Over the last two days you have included letters by Douglas Cowe and Ian Lakin, concerning the possibility of independence. I might have said “critical of independence”, but criticism demands evidence, and both your correspondents include as much evidence for their assertions as Donald Trump has for his claims of voter fraud. Basically, both have argued that independence is doomed. One can almost hear Private Frazer telling us “we’re doomed, we’re doomed ah tell ye’”.
Mr Lakin dismisses the possibility of a successful independent Scotland with the claim that it would not be possible “without a currency, with massive debt and large fiscal deficit”. Yet, if we stay in the UK, what adjective would he apply to Westminster’s level of debt? And of course, the scale of any fiscal deficit is disputed, no matter how often Mr Lakin and others of his opinion may state this as a “fact”, supported only by a document which itself is clear that it is about Scotland “under present constitutional arrangements” (ie GERS).
He further claims there would be “a flight of capital”, but where would it go? Most of the rest of the world is hardly in a good economic place even now, however long before the Covid emergency ends. So too would there be a flight of people. Would this be to our neighbours in the south, whose economy is hardly likely to be much better and which will have just left the EU, perhaps without any sort of deal to manage future relations.
Mr Cowe claims, “when the chips are down, [Scotland] has to depend on the financial strength of the United Kingdom.” Where does Mr Cowe imagine the current Scottish Government would secure the necessary resources, when its funding comes mostly from the annual block grant (basically an estimate of what Westminster would have spent in Scotland on devolved matters). Big taxes such as National Insurance, Corporate Taxes (including oil tax revenues) and rates of VAT are reserved to Westminster. Most importantly however, Scotland has limited borrowing powers, so unlike Chancellor Sunak, Kate Forbes is not able to phone Andrew Baillie at the Bank of England and ask him for (quite) a few billion pounds. Considering this Mr Cowe, where is the money to come from?
Or is your point that an independent Scotland would be too wee, too poor ….. etc to be able to secure those resources. Let’s take Croatia where the 10-year yield on Croatian government bonds is just under zero-point eight percent. In Greece – remember that is how an independent Scotland would turn out, but without the sunshine – there it’s just over zero-point eight percent.
Debating the wisdom or otherwise of Scotland’s independence is an important matter, too important to start from a conclusion and then following up with no more than assertions.
In the New European, Michael White of the Guardian writes:
The painful fact is that both administrations look unimpressive from the outside and have done much in near lockstep during the pandemic, including the latest Spanish quarantine. Strip out England’s less populated regions along with the Highlands and Borders and the Covid casualty rates in dense urban areas and care homes won’t be very different.
As I rebut the same lie day-after-day, it feels like I’m batting back balls fired at me by a tennis machine but hey, you never know, I might correct the thinking of even just one more reader, if I keep going.
This time it’s Nazi dentist lookalike, Michael White, making the above outrageous comment. He has no actual evidence to offer of course and I suspect he’s still using, like Sky News’ Adam Boulton, the data from the first phase of the outbreak in March and April before the Scottish Government strategy kicked in.
So, once more the facts:
The ‘casualty rates’ after leaving the initial lock-step are very different:
Scotland had zero deaths in the last 14 days and had only six in the previous 14. England is on a plateau with 65.7 deaths, on average every day.
The ‘casualty rates’ for the whole outbreak are now very different too:
After months of fast declining infection and deaths here, even the gap between Scotland and England’s total figures has widened too far to be ignored.
England has ten times the population so if performance was to be similar, the total number of cases and deaths would also be ten times higher but they are not, by any means.
Scotland has had 18 694 cases so if all things were equal, England would have had 186 940 but had 263 602, 41% higher.
Scotland has had 2 491 deaths so if all things were equal, England would have had 24 910 but has 41 598, 67% higher.
‘Andrew McKie is a political columnist for The Herald and former Obituaries editor of the Daily Telegraph.’
Described as a ‘Conservative voice‘ in David Torrance’s Whatever Happened to Tory Scotland (£0.99 in The Works, Ayr High Street), McKie is famous for his obituary of Roy Hudd, describing him as ‘a wide-ranging actor and comedian who was an expert on music hall and variety.’ Ah, I’m not going to read the full thing today. I’ll just deal with the headline which few will go beyond.
In the Herald today, he writes:
Opinion: Andrew McKie: There is no basis for arguments that Scotland hashandled this crisis better
Oh, yes there is and it’s coming again below. McKie now joins Macwhirter, the FT and Murdo Fraser and a long line, including English liberals in the Guardian and the Independent, fighting desperately to stop Scots realising that their government HAS handled the crisis better.
