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Scottish Secretary Alister Jack told MPs the First Minister should stop drawing up different lockdown rules from Boris Johnson “for the sake of it” as they have not led to lower COVID rates. Alister Jack yesterday told MPs that Scotland’s separate guidance had sowed public confusion and failed to achieve better results in tackling the virus.
He went on to say relationships between Ms Sturgeon’s SNP administration in Edinburgh and Mr Johnson’s Conservative Government in London could be “strained”.
Mr Jack said: “We talked with the First Minister last week about the rule of six, and in that meeting, we laid out to her what our plans were on that and she said I will do something tomorrow, but she wasn’t to tell us that the following day she was doing the rule of six excluding children under 12.”
He added: “She could have told us that, we could have come to an agreement.
“We were trying in that meeting to get all the devolved administrations on to the same page, because I think across the United Kingdom people deserve that, there has been a lot of confusion over the summer.”
The Scottish Secretary said the First Minister’s repeated claim that Coronavirus was five times as prevalent in England than Scotland was “totally untrue, totally unhelpful.”
The Tory Cabinet minister also lambasted her refusal to rule out quarantining English visitors, insisting the country should pull together as “one United Kingdom”.
Mr Jack said a similar situation had occurred when Scottish public health minister Joe FitzPatrick attended a meeting where the UK Government’s plans to develop a coronavirus contact tracing app had been on the agenda.
The Scottish Secretary said: “When we had a meeting to talk about our app, Joe FitzPatrick attended that meeting and was involved in discussions, and two days later the Scottish Government announced their intention to develop their own contact tracing app.
“But while Joe FitzPatrick came and happily listened to our plans and advice and everything else, he didn’t make any mention of the Scottish Government’s plan.”
Mr Jack concluded by saying that the UK differences “muddled the message”, particularly for those living close to the Border.
He added: “We need to stop the confusion.
“All the administrations in these weekly meetings we have should actually just be grown up, and not be different for the sake of it for whatever agenda they have.
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“It hasn’t brought anyone to a different outcome – the prevalence of the virus is as high in any part of the UK as any other.
“On average all four nations are experiencing similar problems.”
He described the relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments as a “one-way street” and called Nicola Sturgeon’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman a liar and accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of stirring “bad feeling” between Scots and the English.
Mr Jack also clashed with Pete Wishart, Chairman of the Committee who openly accused Westminster of using the Internal Market Bill to “circumvent” the Scottish Parliament.
Questioning Mr Jack, Mr Wishart said: “There’s no chance whatsoever the Scottish Conservatives are going to win at next May’s election.
“So instead of actually going to the bother of winning an election, you’re just going to circumvent and get round the Scottish Parliament by directly investing in areas that you want. Is that what’s going on?”
Responding to the questions, Mr Jack fumed: “No, that’s not what’s going on and I think it’s arrogant of you to think that the next election in Holyrood is a foregone conclusion.
“I remember the SNP telling me what was going to happen when they supported a general election last year, they said Boris Johnson was going to be swept away, he came back with an 80 majority.”
A spokesman for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in response this morning: “The First Minister has always been at pains to suggest that where things can be done in a coordinated, four nations approach she’s more than happy to do that.
“That doesn’t mean that we in Scotland won’t take our own decisions based on our own circumstances.”
Additional reporting by Tom Martin, Scottish Political Editor
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