2007 - 2020

Happy Mondays

A terrible situation may be about to get far worse. The UK government has been guilty of criminal negligence in its mishandling of the crisis, now, for the sake of political expediency it is going to unleash chaos onto the streets under the language of “freedom”. The opportunity to pause and change some fundamentals about our society and our economy will be lost in a reversion to the rhetoric of Brexit. “Let’s get this virus done.” And in support the feeding frenzy of the English tabloids is now in full flow. Diverging from the principle that important announcements are made to parliament we are told that the statement from Boris Johnson on the route out of lockdown will be at 7pm on Sunday.

Populism as death cult. Nationalism in pandemic. Lager will flow.

Anglo-British exceptionalism and superiorism apparently has no limits at all. With a tentative centrist opposition leader in place and with the ability of the public to protest severely curtailed we are vulnerable to this extraordinary failure of leadership.

The risk of social chaos is real as the media becomes culpable in framing the lockdown experience as an affront to liberty, rather than a collective effort for public health. The Churchillian rhetoric about nurses and protecting the NHS is already being replaced by a more bellicose one about people on furlough being ‘addicts’ and a hint towards Austerity 2.0. If the communication is not clear the real risk is that social distancing and the lockdown just collapses into the dangerous fusion of misplaced celebration in communities experiencing high levels of fear and anxiety.

What should be quite clear is that it is Boris Johnson’s government taking a divergent approach. It is the exceptionalism of the Conservative government, not the Welsh or Scottish.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will make decisions based on protecting public health in Scotland. “I will not be pressured into lifting restrictions prematurely” adding “Decisions we take now are a matter of life & death.”

The Welsh Government also issued a statement saying: “The Prime Minister’s announcements this weekend will relate to England only. Any decisions to ease restrictions in Wales will be announced by the Welsh First Minister.”

 

It’s in these very difficult times that the full tragedy of having such a toadying and spineless Scottish Secretary as we do in Alister Jack is revealed. Writing in the Daily Mail Jack wrote only a few days ago:
“I believe that when Scotland is ready to emerge from lockdown we should do so in lockstep with the UK as a whole. There are strong, practical reasons why this should happen. It’s important, as Scotland’s two governments make such onerous, difficult demands on people to stay at home and to stay away from family and friends, that we speak with the same voice. If we can present a simple, clear, united message, it will be much more effective.”

Despite this weird messaging that the Union should somehow take precedence over public health, we are now told that in fact the First Minister is not being kept in the loop about communications from No 10. So the message is you must do as we do but follow us blindly. There is no “partnership of equals”.

Yet today the First Minister has announced: “The lockdown must be extended at this stage.”

Nicola Sturgeon has announced a three week extension of lockdown measures, saying “progress remains fragile” and any easing of restrictions would be “very risky”.

The First Minister has had to follow a difficult path, criticised for not diverging earlier from the rUK policies she now has an opportunity to act. The devolution of health and education make the handling of the coronavirus clearly within the remit of the Scottish Government, but this is not without its complexities and problems.

If the lockdown is not being enforced or observed in the same way across the border then this raises significant issues about how that can be managed.

It was only a few weeks ago that there was a flurry of articles crowing that the coronavirus would be the death of the independence movement. The assumption was always that poor little Scotland would have to be sheltered by the benign stability of the British state. Yet here we are in a position where the Scottish death rate is around half the UK figure, and the evidence is clear that if we had been able to take the sort of action that a small independent country like New Zealand had, we might have suffered even less. Far from the virus being the death of independence it is the final nail in the coffin of the Union. Whilst Nicola Sturgeon has been scrupulous (so0me would say complicit) in NOT making political capital out of the crisis, she now has no alternative but to take a different path and protect public health from the gross irresponsibility of the UK government.

When we come out of this catastrophe, people will remember the shocking behaviour of Boris Johnson. I hope that’s true on both sides of the border.

 

Comments (66)

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  1. Chris Connolly says:

    I suspect the “Happy Monday” that the press are expecting is going to be a lot less exciting than they imagine. I certainly hope so. I’m proud of the Scottish government for showing some independence (what a fine word that is) and backbone. There’ll always be gainsayers but as usual Nicola is taking a practical and pragmatic approach. We are being treated like the adults we are rather than as weans in the back of the car asking “Are we nearly there, yet?”

    1. Wul says:

      Agree Chris. “Happy Monday” may be a damp squib. Bozo will likely announce an extra 2 hours cycling allowance per day…Hurrah!

      V.E. Day eh? Bloomin’ marvellous innit? There’s always some Royal or WW 1, or WW2 event comes along to cheer us all up. Thank God we showed our superiority over the Germans.

      1. Stephen Sheach says:

        and debt to the soviet union

  2. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Spot on Mike. We came into this pandemic later than London, we have specific arrangements here to bear in mind. If a highly centralised country like France can differentiate between different parts of the country then we can.

  3. Nancy Blane says:

    Were never safe until wee get a vaccine boris Johnson and his millionaire government dont care about working class never have done what they did to the NHS and continue to do sent thousands to there death and continues to do so working class is fodder to them wee need lockdown to go on for at least many more months lie and deny is all they know keep telling us how well were doing the world is laughing at us rule Britannia what a joke

  4. Mike Heinemeier says:

    Money speaks louder than the voices of the dying. Big business, including the rag mags, just see people as units to be exploited to satisfy wealthy share holders.

  5. kate macleod says:

    Why is fully accepted by almost everyone in the UK that separate countries in the UK have less rights,powers and responsibilities than separate States in Australia, who close and open borders at will and run schools and hospitals, not asking the federal govt’s permission and openly disagreeing and following different policies when they see fit? this obviously can deliver a far better crisis response than bowing to centralized power invested in a fool .

    why is it accepted that your separate countries leaders are not part of a something like Australia’s National Cabinet, which includes State Premiers as national decision makers and recently included NZ’s PM to discuss opening the border with NZ in the future. Why is it not demanded?

