Lifting Restrictions The four Chief Medical Officers (CMOs of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) advising the government on the pandemic have issued a joint statement lowering the Covid-19 alert in the country by one level. According to reporters, the statement, a copy of which was published on the website of the British Ministry of Health on Thursday, states that the alert level has gone down by one step from the last stage (5). They noted, however, that healthcare institutions across the UK were still under considerable pressure due to the number of coronary heart disease patients, and there was no doubt that death and transmission rates for the coronavirus were still high. In the statement, they encouraged people to receive vaccination and continue to follow Covid restrictions. According to official UK figures for 2020, the country is facing a 9.8% drop in GDP, its worst economic year in 300 years, and spending by customers in cafes and restaurants is now critical to improving the UK economy. More than 127,000 people have died in the UK from Covid-19. Based on these statistics, Britain is the fifth country with the highest rate of Covid deaths in the world.
Early last week, Nicola Sturgeon made the surprise announcement that some lockdown rules will be easing, while movement between council areas was previously not expected in Scotland until 26 April. These restrictions were finally lifted on Friday after movement between council areas had been banned for more than four months. Travel within the rest of the UK is set to be permitted by 26 April. Scots also enjoyed being with friends and family outdoors in groups of six this weekend, after Scotland’s national lockdown eased early.
Now, the First Minister is set to make another announcement ahead of much of the Scottish economy reopening. This will include the resumption of the hospitality sector, along with further non-essential retail, gyms and more. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a coronavirus update and confirmed that, as from Friday, Scots will be able to move anywhere in the country for the purposes of outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise. Trips for retail shopping and visiting hospitality or holiday accommodations will not be permitted until 26 April.
If the virus remains under control, cafes, restaurants and beer gardens will be able to open, along with shops, gyms, libraries and museums, on this date. Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes the rest of the UK will be “appropriately cautious” over international travel.
Ms Sturgeon told a coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh that she hoped there could be a “four nation” agreement reached on external travel to best defend the UK against the importation of the virus or more dangerous variants of it. The Scottish and UK governments have previously diverged on travel from countries outside the UK. The differing approaches meant a person could fly into England, not be forced to quarantine and then drive to Scotland, thereby skirting rules. Opening up foreign travel risks importing new strains of Covid-19 into the UK and vaccines may be less effective against them, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Scotland requires all overseas arrivals to isolate in a quarantine hotel and the first minister said that her government was pressing Westminster to follow suit.
Independence: So Far, So Close
Nicholas Sturgeon has claimed that the Covid crisis may have strengthened support for Scottish independence. The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) said her government’s handling of the current pandemic had led people to consider the “interests” of an independent state. “In the midst of the crisis, our people in Scotland are looking to their leaders to lead the country,” she said. “I think what we are witnessing is the natural tendency of people to have their own democratically elected government.”
The SNP leader added: “And this has probably made people think about the interests of the government, and this may in some way affect the results of the polls. Scottish independence will benefit everyone. I have thought of all the reasons and I have come to the conclusion that the sooner Scotland becomes independent and we take control of our future, the better for everyone,” she told Sky News. Great Trouble for the UK? Scottish First Minister Nicholas Sturgeon has said that if the Scottish National Party wins a majority in next month’s election, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not oppose a second independence referendum, while some British government ministers have said it is inevitable.”If the Scottish people vote for a party that says ‘independence referendum should be held at the right time’, that cannot be stopped – and I do not think that will happen,” Sturgeon told the Guardian. People close to Downing Street say tactical efforts may be under way to keep the referendum inevitable, but the prime minister strongly opposes it. The British government, fearing that Scottish voters may be confused about independence – but interested in Sturgeon’s other policies – has quietly played down the “once in a generation” tone it uses for the referendum. But Johnson is said to be determined in private not to be the prime minister who allowed the referendum to take place, and conservatives are sending the message that holding the referendum during the pandemic is pure irresponsibility. According to a new poll, a majority of Scots are now in favour of Scottish independence, and support for Scottish secession from Britain remains high for the sixth consecutive month, the longest recorded period. According to the Daily Mail, the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 showed that 55% of the participants were against independence and 45% in favour. The Scots’ attitude has changed since London left the EU.Scottish First Minister Nicholas Sturgeon had called for another referendum before the end of 2020. But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeatedly refused to provide funding for the issue, and the London government refused to authorise a second referendum. A Panel base poll published in the Sunday Times puts the “Yes” vote in an independence referendum at 54% and the “No” vote at 46%. John Curtis, an expert on the poll, said that recent polls show support for Scottish independence is now greater than alliance with Britain. The average for the Panel base polls over the past six months, including the most recent polls, shows that the “Yes” vote is 51% and the “No” vote is 49%. “This is the first time in the history of the polls that the ‘Yes’ vote has been higher for a long time,” he said. Final Word As the UK faces the negative consequences of the election and the Covid crisis, another Scottish independence referendum could be the biggest shock to a united kingdom since Ireland’s independence a century ago. The Scottish National Party has promised to hold a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom by the end of 2023. The move could end the 314-year-old alliance between Britain and Scotland. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly opposed the Scottish National Party’s call for an independence referendum. The SNP currently holds 61 of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, but with the help of five Green Party MPs, it still has effective parliamentary control.
The coronavirus crisis and Britain’s exit from the EU have severely strained relations between Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.