Covid-19 Lockdown: Next Steps

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 21st May 2020.

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The First Minister:

I can do that in broad terms. We will be scrutinised on the detail and we will develop that in the weeks to come.

I agree that safety, and an approach that is informed by the best science, are vital. We have tried to prioritise that all along. We have built, and will continue to build, a national consensus. If you look at the work that the Deputy First Minister has led to get us to the position on schools that we have set out today, you see that it has had that consensus approach at its heart, and we do not take that for granted. There is a lot of detail to work through. We now have all of the key stakeholders in broad agreement on the direction of travel and the timing. We want to take that approach to every aspect of the crisis.

I turn to Richard Leonard’s three asks. On the evidence, I said earlier that we publish all the data. We publish data on a daily basis. This afternoon, we will publish a paper that goes into more detail about how we calculate the R number and the different considerations relating to that. The advisory group that is one source of our advice publishes its minutes on its website. We will always look at how we can be more transparent about the data, evidence and advice that inform our decisions.

Ultimately, however, decisions must be taken. The advisors advise us and we pay close attention to the science, but I, and the whole Government, must make judgments and decisions based on that. We are ultimately accountable for those decisions.

I will not go over all the detail on test, trace and isolate that I covered in my answer to Jackson Carlaw. One reason why I have not wanted to accelerate our speed out of lockdown, and why I have taken a slower and more gradual pace, is that I want to be able to align the steps with test, trace and isolate. We will continue to do that. The roll-out to 14 health boards will coincide with going into phase 1. We will bed that down, develop it and make sure that we have got all the ways in which it works right, and that will align with further phases. It is really important that we have that relationship and that it is tested.

On Richard Leonard’s third point, we have to be flexible. There is no alternative to having a plan that can be flexible and adapt. I cannot stand here and rule out to the people of Scotland that, at some point over the next few months, we will have to go back the way, because the virus is unpredictable. We talk about “defeating” it but, until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment, “defeat” is the wrong word to use; we are trying to contain, live with and suppress the virus, and we are using every tool at our disposal to do that. We must be prepared to be flexible, because we know that the virus is flexible and will take every opportunity to spread further. Flexibility will be at the heart of everything that we do.