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Rangers fans: Swinney calls supporters flouting restrictions ‘shameful’

Rangers fans celebrate their club winning its 55th league title.
Rangers fans celebrate their club winning its 55th league title.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the “silence from Rangers was deafening” as he criticised the football club for failing to order thousands of fans gathered in George Square to go home.

Fans congregated in George Square and outside Ibrox Stadium after Rangers won the Scottish Premiership for the first time in a decade on Sunday.

Mr Swinney described the behaviour of some fans as an “absolute disgrace” and said it has “undoubtedly cast a shadow over what should have been a special day for the team”.

At the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, the deputy first minister said people across Scotland have stuck to “extremely tough rules” in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

He added that “to see so many people deliberately flouting these rules with no regard for the safety of others is shameful”.

The SNP politician said “that if the data suddenly, because of all commotion at the weekend, goes in the wrong direction”, the government will have “difficult decisions” to make as a consequence.

Rangers Football Club waited until lunchtime on Monday to make a public comment on the events that unfolded on Sunday.

They pointed to remarks made by manager Steven Gerrard at his press conference on Friday in which he urged fans to “abide by the government rules and respect social distancing”.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Mr Swinney said the government and Police Scotland reminded Rangers of the need to advise fans to adhere to the current restrictions in discussions on February 26 and March 5.

He described it as a “matter of profound regret that that did not happen”.

Lack of leadership

Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government will be making its “extreme disappointment at the lack of leadership clear to the team management” and will be speaking to all the authorities about what “further assurance” they can give ahead of future planned games.

He added that Rangers had a “duty” to tell fans not to gather and messages from them on Sunday could have helped disperse the crowds, adding: “The silence from Rangers was deafening.”

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has spoken to Police Scotland and to Rangers Football Club – and will do so again – to “understand why the events of yesterday (Sunday) took place as they did” and what actions are being taken to “identify those responsible”.

Police made 28 arrests as a result of Sunday, with reasons for arrest including assaulting police officers, breaching coronavirus regulations, disorder, use of flares and sectarian breaches of the peace.

Rangers fans
Rangers fans celebrate their club winning the title.

Police Scotland Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland, divisional commander for Greater Glasgow, said officers were faced with a “very difficult set of circumstances”.

He added their priority was “public safety”, which included “reducing the risk of disorder, road safety and effective crowd management among the complexities of a vociferous crowd”.

Chief medical officer Gregor Smith told the briefing there is a “real risk” of a rise in Covid-19 infections following the gatherings, adding that in the central belt figures show a “slightly greater” risk of infection.

He added: “There is a very real risk that we will see an uptick as a result of the scenes we saw over the weekend.”

Rangers fans
Rangers fans celebrate the club winning their 55th league title after Celtic failed to win their match against Dundee United on Sunday.

Rangers website

A statement posted on the club’s website said that during the last number of weeks they had “initiated open dialogue with key stakeholders in relation to the possibility of us achieving a historic 55th league title”.

They added: “We reiterate the message from our manager, Steven Gerrard, who highlighted that fans should adhere to government guidelines – stay safe, socially distance and look after each other in this difficult time.

The club said they will continue talks ahead of future milestones to “maintain a cohesive message in relation to government guidance”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday the “infuriating and disgraceful” scenes could jeopardise plans to ease the coronavirus restrictions and urged Rangers to ask people to go home.

On Monday Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar warned fans of the dangers they posed to themselves and their families by not adhering to the lockdown restrictions.

‘Slight dip’ in vaccination supplies

The deputy first minister also confirmed the government remains on track to offer the first vaccine jab to all those over 50, unpaid carers and those with pre-existing conditions by mid-April.

He admitted there had been a “slight dip in supply” that could continue for the rest of the week but that from the second half of March and into April the programme should “accelerate significantly”.

In response to our question, asking if there is a specific target for those in the 60-64 age group who do not have pre-existing health conditions, amid growing anxiety, Mr Swinney said there is no specific target beyond the more general target for all those over 50 of mid-April.

The chief medical officer said there have been some “constraints” over supply but said these should be corrected in the “near future”.

He added: “Those people who have been very patient in waiting up to this point will be called forward for their vaccines very soon.”

As of Monday, 1,774,659 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, up 14,909 since Sunday.

A total of 2,802 people have had their second jab, bringing the total number of 118,732.

In the 65 to 69 age category, 96% of people have received their first injection, along with 42% of those aged 60 to 64, 35% of those aged 55 to 59 and 29% of 50 to 54-year-olds.

Mr Swinney said Nicola Sturgeon will update the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday on the latest coronavirus restrictions, adding that “things are moving in the right direction”.

A total of 501 cases was reported in the last 24 hours, representing 5% of tests carried out.

The latest figures show 138 cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 99 in Lanarkshire and 67 in Lothian, with the other cases spread across the eight other mainland health boards.

Mr Swinney said 654 people are currently in hospital, an increase of 26, and one death has been recorded in the last 24 hours. though this is due to register offices largely being shut at the weekend.