Get experimental over Covid-19 crisis – Letters
In any functioning democracy, the revelation that 2,000 deaths were caused by inaction at the top would see ministers getting the chop and the whole government experiencing that ‘timber’ sensation.
The dogs in the street knew back in January that something serious was afoot in China. Our political class wasn’t stirred by those known risks; they displayed all the situational awareness of Gulliver as he lay tied up on Lilliput beach.
When we should have been locking down the only warning sign raised by Nicola Sturgeon’s sleepy government was ‘Do Not Disturb’.
Not for Scotland the more enlightened approaches taken by small nations like Denmark and New Zealand, who did the groundwork, took testing seriously and had their data analytics in order.
The lessons from successful countries aren’t directly applicable to our sorry circumstances. Before claiming to ‘follow the science’ we should actually do some by experimenting. The smart way towards opening up our economy again safely is by taking small, calculated risks.
Want to know the impact of opening a secondary/primary school? Open them in just one Scottish city. Want to know if public transport is safe? Make it free in another. Want to understand the impact that masks really have? Provide a million to the people of Inverclyde.
Instead of guessing with junk models we should be testing in the spirit of scurvy treatment pioneer Dr James Lind. Scotland should be conducting clinical trials en masse, with different areas trying different approaches. Each trial should be undertaken with comprehensive testing to measure outcomes and provide circuit breaks. The collective knowledge gained should then direct the Scotland wide policy.
Rather than follow in the footsteps of Boris Johnson, Scotland should be trying to get ahead of the virus. Simply shouting ‘Stay at home’, after 50 long days, is just convenient cover for those who failed to speak up early enough. The confidence to advance under fire from this virus needs a leader with an appreciation of risk management and a clear sense of direction.
Prestonpans, East Lothian
Edinburgh is the birthplace of the Enlightenment, where David Hume taught us that human actions should be governed by reason, not by fear imposed by human institutions, be they religious or governmental.
Based on a thorough review of the empirical evidence it has been clear for a considerable time that the Covid-19 virus poses a minimal risk to the young and healthy, while for those with compromised immune systems the virus is extremely dangerous.
Health policy from the start should have been to concentrate resources on shielding the vulnerable section of the community from the virus, while allowing immunity to build up in the remaining population which is at very low risk.
Once immunity had developed and the epidemic had subsided, free intercourse between vulnerable and non-vulnerable sections of society could have resumed.
Instead, irrational fear, generated by deeply flawed scientific advice from Sage, and reinforced by a press unable either to understand or place in context the concept of risk, has led to the imposition of a draconian lockdown out of all proportion to the threat.
This has removed our fundamental freedoms, ruined innumerable livelihoods and paradoxically denied life- saving medical treatment for those not suffering from Covid-19. Having stifled the epidemic at immense economic cost, the Scottish Government has no coherent exit plan and instead of consulting established public health epidemiologists are asking what the general public would like to do next, and either denying or granting their wishes.
The situation is reminiscent of petitioners seeking indulgences from the Pope. Looking at the situation from beyond the grave, David Hume must despair that we have thrown away his precious inheritance.
(Prof) Richard Ennos
Old Farm Place, Edinburgh
Boris Johnson’s modifications to the lockdown have been rightly criticised, in particular his failure to set out guidance on the safe return to work of employees.
I fail to comprehend, however, the feeding frenzy of detractors in relation to the slogan ‘Stay alert’. Is it really so hard to understand?
Nicola Sturgeon prefers to stick with the slogan ‘Stay at home’. She took the trouble to spell out its meaning for us: ‘Stay at home full stop’. Well, unless you need to go out for medicine or to the shops, then don’t stay at home. Or perhaps you need to not stay at home because you do ‘essential’ work – such as serving in a DIY store. Or maybe you fancy nipping out for a stroll or a run – as many times a day as you like from now on. This doesn’t even sound like ‘Stay at home semi-colon’!
