For the first time in the 94 years of publishing the Scots Independent, there is no printed edition. Issue 1094 was only published online due to our printers being in lockdown. However frustrating this appears for us, especially with the beautiful cover illustration by Andrew Barr, we played our part in stopping non-essential work.
The mainstream press has continued to print encouraging readers to risk travel to newsagents and supermarkets. The freedom of the press is important but when our global community has responded to novel Covid 19 by digitising our communication as much as possible, perhaps those papers need to reflect on their profit-seeking.
The public interest which the fourth estate seeks to uphold is challenging in times like this. It was quite right of a journalist to call out the double standards of the Chief Medical Officer as she accepted and apologised for. However, seeking her resignation like it was some kind of political scalp went too far in the current crisis. The Scottish Government was right to remove the CMO from all public appearances and health communications; she rightly had become a figure of ridicule.
The big question becomes whether a crucial team member is indispensable at a time of national crisis. On Sunday, I held firmly that this was the right call of the First Minister. Others took a different view and the press pack clearly hounded her from office, more as an attack on the FM’s judgement than answering the leadership issue at stake.
Less than 24 hours later and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, was in the same boat as our First Minister. Her Health Minister went a step further than Dr Calderwood and took his family to the beach for fun, despite his Ministry’s official communication that everyone should stay at home.
Ms Ardern took the decision that now was not the time to sack or even accept his resignation. Yes, he would have non-essential duties removed from his portfolio and more likely he will lose his position at an appropriate time in the future, but now is not the time.
At a time of crisis, the leadership should remain constant and consistent even when mistakes are made, provided they learn lessons. Opponents of the Scottish Government are sniffing blood as if this is the First Minister losing her grip on the ‘narrative’. Coupled with the attempt to remove Jury without Trial (which only the chattering classes noticed), the fallout from the Salmond trial and now the apparent misstep over the CMO’s loss, talk moves to how the sands are shifting.
Keir Starmer’s election as Labour Leader has definitely re-kindled hope amongst the Scottish Blairites and centrists that a renaissance of Lazarus-like proportions could be on the cards.
This assumes that Starmer actually speaks to the Scottish people in a manner that is more respectful of their desire for a second independence referendum. All the early signs – Ian Murray as Shadow Scottish Secretary and Jackie Baillie elected as Scottish Deputy Leader – are that the Uber-Unionist brigade are strengthening their grip and Leonard’s days are numbered if he doesn’t fall into line with regime change.
I have no doubt Starmer will be good for UK politics and a beacon for progressive views in England, but ‘a hae ma doots’ that Scottish Labour will be anything than what it always has been, in terminal decline.
But the SNP and wider independence movement should view this as a wake-up call. Divided parties make for weak governments; and oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them.