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‘Five out of Ten’: Health experts slam Sturgeon’s COVID response

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In a video interview, conducted for Scotland Matters, on how an independent Scotland would have dealt with the Coronavirus crisis, leading health experts have slammed Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government, rating their efforts as only ‘five out of ten’.

Due to constant TV exposure, the general public has a mostly positive view of Sturgeon’s handling of the crisis, and is favorably comparing Scotland’s perceived performance with that in England, despite similar infections and death rates. 

However, Rober Kilgour, Executive Chairman of Renaissance Care, which operates 15 care homes in Scotland, and took in 87 patients from hospitals during the crisis, says Sturgeon’s performance has been ‘style over substance.’

‘She’s absolutely loved being there on screen every lunch time. ‘This is not about politics’,  she keeps on saying. Whereas, it’s totally about politics for her, as far as she’s concerned. It should be about people first, not politics. It’s very much been politics first and people second.’

‘There’s a real disconnect between what’s said from the podium, whether that’s on PPE, testing, funding or hospital discharges, and what’s actually experienced at the front line.’

He says that, despite claims by Sturgeon, Renaissance received only one delivery of one week’s supply of PPE from the Scottish government to each of their care homes — after dealing with ten different local authority claim form procedures  — and that there was a ‘postcode lottery’ for testing care staff.

‘When we finally did get mobile Army unit testing for our care homes, we found that 7.5% of our staff, who had no symptoms, were testing positive, and over 10.5% of residents, with no symptoms, were testing positive. And when that was raised by journalists, Nicola Sturgeon said that she had been told ‘somebody that has no symptoms is much less infectious’ (which is false).

‘On PPE, testing and funding, they were very good at blaming everyone else’.

Rating her performance ‘five out of ten’ he says ‘a big concern I have is are they prepared to learn very quick lessons on what went wrong, what could have been done better? And who did the wrong thing at the wrong time?’

Hugh Pennington, of The University of Aberdeen agrees with Kilgour’s five-out-of-ten assessment. He specifically notes that Scotland’s Health Service, which is fully devolved, could have made its own decisions at every stage to lockdown earlier, yet did not use those powers. 

‘The mistakes we made in Scotland have been a very slow start in testing. They haven’t really ramped up testing to the degree they could have done. We really didn’t know what was going on.’

Noting that most of the virus was imported from Europe in February and March, he says, ‘By the time we knew we had the virus, it was almost too late. Community transmission was already under way. And as a consequence of that the virus got out into the community, and in particular, we’ve done very poorly in Scotland protecting residents in care homes.’

Speaking on the Nike outbreak in March, which was covered up by the Scottish Government, Pennington says that a report has still not been issued. 

‘Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to know exactly what happened, because a report hasn’t been published. When you’ve got an outbreak, that’s a fantastic opportunity to learn. Unless you publish the data, you can’t learn anything from it. In Scotland we just haven’t had that data at all. Many other countries have done this, and it’s something that’s going to get in the way of us being prepared (for a second wave).

Pennington further adds that Scottish Independence would not have made any difference to the scientific response, and may have hindered it, due to a disconnect from resources, such as testing laboratories, that are currently shared across the UK.

However, Kilgour says that it would have been impossible for Scotland to cope financially with the crisis. 

‘Being part of the UK has been absolutely essential to the Scottish economy. Where would the Scottish government have got the money for all the schemes that the Chancellor has put in place to support business across all sectors. It’s not just that, coming out of lockdown and over the next few years, Scottish jobs, business and investment, are going to really benefit from being  part of the UK.’

The Scottish Government is very good at taking money from Westminster, and putting a kilt or a saltire on it, and presenting it as their scheme.

‘They could have shut down earlier. They didn’t, and perhaps they will admit at some point, that that was a mistake, but from a funding and financial point of view I just don’t understand where this money was going to come from in an independent Scotland. It’s fantasy land.’

Watch the full video here:

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Written by Mark Devlin

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