Council leader suggests Scotland ‘some sort of Soviet state’

Aberdeen co-leader Douglas Lumsden hit back after Nicola Sturgeon accused him of writing her 'ridiculous letters'.

The co-leader of Aberdeen City Council has accused Nicola Sturgeon of turning Scotland into “some sort of Soviet state” as a row over coronavirus restrictions rumbles on.

Douglas Lumsden and his fellow co-leader at the council Jenny Laing penned a letter to the First Minister demanding she make public scientific advice about Covid-19 transmission in Glasgow.

They suggested Aberdeen, which was placed in a three-week local lockdown in August after a cluster of cases emerged in the city’s pubs, was “singled out” for harsher treatment than Scotland’s largest city.

Earlier this month, seven council areas in the Greater Glasgow region were hit with restrictions on indoor household gatherings – which have since been extended to the whole of Scotland.

But meanwhile, the city’s pubs and restaurants were allowed to stay open, unlike in Aberdeen.

The First Minister has always maintained this was evidence-based, due to the fact Covid was mainly transmitting in household settings rather than hospitality settings.

Lumsden and Laing said the fact the entire country now faces a household gatherings ban as well as a 10pm curfew in pubs and restaurants is “because the First Minister did not lockdown Glasgow”.

They went on to suggest Sturgeon’s decision to impose a local shutdown on Aberdeen but not Glasgow was based on “political motives”.

Asked about the letter at Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister blasted it as “patent nonsense” and “ridiculous”.

She urged everyone to work together to tackle the pandemic “instead of penning, frankly, ridiculous letters that I think probably say more about the authors of them than they do about me”.

Responding to her remarks on Twitter, Lumsden hit back to suggest the Scottish Government was not “open to scrutiny”.

“Has Scotland become some sort of Soviet state?” the Conservative councillor asked.

Aberdeen’s council leadership has been at loggerheads with the Scottish Government since August, when it was resistant to the decision to extend the local lockdown into a third week amid falling infections.

As cases mounted in Glasgow and the west of Scotland, Lumsden complained of “central belt bias” due to the lack of a full lockdown in the region.

He even suggested Glasgow was being given more favourable treatment due to the fact it voted Yes to independence in the 2014 referendum.

In the council leaders’ latest letter to Sturgeon, Lumsden wrote: “The First Minister’s decisions without consultation with councils and her inability to share the Greater Glasgow health board incident management team (IMT) report and recommendations with the citizens of Scotland shows that the First Minister’s inability to deal with Covid-19 in Glasgow and the surrounding area has impacted on the rest of Scotland.

“If the First Minister had locked down Glasgow like she locked down Aberdeen, citizens in Scotland would in all probability not have to share the pain of a total Scotland lockdown.”

He added: “The citizens of Aberdeen are frustrated that once again they are being denied privileges of seeing loved ones for the next three weeks and maybe longer because the First Minister did not lockdown Glasgow.

“Aberdeen citizens deserve better from the First Minister and she should at the very least provide the clinical evidence to support her position of a total Scotland lockdown otherwise citizens will conclude that her decision not to lockdown Glasgow as political.”

His colleague Laing said: “The health and wellbeing of our citizens must always come first and that is why we supported the statutory restrictions imposed on Aberdeen by the Scottish Government back in August 2020.

“However, this was based on known facts.

“The First Minister’s failure to consult or provide information to Aberdeen City Council on why her approach to Aberdeen was different from Glasgow is unacceptable.

“We believe the First Minister should have adopted a regional approach to deal with the outbreak in Glasgow, which would have minimised the impact on Aberdeen.

“But she chose to adopt a position which appears to have been based on political motives rather than clinical evidence and now the whole of Scotland is paying the price.”

Addressing the letter at the briefing, Sturgeon rubbished any notion she had “deliberately penalised” the city for political reasons.

The FM said: “IMT reports are published and that’s for the IMT to decide when they publish their reports.

“But at the heart of the letter from the co-leaders of Aberdeen City Council is the notion that I have deliberately penalised Aberdeen in the restrictions we put on to try to bring the pub-based cluster under control some weeks ago and that we should have done the same for Glasgow.

“In actual fact, as I have stood up here and explained many, many times, we took actions in both cities that we thought were appropriate to the nature of the outbreak.”

She continued: “I suppose I just have to accept that if for political reasons there are people, like the co-leaders of Aberdeen, who want to believe that in handling this epidemic, I am actually making judgments based on whether I have a view on a particular city over another city, then I don’t know.

“There’s not much I can do about that but it’s nonsense, it’s patent nonsense.

“And actually, let’s all just concentrate on working together to deal with this outbreak instead of penning, frankly, ridiculous letters that I think probably say more about the authors of them than they do about me.”

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