NICOLA STURGEON was today challenged over the decision to impose strict fan capacity curbs on Scottish football while shopping centres were unaffected.
The First Minister faced a question from Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane over the restrictions placed upon football stadia.
Dr Gulhane questioned why fans faced a lockout with only 500 spectators allowed in grounds while footfall was not restricted in large shopping centres around the country.
He also cited the impact the capacity limits could have on mental health with large numbers of fans unable to attend matches as usual with the restrictions in place.
Dr Gulhane said: “We know the danger posed by Omicron and the balance that needs to be struck but people struggle with the inconsistencies.
“Rangers fans were saying Asda was busier than Ibrox and Celtic fans were also distraught knowing that shopping streets and malls across the country were heaving in comparison to football stadia.”
Ms Sturgeon, responding to the mental health aspect of the question replied: “Yes, I do understand the importance of sport, football and indeed other spectator sport.
“I think the benefits of that are seen in terms of mental health and in a whole host of other ways so nobody, including me takes the decision that we’ve had to take over the course of this pandemic lightly.”
The First Minister, who gave a Covid update to the Scottish Parliament today, went on to explain curbs were placed on large scale events and stadia due to the “superspreading nature of big events”.
Ms Sturgeon also cited the impact events, including football matches, have on emergency services that are “already stretched” as well as the risks in public travel to and from events.
Explaining the Scottish Government decision, Ms Sturgeon said: “I tried to set out the rationale for limiting large scale events; it is about the superspreading nature of big events given the higher transmissibility of Omicron but also the greater impact that these events haver on emergency services that are already stretched, and some of the risks associated with travel to and from events.
“So it’s not easy, nobody wants to be in this position but these are the reasons why 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 arguments that we should not have restrictions in football or we should also have restrictions on shopping malls.
“We want to limit and minimise the protections that are in place and therefore the restrictions on people’s lives but I would ask people to remember that our core, the bedrock of the advice that we’re giving right now, is to stay at home as much as you can – certainly more than would normally be the case at this time of year to try to limit your contacts with people in other households and keep those contacts where they are happening as small as possible.
“So that applies regardless of the setting, there is no magic wand to wave to get ourselves out of that – the closest we’ve got to that is vaccination which is why that remains so important. But while we navigate this latest wave of infection, given he greater transmissibility, all of us accepting that some of these things are inescapable at the moment acting in line with the guidance will get us through these things more quickly than would otherwise be the case.
“But I of course understand and as a citizen experience these restrictions just like others do so none of us want these to be in place for any longer than is necessary.”