    Also why is Australia virtually unmentionable while NZ is seen, although both have had equal success with the virus, with Australia’s lockdown not as severe?
    So far Australia has not had the carnage of its working class , people of colour and indigenous people, its medical and transport workers, that the US and UK and many countries have had. This was a deliberate outcome of governance and policy, owing a lot to State Premiers who would not just be told what to do by a PM who thought in March that he might go to the football with coronavirus just warming up but was dissuaded by virtually everyone . Australia also has a very risk averse public.

    Closing state to state borders for public health reasons in Australia has provoked no constitutional crisis. Normalize closing borders in Scotland when needed and it will help build regional self confidence and identity. I know there must be many people in Scotland who would love nothing more than a closed border with England. Show its no big deal.

    1. Wul says:

      “Why is fully accepted by almost everyone in the UK that separate countries in the UK have less rights,powers and responsibilities than separate States in Australia,…”

      Because if the Fuzzy Wuzzys ( in this case Scots) find out that they CAN actually run things, they will know that the don’t need Mummy Brittania any more. And that will not do.

      It worked in the Empire (for a long time anyway), so it will work at home too.

    2. Morag Williams says:

      Correct!

  6. Bill says:

    How convenient for Boris to announce the end of lockdown on the back of the wave of emotion from the 75th anniversary of VE day. The nation drowning in a wave of nostalgia, singing collectively ‘We’ll meet again’ and together at last.

    Remember – the Tories were the government before the war that ignored the rise of Hitler and the nazis and failed to prepare for the inevitable war over which they had been warned.

    Remember – the Tories had been in government for ten years prior to the pandemic, had ignored the research that showed we were ill prepared to face an epidemic and had consistently run down the NHS and the Public Health Service. They were willing to contemplate millions of deaths in order to achieve ‘herd immunity’ and their focus was more on Brexit than any wish to save lives. Of course they initially opposed the establishment of the NHS and in their current response to our needs have given massive contracts to the likes of SERCO to provide public health services. SERCO the company renowned for failing at all other services provided to the public sector.

    Aneurin Bevan said that he could not get the hate for the Tories out of his heart and that he thought that they were lower than vermin. I am quite clear now as to why he held that view. For the present lot I feel that they are not nearly that good. We need to remember as many were sacrificed to achieve VE day so many have been sacrificed in this pandemic by those of a similar ilk.

    A more radical approach by Scotland to the ‘Happy Monday’ may well be the first radical steps by the SNP to building a new economy and a new country separate from the English Monarchy and Westminster parliament. Nae Pasaran

    Bill

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Bill, yes, perhaps we should be remembering Churchill’s plan to kill millions of Germans (and others, unavoidably) with a biological weapon tested in Scotland. What was the name of the Operation?
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Vegetarian
      Maybe we should be finding out what did and does go at Porton Down. What anniversary of an anthrax-all-clear-in-Europe-day might we be celebrating this year? Nearer thirty than 75, perhaps.

  7. Stroller says:

    C19 death tolls in comparable European countries:

    Switzerland: 1,808.
    Portugal: 1,105
    Ireland: 1,375
    Austria: 609
    Romania: 881
    Denmark: 506
    Norway: 206
    Czech Republic: 263
    Finland: 255
    Greece: 147
    Sweden: 3040 (without lockdown)

    Scotland: 2795 (in week 7 of lockdown)

    Can someone in the Bute House explain why this crisis has been so disastrously handled by the very people paid to protect the Scottish public, that is, the Scottish government?

    1. Chris Connolly says:

      I can’t explain those figures but I think it might well turn out that the number of deaths in other countries have been seriously under-reported. All the other countries in your list, by the way, are independent and don’t have another government with power over the size of their budget or their laws. Apart from the EU, obviously.

      Can you tell us what you would have had the Government do differently? Where do you think they have gone wrong?

      1. Stroller says:

        Oh yeah, here we go with the English superiority complex. We shouldn’t trust the figures of other countries. It doesn’t matter that they outperform us in GDP per capita (Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and Finland) or life expectancy and health (basically all the other countries named). We collect data better than the above mentioned countries supposedly.

        Evidence? None whatsoever. Who needs it when we’re indulging in a centuries’ old prejudice? It’s just the same English superiority complex which got us into Brexit and is the ruination of this island. I think we can be sure: they know how to count dead people all over Europe. I think that doctors all over Europe are every bit as good as our doctors.

        What should we have done earlier? Locked down earlier and much harder and for a shorter period of time. The Czech Republic locked down before anyone had died, as did some of the other named countries. The UK locked down at 350 deaths. The Scottish Gov went along with a mitigation strategy instead of an eradication strategy. Health is a devolved power. It looks like a big mistake now.

        Still, even allowing for mitigation over eradication, such as the Swedish govt has done, then you have to start the campaign much earlier and spend a lot of money on it. You can’t have a complete arse of a Prime Minister shaking hands with C19 patients…What a total arse…

        But just wait for it, wait for business and individuals to start scrutinising some of the very bad decisions taken at the highest level of power in these isles over the last few months, and watch them come and sue government for criminal negligence…

        1. Chris Connolly says:

          That seems to me to a blistering criticism of the UK government rather than the Scottish one. Certainly the UK government has a lot to answer for; I wouldn’t argue with that.

          Why are you accusing me of English arrogance, by the way? Last time I went into town Stranraer was in Scotland. I have no allegiance to England or the UK whatever.

      2. Jo says:

        Chris

        One thing is clear no matter which part of the UK we talk about. The elderly in Care Homes were left high and dry and that’s scandalous. They were sitting ducks. Many paid with their lives needlessly.

        1. Chris Connolly says:

          That’s certainly true, Jo. It needs some explaining, to be sure.

          I have no way of knowing how well folk in care homes were protected in the other countries on Stroller’s list or whether they are included in the figures that have come out of those countries. As I said above, I’d not be surprised if many countries, and m including the UK, have put out statistics that are actually artificially low. I guess we’ll find out bye & bye.

          In mitigation I do think that Scotland has a burden that Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland, Finland et al do not, in that we have a national parliament that is itself subject to another parliament. I’d like to think that a free Scotland would have performed as well as those other countries. We’ll never know till we are independent and something like this happens again.

          Thinking back to mid-March, the Scottish government was defending not closing schools on the grounds that the children would get together out of school and play together any way even if they weren’t in the classroom together. The same weekend that I heard that on the wireless a few football matches were played and the advice we were given was to wash our hands thoroughly and maintain a distance of 6 feet. In retrospect that was too little and too late but it seemed reasonable at the time.

