BY EFFIE DEANS
There are four European countries with populations of about five million:
- Denmark 5,799,640 757 Covid deaths
- Finland 5,545,596 369 Covid deaths
- Slovakia 5,462,617 510 Covid deaths
- Norway 5,436,637 294 Covid deaths
- Scotland 5,454,000 3280 Covid deaths
Scotland is not listed as a European country, because it is not an independent sovereign nation state, but rather a region of the United Kingdom that happens to be called a country for historical reasons. However, the SNP treat Scotland as if it already were an independent country, so it is reasonable to compare Scotland’s performance with other places of similar size.
There are all sorts of factors that might affect the number of people infected with Covid and the number of people who die in various places around the world.
1. How many people from the initial source of infection, China, travelled to that country in the months before lockdown?
2. Is the country a major tourist destination and does it have a large international airport hub such as Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, or JFK in New York?
3. Does the country have a mega city like London, New York or Moscow?
4. Does the country contain large numbers of ethnic minorities who are especially vulnerable to Covid?
5. Is the country densely populated or sparsely populated? Covid infections and deaths clearly correlate with how close someone lives to other people.
6. Were elderly people sent from hospital to care homes while infected?
7. Is the population of the country obese?
8. Is the population of the country older than average?
9. Did people follow the lockdown rules and socially distance?
10. What is the quality of healthcare in a country?
Many of these factors cannot be controlled by Government. This makes the comparison between places with very different geographies both unfair and unhelpful. New Zealand clearly has an advantage because it is two and a half thousand miles from Australia and is very sparsely populated and was able to stop people flying from elsewhere.
But a myth has developed in Scotland that Nicola Sturgeon is handling the Covid crisis particularly well and that somehow this shows it would be better if Scotland were independent.
Yet Scotland has a death rate that is ten times as bad as Norway. The SNP have full control over healthcare. They run Scotland’s hospitals and GP services. What’s more Sturgeon has the power to introduce lockdown and decide social distancing rules. She could have decided to introduce lockdown earlier than the UK as a whole. She could have closed Scotland’s airports when we first heard about Covid in January. She must take full responsibility therefore for the fact that Scotland’s death rate is so much higher than countries with similar populations in Europe. This is not least because the very high number of deaths in Scotland are due to Sturgeon’s decision to send elderly people who were sick with Covid back to care homes.
The present increase in Covid cases is mainly due to school children and university students being sent back to school and campus. If Sturgeon had organised schooling and university education properly it would have been possible for school children and students to have been educated remotely online. The SNP wholly control education in Scotland. It was particularly unnecessary to have students return to campus as the vast majority of their teaching is done online at the moment anyway. Instead Sturgeon decided to allow young people to travel to from all over Britain and the rest of the world to attend university and soon they will go back again to infect their families. When people inevitably die from this it will be the SNP’s fault.
Why do so many Scots believe that Nicola Sturgeon is doing a good job. The main reason is that we are not accustomed to comparing ourselves with similarly sized European countries, but with England. This is of course mere prejudice due to the inherent hostility to England that is in so many Scottish hearts and minds.
England’s population is ten times that of Scotland and it is much more multicultural and multiracial than we are. England has the highest population density of the parts of the UK with 432 people per square kilometre while Scotland has the lowest with 70 people per square kilometre.
Scotland has nearly all of the advantages in European terms with regard to Covid. We are surrounded by sea apart from the border with England. Slovakia is bordered by five countries. Scotland has only one major city, Glasgow, with over half a million people. Compare this to London with nearly 9 million and Moscow with 12.5 million. Most Scottish towns and cities by European standards are tiny.
Sturgeon appears on the TV every day and even people who don’t support independence think she is doing a good job. But this is because the media never compares like with like. We hear nothing about deaths in Slovakia, for example.
Sturgeon could hardly be doing a worse job.
With Scotland’s geography we should be doing at least as well as similarly sized European countries. Places like Slovakia are more densely populated than Scotland. They are bordered by many more countries and they don’t have as generous a system of furlough and welfare as we do.
Yet despite all of these advantages Sturgeon and the SNP Government have through their mismanagement contrived to have more than ten times the deaths of Norway. They cannot even beat a poor landlocked Eastern European country like Slovakia.
SNP supporters will of course blame the English as they always do, but the Scottish Government controls health and education. There is no one else to blame, but Nicola Sturgeon.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.