NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
It has stretched the imagination for the past six months to envisage First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a dog collar preaching from the pulpit at her daily briefings on how Scotland is coping with Covid-19.
But my mind started drifting back to that today when she addressed the Scottish Parliament about infallibility.
She said: “I want to speak briefly about the issue of the politics around this. I am not infallible on these things and I will get it wrong at times, but I make a refreshed plea to members across the chamber for all of us to try to keep normal party politics out of this—and that is not me asking not to be scrutinised; on the contrary, I think that scrutiny is really important.”
We can take comfort from those few words then since her SNP colleague, Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of West Dunbartonshire Council, doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart for that scrutiny which Ms Sturgeon says she thinks is “really important”.
It’s only when you drill down into these matters that you discover what politicians really think about things, and that is too often not necessarily what they are saying in public.
Obfuscation, filibustering(talking things out the window) and even downright lies are the usual way they communicate – and Ms Sturgeon convinced (or tried to convince us) at the beginning of this debate that the usual rules would not apply in this case.
She was going to be honest.
It was astonishing really that she made a public statement along these lines, not just towards journalists but with the television cameras present.
Some old hands at this scribbling game just couldn’t believe it, but the FM made it plain that it was her aim to be frank about everything on the Covid-19 table.
That honesty did not last long however when she soon told the nation how well equipped we were to cope with the deadly virus.
Personal protection equipment? We had it by the lorry-load, she said. Hospital beds for patients who contracted Covid-19?
Sure, we had more than enough of them, she said – after hospital patients had been evicted from their beds and moved into care homes that were already bursting at the seems and critically short-staffed. Without the patients being tested.
Nicola was in mea cupla mode yesterday though. Even if her admiring followers didn’t know she had made a cock-up of so many aspects of dealing with the virus, she was herself well aware of this.
Her confetior began: “I know that comments have been made about the daily briefings. I try very hard to keep politics out of these things, because I want the people who are listening to them to listen to the advice, whether they agree or passionately disagree with my politics.
“If any member thinks, on any day, that I have crossed the line—because I make mistakes as much as anyone else does—I ask them to drop me a text and tell me, but please not to try to undermine my ability to communicate directly with the public on key matters of public health during a global pandemic. “
How many people died then First Minister? In West Dunbartonshire it was about 125. And Nicola would like us to drop her a text? It’s as though though those who died only just missed a bus.
But her five minutes of frankness finished quickly with her usual “rally round the flag boys” address.
And left her supporters as confused as they have been for months as to why she could never give the right figures for the numbers who had been in hospital and died.
Obfuscation that’s the name of the game. And each politician, they play it the same.
The figures for the numbers transferred from hospitals into danger in care homes have never been accurately revealed. The bureaucrats have been working on two sets of figures, or possibly three.
That’s what they call the building bricks for a cover-up.
Oh, and what about the £millions of taxpayers’ money that was spent in converting the SECC in Glasgow into the temporary Louisa Jordan Hospital at Finnieston?
Whose idea was that? It’s not been used at all for coronavirus, and NHS staff have been taken off other important duties to sit on their backsides waiting for virus patients who have never materialised.
“We were going by the science,” they told us. But then they covertly edged away from the science and the scientists when they decided to disregard their projections, go into lockstep with Boris Johnston and tune into Hancock’s Half Hour.
The Great Fire of London indeed. That’ll be the lesson for you lot, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the bereaved and bewildered care home residents and their families on TV at lunchtime today.
I know what I and half the world would love to tell St Matthew of the Embers and his holier than thou colleagues on the Conservative cabinet who have turned the Covid-19 chaos in a catastrophe.
When will the penny ever drop for our politicians that a vast percentage of older people do not have a clue about operating websites and IT.
Councils like West Dunbartonshire have already walked all over them. They seldom put important information in writing because old folk are supposed to access it on the web. They expect everyone to be IT literate.
Even the Queen has problems with operating a laptop. We saw Princess Anne giving her a quick lesson before she joined in a virtual meeting the other day.
I can imagine the Council administration’s reaction would be along the lines of dismissing older people as Yesterday’s Men and Women.
Look what they did to their care homes after all. We deserve better.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon says government at local and and national level continue to support people who are shielding to make the right decisions about going back to work.
Would you get on a train or a bus and head back to your office in Glasgow? Just asking.
She said: “The guidance that I have referred to is really important because it allows individual risk assessments to be done. We will continue to have discussions with any employer who we are told is putting undue and inappropriate pressure on people who are shielding.
“That is important. I ask employers to be responsible and to make sure that they continue to be very sensitive to the needs and anxieties of people who have been in that category.
“On local lockdowns, the SMS text service will remain in place and we will continue to communicate with the shielding group through it.
“I indicated last week that what we are calling a “forecasting” service will be made available, whereby people will be able to get information about the prevalence of the virus in their local area so that they can make informed judgments about what they do and do not do.
“Obviously, depending on the nature and extent of any local lockdown, we would discuss the implications with local employers.
“The need to communicate very clearly with people in the shielding category will not pause on Saturday, even though the advice to shield will pause at that stage.”
Here’s some free advice then for Nicola and Jonathan McColl.
Try communicating with many of these older people on mobile phones and laptops and your success with be seriously limited.
You were never ready for this pandemic, were you?