SHOULD THE BORDER BE CLOSED?

This is a post from the 24th June 2020, arguing for measures to put restrictions on the border before the holiday season so that the progress in eliminating the virus in Scotland could be protected during the holiday season. Look at the numbers at the time compared to today. Of course nothing was done and the numbers of new infections ballooned. I fear the timidity of today will lead to a much worse scenario with thousands adversely affected. If Wales can do it why can’t Scotland? Is it because OUR Chief Constable reports to Priti Patel at Westminster?


Should Nicola close the Border to non commercial traffic.

IS an argument that is raging across the country. Has she the power to do it? What would justify it? What would be the economic cost?

Good questions, let’s try and answer them. I will take the easiest first. I think there would be overwhelming public support for such a move if it could be demonstrated that Covid 19 was on the rise again in England and the current infection rates were much higher than in Scotland. This would create a clear and present danger to Scots, particularly in the rural tourist areas where local health facilities would be quickly overwhelmed by a deluge of incoming infected tourists. In such circumstances I think the public would be right to demand Government action to end that risk. There would be a big cost in doing so but I will deal with that later.

Does Scotland have the powers to close the border.? The answer to that is currently no, voting in support of Better Together in 2014 made sure of that, BUT I think it would be very difficult for London, if the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of such a move, that Westminster would not grant temporary powers to do so. If they do refuse they hand the SNP an excellent example of why Independence is needed. Also a refusal would be like passing a death sentence on the Tories in Scotland who would then be justifiably blamed for every subsequent infection and death in Scotland. An impossible political position. Boris doesn’t like Jackson Carlaw, but, he wouldn’t do that to him, would he?

He might, Boris only thinks of Boris, so Scotland had better have a back up plan. What could that be? Well the best would probably be using travel restrictions as the tool to effectively close the border using powers we do have that limits the distance people can drive away from their home during the Covid 19 crisis. Presuming the levels in Scotland remain very low, this driving range could be extended from five miles, to twenty or thirty, even more, freeing up travel in low risk Scotland, but, making it a punishable offence for those crossing the border and planning to visit areas well away from the immediate border area itself. Big fines would prove highly effective as would multiple fines for repeat offenders, allowing for a day between offences. No quicker way of spoiling the holiday than all your spending money being swallowed up paying fines for Covid related traffic offences. I believe this was the tactic used in Wales which effectively closed the border there.

We should, however, be very aware of the huge cost to many businesses in the travel, tourism and hospitality areas of our economy. It’s not just lost revenues, it’s huge numbers of jobs. Hospitality is a huge employer in Scotland. You can be sure the Chancellor will be doing nothing to lessen the blow of your job not being there because the Scots have effectively closed the border.

Knowing human nature, we might also be storing up future resentment down South that could roll into subsequent years for tourism, long after the virus has passed. So it’s no easy decision. Everyone thinks they are well, until their not!

The best solution to this is for the rest of the UK to get their rates of infection down to those in line with Scotland. Then the problem is solved and there would be no justification or need to close the border. Unfortunately, that seems a big ask. While the numbers of newly infected are falling they are still, by many multiples, much higher than in Scotland

. There is also a great fear that England is opening up too quickly and the chances of a serious spike are high, particularly in the major cities due to over population, poor housing conditions and crowded transport. Today’s figures highlight the problem. In Scotland we had 12 new infections today. Allowing for population equalization, Scotland being 8.2% of the uk population that would give you an expected figure of 146 new infections in the UK if the rates were mirroring Scotland. Instead the UK figures were 1147 new infections on the 23rd June almost EIGHT TIMES THE RATE IN SCOTLAND. If, as expected the more lax regulations in England result in the rate of infection Increasing further in England then surely everyone must recognise it would be folly to ignore the risks of allowing tourists from these areas to enter our country unintentionally infecting our population.

So hard choices are ahead. Despite attempts by Scotland’s troubled Tories the Covid 19 crisis has largely avoided Party politics. Nicola has been an outstanding leader throughout this crisis and has attracted much goodwill and appreciation from people of all differing political loyalties for the enormous effort and commitment she has displayed. I often think how different it might have been if Jackson Carlaw has been the First Minister and Scotland’s response during the crisis would have been dictated by London. Folk might like to consider that when determining our future constitutional position. I can confidently forecast the name “Better Together” is a dead duck and will never be heard of again from Unionists. It has become a true hostage to fortune.

