Before mid-March: "Throughout this epidemic, it will be business as usual. People will get ill, some people will get very ill, but we'll accept that and get on with our normal daily lives."
Now: "There can be no business as usual. Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives."
Before mid-March: "We have no choice but to pursue herd immunity by allowing the virus to move through the entire population. Even though this virus has only been around for three months, we know that people will rarely if ever get it twice, so as long as we successfully manage a massive epidemic now, it won't pop up again in future."
Now: "Pursuing herd immunity is not our strategy and has never been our strategy. That would never have been viable because it is not known whether people who have been infected develop lasting immunity."
Before mid-March: "Large public gatherings are fine, because the evidence is that the virus is not transmitted in those settings, particularly if an event is outdoors. Even if we eventually stop large gatherings, that'll simply be to free up capacity for the emergency services, not to slow the spread of the virus."
Now: "Any gathering of more than two people, even in the open air, puts lives at risk."
Before mid-March: "Closing schools would be positively harmful. The virus does not spread among children, and key workers might have to stay off work to look after their children if schools are closed."
Now: "School closures have an important role to play in stopping the spread of virus between households."
I haven't heard any public acknowledgement of these U-turns. That maybe speaks to a failure to treat people as adults, because there can be no doubt that ministers and their advisers privately realise that what they were previously saying has been proved comprehensively wrong. My hope is that there is now an understanding that the big mistake prior to mid-March was to listen only to the exceptionalist "British science" and not heed the clear message of the World Health Organization that the virus must be suppressed and controlled by means of mass testing, contact tracing and ongoing social distancing.
If that lesson has been learned, it would mean the Scottish Government using whatever leverage they have at this critical juncture to argue against the siren voices in Tory circles calling for a premature lifting of the lockdown. Troublingly, however, Jason Leitch's appearance on breakfast TV this morning left the impression that all of the same mistakes may be about to be repeated, and that Scottish Government spokespeople will simply carry on faithfully echoing whatever is being said in London.
Leitch talked of "balancing" the harm of lockdown with the harm caused by the virus. He said at present the priority must be protecting people from the virus, but at some point that would change and the priority would shift to ending the harm caused by lockdown. This is fundamentally flawed thinking, because these harms are not actually in competition with each other - they are all interrelated. The countries that have avoided the harms caused by long, harsh lockdowns are the ones (most obviously South Korea, but there are others as well) that took the early action necessary to suppress the virus. We, on the other hand, left schools open, actively encouraged people to go to large gatherings (yup, that was Jason Leitch on an earlier breakfast TV appearance), and abandoned testing and contact tracing. That's why people are suffering from a full lockdown now. They will suffer even more from an even longer, even harsher second lockdown at a later stage if we lift the current measures prematurely, because the NHS will very quickly find itself in total collapse and the government will once again be left with no other choice.
What the Scottish Government should be saying privately and publicly is that lockdown must only end when a strategy is in place to keep the numbers of new infections persistently low. By doing that, we don't have to 'balance' or 'prioritise' the harms caused by the virus and by lockdown - we'd be resolving both sets of harms simultaneously.