BRIAN WILSON’S COLUMN

Columnist Brian Wilson and Professor Devi Sridhar, of Edinburgh University.

Having been tested for Covid-19  last weekend, I am among the eight per cent of Scots who have had that privilege.

I was due to attend a football match two days later and was following UEFA rules. Footballers are tested twice a week. In contrast, there are still plenty front-line staff in Scotland who have never been tested at all.

Most Scottish care workers are now sent self-test kits by the UK government which show seven per cent asymptomatic but positive.  The logic is that – for months – many untested staff were carrying the virus as they worked on the front-line.

When entering a football stadium, I have my temperature taken – the first time since departing from Bangkok airport in February. There have been 58 Covid-19 deaths in Thailand compared to 4216 in Scotland. Maybe they got something right.

Yet perceptions are set by she who controls the airwaves. Fingers are wagged at misguided young footballers and the specific quickly becomes the general. “Football” is on a yellow card with the threat of a red. Headline achieved.

The conduct of “football” in general has been exemplary.  Can the same be said of those responsible for policies which have contributed to the third worst death rate in Europe and the highest, bar only Spain, for deaths in care homes?

Not only were untested hospital patients discharged wholesale into care homes but a significant number who had tested positive were transferred into a setting which (as demonstrated in Spain) was the most deadly for the virus to do its work. Yellow card? Red card?

We do not know how many were in each category (untested and tested positive) because  Scotland’s largest health boards declined to provide that information. Don’t they learn well at the feet of the masters?

At First Minister’s Questions, Ruth Davidson asked brief questions which demanded straightforward, honest answers.” Did anyone in the Scottish Government know … that hospital patients who previously tested positive for Covid had subsequently been transferred into a care home? If they knew, when did they know, and why was it not made public?”

Amidst the verbiage that followed, there were no answers. It was down to “individual clinical decisions”. So are we to believe that 100 doctors throughout Scotland transferred elderly people with Covid 19 into care homes, and nobody in the Scottish Government knew anything about it?

Dumbarton care homes Crosslet and Castleview and the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who “sneered” at Ruth Davidson’s questions.

Ms Davidson tried to pursue her reasonable, serious questions. For her trouble, she was sneered at by Ms Sturgeon for “leaving democratic politics” which seemed a distinctly secondary matter to the deaths of 2000 elderly Scots.

One revelation (to me at least) was that the Lord Advocate has instructed inquiries into individual deaths in care homes. However, Police Scotland have been told not to investigate the means by which the virus was brought into the home.

How is that distinction possible and whose interests does it serve? It is certainly the question the vast majority of the bereaved want answered. It is also the one most relevant to planning for prevention of a repeat disaster.

Yet, while care home staff – in the front line – are being asked to spend time providing police with extensive information about case histories, the big questions have been kicked into touch on grounds an inquiry would be a diversion for Ministers and officials.

We can be pretty sure Ms Sturgeon has no appetite for an inquiry that reports before next May. I will be delighted to be proved wrong for such unnecessary delay will be an affront to the families who need answers now, to very serious questions.

As for Professor Devi Sridhar’s unsubstantiated trope about English people “streaming’ into Scotland, disease in their wake, I wonder what the liberal consciences of Edinburgh University would think if it was applied to any other ethnic group?

Is it any wonder there are idiots at Edinburgh Airport with their mad banners? Back in Devi’s native Florida, the Covid-19 death toll has passed 10,000. Terrible – but still less than half the Scottish rate. I hope she won’t be campaigning to “build that wall”.

DO THE BUCCLEUCHS REALLY NEED ANOTHER £6 MILLION?

General Assembly 2019

The Duke of Buccleuch (left) with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the then Moderator of the Church of Scotland.

In his invaluable work, Our Scots Noble Families, Tom Johnston did not spare the blushes (an unlikely commodity) of the Buccleuchs. Then as now – he was writing in 1909 – they were Scotland’s biggest landowners.

“Descended from Border thieves, land pirates and freebooters, they still boast their pedigree. The blood of knaves and moonlighters has by process of snobbery become blue blood; lands raped from the weak and the unfortunate now support arrogance in luxury…”.

I was reminded of the Buccleuch pedigree on reading that the community trying to buy a fraction of their lands – moorland rich only in the natural heritage of Scotland – are being charged £6 million and the begging-bowl is being passed round.

In order to use the land to the benefit of the population at large, donations are required so the loot can be transferred to the ample coffers of Buccleuch Estates. It is obscene. And it also reminds us how little progress has been made on Scottish land reform.

Also on the land front, I was contacted about a developing episode in the Assynt area of Sutherland where Scottish Natural Heritage is spending £420,000  to fence a vast area of an absentee-owned estate in order to protect “native woodland” from deer.

Assynt Community Council has complained bitterly that there was no consultation about displacement of the deer and that “several estates in our area have been fencing off large areas to protect trees, using the project money as a cash cow to keep the estates running”.

The ghastly combination of greedy landowners and arrogant quangos continues to dominate vast swathes of rural Scotland – and not a political finger is now raised to change that.

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