Covid Scotland: Scrapping free testing ‘irresponsible’, says Ian Blackford

The SNP’s Westminster leader has said if the UK Government were to end free testing in Scotland after axing England’s Covid self-isolation period it would be the “height of irresponsibility”.

The Prime Minister is set to scrap all Covid restrictions in England next week including the legal requirement to self isolate. 

Ian Blackford has responded by saying it must remain in Scotland to allow people to protect themselves and that the Scottish Government’s approach – along with free access to home-testing kits – was a sign of it acting responsibly to keep people safe.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s The Sunday Show: “These tests have been quite instrumental in making sure that we can keep the lid on the spread of the virus as much as we can.

“We can’t be put into a situation where our health is being imperilled by the decisions that Boris Johnson may be making to save his own political skin.

“Because let’s remember that a number of his backbenchers rebelled against his plans to deal with Covid a matter of weeks ago.

“This is more to do with Boris Johnson than it is to do with taking the right decisions on public health grounds.”

Boris Johnson had earlier told the show that he wants to address the pandemic with a “vaccine-led approach”, shifting the balance away from “banning certain courses of action”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to unveil her government’s plans for living with Covid at Holyrood on Tuesday.

In recent weeks, she has relaxed guidance on working from home, bubbles and groupings within schools and 2m physical distancing in some indoor settings.

However, she is not expected, at this stage, to follow Mr Johnson’s lead on scrapping all restrictions.

Mr Blackford added that the Scottish Government would continue to base its decisions on scientific evidence and that current advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) backed keeping mass testing in place.

He said: “I would say to the UK government, it would be the height of irresponsibility if ourselves and the other devolved nations didn’t have that ability to offer free testing. It must remain in place.”

Mr Blackford said Ms Sturgeon’s announcement on Tuesday would be a roadmap “to deal with Covid, to get on with our lives and get back to normal as much as we can.

“But with all that, it’s key that we continue to give the necessary protections to people.”


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