Cllr Shona Haslam is the Leader of the Scottish Borders Council.
So in England we have Tiers, and in Scotland, Levels. In England we have Three tiers; in Scotland five but they start at zero, so Level 5 is actually Level 4, and our Levels 1-3 are the same as Tiers 1-3. Confused, you betcha.
Local Government in Scotland is struggling with the new system that the SNP Scottish Government has introduced, and that it is constantly changing does not help with our confusion. On a Friday afternoon we are offered a call with the Deputy First Minister that we can either accept or reject. On the call we discuss the five “indicators” that the Scottish Government has set to determine what level your authority will go into. These indicators are:
- Cases per 100,000 now
- Test positivity rate – of those tested how many are positive.
- Cases per 100,000 forecast over next seven days
- Hospital bed forecast over next 21 days
- ICU bed forecast over next 21 days.
To be in Level 4 you have to have more than 300 cases per 100,000, over ten per cent positivity rate, probability of over 75 per cent of 500 cases in next five days, and expect that you will exceed capacity in hospital and ICU beds within 3 weeks.
In comparison, Level 1 (I’m not going to even talk about Level 0) is between 20 and 75 cases per 100,000, between 1.5 per cent and three per cent positivity rate, probability of 75 per cent of 50 cases over next seven days, and plenty of room in hospitals.
So that is quite clear I hear you say – well yes it is, or would be if the Scottish Government actually stuck to this. You see Highland has exactly the same scoring as Aberdeen City, but one is in Level 1 and one is in Level 2. And Perth and Kinross which has a scoring of Level 2 was this week put into Level 3. So it all becomes clear as mud.
Then out of the blue, this week the Scottish Government decided to change the numbers to letters, see attached pictures. So it has now become even more difficult for local authority leaders, such as myself, to understand what tier we should be in.
I am leader of the Scottish Borders Council, and you can see from my figures in the attached diagram that we are actually at level 0 on 3 of the indicators, we only go into level 2 on the test positivity rate. But what the figures don’t tell you is that very few people are actually going for tests in Scottish Borders, so even a couple of positives push that percentage figure up.
Now I am very grateful that we have not had to go into full lockdown in Scotland at this point, and our early ban on people meeting in homes appears to be working, but it is very frustrating for local businesses who are trying to plan for the future to have such a confused system of levels that we don’t really know whether we are coming or going.
The issue with all of this is that confusion leads to people not understanding or following the rules, if you don’t trust the system then you don’t pay attention to the restrictions that system puts on you.
The other issue is that we are one nation, so the lockdown in England and travel restriction is Scotland (you can’t leave a Level 3 area apart from essential travel) means that businesses in other areas are suffering hugely, without the business support you get if you are in a lockdown area. In the Scottish Borders, most hospitality business comes from the north and south but that has stopped. But business in the Scottish Borders are in Level 2, so do not qualify for the same grants as Level 3 areas or lockdown areas. This puts them in an impossible situation.
A national pandemic requires a national response. One thing is very clear, without the support from the UK Government on furlough and Barnett consequentials we would be in a far worse place.