Sorry, Devi, but no amount of spin will cover up these shameful failings on Covid

WE could have broken free of the shackles of lockdown long before now – if it hadn’t been for those nasty Tories in London.

Or at least that’s the thrust of Devi Sridhar’s argument – she’s the expert who says we’d have been better off ploughing our own furrow.

The professor, one of Nicola Sturgeon’s advisers, asserted back in January that an independent Scotland would have made a better job of battling Covid.

Now she says: ‘We have done the best we can in Scotland and a lot of mistakes have been made but we are having our hands tied along the way.’

It was indeed unsporting beyond belief of the UK Government to send us supplies of life-saving vaccines, which remain the only hope of saving the economy.

And it was a real inconvenience for all that furlough cash to be handed to businesses that would have collapsed without the scheme, costing more than £60billion.

We were prisoners of a vicious, uncaring UK state that insisted on keeping us and indeed our battered economy alive in the midst of a devastating global pandemic.

Professor Sridhar isn’t alone in peddling this tripe, of course – she’s toeing the SNP line, which is that we could have done it all on our own, only a lot better.

It’s a kind of ‘wha’s like us’ blinkeredness that portrays the First Minister as the nation’s near-angelic protector, incapable of any fault – a paragon of public health virtue.

Mind you, she has flouted the very gospel she preaches on a near-daily basis, by failing to wear a mask at a funeral, while her Green allies did the same by boozing in an Edinburgh bar last week.

The idea that an independent Scotland, saddled with a colossal deficit, would have been able to pay for furlough, is somewhere beyond implausible.

As for vaccine procurement, the peak of the SNP’s logistical prowess was dishing out those pointless and expensive ‘baby boxes’ – it’s made a hash of just about everything else, from commissioning ferries to building ‘super-hospitals’.

And it’s not as if there’s much tangible evidence that Scotland has done a superior job to England when it comes to containing Covid.

Our biggest city has been in grinding lockdown more or less constantly since October, with its residents legally barred from venturing beyond its boundaries (or having a pint in a pub, or going into a neighbour’s home).

Nearly 700,000 people will have to wait until tomorrow to find out if Glasgow will move to coveted Level 2 status at the end of the week.

Clinical director Dr Jason Leitch suggested in a BBC interview that the city – where the Indian variant has stoked a resurgence of case numbers – was stuck in Level 3 for now to allow the setting up of a Euro 2020 ‘fan zone’ from June 11 with capacity for 3,000 people.

‘What we’re doing now is to allow that to happen,’ he told The Nine (though bear in mind the games are all televised anyway).

That’s cold comfort for the hospitality sector which has been in a state of crisis for months on end – and indeed for those who have cancelled plans to do something as daring as carry out an indoor visit to their grandmother’s home.

As for what happens when Euro 2020 is over, it’s anyone’s guess – another prolonged spell of lockdown, perhaps – after all, that’s now Glasgow’s default status.

Sturgeon and Sridhar: are their Covid boasts baseless?

Miss Sturgeon boasted about her Covid ‘elimination strategy’ last year when case numbers dipped – now it’s rarely mentioned, though perhaps it will be discussed when the Covid inquiry gets under way, if it ever does.

Schools are back to normal, too, or at least that’s the official line, but more than 10,000 kids and teachers are self-isolating and pupils have been forced to sit pseudo-exams for which they’ve had next to no time to prepare.

Much store is laid by Miss Sturgeon’s presentational acumen compared to Boris Johnson’s, but is it really so impressive?

Major announcements – such as keeping Glasgow in Level 3 – have been made at the last minute, causing upheaval for businesses and indeed families who were foolish enough to believe the ‘roadmap’.

Today (TUES) it’s likely that plans for Scotland to take another big step out of lockdown, to Level 1, will be significantly watered down.

In the last seven days, the rate of Covid cases per 100,000 of the population was 50.8 per cent in Scotland, compared to 25.7 for England.

The percentage uptake of the first dose of coronavirus vaccines on May 29 was 72.9 per cent here, compared to 74.2 per cent for England (and 84.6 per cent for Wales).

If it weren’t for those pesky English we’d be miles ahead, probably well into Level 0 by now (although even that doesn’t sound as close to complete normality as you might’ve hoped).

Last summer Miss Sturgeon was censured by the UK’s chief statistician after using incomplete and unpublished data to claim that coronavirus was five times less prevalent in Scotland than in England.

How times change… it was false back then – and now the most recent data shows our current Covid case rate is nearly twice as bad.

Plenty of obfuscation has been deployed during the pandemic, as you would expect from a party that used the virus as an excuse to try and extend the deadline for responses to freedom of information requests.

Last week the Scottish Information Commissioner ruled that the National Records of Scotland had unlawfully withheld Covid death figures for care homes.

A lot of Nationalists were ecstatic when Dominic Cummings eviscerated Health Secretary Matt Hancock live on television for his alleged failures during the pandemic.

Mr Hancock had claimed that a ‘protective ring’ would be placed around care homes to guard against Covid – one that operators and bereaved relatives claim never materialised.

Outrageous, we wouldn’t let that happen here – and yet it did, because we know from a Public Health Scotland report that more than 100 people were sent to care homes from hospital after testing positive for the virus.

A further 3,061 older patients were discharged and sent to homes without even being tested.

Mr Hancock’s erstwhile counterpart Jeane Freeman, now retired, has spoken of the ‘hurt’ she felt ‘at a personal level’ over the criticism she faced – though presumably it’s nothing compared to the grief of those who lost loved ones in virus-ridden care homes.

In the face of appalling revelations about government shortcomings which were every bit as bad as (if not worse than) those made by the dreadful Tories, the SNP offers either self-commiseration – or downright denial.

Don’t forget that it spent some of its time crafting a Referendum Bill when it should have been focusing on tackling Covid –a telling illustration of its dangerously skewed priorities.

Miss Sturgeon and her acolytes can tell all the fairy tales they want about their supposedly superb performance – but no amount of spin and wishful thinking can disguise their shameful failures.

*This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on June 1, 2021.

Home Affairs Editor, columnist, leader writer, Scottish Daily Mail. Twitter: @GrahamGGrant Facebook: @sdmnewspaper