By Rab Bruce’s Spider

In my social media comments, I’ve been quite critical of the Scottish Government’s response to the Corona Virus. It seems likely they had the same warnings as the UK Government, yet they were content to go along with the UK strategy of doing nothing much until it was too late. Yes, the Scottish Government began making announcements on mass gatherings, but it was still much later than it should have been.

Hindsight is easy, of course, and who knows whether any of us would have done any differently in the same circumstances, but the Scottish Government does seem to be following a very similar policy to the UK approach, albeit with some small adjustments.

There is no doubt NHS Scotland was better prepared and equipped than its English counterpart, and we should be grateful for that. It’s also very true that the briefings given by Nicola Sturgeon are gaining much more favourable responses than those carried out by the Tories at Westminster. However, bearing in mind the shower of incompetents who currently govern the UK, being more capable than them isn’t really much of an accolade.

As for my social media remarks, I put out a Tweet the other day saying I hoped the Scottish Government would have the guts to adopt a different approach if the Tories decided to end the lock down sooner rather than later. This was very much an emotional comment, since I have key workers in my immediate family who are seeing the effects of the virus at first hand. Quite frankly, it’s scaring me. However, as usual with Scottish Twitter, I received some very thoughtful responses amidst those mostly agreeing with me, and this made me think a little more deeply.

The big problem with the Scottish Government adopting a different approach, perhaps authorising Police Scotland to close the Border with England except to essential traffic, and maintaining a lock down while England relaxes theirs, is the financial impact. The truth is that Westminster controls our purse strings. The financial aid packages, insufficient as they are, come from Westminster’s magic money tree. In a hypothetical situation where Scotland continued the lock down but England did not, you can bet every penny you own that Westminster would immediately stop the aid packages, thus forcing people back to work in Scotland whatever the Scottish Government wanted to do.

I’m not even going to get into the claims about PPE being reserved for England rather than being pooled and shared with the rest of the UK. That sort of thing is normal for the UK, but what that, and the financial aid situation demonstrate is that Scotland really needs to become a normal, Self-governing country. If we had control of our own finances, the Scottish Government could continue to fund financial aid packages. If we had control of our own borders, we could prevent virus-refugees coming up to their second homes and placing additional strain on our NHS. If we had control of our own supply base, we wouldn’t need to sit helplessly by and watch as England takes it all for themselves. If we had full control of our own decisions, we could be doing far more testing for the virus. All the experts seem to agree that this is the most efficient measure for containing the spread.

Instead of all that, we are tied to copying whatever Westminster decides to do. I’m glad Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland will make its own decisions. It’s about time we heard that. But now that she’s said what I initially wanted to hear her say, I’m worrying about how Scotland can afford to go its own way.

Usually, it is Unionists who tell us we wouldn’t be able to afford things if we were a normal country, but the reality is that it is being shackled to Westminster that hampers our finances.

When this is all over, I hope the SNP will at last make the case for independence. We’ve been waiting a long time to hear it, and the current shambles, plus the impact of being controlled by Westminster, surely presents us with a golden opportunity to highlight the very real dangers of being governed by another country. I’m not saying the Scottish Government would have done things differently, but the fundamental point is that, if they had behaved in the way the Tories in Westminster have done, we would be able to vote them out of office. If the media and polls are to be believed, England will probably vote Tory no matter how many people die as a result of their disastrous policies. It is a great shame for the decent people of England that so many of their countryfolk continue to vote Tory, but there is not a great deal we can do about that except perhaps to provide an example of how things should be done by establishing a new, progressive nation where people are more important than money, and where those in power are held to account for breaching their own rules. Imagining this possibility is one of the few things keeping my spirits up at the moment. Let’s hope the day comes soon.