Sturgeon says impact of Covid measures were ‘worth it’
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon risked inflaming tensions with struggling businesses by saying the restrictions she imposed over the festive period were “worth it.”
Businesses suffered from the work at home message, the re-introduction of distancing in bars and the cancellation of Hogmanay parties.
Ms Sturgeon recognised that businesses had suffered but said that she was hopeful that Scotland’s Covid cases were “firmly on the downward slope”.
She told a broadcast interviewer: “Hospitality throughout the pandemic has been one of the worst hit sectors,” but she added that allowing transmission to go completely uncontrolled would make the impact on business “even greater and even more damaging.”
Critics have accused the First Minister of deliberately delaying relaxation of the rules “just to be different to Westminster” and of claiming that Scotland benefited from tougher sanctions when the data for Covid cases shows little difference north and south of the border.
As from Monday (24th) nightclubs will reopen and large indoor events will resume. Guidance advising adults against meeting up with more than three households at a time will also be scrapped, along with curbs on indoor contact sports.
However longer-running measures such as the use of face coverings on public transport and indoor public places will continue.
Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme for businesses and events remains in place, but will not be extended. Ms Sturgeon said it helped “as a package of measures” to protect against transmission.
She added: “I don’t underplay the impact of any of these measures on businesses and the night-time industry, but checking Covid certification is a better alternative to being closed.”
She said the scheme was “not causing anybody any real hardship” and had allowed large events to go ahead.
The First Minister said she hoped that vaccine passports and wearing of face coverings would “eventually” come to an end.
Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr said: “We should see the evidence when Nicola Sturgeon says it was all worthwhile.
“Infection rates for this variant of Covid were as great here as in any other part of the UK.
He added: “What I can’t applaud the Scottish government for doing is dithering in getting the compensation they promised these businesses.
“Some don’t even know how to apply for the money. The Scottish government have a lot to answer for.”
Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery, Murdo Fraser, added: “Nicola Sturgeon still can’t bring herself to admit the restrictions she imposed over Christmas were unnecessary.
“The SNP are quick to impose Covid rules but far too slow in getting vital funding to businesses. It’s shameful that so many small companies are still waiting to receive a single penny.
“It’s baffling that Nicola Sturgeon plans to continue with the vaccine passport scheme even though she can’t point to any hard evidence showing it is effective.”