Socialist Worker

Sturgeon might sound good, but the virus has been a disaster in Scotland

by Mark Brown
Issue No. 2715

Nicola Sturgeon may appear different to Boris Johnson on the virus, but its more myth than reality

Nicola Sturgeon may appear different to Boris Johnson on the virus, but it's more myth than reality (Pic: Scottish Government/Flickr)


Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has received glowing reviews for her handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

While Boris Johnson tried, and failed, to force children back to school in England, Scotland’s schools remained closed.

Sturgeon announced a careful, phase-by-phase easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland.

On 2 July, the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader announced that face coverings would become mandatory in shops in Scotland from 10 July.

Johnson’s attempt to follow suit in England led to the farce of cabinet ministers contradicting each other over the policy.

A Sunday Times poll of Scottish opinion on 5 July found that Sturgeon’s approval rating on Covid stood at plus 60 percent. Johnson’s was at minus 39 percent.

The same poll found that support for Scottish independence was up five points at 54 percent.

Fear of growing support for independence is why Johnson scurried up to Scotland this week to defend the “sheer might” of the Union.

The Financial Times newspaper wrote,  "Johnson is determined that his political epitaph does not record that he was the prime minister who lost the Union—forged in 1707—yet polls suggest Scotland is sliding away."

Sturgeon’s leadership is better than the shambles presided over by Johnson. However, the Scottish government’s supposed “success” on Covid is more myth than reality.

For a start, the reason the SNP administration didn’t even consider trying to reopen schools in early June was nothing to do with disagreeing with Johnson.

It was because Scotland’s schools always begin their summer holidays in June, weeks before schools in England.

Mixture

In fact, having announced that Scottish schools would return with a mixture of face-to-face and online teaching on 11 August, the SNP did a U-turn.

In late June, SNP education cabinet secretary John Swinney said schools would return with full time, face-to-face teaching, leading the EIS union to raise safety concerns.

Swinney claims the policy shift was due to better than expected progress on Covid.

However, this policy change is actually about placating big business. Bosses want schools back so workers can return to work.

This should come as no surprise. The SNP is very good at appearing like a centre-left, social democratic party when it comes to social policy. Yet it remains wedded to pro-market, capitalist economics.

The SNP government was committed to the same “four nations action plan” as the Tories until 10 May.

Consequently, Scotland, like England, locked down too late, failed dismally on testing, tracking and tracing and allowed Covid to run rife through care homes.

According to the Scottish government’s figures, last week Scotland had suffered an appalling 4,856 excess deaths compared with the same period last year.

Almost half are believed to have been in care homes.

The SNP has been in government at Holyrood for 13 years. Yet it has failed to bring care homes back into public hands.

Covid-19 has been a disaster in Scotland. This cannot be glossed over just because Nicola Sturgeon communicates better than Boris Johnson.


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