No decision has been made about whether the Old Firm derby can go ahead on Sunday, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister revealed she had had discussions with Police Scotland’s chief constable, Iain Livingstone, about the prospect of fans flouting lockdown restrictions again if the match between Celtic and Rangers takes place.
Thousands of Rangers fans gathered in the streets of Glasgow after their side won the Scottish Premiership, while Celtic supporters previously protestied en mass to call for then-manager Neil Lennon’s resignation.
In the wake of the scenes in Glasgow the previous weekend, Scottish Government ministers have raised the prospect of the derby being called off over fears it could spark more gatherings.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, also suggested the celebrations could have caused a spike in infections, with an increase in coronavirus cases in Glasgow and surrounding areas in recent days.
Asked about the prospects for the match going ahead, Ms Sturgeon said the government would make a decision “over the course of the next few days”.
Speaking at the coronavirus briefing, she said: “I spoke to the Chief Constable personally last week about his views on what might transpire if the Old Firm match goes ahead.
“The Justice Secretary has been in contact with the police, we will be in further contact with the police over the course of this week.
“They will have intelligence of their own about whether it appears to them the fans in the main are following the advice of the clubs and staying at home or whether there is a significant risk of fans coming out to gather.
“On the basis of all of that, we will have to make a judgement.”
While she welcomed both Rangers and Celtic’s public plea to fans to follow the coronavirus rules that ban indoor meeting and prohibiting gatherings of more than four people from two households outside, Ms Sturgeon said the government would have to be “really careful and considered” about whether to allow the match to take place.
“I never want to be in a position of standing here saying football matches can go ahead or any of the other things that we really enjoy in life can’t go ahead, but that’s the reality where we’re still in this position,” she said.
“Big gatherings, we know presents a risk of transmission, and we’re trying to get transmission down as low as possible so that we can open up all of the things we enjoy doing.
“Every time we have something that we would rather not have happened and something that poses a big risk of transmission, we run the risk of setting our progress back.”
Although he suggested it was too early to know the “full picture of the impact of the events of last weekend”, Mr Smith said there has been an increased number of cases in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, the Glasgow region and “Glasgow city in particular”.
“During the interviews that the contact tracing teams are having with people who have tested positive, there are a small number who are revealing that they either took part in those celebrations or were involved in house parties that arose from those as well,” he added.
“We’ve got to remember the incubation period of this virus is anything up to the kind of 10-day or so period, so what happens over these coming days is going to be fairly revealing as well.”