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COLIN CAMPBELL: Covid inquiry has to do more than trash reputations


By Colin Campbell

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Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Inverness and Scotland was closed down for what seemed like half a lifetime by Covid.

Now Nicola Sturgeon’s reputation is purportedly in tatters as the result of the deletion of WhatsApp messages which should have been provided to the Covid inquiry. And certainly it doesn’t look too wholesome as these revelations spill out.

Her most obvious breach of trust was an assurance given two years ago that all these electronic communications would be made available in a strict adherence to transparency. Even her most ardent admirers, and there are still some around, might be expected to acknowledge her culpability over that.

Another supposedly “shocking” revelation, that the SNP government hierarchy was prone to discussing ways in which their handling of the virus could be utilised to further the cause of independence, is scarcely much of a revelation at all.

Time and again Sturgeon and co sent out warnings that they might “close the border” to protect Scots from citizenry in the south where it was claimed the virus was running rampant as a result of the failure of the supposedly bungling Boris Johnson to control it. This would have been a physical impossibility even if they had the legal authority to do it.

No matter, it gained the divisive headlines that the SNP Holyrood leadership craved.

The one thing that might save Sturgeon and her acolytes like John Swinney from wholesale public condemnation is how the inquiry probed the way Covid was handled at Westminster.

There was WhatsApp aplenty to keep the inquisitors occupied down there, and copious quantities of vengeful condemnation it provided.

We learned in explicit detail that electronic communications were laced with profanities when the frustrations overflowed. Those most critically involved in trying to manage the crisis would sometimes dash off messages which, when subject to critical analysis in the cold light of day, seemed facile, or facetious, or bizarre.

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This gave rise to headlines of “chaos” which took little or no account of the extraordinary pressures on people trying to navigate their way through a once-in-century event with no trace of a roadmap to guide them.

The Covid inquiry – which has all the hallmarks of a trial – has been highly effective in trashing the reputations or at least exposing the human flaws of the key decision-makers north and south of the border. Protesters at the inquiry in London brandished placards denouncing Boris Johnson as a “murderer”. Some had lost relatives to the virus, but such an extreme accusation showed grief had blinded them to fairness and reason.

Sturgeon has been hung out to dry for deleting any humiliation she might have suffered through WhatsApp exchanges, and maybe she well deserves to be.

But these same people – or villains as most have now been portrayed – won’t be around for the next great emergency if or when it comes.

What’s been lacking so far is any indication as to how this festival of embarrassment and humiliation contributes anything towards preparing a more effective and coherent response to the next Great Plague.

And how much more important is that than serving up a litany of broken reputations and condemnation of just about everyone involved.


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