          I’m sure Stroller can tell us the dates on which lockdowns were introduced in the countries on his list and that will give us a good idea of how far behind we were in comparison.

          1. Chris Connolly says:

            No need to wait. I looked them up myself and the dates on which full lockdowns (most countries had local or partial ones previously) were imposed were:

            Switzerland 13 March
            Portugal 19 March
            Ireland 27 March
            Austria 16 March
            Romania 23 March
            Denmark 19 March
            Norway no full lockdown
            Czech 16 March
            Finland no full lockdown
            Greece 23 March
            Sweden no lockdown at all
            Scotland 23 March
            UK 23 March

            So we were behind some and in front of others. Why Ireland, Norway and Finland have had fewer deaths I can’t say. In addition to Sweden, where the policy of no lockdown seems to have led to catastrophe, there have also been no full lockdowns in Iceland, Latvia and Hungary, the latter of which is a fascist country that can’t be trusted to tell us how many people have died in care homes or hospitals because the government probably can’t be bothered to count them.

          2. Jo says:

            Chris

            Thanks for the response and for the stats in your later post.

            Had to laugh at news earlier saying “Number 10” warning people not to believe newspaper reports about easing of lockdown. Maybe they should speak to Johnson. He kicked this off yesterday in the Commons!

          3. Stroller says:

            The date of the lockdown is of itself an irrelevance, Connolly. What is decisive is the relation between cases/deaths and lockdown date in any country.

            Spain locked down at I think 10 deaths. The UK locked down with over 300 fatalities. We could be watching repeats of Scottish football matches till August I suspect…

            Still, we’ve got Victory in Europe day to celebrate on Monday. There’s always that. Get your bunting out and unfurl your union jacks, and be sure to wear a knotted handkerchief on your head when the big day comes. It’s going to be a bleeding scorcher…

          4. Chris Connolly says:

            Wind your neck in, Stroller. I don’t know what your problem is with me – I don’t think we’ve ever communicated before – but I am not a Brexiteer, I do not espouse British or English superiority. Just pack it in, please.

          5. Chris Connolly says:

            On 17 March the EU Observer reported:

            “Spain’s streets have turned eerily empty since the government declared the state of emergency and imposed a nationwide lockdown for two weeks – aiming to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

            However, the Spanish minister for transport, José Luis Ábalos, warned on Monday (16 March) that the lockdown will “last more than 15 days” since this period would not alone be enough for the country to “win the battle” against the coronavirus.

            As of Monday, 7,988 cases of Covid-19 and 294 deaths were registered in Spain, the second-most affected country in Europe after Italy – overtaking the larger nations of France and Germany.”

            National lockdown was imposed on 14 March. That’s definitely not when there had been only 10 deaths. The fact that the minister expected the lockdown to last for weeks rather than months is an indication that the Spanish government underestimated the severity of the outbreak.

            In Italy all non-essential travel was banned 20 days after the first case was reported. In France the first case was reported on 28 January and the first death on 14 February, Mandatory staying at home began on 17 March. The first case in Scotland was reported on 1 March and the first death on 13 March. Lockdown began 10 days later.

            If people are going to shout their mouths off in public it’s always a good idea to be sure of the facts first. An apology from Stroller would be appropriate but I’ll not be holding my breath.

            For a free Scotland!

    2. john burrows says:

      Probably because Scotland has been an extended care facility for rUK pensioners for over a decade now. The vast majority of inward migration to this land are pensioners from the rUK. A half a million of them over the past ten years. All fleeing the murderous ideology of Tories and their factors.

      Killing weak pensioners has been Westminster policy since 2010. I imagine they’re quite sanguine about killing off “useless mouths” via covid-19. A baffling strategy given they are their most loyal voters. But then, they will probably sell you the rope you hang them with. They don’t do reason.

      Of course the madness of a “Four Nations” strategy as advocated by unionist nutcases probably goes a long way to explain Ms Sturgeon’s kowtowing to Westminster. If she did diverge, the union press would be wetting itself screaming its head off that she was putting independence ahead of health care. An odd position to take considering Ms Sturgeon does little to actively pursue independence.

      I do feel for the lady at times. In all respects, unionists will damn her whatever choices she makes. It’s in their nature. Hypocracy is their creed.

  8. The Over Extended Phenotype says:

    The Guardian 6.5.20
    Up to 6.3 million people are predicted to develop TB between now 2025 and up to 1.4 million more people are expected to die as cases go undiagnosed and untreated during lockdown.
    Lucia Dittiu of Stop TB Partnership – ‘ I have to say we look from the TB community in a sort of puzzled way because TB has been around for thousands of years. For 100 years we have had a vaccine and we have 2 or 3 potential vaccines in the pipeline. We need around half a billion people to get the vaccine by 2027 and we look in amazement on a disease that is….120 days old and it has 100 vaccines in the pipeline. So I think this world, sorry for my French, is really fucked up.’

  9. Richard Bruce says:

    Agree entirely with this.

  10. Roger GOUGH says:

    No doubt if the EU had said, “Jump!” you would have done so. You educated, well fed types have no worries except that of feeling “safe”. Well done. Your quinao supplies are on their way. I and many millions of others would like nothing more for you to stay locked down for as long as possible. You have very short memories. Brexit was going to cause famine! Madness! We’re doing OK in a lockdown more severe than was promised by any remainer. I wonder how the cure for the common cold is coming along. Appearing before that for Covid probably.

    1. Black Rab says:

      Stay aff the drink Roger it’ll dae y good.

      1. Roger GOUGH says:

        One thing we agree on Rab. And as an interested consumer, are you able to explain why it was felt necessary to rebrand Black Grouse whisky? I’m also rather perplexed at how willingly and uniformly correspondents here are prepared to accept “official figures” issued by Whitehall in any context. Jeez, I like to think that even we numpties in the cloudy lowlands have sussed that they might not always (ever?) be correct. The admission that discrepancies could be attributable to “different skill sets used in data retrieval” ie counting on fingers, might be a warning sign.

