Saturday, March 21, 2020

A suppression strategy is the ONLY way to protect Scotland's rural communities

Over the last 24 hours or so, I've noticed an increasing number of senior SNP politicians quite rightly criticising people for going to rural areas (for example in camper vans) and putting vulnerable local residents at great risk.  Angus MacNeil posted a photo of preparations that had been made in Barra for anyone requiring emergency medical treatment, and he described them as "third world" in nature, lacking almost all of the necessary equipment.  He begged people to stay away from the island.

So there's a growing awareness in the SNP that the only way to protect rural communities is by means of a suppression strategy, ie. by stopping those communities from being exposed to infection in the first place.  That being the case, it's extremely hard to understand why Holyrood was, until only a few days ago, in complete lockstep with the insane "herd immunity" strategy of the UK government which would have entailed deliberately allowing 60%+ of the population to be infected over the coming weeks.  I'm sure you don't need me to paint a picture for you: if that had happened, there's no way rural areas would have been spared.  How did we get into such a grotesque position?  Did people in the SNP just not join up the dots and realise what they were signing off on?  Were they too in awe of a handful of London scientists to ask even the most basic questions?

Even now, it's far from clear that the UK government's chief advisers Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance are actually sold on a suppression strategy.  Reading between the lines of today's illuminating BuzzFeed piece, it seems that they're reluctantly going along for the time being with the suppression measures described as absolutely essential by the Imperial College paper, but are refusing to acknowledge that anything has really changed.  That leaves open the disturbing possibility that their influence could see the UK backslide into a "take it on the chin" approach.  Can we be assured that the Scottish Government are privately making representations to ensure that doesn't happen, and that rural communities (and the rest of the country, for that matter) are protected?  

I must say that Jason Leitch's Grand Complacency Tour of the TV studios hasn't inspired any great confidence that the Scottish Government's own advisers are doing anything other than showing total deference to whatever the London "science" happens to be today.  I'd suggest it's time for SNP backbenchers to speak out and urge that the UK should start following the real science and adopt the recommendations of the World Health Organization on suppressing and controlling the virus - which are about as far removed from Whitty's and Vallance's reckless outlier views as it's possible to be.

(By the way, none of this should be interpreted as a criticism of Angus MacNeil, who I know has been speaking out.)


  1. 100% agree with this. How is it that many of us, untrained as we are, can see what government cannot?

  2. This is what we're up against!

    "I think the public are very resilient, especially the British, we are known for our stiff upper lip. I think, let the public decide what they want to do.

    "If the older generation, the younger generation, they want to go to bars and restaurants, let them. At least give them the option.

    "By me working, that's down to me, that's my risk. If the older generation want to come in for a beer, that's at their risk.

    It's time the SNP started showing some proper leadership and closed the border, with a full lockdown in Scotland ..

    There's more than enough English settlers, without more coming up to use our country as some kind of sanctuary.

    1. "By me working, that's down to me, that's my risk. If the older generation want to come in for a beer, that's at their risk."

      Jeez. It's not just "their" risk. They're putting every single person in their community (and beyond) at risk.

    2. "there's more than enough English settlers..."
      Not sure what you mean by this?

    3. The cost of not being independent from Westminster - death and economic misery.

      Thanks for nothing Britnat turds.

  3. There was a news report video circulating on Twitter, people all going about their daily lives as normal.

    They interviewed an older lady at a busy grocer's shop:

    "We're all just going on as normal. If you don't, you're giving in to it, aren't you?"

    Bojo had to go and present this as a war situation, didn't he? Invoking the old Dunkirk spirit. "Yes, it's a tsunami, but I'm staying where I am because if we run for higher ground we're just giving in to it, aren't we?"

    Part of me is howling at the catastrophic incompetence that's put us here and part of me is howling at the idiocy of people who don't get it.

  4. The Scottish Government has not been in 'lock-step' with Westminster.

    They broke ranks with Westminster when Ms Sturgeon announced that large gatherings eg football matches were going to be cancelled. In doing so she was also acting in contradiction with Prof Leitch who said he would attend such large gatherings and cleaved to the herd immunity strategy despite the criticism of more learned and experienced colleagues.

    Prof Leitch's mellifluous tones and genial manner may have played well to the gallery but if you listened carefully to what he said you would have been less confident in what he was saying.

    The Scottish Gov also instituted surveillance testing in the community which was something Westminster was, and is not doing. They have also instituted testing of NHS staff. Yes more stringent testing and contact tracing would be the gold standard but I suspect UK production of test kits is not up to meeting that demand.

    It is also worth remembering that Ms Sturgeon was Health Secretary and during her time in that position not only instituted a strategy to successfully bring HAI under control but presided over the response to the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009. Therefore, alone of the UK leaders, she has actual experience and knowledge of what infections and their control involves. Perhaps that is why she acted to close down large gatherings in the face of advice that it was not required.

