Covid rules: Nicola Sturgeon does not um and er like Boris Johnson but that hardly makes things any less confusing – John McLellan

Who would have thought a year ago that popping to Ikea would be against the law?

By John McLellan
Thursday, 19th November 2020, 1:18 pm
Nicola Sturgeon said it was 'not for me to tell the chief constable' how to enforce the Covid rules but then said: 'Only when there is a clear and flagrant breach will they use enforcement'. Picture: Flickr/Scottish Government
Nicola Sturgeon said it was 'not for me to tell the chief constable' how to enforce the Covid rules but then said: 'Only when there is a clear and flagrant breach will they use enforcement'. Picture: Flickr/Scottish Government

But for Edinburgh residents that appears to be the case as of tomorrow as the latest travel bans kick in.

Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on Tuesday seems clear enough. “People living in level 3 or level 4 must not travel outside their own council area... People living elsewhere in Scotland must not travel to level 3 or level 4 areas…There must be no non-essential travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK,” she told the Scottish Parliament.

As Ikea is in Midlothian, it’s off-limits to everyone in Edinburgh and as the same goes for the whole of the Straiton retail park, if you live in Liberton you can forget nipping up to Pets at Home. But you can jump in the car and wend your way to the Fort Kinnaird branch to stock up on your pampered pooch’s preferred kibbles.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Read More

Read More
Covid: At last we're getting some good news about the coronavirus pandemic – Ang...

At least Klondyke might benefit from a boost from all those South Edinburgh winter gardeners banned from the short hop across the City Bypass to Dobbies.

If you are a Broxburn resident, the penalty for a trip to Hermiston Gait is a £60 spot fine, so the Livingston B&Q might be a bit busier. If you are a Musselburgh resident that five-minute dash to the Fort for some early Christmas shopping is forbidden and if Asda is your preferred supermarket head for Tranent, not The Jewel.

The First Minister expects people to toe the line, but that relies on the majority understanding and accepting the logic even though no evidence of higher infection rates stemming from out-of-town retail parks has been presented.

With Midlothian and East Lothian moving down to Tier Two this Tuesday, it’s reasonable to conclude boundary-hopping Edinburgh shoppers have not contributed to contagion in those council areas, and as Lothian hospitalisation rates have stabilised in the past fortnight the virus does not appear to be out of control.

Enforcement is being left to the police but “it is not for me to tell the chief constable how to do that operationally,” said Ms Sturgeon, who then did just that. “Only when there is a clear and flagrant breach will they use enforcement,” she explained.

Since publicity for these measures has been widespread, it could be argued every driver who has crossed a boundary has flouted the law. Police know within minutes where a car is registered, so it wouldn’t be difficult to send a hit-squad of officers to a retail car park to start ticketing every out-of-area vehicle. Officers could ride shotgun on cross-boundary buses to turf off the law-breakers.

“Ensuring that people understand the reasons for the restrictions and the reason why it is so important that people do not travel from high to low-prevalence areas is essential,” she said, effectively leaving it to a police officer to explain why it is essential for people from Gilmerton to stay away from Straiton, and for them to be grateful they aren’t fined on the spot.

Just because the First Minister doesn’t um and er like the Prime Minister doesn’t mean the demands are any less confusing, and just saying it isn’t easy for the police doesn’t make it any more palatable.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny and Duddingston

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.