Government by edict only works for so long. Eventually, people start to question and become resistant to being told what to do.
I suspect many in Scotland are close to that tipping point. There are so many anomalies, so little satisfactory explanation, so much suspicion of politicking that even edicts which are justified risk disrepute. That is dangerous.
Nicola Sturgeon informs us she has “probably answered more questions about Covid-19 than any other leader on the planet”. It is unlikely to occur to her that this might signify a problem rather than the solution.
Like any politican who has not done a lot else, Ms Sturgeon is an expert only in... well, politics. Unarguably, however, she has commandeered more broadcasting time than any politician, of nation large or small.
Her admirers put this ubiquity down to “leadership”. Others are more sceptical. Certainly,it has not been a great success in terms of outcomes while there is a difference between questions batted away and satisfactory answers provided.
In other countries, routine updates usually come from apolitical medics unaccompanied by a politician’s lengthy monologue. If there are policy initiatives, they are announced under scrutiny rather than by decree. That might usefully become the norm here too.
Pernicious rubbish about border
With a daily pulpit, there always has to be something to preach from it. Much of what we have heard over the weeks was geared to headlines which is the difference between a political briefing and a public health one. The broadcasters must surely recognise that distinction.
Whatever happened to the “elimination strategy” or the false claim that English cases were “five times more prevalent than in Scotland” leading to the pernicious rubbish fueled by Ms Sturgeon about closing the border? Such pronouncements carried – to put it mildly – political undertones under guise of public health briefings.
As elsewhere, we have an increase in the number of identified Covid-19 cases but I have no real idea of what that actually reflects. Let me give you an example. The son of Spanish friends was tested this week in advance of returning to school. He was positive but asymptomatic and this led to other cases, so far benign, being identified.
Like Ms Sturgeon, I am a lay person. But I guess that story illustrates that the number of identified cases is hugely influenced by the number of tests carried out. In Scotland, barely ten per cent of us have ever been tested so do we have any idea how many people are carrying, or have carried, the virus?
I would love to hear an authoritative answer to explain why there has been so little testing in Scotland and whether that demands remedying. But I want to hear it from an epidemioligist and not from Nicola Sturgeon whose vested interest is in confusing science, statistics and political defensiveness.
Public trust becoming a problem
Ms Sturgeon tweeted this week about the “utterly irresponsible” Midlothian house party with 300 attending. Nobody would disagree though the point has not been missed that other utterly irresponsible actions in Scotland’s Covid-19 saga remain uncensured and unapologised for.
Again, house parties are symptoms of government by edict which has not been thought through. Young people will find a way to party. Banning music in pubs and clubs pushes them into unregulated settings (where, as I heard one nightclub operator pointing out, they are more likely to consume drugs than alcohol).
Yet where is the compelling evidence to support banning music and television sound? I watched a commentary-free football match in a pub and if the decibel inspector had appeared, he would have shut the place down. In the absence of sound, people are more rather than less likely to shout.
Meanwhile, half Scotland’s beleaguered hospitality businesses report 30-40 per cent drops in custom since the unsound sound ban was introduced. From Greek tourism to Glasgow vs Aberdeen lockdown rules, too much of Scotland’s government by edict is failing to justify the necessary public trust.
We need more scrutiny and less decree with reasonable questions answered by people who are independent of politicians and their other agendas.
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