Responsibility rests with Nicola Sturgeon for the excess deaths in care homes caused by moving covid patients into care homes at the start of the pandemic Anas Sarwar has said.
“I think the buck stops with the First Minister, so she has got some serious questions to answer,” said Sarwar.
The charge came following an admission by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman that her biggest mistake during the covid pandemic was to move older people from hospital into care homes without proper precautions.
Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet Secretary for Health made the startling admission in an interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson on Thursday.
But the Scottish Labour leader claimed Freeman, who is standing down from parliament this May, was being set up as a “fall person” to take responsibility on the way out the door.
At a Friday press campaign press conference, before campaigning was suspended following the death of Prince Philip, Sarwar said: “I don’t think the government should hide behind Jean Freeman because it’s convenient that she happens to be retiring.”
He added: “The reality is that these decisions were being fronted and taken by the First Minister. She was in full knowledge of these decisions. These decisions, all had her approval. They were flagged to her repeatedly in Parliament and the mistakes continued to be made.”
“I think the buck stops with the First Minster, so she has got some serious questions to answer.”
Care homes were at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus with some residences reporting dozens of deaths in the early stages of the pandemic when 900 elderly people were transferred untested from hospitals to residential settings.
Almost a third of Scotland’s 10,000 covid deaths occurred in care homes.
In a clip released for an upcoming BBC interview Freeman said: “We didn’t take the right precautions to make sure that older people leaving hospital going into care homes were as safe as they could be and that was a mistake.”
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Sarwar said the Scottish government was repeatedly warned not to move untested patients out of hospitals.
He said: “It was common sense not to send covid positive patient’s into care rooms that are that are the residences of the most vulnerable people to the virus.
“An apology is one thing, but it’s an unforgivable decision and someone has to take responsibility for that. It’s all very well putting this at the feet of Jeane Freeman but everybody knows that all of the decisions at the knowledge and the oversight of Nicola Sturgeon.”
Sarwar said: “I think we know of a pattern developing in Scottish government, they make decisions. Those decisions have consequences, in some cases devastating consequences.
“We then have a period of remorse and apology. We’re told we’re going to learn lessons, we’re told things will change, but no one ever takes responsibility. “
“That’s not the way of doing government, that’s not a way of doing transparency and accountability.”