Nicola Sturgeon risks losing public trust if she "punishes" Scots by again postponing her timetable for abolishing Covid restrictions, Douglas Ross has warned ahead of the First Minister’s announcement about the next steps on Tuesday.
The Scottish Tory leader said Ms Sturgeon should move the entire country to the lowest Level 0 restrictions next Monday as scheduled, adding that she risked "losing public buy-in" if she failed to deliver a clear plan of action.
Mr Ross said delaying the move again would be akin to punishing the Scottish people for the SNP government’s "failures" to deliver a functioning contact tracing system and a faster vaccine rollout.
He added: "For the past 16 months, the public have made huge sacrifices. People now expect a steady return to normality, and that must be delivered."
Labour said Scotland’s exit from lockdown "hangs in the balance" after Ms Sturgeon "lost control" of the pandemic, demanding "immediate action" to rectify the situation.
The First Minister will address the Scottish parliament on Tuesday afternoon in a specially reconvened virtual session. In addition to the move to Level 0, social distancing outdoors is scheduled to be abolished on Monday.
However, Ms Sturgeon warned last week that her decisions "needn’t always be binary", with some planned changes going ahead but others held back, adding that she would proceed cautiously.
Scotland this month suffered a record surge in cases, making it the Covid capital of Europe with a case rate nearly twice that of England and four times that of Wales.
However, Humza Yousaf, the health secretary, said Scotland was "past the worst" of the peak. A further 2,134 cases were recorded on Monday, around half the record high of 4,234 on July 1, and there were no further deaths.
In addition to her announcement on easing restrictions, Ms Sturgeon is expected to confirm whether Scotland will follow England by exempting double-jabbed travellers from amber countries from quarantine.
Mr Ross said: "The SNP cannot stall Scotland’ progress any longer. We have to keep moving forward, and that means moving Scotland to Level 0 next week. The public shouldn’t be punished for the SNP’s failures to boost the vaccine rollout pace and deliver a fully-functioning Test and Protect system.
"If Tuesday’s statement does not deliver a plan of action for tackling the virus and a clear timetable for exiting restrictions, Nicola Sturgeon risks losing public buy-in. People are fed up with the uncertainty and the SNP’s mixed messages."
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokesman, said SNP ministers needed to "get a grip" of Test and Protect "instead of cutting corners and lowering standards", adding: "Make no mistake – any delay to the easing of the restrictions will be the result of SNP inaction and failure. We are at a crucial moment in the pandemic, and it’s about time we showed the urgency and ambition that we need."
But Lorna Slater, the Scottish Greens co-leader, said: "This is not a time to throw caution to the wind and accept widespread new infections, as the UK Government has irresponsibly done in England."