Scotland should break lockdown lockstep with UK if it will save lives – Laura Waddell

If the UK Government ends the Covid lockdown’s restrictions too early, Scotland should not blindly follow, given Britain has been marched to the worst death toll in Europe, writes Laura Waddell
Iain Duncan Smith, wearing a hat with Conservative colleagues, has called for the lockdown to be unlocked (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)Iain Duncan Smith, wearing a hat with Conservative colleagues, has called for the lockdown to be unlocked (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Iain Duncan Smith, wearing a hat with Conservative colleagues, has called for the lockdown to be unlocked (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

It makes it very difficult for opinion column writers when someone like Iain Duncan Smith says, during a pandemic which has claimed 30,000 lives in the UK, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. He was quoting late American President Franklin Roosevelt as part of an argument for ending lockdown, in an article in the Telegraph earlier this week. It’s difficult because the role we play is to fill a page with perspective and analysis. Of the thousand words I have at my disposal here, “idiot” is only one word, and even at that, one letter longer than the word that first came to mind.

But of course, it’s not just stupidity, is it? Tory valorisation of the economy above the well-being of citizens is baked into their DNA from filling to crust, stubbornly frozen in the centre. It’s a cliche, sure, but one born of death statistics filed under in the drawer marked Work and Pensions, and the experiences of ordinary people so often drowned out by jingoistic waffle. Cruelty doesn’t have to be over-intellectualised to get the full, blunt measure of it, and call it what it is. Money put before people.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sending ordinary working people back to work too soon makes them fodder for an economy in which they are always at the bottom of the pyramid, no matter what state it is in. The recovery process will be hard no matter when things reopen.

I, like many others, have seen a hit to income. By rushing everything open again before the curve is firmly on the downturn, how many needless deaths will there be in service to industry and retail? In the eyes of those like Duncan Smith, the country’s economy doesn’t exist to serve the people, so much as it burns them up like fuel.

Read More
2,795 Covid-19 linked deaths in Scotland, as number dying from virus falls week-...

Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories are doing their bit for queen and country (whatever it is they imagine the UK to stand for) with the alliterative phrase “leave lockdown in lockstep”, demanding that Scotland be dragged along with the UK Government’s plans, no matter how rash they may be.

We are beginning to see teased, from behind the Telegraph paywall, a champing at the bit to get things going again.

A matter of life and death

It’s the most action that Alister Jack, the reticent Secretary of State for Scotland, has seen in his post so far. Someone was very pleased with themselves when they came up with the slogan, with its vaguely military whiff of boots and leather. So far UK strategy has marched its citizens to the worst death toll in Europe. But hup, hup, say the Scottish Tories. Get in file. Nothing for them is worse than the prospect of Scotland going its own way. That is the front they are fighting, and it always will be their first priority.

So why would Scotland adopt its own path, differing from the UK? Because if scientific information available to the Scottish Government suggests caution, Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear that is what Scotland will do. It would be a dereliction of duty to risk public health purely for the optics of a ‘united kingdom’. Yes, there will be some blurred lines around the Border, but with limited public movement throughout Scotland its impact should be limited.

Why, then, is pressure being put on Scotland to fall in line with the UK Government, not least by sell-out Scottish Tories who’d pack their own coughing granny off to the mill? Shouldn’t the UK Government “lockstep” with a more cautious approach should it predict fewer deaths? This divergence is where criticism should be focused. If the UK does see two separate lockdown wind-downs, where citizens happen to sit on the map may indeed be a matter of life and death.

Broadcast interview questions getting at the political difference, endlessly echoing the separatism angle with a nudge nudge, wink wink, completely miss the mark. They are a product of a kind of political analysis too fixated on the interior machinations of political office, with all its leaks and anonymous sources, which treats politicians like battling rappers.

‘Herd immunity’

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After the first Covid Cobra meeting, a good number of journalists were openly apoplectic at Sturgeon addressing Scottish citizens before Boris Johnson spoke. What instead should be foregrounded at all times is the impact decisions have on the general public and Covid death numbers – and it should be the UK Government which is asked to justify any sooner ease of lockdown south of the Border.

The public are warming to a more cautious approach. A Survation poll shows three quarters of the public trust the Scottish Government’s handling of the Covid crisis, with the UK Government lagging behind at just over half. This is true not only of Scottish voters but UK wide, less convinced by the stiff-upper-lip approach, as exemplified by the recent discussion around whether we were at the peak of the virus yet, with UK Government messaging saying yes, and Scotland saying it was too soon to make promises.

Some perspective is granted by looking at New Zealand’s leader, Jacinda Ardern. The country, similar in population size to Scotland, was swift in its adoption of lockdown measures, with Ardern saying she wasn’t prepared to accept deaths of New Zealanders resulting from a “herd immunity” strategy, which Sir Patrick Vallance, chair of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), had floated in a radio interview mid-March.

So why would the Tories risk their organic demographic – older voters – by pushing for a hasty exit to lockdown? Surely that would come back to bite them?

Well, some are drawn to politics with the thought of doing good. Others are drawn by the allure of glamour that power holds. And for others, it’s a means to an end.

With so many private interests perched on the benches of Westminster, money and the rank in society that it buys is where interest accumulates. They make idiots of us all.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.