Sturgeon assured Scotland will not face testing restrictions

Nicola Sturgeon said she has been assured by the UK Government that access to testing will not be restricted and Scotland will have a “fair share” of laboratory capacity to process tests.

The Scottish First Minister said a “capacity constraint” across the UK testing system was delaying test results because labs are struggling to keep up with demand.

But Ms Sturgeon said she had spoken to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock who insisted that testing in Scotland will not be rationed, as is happening in England.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said: “This is a laboratory processing issue in Scotland, but we have received assurances that Scotland’s access to testing through mobile testing units or regional testing centres would not be constrained to try to deal with any of this.

“And secondly, that Scotland’s fair share of the laboratory processing capacity will also be secured.”

On Monday, Ms Sturgeon had said that Mr Hancock proposed limiting the number of slots available for testing in Scottish mobile and regional test centres.

However, his Scottish counterpart Jeane Freeman “managed to avoid that happening” during negotiations over the weekend, Ms Sturgeon said.

Responding to a question from Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard about potential testing restriction, she added: “We have seen over the last couple of days an improvement, a reduction in the backlog, and now we want to make sure that, going forward, those turnaround times improve as well.”

First Minister’s Questions
First Minister’s Questions

Asked about an apparent lack of testing for home care workers, Ms Sturgeon said the Government is keeping the professions eligible for regular, routine testing under review.

“One of the things we’re very clear about is that our response to constraints and capacity at the moment should not be to try to peel back on access to testing of people we think should be tested.

“Instead we should tackle the capacity constraints issue.”

Scottish Greens parliamentary co-leader Alison Johnstone said she was “deeply worried” about the testing system “collapsing” and called for a new strategy to help NHS Scotland meet demand.

"Test and Protect is the foundation of Scotland’s strategy to contain Covid, but it doesn’t work if people can’t get a test." –

— Scottish Greens (@scotgp) September 17, 2020

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged some Scots may face a long journey or a delay accessing a test but said: “I don’t think it is right to say that the system in Scotland is not working; we have a capacity constraint in the UK part of the laboratory system that we are working to address and we are seeing improvements.

“I don’t want anybody watching this in Scotland to get anything other than the impression that, if they have symptoms, they – with confidence – book a test, because that is really important.”