The Scottish lockdown is costing lives

Nicola Sturgeon’s callous insistence on lockdown is a sign of her deeply authoritarian instincts.

Carlton Brick


Some 26 days into lockdown, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that it was the time to have an adult conversation with the Scottish public. At her daily briefing on 17 April, she announced the possibility that Scotland would be prepared to break with current Westminster policy on lockdown and begin to discuss the possibilities of an exit strategy:

‘While we know the current lockdown measures are essential, we also know they bring serious consequences… I want to stress again that the government will be as open as we can be. To be blunt, I will treat you the public as the grown-ups that you are and will try to share the really difficult judgements and balances we will have to strike.’

For a brief moment, it genuinely seemed that rather than trying to contradict Westminster for contradiction’s sake, the Scottish government was contemplating easing the conditions of lockdown in Scotland, based not upon ‘silly political considerations’ but on the evidence. There seemed a chance that the SNP might take a lead in easing society out of the Covid-enforced lockdown.

However, within a matter of days, that hope was firmly quashed. John Swinney, deputy first minister and education minister, announced that Scottish schools would remain closed for the ‘foreseeable future’ and may not open until at least the new school year (which in Scotland usually starts in the second or third week of August).

There is now acceptance within the scientific community that there have been no recorded instances of a child passing the virus to an adult. This would suggest that if one were to follow the science, a measured approach on opening schools could be a very realistic option in moving out of lockdown. However, the Scottish government’s stance seems to be that if the evidence fits, use it – if it doesn’t, ignore it.

Amid media reports that the UK government would announce a relaxation of the lockdown over the May bank holiday, Sturgeon insisted that the Scottish government would ‘not be pressured into lifting restrictions’. ‘It is not an exaggeration to say decisions now are a matter of life or death’, she said. And so following Boris Johnson ’s television address on Sunday evening on a partial easing of restrictions, Sturgeon announced there would be no such relaxation in Scotland.

Tragically, it is becoming increasingly clear that the decision to enforce lockdown is a driving cause of Covid deaths in Scotland. Without doubt, the elderly have been by far the biggest casualty of the lockdown. From the outset, a policy that demanded that the section of society most at risk from the virus should be confined together in care homes, without first being tested, was a recipe for disaster. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this week, John Swinney was unable to confirm categorically that elderly paitents were not being sent back to care homes without first making sure they were virus free.

According to data published by the National Records of Scotland, as of 3 May, of the 2,795 deaths reported in Scotland in which Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate 43 per cent had occurred in care homes. Of other related deaths, 49 per cent have occurred in hospital. A staggering 75 per cent of all deaths involving Covid-19 – some 2,000 individuals – have been among people aged 75 or over. There is little doubt that the Scottish government’s persistence with telling its citizens to ‘Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’, will continue to prove fatal for Scotland’s elderly.

Even Sturgeon’s own scientific advisers seem to think continued lockdown is wrongheaded. Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University of Edinburgh, says a key feature of the Covid-19 virus is that its transmission rate reduces significantly outdoors. The consequence of persisting with lockdown, he suggested, would be further deaths – coronavirus-related or otherwise.

The SNP’s persistence with lockdown has little to do with fighting Covid-19 as a disease. Rather, it expresses the party’s entrenched antagonism towards the freedoms of ordinary Scottish citizens. As early as 29 April, Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, argued that lockdown was not an effective way to fight Covid-19 as a disease. In fact, he pointed out that a policy of lockdown transforms a medical problem into a problem of social control. Once social containment becomes the principal objective, this actually intensifies the impact of the virus on the most vulnerable sections of society.

The recasting of the crisis in this way speaks to all of Sturgeon’s authoritarian and technocratic instincts. It is no coincidence then, that exactly a month into lockdown, on 23 April, the SNP introduced its Hate Crime and Public Order Bill to the Sottish parliament. This legislation represents the most draconian attack on free speech and freedom of thought in recent Scottish history.

The hate-crime proposal follows a number of attempts by the Scottish government to curtail and restrict Scottish people’s legal and social freedoms. Take, for instance, the Named Person scheme, which was eventually scrapped last year after much of the programme was found to be in breach of human-rights law. Then there was the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill, which was repealed in 2018 after a mass campaign of opposition in defence of civil rights.

These initiatives clearly illustrate the SNP’s socially authoritarian instincts. Far from being an exceptional measure taken under exceptional circumstances, the lockdown offers a vision of the SNP’s ideal society. The lockdown measures introduced on 23 March are in the same vein as much of the social legislation that the SNP has attempted to introduce since coming to power in 2007. The decision of the SNP to extend lockdown is symbolic of a Scttish political class whose instinct is to cajole, corral and confine Scottish society. And the tragedy that is unfolding in Scottish care homes is a horrific result of that instinct.

