NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of eroding trust in public health messages amid claims she has ignored scientific evidence by refusing to ease Covid-19 restrictions in Edinburgh.

Council leaders in the capital have insisted that they were told by public health officials late last week and over the weekend that it would be moved from tier 3 to tier 2 of the Scottish Government’s framework at Tuesday's weekly review.

Discussions between Deputy First Minister John Swinney and SNP council leader Adam McVey also suggested no reason for the authority to believe it would remain in tier 3, according to Mr McVey.

Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard claimed that the situation in Edinburgh “erodes public trust in the government’s message”, warning that “it will deter compliance with it”.

But the First Minister insisted that failing to take a cautious approach could lead to Edinburgh being forced into level 4 lockdown measures over the coming weeks.

READ MORE: Edinburgh Council leader wants answers for tier 3 decision

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Leonard said: “We know that public health officials briefed the council leadership and chief executive of Edinburgh that the city should be moved to level 2.

“So why did the First Minister and her cabinet vote to overturn that advice?”

The First Minister told MSPs that cases have increased by 14 per cent in Edinburgh, test positivity has risen by 0.5 per cent and case levels have increased in four of the past seven days.

She added that moving Edinburgh into tier 2 would have posed a “significant risk to the overall situation” and added it “wouldn’t have been a safe or a sensible decision”.

Ms Sturgeon also insisted that “at no time was Edinburgh City Council told that they were going to level 2 this week”.

She added: “The Deputy First Minister had engagement with the city council.

“We don’t brief hints about what’s happening. We stand up and we talk openly about the factors we are taking into account. The final decision is taken at the weekly Cabinet meeting on a Tuesday morning.”

Mr Leonard acknowledged the small increases in cases but stressed that the numbers left the city “well within tier 2 levels”.

He added: “This is about more than just the city of Edinburgh, it is about transparency and it is about public trust and confidence.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Glasgow and 10 areas to move out of lockdown

“Because the point is this - by overriding recommendations based on the data available and the advice of her own public health experts the First Minister risks losing the trust and confidence of the public.

“The Government too often appears to assume that people will act in an irresponsible way and that assumption is bringing businesses in Edinburgh and across the country to breaking point.

“Decisions like the one this week appear to be a political decision rather than a scientific decision.”

The First Minister rubbished any claims of taking a “political decision” - pointing to the SNP leadership of Edinburgh City Council, which runs the authority in partnership with Labour.

She said: “Why on earth would I be doing that?

“Why would I take decisions that are unpopular if there was no need to do that?”

Ms Sturgeon added: “It is really important that we don’t ease restrictions when we have a rising trend of infections and test positivity in the city of Edinburgh.

“If we did that, in a couple of weeks’ time, I would be standing here talking about a situation in Edinburgh that had run out of control and us perhaps having to put Edinburgh into level 4.”