So this crisis is far from over, hard decisions are still to be made, complicated by the clash of priorities, so evident in the different approaches being taken by Holyrood and Westminster, Holyrood led by health and safety concerns, Westminster’s increasingly driven by economic considerations and an unspoken willingness to return to a herd immunity mentality if that is what is needed to get the economy moving again. They will not shrink from removing all financial support if people display a reluctance to go back to work, even if that reluctance is safety based. They have halved social distancing for the same reason, economics trumps health with the Tories.

The bad news for all politicians, north or south of the border is that a huge, huge job is going to be required to get all four countries of the UK into recovery mode. Things have changed and the solutions can’t  be piecemeal, patch up sticking plasters to cover the wounds. Major surgery is required. Can they do it? Even the optimist in me doubts it. I see very little vision or ambition there but I do live in hope and I would be delighted to be surprised.

My view? As the author, I am duty bound to provide it. If the infection rates in England are rising again and the current infection rates are already over six times higher than Scotland then the border, through whatever means, should be closed. Anything else is murder.

We must also remember what is at risk, our low levels of infection offer the prospect of a normal return to work, our schools going back in August at near normal levels. All that will be destroyed if the numbers of infections start to spike again. So, it might be costly to close the border, but, an awful lot more could be at risk if we don’t and then import large spikes in the number of new cases. Then everything we have done to this point will be lost and we will be back in lockdown for who knows how long or going along with England’s herd immunity route causing many thousands of lives to be lost.

There are no easy choices, who wants to be First Minister?

12 thoughts on “SHOULD THE BORDER BE CLOSED?

  1. Infections went up after the holiday season. But they went up most in Glasgow and Lanarkshire (rather than the Highlands where incoming tourists go). Could that be because people were bringing it back from their holidays abroad?

    In which case maybe the border should have been closed this summer – to stop Scots getting out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The kind of English tourists who go to the Highlands aren’t typically your Costa Brava covidiots. They are middle class bird watchers coming by private car and renting a holiday cottage. Or eco type campers. Some campers from Glasgow (regrettably) do pollute the fringes of the Highlands like Loch Lomond, leaving beer cans and cutting down trees, but have little contact with locals since they bring their own booze with them on their wild camping trips.

      This latest English gift is not the first. Since August 300 new variants have been introduced to Scotland which have been traced to England. They may have been brought by Scots arriving from Spain at English airports. That is why internal UK flights must be viewed as a danger. Apparently Scots men travel to Blackpool in organised bus trips to watch football in pubs, shouting and bawling and bringing viruses back with them because the same pub TV isn’t available in Scotland.

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  2. The ability for Scotland to tackle Covid is the immediate health threat but the privatisation of the NHS England which has been underway for years, looks like it’s about to reduce the NHS England to a badge (brand) for a fully privatised health system in England and is the more serious longer term health threat to Scotland. The Single Market Bill allows this privatisation to be imposed in Scotland, meaning that ‘longer term’ may mean months rather than years. A temporary border travel restriction is clearly needed right now, but only independence will allow full and on-going control over the heath system in Scotland.

    ‘The Health and Social Care Act 2012 (c 7) is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It provides for the most extensive reorganisation of the structure of the National Health Service in England to date. It removed responsibility for the health of citizens from the Secretary of State for Health, which the post had carried since the inception of the NHS in 1948’. – wiki

    ‘Boris Johnson’s government has for the first time (19 Dec 2020) confirmed the existence of a prime ministerial task force which is reportedly planning a “radical shake-up of the NHS”.

    ‘Freedom of Information disclosures to openDemocracy show the new “No.10 Health and Social Care Taskforce” reports to a Steering Group chaired by Munira Mirza, the influential head of Boris Johnson’s policy unit, and that it “met weekly” from July to September with a further meeting in October. Mirza, a political appointee who previously worked for Johnson when he was London mayor, has no background or policy experience in health. The disclosures also reveal that whilst some Department of Health officials do attend the task force, it is led by four senior civil servants based at the Treasury, and none of whom are from the Department of Health’.

