The SNP has been charged with “trying to score political points” by splitting with Downing Street’s messaging on lifting the coronavirus lockdown. Speaking on RT, SNP MSP Alex Neil defended First Minister Nicola Sturgeon against the attacks, insisting she was not “trying to play politics”. The programme’s host had earlier said: “With Sturgeon going it alone on this, many might suspect that the SNP in particular is perhaps using this to score political points?”
Mr Neil, who previously served as cabinet secretary for health, responded: “The First Minister made it absolutely clear that the criteria used for making these decisions is only related to public health matters.
“I think any politician who starts to play politics with a public health crisis would very likely meet the wrath of the public.
“Clearly there has to be coordination and cooperation across the UK, but there may be slight changes between different countries, that won’t be a catastrophe.
“The First Minister banned the holding of large meetings, before that happened in the rest of the UK. That wasn’t politically-driven, it was just a common sense thing to do.”
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He went on to warn Boris Johnson against lifting the lockdown amid confused messages coming out of Downing Street this week.
Mr Neil suggested that lifting the lockdown from Monday greatly increases the risk of a devastating second wave of the coronavirus.
Downing Street’s plans for laying out a roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday were questioned after newspaper headlines suggested a significant easing next week.
This prompted concern from even the government’s own scientific advisers who said the public were mistakenly being given a “green light” to abandon the lockdown.
Ahead of Mr Johnson’s address to the nation on Sunday, Ms Sturgeon added she would “not be pressured into lifting restrictions prematurely”.
She explained: “If the prime minister decides that he wants to move at a faster pace for England than I consider is right for Scotland that is of course his right.
“I will respect that and I will not criticise him for doing that.”
A statement from the Welsh government said: “Some of the reporting in today’s newspapers is confusing and risks sending mixed messages to people across the UK.”