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Sturgeon’s straitjacket is loosened only slightly


TODAY England belatedly lifts all limits on social contact, albeit Jellyfish Johnson is replacing Covid-19 legal restrictions with equally oppressive ‘guidance’.

Also later than originally scheduled, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today moves all of Scotland to Level 0. However, do not be fooled into thinking that Scotland is fully unlocking: Level 0 in Scotland does not mean zero restrictions – far from it. 

Last week the Scottish Parliament reconvened on Zoom to hear Sturgeon, with her unconscionable caution, announce the latest minor tweaks to the country’s Covid constraints. Amongst the ensuing questions was this corker from fellow Nationalist Christine Grahame: ‘Will the First Minister consider placing information on electronic road signs at the border with England to remind our neighbours of the different rules here?’

My own message to everyone in England is: Count yourself lucky. You still have a semblance of a policy for a return to pre-Covid living. The idea of it ever returning to Scotland remains distant with any route back to normality undefined.  

From today, shackler Sturgeon is allowing only a little loosening of our straitjackets. There are marginal increases to the convoluted numbers of people and households allowed to socialise together, though at this point it is difficult to imagine anyone except government ministers paying the slightest attention to these ludicrous limitations.

Instead of returning to local licensing rules, all hospitality hangouts must by law close by midnight. Indoor entertainment venues may admit no more than 400, with all attendees still subjected to antisocial distancing of one metre. Sports fans are being readmitted; however Scottish football clubs, most of whom disproportionately depend upon income from matchday admissions, must begin the new season with ‘Covid secure’ crowds limited to 2,000.

At the moment this nonsensical number applies even to Rangers and Celtic, even though their stadia can respectively accommodate 25 and 30 times that many. This petty prohibition is in spite of the Scottish government having allowed 12,000 into Hampden Park when the eyes of the continent were on the European Championship matches recently staged in Glasgow.

Sturgeon’s strictures will next be reviewed ahead of August 9, the date on which Scotland is scheduled to move ‘beyond zero’, whatever this might mean. One thing for certain is that newspapers which earlier had optimistically circled August 9 as a return to ‘complete normality’ clearly had not been paying attention and now know better.

Even before last week’s statement, Sturgeon had already made clear that masks and antisocial distancing – euphemistically termed ‘baseline measures’ but which for the entertainment and hospitality sectors are calamitous constraints – would continue for the foreseeable future. Inevitably, therefore, during Tuesday’s address she reiterated: ‘Certain mitigations, such as the mandatory wearing of face coverings, will remain in place not just now but, in all likelihood, for some time to come.’ 

She sells mandatory masking as ‘protection and assurance to those amongst us who are particularly vulnerable’. Sturgeon’s timeframe of ‘for some time to come’ is deliberately vague, though last week her deputy John Swinney confessed that it is ‘perfectly conceivable’ that face coverings will still be compulsory come Christmas. 

In which case, it is highly likely that Scots will still be wearing these symbols of subjugation when buying Easter eggs. And perhaps not just in 2022.

Last week Sturgeon recited her mantra that ‘this is a time for continued caution’ – code for ongoing authoritarianism. Yet despite many weeks of alarmism regarding the so-called Delta variant, in Scotland during the week ending July 11 there were still only 30 deaths involving Covid, of which 21 – over two-thirds – were of people aged 75 or over. 

To date in Scotland, 93 per cent of deaths involving Covid have had at least one pre-existing condition. And not since March 2021 has Covid been one of the top five causes of death. 

In her statement last week, even scaremonger Sturgeon had to concede that the rate of hospitalisation has fallen to only 3 per cent of those who test positive. She also acknowledged that ‘people admitted to hospital with Covid are being discharged more quickly’.

In short, the Scottish public is as safe as it is ever likely to be and the healthy need not fear. Which is why Sturgeon now promotes her intransigent autocracy as compassion for ‘those at the highest clinical risk’ to whom she wheedles: ‘I know that many of you feel anxious about any easing of restrictions . . . We will not abandon you. For as long as necessary [my emphasis] we will ask people to take sensible precautions – like the wearing of face coverings – to allow you, like everyone else, to enjoy more normal life again.’ 

Another pretext for her prohibitions is: ‘Young people who get the virus but never need hospital care will still suffer long Covid’. This ill-defined ailment basically is what we used to know – and largely ignore – as post-viral fatigue. But for the First Minister, it is further reason for her unrelenting repression: ‘When we don’t yet fully understand what the long-term consequences might be for some young people, [we] would risk treating them as an experiment.’

Yet a far more egregious experiment is Nicola Sturgeon’s continued clampdown on the freedoms of an entire population.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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