Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie has spoken out against “anti-English rhetoric” in the Scottish Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rennie said parts of Scotland have some of the worst rates of coronavirus across the UK and claimed the Scottish Government “squandered” valuable time over the summer months when the virus had abated.
He spoke out after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the virus was almost eliminated in Scotland during the summer and was partly reseeded by travellers from elsewhere.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Friday, she said: “This is a virus that obviously travels across borders very easily and I suspect over the summer we did get very close to elimination in Scotland and then, not entirely, but we’ve reseeded it from travel across the UK and internationally so border control I think is an important consideration here.”
She said that even if a country were to decide to seal itself off, it then becomes a question of how long you do that for as that comes with costs for areas like trade and the economy.
Rennie said: “Anti-English rhetoric has reared its ugly head at different points throughout this crisis and there is no place for it.
“Parts of Scotland have some of the worst rates of coronavirus across the UK. To claim any kind of exceptionalism is misjudged. People will not look kindly on ministers wildly searching around to apportion blame.
“Blaming England without evidence is a desperate attempt to deflect from the responsibility the Scottish Government bears for not preparing well for the second wave. Blaming others for our own weakness is not something we should be hearing during a global pandemic.
“This government has squandered valuable time over the summer months when the virus had abated.
“It needs to make a step change to Scotland’s test and trace capacity and the efficiency of contact tracing interviews. This is all within the First Minister’s control.”
Scotland has recorded 11 deaths from coronavirus and 1433 positive tests in the past 24 hours, the Scottish Government announced on Saturday.
The death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – has risen to 2699.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We all want to eliminate this virus as much as possible and that means reducing transmission by avoiding travel to and from high-risk areas, a position all governments in the UK have taken.
“We will always be guided by the best and most up-to-date expert scientific advice and that includes asking residents of high-risk areas within Scotland to avoid non-essential travel, for example when local restrictions were in place in Dumfries and Galloway or Aberdeen.”