Analysis: Scotland's Covid dilemma comes to a head for Nicola Sturgeon

A simmering tension has lain at the heart of Scotland’s efforts to bounce back from the Covid lockdown in recent months - industry demands to get the economy fired up versus government requirements to ensure adequate restrictions remain in place to protect the public.

Thursday, 8th October 2020, 4:46 pm
Pubs on Edinburgh's Grassmarket have been hit by closures
Pubs on Edinburgh's Grassmarket have been hit by closures

But as Covid cases began to soar again, it was evident that fresh measures were looming to stave off the spread of the virus.

And this week, when they arrived, tensions have flared.

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Nicola Sturgeon has been ready to take a distinct approach north of the Border to tackling the pandemic, but the extent of the shutdown for Scotland's pubs and restaurants clearly caught hospitality chiefs by surprise and the backlash has been sweeping.

The "death knell" has been sounded for many pubs, it was claimed yesterday, with hundreds of establishments posed to close.

The unified criticism from across Scotland's business and hospitality organisations was unprecedented.

It came as rebel Tory MPs south of the Border prepare a Commons challenge to the far more modest 10pm curfew, which is in place in England, but they feel is still draconian.

It was against this backdrop the First Minister opened up to MSPs yesterday on the decision-making dilemmas which she she is facing everyday.

The personal impact on the SNP leader was clear as she talked of the "impossible - almost - balance" that she is forced to strike between lives on the one hand and jobs on the other.

She "hates" having to impose the kind of restrictions which were unveiled this week.

But the R number in Scotland rose above one just three weeks after pubs re-opened in July and their return is believed to have been a “significant” factor in this, while 20 per cent of Scots contacted by Test and Protect report pub “exposure”.

And as case numbers seem to hit a a new high every other day and hospital admissions begin to soar, Ms Sturgeon was left with a stark choice - act now or follow in the inevitable footsteps of other European nations like France where a similar rise in Covid cases a few weeks back has now been accompanied by soaring death numbers.

It remains to be seen what impact a two-week "circuit breaker" will have in Scotland, but doing nothing was clearly not an option.

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