SNP MSPs heckle Ross as they ask ‘where is Rishi Sunak?’
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Douglas Ross turned on the pressure during a tense First Minister’s Question after he attacked the SNP for confusing businesses over when new coronavirus guidance comes into effect. The Scottish Conservative leader put a spotlight on Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and deputy leader John Swinney who gave conflicting dates on updated advice over Christmas and skewered Nicola Sturgeon over her lack of support for Scottish retail and hospitality businesses. But angry MSPs deflected the assault back on Mr Ross and demanded to know where Chancellor Rishi Sunak was before the First Minister blamed the Treasury for not giving Scotland enough financial support.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, Mr Ross criticised Ms Sturgeon’s confusing advice over when new Omicron rules come into place across Scotland.
Hospitality and retail venues have been told to ramp up efforts with social distancing and contact tracing with Deputy First Minister John Swinney saying the Government could not rule out further restrictions.
Mr Ross slammed the SNP for not providing clarity on what dates these new guidelines will come into place and said: “Businesses are looking to the Government, they are trying to get the clarity and we can’t get it between the Health Secretary the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister…”
During his attack, other MSPs could be heard shouting “Where is Rishi Sunak” following the news he is visiting the USA on official government business.
Mr Ross continued his condemnation of the SNP and said it was “unfortunate” the Scottish Government was confusing businesses at this time.
Ms Sturgeon replied: “The guidance will be published, I expect, before we head out of the chamber.
“Businesses have been communicated with throughout the week, much of what we are asking businesses to do now is what they have done at previous stages in the pandemic.
“Many of the businesses supermarkets, for example, still have some of these measures in place, the Deputy First Minister accidentally said tomorrow instead of today because tomorrow the regulations come into force – he immediately corrected that.
“So you know, for goodness sake, we have a virus reaching or in this country, we are trying to act of speed to protect people as much as possible, because that is our duty.”
Scotland: Fraser calls for ‘clarity’ on finances and regulations
The First Minister then turned her gaze onto Mr Sunak and said the UK needed the Chancellor “at his desk” and demanded yet again more financial support from the Treasury.
In an interview with ITV’s Lorraine earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon savaged the UK Government for not providing enough financial support to Scotland.
She explained because of the set-up of financing UK Governments, appearing to refer to the Barnett Formula, Scotland could only see financial packages if England is also provided with them.
The SNP updated its COVID-19 guidance over Christmas and told retail and hospitality to strongly enforce contact tracing and social distancing in venues.
Businesses are also expected to put up protective equipment and to prevent congregation at bottlenecks – such as in hallways or entrances.
Scots have also been told not to mix with more than three households.
The Chancellor has been laid into by opposition parties for not remaining in the UK to help out struggling hospitality businesses who are seeing mass cancellations over Christmas.
Labour’s Shadow Treasury Minister, Pat McFadden, told Holyrood: “Why did [Sunak] decide to proceed with a trip to California on Tuesday when it was already clear that UK businesses were struggling to cope with what the Prime Minister himself has called a ‘tidal wave of Omicron’?
“Even if he’s abroad, California is not exactly a communications desert. They have television there, I’ve even heard they have the internet, but it’s still radio silence from the Chancellor – tumbleweed rolling through the Treasury.”
Treasury Minister John Glen replied: “He was on a long-planned business trip to the US conducting Government business and he will continue to engage today with other ministers, with the representatives of the hospitality sector and others to hear their concerns about what further support should be required.”
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