JOHN Swinney has taken a swipe at the "lack of leadership" from Rangers Football Club for failing to ask fans to halt mass celebrations in George Square despite public health concerns.

The Deputy First Minister said the club had ignored pleas from Scottish Government officials on two occasions to engage with their fans, insisting that "the silence from Rangers was deafening".

Rangers fans took to the streets outside Ibrox and in George Square to celebrate their team’s title victory on Sunday – without social distancing and many not wearing face coverings.

Police made 28 arrests and seven people were issued with fixed penalty notices or will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Reasons for arrest included assaulting police officers, breaching coronavirus regulations, disorder, use of flares and sectarian breaches of the peace.

The anger comes after at least five memorial benches featuring the names of Glasgow residents who have died were damaged during the celebrations.

Leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken said the authority was reaching out to the families concerned after the "truly dreadful damage" at George Square.

The council is hoping to replace the memorials as soon as it can and it is thought various fan groups have already raised more than £6,000.

On Sunday night, Nicola Sturgeon pleaded with the club to advise fans to disperse, but no assurance was given by Rangers.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, the Deputy First Minister said “the behaviour of some fans has been an absolute disgrace” and has “cast a shadow” over success of the club.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Cases rise by more than 500

He added: “To see so many people deliberately flouting those rules with no regard for others is shameful.

"I think it would have been the duty of Rangers to say clearly and simply to fans that they shouldn’t have come out to celebrate and when they did they should have gone home.

“The silence from Rangers was deafening – that’s a matter of profound regret.

“If the club, on a day which I acknowledge is a day of joy for the club, had said to its fans to follow restrictions which are in place – like every other citizen – and had gone home and avoided the crowded scenes that we had outside Ibrox and in George Square…

“The messaging of that type from the club I think could have helped to diffuse the situation and crucially to disperse the crowds.

“But it didn’t happen and that is one of the deep elements of concern that the Government has about the conduct of Rangers.”

Mr Swinney pointed to the millions of Scots who are currently “not able to meet up with friends and families” and some not even allowed “to attend funeral services of their loved ones”.

He added that dialogue between officials and the club about the potential risk of fans congregating and “the need for the club to advise fans” over their behaviour took place at meetings on February 25 and March 6, but said it is with “profound regret that that did not happen”.

The Deputy First Minister said further talks will be held with Rangers over “what further assurances they can give” about future behaviour at upcoming events.

READ MORE: Rangers title celebrations: Nicola Sturgeon condemns mass gatherings

Dr Gregor Smith, chief medical officer, said it was "entirely plausible" that there could be a surge in infections following the incidents in Glasgow.

He added: “I think there’s a very real risk that we will see an uptick in infections as a result of some of the scenes over the weekend."

Concerns have also been raised over the policing of the celebrations, with Mr Swinney insisting “I understand the anger for those working and living in the city centre”.

But he added that the situation “requires difficult operational judgements to be arrived at by Police Scotland”.

Rangers has insisted the club "initiated open dialogue" over the possibility of fans celebrating the title victory.

In a statement, the club added: "We have proactively engaged with our local MP, the Justice Minister, the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the SPFL in relation to maintaining a cohesive message regarding public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We understand the jubilance of our support across the world who recognise this has been a historic year for the club.

"Nevertheless, it has been of great frustration for all football fans across the world that they have not been able to watch their team within stadiums, especially for the loyal Rangers season-ticket holders who have stood by this football club through thick and thin in the last decade.

"We reiterate the message from our manager, Steven Gerrard, who highlighted that fans should adhere to government guidelines – stay safe, socially distance and look after each other in this difficult time.

"We are aware there is the possibility of more, significant milestones within this season, and we will continue to proactively engage with key stakeholders to maintain a cohesive message in relation to government guidance at this present time.

"We look forward to further open dialogue with the government, police, SPFL and other key stakeholders."