Following the announcement of a full mainland lockdown on 4th January, the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced a further tightening of lockdown measures in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on 13th January.
The welcome six new measures included a further range of technical and legal restrictions, eg on retail, aimed at reinforcing the government’s “Stay at Home” message.
In particular, a new law requiring employers to enable workers to work from home where possible will be welcomed by workers and trade unions in Scotland. However, this alone is insufficient. It does not tackle the vexed issue of what is classified as “essential” work. There are reports from trade unionists from the construction industry that employers are forcing non-essential workers into unsafe workplaces. This needs to stop.
Scotland has a much lower prevalence of the virus than other parts of the UK – less than a third the level of London for example – and is rightly taking preemptive measures, but the First Minister faced demands for immediate expansion of mass asymptomatic testing. It is claimed these will be announced shortly.
While most of the opposition pressed the Government about existing compensation schemes delivered via local authorities, rather than demand further lockdown measures that the Zero Covid campaign calls for, the Scottish Green Party (SGP) co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP also raised the important need for greater support for those in self-isolation and particularly the crucial demand for the requisition of hotels for those living in crowded accommodation. This issue had also been raised earlier in the week by Scotland-based academic Professor Steve Reicher, in an interview on BBC Scotland, where he pointed to the importance of such measures raising the example of New York.
The SGP also raised the issue of support for students paying rents for rooms they cannot use. The SGP, which holds the balance of power in the parliament, had introduced an amendment to legislation before Xmas enabling students in Scotland to terminate freely their accommodation contracts. The SGP identified that landlords were making it difficult for students and asked about compensation. Nicola Sturgeon agreed to review these issues and discuss how compensation could be provided to students, particularly those in private sector accommodation. The SGP intervention was welcomed by NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly and NUS Scotland has produced a paper analysing the issue.
A new evidence paper from the Scottish government on the state of the epidemic is here.
For more information about the wider situation in Scotland, see the latest article from Zero Covid activists here.
There is increasing support for a campaign for a Zero Covid Scotland and those interested should attend the conference on Saturday 16th January, where there will be a workshop on Scotland.