Nicola Sturgeon urges Scottish people to avoid mass protests due to Covid-19 risk

17 June 2020, 18:20

By Megan White

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is a “huge supporter” of the Black Lives Matter movement but urged Scots to avoid mass gatherings amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The First Minister said she was a “great believer in the right of peaceful protest in a democracy” but that attending was “putting lives at risk.”

She also said there is a “big question” as to why statues still stand commemorating those who made money from slavery but said it is important not to “inadvertently brush the shameful parts of our history under the carpet.”

Huge protests have taken place across the UK since the killing of George Floyd despite social distancing measures remaining in place.

In Scotland, households can meet one other household within the same day and up to a recommended maximum of eight people in the overall group.

Nicola Sturgeon urged caution over mass protests
Nicola Sturgeon urged caution over mass protests. Picture: PA

The Scottish Government is set to announce the second phase of lockdown restrictions lifting on Thursday, but Ms Sturgeon emphasised that “we’ve got to still be very careful.”

She told Capital Scotland: “I’m a huge supporter of anti-racist campaigns and of the Black Lives Matter movement and I’m also a great believer in the right of peaceful protest in a democracy. I’ve taken part in countless protests over my life.

“But right now, and this would still be my advice to people, this weekend coming – as it was a couple of weekends ago – it’s right now, just as I’ve been talking about, it’s not safe to be in big crowds of people in mass gatherings.

“It’s putting our health at risk, it’s putting lives at risk, it’s putting pressure on the police at a time when they really don’t need extra pressure.

“So my advice would still be to people who want to make their voices heard over Black Lives Matter is absolutely make your voice heard – you know, lobby your elected representatives, donate money if you’re able to to some of the organisations supporting the cause, do it online, you know, post things online but for the time being, my advice to you would be not to go to mass gatherings for the reasons that I think we understand.

“We don’t want to at this stage undermine the progress that we’ve all worked so hard to make.”

Asked about statues and street names changing in the wake of the protests, the First Minister said there was a “really big discussion to be had”.

She said: “There’s - I think - a really big discussion to be had about that and I think it’s really important it’s one that everybody gets a say in, and it’s not just politicians making decisions.

“I do think there is a big question in this day and age about why we would have statues to people who made their name and made their money out of the slave trade, and trading and profiting from abject human misery.

“What we then do with those statues and how we make sure that if we are to take statues down, or change street names, which is another big debate particularly in Glasgow – my own city – then how do we make sure that we’re not inadvertently brushing the shameful parts of our history under the carpet?

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“So there are different opinions I think on how we demonstrate our complete disgust now at the slave trade but how we also recognise the way in which that part of our history unfolded, and how ashamed all of us are and should be about it now.

“Some people say, you know, you’ve got to be careful you don’t rewrite history – actually, maybe for the first time, we need to properly write history and properly record what actually happened in those periods of our history.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “Scotland’s got so much to be proud of in terms of what we’ve contributed to the world - but frankly when it comes to colonialism and slavery then there are aspects of Scotland’s history that are pretty shameful too, and we have to be prepared to face up to that."