Far from treating the Scottish people as the adults we are, Sturgeon’s SNP has sought to cynically use the current crisis to undermine the autonomy and freedoms of Scottish citizens further. ‘Social distancing’ has been a political strategy of the SNP that predates the current Covid-19 pandemic by some distance. The current crisis has only served to speed up this process. The SNP’s callous insistence on lockdown and wilful disregard for its harms does not bode well for the Scottish people, young or old.

Carlton Brick is a lecturer in the school of education and social science at the University of the West of Scotland.

Picture by: Getty.

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John Rowland

15th May 2020 at 2:08 pm

Demonstrates another flaw in current devolution arrangements, Nicola commands continuation of lockdown without concern for the cost of economic recompense. Meanwhile Boris encourages return to work for some sectors whose workers will be paying taxes that enable allow their direct Scottish counterparts to continue to race receive their furlough entitlement.
A progressive and forward thinking Scottish Government could have demonstrated to the rest of UK how a safe and effective relaxation of lockdown could have been achieved through judicious use of data, consensus of expertise and well managed protection of the vulnerable. Had they done so it could have been a boost of confidence for the SNP’s independence agenda, instead it is the total opposite.

Walter Mitty

14th May 2020 at 7:48 pm

Sturgeon doesn’t even know what the R rate is for Scotland. She refused to answer the question the other day.
The lockdown situation is starting to look more and more excessive. The people kept up their part of the bargain by helping to avoid capacity issues with the NHS, time for freedom.

Ness Immersion

14th May 2020 at 6:33 pm

It has been fairly well known that.the lockdown does not save lives, cancer screening has been stopped so there will be a massive uptake in bowel prostrate and breast cancer directly attributable to the panic demic.
The Spiteful Nannying Party have previous on this with a callous disregard for the poorest in society.
Theu are intensely politicised and an ardent Nat will not consider the impact of their dictates on the wider world, all they can see is the politics, so if they think they can blame the eeevil tories for excess deaths, they will ensure that their slow actions cause excess deaths.

Karen Gibson

14th May 2020 at 2:43 pm

This tyranny will never end because she has managed to brainwash most of the Scottish population who have been scared or threatened into submission without the right to speak against the measures. We don’t know what the R rate is because we are not testing. The UK was given good news about antibody tests today, yet in the briefing today Scotland is showing reluctance to roll these out, preferring instead to prioritise infection tests that will do nothing to bring back some normality, and are instead prolonging the pain and increasing the number of collateral deaths. We now have proof that more than half of the Scottish population is suffering financial hardship as a result of this lockdown, and still they do nothing to alleviate the misery.

As for freedom – every country in the world, with the backing of the ” science ”, has now recognised and admitted that it is safer to be outdoors than indoors. When you confine the elderly in a single space, and carers walk in and out every day, it’s a recipe for disaster not only for care homes, but for the rest of the population. They have allowed people to exercise ” close to home ”, which has lead to parks that were previously almost empty before the pandemic to be crowded with people running around in circles or cycling, when it would have been wiser to use common sense and allow people access to our massive beaches and forests instead to spread the numbers rather than confine them. You are more likely to catch the virus in a supermarket, yet golf is banned. Across the world people are at least enjoying the very basic freedom of enjoying the health benefits of being outdoors provided they practice social distancing, but the whole of Scotland is being denied this right for a mere tiny percentage of the population who might abuse it by congregating in groups or masses. Authoritarians don’t trust their citizens, or they find it easier to apply a ”one size fits all” policy as it makes it easier to control people.

We have been duped. In April she put our hopes up that we had a way out, only to dash them and put us at the very bottom of the queue despite the increasing frustration. Mass protests have now been planned and there is no doubt the SNP will punish everyone in Scotland as a result of these… acting like the true authoritarian government they are. I am seriously considering leaving Scotland if they get re-elected in 5 years because I refuse to live under dictatorship.

Ivor Million

14th May 2020 at 1:18 pm

Until the R rate is well below 1.0 unlocking the population is very dangerous. In Scotland as a whole, it is 0.9 at best. Therefore, Brick is a dangerous fool, preaching nonsense.Thankfully, no one listens to his silly assertions.

Neil McCaughan

14th May 2020 at 2:39 pm

An SNP troll, excusing the corruption, incompetence and lies of the SNP.
Now there’s a surprise.

Ivor Million

14th May 2020 at 6:25 pm

I have nothing to do with the SNP as I live in England, among other things. Your post is a typically ridiculous load of rubbish—do TRY to grow up.

Lyn Keay

14th May 2020 at 6:54 pm

Even if you give the R value the most importance (& the Germans at least don’t), you have to distinguish between the R value in different populations, specifically the R value in care homes & the R value in the general population. The second is much less.


14th May 2020 at 11:55 am


Ivor Million

14th May 2020 at 1:20 pm

Ignorant tripe. See above why…

Ness Immersion

14th May 2020 at 6:36 pm

Are you Stuart Campbell, he resides in Bristol and runs one of the ardent Scottish National Socialist blogs called WanksOverScotland or something like that from his bedroom.

Neil McCaughan

14th May 2020 at 10:01 pm

SNP troll.

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