Nicola Sturgeon’s tartan tyranny

The former first minister relished her role as Scotland’s Covid marshal-in-chief.

Lauren Smith

Topics Covid-19 Politics UK

A teary-eyed Nicola Sturgeon addressed the UK Covid inquiry earlier today. The former Scottish first minister was keen to rebut the suggestion that she relished the pandemic and the platform it afforded her. ‘The idea that in those horrendous days that I was thinking of a political opportunity… well, it just wasn’t true’, she insisted, as she wiped a tear from her eye.

But it seems the lady doth protest too much. Last week, the UK Covid inquiry heard that Sturgeon’s cabinet had explicitly considered how it could politicise the pandemic to boost support for Scottish independence. No doubt she also hoped to boost Brand Sturgeon, too. After all, as first minister of Scotland, she took every possible opportunity to approach the pandemic differently to England and to UK prime minister Boris Johnson. And this always involved being just that bit more authoritarian than the supposedly feckless English.

Although the whole of the UK went into lockdown at the same time in March 2020, the lockdowns in Scotland had considerably stricter rules and lasted much longer than England’s. Face coverings were mandatory on public transport and in most indoor settings for almost two years without respite. At certain points in the pandemic, Scots were limited to travelling within only a five-mile radius of their homes. The ludicrously illiberal ‘vaccine passports’ were far more ubiquitous for social events in Scotland than they ever were south of the border.

Sturgeon effectively turned Scotland into the UK’s own hermit kingdom, shutting the borders for most of the Covid era. In early 2021, when vaccinations were being rolled out and England’s lockdown was easing, anyone arriving in Scotland from abroad was still forced to pay £1,750 for a mandatory quarantine hotel. Even the border with England was effectively closed to ‘non-essential’ travel in the autumn of 2020, when many other lockdown rules had been eased.

Worst of all, a blanket ban on visits to care homes prevented countless elderly people from seeing their families – some of them, for the last time. Last year, Scotland’s own Covid inquiry heard that visiting families were fobbed off by care-home staff, even when their relatives were in poor health and dying. (The Scottish inquiry is separate and additional to the UK one – another ruse by Sturgeon to promote Scottish separatism.)

According to Sturgeon, all of these restrictions and impositions were for Scots’ own good. She presented her authoritarianism as caring and compassionate. She wanted to give the impression that she was protecting the Scottish people with tough love – not only from the virus, but also from the supposed recklessness of Boris in Westminster. Despite what Sturgeon may have said to the inquiry, she quite clearly luxuriated in her role as Scotland’s Covid marshal-in-chief.

Although the Covid-era restrictions were unprecedented in scope, lockdown was not Sturgeon’s first foray into heavy-handed paternalism. Her SNP government continually pioneered new restrictions on what Scots could say or do.

Perhaps most notoriously, Scotland passed the Hate Crime and Public Order Act back in 2021. Three years on, this stunningly illiberal law has not yet been ‘activated’ because Police Scotland have yet to get their heads around it. When enforcement finally begins this year, Scots could face up to seven years in prison for behaving in an ‘abusive’ manner ‘intended to stir up hatred’ against protected groups. This will essentially allow police to arrest and possibly jail people for offensive or contentious speech. Even if you express yourself in a private conversation, in your own home, you could still be committing a crime if the thoughtpolice catch wind of it.

Sturgeon had a particular penchant for invading the private sphere – long before the Covid-era ‘rule of six’ told Scots how many family members they could gather with in their own homes. The ill-fated Named Person scheme may not have been conceived by Sturgeon, but she became its biggest cheerleader when she took charge as first minister in 2014. The scheme would have assigned a state guardian to every single Scottish child to monitor their upbringing and wellbeing. Essentially, this would have invited an official to compile dossiers on the minutiae of every child’s life – including what TV shows they watch and how their bedrooms are decorated. Thankfully, the scheme was scrapped in 2019 after the UK Supreme Court declared it would breach the human right to a ‘family and private life’.

Sturgeon’s authoritarian mission didn’t stop there. Under the guise of well-meaning paternalism, the SNP has been consistently shrinking Scots’ freedoms. Not even the little pleasures in life have been spared from government intrusion. In 2018, Sturgeon introduced minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol. This means that alcoholic beverages cannot be sold for less than 50 pence per unit. MUP was billed as a measure that would save lives, but it has done no such thing. All it has really amounted to is a tax on the poor and a pointless impediment to enjoying a few cans.

Junk food was also in Sturgeon’s sights, although she resigned before she managed to ban buy-one-get-one-free offers and shop displays of ‘unhealthy’ foods.

Like the draconian lockdown rules, all these measures were intended to save Scots from themselves. Sturgeon believed that the Scottish people had to be forced to stay at home to stop them from infecting each other with Covid. She thought that parents had to be monitored by the state to stop them abusing their kids. That private conversations needed to be policed, to keep Scottish society free of hate. And anyone who fancied a beer or a takeaway pizza needed to be saved by the nanny state from indulging their reckless impulses.

What all this really speaks to is not a concern for the Scots and their wellbeing – but a contempt for ordinary people and their liberties. For all her blather about Scottish sovereignty and democracy, Sturgeon has never trusted the Scottish people to make their own decisions or to use their own judgement. The Covid inquiry reminds us that Scotland is lucky to be rid of her.

Lauren Smith is a staff writer at spiked.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Covid-19 Politics UK


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