The co-leaders of Aberdeen City Council have urged the First Minister to meet them in a bid to tackle the “economic tsunami” caused by Covid-19.
Douglas Lumsden and Jenny Laing, who jointly head the local authority alongside administration member Marie Boulton, have written to Nicola Sturgeon asking her to visit the Town House to discuss how to get the city’s economy moving.
Aberdeen has been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic, with a three-week local lockdown which forced many businesses to close.
Mr Lumsden and Ms Laing have previously warned “thousands” of jobs could be lost in Aberdeen as a direct consequence of coronavirus.
And they have urged Ms Sturgeon to put independence to one side while Scotland continues to face Covid-19.
In a letter to Bute House, they said: “The Granite City is the Northern Powerhouse of Scotland. You would think that the First Minister might pull herself out of her independence daydream and think ‘we should recognise that Aberdeen could be in the vanguard of leading us out of our economic problems’.
“Instead, her focus is on politics and independence. Where is her national recovery plan to deal with the thousands of failing businesses and record unemployment because of the lockdown?
“That is what we’ll be asking when we meet her if and when she leaves Edinburgh to meet us.
“As the number of Covid-19 cases in the north-east level off, she will be able to reveal to the leadership at Aberdeen City Council her economic strategy for getting the city back on its feet.
“Now, there is a new “tiered” response to Covid in Scotland. But where is the “tiered” exit strategy for those of us who are slowly emerging from this dark period?
“We are in a national crisis which calls for the SNP to listen to all voices, not just those who are in favour of breaking up the United Kingdom.”
They have also set out their plan to kick-start the north-east – by setting up an “economic task force” featuring key players from the region’s business world.
They said: “Today, we are taking the initiative and not only challenging Nicola Sturgeon and her cabinet to present a solution to this economic tsunami we have suffered.
“Our plan is to form an economic task force to help Aberdeen, its workers and businesses to return to as near normality as is possible.
“We want experts in the field, men and women with experience and expertise, non-politicians, to help Aberdeen formulate a strategy for a future after Covid.
“We are in a national crisis which calls for the SNP to listen to all voices, not just those who are in favour of breaking up the United Kingdom.
“So we challenge the First Minister: End these divisive policies, put independence to one side and bring Aberdeen in from the cold.”
A spokesman for the First Minister said: “There has been only one party trying to politicise this public health emergency, and it’s the Scottish Tories, who should be utterly ashamed of themselves.”
“We are doing everything we can to support businesses both in Aberdeen and across Scotland in the midst of an unprecedented and fast-moving situation – and despite the failure of the Tory government at Westminster to make funding available to businesses in Scotland that has been provided in England.
“Aberdeen City Council has yet to spend the full £1m we provided for business support in August, so we urge the council to ensure local businesses receive this financial support as a matter of urgency.
“Once the leadership of Aberdeen City Council have been provided with some ideas of their own by their external task force we will, of course, be happy to consider these carefully.”