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by Andrew Learmonth
08 March 2021
Swinney criticises Rangers over 'shameful' scenes in George Square

Fans gathered in George Square in contravention of COVID restrictions

Swinney criticises Rangers over 'shameful' scenes in George Square

JOHN Swinney has criticised the “deafening silence” from Rangers on Sunday night, after hundreds of the club’s fans took to the streets of Glasgow to celebrate the team’s first title win in ten years.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, the Deputy First Minister said the supporters who breached strict coronavirus rules to gather outside Ibrox and in George Square were “shameful”.

Gregor Smith, the chief medical officer for Scotland, warned that there was a "very real risk that we see an uptick in infections" as a result of the gatherings.

Police Scotland arrested 28 people, a further seven people were issued with fixed penalty notices.

Offences included assaulting police officers, breaching coronavirus regulations, disorder, use of flares and sectarian breaches of the peace.

As more and more fans descended on the city centre, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took to Twitter to urge Rangers to ask people to go home. However, the club did not respond.

Swinney said: “The silence from Rangers was deafening – that’s a matter of profound regret.

“If the club, on a day which I acknowledge is a day of joy for the club, had said to its fans to follow restrictions which are in place – like every other citizen – and had gone home and avoided the crowded scenes that we had outside Ibrox and in George Square.

“The messaging of that type from the club I think could have helped to diffuse the situation and crucially to disperse the crowds."

Swinney continued: "The behaviour of some fans has been an absolute disgrace and has undoubtedly cast a shadow over what should have been a special day for the team.

"The success we have had in recent weeks in reducing case numbers is because so many people across Scotland have stuck to extremely tough rules, which are designed to stop the spread of the virus.

"To see so many people deliberately flouting these rules, with no regard to the safety of others, is shameful. Events like yesterday risk spreading the virus. And they show no respect at all for the millions of people across Scotland who have been sticking to the rules."

Smith said it was “demoralising to see so many people coming together”.

He added: “I'm quite sure my colleagues across the NHS, who, at this stage of the pandemic are pretty exhausted in terms of their own response to it, felt that same way when they say those scenes of people mixing so freely without distancing, without masks.”

With the latest ONS study showing that roughly 1 in 335 people in Scotland have coronavirus, Smith said it would be “reasonable to suspect” that infected people were in the crowds over the weekend.
 
“I think that there's a very real risk that we'll see an uptick in infections as a result of some of the scenes that we saw over the weekend. That's entirely plausible.”

In a statement, published just as Swinney started the briefing, a spokesman for Rangers said: "During the last number of weeks, Rangers can confirm that we initiated open dialogue with key stakeholders in relation to the possibility of us achieving a historic 55th league title.

"We have proactively engaged with our local MP, the Justice Minister, the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the SPFL in relation to maintaining a cohesive message regarding public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We understand the jubilance of our support across the world who recognise this has been a historic year for the club.

"Nevertheless, it has been of great frustration for all football fans across the world that they have not been able to watch their team within stadiums, especially for the loyal Rangers season-ticket holders who have stood by this football club through thick and thin in the last decade.

"We reiterate the message from our manager, Steven Gerrard, who highlighted that fans should adhere to government guidelines – stay safe, socially distance and look after each other in this difficult time.”

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Scotland has voted for a second independence referendum, says Nicola Sturgeon

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