SNP deputy first minister John Swinney apologises for breaking Covid rules after being pictured on campaign trail with four other party activists
- Deputy first minister John Swinney took selfie in front of four other SNP activists
- Senior figure deleted the picture just hours after sharing it on Twitter last Friday
- Comes after SNP business minister Graeme Dey apologised for breaching rules
The SNP’s deputy first minister John Swinney has apologised for breaking Covid-19 rules after he was pictured on the campaign trail with four other party activists.
Mr Swinney posted a picture on his Twitter account with fellow Scottish National Party activists on Friday, but deleted it just a few hours later after it appeared to show a direct breach of the rules.
Since March 12, the Scottish Government has allowed groups of no more than four people, from two different households, to meet up outside for exercise and recreation.
SNP deputy first minister John Swinney took a selfie with party activists as they gathered last Friday. He deleted the picture from Twitter within hours of sharing it online
The country remains in lockdown, but is expected to swap its Stay at Home message for ‘Stay Local’ guidance on Friday.
Mr Swinney posted a picture on social media shortly after 3pm on Friday (26 March) showing him meeting four other party activists while out leafleting for May’s Scottish Parliament elections.
But he quietly deleted the image hours later after SNP bosses were approached for comment over a separate breach of legal restrictions involving the party’s parliamentary business minister Graeme Dey.
Mr Swinney’s social media post appears to show a direct breach of the rules but the Perthshire North candidate would not comment on why he deleted the image, which attracted more than 190 retweets and 1,300 likes before it was pulled down.
After deleting the post, Mr Swinney said: ‘We should not have gathered together at that time and I apologise for that’
However, Mr Swinney did say: ‘A small number of my supporters were leafleting in the same town.
‘We should not have gathered together at that time and I apologise for that.’
Lib Dem councillor Peter Barrett, who is running against Mr Swinney in the Perthshire North constituency, said he was ‘disappointed’ Mr Swinney chose to delete evidence of the breach rather than apologise immediately.
‘Every candidate needs to set a good example, and that goes double for Cabinet ministers. Instead senior SNP figures have breached the rules at the first available opportunity,’ Mr Barrett said.
‘Perthshire North needs an MSP who will uphold high standards in public office.’
Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative candidate in the constituency, said: ‘This is very embarrassing for John Swinney, who, as deputy first minister, should be very aware of the various Covid restrictions.
‘What this does illustrate is just how complicated the many Covid restrictions are, and how many of them are difficult to understand.’
Scottish Covid rules allow for no more than four people to gather
Since March 12, the Scottish Government has allowed groups of no more than four people from two households to gather for exercise or recreation.
Last Friday it eased guidance to allow gatherings at places of worship, while it is expected to swap its Stay at Home message to Stay Local later this week.
Advice from the government’s website reads: ‘Up to four adults from two households will be able to meet locally in any outdoor space, including in private gardens, for social and recreational purposes as well as exercise from Friday 12 March.’
The incident comes after fellow SNP candidate Graeme Dey, the minister responsible for setting the rules, offered his own ‘unreserved apologies’ for breaking the government’s election rules on the first official day of campaigning.
Candidates have been told a maximum of four people from two households are able to meet up for leafleting, similar to existing rules on gatherings, and that any work that cannot be done by a candidate or election agent from home is permitted.
Mr Dey, who in his ministerial role was responsible for briefing MSPs on the rules around campaigning, asked at least eight people, some of whom appear to have travelled from other local authority areas, to gather near Carnoustie beach on Thursday to help ‘mark the first day of the Scottish election campaign’.
He did not respond to a request for comment but an SNP spokesman said activists arranged a ‘small, outdoor, socially-distanced photograph’ involving people from the nearby area but ‘unfortunately the ages and number of young people who came along exceeded the permitted numbers under current Covid guidance’.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: ‘Officers have since spoken to those involved and will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance, and encourage compliance, using enforcement as a last resort.’
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