    2. Wul says:

      You’re still (effectively) in the EU Roger. “Transition” ends 31st December. 2020. The Brexit fan and keech have yet to collide.

      Get your street party and bunting organised for Spring 2021. Your “sunny uplands” await.

  11. w.b. robertson says:

    the death statistics supplied by Stroller should make everyone have serious thoughts about Scotland`s “performance”. The plague figures for overcrowded London were predictable. But huge tracts of Scotland contain miles of eff-all and few punters. Yet we even have deaths in the islands and on Skye! I would like to ask why?

    1. Wul says:

      Same reason we have the highest heart attack, drug death, stroke, obesity rates in Europe?

      Scottish mortality has long topped the charts in Europe. We are not a well country.

  12. Nick Kempe says:

    I have no time at all for Boris Johnson but there never should have been such stringent restrictions on people going outdoors, its had terrible health consequences, and all the UK government seems to be announcing is that they cease to treat someone sitting in the sun in a Park as committing a criminal offence. If you don’t believe this is risk free, here is extract from the minute (https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-government-covid-19-advisory-group-minutes-4-may-2020/) of Scottish Government’s Advisory Group this week (the Scottish Government has refused to release the papers on which this advice is based):
    1. The Advisory Group discussed the evidence from SAGE regarding outdoor transmission and agreed that, as the risk seems to be significantly lower than indoors, and the evidence is clear for the benefits of spending time outside, considering existing guidance on exercising outdoors as part of the overall consideration of any change to existing restrictions is advisable.
    2. The group agreed that clear messaging would be very important to avoid confusion in the case of any change. In particular, the message must be clear that people must still maintain distance and that hand hygiene and cough / sneeze etiquette would be more important than ever.
    That conclusion should have been obvious from the start. Unfortunately, it appears that the Scottish Government has today ignored their own advice. The problem with controlling the virus is not people going outdoors, for either recreation or work, where Physical Distancing is not difficult, its in confined places such as Care Homes. The Scottish Government needs to distinguish where we really do need controls – schools, public transport, indoor workplaces are all very challenging areas, and where we don’t and then amend the Restriction Regulations accordingly. That should include the right to protest by gathering in groups outdoors as long as people are physically distancing.

    1. Wul says:

      I agree Nick. I have a 19yr old son at home and the closure of the countryside is having a massive negative impact on his normally exuberant nature.

      This time of year is usually full of camping & kayak trips to the Trossachs with his mates. Or day-long wandering in the Campsie’s. Or downhill biking at Carron Valley. It is a well-earned release from the grip of a dark Scottish winter. He had planned to walk the West Highland Way in May (best time to do it, dry, few midges) with his best friends. His sap should be rising and instead it’s had a stopper put in it. I can see long lasting negative effects from this banning of our “nature cure”.

  13. Fay Kennedy says:

    This tragedy that Scotland is going through is so devastating. I can’t imagine the grief that must be in the country. Who mentions this? It’s as if people are just numbers. Here in WA we have managed very well but it could have been even better if not for the smirker of a Prime Minister who believes in miracles. Our state Premiers have handled it much better than the Federal government all intent on managing their own political power.

  14. SleepingDog says:

    I don’t know the significance of the epidemic of Adeles, perhaps she is holding a scythe in her cropped right hand, but the cover-page lockstep on lockdown reminds me of those popular videos of metronome synchronization that sound like military marching over a bridge, just at the point where they hit the vibrational frequency and all fall down. We’re approaching another Boris Bridge, folks.

  15. Wul says:

    I distinctly remember Boris Johnston saying in late Feb/early March, “I don’t want to scare the markets further, by announcing a lockdown in London”. He was honest about his priorities, until the mood music changed.

    The reason we all have to “Protect the NHS” is because if the NHS melted down, it would expose the truth of it’s fragility, neglect and dismemberment at the hands of our current government. We would see clearly what they’ve done to it. That’s what’s been keeping Boris & chums awake at night. Not the deaths of our relatives in care homes.

    The sense of sweaty relief is palpable as Matt Hancock repeats the mantra that “demand never exceeded NHS capability”. Our NHS has had to be protected, just like the sickly geriatric that it is.

  16. Chris Connolly says:

    Just to be clear and to put some blatant misinformation to bed, on 22 March it was announced that lockdown in the UK would begin the following day.

    At that time there had been 10 reported deaths with Covid-19 in Scotland.

    It’s easy to be wise after the event but we don’t have to go back very far to discover things like this report in a newspaper on Sunday 22 March:

    “The death toll from coronavirus in Scotland could be ‘much worse’ than 2,000 if people fail to heed warnings to stay at home, a government expert has warned. National clinical director Jason Leitch was speaking after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said pubs that stay open during the Covid-19 outbreak are putting lives at risk. Ms Sturgeon said that while the ‘vast majority’ of bars, restaurants and cafes have complied with instructions from the Scottish Government to close, she had seen suggestions on social media that a ‘small minority might not be complying’. She insisted: ‘If that’s true, make no mistake… lives are at risk as a result. Please do the right thing now.’ Meanwhile, Professor Leitch told the Sunday Mail newspaper: ‘We really aren’t messing around with this now.

    ‘To protect individuals and society’s vulnerable, we need to make very drastic social distancing and isolation choices.’ The medical expert continued: ‘The Chief Scientific Adviser in England has said he thinks 20,000 deaths across the UK would be a good outcome. ‘In Scotland, that would be about 2,000, but the worst-case scenario is much worse than that. People need to take the advice they’re being given very seriously.’ Heeding advice not to go out unless necessary and to stay away from others could be ‘the difference between tens of thousands of deaths and the number of around 2,000’, he added. Prof Leitch stressed: ‘We’ve told the symptomatic and very vulnerable to stay at home. Then we told some other groups – those with diseases, those over 70 and those who are pregnant – to take very seriously the calls to reduce social contact. ‘For everyone else, they must socially distance themselves as much as possible – that means no pubs, no clubs, no birthday parties, no Mother’s Day family dinners. ‘It’s a horrible thing and none of us have done it lightly but it’s to protect the people that will get this virus because it’s a proper disease.’

