Like a demented episode of The Price is Right, Nicola Sturgeon surveyed her five-tier, four-level lockdown system at Holyrood yesterday, and, despite the audience at home crying ‘ lower! lower!’, she went higher, losing us our pub rights and any chance at the Mini Metro and weekend break in Skegness.
The First Minister used her statement to outline which council areas would remain at Level 1 and which would be placed in full lockdown at Level 4. Glasgow, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire, East and West Dunbartonshire, North and South Lanarkshire, East and South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian would all come under the most stringent restrictions.
Hairdressers and non-essential shops and restaurants will be closed and guidance against travelling between tiers given the force of law. ‘If we see evidence… that people from Glasgow are going to Inverclyde,’ she warned, ‘we would have no choice but to consider Level 4.’
Pretty harsh. Isn’t being Inverclyde punishment enough?
The talk of ‘evidence’ didn’t mean any was produced, not least the grounds for thinking that this lockdown would succeed where previous ones had failed. The answer seems to be: because science. I’m all for science, though I prefer it to look and sound less like a government-funded horoscope.
‘For all areas in Level 1,’ Sturgeon went on, ‘it will be permissible from Thursday to meet outdoors with up to eight people from a maximum of three households.’ Unless the winter solstice falls on a blood moon, in which case it’s only four people and each has to throw a chicken over their shoulder before entering.
‘I am aware that some people will argue that schools should also be closed at Level 4,’ she continued. No doubt representations have been made by people with painted-on moustaches, cloaked in trench coats and looking suspiciously like one primary seven standing on another’s shoulders.
This was another part of the ‘science’ in need of explanation: why were pubs super-spreaders but not overcrowded classrooms full of coughing teenagers?
Sturgeon was more concerned with sounding upbeat. She said the measures would ‘not be in place for most of the Chanukah period’ and would also ‘create the prospect of seeing some loved ones at Christmas’.
There goes your excuse for dodging the in-laws this year.
Diplomatically, she said we were ‘in the midst of a global pandemic that is nobody’s fault’. I don’t know, I reckon the Chinese Communist Party should be keeping its head down a while longer.
Restrictions, she laboured, were part of a journey in which we ‘steer a path through the next few months towards brighter times’. Does the AA provide metaphor breakdown cover?
Eventually, though, Sturgeon the wound-poker couldn’t help herself. She boasted that ‘prevalence in Scotland’ was ‘ lower than in other UK nations’. That’s why half the population is being placed under house arrest.
My suspicion grows that the First Minister’s speechwriter is a frustrated lyricist yearning to start their own Billy Bragg tribute act. ‘Love and solidarity… will get us through this,’ Sturgeon closed her statement. ‘Soon we will be looking back on it/ not living through it/ so please try to stay strong/ please stick with it and stick together.’
Her most dogged tormentor was not Ruth Davidson but Lib Dem Mike Rumbles. He barracked the First Minister throughout the session until she protested to the Presiding Officer: ‘He is shouting repeatedly at me from a sedentary position.’ Clype.
It takes a lot to get a Lib Dem to raise their voice, though I did once witness a furious discussion of proportional representation in the bar at a party conference.
In these times we need someone to make a full-throated defence of liberty. That right there might be the worst aspect of Sturgeon’s handling of this crisis. She’s made the Liberal Democrats relevant again.
Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Letters: email@example.com.