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Aberdeen City Council co-leader accuses Nicola Sturgeon of ‘double standards’ over Glasgow outbreak

Douglas Lumsden.
Douglas Lumsden.

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of having “double standards” when dealing with coronavirus outbreaks in Aberdeen and Glasgow, as health officials confirmed a cluster of cases linked to Granite City bars is now “over”.

The first minister announced new restrictions on Tuesday night on visiting other households in Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire following a spike in positive tests for Covid-19 over a number of days.

Aberdeen was sent into Scotland’s first localised lockdown early last month but saw even tougher restrictions, with a five-mile travel limit and the closure of all pubs, cafes and restaurants imposed on the city.

The SNP leader drew the ire of the Labour and Conservative co-leaders of Aberdeen City Council after she later continued the measures against their wishes.

Ms Sturgeon stated the different approaches were based on hospitality being the main driver of infections in Aberdeen, while new cases in Glasgow have so far been primarily linked to spread in and between households.

The first minister confirmed she would consider “going further” and imposing tougher restrictions if current measures in Glasgow fail.

But Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden has called for further answers and accused the first minister of treating Glasgow differently because of how it voted in 2014’s Scottish independence referendum.

He said no one wants to see the city’s economy shut down unnecessarily but Ms Sturgeon must explain why it is not safe to visit each other’s houses “but it is safe to meet the very same people in pubs and restaurants throughout the affected areas”.

“Aberdeen’s fragile economy was hammered thanks to the first minister’s statutory restrictions and many places have decided simply not to reopen until 2021, instead making staff redundant,” Mr Lumsden said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to the NHS Louisa Jordan at the SEC, Glasgow.

“The first minister owes an explanation to businesses and citizens of Aberdeen, and rather than hide behind so called confidential information, she should share the information with the public as to why it’s one rule for Aberdeen and one rule for the central belt when it comes to statutory restrictions.”

Mr Lumsden faced an online backlash for suggesting on social media that Glasgow had escaped restriction because it is a “Yes city”, including from the city’s council leader, Susan Aitken, and Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn.

Figures from Public Health Scotland show the decision to impose a local lockdown on Aberdeen was taken when the weekly cases per 100,000 residents had reached 55.1.

The same data show action was taken in Glasgow when the number of cases per 100,00 was 24.63, although that figure is based on an incomplete week because the outbreak has only recently emerged.

Weekly cases in Perth and Kinross had reached 55.93 per 100,000 before workers linked to an outbreak at the 2 Sisters food processing plant in Coupar Angus were asked to self-isolate.

It is understood the geographical spread of staff at the factory also played a role in decision making.

Ms Sturgeon warned on Wednesday that the virus is spreading again and the rise in cases in the west of Scotland is a “particular concern”.

“Our data suggests that spread in and between households is driving much of the transmission just now,” she said.

Nicola Sturgeon.

“That doesn’t mean there are no cases in pubs but, unlike in Aberdeen, pub cluster don’t appear, at this stage, to be a main driver. That analysis has guided decisions.

“Based on data, clinical advice is that restricting household gatherings indoors – where it is most difficult to keep physical distance – is vital.

“Closing pubs wouldn’t be an alternative to that but an additional measure which, for now, they don’t consider proportionate.

“Coupled with the extended advice on isolation for anyone with potential exposure to the virus, we hope these targeted measures will be sufficient to prevent further spread – if people comply with them.”

Meanwhile, public health experts at NHS Grampian have confirmed a cluster of coronavirus cases linked to a series of Aberdeen bars which spread among hundreds of local residents is now “over”.

The final update from last month determined 263 people had been affected, while 1,265 close contacts had been identified.

Liam Kerr.

The health board told MSPs on Wednesday that the cluster had come to an end, and any further identified cases will not be counted towards the total.

A spokeswoman said: “The incident management team met yesterday and concluded that the outbreak linked to hospitality in Aberdeen City is over.”

Scottish Conservative North East MSP Liam Kerr said: “The last month has been an extremely difficult time for everyone in Aberdeen and this news will come as a relief to the city.

“These latest figures are a testament to the work carried out by NHS Grampian staff who have placed their own health at risk for the protection of others during such difficult circumstances.

“Residents across the north-east also deserve great praise for abiding by the rules placed on them during lockdown in Aberdeen.”