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Nicola Sturgeon won’t give up her lockdown dogmatism

Nicola Sturgeon is reduced to tears at the Covid inquiry on Wednesday

January 31, 2024 - 5:40pm

Nicola Sturgeon’s testimony today at the UK Covid inquiry wrapped up three weeks of public hearings in Scotland focused on decision-making and political governance. The former first minister has seen declining popularity in recent months, but it is her Covid legacy that should also come crashing down to earth. Despite consistently claiming that she “made many mistakes” during the pandemic, Sturgeon’s testimony ultimately served to uphold the unquestionable dogmatism of lockdown, and, with it, the illusions of maximum suppression.

Affirming her belief in the (political) power of lockdown, the ex-leader of the Scottish National Party said:

I was of the view that we needed to move more quickly […] no one can say what impact it would have had on the overall trajectory of the pandemic but of the many regrets I have, probably chief of those is that we didn’t lock down a week or two weeks earlier than we did.
- Nicola Sturgeon

Alluding to Holyrood’s maximum suppression strategy, inspired by the Zero Covid philosophy, Sturgeon reiterated the Scottish government’s official approach in saying that “there is no such thing as a level of acceptable loss.” Yet Prof. Mark Woolhouse, a leading infectious disease epidemiologist from the University of Edinburgh and an adviser to the UK and Scottish governments, previously told the inquiry that this approach was fundamentally wrong. He argued that there was too much focus on reducing human contact, that bans on outdoor gatherings were unscientific, the lifting of restrictions was slow, disease models were given too much weight in decision-making, and no assessment of the harms of lockdown was ever conducted. 

These points were not addressed during Sturgeon’s appearance. In fact, some of the most crucial questions were not even asked. Why did the Government follow policies with such weak evidence? How did it fail to balance infection control with social harms

Just this week, new studies were published on the harms of Covid policies. A post-pandemic surge in mental health conditions, such as ADHD, means that an estimated one in nine UK children now have a disorder. A second study has estimated that 56,000 more children in the UK are obese due to our collective Covid response panic and could face “lifelong health consequences”. Excess deaths, most likely due to pandemic-related disruptions to medical services and lifestyle changes, also remain elevated in Scotland.

Instead, Sturgeon faced hours of questions about relatively trivial details. This allowed the media to focus on her deleting extensive WhatsApp messaging (despite previous claims that she would keep all communications), use of burner phones (which she denied), and her propensity for tears. 

It also sidestepped the reasonableness of closing schools. Though Sturgeon claimed that decisions were made by the Cabinet, school closures were decided after a cabinet meeting by ex-education secretary John Swinney and the then-first minister. This occurred despite epidemiological evidence suggesting it would not slow the spread, which has been supported by some scientific analysis since 2020. Swinney also admitted to ignoring the harms of school closures. 

On the topic of Zero Covid, Sturgeon denied that she desired to “drive Covid out of Scotland”, and claimed that she never really believed in it. Rather, she argued that the “phraseology” was meant to highlight the goal of maximum suppression: keeping the virus at the lowest possible level. This was the position of the Scottish government for much of 2020, and continued to influence the country’s response in 2021. 

Sturgeon went on to claim that her “fear of being overwhelmed with the scale of the crisis and an overwhelming responsibility” forced her to act strongly. But as Prof. Woolhouse noted, the lack of honest communication about population risk acted as a barrier to discussing more targeted interventions for the most vulnerable. This left aside the important early failing to protect care homes, including discharging 5,000 elderly patients from hospital without testing them (a common issue found around the world). Sturgeon avoided any question about this.

Despite political leaders tying their legacy to the advocacy for lockdown, cracks continue to emerge. These reveal the logical fallacies at the heart of our illiberal and ineffective Covid approaches. Rather than political posturing, we need a firm rebuttal of these Covid myths among wider society. Sadly, however, the inquiry has thus far failed to achieve those aims.


Kevin Bardosh is a research professor and Director of Research for Collateral Global, a UK-based charity dedicated to understanding the collateral impacts of Covid policies worldwide.

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Mike Downing
Mike Downing
2 months ago

‘Excess deaths, most likely due to pandemic-related disruptions to medical services and lifestyle changes’.

Well, at least one Covid myth is alive and well. Luckily, no one has any desire to investigate the really big elephant in the room.

Martin M
MM
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

What is that “big elephant”, and what are your views on it?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 months ago

Student attainment in maths, reading and science as measured by the 2022 PISA report fell in all four parts of the UK: Wales saw the sharpest drop, the decline in England was least severe, while Scotland and Northern Ireland were in between. Lockdown was catastrophic for education and student welfare everywhere, but worst in places like Scotland and Wales where lockdown fanaticism at devolved government level was most intense. And after surveying such damage, Nicola Sturgeon biggest regret is that she didn’t lock down sooner. Well you get what you vote for.

Robbie K
RK
Robbie K
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Hardly ‘catastrophic’. At least granny was saved however.

