Covid Scotland: As inquiry into Scottish Government's handling of pandemic looms, Nicola Sturgeon has reasons to be anxious – Christine Jardine MP

I have had a heavy dose of déjà vu these past few days.

Beautiful spring day at Westminster, all the normal hubbub of parliament, everyone preparing for the Chancellor’s spring statement.

But we were also aware that Covid cases were rising and there was something reminiscent of that day when the Prime Minister told us all to go home, that we had a battle on our hands. “I’m absolutely confident we can send coronavirus packing in this country,” he told us.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Two years down the line, that still seems some way from being achieved, despite the vaccine success. Those of us lucky enough to escape the virus have all asked ourselves the question: “Could I have it or is this just a cold?” We’ve taken PCR tests after being pinged, or because we didn’t want to leave that headache to chance.

And all the time, the heartbreaking death toll was rising.

Perhaps we have become a wee bit complacent in recent weeks, believing the latest variants to be just ‘mild’.

So the irony was not lost on me when, two years to the day since our first lockdown began, I tested positive for Covid.

As I write this, I know more people in my circle of friends and colleagues who have tested positive in the past three weeks than at any time during the pandemic.

Nicola Sturgeon's handling of the Covid pandemic is to come under scrutiny (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Nicola Sturgeon's handling of the Covid pandemic is to come under scrutiny (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon's handling of the Covid pandemic is to come under scrutiny (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Official figures on Friday put the rate in Scotland at one person in 11 with Covid and one in 16 in England.

It has felt as if it was sweeping through parliament and my friends at home to the point where I think I accepted that those two red lines were inevitable

I have thought about the fear I might have felt in 2020 or 2021 if I had been stranded in London, in isolation with Covid.

Then we were all aware of the daily statistics. Every time a friend or relative tested positive, we feared for them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In comparison this past week, what I felt alone in my flat was more frustration and concern that even with daily negative tests, and wearing a mask, I might have been infectious before I knew.

Read More
When are you most contagious with Covid? When Covid is at its most contagious an...

But it also made me wonder how far we have really come in our battle against the pandemic and how much is still left to do?

What could the Scottish Government done better along the way and what might they still be able to improve?

The pandemic has not gone away, rather it has entered yet another new and different phase.

But now it has to fight for our attention with a cost-of-living crisis, soaring energy prices, and a war.

So much so that the recent surge in cases In Scotland has almost gone almost unmentioned in comparison to how it might have been treated a year ago.

In Scotland up to March 24, the weekly figure for new cases was 85,699 with more than 2,000 people in hospital with recently reported Covid.

On the day after I tested positive so did 13,564 other people in Scotland.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sadly there were also 50 new reported deaths of people who have tested positive.

For four days in a row, the number of Covid patients hit a record high and NHS Lanarkshire warned that its hospitals were working beyond their capacity.

The stark reality of those statistics is that the pain of the pandemic is far from over for far too many Scottish families.

But somehow it feels we are no longer addressing it with the same urgency. That our ministers at Holyrood seem almost to be hiding from the reality, preferring to shift public focus to issues for which they feel Westminster can be blamed.

There have, for me, been too many offensive claims drawing comparisons with Ukraine and Scotland. There is an irony there too.

The problems we have faced as a people over the past two years, and know that we still have ahead, have bound us closer together.

The most recent opinion polls show that through the pandemic, economic crisis and war, we have found renewed value in the United Kingdom and the protective arm it has been able to provide. And we know there is more to come.

As a result of the pandemic, there are now more than 119,000 people in Scotland suffering from long Covid and waiting for the Scottish Government to start spending its £10 million support fund.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is as important as ever that we do not assume we are getting everything right and look for how we can learn the lessons, so far, of Covid.

At the end of last year, the Scottish Government announced there would be a public inquiry to assess the handling of the pandemic in Scotland.

It will be chaired by Lady Poole QC who will investigate, according to the Scottish Government, “events causing public concern”.

That will, for example, include the experience of Covid in care homes, an issue which has brought so much pain to so many.

It is charged with establishing the facts of these issues and determining explanations for how and why decisions were taken and what the causes of anything which did not go as expected might have been.

Crucially it is also charged with considering if and how different outcomes could have been achieved.

If it does it’s job correctly, which I am sure it will, that inquiry could establish whether there were lives that could have been saved, safeguards that should have been in place and lessons we should have learned earlier.

If I was the First Minister, I might be a little anxious.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.