First Minister u-turns on local test data

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has criticised the First Minister for ‘backtracking’ over the publication of local testing data.

In recent weeks, Mr McArthur has been pushing for the Scottish Government to release local testing data, arguing that this is necessary to build public confidence and ensure compliance as restrictions start to be lifted.

During First Minister’s Questions on 21st of May, Mr McArthur raised the issue with Nicola Sturgeon who said: “Yes I will be happy to look at how we do that. I think it will be important to do that. I’m not going to give a straightforward commitment because I’m going to need to go and discuss the practicalities of that but I think in principal yes.

The First Minister has now written to Mr McArthur, rowing back on her earlier assurances, making it clear that no local breakdown of testing figures will be released for the time being. The disappointing news comes despite the government’s ‘Test and Protect’ system being rolled out across the country.

Commenting, Mr McArthur said:

“A fortnight ago, the First Minister agreed that providing information on the amount of testing taking place in each health board area was important.  Nicola Sturgeon acknowledge that this data was necessary for building public confidence in the ‘test and protect’ system and ensuring compliance with restrictions as they were eased.

“For some reason, she now appears to have changed her mind. Instead, we are to get weekly data on a Scotland-wide basis, that will tell people nothing about what is happening in their local area.

“The argument that releasing local test data couple compromise patient confidentiality is completely at odds with Scottish Government policy to date.  When Orkney had its first confirmed case of Covid-19 and its first Covid-related death, Ministers were happy to let us know.  Now it seems that the ground has shifted and the public is not to be trusted with information on a local basis.  That is not good enough.

“This response from the First Minister is all the more surprising when we see the approach being taken by NHS Shetland.  Helpfully, the health board there is publishing regular, localised information covering a range of different measures.

“That is the right approach and it is the approach the First Minister should be urging all health boards to adopt as we move forward with ‘test and protect’.  I will continue to make that case until Nicola Sturgeon agrees to change her mind again”.

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