Lockdown details | Other new Scottish updates | Alex Salmond acquittal

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The lockdown is on. The government has finally done what should have happened weeks ago. Now we are running to catch-up, and the government has to run much faster. Both governments, I should say. The Scottish Government has acted in unity with the UK Government, and as such has also been utterly inadequate so far. Without doubt the biggest scandal is the lack of testing. There is no explanation for why mass contact tracing and testing was not in place from the beginning. That is now happening, but it has still not been adequately ramped up. Read public health physician Allyson Pollock's letter to the Scottish Government pleading with them "immediately to institute a massive centrally-coordinated, locally-based contact tracing and testing programme", saying that it is the "classic tools and approaches in public health to infectious diseases". Second: the lack of decent protective equipment for NHS frontline staff. There is now widespread concern among public health experts about hospitals being a major source of community transmission of the virus. Compare all this to Germany, where there is four times as much testing so far than in the UK and doctors apparently have the sort of quality kit that is needed for COVID-19 (the least they deserve). Germany is stemming the virus better than just about anywhere else in Europe at the moment: government must learn, very quickly. And that's before we get on to the economic fallout: the lack of support for tenants (which still remains behind the UK Government on no evictions, shockingly), the continual refusal to enforce rather than request businesses do not lay people off, the lack of enforcement in place around supermarkets and hoarding, and the apparent total lack of economic planning measures to deal with what is to come.

All of this matters, because although we are in lockdown, it doesn't mean we as citizens just submit ourselves passively to a state which now has extraordinary powers and hope that they suddenly become capable of looking after us. Our job is to make sure the government does its job. And let's be clear, if it wasn't because of pressure from the people put upon government, we would be even further behind where we need to be right now. An active, politicised citizenship has never been more important than it is right now.

I say all this because there is a worrying atmosphere in the air that has been building before the lockdown. The atmosphere is one where the politicians hold the people to account, not the other way round. That their job isn't to focus on rapidly re-writing the laws of the land and doing what it takes to to deal with this, but instead to communicate frustration when someone hoards, or follows what has been confusing and often contradictory advice. Politicians acting in this way, many of whom were not so long ago promoting the virtues of herd immunity strategy, are being cheered on by a legion of social media followers. There is a viral video, which the BBC has also put out, of Italian Mayors running around shouting at people about breaking the lockdown. Many people's reaction to the video appears to be "why are people so stupid?" My reaction is: "Please don't cheer on politicians who totally messed up the public health response initially with negligent complacency, until they can prove they can do the necessary governing work to prevent social catastrophe, not just curry political favour through performative displays."

Let me be clear: people have to obey the lockdown. And we as a citizenry should be vigilant about that. But if politicians do not start governing across every area of economic and social life to provide people in lockdown with what they need to live securely under these extraordinary circumstances, then at some point people will become desperate and lockdown breaches will become inevitable. There's nothing about what the government has done so far which suggests to me that they are up to that task, so we have to push them to get there. The politicians have to govern and the citizens have to hold them to account. That's how this has to work.
Ben Wray, Source Direct

Top Story

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said what has been announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson does amount to a "lockdown".

People must stay at home except for:

  • Essential shopping for food and medicines, only once a day
  • Exercise - once a day and alone, or with someone in your household
  • Medical reasons or for care of vulnerable people
  • Travel to and from essential work

Sturgeon said: "Let me blunt. The stringent restrictions on our normal day to day lives that I'm about to set out are difficult and they are unprecedented. They amount effectively to what has been described as a lockdown."

"I am not going to sugarcoat it in any way. Coronavirus is the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

"Stay at home. That is the message I gave yesterday and I am reinforcing that message now."

In other Scottish and UK developments:

- The number of coronavirus deaths in Scotland has increased by four to 14, with 499 people testing positive for Covid-19. Chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said the real number infections will actually be much higher, with those 14 deaths probably each represent up to 1,000 people infected.

- The UK Government passed all stages of its emergency powers bill legislation yesterday. It gives the state extraordinary powers for the next two years, including allowing the border force to shut down the borders entirely if necessary. After debate, the government agreed to review the Bill every six months.

- A private healthcare clinic has "paused" its coronavirus tests, after outrage broke out following the revelation it had sold tests worth £375.

Alex Salmond trial verdict

Alex Salmond was cleared of all sexual assault charges on Monday. A jury found the former First Minister not guilty of 12 separate sexual assault allegations made by nine woman in total, while one charge was found not proven. Salmond had said he was innocent of all the charges.

Speaking outside the court after his acquittal, Salmond said:
"As many of you will know, there is certain evidence I would have liked to have seen led in this trial but for a variety of reasons we were not able to do so.

"At some point, that information, that facts and that evidence will see the light of day."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responded to the court's decision by saying that she respected it, and welcomed any parliamentary inquires that were to come into her government's handling of the allegations against Salmond, but with the unprecedented Coronavirus crisis "that time is not now".

Other News

  • Two SNP MPs have called for resignations in the party after Alex Salmond's acquittal of sexual assault charges. Kenny MacAskill MP and Joanna Cherry MP said the former First Minister's acquittal on Monday meant Salmond had been "vindicated" and MacAskill stated "some resignations now required", but did not say who. (The National)
  • SNP MSP John Mason has been scolded by Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman, who said the Shettleston representative is "neither an exception nor exceptional". It comes after Mason criticised the move to close churches and sought to keep his constituency office open. (Daily Record)
  • Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes have sent a joint letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak demanding the jobs retention scheme be expanded to the self-employed. 80 per cent of wages of furloughed employees are now being paid, but no such measures have been put in place for the self-employed. (STV)
  • Donations are being sought by Human Appeal to combat the spread of Coronavirus among refugee communities both at home and abroad. The charity is asking for donations to pay for customised hygiene kits that can protect a family of six from the virus for a month. The calls comes as news broke that Coronavirus has spread to war-torn Syria. (Third Force News)
  • The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has confirmed that no housing association tenant will be evicted due to experiencing financial hardship as a result of the outbreak. The SFHA also called on the Scottish Government to support social landlords that experience income loss during the crisis. The Scottish Government is yet to introduce a no eviction policy in the private sector (Scottish Housing News).
  • Unite the union has called for hospital car parking charges to be abolished for NHS staff, as they work to combat coronavirus. The union said councils should also follow the new guidance of Aberdeen City Council to provide free on-street parking for NHS staff. (Holyrood)

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From around the Scottish media
- Working from home with kids - coping with the pressure (Third Force News)

- One from yours truly on food, care and why we need social planning now (Conter)
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