NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
The first question people ask when you meet them in the street is usually how are you?
It’s just a greeting. We don’t expect much of a reply. At least, we didn’t until now that we are in the middle of a pandemic.
A nod of the head or “fine thanks” used to cover it for most of us, who were usually so busy [we claimed] that we didn’t have time to hang around for a blether.
Those were the days though when the world was more civilised. When everything was at a slower pace.
We got a half day off work on a Wednesday and weekends off too. We took our holidays at Dumbarton Fair, which came round annually on the first two weeks of July.
How things have changed. Today we are into the first full day of lockdown. The rain is lashing down. If we are not going out anywhere that is just as well. We would get soaked to the skin.
We have all the time in the world therefore to study what we can and cannot do; where we can go and where we can’t without a police officer button-holing us and asking if we had good reason to be where we are.
There may soon be road blocks and goons asking asking us for our papers
And making certain that we are wearing a face covering to speak without spraying our germs – and putting lives in danger all around us.
I came across a note on Facebook the other day from a guy who endeavoured to obey all the Covid-19 rules and do absolutely everything right.
He went out in his car for a carry-out meal and was stopped by the police with blue lights flashing on their vehicle.
He might not be going to contract Covid while he was out, but he may well have had a heart attack from the fright he got.
The officer got out to question the driver for alleged speeding; ignored social distancing by sticking his head through the car window to within six inches from his face, and sprayed deadly droplets all over him as he brusquely told him off.
That driver may have known who he was, but I am not certain he knew where he was in relation to the Level 4 restrictions imposed on us all here by the confusing rules imposed on us from 6 o’clock last night.
Not on “us all” though because if we live in Helensburgh or Cardross or up the Lochside, we only have to obey the restrictions at Level 2 (see table above).
One Democrat reader asked me: Why has West Dunbartonshire been placed into tier 4?
1 / People are travelling through to get to Faslane and Coulport from an tier 4 to tier 2.
2 / children are being bussed in from Argyll & Clyde to attend Our Lady & St Patrick’s secondary school, again from tier 2 into tier 4.
3 / Currently there are no major supermarkets in Helensburgh and residents travelling to Dumbarton for shopping are again moving from tier 2 into tier 4.
4 / Whether you are from West Dunbartonshire or Argyll & Clyde, you are taken to a Paisley or Glasgow hospital,despite the fact there are two hospitals in West Dunbartonshire, The Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria and the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank. If the [government] are so worried about cross contamination between areas, why are they deliberately sending patients to places, which are not easily accessible by public transport at a time when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is advising us not to use public transport . There is no direct access to the RAH in Paisley or Queen Elizabeth II University Hospital and Royal Children’s Hospital in Glasgow.
He added: “This Covid 19 virus highlights the requirement for reinstatement of a full operation hospital at the Vale.”
And he asked: “With so much travelling between the areas, is this not one of the reasons for continuing high numbers contracting the virus.”
A bridge too far – the Erskine Bridge across the River Clyde at Old Kilpatrick.
Picture by Robert Beacon
Since West Dunbartonshire Council will not speak to me, I asked Jackie Baillie MSP, who represents Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh, about this situation.
She told me: “It is definitely confusing for people. Essential journeys for work, school, childcare and other caring arrangements are allowed between areas with different tiers. The default position is for everyone to stay in their local authority area and not travel more than 5 miles.
“The police will be responsible for enforcement of the travel restrictions, but they intend to take a proportionate approach and will not be setting up check points but they do have the power to fine people.
“Some have also been confused about where figures for Helensburgh and Lomond are counted. Because it is based on someone’s postcode, it is the local authority area they are recorded in, not where they access their health services from.”
Confusing is it not? It’s high time the Scottish government sorted out the boundary lines between West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.
The authorities have been in this mess since gerrymandering took place to pluck the Faslane Naval Base out of Dunbartonshire and deprive an already poor area of the rates and other benefits that came with having nuclear weapons within their council’s area of responsibility.
That amounts to a lot of money, which now stays in wealthy Argyll and includes Helensburgh, Cardross and Lomond, thanks to the Conservatives continuing to collude with the SNP.