    ‘The government has not published any information about the task force’s existence, work, terms of reference or membership – and has refused to answer questions about the nature of its work’.

    ‘What today’s disclosures do show is that the task force’s civil service policy lead is Adrian Masters. An alumnus of the management consultancy McKinsey, Masters played a key role in shaping the last major piece of NHS legislation, the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. McKinsey was reported to have drafted large parts of that bill, which was criticised as enabling increased fragmentation and private sector outsourcing of large parts of the NHS’.

    ‘The British Medical Association (BMA) has characterised this Long Term Plan as a “plan for a market-driven healthcare system”’.

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/revealed-boris-johnsons-controversial-policy-chief-leading-secretive-nhs-task-force/?utm_source=tw

    If you want to see what a ‘market driven healthcare system’ is like just google ‘bankruptcies due to medical bills’.

    That would just be one of the disasterous consequences of staying in the UK.

    No easy choices? Yes there is – either have vote on independence asap (May?) or openly surrender to the Stockholm Syndrome or boiled frog, whichever analogy fits best.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Excellent post.

      Unfortunately, the willingness to impose the “English” system already exists within NHS Scotland. The mushrooming mass of managers in the service are measured in their effectiveness by the amount of “change” they can make. Even if that “change” makes little sense or even returns a department to what had existed several “changes” beforehand. If a manager isn’t seen to be making changes they will find themselves struggling to climb the greasy pole.

      As a result, when appointing new managers to vacant posts, “refugees” from NHS England are often preferred to those from Scotland as they come from a very different system and are therefore more likely to come up with more radical “change”. Not least because they have already seen the English NHS dismantled and have a sense of its inevitability seared into their mind-set. The senior managers in my department are now all English bar their boss who has overseen their appointments …. a failed Labour politician.

      It is difficult to know how to fight this. You can’t ban English appointments as that would be glaringly racist. You can’t ban “change” as some change will always be necessary. Even independence cannot guarantee an end to it (though it would obviously help). To me, the best remedy would be a massive cull of NHS Scotland management which has grown like topsy in recent years to the detriment of the services they are ostensibly there to oversee. It was a damascene moment for many “front line” workers in my Health Board when the Band 1 porters went on strike and managers had to stop what they were doing (whatever that was) to do the porters essential duties for months. While the service continued unabated because the porters jobs were being covered, the fact that managers not “managing” for months made absolutely NO difference to the service was not lost on them.

      All, of course, in my opinion.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Bungo, what you are describing in the Health Service, in Scotland, is precisely what has been happening in every service and cultural sphere for a number of years now, but to say so is to invite accusations of racism. Actually, it is a form of colonialism, a creeping form of it, and, believe it or not, it has grown under the SNP, with, as you say, the English managerial class being preferred to the Scots-born one, and this has increased rapidly since 2014. This is the case in our universities, too, in our cultural heritage and natural environment spheres. I have also seen it in recent years in rural Scotland where there is any form of medium-sized business: the management is almost entirely English, while the worker bees at the bottom are Scots or EU migrants into Scotland. What we are building is a NI-style country, and, unless, we can persuade rUK and Unionist Scots, together, to vote for independence by a large majority in any future independence referendum, we are sunk. I am not anti English. I just want them to acknowledge Scotland as their home, if they have made their home here, and vote accordingly, or abstain, if they cannot bring themselves to do that, which they did not do in 2014. They are welcome to live and work in Scotland, not as colonialists in an outpost of a Greater England – but as Scots of English/rUK heritage.

        Basically, this is the reason that I think a referendum of any kind runs the risk of being lost again, reflecting the situation in 2014, and in Quebec, in their second referendum, where the Anglophones outvoted the Francophones on the day, the polls having shown a win for independence. No PRE independence referendum has been won anywhere in the Western world in the past 50 years and more. In French New Caledonia, recently, French settlers outvoted the indigenous population and the UN rebuked them for their breaching of the UN Charter on self-determination and colonialism. It is not only the S30 nonsense that has kept us imprisoned, it has also been the insistence on a PRE independence referendum when none is necessary to satisfy international law. Reality has not yet sunk into the Scottish mindset, and Realpolitik is as far away now as it was before 2011. Realpolitik will mean having to offend people. Neither the SNPG nor many of its supporters are able to face up to that reality or Realpolitik.

