We are fast reaching the showdown. Early on in the Covid19 crisis Boris and his sidekick Dominic Cummings let slip that they were not adverse to just letting the virus spread naturally throughout the country, accept high levels of infection and a high level of deaths as the price of keeping the economic levels of the country high.

People were incensed, the medical profession made clear they would not be able to cope and that the NHS would be overrun. Boris took fright, and so for the first time he started taking measures to try and control the virus. He had wasted many weeks, but now they started to source the PPE they required. The first problem emerged, less than two years previously, in order to “save” money they had centralised the purchasing process in England, removing it from local health boards and handing it over to a wholly Government owned PRIVATE company, controlled by the sole shareholder, a Mr Hancock.

One of his first moves, again to save money had been to unload a lot of the warehousing needed for PPE and other supplies. They moved to a “just in time” purchasing strategy common in many manufacturing processes, this allows you to slash stocks and you rely on fast delivery from your suppliers to keep the operation moving smoothly.. It can work fine in highly predictable markets. Unfortunately medicine and pandemics are not predictable. Who knew?

Well the UK Government did, they were in receipt of a very expensive report into the readiness of the UK to respond to a pandemic in 2016. This report made many recommendations. The UK Government ignored the problems and crossed their fingers. The Government did do something, very quietly they later reclassified the Covid 19 virus to a lower level of threat to that was set by the WHO. Why? Because that allowed them to legally stipulate less effective PPE for those medics in the frontline fighting the virus. We all know how many doctors and nurses lost their lives in those early stages amid a shortage of effective PPE.

The PPE shortages led to ridiculous lies about planes due from Turkey, then delays, then the truth emerging that the PPE hadn’t even been ordered, then more delay, then the goods arriving, not being up to spec and the UK Government scrambling about trying to get their money back. Meanwhile, the devolved health service In Scotland under Jeanne Freeman, had not experienced the same shortages and Ivan McKee MSP was  on the case sourcing all the PPE Scotland would need. Including building up in record time a Scottish based PPE supply system. A source of supply that will support Scottish jobs in the future. Ivan is an unsung hero of the Covid crisis and has done an outstanding job.

So, that was the past where are we now? The contrast could not be clearer. Scotland is close to completely suppressing the virus. England, on the other hand currently has well over a thousand new infections every day, at least 8 to 10 times the levels of new infection, often even higher, compared with Scotland and easily the highest rate in the whole of Europe. It is in this circumstance that Boris has decided to end lockdown in England at breakneck speed. We look in horror from Scotland at the overcrowded beaches, no attempt at social distancing in evidence, pubs reopening, shops, cinemas and we just all know what is coming. 

This is what happened in Florida last week when the they lifted the restrictions too early

Restaurants were allowed to reopen at 50% inside and no limits at outdoor seating under Phase 2 reopening. Beaches reopened. But Florida’s COVID-19 cases continued to jump on Friday, with 8,942 additional positive infections. That surpassed the previous record of 5,500 set on Wednesday. That number is five times more than where the state record stood two weeks ago.

Be under no illusion England is on the same path. Boris is planning to return to his preferred early strategy of Herd Immunity. The new message is going to be “ well we tried to contain it. We incurred a huge cost BUT it hasn’t worked, it’s been impossible to control. We will try to protect the NHS, we have built all these extra Nightingale hospitals but we must concentrate on getting folk back to work while we still have jobs to go back to” Tens of thousands will die but eventually immunity could build up, but at what cost?

The ground is being prepared, note the end of the daily press conference, the complete absence of claims about “following the science” instead it is all about the economy and getting everything open and everybody back to work. Science is turned on its head, the two metre social distancing which has been crucial until now is magically halved overnight to one metre. Nobody tries to justify it on medical grounds it’s sole justification is it makes it easier to open up pubs,restaurants and public transport. All instances of international comparisons have disappeared. So while Boris is going to spend the next couple of months basically lying that there was no alternative or hope of control, it’s going to be politically vital that he doesn’t have a pesky devolved neighbour on the northern border running control measures where the virus is being effectively suppressed. The solution? Ensure lots of infected people from England holiday in Scotland over July and August and eliminate that risk by bringing their levels up to be more in line with the rest of the UK

Last week this blog asked the question Should Nicola close the border? The response was enormous, thousands viewed the article and the overwhelming response was that measures were needed to protect Scotland, preferably gaining temporary powers to close the border. But, if this was refused then the use of the Covid emergency powers and traffic regulations to severely limit the opportunity to travel in Scotland over these months.While it was recognised this would create difficulties for tourism, I think many Scots considering having their holidays in Scotland for the first time in years would be greatly reassured if they knew the holiday lodge or caravan they had hired had not been hired the previous week by folk from highly infected England . It’s not nice having to write that but I believe it to be true. Nicola has to realise that going easy on the border issue will greatly harm the chances of the tourism industry enjoying record numbers of home Scots this year. The very people who could help our tourist industry by staycationing here.

As I have written previously I do not envy the First Minister her job, there are no easy choices, but I will be hugely disappointed if the Scottish Government and Parliament do not formally request powers to regulate our borders. I say this for the very obvious reason that our own population has endured months of lockdown to arrive at the very good situation we are in today. I think a great many will be very angry if all that progress is lost because our Parliament fails to ask for the powers we need to protect that position. Secondly, it would be a real example to Unionists in Scotland of the very real need for Scotland to be fully Independent and able to behave like all the other normal nations in Europe and close our borders, when necessary, to protect the health of our people. I am sure Unionists do not want the blame for Scotland suffering reinfection because of the Union and our limited powers. Refusal by Westminster would create a very powerful argument for Independence would it not, very easy for people to understand?

I, and I am sure the vast majority in Scotland, have no wish to be part of England’s herd!

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