    1. MBC says:

      The trouble was though that the airports remained fully operational. Even now there are still no checks or quarantine restrictions on passengers arriving at UK airports. Flights continued to arrive from Spanish and Italian cities.

      1. Stroller says:

        MBC

        I’m not sure if the lockdown in Spain and the UK are strictly comparable, I don’t know enough about the transmission of viruses. But in Spain no one was allowed out even for exercise, not even for a daily walk. People were allowed outside only to buy food essentials. For two weeks of the seven week total lockdown, all economic activity except essential services were halted. And the Spanish police have fined and jailed thousands during this time.

        Spain, by the way, still is in lockdown, the easing of restrictions there basically takes them to where we are now in the UK, ie, now people can exercise at designated times of the day.

        Spain locked down with 136 deaths as per the Spanish govt statistics: https://www.dsn.gob.es/es/actualidad/sala-prensa/coronavirus-covid-19-14-marzo-2020

        Britain locked down with approximately 359 deaths as far as I can see in the press.

        In any case, the interesting comparison is not Spain, it is the comparably sized countries to Scotland. As W.B Robertson says further up the page, big cities are always going to have higher rates , like London, Madrid and Barcelona, than rural Scotland. Even Glasgow is not as densely populated as those three cities.

        1. Me Bungo Pony says:

          Comparisons for deciding whether Scotland’s figures are good or bad must be limited to the UK. All the other countries mentioned are independent and have the full panoply of governmental powers at their disposal to combat the pandemic in a way that best suits them. Scotland does not have all these powers (especially borrowing and “quantative easing” – where would Rishi Sunak be without that?) so must be judged by how well it has done within the UK context alone. With the death rate well below that of the UK as a whole, despite Scotland’s figures being more inclusive and accurate, it seems to be doing pretty well …. relatively speaking.

          1. Stroller says:

            In terms of the economy you are right, but health is a devolved matter.
            The Scottish gov could have set out a different course of action.
            The Scottish govt could have put forward the case for erring on the side of caution and prudence in early to mid March.
            The Scottish govt could have locked down earlier in a nutshell, and at the very least they could have kicked up a fuss and drawn attention to Johnson’s disastrously casual and blase approach to the biggest national health crisis of our time.
            As Kate MacLeod says up the page here, and Andy Wightman writes in the National today, the obsession with “a four nation approach” is seriously flawed thinking.
            What, are we insane people?
            What is wrong with the mentality of the UK?
            We’re talking about people’s health, and we’re talking about their livelihood.
            If there are cities or towns which can ease off earlier than others, then they should do so.
            If there are towns or cities or whole regions which need to lock down again in the future, then clearly they should do so without shutting down the whole country.
            That is the way they are dealing with the situation in America, in Australia, in Spain, in Germany, and all over the world.
            Only in feudal, backward Britain does the whole political class see some virtue in “a four nation approach”.
            It’s just unbelievable…

          2. Chris Connolly says:

            Scunner

            The Scottish government DID set out a case for action and closed pubs and cafes when the death toll in Scotland was in single figures. Full lockdown was imposed 10 days after the first death, not 40 days as in Spain.

            Considering that some folk think the governments did err on the side of caution and that the media are sitting with their tongues hanging out and wagging their tails in anticipation of going back to normal already I don’t see how we could practically have imposed full lockdown before the rest of the UK did.

            As for “kicking up a fuss” what would have been the point of that? When did a Tory government in Westminster ever respond to Scotland making a fuss?

            Justified criticism is one thing but pointless nit-picking for the sake of an argument is a different matter.

          3. Me Bungo Pony says:

            You cannot dissociate the health and economic responses to the lockdown. If you’re going to send everyone home you have to ensure they are able to sustain themselves. Hence the massive borrowing Rishi Sunak announced to finance the income of those no longer able to work. It is how other independent countries have been able to sustain a lockdown without their citizens starving etc.

            Scotland does not have the borrowing capacity as a “regional” entity to finance such a necessary deal for its citizens so COULD NOT afford to announce a lockdown before the UK.

            Not to mention the political ramifications of a “regional government” unilaterally locking down a section of the sovereign territory of the UK. It would be tantamount to rebellion. And you can bet the Tories would have been doing all they could to ramp up that rhetoric.

            And that’s without mentioning the practicalities of it. How would the Scottish govt enforce such a lockdown when the Westminster govt and those of a unionist tendency refused to recognise it? The mass arrest of the unionist host in Scotland who would routinely ignore a unilateral lockdown is simply not sustainable. Apart from the practicalities of it, the political ramifications would be such that cries of rebellion would be even greater …. and likely acted on.

            Health being devolved has nothing to do with the imposition of a lockdown. It is a political and financial decision that requires either the powers of an independent country or the financial/political backing of the sovereign power. In this case, unfortunately, Westminster. Do you think the Tories would have been willing to put “English tax payers money” behind a unilateral Scottish lockdown? I find the prospect unlikely.

  17. Penny Cole says:

    Since Health, Education, Local Government, Social Care and Planning are devolved, the question does need to be asked, why did Scotland not have its own independent pandemic plan, with appropriate stock piles of PPE, a strategy for care homes, etc. It is not enough to simply say, the problem rests with the Westminster government. The problem is that austerity, plus the impact of neoliberal policies, and the concept that the market should operate even in the public sphere, have had a big impact here too, transforming Scotland into a neoliberal state. As the late Neil Davidson so brilliantly argued in many books and articles, neoliberalism is not simply an ideology or a set of policies, but rather an entire period in the development of capitalism. Scotland’s devolved government – indeed no government, whether national or regional, has been immune, although some have been more resistant than others. And for those who focus on countries that have “done better” like Germany, we need to ask, why did the EU not come to Italy’s aid, and has the pandemic not shown that the EU is also a kind of failed neoliberal state? Has the pandemic and the economic crisis (which has its roots in any case before the pandemic) truly put an end to the neoliberal market state (which under Blair finally replaced the former welfare state). And if so, what replaces it?

    1. John S Warren says:

      “why did Scotland not have its own independent pandemic plan”?

