100 days of lockdown - Sturgeon's 'tortoise and hare' strategy


It's a hundred days since lockdown was announced. It probably seems like a thousand to many of us. If you have been furloughed, or lost your job, life will have felt like it was in slow motion.

And yet for others the last three months have been frantic as society tries to cope with a hidden killer, a deadly pandemic few of us had heard of, and fewer knew anything about.

For those in the frontline of this battle - doctors, nurses, care workers, and many, many others - it has been a time of enormous, sometimes unbearable, pressure. 

But what of the politicians? Not a group for whom there is often a lot of sympathy and sometimes - though not always - with good reason.

In the end the mantra that advisers advise and ministers decide holds true in a pandemic, as it does at any other time. 

The buck stops with ministers - ultimately the Prime Minister in the UK government, and Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish government. 

So as it's 100 days since the lockdown announcement, a good time for politicians to reflect on those decisions. Did they make the right calls?

Credit: PA

At today's media briefing I asked the First Minister about suggestions countries which locked down earlier lost fewer lives. Does she think she should have ordered lockdown sooner in Scotland?

Her reply was intriguing, as it revealed her thought process, and ended with a parable from her childhood.

Ms Strugeon told me: "I try not to spend too much time looking back. All of the decisions I have had to take weigh heavily on me." They always would, she added.

She then repeated her well-rehearsed response to accept mistakes may have been made, though she stressed she was not specifically referring to the lockdown timing. 

The First Minister said there was "not a lot of point right now in me wishing things had been done differently". Decisions were taken on the "best evidence" available at the time.

Her focus now was on taking the decisions about the future, "making sure we stay on the right path", and that Scotland did not come out of lockdown too quickly.

The First Minister added: "One of my favourite stories as a child was the tortoise and the hare. People can read into that what they will."

For Ms Sturgeon's critics, on one side of the argument, her reasoning on lockdown will not wash. Some - not all - experts have said Scotland, like the UK, should have gone into lockdown sooner.

In terms of coming out of lockdown there are others - on a different side of the argument - who argue that she is moving too slowly, that the price of caution will be unnecessary economic damage.

There are yet more critics (criticism comes with the territory) who say the First Minister should accept now what mistakes were made, not seek to put off judgement to some future public inquiry - though that is also what UK ministers say when asked the same question.

Given the decisions taken were matters of life and death there will be few politicians on whom the calls they make do not weigh heavily, though some appear to carry responsibility more lightly than others.

What was intriguing was Ms Sturgeon's fable analogy. Does she see herself as the tortoise, and Boris Johnson as the hare? Quite possibly. The First Minister will now be hoping for the same ending as her favourite fable.