The lockdown restrictions imposed in Scotland and the rest of the UK have been quite similar. Similar and yet different.
One of the main differences is that Boris Johnson’s Government decided to begin the process of easing restrictions earlier than Nicola Sturgeon’s. Only time will tell which approach is better, but the ability of the Scottish Government to see how the public and virus react to the gradual re-opening south of the border means it has a chance to adjust its approach with a degree of hindsight. The UK Government dropped the slogan “Stay at home” and replaced it with “Stay alert” – even though its official advice says “it is still very important that people stay home”. This created a general impression for those not reading the small print that it was fine to go out.
The Scottish Government has sensibly kept “Stay at home” despite changing a considerable amount of the detail. Hopefully people will continue to know what is being asked of them but also be aware of exemptions that they can then investigate to work out if a particular trip is allowed.
The downside of the Scottish approach is that businesses may suffer more. And that makes it all the more important for different sectors of industry to receive the kind of detailed advice now being given to the public. Larger companies should be able to ensure effective social distancing and other infection control measures, but smaller ones are likely to need expert advice. The business community has taken a commendably sensible approach in this crisis but the last thing Scotland needs is for firms to remain in Covid mothballs when they could be getting back to work.
And we need everyone to help this process go as smoothly as possible. Cross-party co-operation should continue while business leaders and unions also need to work together to flag up problems when they occur and clear unnecessary roadblocks. Today will see some emotional reunions as families visit each other for the first time in weeks – as long as there are no more than eight people from two households, they stay outdoors and at least two metres apart, haven’t travelled more than five miles, don’t use public transport and don’t use the loo on visits. It’s that level of detail which could be vital for businesses as we seek to minimise the economic damage from this great crisis.