THE First Minister reminded Willie Rennie that only one UK nation has abandoned the “Stay at Home” lockdown messaging at today’s FMQs.
The Scottish LibDem leader voiced his concern over England and Scotland taking different approaches to easing lockdown, with Boris Johnson encouraging people who can’t work from home back to work and relaxing other measures while Nicola Sturgeon keeps lockdown in place – but allows people to go out to exercise more than once per day.
However in his question, Rennie failed to mention that Scotland is not the only nation maintaining its Stay at Home campaign. In fact, Wales and Northern Ireland, too, have kept the messaging up while England opts for the controversial Stay Alter campaign.
Rennie told Sturgeon: “We have benefitted from a UK-wide unity behind the message so far. But I’ve always been prepared to support doing things differently in Scotland if need be. However, I am nervous about England and Scotland diverging from each other because it may compromise the clarity that has so far saved lives.”
He said that “scientific consensus needs to be significantly different” between countries to justify diverging approaches to lifting lockdown and different public messaging.
Rennie asked: “To settle my nerves and provide us all with the reassurance I think we all need, will the First Minister get her advisers to set out the details of the scientific difference between Scotland and England?”
Sturgeon replied: “Can I say first of all, and again I don’t say this in any pejorative or judgemental way, it’s simply a statement of fact.
“Of the four UK nations three of us – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have decided to stick with the current Stay at Home message. One, England, has decided to move a bit quicker out of lockdown.
“And that is entirely legitimate, they are absolutely entitled to do that. I am not criticising that. But to somehow, and I’m not suggesting Willie Rennie did this, I’ve heard others, suggest that Scotland has somehow broken away from four-nation approach is just not the case. And I think it’s really important to be clear on that.”
Referring to the data she was asked for, the SNP leader told the Chamber the Scottish Government publishes information on case numbers, hospital admissions, intensive care admissions and death numbers on a daily basis.
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She went on: “That data is then used to estimate what is called the R number – the reproduction rate – and we use modelling output from a number of academic sources to validate the estimates we’re making for the R number.
“I could offer – if people are interested, if opposition members want – I will arrange a technical briefing from the Government statisticians to explain in a bit more depth how the number is calculated.”
She added: “You can look at all that data, and I’m happy for opposition members to look at that data just as I do, but ultimately as a leader you still have to apply your judgment to it, and you have to make decisions, because that’s what people have elected me to do.
“These judgments weigh very heavily right now.
“The science will inform those judgments, but it can’t make the decisions for you.”
Rennie said that seeing some of that data would help to inform the debate – and said if Johnson was present, he would ask him the same question.