Covid-19 Ignited Scottish Political Fire

With the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, the United Kingdom placed health and certain other matters in the hands of the devolved regions in order to control the situation. Now, despite the recovery from coronavirus and the successful rollout of the general vaccination programme, there is still much that needs to return to normal. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has made every effort to control the pandemic and prepare Scotland for the forthcoming elections, has faced obstacles, including disputes with the Scottish Parliament and the UK government.

The Coronavirus in Scotland

When the pandemic first hit the UK in the early months of 2020, there were no discernible differences in approach to the plans of the Scottish and UK governments to contain its spread. In March 2020, both Scotland and the rest of the UK imposed lockdowns later than other European countries.

Health is a devolved power in the UK, so the Scottish government has full responsibility for the health policy in Scotland. In May 2020, we began to see divergence between Scotland and the rest of the UK on ways out of lockdown, and also on data following the publication of the Test, Trace, Isolate, Support report.

By establishing the SNH Centre, the Scottish government was able to obtain clear reports, some of which was worrying, including the higher number of deaths among the Asian population from coronavirus, and identified reasons and weaknesses in order to reduce injustices. It also established 5 Covid-19 protection levels (0-4). The rules everyone has to follow depend on the level for their council area and Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness.

Now, most of mainland Scotland (and islands not at Level 1) are at Level 2. Orkney, Shetland, Na h-Eileanan Siar, all Highlands and Islands (except Skye), Argyll and Bute islands, Coll, Colonsay, Erraid, Gometra, Iona, Islay, Jura, Mull, Oronsay, Tiree and Ulva are at Level 1. Only Glasgow city council area remains at Level 3.

Scotland After the Launch of Covid-19 Vaccination Programme

Scotland is the second region after Wales to have the highest level of vaccinations for both first and second doses. The speed of vaccination in Scotland is so high that it is hoped restrictions will be completely lifted soon.

As of 13 June 2021, there have been 247,541 confirmed In the week ending 8 June 2021, there were 158 admissions to hospital with a laboratory confirmed Covid-19 test. The highest number of new admissions was seen amongst those aged 30-39 years and 40-49 years.  Prior to the inoculation rollout for Covid-19, the highest number of new admissions each week was consistently for people aged 50+ years.

The proportion of patients admitted to hospital within 14 days of a laboratory confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis has declined from 13% in the week commencing 25 February 2021, to 5% in the week commencing 31 May 2021. In the week ending 12 June 2021, there were 13 new admissions to intensive care units (ICU) for confirmed Covid-19 cases.

In the week ending 13 June 2021, there were 7,838 people who arrived in Scotland from outside the UK, of which 6,575 were required to quarantine (of which 684 were quarantined in a hotel) and 3,183 were contacted by the National Contact Tracing Centre. In the week ending 13 June 2021, under the Community Testing Programme, 13.9% of symptomatic and 5.0% of asymptomatic people tested positive for Covid-19.

Opposition to Sturgeon’s Actions

Nicola Sturgeon and Andy Burnham are engaged in a war of words over the Scottish government’s decision to impose a Covid-19 travel ban from parts of North West England. The Greater Manchester mayor continued his criticism of the restrictions, saying he felt people in his region had been “insulted” by the first minister’s approach and a lack of consultation.

The first minister defended her decision and suggested Burnham was seeking to “generate a spat” with her in order to position himself in a future Labour leadership contest.

This prompted anger from Burnham at the weekend, who said the move was disproportionate and should have been communicated to his administration beforehand.

When the first minister was asked about Burnham’s reaction on BBC News on Monday, she said: “These are public health measures. I have a duty, and it’s one I take very seriously, to keep Scotland as safe as possible. I’m sure Andy Burnham feels the same sense of duty towards people in the Greater Manchester area.”

Sturgeon suggests Burnham’s attack on Scotland’s Manchester travel ban is primarily motivated by his Labour leadership ambitions. She  has suggested that Andy Burnham’s public complaints about her government’s ban on non-essential travel between Scotland and Manchester were primarily motivated by his desire to boost his prospects of becoming the next Labour leader.

Also, the current Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland will remain in place until 19 July after a 40% increase in new cases in the last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said. The Scottish government’s original plan was for the entire nation to move to Level 0 from 28 June, but Ms Sturgeon has confirmed the current rules will remain in place for three more weeks.

The revised roadmap will see all areas of Scotland which have not already done so move to Level 0 from mid-July, at which point the limits on household gatherings indoors will decrease. It is also hoped that the two-metre social distancing requirement can be reduced to one metre on this date “assuming the data supports this”, the first minister said. The Scottish government plans to lift all major coronavirus restrictions on 9 August if possible, she told MSPs. The plan is now for both England and Scotland to relax restrictions on 19 July.


Sturgeon has made decisions that have led to controversy in the Scottish Parliament, which believes that plans must be explained to Parliament before they can be implemented.

The situation in Scotland is improving rapidly, as expected, following the Sturgeon government’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout. It is now ready to pursue its post-Covid plans, but differences still exist between Sturgeon and Parliament. There are also disputes among parties which blame each other. These arguments seem to be the backdrop of a scenario unfolding with different political dimensions: First, removing Sturgeon from power or portraying her as weak; second, showing Scotland as weak in politics, entailing British intervention, and delaying or not holding a Scottish independence referendum.

Sturgeon appeared in parliament and gave a brief explanation to show her power. She also extended the restrictions due to the large number of hospital admissions.

Apparently, she has been successful at getting out of these disputes, and this is good on the flip side because such cases will come her way again.

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