Nicola Sturgeon addresses 'inconsistency' of Scottish football restrictions amid shopping centre comparison

Nicola Sturgeon has addressed the frustration among Scottish football fans over the “inconsistency” between crowd restrictions for outdoor stadiums while large indoor shopping centres remain open.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has addressed the frustration of Scottish football fans over crowd restrictions. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

The First Minister gave an update on the Covid pandemic on Wednesday where she confirmed that Scotland has recorded a record-high 15,849 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and reiterated the Scottish Government.

Due to the spread of the Omicron variant, football matches have been subjected to a limit of 500 spectators until at least January 17 - a decision that prompted Scottish Premiership clubs to bring forward their winter break.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Lower league clubs are continuing to play through the restrictions and Stenhousemuir chairman Iain McMenemy, in his Scotland on Sunday column, questioned whether "unconscious bias" was behind the decision to target football crowds while shopping centres remain open.

When asked about the perceived disparity during MSPs questions, Sturgeon replied: "Yes, I do understand the importance of sport, football and, indeed, other spectator sport.

"The benefits of that are seen in terms of mental health and a whole host of other ways.

"Nobody, including me, takes the decisions we've taken over the course of this pandemic lightly.

"I've tried to set out the rationale for limiting large scale events, it's about the superspreading nature of the event given the higher transmissibility of Omicron, but also the greater impact these events have on emergency services that are already stretched. There's also the risk involved with travel to and from some of these events.

"It's not easy, nobody wants to be in this position but these are the reasons why the Scottish Government - in common with many other governments - have taken these decisions and hopefully they will not last for very long.

"There is always the ability to point to inconsistency, I'm never sure when questions like that are posed to me whether the argument is we should not have restrictions on football or we should also have restrictions on shopping malls.

"We want to limit and minimise the protections in place and, therefore, the restrictions on people's lives. But I ask people to remember the bedrock, the core of the advice we are giving right now is to stay at home as much as we can, certainly more than normally would be the case at this time of year to try and limit your contact with people in other households and keep those contacts, where they are happening, as small as possible.

"That applies regardless of the setting.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has also warned that it is too early to say whether restrictions will be lifted in time for the rescheduled Old Firm fixture on February 2.

Speaking on BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, Swinney stressed he would not "pre-judge" the situation with a formal review due on January 11.

Asked specifically about the prospect of the Celtic v Rangers fixture being played behind closed doors, he said: “Well that’s a long way off, the 2nd of February, so we’ll take that as it comes.

“What I would say is that the government doesn’t want to have these restrictions in place a moment longer than they are necessary.”

Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.