      A fair question, and it should be considered, but it requires context. Scotland is not independent, even if health is devolved. In the case of testing, Britain had lost its capacity to test: “Unlike Germany’s decentralised and at times unwieldy system, the UK chose to concentrate efforts in superlabs, in part to ensure reliability” (FT 3rd April). At the beginning of the crisis the UK had under 6k ventilators; Germany started with 25k. Our national PPE stock had been built up by 2009 for a pandemic. It was then allowed to decay over the next 10+ years: “financial data suggests £325m was wiped off the value of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) emergency stockpile, reducing it from £831m in 2013 under the Conservative-led coalition government to £506m by March last year” (Guardian, 12th April). A lot of the stock was out-of-date (some of it multiple times, 2012-20). It had to be retested before release; leading to shortages in supply and distribution to the frontline.

      The British Government was warned after the UK Exercise Cygnus, 2016 that Britain was no longer adequately prepared for a pandemic, which was being forecast by epidemiologists as a serious threat. Other epidemic reports to Government had also made the same point. The investment was not made. The advice was not taken. Britain was unprepared. Austerity destroyed Britain’s defences to a pandemic, at a British national level. Austerity over ten years completely dismantled the local organisation structures required, ran down stocks, and cut investment – in the key area of British Government responsibility – protecting the people.

      1. Stroller says:

        Good point, John, I remember reading the same article with the same explanation for our unpreparedness, but then again it only serves to beg the same question again – why on earth have the SNP not been spending the last few months going full throttle at the Tories and their lethal austerity? Why have they not been talking about the lack of kit, the lack of testing facilities, the lack of ventilators as the direct consequences of London rule and Tory austerity? Where we need urgency, all Isee is SNP complacency…

        After all the World Health Organization instructed countries to “test, test, test”. Yet the Scottish Gov and the British Gov both gave up on testing mid March and told people with symptoms to stay at home…most probably making a virtue out of a necessity, ie, that the “four nations” were incapable of testing on any significant scale after 40 years of Neo-Liberalism hollowing out our public services…

        While the Tory Govt must bear most of the responsibility for the biggest death toll in Europe – and still rising – the Scottish govt have been complicit in this fiasco.

        But what do you expect from a party whose Growth Commission was fronted by Andrew Wilson, an arch neo-liberal? Andrew Wilson and Boris Johnson have got everything in common I’m afraid…

        I am so sick to death of neo-liberalism I would rather not vote than vote for the SNP, who should not be allowed to wriggle off the hook in this case, even if that means we lose a pro indie majority. Far too many people have died for anything other than a rigorous and scrupulously honest assessment of what happened behind the scenes with the maximum political consequences for the actors involved…

        It would be disrespectful to those who have unnecessarily died to make any kind of excuses for party political reasons…

        1. John S Warren says:

          “why on earth have the SNP not been spending the last few months going full throttle at the Tories and their lethal austerity?”

          I cannot answer for them. Should I be so foolish as to hazard a speculation, and it is no more; I think it could be because they have the responsibility for managing the lockdown, and to achieve what they have managed to achieve in Scotland requires them to maximise support from anyone and everyone, across the whole spectrum, no matter their politics. I suspect they are trying to depoliticise everything they do and say as much as possible to retain the uniformity of the public’s support for a tough lockdown.

          Critics, including myself, do not have the same restrictions. Allow me to stress that my criticism of the British Government is not for the short-term failures of management over the last three or four months; but for the disastrous ten years of austerity and crisis planning blunders that placed Westminster in the position that it had no functioning levers to pull in the crisis, and lacked both the necessary infrastructure of material and organisation to manage the crisis effectively at the local, frontline level. Hence the short-term mistakes. Mistakes will be made in a crisis. As for Scotland, I take this as a demonstration that the relationship between Britain and Scotland requires, as a minimum more flexibility, devolution, or independence; remembering that even with independence, Scotland will still require close pandemic crisis coordination with rUK.

        2. Me Bungo Pony says:

          The Scottish govt has been doing all it can to depoliticise the pandemic. Moreover, it has wanted to be SEEN to be depoliticising it. It would do nobody any good to do so, least of all the unfortunate victims. You may believe ranting on at Westminster post pandemic onset would save lives, I don’t.

          The Scottish govt has sensibly seen the problems with the unilateral reaction you blithely claim they should have gone for and have gone with a more sustainable, pragmatic one instead. One that acknowledges the limitations put on it by being part of the UK while doing all it can to mitigate them.

          You have ranted on about the Scottish govt being complicit without ever putting forward a sensible scenario that would have allowed them to react differently with better outcomes. Perhaps you have such a magical solution up your sleeve, but I doubt it. Please enlighten us with it if you do.

          1. Jo says:

            MBP

            Nice to see you, hope you and yours are all well!

            Thanks for this and your earlier posts. Very helpful in this debate.

          2. Me Bungo Pony says:

            Thanks Jo. Keep safe.

          3. Stroller says:

            Yes, well the problem with politicians depoliticizing anything is that it means they are not doing their job to the best of their abilities probably. Politics is an adversarial line of work, like the legal profession, to depoliticize it is an error, almost always.

            And of course Nicola Sturgeon would have received a barracking for opting for an alternative strategy to London, but that is no reason not to do what you think is right for the people of Scotland. It’s a very tough job requiring great stamina and a very thick skin and, in any case, she receives a barracking all the time no matter what she does.

            You’re right the SNP could not have locked down the whole Scottish economy without backing from the Treasury, but they could have banned large gatherings earlier than they did, they could have sent home Scot Gov staff to work from there, they could have sent out a very different message much, much earlier and the examples of Spain and Italy were staring everybody in the face.

            Above all perhaps, they could have ramped up testing earlier. I mean, that was the policy prescribed by the World Health Organization after all… why would you not follow it?

            The truth is, I never got the slightest inkling that the Scot Gov was fundamentally in disagreement with London on the general strategy, though Sturgeon was more prudent than Johnson within that framework. But I never got the feeling Sturgeon had a plan B that, if only circumstances had allowed, she would have executed.

            Even today, the Scottish and British governments will say that, broadly speaking, things were done appropriately and correctly.

