An Aberdeenshire councillor has argued that Remembrance events should be allowed to take place on Sunday because people are permitted to “sit in a beer garden with potentially 50 other people”.
The Scottish Government issued its official guidance for this coming Remembrance Sunday last week.
Under the tier system, the level two guidance applied to the council area of Aberdeenshire means organised outdoor events will not be permitted.
The only gatherings allowed will be in places of worship, with strict number limits.
Instead of attending typical ceremonies at war memorials across the north-east, communities have instead been asked to join in a two-minute silence at 11am on Sunday on their doorsteps and give to the Scottish Poppy Appeal.
Tory Councillor Robbie Withey, of the Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford ward, said he will be following the rules, but criticised the Scottish Government for allowing other places and occasions that he argued people can gather at.
He said: “I’m fuming, to be honest.
“I know the restrictions are there for a reason, but how is it OK for people to sit in a beer garden of potentially 50 other people in the same general area, albeit socially distanced, but it’s not okay for a smaller number of people attending a war memorial, laying a wreath and observing two minutes of silence at 11am on Sunday?
“Remembrance Day means a lot to a lot of people including myself.
“A lot of my family are in the RAF and I always attended services with my granddad when I was young, and now my little boy lays a wreath with me every year, which I’m very proud of him for.
“A lot of people in these outlying rural communities, who for one reason or another can’t get to the church service but can walk a short distance to a service at their memorial, will this year have to miss out on the opportunity to pay their respects.
“I will be standing on my doorstep on Sunday, and still dressing up in my suit, to pay my respects with my little boy along with the rest of the community.”
Graeme Dey MSP, the minister for veterans, last week highlighted the importance of Remembrance Sunday, but explained the pandemic has made making the day “much more difficult this year”.
He added: “It is vitally important that all of us abide by the restrictions to help save lives and protect the NHS as we are remembering the incredible sacrifice that so many have made.”
A Legion Scotland spokesman said: “It is deeply disappointing that remembrance events are being impacted in this way given their importance to so many people.
“Coronavirus must not cancel remembrance, but public safety is paramount.
“We can and must take time as a nation to observe the two-minute silence safely, and ensure we come together in spirit to pay our respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Remembrance Sunday is an opportunity for people in Scotland to join with others across the world to commemorate the enormous sacrifices of the two World Wars and other conflicts, but the pandemic has made that much more difficult this year.
“No decisions are easy but we have to prioritise suppressing the virus to save lives. All mass gatherings are banned as the risk of people congregating and mixing with more than one other household, without physical distancing, when attending or travelling to and from gatherings such as this is too great, whereas controls can be implemented in locations such as places of worship, parks and beer gardens to limit numbers present and ensure guidelines are being followed.
“We understand it will be disappointing to many people that national services will not be open to the public, however, due to the risk of public gatherings spreading the virus and endangering lives, we would encourage those who want to pay their respects to do so safely in other ways.”