The Scotsman

Anti-mask rally led by coun­cil­lor

- By MARTYN MCLAUGH­LIN

A North La­nark­shire coun­cil­lor and for­mer S NP mem­ber has been re­vealed as the or­gan­iser of a con­tro­ver­sial anti-mask demon­stra­tion held out­side the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment. Paddy Hogg or­gan­ised Satur­day’s rally in Ed­in­burgh.

A con­tro­ver­sial anti-mask and anti-vac­cine demon­stra­tion held out­side the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment in protest at the on­go­ing Covid-19 restric­tions was or­gan­ised by a coun­cil­lor who claims that care home res­i­dents are be­ing “treated like pris­on­ers of war” dur­ing the pan­demic.

Satur­day’ s rally in Ed­in­burgh, which drew sev­eral hun­dred at­ten­dees, was co-or­di­nated by Paddy Hogg, a coun­cil­lor in North La­nark­shire, where re­gional health of­fi­cials have warned that a re­cent spike in coron­avirus cases could lead to tight er lock­down con­di­tions.

The event has been widely crit­i­cised, with Scot­land’ s na­tional clin­i­cal di­rec­tor, Pro­fes­sor Ja­son Leitch, de­scrib­ing the pro­test­ers as “deeply ir­re­spon­si­ble”.

Mr Hogg, a for­mer mem­ber of the SNP, wrote on Face­book that he con­tacted the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment to ob­tain per­mis­sion for the gath­er­ing. He was also one of the speak­ers. The coun­cil­lor, who is a mem­ber of the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s com­mu­nity safety part­ner­ship fo­rum and its ed­u­ca­tion and fam­i­lies com­mit­tee, told the crowd that 99.9 per cent of peo­ple in the world “were never go­ing to be af­fected by the virus called Covid-19”.

He added that there was “no need for so­cial dis­tanc­ing” dur­ing the pan­demic and stated: “Lock­down will kill and de­stroy more peo­ple’s lives than the virus ever could have done.”

Mr Hogg also gave voice to fa­mil­iar Covid-19 con­spir­acy the­o­ries in­volv­ing Bill Gates and the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion, and ar­gued that the United Na­tions and the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion“have be­come a Tro­jan horse for a vac­cine agenda that is not needed any­where”.

He called on the crowd to hold MSPS to ac­count at next year’ s Scot­tish Par­lia­ment elec­tions.

The event was held just a day after NHS La­nark­shire warned the area could be­come sub­ject to tighter Covid-19 restric­tions, amid a spike in cases.

Data pub­lished on Fri­day showed that the health board had iden­ti­fied an in­crease of 11 cases in the pre­ced­ing five days.

Ga be Doc her ty, the health board’ s di­rec­tor of pub­lic health, warned at the time: “This should be a wake-up call for all of us to stick to the guide­lines, stop this virus spread­ing any fur­ther or any faster and keep La­nark­shire out of lock­down.”

Mr Hogg, who has re pre­sented the Cum­ber­nauld East ward since 2012, has been ap­proached for com­ment.

Oth­ers who spoke at the week­end’s protest in­cluded Dr Dolores Cahill, chair of the Irish Free­dom Party, and Dr Mal­colm Ken­drick, who bills him­self as a doc­tor, au­thor, speaker, and scep­tic.

On a Face­book page called Sav­ing Scot­land, which was cre­ated on 25 Au­gust and used to pro­mote the gath­er­ing, Mr Hogg said he had also con­tacted Po­lice Scot­land and the City of Ed­in­burgh Coun­cil. He de­scribed it as a “great event with top qual­ity key­note speak­ers.”

In a se­ries of Face­book posts re­lated to Covid-19, Mr Hogg, a bi­og­ra­pher of Robert Burns, said that the Ed­in­burgh demon­stra­tion was the “first ma­jor event” of the “grass roots move­ment,” but stressed that “many cam­paign bat­tles are com­ing”.

It is un­der­stood the next protest is planned for Holy­rood this Thurs­day to co­in­cide with First Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions.

Else­where on so­cial me­dia, the 60-year-old wrote that “the elites looked after them­selves with plenty of hy­drox­y­chlo­raquine but made sure it was banned for the pub­lic”, and urged par­ents to send li­a­bil­ity notices to head teach­ers to pre­vent chil­dren from wear­ing masks or us­ing hand sani­tiser.

He also claimed that res­i­dents in care homes are be­ing “treated al­most like pris­on­ers of war”, and shared the­o­ries about face masks which have been flagged by Face­book as “false in­for­ma­tion”.

Mr Hogg also posted a video to Youtube pro­mot­ing the rally, in which he claimed “no one at all is be­ing in­fected” and that there are “no out­breaks of Covid-19 hap­pen­ing just now”.

In the video, up­loaded on 14 Au­gust, he added: “The test­ing that’s go­ing on just now is sim­ply show­ing some old coron­avirus type cold that peo­ple might have had traces of.”

Mr Hogg re­signed from the coun­cil’s SNP group two years ago, claim­ing that “bul­ly­ing and abuse” was com­mon­place.

Speak­ing on Sun­day about the Sav­ing Scot­land event, Prof Leitch con­demned those who took par

“I hon­estly do not un­der­stand it,” he said. “I think it is ir­re­spon­si­ble – do they think we’re mak­ing it up? 194 coun­tries are mak­ing up a vi­ral pan­demic?”

Asked if it would be re­view­ing Mr Hogg’s mem­ber­ship of its com­mit­tees, North La­nark­shire Coun­cil said that “each elected mem­ber is en­ti­tled to their own opin­ions, which do not al­ways rep­re­sent the coun­cil’s as a whole”.

It added: “The coun­cil ac­tively sup­ports NHS La­nark­shire pub­lic health guid­ance to help re­duce the risk of trans­mis­sion of coron­avirus and ac­tively en­cour­ages the pub - lic to take the ad­vice on board to keep peo­ple as safe as pos­si­ble.”

NHS La­nark­shire said it re­it­er­ated Mr Doc her ty’ s com­ments.

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 ?? PIC­TURES: LISA FER­GU­SON ?? Paddy Hogg, a North La­nark­shire coun­cil­lor and one off the or­gan­is­er­sof the protest, at Satur­day’s event. Top and left, cam­paign­ers – with no masks in sight and fail­ing to so­cially dis­tance – at the anti-mask and anti-vac­cine demon­stra­tion held out­side the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment
PIC­TURES: LISA FER­GU­SON Paddy Hogg, a North La­nark­shire coun­cil­lor and one off the or­gan­is­er­sof the protest, at Satur­day’s event. Top and left, cam­paign­ers – with no masks in sight and fail­ing to so­cially dis­tance – at the anti-mask and anti-vac­cine demon­stra­tion held out­side the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment

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