Covid-19 Lockdown: Next Steps

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

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The First Minister:

Going into lockdown was really difficult for Scotland, as it was for all countries. I have always thought that, in some ways, coming out of it will be even more difficult, because it will involve us giving more nuanced messages and people having to understand what to do and what not to do and continuing to think very carefully about our personal responsibility and the actions that we take, even as we might be getting the impression that the threat of the virus is receding.

Inevitably, when a plan is put forward, some will say that we are going too slowly and others will say that we are going too quickly. Similarly, some people will say that we should have gone into lockdown earlier and some people—not very many, I think—will say that there was no point in doing it at all.

For me, this is not, and never will be, a popularity contest. Every single choice that the Government and I face right now is a hard choice, and we have to get the balance right. As we try to mitigate harm in one area, we open the risk of doing harm in another. There is a very difficult balance to strike, but we must try to continue to do that on an on-going basis.

I gave a commitment at the start, and I will give it each and every day in which we are dealing with the virus. I will try to take the best decisions that I possibly can at every step, based on the best possible information, with the protection of health and human life very much as my guiding principle.

Clarity will be important. In my statement, I said that, in the coming days, we will issue guidance for the public and businesses. Today, we have issued a paper on schools that people are able to read. We will continue to ensure that there is guidance.

I have said previously that we have 14 sectoral workstreams that are looking at guidance for each key sector of our economy. We will publish guidance in all those areas. We have been working with key sectors. I mentioned the work that we have been doing with the construction sector, which Kevin Stewart has been very involved in. We are giving the green light to the first phases of the industry’s own restart plan, subject to continued dialogue with the trade unions.

We will seek to give clarity at each and every single step, and I will continue to do everything in my power and to the best of my ability to communicate the clearest possible messages to the public, so that we all know our responsibilities and we can all make a collective decision to continue to do the right things.

The threat has not gone away, and it will not go away in the near future. As we come out of the current phase, the Government has to be very focused on trying to mitigate the dangers that lie ahead. We will continue to do that as far as possible and for as long as required.