            This despite all the evidence from other countries with much lower mortality rates and the glaring and shocking statistic that the UK, the 5th biggest economy in the world, with a two or three week head start on the rest of Europe, has the highest Covid19 death toll in Europe and the second highest in the world…

            Governments have to take responsibility for a situation like this, by any measure of the standards of modern democracy, and that includes the SNP govt led by Nicola Sturgeon in due proportionality…

          4. John S Warren says:

            “Above all perhaps, they could have ramped up testing earlier.”

            What evidence is there that the capacity to test existed? I submit that it didn’t. It takes time to build a testing capacity at the national level, because it has been run down over the last ten years of austerity. The British Government has already acknowledged that the testing industry was run down in the UK. This means not just the operational aspects of testing, but the supplies and equipment. Michael Gove said this on 31st March to ITV: “One of the constraints on our capacity to increase testing overall is supply of the specific reagents, the specific chemicals, that are needed in order to make sure that tests are reliable.” Britain has been negligent at the national, industry level. There was no testing industry any more. We are recreating it from nothing.

            No doubt there is a need in retrospect for Scotland to see that it cannot rely on the UK for vital services (that is proved), but I am not entirely surprised that as long as Scotland is in the Union, it has been dependent on UK policy at the level of industrial capacity for chemical reagents and other essential services in testing; especially as there was a UK responsibility at the strategic, industrial level. Huge gaps in supply of this kind cannot be made good in a few weeks by setting general 200,000 targets. It requires planning, and planning failed catastrophically in the UK. This is fundamental.

          5. Stroller says:

            Hi John

            I agree that all the evidence points to government being incapable of carrying out mass testing. It was never an option. Would it have been implemented if there had been the capacity? Presumably, but why doesn’t someone say so? Surely, when we’re talking about the health of UK citizens, the very least we should expect from government is frankness and honesty, levelling with people.

            And if mass testing was never an option, all the more reason to be prudent with the lockdown timetable, and go in hard and early like they did over most of Europe. The Europeans were scratching their heads, not to say laughing at us in Britain, as government after European government went into lockdown while Johnson and his shambolic crew of hangers-on prattled on about “English liberties” and keeping the pubs open. That our First Minister did not kick up an almighty fuss at that juncture is a mystery to me, we’re talking people’s lives for goodness sake which under any scheme of thought takes precedence over some bogus English liberties which only an Oxbridge cretin like Johnson believes in.

            As for the SNP in general, they are showing signs of complacency all over the place, from the Calderwood fiasco, to Derek MacKay to the Salmond affair in which it is all too clear than one of the top Scottish civil servants who is still working for Sturgeon today abused her position of power to end Alex Salmond’s political career. This is the woman who introduced a party code of conduct with retroactive effect, which is the kind of thing dictatorships do…the Scottish gov, or those associated with it at the highest level, have faced Salmond twice in court, and on both occasions the Scot Govt has lost…

            You can think what you like about Salmond, but it’s a damning indictment on an SNP hierarchy who seem to have forgotten that the power the Scottish people have bestowed on them can very swiftly and suddenly be taken away… they are not paid salaries to settle old political scores out of the public purse.

          6. Me Bungo Pony says:

            Everyone’s entitled to their “feelings” but “feelings” are not facts. We will never know If the Scottish govt would have done things differently if we were an independent country in control of our own affairs …. because we are not yet an independent country. All “conclusions” are therefore “speculation” and that is always based on an individual’s personal bias.

            Having said that, I find the idea that Nicola Sturgeon has not taken responsibility for the actions of her govt in the current crisis quite astounding. She has always made clear she takes such responsibility very seriously, not to mention personally. Anyone who saw her emotional response to a rather crass question put to her by a Labour MSP last week could only conclude that people’s lives are her only concern here, with the thought that mistakes were made weighing heavily on her. That is to her credit. No one was an expert going into this crisis (even “experts” have not got every thing right on this issue), but given the limited role within the UK the Scottish govt has, I believe (“feelings” again) they have done remarkably well.

            They have been honest and transparent to a degree that makes the Tory govt look positively mendacious. In that respect, you could say they have “indirectly politicised” the crisis from a constitutional perspective. By being honest and open while concentrating on things that will hopefully see us through this thing with as low a death toll as possible, the Scottish govt has made the dithery, obfuscating, arbitrary target driven, evasive Tory govt look so bad it has seen the SNP’s popularity soar. And with it, the chances of an independent Scotland sooner rather than later …. in my opinion (yet more “feelings” 🙂 ).

          7. Me Bungo Pony says:

            And then you move the goalposts.

            It is becoming clear your target here is not the Scottish govt’s coronavirus response …. but the Scottish govt itself. Lose the coronavirus debate …. move on to the Salmond one.

            Then again, just as every one is entitled to their “feelings”, everyone is entitled to their “agenda to.

          8. John S Warren says:

            “That our First Minister did not kick up an almighty fuss at that juncture is a mystery to me”

            Forgive me, but the argument is now going round in circles. The points have been made above. It is very difficult, in the middle of a crisis of this scale simultaneously to ‘kick up a fuss’, depoliticise the management of the pandemic response, and act as if you are a fully independent actor, when clearly you are not. Such an approach as you propose, I submit would be both impulsive, counter-productive and a monumental disaster.

            In my opinion your argument wanders off into grim, unedifying details of political infighting in Scotland; that in our present predicament are frankly, neither here nor there. Your case shows no sense of setting the necessary critical priorities we need right now. I confess I am surprised at the ease with which people are deflected from the critical and difficult issues of crisis planning and preparedness , combined with the lethal effects of austerity, which have brought us here, and maintain a firm focus of attention where it matters; the complete failure of crisis planning and preparedness at UK level: simply in order to indulge in that favourite Scottish past-time of righteous political point-scoring, finger pointing, and the joys of in-fighting. I consider it all a complete waste of time, and do not intend to waste any time on it. I have now written two articles in Bella Caledonia on the COVID-19 crisis in the last week, and on this thread added various comments, because I think them important. These are the only serious issues that matter at this key juncture, in my opinion.

            But go ahead, continue the in-fighting. Boris Johnson will be delighted because it means nobody is focusing on his catastrophic Government’s disastrous performance. Some of us need to direct attention there, because for reasons I have conjectured, I do not believe the Scottish Government can do so, or that it would prove judicious, if they seriously intend to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.

