Wednesday 13 May 2020

Scottish independence just died from Covid.

The reason we are in lockdown is because of the The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 which were laid before the Scottish Parliament on the 27th of March 2020. Similar regulations were laid before the House of Commons on 26th of March, but these applied to England. Health is a devolved power. It is for this reason that Nicola Sturgeon is within her rights to have different policy on Covid than the British Government.

 In theory the SNP could have decided not to have had lockdown at all. They could have followed the path that Sweden is following. The SNP could also have introduced the lockdown legislation earlier. It didn’t need Westminster’s permission. If the regulations were within the competence of the Scottish Parliament on the 27th of March, they were equally within its competence on the 1st of January. It was up to the SNP to determine when or whether to introduce lockdown. Just as it was up to the SNP to monitor the performance of the NHS in Scotland. Of course, the Scottish NHS is not the SNP. They are distinct. But if Matt Hancock is to be blamed for lack of PPE in England then Jeane Freeman must be responsible for any lack of PPE in Scotland.

If it turns out that there are a great deal of care home deaths in Scotland and that this was due to mistakes that could have been avoided, then the SNP must take responsibility for the administration of care homes is devolved.

So long as the Scottish Government followed the advice given by SAGE and simply repeated what it had learned at Cobra meetings, it would have been possible to say we were just following orders. We were just doing what Westminster did. In that case introducing the lockdown in Scotland was merely a reaction to what the Conservative Government did. But this argument no longer works.

When Nicola Sturgeon decided that she would not go along with the Government in easing the lockdown she not merely took responsibility for the what happened next in Scotland she also took responsibility for what she had failed to do prior to lockdown. She could after all have gone her own way back in February or even earlier. She could have used her greater insight and caring nature to have locked Scotland down while the uncaring English kept going to work for the sake of their love of money.

If it turns out that Scots died because the lockdown didn’t come early enough, it will be Nicola Sturgeon’s fault. She has demonstrated that it is within the power of the Scottish Parliament and Government to not follow what the British Government does. Well what was stopping her doing so earlier?

It is true that Rishi Sunak’s rescue package may not have been in place if the SNP had locked Scotland down in January of February. But the Scottish Government has the power to raise taxes and the Scottish Government also has the power to borrow and lend. If Scotland is as ready for independence as Nicola Sturgeon thinks, why did we have to rely on Mr Sunak help anyway?

The problem for Sturgeon is that failure to act is an action. The stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives slogan was invented by the Conservative Government and its advisors. It was good enough for Sturgeon for a while, but it has been modified for a reason. The experts think that the protect the NHS part has worked too well and is no longer needed because the NHS is doing very well and there is no danger that it will be overwhelmed. The danger now is that people who are ill with cancer or heart disease are afraid to go to the NHS because they think they might catch Covid or perhaps they are afraid to be a burden.

By sticking to the previous message even as Covid cases have been falling, Sturgeon is taking responsibility for what follows in Scotland. If there are lots more deaths from cancer and heart disease than there otherwise might have been it will be her fault, because health is devolved.

Boris Johnson’s attempt to ease lockdown in England has proved controversial. Some English people too think it isn’t safe to venture back to work. Others think Johnson’s small steps back to normality don’t go far enough. Reasonable people can disagree about this. But just as Boris will have to take the blame if things go wrong in England, so too Sturgeon will have to take the blame if her failure to follow the expert advice from Sage and Cobra turns out to be mistaken.

There is a balance between saving lives due to Covid and saving lives due to recession, mental illness, cancer and heart disease. It’s a frightfully difficult balance. Will more people get Covid in England because they are going to work again, or will the return of economic activity be beneficial to health in the long run? But if things go worse for the people of Scotland it will be Nicola Strugeon’s fault.

Now it will be her decision alone to decide whether it is ever safe for Scots to leave our homes and go to work. The Chancellor has agreed to extend the furlough until October, so Scottish workers can stay indoors all summer while the English pay our wages.

I would have preferred that there was no devolution at all. I don’t think it was Donald Dewar’s intention that there would be four separate policies during a national crisis. But each of the devolved administrations have now owned the crisis and whatever happens from now on cannot be blamed on Boris or the Tories.

It is unseemly for Kate Forbes and Fiona Hyslop to send begging tweets asking the Chancellor to confirm that he will continue to fund Scots staying at home for as long as we feel unsafe to venture out, while at the same time campaigning for independence.

Scotland may have an independent health policy, but it still overwhelmingly depends on advice and expertise from London and it is sustainable only because London pays the bill. You may choose whoever you want to go through on Strictly but remember to ask the bill payer’s permission.

If Scotland had voted for independence in 2014, we would right now be using the pound unofficially. We may or may not have been part of the EU, but they would be no more generous to us than they are to Italy. We might not even have had a central bank and how many of our highest taxpayers would have voted with their feet by going south. The secret oil fields would have produced no oil, not merely because they didn’t exist, but more importantly because the oil price fell to such an extent that North Sea oil costs more to extract than to sell.

Now Scotland has an independent health policy for which the SNP will deserve credit or blame, but financially we have accepted the help that is due only to family members. There will be no walking away until that debt has been paid, both monetarily and morally. You have a duty to family members that you don’t have to anyone else. If that is not so then don’t take the help, give back the money and send your mother to a care home to die

The Scottish nationalists have been ranting and raving, marching and swearing since September 2014. But it’s over.

Scottish independence just died from Covid.