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Highland Council calls on the Scottish Government to end its secrecy over Covid-19 data to enable a better local response to outbreaks


By Scott Maclennan

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Council leader Margaret Davidson.
Council leader Margaret Davidson.

Highland Council has voted to demand the Scottish Government loosen its grip on Covid-19 information because the current levels of secrecy are “detrimental” to dealing with the virus locally.

The leader of the administration Councillor Margaret Davidson approached the leaders of the other groups for cross-party support.

In a rare show of unity, the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat groups all signed up to the motion – only the SNP group refused and tabled an amendment opposing the move.

They called on the First Minister to reconsider the flow of information from the Scottish Government Resilience Rooms – which deal with outbreaks of Covid-19 – to local authorities.

They also want a review of the current protocols to get more information faster so that organisations like the government, the council and NHS Highland can work together better.

Key to their demands is that this would enable improved local decision-making as well as representation as more and more responsibility is given to local authorities in handling the pandemic.

The government and NHS have always been reluctant to release information that could lead to the identification of individuals as that could be interpreted as breaching patient confidentiality but councillors rubbished that position.

The motion stated: “Throughout the pandemic we have received information on national and Highland wide numbers infected with Covid 19.

“However as powers to implement lock downs and restrictions are moving to more local areas we believe we require more localised information.

“We are aware that detailed information is shared on a daily basis with a range of authorities, including senior council officers, but there are currently restrictions in place about who this is shared with such as with elected members.

“This has a detrimental impact on our ability to plan, make informed decisions, and provide advice and reassurance to our communities.

“This council calls on the First Minister to reconsider the flow of information from the Scottish Government Resilience Rooms to local authorities, and to review the current protocols to enable more timeous and appropriate sharing of information to enable enhanced partnership working with the Scottish Government and resilience partners and, critically, improved local decision making and representation.”

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