As England begins its divergence from the rest of the UK in relation to Covid rules and regulations and relies on the public to do the right thing according to their conscience, the gap between England and the other nations grows wider. With all restrictions lifted south of the border and a statement that we need to learn to live with the virus, there was some backtracking at the last minute when the advice on masks changed from don’t wear them to wear them in crowded spaces if you wish. Since then, things have continued to develop unsurprisingly with the Health Minister catching and recovering from covid within a week and managing to belittle everyone who did not share his positive experience to the beacon of morality, Michael Gove, accusing those who have not been vaccinated as cowards.
Up here we are beginning to see the effects of the differences between the countries as anecdotally we hear of some tourists insisting they don’t have to wear masks as they are from England before stating that they are exempt when told that they do have to in Scotland; some establishments are now taking a very firm stance on what they will put up with. Cases in the highlands continue to be widespread and though falling are by no means practically non-existent like they were a few weeks ago. Retail and hospitality staff are tired, fearful and no longer prepared to adopt the customer is always right line. The continued draw of the NC500 does not help; even busier than last year with no accommodation to be had and campsites fully booked, still they come to “wing it” with no idea whatsoever of what they are coming to. From decades old benches being repurposed as firewood, having to avoid the human rather than the dog dirt when out on walks, parents sending their children to empty the toilet cassettes into local drinking water supplies as “mum and dad said I couldn’t get into trouble for doing it as I’m only a child” when the police were called to downright ridiculous posts on social media such as “is there anything to see between John o’groats and Durness?” (the entire length of the north coast of Scotland) proves that people are not doing their research and is quite frankly insulting to those who live here and are expected to accept all this without complaint because folk are on their holidays and “contributing to the local economy”.
One of the biggest rows when the rules changed in England was from a decision by LNER when it decided that its England to Scotland route would no longer make customers wear masks or enforce social distancing when it crossed the border into Scotland as it decided to use English law for cohesive travelling. The fact that it was breaking the law in Scotland not to mention how uncomfortable it would make passengers did not occur to them as they blithely took what they assumed to be the more important rules and expected nobody to question them. This is a train I have used many times because of its value for money: the Inverness to London service takes eight hours using the eastern line and, whenever heading south for SNP events, this was my preferred mode. If booking in advance for little more than the scotrail fare, I could upgrade to first class with smaller carriages, free WiFi, a meal and several rounds of snacks. This train is almost 13 carriages long so there is no reason whatsoever that they could not have designated one carriage for their walk-on ticket holders and use that one to exempt social distancing and have another one that could be mask free.
The company began to backtrack once they realised that they had it wrong but still fell short of reversing the rules and instead tried to justify their decision further, still getting the tone wrong and failing to understand why the decision to go with English regulations was so insulting. It is innate in most people that you always go with the safest option; the default travel decisions should have been to follow Scottish law throughout the journey and, if this was going to cause legal problems for them, then the changes at the border should have been enforced with the laws of each country followed when you were in them. That this was not the original decision shows how Scotland is still viewed as inferior and inconsequential but finally the decision was reversed and the Scottish rules are to be followed although they are unenforceable when in England.
With Michael Give using his holiday leave to do some part time work in Glasgow to justify their new government offices the rumour mill has it that he will head even further north to pay us a visit for our by-election to try to dig their candidate out of the hole he is making; that should be fun for us!