Nicola Sturgeon rejects accusation she is 'playing politics' over testing backlog

The First Minister said she could not say how many tests had been affected by the backlog

Nicola Sturgeon has rejected suggestions she is playing politics over the testing backlog

Nicola Sturgeon has rejected accusations from Westminster that she is playing politics over the backlog of test results which she labelled a “serious concern” on Monday.

The First Minister, speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, said she didn’t understand the criticism reported by the BBC yesterday but said discussions on how to reduce the backlog are ongoing with the UK Government.

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Problems are centred on the UK Government’s Lighthouse Lab network which includes a facility in Glasgow and the First Minister said “too many” tests for the virus are not being processed quickly enough.

With testing of care home staff going through these labs – and amid suggestions some workers are waiting between five and seven days for results – Ms Sturgeon revealed consideration is being given to the NHS handling of these.

She said: “The issue is just the constraints on the Lighthouse Laboratory slowing down the test results.

“We hope that will resolve itself but we will continue to monitor this.”

The First Minister said discussions with the UK Government’s health secretary Matt Hancock and head of testing Dido Harding were “constructive” and rejected the suggestion she was ‘playing politics’ with the issue.

She revealed yesterday the Scottish Government had “resisted” calls from Mr Hancock to restrict access to testing, with the UK Government stating testing capacity had not been compromised in Scotland and it was “wrong to suggest otherwise”.

Ms Sturgeon added: "As for the comment about playing politics, I just genuinely don’t understand that. We have got a UK-wide system, we’re working constructively together within that but if there are issues I think it is better to try to be up front about those issues and talk about what we’re doing to resolve them.

"That’s not playing politics, that’s just trying to make a system which is really, crucially important for our fight against the virus, is working as effectively as possible.

"It’s that spirit of trying to find a partnership approach to resolving them that these discussions are taking place.”

However, in response to a question from The Scotsman, Ms Sturgeon could not provide a figure for the number of tests affected by the backlog saying it was a “movable feast” and a “changing picture”.

It is unclear how many tests are delayed due to the backlog, with the Scottish Government unable to provide the figure and the UK’s department for health and social care refusing to release the information when asked twice.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I can’t give you that right now for today because we are still looking at it and it is a changing picture every day.

"Yesterday there were I think around 12,000 tests processed through the UK system for Scotland so that will have changed the backlog of yesterday.

"We need to now see how that is processed through the course of today and what that picture is. It is not that we are not giving you a figure, it is that it is a movable feast.

"It is too high at the moment and we’re trying to get it down.”

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