I’ve rebutted numerous of these attacks so this will be easy.
‘Scotland has much to be proud of in the way that the pandemic has been managed. I have no doubt that the death toll would have been greater without the unwavering support and close working relationship between the government and the clinical community.’
Dr Dr Stephen Cole, President of the Scottish Intensive Care Society
How many times have I had to list this real evidence that the Scottsih Government HAS a better ‘covid record?’ So, once more:
The FT and Common Weal are just blinkered if they think these are just PR:
Lower excess mortality rate
Mortality among BAME groups is lowerthan in ‘white’ population
Death rate in care homes is lowerthan in England
Mortality among key workers is lower:
Assessment centres protected GP surgeries
Better Government leadership
Evidence (Facts, you know?) below:
According to GlobalData Epidemiologist Bahram Hassanpourfard, the global recovery rate is 32%. Hassanpourfard drew attention to the ‘UK’ rate of only 0.46% but I suspect that is based on inadequate data coming from the ONS.
As far as I can see, the ONS is not recording recovery rates at all. Why?
Given that Scotland’s population has the lowest life expectancy in the UK and one of the lowest in Europe, it seems reasonable to give NHS Scotland credit for this.
2. Lower excess mortality rate:
The z-score is effectively the number of standard deviations the measurement is away from the expected value….
…At the height of the pandemic, the top five in terms of peak z-score were England 42.75 (Wk 15), Spain 34.41 (Wk 14), Belgium 29.91 (Wk 15), Italy 22.16 (Wk 14) and France 21.17 (Wk 14)….
…England is also the worst-performing country on these islands. The peak z-score was 19.71 for Wales (less than half that of England), 8.90 for NI, 7.03 for Scotland and 3.95 for Ireland all in week 15.
3. Mortality among BAME groups is lower:
Only 4% of the Scottish population is recorded as one of the non-White ethnic minority groups. 98% of the deaths are registered as White so, crudely and not-too-reliably at this stage, the mortality rate among non-White groups is lower at only 2% [p34].
4. Death rate in care homes is lowerand typical of Europe
data from research by LSE, reported on May 14th in Care Home Professional:
More than 22,000 care home residents in England and Wales have died during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research. In a new paper, the LSE said data on deaths had underestimated the impact of thepandemic on care home residents as it did not take into account the indirect mortality effects of the pandemic and/or because of problems with the identification of the disease as the cause of death. The paper said current data only accounted for an estimated 41.6% of all excess deaths in care homes.
In Scotland, up to 17th May there were 1 623 deaths in care homes where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The latest ONS mortality statistics for England and Wales show that 237 health and care workers and 47 teachers have been killed by the coronavirus up to 23 April – deaths in the three weeks since are not included.
As at 5 May, we have been notified by Health Boards or the Care Inspectorate of 7 deaths of healthcare workers and 6 deaths of social care workers, related to COVID-19. We are not able to confirm how many of these staff contracted COVID-19 through their work.
The UK has 12.6 times the population of Scotland so, pro rata, we might expect 12.6 times the deaths, 164, but it is 284.
6. Unique policy initiatives: Assessment centres to protect GP surgeries
In a bid to alleviate the pressure on GP surgeries, as of Monday this week, NHS Boards across Scotland started to use a unique system for treating patients experiencing symptoms. Today they have 50 dedicated coronavirus assessment centres set up across the country.’
The new Community Assessment Centres (CACs) will be appointment-only hubs which will maximise the number of symptomatic people who can be cared for within the community. It will ensure that hospital capacity is used for those with the most serious illnesses and reduce the exposure of patients at GP surgeries and allow GPs to focus on providing care to patients with other complex health issues. A central CAC has opened on Barr Street and is operational from 8am to 10pm, with a view to moving to 24/7 when necessary. Other centres are expected to open in the city soon.
Scotland has the highest number of GPs per head of population in the UK, research commissioned by the BBC shows. Analysis by the Nuffield Trust think tank shows there are 76 GPs per 100,000 people, compared to a national UK average of 60.
The provisional total of laboratory reports for norovirus in Scotland up to the end of week 49 of 2019 (week ending 8 December 2019) is 798. In comparison, to the end of week 49 in 2018 HPS received 1367 laboratory reports of norovirus. The five-year average for the same time period between years 2013 and 2017 is 1385.
