Tensions mount as Scotland goes its own way on virus lockdown
Edinburgh: First independence. Then Brexit. Now Scotland’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak has stirred up fresh tensions with the UK government, despite an initial unified approach.
The leader of the Scottish government, Nicola Sturgeon, has put clear water between Edinburgh and London by refusing to implement the same easing of lockdown measures.
At the weekend, she warned lives could be at risk if stay-at-home restrictions were lifted too soon, just before British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a plan for a gradual return to normality.
Johnson’s ruling Conservatives have been criticised in the crisis, particularly for a lack of widespread testing and the supply of protective equipment for frontline workers.
The prime minister has also been questioned about his claim to have stopped the outbreak successfully, when more than 32,000 people have died -- the second-highest in the world.
But in Scotland, where figures released on Tuesday showed just under 2,000 deaths from nearly 14,000 positive tests, Sturgeon is perceived to be doing a good job.
A YouGov poll last week indicated 71 percent of people were confident Sturgeon would make the right decision, compared to just 40 percent for Johnson.
The approval rating comes on the back of indications of an increase in support for her Scottish National Party (SNP).
- ‘Russian roulette’ -
The latest crack in fragile relations between the UK government and the devolved administration in Edinburgh mostly centres around messaging.
Until Sunday, the UK-wide advice to the public was “Stay at Home” to avoid transmitting the virus and stop the state-run National Health Service being overwhelmed with cases.
But Johnson changed the slogan to “Stay Alert” as he sketched out plans to open up the economy again to certain sectors, after passing the peak of the outbreak.
“I don’t know what ‘stay alert’ means,” Sturgeon told reporters at the weekend.
“If I say to you, my message now is stay alert and you say to me, but does that mean I stay at home or not, and I can’t give you a straight answer, I am failing in my duty to be clear in terms of what I’m asking you to do.” - AFP