UK coronavirus blunder: Expert attacks devolution for ‘confusing’ COVID-19 response

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Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee was told that there was a “lack of transparency” from the UK Government in the early days of the crisis. The committee heard evidence about the COVID-19 response from four researchers on Thursday as part of an inquiry into how the four UK nations are handling the crisis.

Currently, lockdown is dealt with by the three devolved administrations and Westminster for England instead of a one nation approach.

Professor Linda Bauld, from the University of Edinburgh was asked by Conservative MP Andrew Bowie asked her if the “messy” nature of devolution had hampered efforts at tackling coronavirus.

The public health professor and behavioural scientist, said: “I think so – I wouldn’t say it’s the main reason.

“Let’s be frank, I should have said at the beginning, we have done appallingly badly in terms of international comparisons.

“In terms of excess mortality, I think Spain is the only country in Europe that’s slightly ahead of us.

“We have not handled this pandemic well, in any part of the UK.”

She said the diverging public health messages had been difficult to understand for members of the public.

Professor Bauld added: “I think it’s been very confusing how the decisions have been made at UK level, not all decisions but some decisions.

“I think in Scotland, again it’s not perfect at all.”

Prof Bauld stressed the SAGE advisory group is almost devoid of people with “on the ground public health experience” despite having eminent members in other fields.

Nicola McEwen, co-director of the Centre on Constitutional Change, also agreed there had been confusion.

She said that the UK Government hadn’t “always been clear when public health messages are directed at England alone”.

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Akash Paun, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, also told the committee there is a need for “stronger formal relations” between the different governments in the UK.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire for her handling of dealing with the pandemic with opposition parties claiming that she is too slow when deciding to lift lockdown.

Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Conservative leader, said in Holyrood yesterday: “Scotland doesn’t just need a plan to open back up, it needs a route map to recovery. It needs imagination, ambition and an open mind.

“Children need a plan so they can get back to school, parents need a plan so they can get back to work, Scotland needs a plan so we can avoid a depression as great as any of us have ever seen.”


 

Adam Tomkins, Scottish Tory MSP for Glasgow echoed Mr Carlaw’s calls and said: “Seriously? Scotland inches painfully slowly out of lockdown.

“Meanwhile the economic devastation grows worse and worse.”

Plaid Cymru also criticised First Minister Mark Drakeford in Wales saying they should “make clear” on what sectors are next to be reopened.

Health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said the FM should “relax restrictions as fast and as safely as possible and to consistently test and challenge the decisions they take as we move towards a new normality”.

England is currently going through stage two of it’s lockdown plan which sees non-essential retail open up again whilst Scotland will start to go into their phase two plans from this weekend starting off with allowing people in small bubbles to stay overnight.

Meanwhile, Mark Drakeford will announce the further relaxation of measures in a press conference today.

Northern Ireland, however, recommended that social distancing in schools be reduced from two metres to one metre.

 

 

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