Alex Salmond launches own Covid-19 pandemic plan for Scotland
The plan, drawn up with Alex Neil MSP, who served as Mr Salmond’s health secretary, is the first political announcement by the former SNP leader since he was cleared of sexual assault charges, and is being regarded as a move to undermine Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy.
The dossier calls for an end to “wide-scale” shutdowns and business closures and more use of Asian-style targeted measures. The plan says the overall strategy should be underpinned by a mass testing regime with “reduced turnaround for results”.
Ms Sturgeon’s tier system has attracted criticism from industry leaders at closures of hospitality venues and shops even after owners brought in strict virus controls.
In the paper, Mr Salmond and Mr Neil say “there now seems little doubt that a tsunami of job cuts and business closures are about to hit Scotland and the rest of the UK due to the coronavirus crisis”.
"Some forecasters estimate that the level of unemployment could double in Scotland over the next few months, resulting in many thousands of people losing their jobs,” they say.
"This level of unemployment is unacceptable. The human and financial costs of high unemployment are avoidable if we take action now."
The pair add: “Innovation in politics and economics is often driven by necessity and creates change and opportunity. The way out of crisis is to first generate and then seize these opportunities. This paper is our contribution to that Scottish effort.”
The plan calls for “mass testing with reduced turnaround times for results, tackling the problem of ‘super-spreaders’, identifying those who are most likely to require hospitalisation if they catch Covid and expanding the programme for distributing Vitamin D supplements to targeted groups”.
It also recommends establishing a National Housebuilding Company to build an additional 10,000 new houses a year within the next five years, expanding existing training programmes in key sectors, such as construction and IT, and the government introducing a Training and Employment Grants Scheme available to any employer who is willing to participate.
Further, the pair say “the most urgent task is to help those businesses been badly affected by the coronavirus crisis with their immediate cash-flow problems”. “The best way to do that is by offering a long-term loan at a zero interest rate and with an initial repayment holiday, long enough to allow the business time to get back on its feet,” they say.
However, political opponents have linked publication of the plan to the feud between Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon, sparked by sexual assault and harassment allegations and the government’s handling of them, which is still being investigated.
Scottish Tory economy spokesman Maurice Golden said: “The SNP civil war between the Salmond and Sturgeon camps is of little interest to the people of Scotland as they deal with the devastation wrought by Covid. While the former first minister is entitled to his opinion, it is inappropriate to use the pandemic to settle scores with his former friend and protégé in Bute House.”
Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Scotland’s fight against Covid is the most important battle we have ever faced. The row between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond must not distract the Scottish Government."
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