The Scotsman view: This is why Dominic Cummings has to go

True leadership is not simply a test of strength.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's senior aid Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home, as lockdown questions continue to bombard the GovernmentPrime Minister Boris Johnson's senior aid Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home, as lockdown questions continue to bombard the Government
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's senior aid Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home, as lockdown questions continue to bombard the Government

Nor, despite the importance of good judgement, is it all about getting each individual decision right.

At its most basic, good leadership is about moral authority.

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This is never more true than in a national crisis in which the lives of tens of thousands of citizens are on the line.

Questions have been asked, and will continue to be asked, about the timing of the lockdown both in Scotland and across the UK.

Everyone agrees though on the value of the lockdown which has saved countless lives.

The lockdown, a remarkable restriction on our normal everyday freedom, has been successful not because of police enforcement or the threat of fines.

It has been successful because the vast majority of us have been prepared to put our own personal interests to one side on the understanding that was necessary in order to serve a greater common good.

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That kind of consensus relies in large part on leadership that the rest of us can believe sincerely shares in that common cause.

The Scottish Government, like its Westminster counterpart, has made mistakes which ultimately contributed to this crisis and in its handling of the pandemic.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has maintained her moral authority, however, as her continuing high approval ratings in public opinion polls demonstrates, largely due to her cautious, safety first approach when so many lives are so clearly at risk.

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She initially stuck by Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood when she broke her own lockdown regulations.

The First Minister accepted that Dr Calderwood had to go when it became clear that her actions were undermining public confidence in the lockdown and therefore putting lives at risk.

The Prime Minister now finds himself in the same position.

When he developed coronavirus symptoms, his most trusted advisor ignored Government advice to stay at home and self-isolate, except in exceptional and life-threatening circumstances, to drive more than 250 miles from hi London home to be closer to relatives in Durham.

Dominic Cummings poor judgement, or otherwise, in this instance is not the issue. The issue is one of public trust.

Are we now all to understand that the rules apply to us only up to the point where our personal

judgement decides they should be completely discarded?

It is clear that, despite the protests of Cummings and several Cabinet Ministers, the Prime Minister’s chief advisor broke the lockdown rules.

Failing to recognise this leaves the impression that the rules are not that important, and, just as

damagingly at this time of collective togetherness, that there is one rule for the powerful and well-connected and another for everyone else.

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Cummings behaving like that is one thing. The Prime Minister accepting that is quite another.

That is why Johnson must bite the bullet and dismiss his most cherished ally.

To do otherwise appears to accept the widespread perception that the rules can be bent, but only for those closest to the seat of power.

The inevitable result is that the next time the Prime Minister asks us to follow his lead on an issue of national importance fewer will do so.

Every day that Cummings remains in post will raise questions about his boss’s judgement, but far more important than that, it will drain his moral authority.

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Joy Yates

Editorial Director