Rangers football club have launched a broadside at the Scottish Government in the wake of title celebrations which saw thousands of fans flout coronavirus restrictions by gathering in huge numbers. 

Club chairman Douglas Park has accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of a "dereliction of duty" over her failure to engage with its board in her role as a constituency MSP, and also said comments made by Deputy First Minister John Swinney were "inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair". 

Sunday night saw George Square in Glasgow City Centre and an area outside Rangers' Ibrox ground filled with thousands of celebrating supporters in defiance of rules preventing people from meeting and potentially spreading coronavirus.

Mr Swinney issued a scathing rebuke to the club during Monday's Covid briefing, saying the silence from Rangers over the scenes was "deafening", and that the club had failed to reign in supporters or tell them to go home.

 The Herald:

Thousands gathered on Sunday

Mr Swinney said: “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.

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

READ MORE: John Swinney - 'Silence from Rangers deafening' over fans' celebrations

But Mr Park hit back today with a letter to the First Minister outlining the numerous calls and meetings it had with officials in the run-up to the weekend's decisive matches. 

He said staff had met with Police Scotland, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and other officials many times between 22 February and 6th March to work out a strategy in the event of Rangers winning the title.

Mr Park also said that the Ibrox tannoy had been used to ask supporters outside the ground to leave, and highlighted comments made by manager Steven Gerrard - a "global sporting icon" - asking fans to observe social distancing rules during his press conference.  

The Herald:

Fans celebrate in George Square

Mr Park wrote: "It is particularly disappointing that there has been an lack of acknowledgement from the Scottish Government to the wide range of efforts we undertook in recent weeks to limit public safety issues. 

"It is also particularly disappointing that Mr Swinney has chosen to lambast Rangers, given the fact that we had proactively initiated engagement with Police Scotland, the SPFL, the Scottish Government as well as the local Member of Parliament.

"To brand us as 'disgraceful', is indeed a 'deep element of concern' for Rangers as we believe the narrative is unfair but crucially totally inaccurate."

Mr Park then outlines around ten occasions club officials met with law enforcement officers, football authorities, broadcasters or the Scottish Government, as well as numerous phone calls. 

READ MORE: Rangers fans' celebrations outside Ibrox - Probe into Police Scotland response

He continues: "I must reiterate my concern and displeasure of the claims of the Deputy First minister that there is a lack of leadership at rangers football club.

"This brings my reputation as Rangers Chairman, the reputation of the Rangers board and managerial team into question.

"I think this is particularly disingenuous given the fact that we have outlined the timeline above, and more importantly the fact that you have failed as a constituency MSP to engage with us directly on this matter.

"That to me is a lack of leadership and a dereliction of duty."

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "It is essential that people stick to the rules and stay at home if we are to continue to drive down infection numbers.

"Shameful scenes like those that we witnessed over the weekend in Glasgow and beyond risks spreading the virus and delaying the removal and easing of restrictions.

"They show no regard or respect at all for the millions of people across Scotland who have been sticking to the rules, who haven't been able to meet up with friends and family, who haven't been able to fully celebrate birthdays or indeed, in some cases, attend funerals for their loved ones."

Refering to damage to benches in George Square dedicated to people's lost relatives during the gatherings, Mr Yousaf continued: "The desecration of memorial benches in Glasgow and George Square is a particularly sickening sight, and I hope that those involved are thoroughly ashamed of themselves."

The Justice Secretary added: "I have spoken with senior officers in Poluice scotland on a number of occasions over the weekend and over last week. I'll be continueing dialogue with both Police Scotland and Rangers football club to understand why these events took place, what actions are now being taken to identify those responsible and what more can be done to avoid this reoccuring at upcoming events.

"I note the Chief Constable has asked the human rights lawyer John Scott QC, the chair of the independent advisory group, to look at the policing at the weekend and help inform lessons to be learned for upcoming events.

"I welcome this decisive action."