Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 15th December 2020.

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The First Minister:

I again completely reject the narrative that some people are working hard and some people are not working hard, because everybody in every single part of the country is working really hard to try to suppress the virus. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, the virus increases in some areas, which is why greater restrictions are necessary, but we have to recognise that everybody is making really hard sacrifices.

Although it is an important question, if Jackie Baillie has been listening to all the information that I have been sharing with the Parliament weekly—I am sure that she has—she will probably know the answer. Actually, I guess that she does know the answer. West Dunbartonshire and the Scottish Borders have been in very different positions in recent weeks. Just because, based on data alone, it might look as though they are converging, that does not take away from the fact that the different trajectories and experiences of those areas are factors in the pace of change that we now think is sensible.

West Dunbartonshire has been in level 4 because, only a matter of weeks ago, it had extremely high virus prevalence. We therefore think that it is prudent and correct to take a bit of time before we move it any further down the levels—which, of course, involves easing more restrictions—because the danger is that we could quickly send the area into reverse.

The Scottish Borders has come from a different place; it has had relatively low levels of prevalence that have been going up a bit in recent times, which is why we will be watching it carefully.

The two areas are coming from different positions. We need to continue to apply judgment about the wider context in order to try to get decisions right.

I fully accept that it is important that the decisions be subjected to real scrutiny, but I ask those who, understandably, criticised the decision about Edinburgh last week to reflect on the data at that time and, at least, to accept that that the wider judgment is important in respect of our arriving at the decisions that we must make.