Coronavirus in Scotland: Too risky to move Edinburgh out of Level 3 insists Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has clashed with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard over her decision to keep Edinburgh in Level Three restrictions despite evidence indicating the city was safe to move to Level Two.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Leonard accused Ms Sturgeon and her Cabinet of making “arbitrary” and “ad hoc” decisions when she announced that the Capital would remain in Level Three.

It comes after the Edinburgh City Council leadership disclosed that it was briefed by public health officials last week, who told them that the Capital should be moved to Level Two.

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Despite this, on Tuesday Ms Sturgeon announced that the city would remain in Level Three.

Edinburgh remains in Level 3 of the Covid restrictions
Edinburgh remains in Level 3 of the Covid restrictions

This afternoon, the Labour leader said that, “by overriding decisions based on the data available - and the advice of her own public health experts - the First Minister risks losing the trust and confidence of the public.”

Ms Sturgeon described the charge as “deeply irresponsible”.

When Mr Leonard asked her why she and her Cabinet voted to overturn that public health advice on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said: “the judgement the cabinet reached was that to take Edinburgh down a level at this stage would have posed a significant risk to the overall situation.”

Quoting figures published yesterday, Ms Sturgeon said there had been a rise of 14 per cent in the number of cases per 100,000 recorded in Edinburgh in the past week.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Leonard accused Ms Sturgeon and her Cabinet of making “arbitrary” and “ad hoc” decisions when she announced that the Capital would remain in Level Three.

“Test positivity in Edinburgh is still moderate,” Ms Sturgeon added, “but it has gone up in five of the last seven days.

“These are serious decisions to take, and they have to be taken carefully,” Ms Sturgeon told Mr Leonard.

She said there was a “real risk in easing up restrictions” in any area of the country where cases of coronavirus were rising, or not declining significantly enough.

But the Labour leader replied: “Even on those figures, Edinburgh is still well within Level Two thresholds.

“And if you look at the five indicators that were published on Tuesday - the point at which the Cabinet made its decision - one stayed at ‘moderate’, three remained at ‘low’, and one was moving from ‘low’ to ‘very low’.

He added that the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, had indicated to Council leader Adam McVey in a conversation, that the city would be moved to Level Two.

“Businesses, workers, and communities in Edinburgh feel badly let down,” he continued, and called on Ms Sturgeon to publish all advice that swayed the decision to keep the Capital in Level Three.

“The people of Edinburgh deserve more than the three bullet points that were published on Tuesday,” Mr Leonard finished.

Ms Sturgeon said she “deeply regrets” the impact the restrictions were having on businesses, but said the people of Edinburgh “deserve a government that will take decisions to try to keep them as safe as possible.”

“It’s not the restrictions that are harming the economy, it’s the virus that is harming the economy.

“If it wasn’t taking 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.”

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