The First Minister has cautioned against “political debate” over lockdown decision-making, following claims from Aberdeen City Council leaders that they had to “lobby” the Scottish Government to relax measures.
Government officials met council bosses on Sunday morning to thrash out an agreement on the city’s best route out of lockdown with consensus eventually being reached later that day to lift bans on indoor gatherings and travel from midnight.
However, in response to claims from city council leaders that it was their “lobbying” that means the city’s “fragile economy” would be freed of the restrictions imposed, Nicola Sturgeon said this was “entirely the wrong perspective”.
Speaking during her daily Covid-19 briefing on Monday, the First Minister said: “Anybody who thinks that these decisions should be the result of lobbying is coming at this from entirely the wrong perspective.
“This is an infectious virus and we have to be precautionary in order to keep the virus under control when the other clusters get out of control.
“This is not some kind of political debate backwards and forwards about who wants to be tough and who wants to be precautionary.”
Under the changes announced on Sunday, bars, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to open on Wednesday, subject to checks by environmental health officers.
However, council bosses claimed chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith initially favoured a “more cautious” approach.
Commenting during the daily Covid-19 briefing on Monday, Dr Smith said it was “absolutely true” to say that he adopted a “cautious approach” last week.
But said the midweek review on Sunday allowed for “additional information” to be provided showing further evidence of a downward trajectory of cases.
The chief medical officer added: “When we had the discussion on Sunday, it was right that we interrogated that data and we interrogated fully.
“At the end of that conversation both myself and the national clinical director were content with the recommendations.”
The First Minister stressed that “continued caution” is important in lifting lockdown restrictions, adding there is “always a degree of risk when you lift restrictions, whether national or here specifically in Aberdeen”.
Earlier in her briefing, she said reintroducing lockdown restrictions in the city has been “effective at beating back the virus”, praising the level of compliance from Aberdonians.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said he would “completely agree” that politics should be left out of lockdown decisions.
He added: “It shouldn’t be a political decision and it should be based on data and on data from the local incident management team.”
The Conservative councillor added that the local authority had not been “lobbying” its own views, but those of “local experts” within the incident management team.
The latest figures show a total of 427 cases has been identified in the NHS Grampian area since July 26.
Of these, 259 are associated with the same cluster linked to Aberdeen pubs and 1,258 contacts have been identified.
Ms Sturgeon said of the 66 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, provisional figures indicate five were in the Grampian health board area.
A total of 17 were in Lanarkshire, 15 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and 14 in Tayside, she added.
Meanwhile, she said there is still a “major cluster in cases” associated with the outbreak in Coupar Angus, which is believed to have started at the 2 Sisters food processing factory.
The First Minister said a total of 110 positive cases has been linked to the cluster so far, with 96 employees and 14 close contacts.
“This is a very significant outbreak and I would expect to see the number of cases rise even further”, she added.
She added there is no evidence of community transmission linked to the cluster.
Ms Sturgeon also announced expected new guidance on face coverings in secondary schools across Scotland.
If the new rules – which are in the final stages of consultation – come into force, it means both pupils and teachers will be required to wear them in corridors and communal areas.