A former first minister has called on the country to leave political “bickering” aside and rally behind Scotland’s current leader during the Covid crisis.
Former Scottish Labour leader Henry McLeish also said blaming students for the uptick in positive cases in Scotland was pointless, adding everyone should be brought together to stem the pandemic.
Mr McLeish, who was Scotland’s second-ever devolved leader, called on Scotland to “rally together” to avoid the “chaos” erupting in England, which he claimed was a result of Prime Minister Boris Johnson losing control of the war on the virus.
‘We are at war with coronavirus’
He said: “We are fighting a war against the coronavirus. It is a much-used phrase but we have to hang together.
“These are challenging times and if there was an easy way forward we would have found it. We are creeping forward and we have to bear in mind some solutions will work, others won’t.
“In town centres and at train stations, you see some people wearing masks, some who don’t — and some of those might have underlying conditions not to — but we have to cut across political differences. It is common sense.
“I would appeal to everybody to take very seriously indeed the voice of the first minister. This is not a time for too much bickering over politics.
“The parliament has an absolute right and duty to scrutinise and I would urge the first minister to involve party leaders as much as possible to avoid the emerging chaos happening in England.”
He continued: “We cannot afford this kind of complacency, linked to the fracturing of politics in England. I don’t think the UK Government is truly focused on this war and is caught up in distractions like Brexit, which could be left to a later date.
“Boris Johnson is in danger of losing control over the virus, and from critical groups he needs support of, including backbenchers.”
On students, the former MP for Central Fife said: “We need their help. We need to treat students seriously and enlist them in this particular war.
“I completely support what Ms Sturgeon has said about hospitality, but we need to be aware they are facing unprecedented problems and are making sacrifices.”
Tories call on ex-FM to drop support for second indyref
Earlier this year Mr McLeish said opposing a second referendum on Scottish independence was “against democracy”.
Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Dean Lockhart MSP said: “We agree that politicians of every stripe, from the UK and Scottish governments, should be fully focused on fighting Covid and suppressing the virus to save lives.
“As a result, we expect Henry McLeish will call for the Scottish Government to drop their Referendum Bill and take the threat of a second independence referendum completely off the table.”
He added: “The Scottish Conservatives have been clear that it’s unacceptable to push for independence in the middle of a pandemic.”