Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of trying to rewrite history after she claimed Scotland fans had "very explicitly" been told not to travel to London for the Euro 2020 clash with England without a match ticket.
It is estimated that more than 20,000 supporters travelled to London for the June 18 fixture at Wembley, with public health experts linking it to almost 1,300 confirmed Covid cases which have contributed to Scotland’s record virus surge.
Ms Sturgeon this week claimed her administration had been "very explicit in saying to fans who didn’t have tickets for Wembley not to travel".
But SNP ministers and officials had repeatedly told fans it was fine to go to London if they had somewhere "safe" to watch the game, leading to claims the First Minister had changed her story to avoid blame.
Fans crammed onto busy buses and trains to get to London before gathering in their thousands in public spaces such as Leicester Square and Hyde Park.
Ian Murray, the Shadow Scottish Secretary, claimed the SNP was "trying to rewrite history", saying: "The government clearly said people could travel if they had a safe place to watch the match from, so the First Minister is simply lying when she claims she was explicit about not travelling without a ticket.
"Once again it has been mixed messages from the government, and we now have a huge rise in Covid cases as a result. Ministers need to get a grip."
Despite claiming she took a hardline approach, at a Covid briefing on the day of the game – when fans had already started to gather in London with no masks or distancing – Ms Sturgeon praised the "vibrant" Tartan Army and declined to condemn fans for breaking distancing rules. She urged supporters to behave responsibly while also enjoying themselves.
The SNP culture minister Jenny Gilruth said two days before the game: "Only travel to London for 18 June if you have a ticket or a safe place to watch the match from."
Scottish government adverts on social media told fans they could go to London if they had "a safe place" to go to for the game. At least 1,294 people who had travelled from Scotland to London for the Euro 2020 match later tested positive.
Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, has admitted it is impossible to say how many others the fans had infected after catching the virus.
Ms Sturgeon this week denied taking a "softly softly" approach with Scotland fans, in contrast to her scathing attacks on Rangers supporters who broke rules when celebrating the club’s first Premiership win in a decade.
She was silent about Scotland fans’ behaviour in London on June 18, instead tweeting her congratulations to the team for a 0-0 draw, adding: "Yes, sir, you all boogied."
Annie Wells, the health spokesman for the Scotish Tories, said: "Rather than trying to rewrite history, Nicola Sturgeon should be up front about her lack of effective messaging."
A Scottish government spokesman said: "We explicitly stated that fans should not travel to London without tickets or unless they had a safe place – meaning Covid-safe – to watch the match. Travel was not banned, and we are not able to stop people from travelling if they decide to do so."