According to the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster, mixed messages and public confusion over coronavirus policy in different parts of the UK came ‘almost by accident’ after coordination groups of a response from four countries ceased to get together.
Intergovernmental Pandemic Work Group Interim Report describes a ‘void’ in ministerial-level communication between the UK and Scottish governments, and details how collaboration between nations has deteriorated as lockdown measures began to be relaxed.
The report comes ahead of Boris Johnson’s first visit to Scotland since last November. Speaking ahead of his trip, the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to the union, saying: “The past six months have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that unites the four nations of our country is so important and the power our union has been proven once again ”.
It emerged on Wednesday that the Prime Minister had ordered senior ministers to travel north of the border more regularly and to make their government more visible in the Scottish media, as the cabinet “panics” over growing support for the independence.
The Scottish Affairs Committee report acknowledges that there was “unprecedented coordination” between Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont at the start of the pandemic, thanks to a four-country approach that included the Joint Action Plan to UK wide, Coronavirus Act and UK PPE procurement globally.
But the committee learned how that collaboration subsequently failed after major forums coordinating the Covid response – including ministerial implementation groups (Migs) and the Civil Emergencies Committee (Cobra) – ended when lockdown measures have been relaxed.
In evidence, Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said her government last attended Cobra on May 10, the same day Boris Johnson announced a change in message from ‘Stay at Home “To” Stay Alert “, broadcast in the United Kingdom. -wide without indicating the changes applied only to England.
With England moving at a faster pace than other parts of the UK, the Committee concluded: ‘We are concerned that over time the divergences have grown considerably, sometimes accidentally leading to confusion. public and questions about how decisions are made. The British government has not clarified when its message applies only to England, which has confused the decentralized nations.