Scottish council leaders accuse Nicola Sturgeon of unfairly placing their areas in too high a tier

Simon Johnson
·3-min read
Nicola Sturgeon wearing a face mask arrives for the First Minister's Questions session at the Scottish Parliament - PA
Nicola Sturgeon wearing a face mask arrives for the First Minister's Questions session at the Scottish Parliament - PA

Scottish council leaders have argued that Nicola Sturgeon had treated their areas harshly after a detailed government analysis suggested they should be in a lower tier.

The chiefs of Aberdeen City, Inverclyde and Scottish Borders councils were among those to express disappointment at the First Minister's decision over the tiers their areas were allocated.

Ms Sturgeon said the decisions took into account five key factors - the number of positive cases per hundred thousand people over the most recent week; the percentage of positive tests; our forecast for new cases in the weeks ahead; and the capacity both of local hospitals and intensive care facilities.

The First Minister said these factors were considered alongside the views of local public health officials, any specific outbreaks, local travel and work patterns and the extent to which health services are provided by neighbouring health boards.

An evidence paper published by the Scottish Government showed the level allocated to every local authority for each of the factors, and the overall decision made.

But Douglas Lumsden, the Tory co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, pointed out that his area had been put in level 2 despite scoring zero or one in each of the five tests.

He tweeted: "Aberdeen meets the criteria set to be in Tier 1 but is in Tier 2. North and South Lanarkshire meet the criteria for Tier 4 but are in Tier 3.

"Infection rates in Lanarkshire are 10x that in Aberdeen but there is only 1 tier difference!! Central belt bias once again."

Stephen McCabe, Inverclyde Council leader, said he believed the local authority could have started at level 2 after it was placed one or two for each of the criteria set out by Ms Sturgeon.

Urging residents to remain diligent, he said: "That work must not be undone by any short term disappointment at the current position."

Similarly, Shona Haslam, Scottish Borders Council leader, said she was "disappointed" at her area being placed in level 2 after it was allocated tier one or zero in all the tests.

She said: "Certainly the indicators that were given to us by the Scottish government would suggest that we should be in tier 1. However, I understand that there are still concerns about rising infection rates and the outbreak in Jedburgh."

A detailed Scottish Government report said areas can be considered for level one if they record between 20 and 75 cases per 100,000 people in the previous week, with between 1.5 per cent and three per cent of tests coming back positive.

The benchmark for level 2 is between 75 and 150 cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of between three per cent and five per cent.

This increases to between 150 and 300 cases per 100,000 people for level 3 councils, with a test positivity rate of between five and 10 per cent.

Local authorities risk being placed in the highest level 4 if there are more than 300 cases per 100,000 people in the previous week and more than 10 per cent of tests are returned as positive.