For the second time within a week, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has wrested leadership of the coronavirus pandemic crisis away from Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Speaking at a press briefing in St Andrews House in Edinburgh, Sturgeon demonstrated decisive leadership by warning that stringent new measures to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease should not be considered “optional”.
Sturgeon, who is also the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), gave every impression her tough approach was intended to compensate for Johnson’s leadership deficit.
Indeed, in recent weeks Johnson has been widely accused of demonstrating indecisive leadership, by at first adopting a virus “mitigation” plan before succumbing to domestic and international pressure and switching to a suppression strategy instead.
Speaking authoritatively, Sturgeon said government guidance on social distancing and self-isolation should be treated as a “set of rules”.
The SNP leader’s decisive tone contrasts sharply with Johnson’s who has been anxious to stress the government is acting merely in an “advisory” capacity.
Scotland’s First Minister’s tough words appeared to be in part directed at Scottish pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes, some of which continue to defy a government order to shut down.
Lack of compliance by business owners has prompted Police Scotland to warn of emergency closure orders on any premises defying the government order.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, was also present at the briefing, where she warned the coronavirus was “spreading faster” in the UK than it originally did in China.
Calderwood claimed the UK has been “under-estimating” the doubling time of the virus.
“So actually that explosion of cases, that acceleration, is actually likely to be more than we realized”, Calderwood added.
As Sturgeon and Calderwood spoke, it was confirmed the number of coronavirus deaths in Scotland had reached 10, with 416 confirmed infections.
At a political level, the explosion of the coronavirus pandemic is a big blow to Sturgeon, not least because she has had to cancel plans to hold an independence referendum in the second half of the year.
However, in keeping with her astute leadership style, Sturgeon is trying to turn a setback into an opportunity by demonstrating national leadership at a time when the Tory government in London is widely perceived to be failing the people of the British Isles.
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