Sepsis deaths recorded in England’s hospitals have risen by more than a third in two years, according to data collected by a leading safety expert. In the year ending April 2017, there were 15,722 deaths in hospital or within 30 days of discharge, where sepsis was the leading cause.
The NHS is calling on the public to heed advice and stay at home if they have norovirus to avoid passing it on, as hospitals in England have been forced to close more than 1,100 hospital beds over the last week.Top medics are concerned about the spread of the winter vomiting bug this year and the impact it is having on hospitals and other services.
A special envoy to the World Health Organisation has said he is impressed with how Scotland is handling the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr David Nabarro said Nicola Sturgeon’s prudent approach to easing lockdown restrictions was a good policy.
He said he admired the approach by the Scottish Government and the public health authorities.
Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy for Covid-19, told the BBC: “Comparing Scotland with other parts of Europe, other parts of the world, I’d say you’re doing good because you are tackling it carefully and logically.
The chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee Dr Andrew Buist states:
Our NHS is changing, and at the forefront of that change is the primary care response. ….. There is a huge amount of work being put in from the Scottish Government and across the system and now is the time for us to pull together, for clear thinking and strong leadership.”
‘Health secretary Jeanne Freeman has been accused of lying by the outgoing chief of a controversy-hit NHS board – while opponents have accused her of “playing politics with one of the worst NHS scandals since devolution”. Brian Houston, the former chairman of NHS Lothian, quit the organisation in January, citing “fundamental and irreconcilable” differences with Ms Freeman.’
First, the outgoing ‘chief’ of an NHS board responsible for an overdue new hospital build resigns and then when his boss criticises him, he has a hissy-fit. Methinks he doth etc…The Herald publishes it.
More expensive and longer hospital build delays in Liverpool and Midlands have triggered complaints against contractors and boards but politicians have not been accused of anything because, of course they weren’t responsible.
The ‘opponents’ accusing Freeman are, of course, members of the UK parties with small branches in Scotland. The Herald has a paywall so…
It is common knowledge that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is a great admirer of Winston Churchill. He has written a biography of the wartime leader, and it is reputed that his relentless drive to become leader of the Conservative Party, and thus PM, has grown out of a desire to emulate the great man.
Watching his daily press briefings during the current health crisis, I cannot help wondering whether, somewhere in his secret heart, Boris is relishing having a situation to manage which has been described as ‘the most serious since World War II.’
These thoughts were further stimulated by hearing his choice of metaphor in a recent broadcast: according to our national leader at Westminster, we are ‘at war’ with the virus.
Unfortunately, Boris’ rhetorical style does not match up to that of his erstwhile hero. Instead of a clear and measured delivery, our PM provides…
‘SCOTTISH children are no longer the best at reading across the UK and Ireland – after being knocked off the top spot in a “stinging blow” toeducationleaders. The largest literacy study ever conducted in the UK, written by Professor Keith Topping from the University of Dundee, has revealed that Scottish pupils are now joint second in terms of their level of reading comprehension – on a par with England and behind Northern Ireland.’
I’d just finished reporting on BBC Scotland’s misrepresentation on research on business confidence and on wildlife decline when Sally McNair said:
It follows mounting public concern about irresponsible use [of fireworks] including emergency services.
My not always reliable recall immediately said ‘No, fib!’ I had a quick search and found this from November 2018
Now if there is mounting concern about the irresponsible use of fireworks, I’d like to see a source. BBC editorial guidelines require one. However, even if there was such evidence, it would be misjudged because the irresponsible use of fireworks is unambiguously in decline:
From Police Scotland:
Police in Edinburgh have praised the support of the public and partner organisations following a successful Halloween and Bonfire Night policing operation.
Between Wednesday 31st October and Monday 5th November, reported antisocial behaviour in the city fell from 747 incidents in 2017, to 552 incidents in 2018. This equates to 195 fewer calls and a reduction of 26%.
In the North East, a 53% reduction in calls relating to Bonfire Night offences were received on Monday 5th November, with the North West recording a 35% fall in antisocial behaviour during this evening, in comparison with Bonfire Night 2017.
While there were a number of reported incidents where attempts were made to target police and other emergency service personnel, no officers were injured, and no police vehicles were damaged during the evening.
Sunday 4th November 2018 saw 56 reported ASB incidents and 19 fireworks offences, compared to 157 and 146 respectively for Sunday 5th November 2017. This equates to a 64% reduction for antisocial behaviour and an almost 87% reduction for crimes involving fireworks.