Lockdown: Why cross-party agreement on relaxation of rules is important – leader comment

Given the extraordinary effort being made by the vast majority of the public to abide by the rules of the Covid lockdown, it was inevitable that conflicts would break out over suspected rule-breaking.

Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson need to work to win approval for next phase of lockdown from opposition parties (Picture: Jane Barlow/pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson need to work to win approval for next phase of lockdown from opposition parties (Picture: Jane Barlow/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

If everyone is pulling together, making sacrifices in order to save lives, seeing someone apparently not doing their bit is bound to cause a degree of anger in most people.

Thankfully, this has not been too much of a problem to date but this week saw two leading politicians get into an argument about whether people should have been queuing at a drive-in Costa coffee in Edinburgh for about 40 minutes.

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Nicola Sturgeon suggested people should ask themselves “if going for a drive-thru coffee is really an essential journey”, prompting Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs to accuse her of over-reacting.

And this is when the rules are relatively simple, straightforward and easy for everyone to understand.

However, the next phase of the lockdown will see a relaxation of some of the restrictions, creating a new regime which will necessarily be more complicated. This will mean there is greater scope for misunderstandings and disagreements about what is right and what is wrong between members of the public. ‘Vigilante justice’ is seldom just and, with the stakes so high, matters could get heated. This means it will be even more important than it is now for the rules to be as clear as possible.

It may be difficult to achieve, given the variety of opinions over how quickly the lockdown should be eased, but both the Scottish and UK governments should try their best to win approval from opposition parties for the next steps.

If the new rules are loudly opposed by other parties, their supporters may decide to follow the advice of the people they vote for, rather than an SNP or Tory government.

And that would be a mistake because if everyone starts doing what they think is best, lockdown phase two could descend into a chaotic shambles. We need clear rules and we need to stick to them.

Politicians have been doing exceptionally well in putting their differences aside for the good of the nation. But they must continue in the same spirit, while making constructive criticisms, until the danger has passed.

A second wave of Covid-19 coronavirus may come whatever we do, but it remains vital that we all work together to try to prevent it.

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