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Scottish government's £1.3m decision to outsource contact tracing is ‘desperate,’ Labour charges

SCOTTISH Labour branded the government “desperate” today over its decision to outsource contact-tracing to a call centre for £1.3 million.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied the country’s test-and-protect system was being outsourced, despite contracts being awarded to private companies to provide staff. 

Motherwell-based firm Ascensos was awarded £1.3 million directly from National Services Scotland, while Barrhead Travel was awarded a contract in September to provide additional tracers, according to the Public Contracts Scotland website.

The Ascensos contract notice said that the agreement covers the “immediate and rapid deployment of additional track-and-trace contact tracers.” 

The First Minister said: “This small number of staff recruited from the private sector work within the NHS system, they work under direction of the NHS, they are trained in test and protect, they work as part of that integrated NHS system – they are not working for a private company that has been given the responsibility of running contact tracing.”

Despite the assurances, opposition MSPs hit out over the contracts, with Labour’s Monica Lennon accusing the government of “complacency and dithering” over the performance of test and protect, calling for all third-party deals to be published. 

She said: “For weeks, Scottish Labour has been calling on the government to recruit more contact tracers but they have not done enough to build up capacity and expand routine testing to key workers.

“SNP ministers may be turning to outsourcing, but the buck stops with them to expand test and protect and make it work efficiently and effectively across Scotland.”

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