Clearly the ‘Stay at home’ slogan will have to be sidelined at some point in Scotland as the number of exceptions render it more and more meaningless. The SNP are pretty adept at this sort of thing, so it will be interesting to see their suggestion for a meaningful new one.
How about: ‘Continue to stay vigilant in relation to the rules about social distancing, washing your hands, maybe wearing a face mask etc’? Catchy. Or how about: ‘Stay alert’.
Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh
Keep it simple
Across Europe, if not the world, many countries have announced a relaxation of their lockdown rules aimed at controlling the virus.
Is the UK alone in playing silly political games with this, as other nations seem to be able to understand rule changes every bit as complex as our simple ones?
Our politicians are deliberately stirring up confusion. We are not immune from such confusion in Scotland when we have a health minister unable to quote her own set of guidelines on care homes (now tactically withdrawn ‘in error’).
As a nation, can we not just have one simple message?
Liberton Drive, Edinburgh
There are now some signs that lockdown across the UK will be relaxed gradually. The Prime Minister has given indications of how the government sees this being implemented by sector and where possible in what timescale.
But it seems that in Scotland we have Nicola Sturgeon attempting to assert her authority by refusing to follow UK policy over the proposals made by Westminster for a staged return to normality by agreeing to permit activities such as exercise in parks and on beaches, phased opening of primary schools, the reopening of certain types of cafes and restaurants and the reopening of golf courses – as just a few examples.
This is all very well on Sturgeon’s part, but she must remember that huge financial support for Holyrood has come from the Exchequer in London.
To date there has been a £30 billion support package to steer scotland through the ‘outbreak’. Also, a sum of £640 million extra through the Barnett Formula. To date there is little evidence of what the Scottish Government has done with it, other than bank it.
But Nicola Sturgeon can rest assured that any further subsidisation will only apply provided she agrees to conform to the overall UK policies in such desperate times. There is no room for her maverick style in a crisis such as this. If she wishes to adopt different policies to the other parts of the UK, she must find the means of financing them.
This whole ghastly business of the overall effects of coronavirus in the UK has only gone to show how much the four nations rely on each other. They are indeed much ‘better together’.
Robert IG Scott
Northfield, Ceres, Fife
Ten out of ten
On being elected in 2016, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted we judge her on her record in education.
Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney makes that extremely difficult by delaying publication of the SNP administration’s report on its review of the education system until June 2021, a month after the next Holyrood election.
Ten out of ten for political expediency, nought out of ten for political transparency.
Woodcroft Road, Edinburgh
Not spot on
When watching the Football World Cup in the absence of anything (at all) to do on a very wet summer holiday in the north-west Highlands, I will admit that I didn’t know anyone on the field or any of the commentators, as I am a black hole of football knowledge.
One commentator – a Scot – was prone to uttering a mystifying phrase on a regular basis, namely ‘Spawn!’
I asked one of the family what on earth he was saying and, in the end, we managed to work out that he was saying, ‘Spot on!’
At the Battle of Waterloo, a Scots regimental commander uttered another incomprehensible expression before his head was sent for six by a French cannonball.
‘By Dand!” he cried and it remains, to this day the motto of whatever remains of the Gordon Highlanders. No one knows what, ‘By Dand!’ means, which is inconvenient, but probably, “Bide and...” something.
In what I thought was a clear instruction, I ordered a Tesco delivery last week which included a turnip. When the aforesaid turnip appeared, it was the size of a cricket-ball. We were so astonished, that we just fell about laughing. How was that to feed two healthy adults? Who eats turnips that size?
Apparently, a turnip in the south of England is minute. What we wanted is called a ‘swede’ and that is what we were supposed to order – in Edinburgh, mind – if we wanted a normal-sized vegetable for our meal.
Maybe Tesco could learn what things are called in Scotland? It’s called market research.
Morningside Road, Edinburgh
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