North East Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles has revealed that there is no legal ban on staff returning to non-essential offices, despite the First Minister deliberately appearing to give the impression that there is.
The First Minister has repeatedly told MSPs that non-essential offices should remain closed until at least 14th September. According to information provided by the Scottish Government to Mr Rumbles however, there is "currently no legal ban on the opening of non-essential offices".
Mr Rumbles said: "The First Minister has once again been caught red handed abusing her power. For the past four weeks she has deliberately misled businesses and staff by telling them that they should not go back to work but there are no such rules in place.
"We have been told over and over again that the best way to protect both people's lives and livelihoods is to set up a robust system of track and trace while allowing people to go back to work in a safe environment.
"Ministers have had five months to prepare a working track and trace programme but they have failed to do so. Their incompetence is so staggering that the First Minister has been forced to hoodwink many people and businesses into remaining in lockdown."
Notes for editors:
WRITTEN ANSWER - 31 August 2020 - Index Heading: Economy - S5W-31330
Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government whether there is currently a legal ban on the opening of non-essential offices, or whether this is simply advice, and who decides what is essential and non-essential.
Christina McKelvie: There is currently no legal ban on the opening of non-essential offices. Based on the public health risks, our clear advice is that non-essential offices remain closed, and this position is regularly reviewed. The current status of the epidemic in Scotland means that changes in the route map are being introduced in stages, rather than all at once. All business workplaces that are not specifically required to close should consider whether what they do is essential to the effort against the virus and whether the business is able to open in accordance with the current position in the Scotland's Route Map. Business workplaces should also consider whether they are able to consistently practice safe physical distancing and comply with all other standard health and safety requirements. Remote working should remain the default position for those who can do so. To support the safe return to these types of workplaces (when the public health advice allows), the Scottish Government has published guidance for contact centres and general safer workplaces guidance. Essential and non-essential services are determined by whether they sit within the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sectors.