Robbie K
RK
Robbie K
2 months ago

Here we go again. Another BS article full of spurious claims, spurious experts and spurious scientific papers which belongs in the same sphere as QAnon. Is the author actually Andrew Bridgen in disguise?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Here we go again. Another BS comment from a person who simply won’t believe obvious facts.

andrew harman
AH
andrew harman
2 months ago

Don’t bother replying directly. He is, I suspect, not terribly bright as is evidenced by a) inabilty to construct an argument and b) inability to spell at times

Robbie K
Robbie K
2 months ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Don’t bother replying directly. He is, I suspect, not terribly bright as is evidenced by a) inabilty to construct an argument and b) inability to spell at times

Heh heh, if you’re going to be a spelling and grammar fascist always make sure your own posts are correct ;o)

andrew harman
AH
andrew harman
2 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Learned how to spell biased yet?

jim peden
jim peden
2 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

… and spurious comments

Dionne Finch
Dionne Finch
2 months ago

My 12 year old son gained 30lbs during lockdowns. He’s always been a big eater but the lack of sports clubs and his being close to the fridge at home alone all day when school was closed really didn’t help. Thankfully we turned it around and he is finally at a healthy weight after 1.5 years of sports and monitoring his food.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
2 months ago

How absolutely PATHETIC who does SHE think she is kidding?*

(*The completely fabricated BLUBBING!)

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 months ago

A woman’s prerogative.
If in trouble turn on the waterworks

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
2 months ago

Has ‘she’ no shame?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
2 months ago

“there is no such thing as a level of acceptable loss.”

This is a huge lie.

For obvious reasons we avoid the terminology, but the fact remains that in public policy there is almost always a level of “acceptable loss” simply because there is almost always a trade-off somewhere.

We could prevent almost every road traffic death or serious injury simply by banning cars. We don’t because the costs of doing so to the economy, personal freedom etc would be huge and in turn have severe consequences for peoples health and wellbeing.

So we mitigate the risks with rules and appeals to people’s good sense but ultimately accept that a certain level of loss must be balanced against the benefits.

In my view the biggest failing in Covid policy was that no-one in a position of influence appeared to have the courage to ask, “Yes, but what are the costs of lockdown? Might they in fact be worse in the long run?”

Even if lockdown was ultimately the best – or least worst – policy, without properly considering that question decision-makers were failing in their public duty.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
2 months ago

if the Government’s prime directive is to save lives, then every government in history has failed dismally. I am not a betting man, but I’ll happily wager that Britain’s governments have not been able to preserve a single life among the millions of subjects alive at the time of the Act of Union.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
2 months ago

There are no perfect solutions, just trade offs:

Peter B
PB
Peter B
2 months ago

Absolutely. The “zero risk” policy fallacy has caused untold damage in the UK.
Ever wondered why everything has become so expensive, slow and difficult ? Look no further.
We’ve traded common sense for moral cowardice.
And, as we all know, the collateral damage from letting the NHS focus only on Covid has been massive.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago

This is bog standard common sense and it horrifies me that we are still skirting around such basic considerations in our discussions of covid.

Jürg Gassmann
JG
Jürg Gassmann
2 months ago

Sturgeon was being “advised” by the execrable Devi Sridhar. They HAVE to double down on their dogmatism, it’s all they have left.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
2 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Where on earth did they find her?
Presumably being Scotland she “was cheap at the price”regardless of any proficiency?

.

Peter Principle
PP
Peter Principle
2 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Despite Sridhar being a Professor of “Global Public Health”, she is an anthropologist, not a clinician. But Sturgeon ignored clinicians and listened to Sridhar’s “Zero COVID” nonsense because Sridhar ticked all the boxes.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
2 months ago

What boxes exactly? I am a bit
“behind the curve “on such matters .

Peter Principle
PP
Peter Principle
2 months ago

The boxes: (a) not English, (b) not Male (c) Exotic (d) promoting a policy (“Zero COVID”) that was much more extreme than Boris’ policy (e) A Wikipedia page that makes her look like a character from a Val McDermid novel. [That’s enough boxes. Ed.]

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
2 months ago

Thank you.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
2 months ago

This is why the inquiry is useless; “In fact, some of the most crucial questions were not even asked.”

Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I don’t know. I’m no fan of the inquiry. But, if nothing else, it’s exposed the utter hypocrisy of Sturgeon and her media camp followers. How they all screamed about Boris Johnson’s behaviour and WhatsApp messages going missing. Then we find out that Sturgeon’s just like Johnson, only with a camper van.
Was it really only two years ago we were being lectured about how Brexit had made Scottish independence “inevitable” and how wonderful Sturgeon was ?

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I am beginning to feel sorry for Scottish Nationalism, it deserves far better than the Scottish Nationalist Party.
This all translates into more Labour MPs in Westminster within a year.

Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

This is fair

Chipoko
Chipoko
2 months ago

From the moment she first appeared on the political stage I thought Sturgeon was an awful creature. Her performances since leaving office, including this appearance with crocodile tears, have solidified that view!