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Scotland’s chief medical officer ‘truly sorry’ for Fife visit amid calls for her to resign

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Catherine Calderwood
Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Catherine Calderwood

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer has said she is “truly sorry” for flouting her own guidance on coronavirus after being pictured visiting her holiday home in Fife.

Amid growing calls for her to step down, Dr Catherine Calderwood released a statement saying she wished to “apologise unreservedly” for what happened on Saturday, but said she wanted now to focus on the job.

“While there are reasons for what I did, they do not justify it and they were not legitimate reasons to be out of my home,” she said.

“While I and my family followed the guidance on social distancing at all times, I understand that I did not follow the advice I am giving to others, and I am truly sorry for that.

“I know how important this advice is and I do not want my mistake to distract from that.

“I have a job to do as Chief Medical Officer to provide advice to ministers on the path of this virus and to support the medical profession as they work night and day to save lives, and having spoken with the First Minister this morning I will continue to focus entirely on that job.”

The MP and MSP for the second home of the Chief Medical Officer said that it is impossible for her to do her job advising the nation on COVID-19 after she flouted her own advice on non-essential travel.

Willie Rennie and Wendy Chamberlain said that tension in the East Neuk was already high with holidaymakers and second home owners flocking to the area over the weekend, but said the fact Dr Catherine Calderwood was one of them added “insult to injury”.

Speaking after it was discovered that Dr Calderwood had visited her second home in Earlsferry in North East Fife, the parliamentarians said: “It is difficult to see how the Chief Medical Officer will be able to carry the important messages about the virus and the lock down if she has not even followed it herself.

“There is no doubt she has worked incredibly hard and led the country well through the early stages of this crisis.

“Yet it it is difficult to see how she can continue to do that when she has made this massive error of judgement.

“Local people are irate that holiday makers and second home owners have ignored the warnings from the Chief Medical Officer to stay at home.

“The main street was described as being like a motorway and many second homes are full up.

“There is real concern that with a swollen population and a virus sweeping through the local health services will just not cope.

“If we are going to get through this pandemic we need medical leaders who everyone can follow. It is with great regret that we say that the Chief Medical Officer will need to go.”

Independent councillor Linda Holt, who represents the East Neuk and Landward ward, criticised Dr Calderwood for defying her own government’s advice.

“Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer knows better than anyone the importance of sticking to the social distancing rules,” she said.

“Her hypocrisy in flouting these rules damages the credibility of the government’s all-important message as do the Scottish Government’s lame excuses for her behaviour. Nicola Sturgeon should sack her immediately.

“The East Neuk has a very high proportion of older, vulnerable residents, so the continued occupation of holiday homes against official advice is a real problem here.

“The Scottish Government needs to make it 100% clear that no one has an excuse for visiting their holiday home.”

Conservative Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said: “Lockdown is incredibly difficult for everyone but the rules apply to us all.

“I really don’t know what Dr Calderwood can have been thinking to go against the official coronavirus Government advice she has been advocating and act in this irresponsible way.”

Calum Steele, head of the Scottish Police Federation, also suggested her position was untenable.

“The job of policing during this #COVID19 epidemic just got that little bit harder this morning,” he tweeted.

“And having crawled over the legislation when it was first published I can tell you categorically that checking on a second home is not one of the listed “reasonable excuses” for being out of your own.

“There are literally thousands of families climbing the walls of their own homes desperate for respite and would love to amble by the sea but don’t.

“We also have thousands of police making sure they don’t.

“You try being a police officer explaining that to someone today!”

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