Anas Sarwar has claimed Scottish Labour’s manifesto launch has been delayed to Thursday due to an “unscheduled” coronavirus announcement from the Scottish Government set for Tuesday.
Sarwar said the launch date had been pushed back for a second time – following the delay to the original launch due to the suspension of campaigning after the Duke of Edinburgh’s death.
However, the First Minister has previously indicated she would be likely to give an announcement this Tuesday.
The Scottish Labour leader said despite the delays he had nevertheless been setting out his policies on job creation and economic recovery.
During an appearance on the BBC’s Sunday Show, Sarwar said the original launch had been planned for Monday but was cancelled due to a halt in campaigning, while other parties had been doing their own launches later in the week.
He said they had planned to move to this coming Tuesday but there was “an unscheduled Scottish Government statement now on Covid, despite us seeking clarification from the government on that”.
Sarwar continued: “We’ve been told to expect a statement from the Scottish Government that was unscheduled.
“So we’re having to move our manifesto date again.”
He said this was “frustrating” but the party had not been waiting for its manifesto launch to set out its policies on economic stimulus and tackling child poverty.
The next easing of coronavirus restrictions is due to take place on April 26, when indoor opening of hospitality will be permitted.
Sarwar also attacked Nicola Sturgeon’s record in government, saying NHS treatment times had grown poorer.
He said: “She’s taken her eye off the ball on drugs deaths, she’s taken her eye off the ball on the NHS, she’s taken her eye off the ball in terms of her suicide rates across the country, she’s taken her eye off the ball on education.
“We need an effective Labour opposition in the next parliament to make sure she keeps her eye on the ball for the recovery and not focussed by her own priorities.”
The Scottish Government said ministers had a duty to communicate public health updates and plans were being kept under review.
At her briefing on Tuesday April 13, Sturgeon said she was “likely” to do another briefing the following Tuesday.
Sturgeon tweeted on Sunday: “Tuesday’s Covid briefing isn’t unscheduled (last Tuesday’s was).
“It has been scheduled for weeks – indeed, those watching the briefing I did on April 6 would have heard me signal it.”
Sarwar responded with a tweet of his own, saying: “Nicola Sturgeon’s own Minister told me that the ‘scheduled’ briefing this week had been brought forward to last week, so not to expect one.
“I want this campaign to be about ideas – not TV schedules – so we’ve moved again to ensure we don’t clash with a public health announcement.”