North-east SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson indicated he is planning to wear a mask “for the rest of my life” as he mounted a staunch defence of anti-coronavirus face coverings.
The member for Banffshire and Buchan Coast said masks “saved lives” as he took objection to a Tory MSP’s attempts to suggest mandatory coverings in shops and public transport could impinge on civil liberties.
Mr Stevenson, 73, who has received treatment for asthma for many years, made his remarks at the Holyrood Covid-19 committee.
His interjection came after Graham Simpson of the Conservatives claimed mask-wearing legislation had been pushed through parliament without “prior” parliamentary scrutiny.
Mr Simpson quoted advice from Professor Jason Leitch, earlier in the pandemic, when the National Clinical Director had suggested masks were “not helpful” because the virus was passed on through droplets rather than airborne transmission.
But Mr Simpson’s contribution angered Mr Stevenson who said he was “trying really hard not to be outraged” by the Conservative’s line of questioning.
“I speak as someone over the age of 70 and as someone who has to regularly measure his lung capacity — the measuring instrument is sitting here next to me on my desk,” Mr Stevenson said.
I suspect that, for the rest of my life, I shall wish to wear a face mask to protect others from the risk that I might infect them. That is standard practice in many countries in the far east and has been for many years.”
Stewart Stevenson MSP
The Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP went on to quote evidence from former Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Harry Burns, which supported the wearing of coverings.
“The trouble is that 60 per cent of the people who are capable of passing on this deadly virus do not know that they carry the virus with them,” Mr Stevenson said.
“I suspect that, for the rest of my life, I shall wish to wear a face mask to protect others from the risk that I might infect them. That is standard practice in many countries in the far east and has been for many years.”
Mr Stevenson backed up his statement by recalling Professor Burns’s appearance at the committee earlier in the crisis. The medic had said a person testing negative for the virus had a 90% chance of catching it when having a five-minute talk with a carrier.
But if the negative person was wearing a mask the chance of transmission was cut to 10%.
It is a fallacy among non-asthmatics that asthma makes it difficult to breathe in. A mask does not inhibit your breathing out at all.”
Mr Stevenson also took the opportunity to “nail” suggestions that it was difficult for asthmatics to wear masks.
“That is utterly wrong, because asthma makes it difficult for you to breathe out. It is a fallacy among non-asthmatics that asthma makes it difficult to breathe in. A mask does not inhibit your breathing out at all,” Mr Stevenson said.
The SNP MSP added that Mr Simpson should “think hard” about what he had said, adding: “Masks save lives and they cost little in terms of personal restriction or economic effect.”
He added: “I realise that that was not so much a comment as a peroration, but I feel incredibly strongly about masks, and I have good reason to do so.”
Earlier Constitution Secretary Michael Russell had said he was so far aware of only one instance of a non-compliance notice being issue for failure to wear a mask.