SCOTTISH Labour’s deputy leader faces criticism after calling the First Minister’s decision to announce an Aberdeen lockdown yesterday a “classic diversionary tactic”.

The First Minister revealed there would be tighter restrictions on the city on Wednesday, while the number of cases in a cluster linked to more than 20 bars and restaurants there grew to 79 yesterday. There were fears there could be a “significant outbreak” in the city.

Nicola Sturgeon announced people in Aberdeen should not travel more than five miles away from their home and should not visit other people’s homes, while pubs and restaurants were closed.

People who do not live in Aberdeen have been told not to travel to the city.

READ MORE: Aberdeen put in Covid lockdown after cluster of cases

On Wednesday night, Jackie Baillie suggested the decision was not made due to public health reasons, but to stop Sturgeon from being asked difficult questions about the recent SQA row.

As exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis this year, pupils’ grade were based on the judgements of their teachers. However, predicted marks had to be vetted by the SQA’s national system of “moderation”.

The exams body moderated by in part looking at each school’s previous results history. Overall around 133,000 entries were adjusted from the initial estimate. An equality impact assessment, released by the SQA, found students in Scotland’s most deprived areas had their Higher pass rate reduced by 15.2%, while students in the least deprived areas had their rate reduced by 6.9%.

The First Minister and Education Secretary have defended the system and answered questions on the row at Scottish Government briefings this week.

John Swinney said he accepts “there will be individual results which will cause disappointment” and encouraged those disappointed with their results to use the free appeals process.

Baillie retweeted a post from Scottish Labour member and solicitor Ian Smart which read: “So, Sturgeon’s staff meeting this morning. ‘I’m sorry FM but you’re going to get eaten even by this press on the SQA. Not to mention your false figures on deaths.’ Nicola: ‘Any ideas?’ Intern (shyly): ‘How about we close down Aberdeen?’ Nicola: ‘Give this person a full time job!’”

Baillie added to this comment: “A classic diversionary tactic – wow.”

Her tweet gained hundreds of replies. SNP MSP James Dornan asked her: “So you disagree with the measures then? What would you have done differently? Pathetic!”

Former SNP Westminster deputy leader and MP for Aberdeen North Kirsty Blackman said it was an “unbelievably out of touch comment by an unbelievably out of touch party”.

She told the Scottish Labour deputer: “My constituents are going through yet another rollercoaster of worry and pain and you are seeking to trivialise it by making rubbish party political jibes. You should be ashamed.”

Even supporters weren’t happy with the remark. One told the MSP: “Supporter of yours Jackie but you probably shouldn't have retweeted this. I assume FM received scientific advice to lockdown (especially given that the economic fallout probably affects here polling)”.

Scottish Labour did not respond when asked for comment.

The restrictions in Aberdeen are the first localised lockdown measures to be implemented in Scotland.

More than 200 contacts have been traced in relation to the cluster.

Speaking at the briefing, Sturgeon said: “The last thing we want to do is to reimpose these restrictions but this outbreak is reminding us just how highly infectious Covid is.

“Our precautionary and careful judgment is that we need to take decisive action now, difficult as that undoubtedly is, in order to try to contain this outbreak and prevent further harm later on.

“As I said earlier, this is about doing all we can to ensure our children can return to schools next week.”