    In Dr Calderwood she also has a Chief Medical Officer that inspires more confidence than some others.

    1. I accept there have been some small differences, but there was certainly no sign of any challenge to the principle of herd immunity, which is something that Leitch openly propagandised for in his many TV and radio appearances.

    2. Scotland has been testing at 1.4x the rate of the UK / 40% higher.

      The confirmed case rate for the UK has now overtaken Scotland even with that. At the same time, the death rate here (sadly the most reliable measure) is increasingly behind the UK (UK 2.7x Scotland). This strongly implies the infection rate is notably worse in England. London is apparently a problem.

      So, things are looking a bit better here, for whatever reason. Luck or the slightly different approach of the Scottish government?

      At least for now.

      At the same time, the e.g. wage support package shows the limits of what the Scottish government could do. Shutting down businesses en masse without wage support would just create mass unemployment, homelessness etc, even if they had had the power.

      If we look at Denmark, Norway etc, we can see how an indy Scotland could have acted.

    3. Mr Kelly,
      Prof Leitch may have 'propagandised' for the policy but it does not mean that the SG were buying into it. The differences which you characterise as slight were in fact quite telling.

  5. >How did we get into such a grotesque position? Did people in the SNP just not join up the dots and realise what they were signing off on? Were they too in awe of a handful of London scientists to ask even the most basic questions?

    One of the few times a Yoon media investigation would be justified, and they're nowhere to be seen. That Buzzfeed piece is superb, though. Wickham might best the UK's finest journalist right now.

    >Jason Leitch's Grand Complacency Tour of the TV studios

    The writers of this disaster movie have phoned it in with this stock character -- the repulsively smug scientific limelight-grabber who's wildly wrong about everything important. The pun on his surname feels a bit forced as well.

    So on and on it goes. Blighty's neverending black carnival of incompetence, sociopathy, ignorance, deference and mass psychosis.

    Meanwhile in Madrid the case fatality rate is now 10% and rising because they've run out of ICU beds. Eight days ago Spain had fewer infections than the UK has tonight.

  6. I think a big problem is the whole "war figthing" rhetoric.

    Johnson goes on about we can fight this virus and we can win. But that was the kind of rhetoric that suited the early 1940s when Britons were wavering, as to whether they could fight on and win. Churchill galvanised them to take up arms and take the fight to the Nazis.

    But with a virus it's a different problem entirely. We are certain to fight on and we are pretty confident that we will win; it's only a matter of time. What IS uncertain is that we are NOT clear about what actions to take. We should be social distancing and self-isolating now (and since weeks ago) but the Government has sewn confusion about whether the strategy is to close it down or let it rip.

    So Johnson channelling Chutchill about fighting on and turning the tide is futile, if not accompanied by clear directions as to what fighting on means.

    Ub twith the virusfight the virus fighting the visus

  7. The equivalent of Johnson's rhetoric, if applying to the WWII would be something like "We will fight them... somewhere,... whether or not they have already taken over the beaches and landing grounds... we could even surrender but keep fighting!"

  8. Also: we hear that Johnson considers the UK a land of liberty and is against havong a police state. Which is all very well but he should remember that the Second World War was won by a range of extreme measures, societal clampdowns, conscription, rationing, etc. These are not normal times.

  9. The dithering in the face of what every other country was doing, and then the inevitable u-turn has been both predictable and staggeringly incompetent.

    It has directly led to a situation where "all schools are closed", yet in most all teachers (myself included) are required to be at work on Monday, and an undefined number of pupils may attend. My own school only sent out a request to parents on Friday afternoon to ask if they considered themselves to be key workers. Very few will have been able to respond in time for us to have any clue as to how many need to be in school. As a 'special school' all of our pupils are bussed to school, the busses and escorts have been cancelled for Monday.

    My son's secondary school forwarded a message from Aberdeenshire Council that arrived Friday evening. It set out plans to have the Academy and one primary in each cluster open to provide childcare. If you needed this you had to contact the school on Monday. No mention of provision of transport in a very rural community, and the schools are open 9-3pm only.

    The decision by the SQA to cancel exams means that secondary teachers will be at work most of next week. As will many S4-6 pupils who will need to be in to finish coursework. How are they to get to school, as again there seems to be no provision made to bus them at this point.

    It's a farce, especially as most sensible people could see that schools closures were inevitable. It should have been planned for in advance, even if it was put over publically as "just in case". What we now have as a result of this lack of planning is what is generally termed a 'clusterfuck'.

    1. Govan young team.March 22, 2020 at 7:24 AM

      Ravelin , much sympathy. Confusion reigns in every sector.

      all i can say is to the guy who stole my antidepressants.......hope yer happy now.