        There is no way to police/close the border except by negotiation or necessity through health measures, and that is the price we will have to pay, along with so many others, with Brexit, because we did not vote YES in 2014, and nor did we do sweet Fanny Adams about independence since.

        Liked by 7 people

      2. Also wanted to say, Bungo, in my post, that the UN is cognizant of the tensions that can be built up around the thwarting of independence, particularly in light of the former Yugoslavia, and, although it will not, generally, interfere in a state’s domestic politics, it will cast a sceptical eye over the situation where a state refuses to allow any mechanism for secession or splitting or shrugging off the colonial yoke, as in the case of the UKG. It was the UKG which changed the whole political, social and economic landscape with Brexit, so not allowing these changes in circumstances to afford us a second bite of the cherry would be deemed to be ‘colonial’ oppression under the UN’s own Charter. The existence of the Treaty only adds depth and weight to our case. I have to say that I am not really in favour of Mr Keatings’ action as it would, at best, bring us back to pre 2014, and we have moved on from there quite considerably. However, neither would I poo-poo it, as it should bring clarity vis-a-vis the SNPG’s powers to enact a referendum within the British State. Since, I am worried about holding a second indyref, which can always be undermined on the day, I find the whole referendum thing pointless and counter-productive. But, hey, I might be very wrong, so anything’s worth a try.

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      3. Dear God I NEVER thought I would agree with ANY posting of yours MBP but I most certainly agree with yours as well as both comments by Lorna Campbell , just to increase your displeasure I will refer you to an article on Craig Murray’s site which is very worthwhile reading , it refers to an extract from a book Co authored by Mike Russell (Feorlean) and sets out his wishes and views for the SNHS when we become independent , I personally am repulsed and outraged in equal measures at his views and intentions for our SNHS , I would encourage people to visit Craigs site and view the article for themselves , IMO it makes a VERY DISTURBING reading of future intentions

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I don’t disagree with much in your posts Lorna, and nothing in relation to the anglification of Scotland with its subsequent ramifications for independence. I always thought you got a rough deal on Bella for making your points on it,

        I wouldn’t worry too much Robert. I’m sure I’ll piss you off soon enough 😉. As to Mike Russell’s previous scribblings on the NHS, I have already read them on Craig Murray’s site. They were apparently for a book that looked at radical ideas. Never-the-less, they have never been SNP policy nor were they ever going to be. The SNP has always been a very broad church with Right and Left being accommodated. Russell, it would seem, is on the Right. So was Salmond apparently (hence Michael Fry’s preference for him over “lefty” Sturgeon). Even our host, Mr Lawson, appears to be very pro-business which is traditionally seen as a Right wing concern. Mike Russell has been a real asset to the SNP and the independence campaign. I’m sure he’ll continue to be one from his non-executive role as Party President.

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      5. Unlike most people I was around in the SNP and knew Mike Russell well at the time this book was published. I am sure the views expressed re the NHS were the views of the co author rather than Mike’s. Nor would I describe him as right wing rather a sensible moderate capable of judging issues in a balanced fashion. For once we agree Mr Bungo Mike is an asset to the SNP with much still to contribute.

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  3. Most interesting points Ian and MBP.

    An area in many ways connected to health care is that of care homes. That around 50% of care homes are in the corporate sector with hugely complicated inter connected company ownerships trading and cross trading, with ultimate holding companies located across the world’s off shore tax jurisdictions, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how NHS privatisations will go.

    Maybe of course we do not deserve a national health service. Around sixty million American citizens live with effectively no health care, and many millions more are under insured. In fact, sad to say, what right do we really have to live in a country that facilitates free at the point of need centrally funded health care. That is the Tory philosophy so extant with the current Westminster Government – and after all, why shouldn’t someone make a profit out of treating ill health.

    But we’re all adults, generally of sound mind, and we have a vote, which votes, as we are now continuing to find out count for absolutely nothing. Maybe time we changed that.

    As for closing the Scottish Border, difficult as it may be, this could be done with allowing maybe only essential lorries through whilst stopping and or checking car movements. Similarly, train and bus services could be checked. The world has closed its borders with England and so should we.

    Liked by 4 people

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