Euro 2020 fan zone risks 'breaching public trust' in Scottish Government decisions, Anas Sarwar warns

The Scottish Government’s decision to approve mass gatherings of thousands of fans in Glasgow at next month’s Euro 2020 football tournament risks undermining public trust in its pandemic messaging, Anas Sarwar has warned.

The Scottish Labour leader said the sign off of the fan zone in Glasgow Green – which will welcome up to 6,000 supporters a day – demonstrated inconsistencies around the government’s decision-making and messaging as it seeks to deal with a spate of infections in pockets of the city.

Mr Sarwar also said Scotland should not be asked to go into lockdown again, provided protocols are in place to swiftly deal with Covid-19 outbreaks in hotspot areas.

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The government approved the plans for the fan zone on Monday. It will be open for the 31 days of the tournament, which begins on June 11. The area will be ticketed and subject to physical distancing rules.

It comes as the seven-day average of new infections across Glasgow has risen to 137 per 100,000 people from 112 on Friday, despite the ongoing measures.

Mr Sarwar said while the fan zone was a welcome initiative, there was a need for a significant increase in testing and vaccinations in the city, as well as other hot-spots.

He said: “I think it highlights the inconsistency of the decision making and the inconsistency of the messaging that risks breaching public trust in the government’s decision making.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Glasgow cannot remain in "perpetual lockdown." Picture: John Devlin

“I’m in favour of a fan zone during the Euros, but we only get to that point, and we can only have credibility in approving it, if we get Glasgow back on track and bring normality back to people’s lives. We’re not going to get there unless we have urgent action.”

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association said the launch of the Glasgow Green fan zone “adds insult to injury” while hospitality premises in the city remained “in limbo”.

SLTA media spokesman Paul Waterson said: “That the situation is looking more positive is, of course, to be welcomed, particularly if the First Minister announces on Friday that Glasgow can move into level two.

“But there is intense anger among licensed hospitality trade operators in the city that 6,000 people are to be permitted to converge on Glasgow Green and buy alcohol in what we understand will be tented areas when many pubs that have followed the guidelines and invested in all the tools to stop the spread of the virus and operate in a safe and controlled environment are sitting shut.

“I cannot underestimate the level of rage there is about this – my phone has been ringing off the hook with publicans asking me to explain why this is allowed to happen when they are languishing in limbo.

"Can’t the government and Glasgow City Council see that this is adding insult to injury? People are understandably upset.”

Criticising the “timidity” of government action, Mr Sarwar said a ramping up of testing capacity and vaccinations, allied with “ready made protocols” designed to address future local outbreaks, would prevent people being asked to return to lockdown.

“We shouldn’t have another lockdown,” he said. “This should be our last lockdown, because we should have robust protocols in place in order to protect our citizens rather than this perpetual, cyclical effect, which is damaging our economy and the health and wellbeing of our nation in the longer term.”

Mr Sarwar said that as well as mass PCR testing and pop-up vaccine centres available to people who live and work in hot-spot areas, ministers should avail themselves of the military’s resources.

“In other parts of the UK we have not been afraid to call on the British Armed Forces if necessary to get more capacity on the ground,” he explained. “We should not be afraid to do suchlike in Scotland in those hot-spot areas in order to confront the challenge.”

Earlier, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said authorities were still planning for spectators to attend Euro 2020 games in Glasgow.

“There is no change to the current position,” she said. “I hope there will be no change to the current position, but it is a statement of fact that we have to keep all of that under review in light of the current situation.”

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