Scotland route map announcement provides 'clarity needed three weeks ago' amid calls for more testing
Opposition politicians largely welcomed Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of indicative dates out of lockdown, but the First Minister was challenged on testing and the delay in the announcement when compared to England.
Ruth Davidson welcomed the announcement of the more indicative route map, but said it offered “clarity they were calling for and expecting three weeks ago”.
Mentioning the scenes that followed the disappearance and death of Sarah Everard in London, the Scottish Conservative’s leader in Holyrood called on the First Minister to move up the date for the reopening of gyms to provide a safe space for women to exercise.
She said: “The First Minister will have been as struck as I was this week by the number of women explaining how their horizons have narrowed during Covid, that basic pursuits that most men don’t think twice about like going for a walk or a run or other outdoor exercise in the evening or in the dark, simply isn’t an option for them if they want to feel safe and stay safe.”
Responding, Ms Sturgeon said it was due to a lack of confidence in the data that led to the announcement of measures coming weeks after the UK Government’s equivalent announcement.
She said: “None of this is easy. It will do nobody any favours to stand here and rush to do everything at once because it will set us back, but what we are setting out is a steady and sustainable path out of lockdown, back to normality.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar focused on the progress of vaccination and pressed the First Minister on increasing testing, with Ms Sturgeon saying lateral flow tests are being used in schools to help spot cases of asymptomatic transmission.
He said: “Finally reaching 400,000 vaccinations a week will be welcome, but while we want to see progress we also need to make sure that infection rates do not rise as restrictions are lifted. We must make sure this lockdown is our last.
“Effective testing and tracing is what will stop us going back into another lockdown. But last week almost 420,000 gold-standard PCR tests went unused – we need to use these in our schools and workplaces as restrictions ease.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie questioned the reliance on dates rather than the publication of clear indicators based on data for when relaxations could be lifted.
He said: “For the last few weeks, the First Minister told the country it was all about data not dates, but this statement had quite a few dates, but no data.
“It is astonishingly opaque on the necessary data and indicators, which will be used to determine whether parts of the country can move from one level of restriction to another.
“If nothing changes, Scotland may be the only part of the UK without indicators. The First Minister told us the priority was data, so that should have been published in the statement.”
Responding, Ms Sturgeon said the indicators would be published as part of an update to the strategic framework.
A rise in cases in the last week was raised by Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who warned the reasons behind this rise in cases must be understood before further relaxation of restrictions take place.
Speaking after the statement, she said: “The fact we are a position to start planning reopening things and getting our lives back is most welcome for everyone, but it is vital we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
“There could be a number of factors behind the increase in daily cases and these need to be understood. We know that infections appear to have arisen from the unsafe gathering of football fans in Glasgow, and today’s data also shows a marked increase in the rate among children.”