            I have nothing to add to this; I rest my case.

          9. Stroller says:

            I do not have any particular loyalties to any of the personalities involved, and I do not belong to the SNP or any of its factions. In fact, I have only recently moved back to Scotland and like to think I am a fairly impartial observer.

            For what it’s worth in terms of “feelings” – though perception would be a more accurate word at least in my own case – I am very surprised that any political party in Scotland, or any other democratic society, would do something like change an internal code of conduct and apply it with retroactive effect to its members.

            That is something which is simply not in accordance with democratic society under the rule of law. It would have been thrown out of court in any democratic country in the world.

            It is inadmissible that the party seeking to lead Scotland into a democratic independent future would choose such a reckless and kamikaze course of action…and that’s where the whole Salmond affair started.

            It is far too important a matter to just brush under the carpet… it is democratically wrong, ethically wrong, legally without foundation and politically disastrous as we have seen.

            The SNP hierarchy created the Salmond affair, and let nobody forget that…

          10. Chris Connolly says:

            Ah, so we got there at last. Who would have thought that the stinging criticism of the Scottish government should come from an anti-Nicola conspiracy theorist who believes she set up Alex to be prosecuted? You could knock me down with a feather.

            No-one has yet told us why a government and First Minister who are streets ahead in all opinion polls would wish to divert itself by making up stories about Alex. Even his own QC acknowledged that his behaviour has been less than exemplary but it’s “the SNP hierarchy created the Salmond affair.” Aye, son, Alex had nocht tae dae wi it hissel!

            Does this mean every article written by the lads & lassies at Bella, and every discussion, is going to be hi-jacked by an Alex supporter looking for an excuse to throw mud at the First Minister? I fear so. It’s going to be pretty boring for the rest of us.

          11. Stroller says:

            Are you suggesting that Salmond is guilty Connolly? Because if you are, that may be actionable given he has been cleared of any criminal behaviour by a jury, the majority of whom were women.

            You either respect the rule of law or you do not, it is a binary question, you cannot pick and choose. People who think they can cut legal corners for political gain discredit the cause of Scottish independence, a cause by the way, which existed long before the current party hierarchy were around and which they mistakenly seem to think they own in exclusive copyright. No one person is bigger or more important than the case of Scottish independence…

          12. Chris Connolly says:

            Don’t call me by my surname.

            If it’s actionable to call you rude & stupid then go ahead and take me to the cleaners. Till then, either tell us why you are so hateful towards me or get off my back.

            Any reasonable contributors who might be unlucky enough to catch the tail end of this thread will be aware that I did not say and am not saying that Alex Salmond was guilty, either of the offences that brought in “not guilty” verdicts or the attempted rape that charge that was “not proven.” Let’s put that one to bed straight away.

            I don’t come here to be insulted.

          13. Me Bungo Pony says:

            Hijacked by an “Alex supporter” …. or an “agent provocateur” keen to push any pro-indy thread onto fertile ground for those wishing to portray a movement divided against itself? The Salmond case has noting to do with this thread. Don’t let Stroller draw you into making it so.

          14. Chris Connolly says:

            Good advice, my friend. Thank you.

  18. Stroller says:

    Bungo Pony, I am not a supporter of Salmond per se, I believe strongly in the rule of law. I am not sure you do.

    You believe in brand Nicola, one of the most successful marketing campaigns in recent British political history. Who is behind brand Nicola? Presumably some very powerful people, some of whom, shock horror, will be men. Have you ever wondered who the people behind Sturegon are?

    I do not have enough information to form an overall judgement on these salacious and scandalous events within the SNP. I am not in the party, I do not mix with people in the party, I do not hear the gossip.

    I am not a conspiracy theorists but nor am I fool enough to believe that some very powerful people do not want to see the back of Alex Salmond and that the SNP behaved in a way to him which was manifestly at odds with the letter and the law of democratic politics.

    None of it brings any credit on the cause of Scottish independence and as I said on another thread, I would be in favour of a new party, but not one led by Alex Salmond or the Rev Campbell and none of the mafia who seem to run the SNP.

    I am truly amazed so many people are taken in by the media manipulation around the Salmond affair. He was vindicated in court. Twice.

  19. Tim Hoy says:

    “Spineless, toady and writing in the daily mail” – Three good reasons why I think he’s completely unsuitable for office. Another great read Mike.

    I currently live in Wales – 100 miles away from the border with England. I’m very grateful for that. Nicola Sturgeon, like every politician I have ever encountered, is not without her flaws and foibles, but she’s head and shoulders (knees and toes) above the incumbents in Westminster. Her leadership has been so very obvious, whilst the Number 10 condom dodger mumbles and lies on incoherently about policy.

    The mainstream media is as ever making matters worse and has probably commented more on Sturgeon’s dress code or twisted something valid she’d said into accusations of treachery than actually reported anything noteworthy. Since lockdown Bella Caledonia has become my primary source of debate on these matters (not that I ever bought the Mail or Murdoch’s bile). I just had to delete the last paragraph I was writing as I felt it would have fallen into the aforementioned category of “toady” but sincerely – thanks. Writing as good as this gives me hope that maybe the prevailing culture of misinformation and spin might eventually be overcome.

  20. Chris Connolly says:

    Well. Monday’s here and nothing has changed for us here in Scotland, while in England BJ has managed to annoy just about everyone by making silly tweaks to the lockdown which have enraged those worried about the R rating and also disappointed the Happy Monday papers whose premature celebrations led to the original article.

    Numpties, freaks and conspiracy theorists will be disappointed to see that the Scottish government has not gone along with Boris Johnson’s plans but it’s good news for the rest of us. The poor English will now, almost certainly, become infected with and die from Covid-19 at a greater rate than will be the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and all because BJ allows his spin doctors to dictate his actions.

    I really enjoyed seeing the FM use the words “I make no apology…” on the BBC yestreen. We don’t need Laura K to interpret, analyse or dissect her comments, answers and speeches because NS uses real words rather than hints and fudges. What “no apology” means, and she managed to say this politely and reasonably, is that if there are people in Scotland who don’t agree with our lockdown policy they can take a running jump. Quite right too, in my opinion.

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