Sunday Column: Now we have a Brexit deal, let's get back to normal.

By Derek Gardiner

So the Brexit groundhog day is finally over. After four and a half years, a referendum, two general elections, three prime ministers, endless talks of "Canada plus", "Australia plus", "Norway plus" style deals, we finally have our own "Britain style" deal with the EU. The deal has been welcomes by many supporters of Brexit and it certainly maintained all the red lines that the UK originally made when entering the negotiations, the jurisdiction of the ECJ will end, the UK will again have the right to publish our own tariff schedules at the WTO and enter trade agreements with whoever we choose, a gradual return of our fishing waters and the continuation of the tariff and quota free movement of goods across the channel with no backstop. The EU told us they would not budge but our sincere threat of a no deal exit caused them to see sense and understand that they could not survive without us. All the talk of lorry queues at Dover and the UK having the same trading agreements with the world as Mauritania all came to nought. Now hopefully we will end the division and move on with our lives, ready to face the future with our heads held high.

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Nightclubs are open in Wuhan

However, on the first day of our new freedom, most of the country will be in full lockdown, including Scotland which only had 17 confirmed cases of the new Kent variant of the coronavirus, meanwhile our competitors in the People's Republic of China are back to normal. In Wuhan the source of the COVID-19 infection, nightclubs are back in full swing without masks or two metre distancing. It is now estimated that China will be the largest economy in the world by 2028 as a result of the pandemic. The Chinese have been advocating a lockdown strategy for the whole world and our own discredited professor Neil Ferguson said that he wanted to follow the Chinese model but didn't think he could get away with it in Europe and it turned out he could.

Thanks to these lockdown policies which are being repeated over and over again in the hope of a different result, fulfilling Einstien's definition of instnity, our economy will be crippled in 2021 as we embark on our new Brexit future. Most of Europe will start the year in lockdown also. If Britain wants to continue to be a major player on the world stage then it must reopen its economy fast. The tier 4 measures must be abandoned and new strategy for dealing with COVID formulated which allows businesses to reopen and function close to normal. Bring in experts such as Professor Karol Sikora, Carl Heneghan and Senetra Gupta who are actual trained epidemiologists and not mathematical modelers or social scientists. Now that the Oxford vaccine is just days away from approval, people in vulnerable categories should be offered it, without the threat of being denied the right to participate in public life if they don't accept the offer and allowed to get on with their lives.

Then we need to allow the free market to get to work, by cutting corporation taxes and business rates and removing unnecessary red tape and regulation and focusing our bailout efforts on small businesses who have lost billions because of the pandemic. The grand reopening of Britain can't come soon enough for those businesses and the longer we wait the more businesses will never open their doors again. If we start Brexit with a crashed economy then it will look like a failure and Brtiain will cease to be the place to do business but if we plough ahead with reopening this country then we will be in a position to compete with our EU neighbours.

In the SNP civil war, I'd take Salmond over Sturgeon.

The SNP will almost certainly form the next Scottish Government after next May's election, marking an unbroken chain of both Scottish parliament and UK general election victories since 2011. And with utterly toothless opposition from both the Scottish Conservatives and Labour, it may be that the only way political change can happen in Scotland is with internal change within the SNP. Since the 2014 referendum the SNP has functioned more as a cult than a political party. Devotion to the leader is demanded from all the party faithful and criticism of Sturgeon will not be tolerated. Her and her husband Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive, maintain an iron control over the governing party and of Scotland much as the Ceausescus did over Romania during the cold war but their control may finally be starting to slip.

Today, it was announced that Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell may be asked to provide more clarity on the evidence they gave to the Salmond inquiry on the nature of the legal advice they obtained at a cost of £600,000 to the taxpayer. There are also allegations, which may have basis in fact, of a conspiracy against Mr Salmond by Stuegeon and Murrell. Text messages in which Murrell suggested putting pressure on the police and crown prosecution service to take action against Mr Salmond and meetings which took place between Sturgeon and Salmond and members of their staff, which Murrell has denied all knowledge of. However, the inquiry remains ongoing.

Interestingly, a few weeks ago, Alex Salmond published a COVID action plan which put strong focus on economic recovery, something Sturgeon does not seem to care about. The plan suggested there was a need to end lockdowns and move to mass testing instead, invest in "shovel ready" projects in emerging sectors such as cyber, space and renewable energy and create a national housebuilding company.

Salmond presided over a time of relative economic success in Scotland with the oil boom in Aberdeen creating a (now long gone) boom for the city. He did not raise taxes to be more than the rest of the UK, as Sturgeon has done, and he was a proponent of civil liberties. During the Salmond years a unionist and a nationalist could be civil with each other but now that is very difficult.

I am no proponent of independence but if the only way to make Scotland a less authoritarian and divided country is a change in the leadership of the SNP then that may be our best hope in the short term.