A local authority leader has condemned the actions of a councillor who organised an anti-mask demonstration in protest at Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, warning that he is endangering people’s lives.Paddy Hogg, an independent councillor who represents the Cumbernauld East ward on North Lanarkshire Council, co-ordinated the Saving Scotland rally outside the Scottish Parliament at the weekend, during which he dismissed the need for social distancing and spread several debunked coronavirus conspiracy theories.
With Mr Hogg and the group planning further protests, including a rally outside First Minister’s Questions tomorrow, Jim Logue, the leader of North Lanarkshire Council, has called on him to curb his views.
The demonstration at Holyrood was held just a day after NHS Lanarkshire warned that a spike in cases in the region could lead to tighter lockdown measures. In the aftermath, Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, was among those to criticise the hundreds of protesters who took part, describing them as “deeply irresponsible.”
Now, Mr Logue has warned that with cases still on the rise in the region, it was vital for elected representatives to give accurate advice around Covid-19.
He said: “Paddy Hogg is entitled to his opinions. However, in this case, his opinions - if paid attention to - put people at risk from coronavirus. That is neither sensible nor helpful and I would urge him to moderate his views and how he expresses them.
“Conspiracy theories about coronavirus are, in my view, simply dangerous. We are at a stage, in North Lanarkshire and across the country, where cases are on the rise and as a council we are doing everything we can to keep people safe. Part of keeping people safe is behaving responsibly as elected members and giving people accurate advice.
“I would urge people in North Lanarkshire and beyond to ignore conspiracy theories and follow the guidance given by NHS Lanarkshire and the Scottish Government. The consequences of not doing so are a rise in transmission and further restrictions which nobody wants from either a personal or economic perspective.”
Mr Hogg, who split from the council’s SNP group two years ago to become an independent, sits as a member of various committees on the local authority, including its community safety partnership forum and education and families committee.
Asked if he was concerned at Mr Hogg being able to hold such positions during the pandemic, Mr Logue said it was a decision for the council “as a whole,” and not just for him, to determine who sits on its committees.
He added: “Councillor Hogg is very much a lone voice among 75 elected members and he certainly doesn’t speak for this council.
“I have no doubt that when it comes to policy-making at committees, the elected members of this council will make decisions based on the best available advice and guidance and not dangerous conspiracy theories.”