The National:


“A classic diversionary tactic” – Jackie Baillie Tweet 5 August, referring to the renewed lockdown in Aberdeen coming on same day as SQA exam results.


The rise in Covid-19 cases in Aberdeen began suddenly on the weekend of 1-2 August. If the FM had not moved instantly, Jackie Baillie would be complaining about her lack of action. If anything, the new lockdown in Aberdeen shows the FM has her eye on the day job rather than playing politics.


Born in Hong Kong to a Portuguese father and Scottish mother, Jackie Baillie MSP is the current Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. She retained her Holyrood seat by just 109 votes, at the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. She was educated at St Anne’s in Windermere, a private school founded in 1863 – current tuition and boarding fees are £10,580 per term. She has held a wide variety of ministerial and shadow posts and is generally considered “a safe pair of hands” on the Labour benches.


On Wednesday 5 August First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that new lockdown rules were being introduced immediately in the City of Aberdeen following a spike in Covid-19 cases. Pubs, cafes and restaurants were to be closed and 200,000 Aberdonians prohibited from travelling more than five miles from their homes.

These moves took place on the same day the Scottish Higher exam results were announced. These results caused a political storm after the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) downgraded 124,564 pupils’ results in its moderation process, revising down the pass rate of the poorest fifth of Scottish pupils by 15.2% compared to a 6.9% drop for those from affluent areas.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour spreads conspiracy theory about Aberdeen lockdown

On the same day as both these events occurred, self-styled “Scottish Labour Party hack” Ian Smart posted this on Twitter: "So, Sturgeon’s staff meeting this morning. “I’m sorry FM but you’re going to get eaten even by this press on the SQA. Not to mention your false figures on deaths.” Nicola: “Any ideas?” Intern (shyly): “How about we close down Aberdeen?” Nicola: “Give this person a fulltime job!”

Ian Smith is a well-known solicitor and a former Convener of the Legal Aid Committee of the Law Society of Scotland. Clearly, he invented the dialogue in his Tweet. But equally clearly, Smart is implying that the reintroduction of the lockdown in Aberdeen was announced deliberately to coincide with the SQA exam results, the better to obscure any political fallout. The fact that he meant it to be taken seriously lies in the reference to the FM’s supposed “false figures on deaths”.

Jackie Baillie retweeted Smart’s post, adding: “A classic diversionary tactic - wow ”. By adding the capitalised “wow”, Ms Baillie lends credence to Smart’s implicit accusation of a conspiracy to divert attention from the exam results. Subsequently, Ms Baillie has refused either to withdraw her tweet or to substantiate the accusation there was a conspiracy to use the Aberdeen medical emergency as a political dog whistle.


The Scottish Government began reintroducing lockdowns in specific Corvid-19 hotspots prior to the Aberdeen situation. Overall, the number of people testing positive to the virus and the number of deaths has been in decline since May. However, the extension of the testing regime has allowed NHS Scotland to track new outbreaks. As a result, lockdown restrictions were reintroduced in five towns and villages in south-west Scotland at the end of July.

To date, Jackie Baillie has supported the Scottish Government strategy regarding dealing with Covid-19. On 13 July, she responded to a general loosening of the lockdown rules thus: “I am sure that the changes to lockdown that the First Minister announced will come as very welcome news to many people.”

However, she added the following: “The infection rate has reduced because the public have followed social distancing measures effectively. It is vital that we all continue to do this – if not, the current changes to restrictions will be reversed” (our emphasis). Clearly, on July 13, Ms Baillie was in favour of revising lockdown rules if there was an increase in the infection rate.


The figures on Covid-19 cases, deaths, and other relevant data are published by the independent Public Health Scotland (PHS), a new body established to improve and protect the health and wellbeing in Scotland. PHS is jointly accountable to both the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). It has an independent board which includes COSLA nominees and senior medical practitioners. One prominent board member is Ann McKechin, the former Labour MP. It is difficult to see how SNP ministers could interfere with or devise “false figures on deaths” as alleged by Mr Smart and retweeted by Jackie Bailie.

READ MORE: Former minister slams Scottish Labour over Aberdeen conspiracy

According to the independent data from PHS, in the 7 days till 27 July, only 4 new Covid-19 cases were reported in Aberdeen. This compares with much greater numbers in English cities of a roughly similar size: Bradford (260), Swindon (68), Oldham (132), Rochdale (71), Trafford (99). But thereafter, in the first week of August, the numbers testing positive for the virus started to rise exponentially in Aberdeen. The Aberdeen outbreak is case of community transmission, probably as a result of large groups of mainly younger people drinking in close proximity at outdoor bars. Against the background of similar, community transmitted outbreaks in English towns, the Scottish Government was impelled to reimpose lockdowns.

The rise in Covid-19 cases testing positive in Aberdeen starts on Saturday August 1 with 6 new cases reported - for the previous month, daily cases had been virtually zero. Confirmed cases then rose as follows: 13 on Sunday 2 August, 11 on Monday, 15 on Tuesday, 36 on Wednesday (when the lockdown returns), 38 on Thursday, and 27 on Friday August 7. The Scottish Government instituted new measures in Aberdeen instantly it saw the curve rise, with the doubling of new cases on the Wednesday.


A look at the rapidity of the return of Covid-19 in Aberdeen shows the Scottish Government had no time to plot any politically motivated “garbage disposal” of bad news from the SQA exam results, even if it had desired to. Ms Baillie continues to ignore calls for her to apologise to the people of Aberdeen for politicising the new outbreak.


The National:

Jackie Baillie should think before she Tweets.