    2. I suspect the ScotGov were being cautious given the massive aamount of flack and sh*t that was thrown at them for taking steps to minimise infection rates at the very start, maybe the EngGov had a wee quiet word in Nicola Sturgeon's ear? Don't step on your masters' toes or else! Who knows what was threatened but now ScotGov are having to take major steps to try to contain or minimise the infection rate, sadly it could be too late because as we have seen, hordes of people have travelled into and around Scotland to er, isolate themselves in our rural areas, and even cities knowing that the situation in England would be not only worse, but less able to cope!
      It was not just people from England I am sure, but anyone travelling when told to stay home for everyone's sake, in their own areas or regions, has a lot to answer for when things get really bad and our SNHS cannot cope.

      This whole thing has been so mismanaged and the Tory party at Westminster are wholly to blame for the situation now.
      As for schools closing, that would have taken weeks or months in planning, did ScotGov hold back so as to appease the Tory Gov for some reason. I hope that communities and schools can somehow cope and manage, it's going to be a tough few days and weeks to come for sure.

  10. No doubt the BuzzFeed article provides a reasonably accurate account of what has been happening at the upper levels of decision-making in the UK government. But to really make sense of what is going on, it is necessary to see it from a broader perspective. Recent policy-making around the coronavirus epidemic is an expression of a deeper set of values: a sense of exceptionalism, privilege and entitlement that undermines any attempt to collaborate with others, and learn from the experience of others. Coupled with a focus on short-term outcomes that maintain profits and the wellbeing and comfort of the better-off. This is exactly the worldview behind Brexit and behind the failure to take climate change seriously.

    It is impossible to tell where the Scottish Government stands in relation to all of this. As usual, internal discipline is very tight. Presumably there is massive pressure on the First Minister to support decisions coming out of London, in order to maintain some kind of united UK-wide response. This is a great pity, because, in my view, there is enough trust in the FM and the SG, across the population of Scotland as a whole, to ensure that there would be compliance with interventions that called for considerable individual sacrifice.

  11. How much merit is there in going for 100% testing (of the static population) in selected small postcode areas across Scotland and the UK? Wouldn't this be the best way of working out the percentage of infected / mild unannounced cases?

  12. The Corona virus is an elegant intelligent virus, it learns, it grows, it can even change its DNA to keep giving birth to itself to develop more armies to defend itself against everything thrown at it to kill it so it won't die, we can hit it with multiples of anti virals that we have available now to slow it down but the more we do that the more information we give it on how to keep defending itself

    Self isolation is only waiting playing for time to keep slowing the virus's progress, the notion that lockdow will somehow solve everything is I'm afraid not the case because when we all step outside this virus will be waiting to start life all over again

    A year to 18 months from now their will be a vaccine to inactivate Corona, not kill it, because like the Flu it will be with us forever though hopefully in a more manageable way exactly like the various normal strains of Flu we all get from time to time

    The situation the world is in right now will not by any stretch of even Boris Johnson's addled brain be over in 12 weeks or anything close to that, the far and middle east will see this pandemic rage through those areas in the most horrific way ever known with fatalities countless, the herd immunity theory would be valid if this virus were not as intelligent as it is because even though you may survive if you catch it you can catch it again and you may not because the next strain has learned how to be better at surviving

    The world is back to the time when people died of the slightest infection before we were clever enough to defeat most of them, this is one of those virus's

    Playing for time is all there is until we get clever enough again, which of course we will, but this one will take more time

    1. Intelligent? What on earth do you mean by that? I can assure you that a virus in no way can vary it's behaviour in any deliberate manner. It may well mutate ( but this is a random chance process) or swap bits of its genome with other viruses or even absorb genes from elsewhere ( again in no way directed ) and thus behave differently as a result .

      By the way Corona viruses are retroviruses - they do not have DNA but RNA . They also have reverse transcriptase and thus their RNA is then converted to DNA in the host cell nucleus . The host cell then produces viral RNA ,Reverse transcriptase and packages it all in a nice protein coat. One host cell may well produce very large numbers of new virus when hijacked in this well .Amazing for something that has no respiration or metabolism of any kind!

    2. Why is the Flu virus different every year, why is the Ebola virus proving so difficult to defeat, the human race is a virus, all life changes in all it's forms to survive, that's intelligence

      The kind you obviously don't have

  13. A lesson from History:

    Epidemics and more contained incidents in Scotland went on at short intervals until the mid-17th century. However, the Great Plague of 1665-1667 did not reach Scotland. To a large extent, this was due to the preventive measures put into place by the Scottish government. The Privy Council passed a series of acts which forbid trade with countries affected by the plague, in particular England and the Netherlands.

    Even after the disease had dwindled there, further acts imposed a forty-day quarantine on goods imported from these places. Economically, such an interruption of trade was very disruptive, not least since England and the Netherlands were two of Scotland's main trading partners.

