Hello, and welcome to our live blog for Thursday, May 27.
Follow along for all the latest on the pandemic as well as live coverage of Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance at First Minister’s Questions.
Last updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2021, 13:47
- Sturgeon: Drop in Covid cases in hospital and ICU ‘reasons to be optimistic’
- Cummings’ claims not true, says Hancock
- Scottish Greens leaders apologise after Covid breach
Boris Johnson said what happened in care homes during the pandemic was “tragic” but said one of the issues was asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus.
“Of course what happened in care homes was tragic,” he said. “We did everything we could to protect the NHS, to minimise transmission with the knowledge that we had.
“One thing that we did not know at the beginning of the pandemic – don’t forget, we did not know at the beginning of the pandemic quite the way in which the virus could be transmitted asymptomatically and that was one of the reasons that we had some of the problems that we saw in care homes.”
Scottish Government being shut out of Australian trade deal talks – Sturgeon
UK ministers are determined to “shut out” the Scottish Government over a new trade deal with Australia, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
A proposed deal with Canberra will offer tariff and quota-free trade between the two countries, UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has said, but opponents have claimed this could have a detrimental effect on British farming.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said the deal represents a “betrayal” of Scottish farmers.
She said her ministers have expressed their concerns to their UK counterparts about the “devastating impact the UK Government-proposed deal could have on our farming communities”.
In response a question from new SNP MSP Jim Fairlie, Ms Sturgeon added: “That followed an earlier letter from the Rural Affairs Secretary to the UK Trade Secretary on May 19, but the UK Government seems determined to shut the Scottish Government out of this decision-making process, just as it has ignored our interests throughout the Brexit process.
“We are extremely concerned that yet again a crucial decision affecting Scotland’s future is being taken by this Tory Government – not just against the wishes of people who live here, but fundamentally against the interests of people who live here.”
The First Minister claimed the UK Government has already “betrayed” the fishing industry in Scotland through Brexit and is about to do the same on farming.
Food imports, she said, must meet the same standards as Scottish produce and be controlled by tariff rate quotas.
“Anything short of that, short of what the Tories promised, will be a betrayal of our farmers and will be deeply damaging to the Scottish economy,” she said.
“We hear a lot of rhetoric from the Conservatives about standing up for Scottish business – we’ve heard it again today – perhaps it’s about time they actually stood up for our farming community and told their bosses in the UK Government that what is proposed is simply not acceptable.”
Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson respond to Dominic Cummings’ attacks on them
Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have defended themselves following the extraordinary criticisms levelled at them by Dominic Cummings.
Health Secretary Mr Hancock said the “unsubstantiated” attacks on him by Dominic Cummings are “not true”, as he fought to save his career.
The Prime Minister’s former aide accused Mr Hancock of repeatedly lying, being disastrously incompetent and claimed he should have been fired on multiple occasions during the course of the pandemic.
Forced to go to the House of Commons to respond to the claims, Mr Hancock said: “These unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true.
“I’ve been straight with people in public and in private throughout.”
Mr Johnson, who faced claims from his former adviser that he was unfit for office, denied Mr Cummings’ assertion that Government failings had resulted in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Asked whether those deaths were due to his “action or inaction”, Mr Johnson said: “No, I don’t think so.
“Of course this has been an incredibly difficult series of decisions, none of which we have taken lightly.”
He insisted that “at every stage we have been governed by a determination to protect life”.
Nicola Sturgeon: “We have a UK Tory government that’s more interested in taking powers away from this Parliament, not bringing powers to this Parliament. I know it’s an uncomfortable reality to the Tories, but it’s a reality nevertheless.”
Asked whether he believed what the Prime Minister’s former advisor told MPs yesterday, Sir Keir Starmer replied: “It’s Hobson’s Choice. You have got Dominic Cummings on one hand and the Prime Minister on the other.”
Downing Street said it was not aware of any communication with former Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill regarding claims made by Dominic Cummings.
Sturgeon: Drop in Covid cases in hospital and ICU ‘reasons to be optimistic’
Nicola Sturgeon has hailed a reduction in hospital cases of coronavirus and another small drop in the number of patients in ICU as “reasons to be optimistic”.
She began First Minister’s Questions on Thursday by saying there have been 464 new Covid-19 cases reported in the last 24 hours, representing 1.8% of all tests taken.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government wants to get Glasgow back on track “as quickly as possible, but that’s got to be done responsibly and safely”.
The city is the only part of Scotland still under Level 3 restrictions.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We see a reduction in hospital cases today, and a small reduction in ICU cases, so there are reasons to be optimistic there, but we’ve got to continue – in the interest of business and in the interest of everybody – to take careful and cautious decisions to get the whole country back to normality.”
When challenged by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross that Glasgow has now been under lockdown restrictions for 269 days, the First Minister replied: “I know how long the city of Glasgow has been under restrictions because unlike him I am a resident of the city of Glasgow so these restrictions apply to me just as they apply to others.
“I know how difficult it is for residents and businesses across Glasgow but I also know how dangerous it would be if we eased restrictions too quickly and allowed a new variant of this virus, that we know is spreading perhaps even more quickly than the variant at the start of the year, to take a grip again.
“That’s why there are the public health interventions under way across Glasgow right now… I said earlier in the week we see cautious signs for optimism that that is working, and we will continue to monitor that very carefully.”
Downing Street denied Boris Johnson was “obsessed with the media”, as claimed by Dominic Cummings
Nicola Sturgeon: “The rights of a child matter, whether that child was born here in Scotland or is the child of an asylum seeker. They’re a child living in Scotland and they should all have the same rights.”
Downing Street has insisted the Prime Minister continues to be “guided by the latest scientific advice”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We take decisions as fast as we can but we have to weigh the data.
“On what’s happening now we are pretty satisfied that the steps we have taken so far on the road map have been right.”
Responding to Dominic Cummings’ claim that he was not a fit person to be leading the country, Boris Johnson said: “I think it’s important for us to focus on what really matters to the people of this country.
“I think, if I may say so, that some of the commentary I have heard doesn’t bear any relation to reality.
“What people want us to get on with is delivering the road map and trying – cautiously – to take our country forward through what has been one of the most difficult periods that I think anybody can remember.”
Responding to Dominic Cummings’ claims about it being “nonsense” to say care homes were shielded, Boris Johnson said: “We did everything we could to protect the NHS and to protect care homes as well.”
He added: “We put £1.4 billion extra into infection control within care homes, we established a care homes action plan, I remember very clearly, to ensure that we tried to stop infection between care homes.
“We remain very vigilant.”