By Bill Heaney

There is no catchy rhyme or good reason why people should continue with social distancing, according to Kirsty Wark on BBC Newsnight last night.

And if the Scottish government really is following the science, which the scientists wheeled out on to the programme by Kirsty have stated clearly that they aren’t, then the government propaganda is not to be believed. Again.

What happens now if social distancing is dispensed with and the R number continues to drop from 3 to 2 and then 1, say?

Are all the guidelines about to be tossed overboard and schools going to be allowed to return to “normal” as they were before lockdown in March.

Will our school pupils be asked to don their blazers and form orderly lines in the playground before being marched off into their classrooms?

Will hotels, public houses and restaurants also throw open their doors at last?

I have the suspicion that this is where we are all heading, back to normality.

And who do we have to thank for this?

Certainly not politicians or highly paid officials, some of whom made a proper show of themselves by drawing up guidelines and then not adhering to them themselves.

Lord McConnell, Kirsty Wark and Education Secretary John Swinney

The truth of the matter is that these people made a complete rear end of tackling the coronavirus from the outset.

They failed to recognise and acknowledge it as it went roaring through China, Italy and Spain, where old folk in care homes were left dead in their bed when terrified staff ran away. Thousands died. The Grim Reaper had a field day. Too many field days.

Why didn’t we make plans to deal with Covid-19 when we first heard about it?

Because, according to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland was well equipped to deal with it. We weren’t and the penny began to drop excruciatingly that there were major shortages of PPE for hard-pressed frontline staff.

Care homes were ignored and left to fend for themselves when it came to procurement.

The unscrupulous manufacturers weren’t just making masks. They were wearing them.

It was cash on the barrel head or your order would not even be considered for a delivery.

Prices were hiked to unconscionable levels. Planeloads of the stuff were bought and paid for and failed to turn up at UK airports.

The whole thing was, and is still catastrophic. This disastrous series of events has brought with it in its wake the worst economic crisis in our history.

What we don’t need now is politicians lying and obfuscating. We don’t need more figures that don’t add up and which have been drawn up to confuse us.

We need to see this disaster through to the end.

That means seeing off this deadly blight by finding a vaccine and clearing our hospital wards and operating theatres to allow cancer patients and others with serious illness to get off the waiting lists and secure surgery appointments at last.

Former First Minister Lord Jack McConnell thinks the SNP Education Secretary John Swinney needs to show greater leadership and order local councils to prepare for full-time schooling in August.

West Dunbarton Councellors 2017
Cllr McColl

The first person Swinney should e mail is Cllr Jonathan McColl at West Dunbartonshire, who has been posted missing for months and has now returned to Church Street.

I have just looked again at their website in search of up-to-the-minute advice on schools and found only advice dating back to MARCH 18.

There is a shambolic press release telling parents, pupils and teachers that there will be “blended” education for our children from August 11.

The parents do not want blended education and jumbled up days and half days. In truth they don’t want McColl and his SNP minders and giggling handmaidens in charge of their children’s future. It’s far too precious for that. I think we found this out when McColl led the charge to close St Martin’s Primary in Renton.

The arrogant McColl won’t listen to the unions who, in light of the dangers attached to Covid-19, have made reasonable requests in regard to safety matters before they return.

West Dunbartonshire Council is planning for a blend of classroom work and home schooling, but local government parent body Cosla is warning that they will struggle to meet a 50% target of classroom learning.

Lord McConnell has told Education Secretary John Swinney: “The impression given at the education committee yesterday by the leadership of Scotland’s councils was that they were not only not preparing for full-time learning, but they were not prepared to even try to cost it to make demands of the education secretary, so it is up to the education secretary to tell them to do it.

“There seems to be a stand-off between the 32 councils and the education secretary. I think councils of all parties are getting this wrong and the education secretary needs to show some leadership and change tack.”

He said: “The Scottish and UK governments showed ‘incredible agility’ to put together ‘the biggest mobilisation of our health service we’ve ever seen’ and the jobs retention scheme – and something similar is now needed in education.

“Schools in England have already returned with social distancing. The Scottish government must make a U-turn in its plan for blended learning in schools before the end of June or face ‘a scandal that the country will take a long time to recover from’.

Lord McConnell added: “Local authorities are currently planning for a combination of classroom and home schooling from August because of the two-metre social distancing rule.

Sturgeon at FMQs 2
Nicola Sturgeon

“While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants a return to full-time schooling as soon as it is safe to do so, they have the options the wrong way round.

“They have sat down in May and worked out that, from the conditions that prevailed then, we could only have exceptionally part-time schooling in August.

“They should turn it round and have Plan A as a return to full-time with preparation in place for that with the current plan being Plan B in case there is a reversal of the virus or perhaps a local outbreak.

“Unless they plan for full-time, it will not be possible in late July or early August to decide it is okay to go full-time because the staff will not have been hired, the buildings will not have been booked and the equipment will not have been ordered.”

Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch told BBC Scotland’s The Nine that it was “too early to say for sure” whether schools would be back full time by August – but it was “unlikely”.

He said that coronavirus is still “at large” in Scotland with over 2,000 people estimated to be infectious as of Friday.

However, he acknowledged the virus was “under control” at present, given the UK had reduced its threat level – “We completely understand why that sector is desperate to get back.”

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