Covid in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon's overly complicated lockdown rules are not helping – Daniel Johnson MSP
This week marks the beginning of the Scottish Parliament summer recess.
While two days have been set aside for MSPs to meet before September and the Presiding Officer reserves the right to recall Parliament, it does seem strange given the ongoing Covid situation.
Without Parliament sitting there can be no real scrutiny of the Scottish Government and no opportunities to hold the First Minister to account.
There are still many unanswered questions and a lack of details from the Scottish Government. So many sectors are left in the dark about restrictions and how they will survive into the future.
Especially as an Edinburgh MSP, with August just round the corner and the Festival season ramping up, there is still uncertainty about issues such as the two-metre social-distancing rule, which is awful for organisers. The not knowing is worse than anything.
Other sectors such as the wedding industry are feeling the strain. I’ve met with many involved in the sector and they are at their wits end with the mixed messages coming from the government. Incomes have crashed, be it large venues that rely on weddings or the numerous small businesses such as florists and photographs that depend on them. The minor changes issued last week still cast a cloud of uncertainty.
Here’s the rub. We are seeing cases shoot up. They are higher than they were at the end of last year. But the vaccine clearly has broken the link between cases, hospitalisation and deaths.
To navigate this new phase, we need clarity, scrutiny and rationale. We need the First Minister to be straight with those seeking to get their businesses back on track and for those of us who want to enjoy this summer. Of course there must be caution and we must monitor the delta variant. But it is also clear we’re in a new situation with this virus.
What the public need is clarity on the timetable for changes to the Covid rules, not the recent ill-thought out and wholly reactive responses, such as those travel restrictions announced with Greater Manchester.
Decisions like this and so many over the period of the pandemic have been made without the necessary data or criteria provided. Kicking the changes and announcements into the long grass is not fair on anyone. Not the public, not those trying to rescue their livelihoods.
The government must set out a clear framework for how we should go about daily lives in this new normal. Dates do not need to be fixed but the principles and rules must be. The rules must be clear and simple. No more convoluted ‘FACTS’ that no one can remember or complicated combinations of households – complexity leads people to simply ignore the rules.
Equally importantly these rules must be grounded in science with clear explanation. Over the last 18 months, too many decisions have lacked clear scientific audit trails. Limitations imposed in one area but not another despite seemingly comparable data. We need much clearer answers as to why we are doing things.
Through this summer, as the vaccination programme concludes, we need to find a new normal. But the Scottish Government needs to learn to be much clearer, consistent and transparent if we’re going achieve it successfully.
Daniel Johnson is Scottish Labour & Co-op MSP for Edinburgh Southern