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SNP making up muddled Covid guidance as they go along

The Scottish Conservatives have criticised the SNP Government for “making up rules as they go along” after the Deputy First Minister suggested face masks will not be necessary on nightclub dancefloors.

Face coverings are currently required indoors, including in schools, other hospitality venues and within most premises.

However, John Swinney said today that the government would ‘iron out’ issues over the use of face masks on nightclub dancefloors, calling it a “slightly different situation” to the typical Covid rules in restaurants and pubs.

On Good Morning Scotland, he also said people would not be able to stand at a bar without a face mask.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Annie Wells MSP, said: “The SNP Government are tying themselves in knots trying to explain the inconsistencies in the latest Covid guidance.

“They seem to be making up rules as they go along. It now seems they’re preparing to allow a change of rules on face masks in nightclubs. The SNP should have held discussions about this before making an announcement, not afterwards.

“If John Swinney has got this right, and that’s a big if given his recent issues promoting fake news, then people will be breaking the law by standing at the bar without wearing a mask but not by standing a few feet away on a dancefloor.

“Confusing aspects of Covid guidance like this creates headaches for the hospitality industry and leaves people scratching their heads about why masks are deemed necessary in some places but not in others.

 “We are beyond Level 0 and that was supposed to mean a return to near-normality, but instead the SNP Government are inventing new rules on the hoof.

“Clear and consistent messages are essential to maintaining public trust. The new Level -1 already seems to be a muddle.”

“This is a shambles. Within just a few hours, the SNP Government have u-turned on what John Swinney emphatically told everyone earlier.

“He had to apologise for promoting fake news a few weeks ago and now his officials have been forced to slap down his latest gaffe in humiliating fashion.

“Mixed messaging like this is unacceptable. It makes life even harder for businesses who already have to adapt to new rules.

“John Swinney doesn’t need a vertical drink, he needs a good long horizontal lie down.”


Partial transcript of the GMS interview with John Swinney below -

Gary Robertson: Is it practical for people to wear face coverings in night clubs?

John Swinney: I think it is a bit tricky Gary, to be honest. So, that's why we are having those discussions and we can only have those discussions once we have taken, or finalise these discussions I should say, once we have taken the strategic decision to enable night clubs to reopen and what conditions would generally operate within society, but I accept that in some circumstances within nightclubs, if somebody is... if people are sitting down at a table for example and they're having a drink, then you could say that the hospitality rules can apply there. So, you don't have to wear a face covering, but if somebody is up dancing, which they are inevitably moving around, then the existing rules would say that you should wear a face covering. But I accept that in a night club that is quite a challenge. So, that's why we are having the discussions and we'll iron those issues out in consultation with the sector in the course of today.

GR: Isn't there a problem here, though? Which is that if you're saying that hundreds of people can dance together in a nightclub without wearing face coverings, yet if you're in a restaurant or a bar and you want to go to the toilet, you need to put on a face covering, doesn't that seem somewhat contradictory?

JS: I think one of the things that we have wrestled with, Gary, and you and I have had these discussions on many occasions over the last thirteen months. Many of these issues are not just... they're not black or white, there's are a lot of... we are trying to take steps which minimise the risk of a circulation of the virus, and we are trying to do that as practically as possible, with the grain of how people want to live their lives. So, I don't think it's a particular hardship for people to when they get up from a table if they're having a drink, to go to the toilet, they put on a face covering to move through because they will be encountering other people away from the group that they are in. I do accept, however, as I have said already in my answer, that if you are dancing in a nightclub, it's a kind of... it's a slightly different situation. So, we are asking people to acknowledge that these issues are not... they're not binary. We are trying to-

GR: Wouldn't it make sense for people... ultimately if you are standing at a bar for instance, vertical drinking as they call it, you're standing up having a drink at a bar, can you do that without wearing a face covering?

JS: No, you can't. 

GR: So, you're not... you're not allowed to stand at a bar. You can order at a bar, wearing a face covering, but you can't stand there and drink?

JS: That's correct. So, what I am saying in that answer is essentially we are trying to say to people: Let's take all reasonable steps we possibly can to stop the circulation of the virus without impinging on our abilities to socialise with those who are our friends and our loved ones. So, what we are saying is that people can quite easily go out for a drink, or go out for a meal, they can sit at tables, but some of the things that have been hallmark of hospitality venues in the past, of vast gatherings of people around a bar, standing up and all the rest of it. Maybe that's not a good idea in the context of Covid being part of our lives now.

GR: It's a good idea for 600 on a dance floor, that's fine. 

JS: Well, I am just trying to be practical about people's lives.

GR: But there is a huge contradiction here. [...]