John Swinney told Holyrood’s Covid-19 committee on Thursday the Scottish Government’s position on face masks had not changed, and that it still believed them to be a required measure to tackle Covid-19.
On Wednesday, Boris Johnson told MPs he would be axing so-called ‘Plan B’ measures, including Covid-19 passports and mandatory face masks.
As a result, people in England are no longer required to work from home, while face masks will no longer be needed in places such as shops and on public transport from next Thursday.
Face coverings will also be scrapped in English classrooms from this Thursday, with school communal areas to follow.
However, they will still be required in Scotland for the foreseeable future, unless there is a significant change to Scottish Government policy.
Mr Swinney said: “The Scottish Government’s position has not changed in the light of the announcement made by the Prime Minister yesterday, either in relation to the wearing of face coverings in crowded public places or on public transport, or in relation to schools.
"There is absolutely no change in the Scottish Government’s position.
"Parliament was advised on Tuesday of the Government’s position and if there was to be any change in that position, Parliament would be advised.
"As things stand just now, the Scottish Government is absolutely crystal clear that the requirement to wear face coverings in public spaces, in public transport, and in secondary schools remains absolute.”
His defence of the measure comes as opposition politicians and parents groups call for face masks, particularly in schools, to be ditched.
Mr Swinney said: “I’m struck by the comments that were made yesterday by the chair of the British Medical Association Council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who said it is vital that the UK Government acts according to the data and takes a measured approach.
"Removing effective infection control measures like mask wearing on public transport and indoor crowded spaces will inevitably increase transmission and place the public in greater risk, especially for those who are vulnerable.
"These are very very significant words of warning and they are words that are taken seriously by the Scottish Government.”