Well it’s been confirmed. The UK government’s policy of herd immunity originated with Dominic Cummings, the Rasputin of the Conservative Party. According to the Sunday Time’s political editor Tim Shipman, who is extremely well connected with the uppermost levels of the Tories, the herd immunity strategy was first proposed by Cummings during a private meeting in Number 10 at the end of February. Shipman quotes those present as saying that the policy was, “herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.”
We are living with a British government which, as we feared and expected, wanted to prioritise the protection of financial interests before protecting the people. Many of us feared that the Tories would see the deaths of thousands of people as merely so much collateral damage in the real campaign this government is fighting, the campaign to ensure that the Richard Bransons, the Philip Greens, and the Jacob Rees Moggs of this world don’t see a dent in their bank accounts. We now know that those fears were not groundless. The virus doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor, but the British government does. That would be those rich people who already have the resources, money, and space to save themselves.
A month ago, when the British government should have seen the writing on the covid virus wall and should have been laying the groundwork for the public health campaign to come, Number 10 hired a eugenicist – Andrew Sabisky. When Johnson said that there was a view that the UK should take it on the chin, he meant your chin and my chin, he meant your grandmother’s chin, the chin of your neighbour with COPD. He didn’t mean his own chin. He didn’t mean the chin of Jacob Rees Mogg’s financial interests.
This is the clearest evidence possible that Scotland desperately needs the ability to make its own choices and to have governments which are directly accountable to the people of Scotland. Right now there’s very little that Scotland can do to remove from power and influence a man who, as we now know, was prepared to oversee the deaths of untold numbers of people for ideological reasons. Well, I say “little”. What I really mean is bugger all. We are still hostages to half baked theories of Dominic Cummings, the non-scientist who in his arrogance thinks that he understands science better than actual scientists, and the bumbling mumbling arrogance of Boris Johnson. But hey, thank god we got rid of those unelected bureaucrats in Brussels eh eh.
The British government issued a statement today in which it denies Shipman’s report in the strongest terms. Equally anonymous sources within Number 10 are claiming that the Sunday Times report is defamatory and contains invented quotes, even though Shipman makes it clear that he’s paraphrasing certain conversations, presumably in order to protect the anonymity of his sources. The problem that the British government has is that we all saw and heard Boris Johnson talk about herd immunity. We all saw and heard the British government’s change of tack. We all see and hear the confusion and mixed messages coming from the British government and its intense reluctance to impose the kind of strategies which we see in other European nations, or even more so those in East Asia which have a proven effectiveness in preventing the spread of the infection.
It took weeks, during which the virus gained a foothold amongst the population, before the British government saw the error of Cummings’ ways. The herd immunity strategy has now been abandoned, but it may be too late. Untold thousands of people have been needlessly put at risk because a more sensible strategy was not adopted sooner. Yet the UK is still behind. This is a failure of government which is many many orders of magnitude greater than the who knew what and when gossiping about the Alex Salmond trial that consumes certain sections of Scottish politics. This isn’t just about reputations. This is about life and death.
We see how Scotland is regarded as a bolt hole for better off people to come and self isolate themselves for the duration of this crisis, without a care or a thought about their impact upon fragile local communities. The news that a property company was advertising expensive cottages on Skye, that 30 camper vans were turned away from a campsite near Fort William, or the feature article in the Daily Mail extolling the glorious isolation of Jura tell us all we need to know about Scotland’s role in the eyes of this so called United Kingdom. Scotland already has the greatest inequality in land ownership in Europe. Our land is hoarded by the rich like so much toilet paper. We’re a resource to be exploited for the benefit of people who know nothing about us and who care even less.
These developments have led to calls from some for the Scottish government to adopt the same measures adopted by certain other European nations, and to close the border to everyone except those who live here. Irrespective of whether that’s a good idea or not, the point is that the Scottish government doesn’t have the legal authority to do so. The Scottish government cannot prevent the English gutter press telling its readers to consider Scotland as a bolt holt. The Scottish government can’t prevent people driving over the border in camper vans, intent on sitting out the epidemic in a rural part of Scotland where the health service and local grocery shops are already overstretched. We are, whether we like it or not, subject to the overarching policies of the British government. The Scottish government could certainly do more, and I have no doubt that it will over the coming days and weeks, but it has limited freedom of action.
For the time being the priority is to stay at home, to shop responsibly, to wash your hands, to think about the needs of others. This storm will pass. This trial will end. These tribulations will calm down. And when they do, that is the time for debating what sort of country we want this to be. Do we want this to be a country which cares for its citizens equally and without favour, or a country which prioritises the interests of the wealthy. Do we want to remain under the control of a government in Westminster which we cannot hold to account, or does a major health crisis teach us that the need for accountable government is the only way in which democracy can be defended. Scotland can only be safe, can only be a place which prioritises the needs of its citizens over the greed of the rich, when it has the full powers of an independent state. Sadly, this is a lesson that we’re learning the hard way.
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