Will Scotland really cancel Christmas?

Puritanical Covid restrictions are now threatening our most important festival.

Paddy Hannam

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Topics Politics UK

Christmas could be cancelled in Scotland .

In an incredibly depressing message, Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, has told the BBC that, due to Covid, ‘Christmas is not going to be normal. There’s absolutely no doubt about that.’ He added that ‘large family groupings’ and events involving multiple families are ‘fiction for this year’.

Though he expressed hope that ‘some form of normality’ would be possible, Leitch advised Scots to ‘get their digital Christmas ready’.

Digital. Christmas. Take a good look at those words. Drink them in. Absorb their horror. That’s right – prepare yourselves, people of Scotland, for awkward, never-ending Zoom calls with the in-laws, turkey dinners by Skype and mistletoe kisses over Microsoft Teams.

This is what Covid hysteria now means: the prospect of the first year without a Christmas since the days of Oliver Cromwell. Puritanism is alive and well in Scotland, and it wears the mask of virus-control.

I feel sorry for the kids. Nobody enjoys Christmas more than them, and yet, despite the fact Covid poses an incredibly low risk to their health, their fun may be severely curtailed. But the elderly, too, many of whom have been shielding for months on end and no doubt long for familial contact, now also face the prospect of a lonely and rather un-festive Christmas period.

Leitch’s comments come amid news that first minister Nicola Sturgeon is to put in place a new five-tier system for local lockdowns in Scotland. Naturally, it includes a tier that goes harder than any in place in England, which is labelled ‘severe’. This allows Sturgeon to be seen to be taking firmer action than the Tories – because, obviously, the best policy is always to do what the English do, but worse.

It’s not just Scots who are facing a rough winter, though. They are joined in their subjection to puritanical Covid tyranny by the Welsh, who enter a ‘fire-break’ lockdown today, in theory lasting 17 days (as if). In this period, shops will be barred from selling ‘non-essential’ goods.

Retailers say they have not been told what counts as essential, and complain of being given just hours to prepare. But we do know that clothes shops are among the businesses forced to close, meaning that clothes, apparently, are not essential. Who knew that compulsory nudism (albeit with mandatory masks) would become Welsh government policy.

Bizarrely, it seems shops which sell a mixture of essential and non-essential goods will be allowed to open, but only if they close those parts of their business which provide non-essential services. This raises the prospect of, say, ASDA being permitted to sell food but not clothes.

In theory, the measures will eliminate the unfair advantage which businesses providing a mixture of services have over those which sell just one type of non-essential goods. Without the measures, the latter would have to close, but the former would be allowed to operate in full.

What seems a fairer proposal, though, is just to let all shops remain open. After all, most businesses suffer from a lockdown, with potential customers encouraged or cajoled into staying at home. There are already enough restrictions in place on shopping, including the wearing of masks and the maintenance of social distancing, to make the experience unattractive; shutting businesses altogether will simply accentuate the crippling financial blows they have already received.

The UK’s Covid response has degenerated to the stage where different parts of the country are competing to have the toughest and most destructive restrictions in place. There is a total lack of ideas, and an almost universal refusal to engage with reality. Change is desperately needed, or we are in for the worst winter in living memory.

Paddy Hannam is a spiked intern. Follow him on Twitter: @paddyhannam.

Picture by: Getty.

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