Tory attacks on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer over “beergate” are part of a “massive operation” to divert attention away from Boris Johnson’s “serial breaching” of lockdown rules, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The Scottish First Minister spoke out as the UK Labour leader faced questions over why he had cancelled an appearance at an event on Monday.
Sir Keir had been scheduled to take part in an Institute for Government briefing, with a speech and question and answer session – though Labour insisted he was not “ducking scrutiny” by no longer taking part.
It comes during an investigation by police over whether a beer-and-curry gathering in Durham in April last year breached lockdown rules.
Labour insists the food was consumed between work events, meaning it was within the rules despite the ban on indoor socialising.
But the Labour leader faced fresh questions after a leaked memo suggested the takeaway was planned, with no further work apparently scheduled after dinner.
Ms Sturgeon said with a police investigation under way it “would be wrong for me to comment in any more detail”.
She stated: “Let’s let’s wait and see what comes of this.”
The Scottish First Minister added: “What I do think is pretty obvious is that there is a massive operation under way on the part of the Conservatives to divert attention from Boris Johnson.
“And not just Boris Johnson’s single breaking of the rules, but what appears to have been a serial breaching of the rules and, of course, Boris Johnson’s inability to be straight with the House of Commons.”
Anas Sarwar, the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, said it was important not to draw a “false equivalence” between the actions of Sir Keir and Mr Johnson.
Speaking at a Scottish Labour event on Monday, Mr Sarwar said his boss was “willing, keen and happy” to answer any questions on the matter.
But he added: “At Downing Street, you had systematic, regular, planned parties during the deepest, darkest parts of lockdown. You had a recording leaked out of Downing Street staff laughing and joking about it, and you had a prime minister denying he was even present and then lying about it in the House of Commons.
“So, let’s not draw some kind of false equivalence between the two.”
Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak have all been fined by the Metropolitan Police as a result of their attendance at a party in Westminster which is deemed to have broken lockdown rules.
Speaking during a visit to Scotland on Saturday, Sir Keir said he was “confident” he had not broken the rules, imposed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
He said then: “As I have explained a number of times, I was working in the office, we stopped for something to eat.
“There was no party, no breach of rules, I am confident of that.”