'Deeply worrying' that scientific advice around Christmas rule relaxations kept secret by Scottish Government

Publication of scientific advice and the potential number of deaths that were estimated to take place in Scotland following the original five-day relaxation has been blocked by the Scottish Government.

The publication of evidence for the cancelled Christmas relaxation has been blocked by the Scottish Government
The publication of evidence for the cancelled Christmas relaxation has been blocked by the Scottish Government

The decision to refuse a request to publish briefings, modelling, and scientific briefings on the original Christmas relaxations has been described as “deeply worrying” by opposition politicians.

It comes just under a week after Nicola Sturgeon u-turned on her plans for people to have a five day window to see family and friends over Christmas due to the emergence of a new, highly transmissable strain of Covid-19.

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However, the scientific advice as to how safe the original plans were and how many new cases and potential deaths may have happened without the u-turn have been blocked from release following a freedom of information request by this newspaper, citing cost as a barrier to release.

In response to the decision, the Scottish Greens said it raised questions as to whether the advice ever existed while the Scottish Conservatives accused the Scottish Government of treating “transparency as an afterthought”.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the Scottish Government must be “willing to share” such information and that the public deserve an “open and honest” government.

He said: “Public trust is central to combating the virus and for it to be maintained the Scottish government must be willing to share the scientific evidence behind its actions.

“The refusal to make the evidence public in this instance is deeply worrying. The people of Scotland deserve a government that is open and honest with them in this time of crisis, not one which cloaks its decisions in secrecy.”

Donald Cameron, the Scottish Conservative’s health spokesperson said it was symptomatic of the Scottish Government’s failure to make scientific advice public for full scrutiny.

He said: “Scots understand the unique danger being brought on us by the pandemic and are making huge personal sacrifices in the fight to eradicate it.

“Scientific advice leading to Covid policy shifts should be made available to be scrutinised – hiding it away will undermine the tough asks we are making of the country.

“The SNP Government has always treated transparency as an afterthought. With the stakes so high, they need to change their tune and publish the advice.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the decision to cancel the wider Christmas plans was the correct one.

Referencing the suggestion for a Christmas amnesty, Mr Harvie added that there is no way to “negotiate a truce” with Covid-19.

He said: “We repeatedly called for the evidence on the decision to relax the restrictions for five days at Christmas, especially since both UK and Scottish government expert advisers were warning it was dangerous. You cannot negotiate a truce with a deadly virus, and the fact this FOI produced nothing suggests there was no evidence or modelling in the first place.

“It is welcome, especially considering we have a new faster-spreading strain, that both governments saw sense.”

The Scottish Government were contacted for comment.

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