Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party Scottish government have largely avoided criticism during the coronavirus crisis.
A recent report paints a much more critical picture.
It says, “Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the British Covid crisis is that the Scottish Government has allowed its strategy and the operations to be directed by Westminster.”
One of the authors is Louisa Harding-Edgar, a GP working in Glasgow and an academic fellow at Glasgow University. She spoke to Socialist Worker.
“It is odd that Scotland had stopped contact tracing early on. It is the contact tracing that is the really important thing,” she said.
“The Scottish government seemed to be following in the Westminster government’s footsteps by ending contact tracing. We have a similar reduction in resources for public health in both Scotland and England in the last few years”.
It is also dictated by “The extent to which Scotland, having also centralised its functions under Health Protection Scotland (HPS) had also reduced its capacity for local monitoring of communicable disease control and contact tracing”.
“Lack of local resources is huge. We need hundreds of thousands of people across Britain if we want to do contact tracing,” said Louisa.
Public Health England has fewer than 300 staff based in nine hubs—there are 343 local authorities across Britain. They did not have the capacity to carry out contact tracing and that is why it was stopped. It is the same in Scotland.
Public health in Scotland was centralised rather than having people in the community”
In Scotland at the moment around 50 percent of deaths are taking place in care homes.
Louisa said, “This is just devastating. If we had a better social care system, we could have really focussed on this group in care homes.
“We knew that this virus was going to affect the elderly. Our response should have been to protect those in care homes.
“That would have meant an increase in staffing levels by two or three times and possibly move people between care homes to minimise contacts between cases and non-cases. We haven’t been able to do this because 60 percent of our care homes are privately run.
“This pandemic has highlighted the failure in the current system and the need for a rethink.
“Organisations who run the care homes for money are a large part of the problem.
“Private care homes have a lower quality or a higher risk of lower quality care and one of the big problems is the way that the staffing is handled. They have more staff vacancies and pay tends to be less”.
“We have let the carers down.”
With regard to easing the lockdown, Louisa believes, “Our response should have been determined locally and that should extend to how we pull out. How we get out of the lockdown should be a public health issue rather than a political decision.”