Scotland must appoint 'war-time'-style coronavirus minister, says Richard Leonard

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to appoint a Covid-response minister to oversee the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic.

Labour leader Richard Leonard wans a Coronavirus minister appointed
Labour leader Richard Leonard wans a Coronavirus minister appointed

Labour leader Richard Leonard says the new minister, at Cabinet level, would be able to co-ordinate the response across all government departments, including health, social care and education.

It would emulate the former Secretary of State for War role, once seen as one of the great offices of state, and formerly held by Red Clydesider Manny Shinwell.

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"There is a compelling need for a single ministerial co-ordinator with the authority not just to see through Covid policy implementation and messaging, but also to ensure that all government policy and everything the government does is thought out and enacted with Covid in mind,” Mr Leonard states in his The Scotsman column today.

"The First Minister must now appoint a ‘Covid response minister’ to fulfil a similar role to the Secretary of State for War position that existed in UK government structures until the 1960s. A dedicated minister of Cabinet rank could make sure that all government departments, agencies, ministers and their officials are working effectively together to fight Covid.

"The minister would see that all Covid decisions are implemented, including ensuring that all departments as a matter of routine conduct Covid impact assessments.”

Mr Leonard says that having such a minister in place at the start of the pandemic would have provided a check on “disastrous” policies such as the situation in Scotland's care homes, after it emerged last week that patients were transferred into care homes with the virus.

The Labour leader says that a dedicated Covid minister would also restore “public confidence” and help with preparedness for any future surges.

He adds: “Having a ‘Covid response minister’ in place, overseeing all these critical areas across government departments including education, health and social care, would provide a clear line of accountability to Parliament and make it much harder to avoid scrutiny.”

The First Minister has so far taken a lead in providing the public face of Scotland response to the virus, although she has been regularly joined at the daily briefing by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

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