“I’d rather not be reading the front pages of the newspapers at midnight to learn what Boris Johnson is planning,” said Nicola Sturgeon during her daily press conference on Thursday as she announced that there will be no lifting of lockdown measures in Scotland for at least the next three weeks. The Scottish Government has not been informed about what the British Government might be considering with respect to loosening lockdown measures, which has been widely touted in the British media.
This has proven to be typical. The British Government didn’t keep the Scottish Government fully informed about Brexit, and it’s repeating the same arrogance with the coronavirus crisis. This isn’t accidental. It’s deliberate. Still feel that Scotland is a loved and respected partner in a union?
For the past few days the Scottish Tories have been tweeting about the need for Scotland to come out of lockdown at the exact same time and in the exact same way as the rest of the UK. It seems that they’re being used to prepare the ground for the British Government to resist any attempt from the Scottish Government to frame its policies in ways which might differ from what Boris Johnson wants. This suggests that they’ve been privy to information from the British Government that the British Government hasn’t passed on to the Scottish Government. If that’s true, then it means that the Conservatives have stooped to using this human crisis, these thousands of deaths, as a crude means of political point scoring. That’s beneath contempt.
British nationalists are furious that Nicola Sturgeon has preempted the announcement that Boris Johnson is expected to make sometime over the next few days that he plans to loosen some of the lockdown restrictions. The public mood in Scotland isn’t in favour of loosening restrictions. We’d rather be safe than go shopping. But that doesn’t prevent the howls of outrage from British nationalists determined to find something to feel victimised about.
I get it, British nationalists oh sorry you’re not nationalists at all because you’re British, you’re committed to the United Kingdom and to Scotland remaining a part of it. That’s a perfectly respectable political position to take, even if it’s not one that I agree with. But it ought to amaze and appal any rational person to see them demanding that Scotland dies in lockstep with England and risks a second peak in coronavirus infections because Boris Johnson has bowed to the pressure of the Daily Mail and the Telegraph and a British nationalist press that’s hailing “magic Monday” as the day we come out of lockdown. And all in order to prove the spurious point that we’re all in this together as one British family. That’s the action of a fanatic. If it were the other way around and it was the Scottish Government which was talking about coming out of lockdown while England remained in stricter measures, those same British nationalists would be the very first to scream from the rooftops about how Nicola Sturgeon was about to kill people in the name of separatism.
Yet despite the fact that the scientific advice given to the Scottish Government is that it’s far too early to come out of lockdown, if Boris Johnson chooses to do so then Scotland must follow like a lamb to the slaughter. It is true that the rate at which new cases and deaths are being recorded appears to be slowing slightly, but it’s early days. Too early to insist as Johnson as done that we’re over the peak. It’s as if we are in a vehicle which is rapidly descending a winding and dangerous mountain road in a thick fog. We’ve got the brakes on and have managed to slow our descent a little. If we continue to do so we can get to the bottom of the mountain safely. Boris Johnson seems to think that this means that we can take the brakes off now. Conservative demands that Scotland remains in lockstep with Boris Johnson is a demand that Scotland marches off a cliff.
It looks like this Conservative Government will end the lockdown in the way that it entered it – mistimed, mismanaged, catastrophic, and motivated primarily by political and economic considerations instead of considerations of public health. The death toll is still rising. The number of people being tested isn’t rising to anything like the promised levels, in fact over the past few days it’s fallen. Yet despite this Boris Johnson in his desperation to be the bearer of good news wants to announce an easing of lockdown, without it being scrutinised by Parliament and without it having the agreement of the devolved nations.
What justification does Boris Johnson have for easing the lockdown? Does his government have the virus under control? Has it successfully implemented mass testing and met the targets it set itself? Does it have a proven ability to trace and track? Is the much touted contact and trace app fully functional and all the bugs in the system ironed out? Does it have the ability to impose and enforce physical distancing in workplaces? Is there an adequate supply of PPE? The answer to all those questions is no. The UK still has a horrifyingly high rate of infections, a very low rate of testing, and almost no measures in place to trace those who have been in contact with infected people and advise them to go into quarantine.
The only justification that Johnson has for easing lockdown restrictions is that he’s being pressured to do so by the right wing Brexit cheerleading press, which is terrified that the economic impact of the virus will cause the UK to request the EU for an extension to the transitional period. That’s what this is about. It’s not about public health. It’s not about the greater good. Yet again it’s about British exceptionalism and bloody Brexit. Yet again it’s about putting money before people. It’s the British way.
Everyone agrees that we need to come out of lockdown as soon as possible. No one wants to remain shut up at home deprived of contact with friends and family, unable to work and to function. But it should only be done when it’s safe to do so and the reality is that the British Government has not put in place the necessary protective measures needed to allow the UK to come out of lockdown safely and without risking another spike in infections.
The BBC in Scotland and the British nationalist media in Scotland are most preoccupied that there could be confusion in Scotland if the Scottish Government’s guidelines differed from those of the British Government. Perhaps the BBC could have some sort of Scottish news on the television, allowing them to clearly explain the position to us? You know, like you might expect from a national broadcaster that demands that the public pay to support it. Perhaps the newspapers in Scotland could report what the Scottish Government was doing instead of using it as an opportunity to attack Thatessempee.
Throughout this crisis the British Government has led the UK into one disaster after another, which has led to the UK being the worst affected state in Europe. And now they are sowing confusion by coming out of the lockdown in the worst possible way, by leaking bits of information to selected press outlets instead of consulting with the devolved governments and basing their advice to the public on publicly accessible scientific information and in an co-ordinated way. It’s not the Scottish Government which is creating confusion here, it’s the British Government.
Every single government around the world has performed better than the British Government. Perhaps the British Government would do a whole lot better if it acted in lockstep with other governments which are performing better than it is rather than insisting that the Scottish Government replicates the errors of the Conservatives. It’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to say enough is enough, and to openly resist any attempt from Boris Johnson to come out of lockdown which is not based on publicly available scientific evidence. The UK is not a suicide pact.
And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…
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