by Colin Campbell Wednesday, May 13
WILL the favourability rating for Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party rise in Scotland as a result of the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of October?
In particular, will beneficiaries of it who detest all things Boris and all things Tory change their attitude even to the slightest degree?
Somehow I doubt it.
The furlough extension – surprising in the length of its newly announced duration – means that hundreds of thousands of Scots will be paid at least 80 per cent of their normal wages for months ahead for doing no work.
This will come as a huge relief to many people who are in financial difficulties with no job to go to, entirely through no fault of their own.
For many others, however, it is distinctly good news.
It means they can enjoy the sunshine, they can sit in deckchairs, they can potter about in the garden. What they will not have to do is to clock on for jobs which offer varying degrees of satisfaction, from being enjoyable and fulfilling (not that many) to monotonous, demanding or crushingly boring (quite a lot).
And yet, if you asked a very large number of the deckchair-recliners or pottering gardeners what they thought of the Government which has decided to pay them to take a lengthy summer and autumn holiday there would, from many, I’ve no doubt, be an unchanged, terse response.
“What do I think of them? I think they’re callous Tory b*****ds.”
Such is life, as many of us are all too aware in SNP dominated Scotland. The nats need someone to hate to keep those marching fires of passion burning, and who better than an “Eton-educated toff”, even one who, pre-virus, was showing Corbyn-like enthusiasm for levels of public spending.
And what do the SNP hierarchy think of the cash extension? How will Nicola Sturgeon calculatingly spin it against Boris and the Tories?
And what will that arch-defender of the poor, their Westminster leader Ian Blackford have to say about it from atop his lofty perch on a huge pile of cash – an MP’s salary, £240,000 in expenses and tens of thousands from a company directorship. Will he stand up in the Commons and start roaring about “Scotland being dragged into seven months paid holiday against our will”?
Theoretically, if we were independent after the 2014 vote had gone the other way, would a Scottish Government fully and wholly responsible for trying to deal with the economic wreckage and personal devastation caused by the coronavirus be extending its furlough scheme? The answer to that is no, because there would be no furlough scheme in the first place. Only the most wildly deluded nationalist (which means quite a lot) would believe that at this stage of the transition we’d have billions of pounds to throw at the coronavirus crisis.
In a Scottish Government-of-many talents, the person responsible for trying to deal with mass unemployment and thousands of ruined businesses could be finance secretary Kate Forbes, who only became an MSP three years ago, and who was appointed in a rush after her predecessor Derek Mackay quit in schoolboy-texting disgrace. Does that fill you with confidence? No, me neither.
Broke, bankrupt and overwhelmed by debt, we’d be heading into the abyss by now. Or alternately, on our knees begging for foreign government, ie London government, support.
As things stand, Sturgeon has now decided that we’ll come out of the lockdown in a different way from England. A much slower way, it seems.
Up to now, she’s been given the benefit of the doubt for playing it straight and not trying to be different for the sake of it. But now, with many of her supporters openly gloating over her “we’ll do it our own way” mantra, we can expect that to change. What won’t change is her expectation that Westminster will pay for it.
Meanwhile, two months into the lockdown, are people in these parts yet permitted to drive a mile or two to go for a walk in the woods?
A couple of weeks ago I told of how a police vehicle had pulled up alongside a couple of cars in a tiny car park up at Craig Dunain where folk go for a stroll through woodland, and left warning leaflets under their wipers.
Now a row of bollards has been put in place, blocking off access. Not that this does much good. People are still there walking. They just leave their cars a few yards away.
No wonder people are increasingly complaining about mixed messages. It’s bad enough that one set of rules vaguely applies in England and another in Scotland. But even north of the border, haven’t the rules on exercise been eased somewhat?
With scientific experts virtually unanimous in believing that there is virtually no chance of the virus being passed on among people at a distance from each other in the open air – there can be no credible justification for trying any longer to prevent folk going for a relaxing stroll in woodland.
However, those bollards are in place for whatever daft reason and they may well remain in place.
And who’s to blame for that?
No doubt it’ll end up at the door, in the eyes of some at least, of those “callous Tory b*****ds”.
I’ve been through a war – and this isn’t a war
Our Ross-shire correspondent writes:
A COUPLE of days ago I had a chat with a Dingwall man, well into his 80s, who walks like he’s just finished Army Cadet Training. Clean shaven, cropped hair, alert, straight-backed, arms swinging and with an aura of complete confidence, he’s unfailingly polite but reticent about engaging in conversation about anything he considers to be inconsequential.
I asked him: “How are you managing being stuck indoors?”
He replied: “Obviously fed-up and my neighbours will likely say I’m a bit short in the grain lately. But at my age it’s like a return to the old days. There’s only one thing to do and that’s to follow orders!”
I asked: “How do you reckon the authorities are handling things?”
“It’s very difficult and confusing for everyone,” he replied. “But something that really angers me is the constant throwaway use of the word war. It’s a much misused word. With Victory in Europe currently being discussed and rightly remembered it’s wrong for politicians, supposed experts and the media to use the word war.
“It’s a medical emergency and rightly described as a pandemic,” he observed. “We knew our enemies by their uniforms and insignia. We were at war with them.
“The coronavirus isn’t a war,” he continued. “It’s an identified and quite hellish medical condition. We certainly have to hope we beat this pandemic. We have to hope there’s never, ever another war with men and women in uniform. Use of the word makes me very uncomfortable in whatever circumstance it’s used,” he concluded tersely.