Edinburgh politicians react with dismay to Covid level three announcement

Edinburgh politicians have reacted with dismay to this afternoon’s announcement that the capital will remain at level three of the coronavirus restrictions, with one MSP saying “the cost of this will be counted in lost businesses, lost livelihoods and lost jobs.”

'No justification': MSP Daniel Johnson.
'No justification': MSP Daniel Johnson.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Public Health Scotland officials had advised that Edinburgh should be moved down to level two.

However, this afternoon First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the capital would remain at level three due to concerns over Christmas shopping.

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The First Minister told the Scottish Parliament: “The imminence of the Christmas period has also had an impact on our thinking. A move to level two in Edinburgh would mean opening up significantly more services in Scotland’s second biggest city in the two weeks before Christmas.

'Disppointed' - Council leader Adam McVey

"That move would carry significant risk of increased transmission. For that reason, we want as much assurance as possible that the situation is as stable as possible before making that move.

“For that reason, and this has been a difficult decision, we have decided not to move Edinburgh to level two this week, but we will consider this again next week.”

The reduce the capital’s coronavirus restrictions has infuriated local politicians who have been lobbying for Edinburgh to be moved down the scale.

Edinburgh Southern MSP Daniel Johnson, Labour, said: “I could accept that we have to be evidence-led, and I can accept that there are judgements involved, but on both of those counts, this decision: A - flies in the face of evidence, all of the measures are either moderate or low, and either stable or declining; and B - they’ve provided basically no justification.

'Gobsmacked' - Councillor Susan Webber

“In fact the justification they’ve provided, what the First Minister said about Christmas shopping - I can tell you that the impact of this will be deeply damaging to businesses trying to trade despite restrictions, and the cost of this will be counted in lost businesses, lost livelihoods and lost jobs.

“It’s also very clear that Public Health officials advised that Edinburgh be moved down to level two, and we know that’s what they were saying directly to people in the council, it must have been what they were saying to the government and yet ministers have chosen to keep Edinburgh at level three and they need to explain that.”

Lothian MSP, Miles Briggs, Conservatives, said: “It is disappointing that Edinburgh has remained in tier three of lockdown restrictions, despite having Covid-19 rates that suggest Edinburgh could have been moved to tier two.

“The Scottish government must make balanced decisions that protect people’s lives and their livelihoods, especially for sectors such as hospitality in what would traditionally be the busiest month of the year.

“Now that the decision to keep Edinburgh in tier 3 has been made it is vital the finances made available from the UK government are made readily available to local businesses.

“Ministers must make the scientific guidance available for why each local authority should be in a given lockdown tier, so that MSPs can properly scrutinise decisions.”

Council Leader Adam McVey, who represents Leith for the SNP, said: “I’m extremely disappointed.

“Our numbers are stable and have now been consistently within the rates of level two for some time.

“We know what a dire situation local businesses continue to face and the latest news will be yet another blow in the lead-up to the Christmas period – which should be their busiest time of the year.

“I’ve been strongly pressing for Edinburgh’s case to move to a lower level of restrictions when safe to do so. The data suggests that time should have been now.

“It’s thanks to everyone following the guidance that our numbers have fallen and it’s why the capital’s expectation was rightly that we would be moving to level two.

“I’ve asked to meet the government as a matter of urgency to ensure the government gives a full explanation to the people of Edinburgh of the public health advice that they have based their decision on.

“I’ll also be pressing the case for additional financial support for our businesses who will need additional help following this decision.

“Despite this situation we need to continue to do everything we can over the coming week to continue to make progress - that means following the guidance, maintaining social distancing and washing hands and using sanitiser regularly.”

Depute leader of Edinburgh City Council, Cammy Day, who represents Forth for the Labour Party, said: “I’m furious that the hard work and efforts of our businesses and our citizens has been ignored by Scottish government ministers.

“We have supported Public Health guidance all along, yet now the Scottish government and First Minister ignore this.

“The impact on our city and economy, jobs and wellbeing will be felt for some time.

“In line with the tier two criteria, which we have met, we should be demanding this decision be reversed as a matter of urgency.”

Pentland Hills councillor Susan Webber, Conservatives, said: “The city of Edinburgh, her residents and businesses have all affably respected the need to be careful and followed the guidance as presented to us by the SNP government because we all believed that should we do so there would be the opportunity to go back to Level 2.

“Remember we were disappointed at the last review to be held in level three. Today we have been left totally gobsmacked.

“Every piece of data indicates the city should be in level two, and in some cases level one.

“Our Public Health officials also were under the same illusion that we had all done enough to be able to get into level two.

“But despite all of our hard work and perseverance with living by the guidance and despite the very real damage this is doing to so many jobs and businesses across the city, the First Minister has chosen to keep our city in a level of lockdown that we do not deserve.

“Our capital city’s civic leaders need to do more than conciliate their masters at Holyrood.

“They need to shout from the top of the City Chambers that we deserve better than this.

“Why have a system of levels when you chose to ignore the data, chose to ignore the public health advice and indeed ignore the very system of levels you have created yourself?”

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