Politics

Lockdowns don’t work. Nicola Sturgeon must be stripped of her power to impose them, says Joanna Blythman

IN March 2020, states all around the world tore up established global pandemic planning strategies and followed the lead of the Chinese government by confining citizens to their homes, seriously restricting their legitimate reasons for venturing outdoors.

Two years on and we’re still waiting for either the UK or Scottish Government to present us with an evaluation of the impacts of this groupthink blunder.

No wonder governments are not keen to rake over the bones of their decision to put such faith in ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions’: lockdowns, masks, social distancing, travel bans, curtailment of education and social interaction.

As sobering rationality and pragmatism returns to countries that lost their heads over SARS-Cov2, lockdowns now look like the biggest public health mistake in history.

All of a sudden, high-profile commentators who were baying for more, longer, and harsher lockdowns are pivoting like mad.

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Belatedly they are filled with empathy for sobbing relatives cruelly kept from the bedsides of their loved ones and other grotesque examples of lockdown mania that they had fulsomely cheered on.

This isn’t slow learning. It’s a retrospective attempt to reposition themselves on the right side of history.

For there’s no doubt that Covid lockdowns will not be judged kindly.

A group of academics has just reported the results of its meta-analysis – that’s one of the strictest standards of evidence – of empirical studies on lockdown effects.

They analysed hard data, as opposed to the nightmarish and notoriously wide-of-the-mark conclusions arrived at by risk-averse computer modellers like Professor Neil Ferguson.

This analysis, A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality, was published by the prestigious Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health and the Study of Business Enterprise. It screened 18,590 studies.

Their conclusions vindicate those voices who, from around May 2020 onwards, challenged lockdowns and warned of the wider destructive consequences.

They found: “While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted.”

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Considering the damage – depressing economic activity, raising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence, undermining liberal democracy, triggering mental health crises – the authors conclude that “lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument”.

Yet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon knows better.

She is hell-bent on retaining her power to reintroduce lockdowns whenever she sees fit. She plans to permanently enshrine in Scots law the power of ministers to impose stay-at-home restrictions and shut down businesses and sectors without having to seek parliamentary approval, despite warnings and protestations from the general public.

The Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill would allow ministers to close schools, enforce stay-at-home restrictions and shut down hospitality venues without parliamentary approval.

More than 85% of respondents to the Scottish Government’s consultation were against this.

Why do Sturgeon, John Swinney, and all the other petty power-drunk politicians around the globe want to cling on to these illiberal powers when the collateral damage they cause has been laid bare for anyone with a brain to see?

By virtue of their well-remunerated, assured positions in the public domain they have been protected from the worst effects of the lockdowns they imposed on others.

Truth is, the laptop classes did nicely out of lockdown. Salary or pension keeps coming, savings build up, the home office comes in handy, gardens to relax in, no tiring commuting. You could get quite used to that, even become loathe to give it up.

In the case of small businesses, however, lockdowns deprived them of their livelihoods almost overnight.

Don’t believe me? Ask your taxi driver, hairdresser, or florist. Lockdowns amount to a class war visited on the self-employed and their employees by dictatorial do-gooders in safe public sector jobs.

I agree one hundred per cent with Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, who has asked the Scottish Government to scrap this move, describing it as “corrosive” to democracy and detrimental to Scotland’s economic recovery.

It’s a mandate for Nicola Sturgeon to keep on doing more harm to people’s lives than she has already done, this time, without the excuse of not knowing that the measures don’t work.

Borthwick says that if Sturgeon persists in this stubborn power-grab, conditions must be attached to any future lockdown power she retains.

First, it should have the backing of at least 75 MSPs, which seems entirely reasonable. Drastic measures should have some backing beyond the docile benches of the SNP and its parks and gardens department, the Scottish Green Party.

Second, he says that politicians and government officials pushing through lockdowns should themselves take a 25% pay cut for the duration of any future business restrictions so that they understand the financial impact.

That would give them a taste of the hardship felt by the restaurateur, beautician, or publican whose business sinks further down the plug hole with each stroke of the bureaucratic pen.

Surely those making the rules should share the financial pain they inflict on those who are forced to follow them?

Third, Borthwick’s demand that emergency funding is distributed within 48 hours of any restrictions being put in place seems absolutely justified, given that a temporarily high borrowing level caused by a slump in trade can close down a business in days.

Now, 55 days after Nicola Sturgeon issued her fear-stoking, hot-headed Omicron “tsunami” warning, restaurants, for instance, are still waiting for the Scottish Government to pay out the paltry hospitality grant she promised them.

Of course, her refusal to relinquish her lockdown power is typical of power-hungry politicians all around the globe. By going against the widely-expressed concerns of the public, businesses, law chiefs, and parliamentarians, she shows total contempt for democracy.

Her pig-headedness illustrates, once again, that Scotland’s First Minister simply doesn’t learn from her mistakes. Thinking that one can suppress a contagious respiratory virus is stupid and arrogant.

It’s time for some self-reflection and humility.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

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