by Colin Campbell
FRIDAY, December 31, 2021, and people in Inverness city centre at 10pm could have been forgiven if they were wondering what night it was supposed to be.
Friday night, Hogmanay night, Sturgeon blackout night, or the night they should have gone to Newcastle.
And that was before they’d even raised a glass.
England, where the New Year was being greeted with no doom laden warnings and restrictions, was out of range for revellers in Inverness and the Highlands.
But as tens of thousands of Scots headed across the border from the south of the country, it was clear that many people in Inverness had chosen to ignore Nicola Sturgeon’s “stay at home” warnings for Hogmanay.
The city centre was buzzing with activity and most bars were full.
For one night, at least, city pubs could try and recoup a small fraction of the losses they have incurred over the past 20 months as we reach the end of the second year of covid.
Maybe on Hogmanay even teetotallers at home might have been tempted to have a drink, if only to forget that living under the iron rule of the self styled “Mother of the Nation”, there could be no end in sight to this.
The Gellions Bar, Revolution, the Black Isle Bar, the Caledonian, and the Glenalbyn, and just about every other hostelry that was open, which was all of them, had revellers in abundance.
When I went across the town, I did not know what to expect to find. Neither probably did men who dressed up and women who glammed up for Hogmanay.
What I did find was a very busy precinct where people were intent on celebrating.
Some people will understandably not approve of a tsunami of booze being consumed at any time of the year.
But this Hogmanay it may well have been better than staying at home and obeying the diktats of Sturgeon in fear of the arrival of a tsunami of omicron.
The symptoms of which, a mountain of evidence suggests, are less debilitating than a severe New Year’s day hangover, and little longer in lasting.
Across Scotland, unlike in England, all Hogmanay public gatherings had been cancelled. That put paid to the traditional Red Hot Highland Fling at the Northern Meeting Park, a well organised outdoor celebration.
To compensate, given the level of activity in the centre, revellers would have dispersed later to households across the city to hold indoor parties, some no doubt crammed to the rooftops with guests.
Whether or not the virus risk was lessened by that is anyone’s guess. Ours would be that it was not.
Fewer and fewer people seem to be paying any attention to Sturgeon and her so called “experts” who would, if they could, pursue their dictatorial “lockdown” zeal indefinitely. Or so many people suspect.
Sturgeon’s determination to “do things differently” from the English merely for the sake of it and make political capital out of it to try and bolster the cause of independence is becoming ever more transparent.
Like many of my vintage, I’m beyond the pub night and revelry stage.
But earlier in the evening I went to the home of a family of close relatives for a Christmas Day/Hogmanay/New Year’s Day gathering all rolled into one.
That was because Sturgeon’s excessive “self isolation” rules meant the home has been off limits for nearly three weeks, as successive members of the family tested positive at different times. Fully vaccinated and bolstered, none had suffered symptoms any worse than a common cold.
There’s normally a late night Hogmanay celebration with a related family, but they are all cooped up by self isolation restrictions also. Their situation is, son who contracted the virus fine now after minor symptoms, father who tested positive no symptoms at all, and mother and brother still virus free, after nearly a week under the same roof.
A year on from the very dark days of December 31, 2020, the vaccine has made a world of difference.
But listening to Sturgeon the dictator, sometimes you could reasonably gain the impression that no one had been vaccinated at all.
Most pertinently of all, one member of the family I met up with works in the office of an Inverness care home. They are struggling to cope with the needs of their elderly residents, she told me, because so many staff are at home self isolating.
And still Nicola Sturgeon refuses to budge from her 10 day self isolation rule, and cut it to seven days, as now applies in England, despite getting the same scientific advice.
Yet again, her priority is to be seen to be doing things differently from the English, no matter who pays the price.
UPDATE: The number of people in hospitals across the Highlands with covid on December 31 was 23, out of a population of more than 200,000. This was an increase of four from the figure on Thursday, but still less than the figure of two weeks ago. For most rational people, the hospitalisation figures are all that really matter. As has been the case all along, there is no information on how many of those in hospital are non vaccinated. And there is no indication that the Scottish Government is prepared in 2022 to provide the public with more detailed information, clarity, perspective, and truth.