Covid-19 (Next Steps)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th July 2020.

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The First Minister:

This virus spreads between people who are in close proximity to each other. Therefore—with respect—I thought that the reasons might have been obvious in relation to people who are from different households being in a car together. I do not underestimate the importance of that—[

Interruption.

] The member asked why it is happening in England and not here. Let me turn that question around and ask why the prevalence of the virus is five times lower in Scotland than it is in England.

It is for the UK Government to take the decisions that it does, and I have been at pains all along to say that I will not criticise it for those decisions. However, I will not simply follow those decisions if I do not think that they are right for the objective that we have set, which is to drive the virus to the lowest possible levels. Therefore, if we are going a bit slower on some things it is because we think that the risk of going faster is too great and will compromise what we are trying to do.

I have said this a couple of times, but I want to say it again to be absolutely blunt with people: if we do not get this virus to the lowest possible level now, then the situation that we will face in winter—which, for all countries, might be significant regardless of what we do now—will be even more difficult to address and hopefully overcome. Therefore, we will continue to do things at a pace that is consistent with trying to eliminate the virus.

Other Governments are perfectly entitled to take different decisions. However, I would rather be standing here today announcing that, thankfully, nobody died yesterday from this virus than announcing that more than 10 people have died from it, as I would be if the figures were proportionate to England’s. I will continue to take decisions that I think are right for Scotland and that protect the maximum number of lives.