Having waited weeks for some clarification on our current situation, it now seems that the government’s approach is in tatters. Downing Street released their new slogan overnight, apparently without consulting any of the devolved governments. That brave new slogan, Stay Alert, is quite literally meaningless in this context.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all rejected the new advice, and Lib Dem interim leader Ed Davey has said it ‘makes the police’s job near-impossible and may cause considerable alarm.’ Unfortunately, the headlines throughout today have focused on the differences between the four home nations as we plunge on in this interminable lockdown limbo. As Willie Rennie has highlighted, in this gravest time it seems as though communication between Holyrood and Westminster is reaching new lows. This is simply unacceptable.
I still cannot understand the reasoning that hundreds of people are allowed to converge at B&Q, yet my local garden centre must stay closed. What I can see is that more and more people are now venturing out: traffic levels are visibly increasing and it is near impossible to find somewhere quiet for outdoor exercise. After six weeks of lockdown, there is a natural fraying of people’s willingness to stay at home, however if the government’s messaging had remained clear and the four nation’s response united, it would have made it easier to comply.
What we need as a nation right now is clear leadership, not squabbles over slogans. We need a roadmap to ease us out of lockdown safely, with access to the evidence and analysis by the scientists the government claims has guided them from the start. We need to know that instead of simply cutting off the furlough scheme, there are plans in place for a phased and safe return to work with wage support where needed. We need the message that although right now it’s better to stay home, there is a well-constructed plan being put together in consultation with all levels of governance, top down and bottom up. We need to hope that’s the message we get this evening.