Updated: Jun 15, 2020
By Derek W. Gardiner
On Sunday 10th May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a televised address to the nation which was broadcast in all four parts of the UK. He announced a carefully thought out road map to return to normality based on scientific advice. It came as many in the cabinet were becoming worried about the economic impact of continuing the lockdown with no end in sight. The danger of businesses being unable to plan for their futures, the dangers to those suffering from non-coronavirus illnesses not getting treatment and the danger to mental health. The steps were modest and we all hoped that they would command some cross party consensus. However, this broke down, despite all her talk of a “four nation” approach Nicola Sturgeon proved that was never her intention. As expected she came on air ten minutes after the PM gave his advice and contradicted it.
Saying that the advice in Scotland remained “Stay at Home” while the UK government had opted for a “Stay Alert” slogan. She said that the “curve” or “R” number in Scotland was behind the rest of the UK but did not cite any evidence to support this. Sturgeon’s real agenda is to create as much difference between Scotland and England as possible to further the case for independence, her approach is not really based on evidence. Previously, when asked about this the UK Deputy CMO Jenny Harries said that the there was little regional variation around the UK.
So now if you live in England you have the freedom to go out and drive to an open space for exercise regardless of the distance, sit down in open spaces and on park benches, go to garden centres. All while construction work is progressing.
In Scotland however the picture is bleaker. We are allowed to go for exercise more than once a day but that’s it, as usual we have less freedom under the authoritarian SNP. The Scottish economy could contract by between 25 to 50% and take up to five years to recover if the lockdown goes on for three months. The construction sector upon which many Scottish jobs are dependant will be the hardest hit and could shrink by up to 50%. Unfortunately, the Scottish government is economically illiterate. The price of Sturgeon’s hubris will be job losses in Scotland and a weaker economy than the rest of the UK. One can only hope they will reap the consequences at the ballot box next year.
Raising taxes to pay for the furlough scheme would be immoral and counter-productive.
The coronavirus job retention scheme has undoubtedly saved many jobs from being lost due to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it has come with a massive cost of around £16 billion a month which will need to be paid back. Reports from the treasury suggest they may be going down the route of raising income tax and raiding ordinary people’s savings.
Some may argue that it can be justified to raise taxes to pay back this debt. However, many people have not benefited from the furlough scheme at all. Essential workers, the self-employed, the unemployed, students, pensioners and children who will have to pay higher taxes when this is over. Why should all these people have to shoulder the burden for something that did not benefit them.
Economically raising taxes has never been an effective way to raise revenue for the treasury, it only serves to deter investment, shrink the economy and further reduce opportunities for younger people causing a “brain drain”. The classic laffer curve shows that the best way to raise revenue is to lower taxes and create more freedom for economic activity. Our politicians would do well to pay attention to this. It will also create political and societal chaos as people will be unwilling to have their life savings and the fruits of their labour pick-pocketed by the state.
It's time to relax the two metre rule
While undoubtedly Scotland should be following the developments south of the border there are concerns tho be raised with this approach as well. With lockdown beginning to ease in the UK, concerns have been raised about the impact of the 2 metre distance rule. This will reduce public transport capacity by up to 90%, make going to school very difficult and pubs and restaurants almost impossible. It is easy to work when people are only going out into outdoor places once a day however it is not something we should continue with as we move back to normal. If we must have social distancing why 2 metres, when in Denmark, Germany and Austria the rule is 1.5 metres while France and Italy have implemented 1 metre rules. And the bigger question should be why we are using metric and not imperial.