Sturgeon Is On the Ropes, and Inevitably Out For the Count | Danny Earnshaw

Nicola Sturgeon has defended the Scottish government’s handling of what may have been the earliest mass-transmission of the deadly coronavirus in what one MP has called a “national scandal”.

On 26 and 27 February, more than 70 Nike employees from across the globe travelled to Scotland for a conference at the Hilton Hotel, Edinburgh. Investigations have found at least 25 people linked to the conference contracted coronavirus.

The Mail on Sunday reports that staff at two firms which sent staff to the conference became ill after coming into contact with delegates at the event. But the Mail also claims the businesses were not contacted at the time of the outbreak.

“Our sweet Scottish fairy godmother can no longer stick her beak into Westminster’s handling of the pandemic without knowing she’s also responsible for gross incompetence.”

The first minister said in her daily briefings that all the appropriate procedures were followed and “contact tracing was done rigorously in this situation”. Health secretary Jeane Freeman similarly claims that, “all the proper clinical led standard protocols” were followed.

However both companies said there was no contact tracing of their staff in the wake of the Nike Conference.

The first minister claimed that details were not made public in the immediate aftermath of the conference because of patient confidentiality guidelines. However, as Ian Murray MP has made clear, patient confidentiality is “unfounded in terms of law and runs counter to the recognition in law of the over-riding public interest”.

Instead, Public Health Act 2008 supersedes all other considerations if “it is necessary to do so for the purposes of, or in connection with, the protection of public health”. I think we can all largely agree that when an epidemic like this takes grip of the planet, and we see the huge infection rates and death tolls which Italy and Iran were wrestling with; why exactly did the first minister restrict this information with the interests of just 25 patients’ confidentiality supposedly at risk? And why does she continue to defend the Scottish government’s actions from late February?

Well, that might be because the very first documented case of coronavirus came on 28 February, making the Nike conference one of the earliest and key catalysts which helped spread the coronavirus across the UK. Once she and her government realised they hadn’t acted and continued not to act, it was better for the Sturgeon-SNP image to act as if the Scottish government had this under control by not addressing the issue at all.

So while Sturgeon continues to lambast the UK government’s latest slogan or lockdown exit strategy, questions must be answered by the Hollyrood administration as to why one of the earliest cases of coronavirus went unreported and not followed up with conference delegates. And even now, in mid-May, why has the Scottish government not taken responsibility for its actions and admitted it’s failings? That’s because our sweet Scottish fairy godmother north of the border can no longer stick her beak into Westminster’s handling of the pandemic without knowing she’s also responsible for gross incompetence.

The first minister can continue to take potshots at Westminster at her daily briefings, but let’s not forget the number of coronavirus tests in Scotland was just as poor as those in England at the beginning of the pandemic, and by April only 10% of the daily target was being met. Similarly Covid-19 related deaths in Scottish care homes was double the ratio of that in Englands and with at least one case reported in at least 58% of them. This was made worse by the fact the Scottish government gave guidance that elderly patients could be discharged from hospital before their test results came back, allowing them to be re-introduced into care-homes and infecting more patients.

Sturgeon may appear to have all the answers, but she is just as culpable as Westminster over the government’s mis-handling of the pandemic. However her conniving and disingenuous antics of the past 2 months are now making her dreams of a renewed independence referendum laughable.

Photo by The CBI on Flickr.

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