, then the danger is that it rapidly runs out of control.
“This virus spreads very, very quickly, that is why we have to apply the greatest possible caution to these decisions.”
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will “continue to take careful and considered decisions” on what level of restrictions should be applied.
She added: “If we don’t continue to apply real caution then we may end up in a situation where over the next few weeks and over the remainder of the winter this runs out of control again.”
Adam McVey, the SNP leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, is among those who have questioned the decision to keep the area in Level 3, along with Labour MP for Edinburgh South, Ian Murray.
Mr Leonard said it seemed to be a “political decision rather than a scientific decision”.
He asked Ms Sturgeon if she accepted this “not only undermines her stated commitment to limiting economic harms, it erodes public confidence in the Government’s message”.
As a result, Mr Leonard said this will “deter compliance with it”.
Mr Rennie told Ms Sturgeon that public health experts “think it is safe to ease the restrictions in the city”.
Not easing restrictions could mean people “have to pay the price with their mental health, with their job and with poverty”, he added.
He asked Ms Sturgeon if there is “any chance that Edinburgh will move to Level 2 before Christmas”.
The First Minister told him the issue will be considered on Tuesday at the next weekly review of restrictions.
She said the proportion of people tested for Covid-19 who are found to have the virus – has increased in five of the last seven days in the city and overall case numbers have risen in four of the last seven days.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If I believed it was safe and wasn’t taking a disproportionate risk to put Edinburgh or any other part of the country into a lower level of protection, why on earth would I not want to do that?
“I have no interest in keeping any part of the country in a higher level of protection than is necessary.”
She said Cabinet ministers have to come to “very difficult decisions” on what level of restrictions should be applied in each area but stressed these were “decisions we think on balance are the right ones”.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe