Nicola Sturgeon has said she understands the frustration of businesses over Covid-19 restrictions in Glasgow, but warned of the danger of easing regulations too quickly.
At First Minister’s Questions, Sturgeon explained that the lifting of measures must be done “responsibly and safely”.
The First Minister was responding to concerns raised by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross over current levels of support for businesses in Glasgow.
“I understand the frustration of the business community, just as I understand the frustration of every single citizen across the country as we continue to grapple with a global pandemic of an infectious virus,” Sturgeon told MSPs.
“And in the past few weeks, as we were making very good progress, of course being confronted with another new variant of this virus.
“Unfortunately, with the best will in the world, I cannot take away all of the impacts of a virus of this nature, but we work as hard as we can and we work as closely as we can to give as much notice and detail of our response as possible.
“But, sometimes, I’m afraid in the interests of health and human life, it is necessary for people in leadership positions like me to take very quick decisions because, as we know from bitter experience over this pandemic, it’s often the failure to take quick and firm decisions that leads to loss of life.
“And anybody who’s in any doubt about that only had to listen to a fraction of what Dominic Cummings outlined about what he described as the chaotic response of the UK Government at key moments of this pandemic.”
She added: “I will continue to try to take difficult decisions as well as I possibly can.”
The First Minister said that there are “reasons to be optimistic”, with a reduction in hospital cases, but indicated that careful and cautious decisions would be taken to return Scotland to normality.
“We want to do that as quickly as possible, but that’s got to be done responsibly and safely,” she said of easing restrictions.
“In terms of today’s numbers, I can tell the chamber that there were 464 positive cases identified yesterday, 1.8% of all tests being positive.
“We see a reduction in hospital cases today and a small reduction in ICU cases. So, there are reasons to be optimistic there, but we’ve got to continue in the interests of business, and in the interests of everybody, to take careful and cautious decisions to get the whole country back to normality.”
Douglas Ross said: “Glasgow has been under Covid restrictions now for 269 days. 269 days where businesses have been struggling to survive.
“The chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Stuart Patrick, said yesterday that funding grants fall far short.
“He said 90% of businesses will get less than they were promised. And this is a direct quote from him, ‘the financial support offered bears no relationship to the economic damage now being done by restrictions’.
“So, does the First Minister agree with the chief executive of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce? And what will she do to now deliver on promises she and her government made to those businesses?”
Sturgeon responded: “I know how long the City of Glasgow has been under restrictions because, unlike him, I am a resident of the City of Glasgow, so these restrictions apply to me just as they apply to others.
“I know how difficult it is for residents and businesses across Glasgow, but I also know how dangerous it would be if we eased restrictions too quickly and allowed a new variant of this virus that we know is spreading, perhaps even more quickly than the variant at the start of the year, to take a grip again.”
She added: “We will continue to discuss with businesses how in the face of this difficult situation we support them to the best of our ability and to the best of the resources that we have at our disposal.”