Image: National

By Brenda Steele:


It didn’t surprise me much when Jackson Carlaw demanded transparency at FMQs last month nor did the screaming headline of the Express

  Nicola Sturgeon savaged in fiery FMQs clash – SNP leader rages at ‘cover-up’ claims NICOLA STURGEON unleashed her frustration at accusations of an SNP coronavirus cover-up in Scotland during First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) as Jackson Carlaw demanded more transparency. Wed, May 20, 2020 https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1284713/Nicola-Sturgeon-Scotland-fmqs-coronavirus-Nike-conference-Jackson-Carlaw  

I assume that Mr Carlaw did not know that the majority of the infected were in fact from England, thus they were the responsibility of the English authorities and that one of them had – in tabloid parlance” become “patient zero”  in the North-East – which, last I heard, is still struggling to contain the virus. 

However,  the question Mr Carlaw raised is not original. He simply jumped on the bandwagon first paraded  by Ian Murray, Scotland’s sole Labour MP. Mr Murray has raised his profile with an appearance on Question Time and a piece on the STV news website:

  In his letter, Murray said: “It appears to me, and to the people of Edinburgh, that your government kept this outbreak from the public when it would clearly have been in the public interest to inform them. “You said a few weeks ago that you wanted a ‘grown-up conversation’ with the public on Covid-19. I am therefore compelled to ask why you believe the people of Edinburgh are not grown up enough to be told of a major outbreak of the virus in their own city centre?” https://news.stv.tv/politics/mp-accuses-nicola-sturgeon-of-coronavirus-cover-up  

He has also been very diligent in spreading the word about this “cover-up”.  The pieces in the Scottish Press concentrated pretty exclusively on the alleged culpability of the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon. References to the culpability of the UK does not appear in the Scottish press but it does in the others.

  Pieces have appeared in major Scottish and regional Scottish newspapers such as:
Herald ScotsmanEdinburgh News Press & Journal
Pieces have also appeared in the National Press and in English Regionals
Telegraph Express Daily StarOxford Mail Shropshire Star  
And in quite distant parts
Belfast TelegraphGuernsey Press

The most surprising place where the “cover-up” story was carried was:

  Dated STURGEON ACCUSED OVER COVID-19 OUTBREAK AT NIKE CONFERENCE IN EDINBURGH By Mark Macaskill and John Boothman Nicola Sturgeon faces fresh questions over a coronavirus outbreak in Scotland that was a launchpad for Covid-19 to cross the border into northeast England.   https://www.facebook.com/UKUnionVoice/posts/2720150224887248  

A launchpad for Covid-19 into northeast England ?   That seems a bit OTT, but then Health Scotland may have had more resources still as ScotGov has invested in health.

Given the authors, I would question just how much of a voice for the unions this site is but they do seem remarkably well informed – for  instance:

  This newspaper has established that all delegates were based in the UK and Ireland except for two, who flew in from Holland. One of the Dutch employees is believed to have triggered a shutdown of Nike’s European headquarters in Hilversum, northern Holland, on March 1-2, when the individual tested positive for Covid-19.  

But wasn’t this conference have “delegates” from all over the world?  UK, Ireland and the Netherlands is world-wide?

Then there is this:

  The Hilton Carlton hotel in Edinburgh was notified on March 4 of a “presumptive” case of Covid-19. The hotel only learnt later of a confirmed case from the BBC.  

So what did Hilton Hotels do?

Mr Murray seems to think the English authorities did a better job.

  Ian Murray, the Labour MP for Edinburgh South, who has accused Sturgeon of a “cover-up”, said: “While Scots were not given information that could have saved lives, in Tyneside information regarding the patient’s place of work, when and where he went that weekend, were all in the public domain.”  

Note the wording – so very, very careful.  Did it actually mention the  mid-week   conference in Edinburgh – oOr did it just mention the children’s birthday party on the week-end? If anyone can find this public domain information I’d be very interested.

The Tory spokesman fears the worst:

  Miles Briggs, the Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said: “Ministers manifestly failed to act and communicate in an urgent and effective way to protect populations from an outbreak which could have spread across Scotland.”  

Note the “could” have spread across Scotland.  We know it didn’t.

Strangely enough, on this same site there is another piece which is entirely in the form of a photo – and it pointed me back to the source publication. Although there are some differences between the photo text and the newspaper article.   It is very new – dated June 10th.

  A new report which details what the council knew and how it responded to the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in the Lothian region shows councillors were not told the location of the outbreak, despite the council’s environmental health team being informed. The council said sharing more information publicly and to councillors about the case was a decision made by Health Protection Scotland. https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/health/coronavirus/edinburgh-council-knew-nike-conference-outbreak-location-march-were-told-not-inform-councillors-or-public-2880866  

Now would that be the same kind of  Health Authority  that Nike  European HQ  in Hilversum consulted to find out what needed  to be done to their offices? And would they, by any chance,  have worked with Hilton Hotels to ensure that their premises were adequately dealt with in accordance with Health Regulations?   Proper division of tasks. The tracers don’t need to be involved. I have to admit that having worked for the Government I heartily agree with Health Protection Scotland’s decision to keep the information from the Councillors. I do so from bitter experience.

I would like to point out to Mr Murray that  the people at  Health Protection Scotland may very well be in a union, as may the folk at Edinburgh Council’s environmental health team – and they may not appreciate the publicity.  Another group of people who might take umbrage would be the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW).  I have looked at their website and there is no mention of Nike although there is mention of shop workers being abused by members of the public.  I don’t know if any Nike employees are members of USDAW, but I should imagine if they do, or have hopes of  recruiting any, they will not view Mr Murray’s activities favourably.  I would have thought that keeping Union Members protected from the ravening press pack when they are in such circumstances would be high on their list of  priorities.  Maybe he should take that into consideration before attacking SNP, the First Minister and .