Merits of difference and uniformity

It has become something of a mantra on policy-making in the pandemic that decisions must be driven by data rather than dates.

The aviation sector is calling for Scotland to be in line with England in allowing double vaccinated travellers to return from amber list destinations without the need to self-isolate.
The aviation sector is calling for Scotland to be in line with England in allowing double vaccinated travellers to return from amber list destinations without the need to self-isolate.

Recent data on Covid transmission has made for grim reading, with the World Health Organisation stating earlier this month that six of the worst places in Europe for coronavirus were in Scotland.

This statistic was no doubt at the forefront of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon s mind when she indicated heavily on Thursday that Scotland's journey out of Covid restrictions will be more cautious than in England.

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That caution is perfectly understandable. But so too are concerns about the continued viability of businesses while restrictions remain in place.

The data shows an alarming spike in cases but, thanks to the vaccination rollout, it does not show a corresponding spike in deaths and hospitalisations.

One of the most cripping restrictions we have had to endure has been the need for people to self-isolate after being in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Before the school holidays whole classes were being cancelled because of one pupil testing positive. After a summer in which we have seen crowds of sports fans crammed into confined spaces, it is difficult to see how this disruption to children's education can be justified when the schools return next month. And t he aviation sector clearly feels the same way about the need for double vaccinated travellers to quarantine after arriving at Scottish airports from amber list destinations.

Ms Sturgeon will reveal tomorrow whether Scotland is to diverge from the rest of the UK on this and other measures. Of course it is clearly preferable for all parts of the UK to follow the same rules, thereby avoiding unneccesary confusion, but Scotland's bad data could justify such differences.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf suggested yesterday that we are through the worst of this third wave.

He said: “That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be another peak in the future but we’re beginning to see a stabilisation and beginning to see the cases level off.”

If this is the case, the need for Scotland to be different from the rest of the UK is weakened.