SCOTLAND’S public health minister has said social distancing went “out the window” at English football games as he expressed his worry over similar scenes in Scotland if fans were allowed back into stadiums.

Areas in lower tiers south of the border are allowing up to 4,000 fans into grounds to watch their teams but Joe FitzPatrick has said that, from footage he has seen, social distancing guidance was not being followed as games went on.

In Scotland, only areas in the lowest two protection levels are able to allow fans in and numbers are kept below 300.

The public health minister, who also holds the sports portfolio, told the Health and Sport Committee that compliance was good at the beginning of the unnamed London-based game he watched, but began to wane later.

“As the game became exciting, it doesn’t always happen, but when it does happen, it becomes really difficult of us all to be mindful of the rules,” he said.

“You saw social distancing going out the window on the clips that I saw.

“Lots of shouting, with aerosol generation, so we really need to be careful.”

Mr FitzPatrick said he would be “hugely worried” if he saw similar scenes in Scotland.

He added: “The trouble is that the virus is still out there and with prevalence at the level that it is in some parts of Scotland, we need to be careful … anything that we do that gives the virus the opportunity to pass between households and then for folks to take it back to their household could have the result of causing further community spread.”

“We have a route map which shows how we can get fans back – we need to get prevalence down to Level 1 areas as we’ve done in the Highlands, where now it’s possible to have 300 fans at Inverness, 300 fans at Ross County and hundreds of fans in Highland League clubs across the local authority area.”

The comments come as the Scottish Government announced a £55 million package of support for sports clubs last week, including £20 million in loans for the 12 sides in the Scottish Premiership and £10 million in grants for all other levels of the game, including women’s football.

Addressing the purpose of the funding, Mr FitzPatrick said: “That could be the difference between some of these clubs, which are so important to their communities, surviving and going under.

“My job as minister for sport is to do what I can to make sure no clubs go under.”