Scots are restless over ‘dither and delay’ of lockdown

Scots are kicking back against the SNP’s "contradictory" Covid restrictions, a wedding industry boss has warned, as the new Health Secretary refused to provide any indication of when the country will move to the lowest level of lockdown.

Duncan McConchie, chair of the Scottish Wedding Industry Alliance (SWIA), said "people are starting to throw caution to the wind" because of the lack of consistency in some of the restrictions.

He raised the example of a couple getting married who have suggested having a Zumba exercise class to music at their wedding reception to get around a ban on dancing.

Speaking ahead of Boris Johnson disclosing how long the June 21 ‘freedom’ day in England will be postponed, he urged the SNP government to address the inconsistencies and provide clarity on when restrictions will be eased.

His intervention came as Labour demanded that parents be allowed to attend their children’s nursery ‘graduations’ this week, contrasting the ban with 6,000 football fans being permitted to attend a Euro 2020 fan zone in Glasgow.

Jackie Baillie, the party’s deputy leader, said: "These rules rely on public confidence to work but these apparent inconsistencies make it more difficult for people to understand why they are being asked not to do certain things."

But Humza Yousaf, the Health Secretary in Scotland, said he would not "just stick my finger in the air" and disclose for how long the June 28 timetable for Scotland to move to Level 0 restrictions had slipped.

Speaking from the Glasgow fan zone, he argued that Scotland was in the "very early days of a potential third wave" and the impact of the Indian variant, which is thought to be around 60 per cent more transmissible, remained unclear.

All of mainland Scotland was originally scheduled to move from Level 2 to Level 1 of Ms Sturgeon’s five-tier system earlier this month but she postponed the move for 14 council areas covering nearly all the Central Belt and more than half the population.

The First Minister said she wanted more time to roll out the vaccination programme as it emerged both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs give only 33 per cent protection against the Indian variant after one dose, compared with up to 80 per cent against previous variants.

The delay also meant that the planned move to Level 0 on June 28 for all the mainland could not happen before late July at the earliest.

Mr Johnson is expected to disclose on Monday that the planned full return to normality in England will be delayed by up to four weeks, meaning it would not happen until July 19.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is understood to have warned the Government that a third wave of Covid cases could exceed the first wave peak if the June 21 reopening were to go ahead as planned.

However, the Prime Minister may provide some relief for the beleaguered wedding industry by increasing the current 30-person limit.

No more than 50 people are allowed in Level 2 areas of Scotland and 100 people in Level 1 areas.

However, Mr McConchie said a two-metre social distancing rule between different households limits guest numbers to 50 in any tier, and wedding suppliers, musicians and photographers have to be counted towards the limit.

Mr McConchie, managing partner of the GG’s Yard wedding venue in Dumfriesshire, said the "nonsensical" rule costs the industry between £200 or £300 for every guest’s place that has to be sacrificed to stay within the quota.

He said: "Because of the contradictions people are starting to throw caution to the wind and are saying this is getting stupid and ignoring the rules.

"There’s a couple talking about having a Zumba class during their reception because Zumba classes are permitted but dancing is not.

"This week is massive – we have the UK Government telling us what they are doing in England after June 21 and the social distancing review. We need to get progress – we don’t even know what will happen when every adult has been vaccinated."

However, he said he held a "positive meeting" with Kate Forbes, the Finance Secretary, last week about trying to create with public health officials a route map of out lockdown for the industry.

Liz Smith, the Scottish Tories’ Shadow Health Secretary, said businesses were "understandably frustrated" after being left in lockdown "limbo".

She added: "With the health service not currently overwhelmed thanks to the vaccination scheme, the SNP ministers must explain clearly why these guidelines are likely going to remain in place for longer than they initially outlined."

But Mr Yousaf said on Sunday the Indian, or Delta, variant was a "bump in the road" and its impact on the NHS was still being assessed.

Pressed on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show to say if Scotland would move to Level 0 by August, he said: "What you’re not going to get me to do is just stick my finger in the air, pluck a date out of the thin air and tell you that is the date we will move to Level 0.

"It’s important that we understand fully the link between positive cases, hospitalisation, severity of illness, how long are people staying in hospital."

The Scottish Government has urged anyone over 40 yet to receive their first dose, or have waited for more than eight weeks for their second jab, to come forward immediately.

Labour urged SNP ministers on Sunday to further accelerate the roll-out to provide all over-40s both jabs by the end of this month, pointing out Scotland currently had 914,940 unused doses last week compared to only 320,477 in Wales.

Ms Baillie said: "In Scotland, the prevalence of the virus is substantially higher than it is in Wales where there has been a much more successful roll-out of the vaccine.

“Despite hundreds of thousands of vaccines being stockpiled, many Scots are still awaiting their first dose and Covid rates are rising alarmingly. The time for dither and delay, for obfuscation and whataboutery, is over."  

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