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Scottish CMO under fire over second home visit

Scottish CMO under fire over second home visit

  • 5 April 2020
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Image caption Catherine Calderwood was photographed at her second home in Fife

Scotland's chief medical officer has been photographed at her second home in Fife, despite lockdown guidelines permitting only "essential travel".

Dr Catherine Calderwood, who lives in Edinburgh with her family, is facing criticism after the pictures were published in The Scottish Sun.

She has joined Nicola Sturgeon in leading calls for the public to stay at home to defeat the virus.

The Scottish government said Dr Calderwood observed social distancing.

A spokesman said she had been working seven days a week preparing Scotland's response to the Covid-19 crisis and she decided to check on the family home in Fife as she would not be back until after the lockdown.

"She stayed overnight before returning to Edinburgh. In line with guidance she stayed within her own household group and observed appropriate social distancing with anyone she was in passing in the village."

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On Thursday Dr Calderwood tweeted a photograph of her family clapping the NHS at their main home in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Sun reported that they were seen walking across a golf course in Earlsferry on Saturday.

Earlsferry is a drive of more than an hour from Edinburgh.

The images emerged amid continuing advice from the CMO and other leading medical professionals and politicians to stay at home in order to save lives and protect the NHS.

Last month, the Scottish government issued a travel warning criticising the "irresponsible behaviour" of people with second homes and campervans travelling to the Highlands in a bid to isolate.

On Friday, the first minister said the upcoming Easter break would be "a holiday period unlike any we've had in our lifetimes".

England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said staying at home this weekend was an instruction and "not a request".

Dr Calderwood also stressed people should adhere to the restrictions, and said it was looking less likely summer holidays would take place this year as they have done previously.

'Massive error of judgement'

Following the publication of the photographs, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said "with great regret" that Dr Calderwood should lose her job over the issue.

"It is difficult to see how the chief medical officer will be able to carry the important messages about the virus and the lockdown if she has not even followed it herself," he said.

"There is no doubt she has worked incredibly hard and led the country well through the early stages of this crisis.

"Yet it is difficult to see how she can continue to do that when she has made this massive error of judgement."

Her actions have also been criticised on social media, with MSP Monica Lennon, Labour's health spokeswoman, describing it as "extremely disappointing and hypocritical".

"If the chief medical officer can't lead by example what chance do we have of convincing people to stay at home?"

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said on Twitter: "Lockdown is incredibly difficult but the rules apply to us all.

"I really don't know what Dr Calderwood can have been thinking to go against the official coronavirus government advice she has been advocating and act in this irresponsible way."

Dr Calderwood's colleague, Scotland's National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said nobody knows the social distancing guidelines better than her and she would not have put people in the area of her holiday home at risk.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: "My understanding is that she has worked like the rest of us 24/7 on this for weeks now and that family do have a home a little bit away from Edinburgh and they went to check on it.

"They observed social distancing throughout, so they were very safe. Nobody knows those guidelines better than Catherine and the rest of us.

"So I'm confident that she was safe during that, her family were safe and those around them were safe."