Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has hit out at "anti-English rhetoric" around Coronavirus briefings.

Commenting on the First Minister’s briefing, he said that claims that Scotland had almost reached elimination before the virus was ‘seeded’ by travellers from elsewhere was "a desperate attempt to deflect from the responsibility"

He said: “Anti-English rhetoric has reared its ugly head at different points throughout this crisis and there is no place for it.

“Parts of Scotland have some of the worst rates of coronavirus across the UK. To claim any kind of exceptionalism is misjudged. People will not look kindly on ministers wildly searching around to apportion blame.

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“Blaming England without evidence is a desperate attempt to deflect from the responsibility the Scottish Government bears for not preparing well for the second wave. Blaming others for our own weakness is not something we should be hearing during a global pandemic."

He added: “This government has squandered valuable time over the summer months when the virus had abated.

“It needs to make a step change to Scotland’s test and trace capacity and the efficiency of contact tracing interviews. This is all within the First Minister’s control."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We all want to eliminate this virus as much as possible and that means reducing transmission by avoiding travel to and from high-risk areas, a position all governments in the UK have taken.

“We will always be guided by the best and most up to date expert scientific advice and that includes asking residents of high-risk areas within Scotland to avoid non-essential travel, for example when local restrictions were in place in Dumfries and Galloway or Aberdeen.”

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said there are grounds for “cautious optimism” in the fight against Covid-19, as she unveiled a new five-level system of restrictions for dealing with the virus.

Schools should remain open under all tiers – which run from Level 0 to Level 4 – even under the toughest restrictions.

The First Minister promised businesses in Scotland will get the same level of support as firms south of the border if they have to shut or are significantly affected by the restrictions.

Speaking at the briefing yesterday she said: We do not envisage returning to a situation as severe as the first lockdown imposed back in late March.

“We are not back at square one, we have made progress in tackling the virus and we have more tools at our disposal to help control it.”

But she said the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases over the last month means hospital admissions, those in intensive care and the number of deaths are “likely to continue to rise for some time yet”.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: 1,433 new cases of Covid reported with 11 deaths reported in 24 hours

Responding to the new five-level framework, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “As this new tiered system comes into force, decisions need to be communicated without confusion and there needs to be a change of approach from the SNP if we’re going to protect Scottish jobs.

“Businesses must be consulted, crippling decisions can’t be forced on them at the last minute, and support must be available from the minute restrictions come into force.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said people need to know “how long they can expect to be under these restrictions”.

He added: “With the potential for different areas of the country to be under different regulations, there exists a real danger of confusion among the public, putting health at risk.”