    1. Always good to have a lesson from history that isn't of the stale Wingsite variety.

      I think more and more of the adverse environmental conditions c. 1650 – 1750. As a north-western finger of Europe Scotland was one of places to bear the brunt and lost 15% of its population as well as its remaining political independence. But now the world is warming.

      Looking to win through and complete the symmetry.

  14. FGS.

    Scotland and wales should probably shut borders to non residents. Health services are set up to deal with local populations, not with some mass exodus from England, including covid carriers..

    Car parks and trails could be shut to stop people from visiting Snowdonia National Park after "unprecedented scenes" on Saturday, according to bosses.

    There were so many people on mountain summits it was "impossible to maintain effective social distancing".

    ...On Saturday the Nevis Range Centre in Fort William said they had been forced to turn away about 30 camper vans that had had travelled from various parts of the UK, and were intending to use their car park as a refuge.

  15. Couldn't agree more.
    I think Jason Leitch is at best disingenuous and possibly down right dangerous.
    I heard him today saying it was OK to go and see granny but to wash your hands.
    Well one of my friends has 7 grandchildren, one of whom has diabetis, and they certainly are not listening to this 'expert'. They have locked themselves down.
    Jason Leitch bought into the 'herd immunity' strategy. How dare he connive at an unproven and certinly questionable theory which could needlessly wipe out 250,000 fellow human beings?
    This is unforgiveable.
    He needs to be taken off the airwaves and we need to go into lockdown now.
    And if Westminster says we can't, time to go our own way.
    I and my family and friends will not be sacrificed to big business and stupidity neither figuratively nor literally over our dead bodies.
    Time for all MSPs to speak up and speak out.

    1. Not sure what has been said over airwaves but my family in NE England seem to think UKEngGov are doing the best they can, and I doubt family are anywhere near to social distancing!
      So they are actually being brainwashed and were always left wing in as much as being Labour voters, well at least one of them is not a Tory, not sure about the other one now.
      How utterly terrifying.

  16. Today is the crunch point for the UK. Italy instigated a mandatory shut down of Lombary when the accumulated death toll reached 366. That was two weeks ago. Not three.

    Have you noticed the government/press have now started saying "two to three weeks behind Italy" instead of "three weeks behind"? They know it's two weeks.

    If the UK is on the same trajectory, as by all accounts it appears to be, then the UK accumulated deathtoll later today will be around 360.

    The problem Italy had was than when it announced it was shutting down Lombardy, lots of people immediately fled to less populated areas.

    We are already seeing this here as everyone with a 2nd home or motorhome heads for Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.

    There needs to be a UK-wide mandatory lockdown today if we are to try to limit our suffering to the level that Italy is experiencing today. It has to be enforced, not recommended.

    I can't believe the UK governments haven't done this a week ago.

    1. And you can bet that the motorhome owners parking up in highland laybys are the same folk that normally moan about traveller communities doing this.

  17. To paraphrase Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, "It was Cummings. It was always Cummings." Curious parallels in the psychologies of Hayden and Cummings too -- the neglected "genius" trope.

    Cummings: "herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad."

    Why is this guy still running the country during a pandemic he deliberately encouraged, and not in jail? And why did Nicola go along with his psychosis?

  18. The time will probably come when the NHS will have to turn away elderly people with covid symptoms. Then the real mass movement of people will happen and any attempt to suppress the virus from isolated communities will be useless. Please close the border to non resident before it is too late.

  19. James is way ahead of the curve. The Uk government is so far back it is embarrassing and depressing. Unfortunately and sadly, so is the Scottish government. It could have acted independently a long time ago and really needs to get its act together - both on the virus and independence. Italy, and now Spain and France, are visions of what is going to happen. But they also show the way to deal with it.
    The only answer is for everyone to start thinking for others and the community around them. People driving to Wales or the Highlands are thinking only of themselves, incomprehensible behaviour which should be dealt with in the way any other socially irresponsible and damaging behaviour is.
    Stay at home, that's what Italy calls it. Suppression should only be for the selfish and irresponsible. Only go out for absolute necessity or essentials and socially distance yourself if you do. Do it for a month or so and infections will fall. The virus can be controlled. If China can do it, surely Scotland can. To keep it under control people will have to continue to be responsible, think of their community and the communities they visit first. Report any outbreaks and isolate them when they occur. Yes, we may have to travel less, learn to live differently. But that wouldn't be such bad thing. Just think how much cleaner the world will be if everyone stays at home for a month. First the virus, then climate change!

  20. Mr De Pfeffel

    "said the situation would be “under constant, constant review”, but when asked whether police could be part of any response, he replied “police?” in apparent surprise."

    Puh-lease! Isn't this type of slow hanging the worst?