by Colin Campbell
IN recent weeks we’ve been reporting on what everyone knew would happen when the pubs reopened.
On weekend nights in particular Inverness city centre became a “virus free zone” as revellers ignored any vestige of social distancing and broke every rule in the book.
It was the same across the country – drink and social distancing do not mix.
The unsurprising upshot was a surge in new cases in one city, Aberdeen, followed by a city-wide lockdown. It could have been anywhere. It could have been here.
Now there’s been a complete change of direction from our supposedly steady-as-she-goes First Minister who’s been credited by her supporters and media sycophants as having had a “good virus” in decision-making.
In her daily party political broadcast on the BBC she announced that from now on it will be mandatory for staff to get the names and contact details of everyone who enters their premises. There will be table service only, and no music or televisions being allowed to have sound.
That’s about as big a change from the chaotic “free for all” of the past few weeks as it’s possible to imagine.
The “rules” in this U-turn may be mandatory, but again, will they really be followed to the letter at the busiest times? Staff could have to spend so much time taking customer details that they’ll have none left to serve customer drinks.
It begs the question, should pubs have been allowed to reopen when they did, when the problems that would arise in them were so blindingly obvious? Or if they did reopen, should it have been only with restricted hours to prevent Friday and Saturday late night recklessness.
It may be that Nicola Sturgeon felt she had no alternative but to agree to reopening pubs in Scotland, after the shutters went up in England and the other home countries.
But, as on a daily basis she takes a position of such eminence and prominence in what she’ll “allow” and won’t allow, she’s very quick to award herself credit for taking decisions she believes to have been correct and for refusing to follow Boris Johnson and the others.
So if she seizes the credit she should also should get the blame. Given that absolutely everyone knew pubs presented by far the highest risk factor in the entire post-lockdown process, why didn’t she come up with a more coherent plan on how to approach this?
The early reopening of pubs is being held up as a ridiculous contrast to the continuing delay in reopening other social venues, such as gyms for example, where carefully worked out and fully workable new safety plans will be in operation when they do open.
So much for the flawless and infallible judgement of Nicola Sturgeon in the post-lockdown saga. On the reopening of pubs, she could have acted in a way which accords with her cautious and stern attitude to everything else. Instead, she ducked making a tough decision, and she bottled it.