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Swinney brands Lennon’s Dubai defence ‘appalling’

Deputy First Minister said Neil Lennon's comments had left him 'at a loss for words'.

Swinney brands Lennon’s Dubai defence ‘appalling’ SNS Group

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said he was “at a loss for words” after Celtic boss Neil Lennon defended the club’s controversial trip to Dubai.

It comes amid the ongoing row over Celtic’s decision to fly to the country for a winter training camp at a time when Scots are being told to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.

Lennon, his assistant John Kennedy, another member of staff and 13 players at the club had to isolate following the trip after defender Christopher Jullien tested positive for coronavirus – with another player now also confirmed as having the virus.

Swinney has previously criticised the club’s decision to travel, while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has questioned whether the trip was essential, adding she had doubts “based on some pictures I’ve seen whether adherence to bubble rules was strict enough”.

Photos emerged on social media showing members of the Celtic squad not distancing or wearing face coverings while in Dubai.

Lennon hit back at the club’s critics on Monday, insisting: “We did not abuse any ‘privilege’, we did the right things, we were totally professional.

“We had a little drink in the afternoon on the day off, completely allowed, no law breaking. Yet now we come back to this barrage of absolute hypocrisy.”

He insisted the club had been “held to a far higher standard than any other club”, and said “there seems to be some sort of agenda being driven here”.

When asked about Lennon’s comments on Wednesday, Mr Swinney said: “I am at a loss for words, frankly.”

He told BBC Radio Scotland he had previously said he “thought it was a really bad idea that Celtic decided to go to Dubai for this trip”, adding that “I didn’t think it was a particularly great signal”.

He stated: “I have no ill will to Neil Lennon whatsoever, but I think his comments in this respect have been absolutely appalling.”