Nicola Sturgeon has complained she lacked the financial powers to shut all pubs and restaurants as Scotland recorded its highest ever number of daily coronavirus cases.
The First Minister said she would have preferred to have gone further than the 10pm curfew she will impose from Friday on all hospitality settings as this was not enough to get the virus under control.
Speaking on the six-month anniversary of lockdown, she claimed she was "hamstrung" as her government lacked the money to compensate businesses and protect jobs in the sector if they were forced to close again.
She said she would write to Boris Johnson requesting more financial powers but the Scottish Tory leader noted the Treasury has handed her SNP administration billions of pounds extra to tackle the pandemic.
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Douglas Ross said the middle of a pandemic was "the wrong time to raise long-standing constitutional grievances" and urged her to refrain from "making the usual, tired political points.”
One UK Government insider said the First Minister had been happy to take the credit when cases were low in Scotland during the summer but now wanted to deflect the blame after they had surged to a record high.
Scotland recorded 486 new cases including 225 in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, 124 of which have been traced to a "significant" outbreak at Glasgow University. Two more people died from the virus.
The proportion of tests coming back positive surged to 7.8 per cent, well above the World Health Organisation's five per cent threshold for the virus being under control.
738,733 people in Scotland have been tested for #coronavirus— Scottish Government (@scotgov) September 23, 2020
The total confirmed as positive has risen by 486 to 25,495
Sadly 2 more patients who tested positive have died (2,508 in total)
Latest update ➡ https://t.co/bZPbrCoQux
Health advice ➡ https://t.co/l7rqArB6Qu pic.twitter.com/6609V6JVsf
Ms Sturgeon noted that "many more people are being tested now than was the case in the spring" but admitted the record total was "obviously a real cause for concern."
She boasted at the end of June that Scotland was "not far away" from eliminating Covid-19 but suggested on Wednesday that would be difficult without a vaccine.
Her complaint she could not go further with her current powers came as:
University students were warned not to hold house parties.
SNP ministers examined asking entire households to self-isolate if one member comes into contact with a carrier.
Ms Sturgeon faced questions over why areas with few cases were included in a nationwide ban on indoor visits to other households.
She reiterated her warning not to book a foreign holiday in the October half-term.
Although household visits have been banned, up to six people from two households are still being allowed to meet in pubs.
The First Minister copied Mr Johnson's decision to impose a 10pm curfew on hospitality premises from tomorrow but she said many people had questioned "why we don’t just close pubs completely right now."
She said: "Actually, that is not an unreasonable question. If the Scottish Government had the power to borrow money or to extend the furlough job retention scheme - so that we could mitigate the impact on jobs - it is very possible, perhaps even likely, that we would have reached a different decision yesterday on hospitality.
“But we went as far as we could within the powers that we have.” She claimed she did not want to make a political point, but express a “genuine worry” she had as First Minister.
Ms Sturgeon added: "We mustn't be hamstrung in essential public health decisions by the lack of necessary economic mitigations."
She won support from Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University and one of her key Covid advisers.
During the summer the academic argued that Scotland could eliminate the virus and urged Ms Sturgeon to examine introducing quarantine for English visitors if the number of cases increased south of the Border.
Calling for the UK Government to extend furlough or provide more support, Prof Sridhar tweeted: "Far better for controlling the virus to shut indoor hospitality, but Scottish govt does not have power to provide economic package or borrowing power. Without this, condemning an entire sector to going out of business & unemployment."
Far better for controlling the virus to shut indoor hospitality, but Scottish govt does not have power to provide economic package or borrowing power. Without this, condemning an entire sector to going out of business & unemployment. UK gov't has to extend furlough/support.— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) September 23, 2020
But Mr Ross said: "The UK Government has protected nearly a million Scottish jobs through the furlough scheme and other measures while delivering billions of pounds in Barnett Consequentials over and above the biggest Scottish Budget ever.
"The middle of the pandemic is the wrong time to raise long-standing constitutional grievances. When Covid cases are rising again, it’s never been more necessary for all of us to work as one, instead of making the usual, tired political points.”
A UK Government source said: "It's frustrating to see Nicola Sturgeon again playing politics with a pandemic that has cost so many lives. We need to pull together to beat back the virus."
John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, yesterday said a ban on household gatherings for more than 1.75 million people in the west of Scotland was "tempering" the rise in cases but not cutting them.
Ms Sturgeon said the "significant outbreak at the University of Glasgow" had impacted on the daily Covid-19 infection figure for the area.
She warned her government was holding talks with university chiefs over whether there are "further steps we need to take" and appealed to students to respect the ban on visiting other households.
In a direct message to them, Jason Leitch, Scotland's national clinical adviser, said: "We need you not to have house parties, I could not be more clear."
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A Glasgow University spokesman said: "The total number of reported cases since the start of term is 124 but the actual number is likely to be higher.
"Over 600 students are isolating across all residences. We are not aware of any students who have had to receive hospital treatment."
He and Ms Sturgeon also warned that the Scottish Government was considering whether to make entire households self-isolate for 14 days if one member is identified as a contact of a Covid carrier.
This currently applies in the restricted parts of the west of Scotland, but elsewhere only the contacts have to isolate and not the rest of their households.