Coronavirus lockdown: Scots' concerns over UK response

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As Scotland prepares to ease its coronavirus lockdown from Friday, Scots have voiced concerns about the UK government's handling of the crisis and the risk of lifting restrictions "too quickly".

A survey for BBC Scotland suggested that a majority of people thought Boris Johnson and UK ministers had handled the pandemic "fairly" or "very" badly.

Meanwhile 82% of respondents said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had handled the crisis well overall, with only 8% saying she had done badly.

A total of 70% said the UK had entered lockdown "too late" on 23 March - and 77% said that easing restrictions "too quickly" would be "a bigger risk for Scotland" than easing them too slowly.

Who is handling the crisis better?

The survey - a poll of 1,006 adults conducted by Ipsos Mori between 14 and 20 May - suggested Scots think Ms Sturgeon and the Scottish government have done a better job of handling the pandemic than Mr Johnson and the UK government.

A total of 82% of respondents said Ms Sturgeon had handled the outbreak "fairly" or "very" well, to 8% "fairly" or "very" badly, giving her a net approval rating of +74. The Scottish government's score was +67.

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Meanwhile 30% of those who took part said the prime minister was handling the outbreak "fairly" or "very" well, compared to 55% "fairly" or "very" badly - a net approval rating of -25. The UK government's overall rating was -17.

The NHS in Scotland was given a +90 approval rating for its handling of the crisis, while care homes were given a net score of +8, with 40% saying they were responding "well" overall, to 32% "badly".

How well have leaders handled the Covid-19 crisis?. .  .

Lockdown timing

The UK went into lockdown on 23 March, with people urged to stay at home other than for essential work, shopping and exercise.

The survey suggested that 70% of Scots thought this move came "too late", while 26% said it happened "at the right time".

Ms Sturgeon has set out plans to begin easing Scotland's restrictions from Friday, more than two weeks after Mr Johnson lifted some curbs in England in a bid to re-start the economy.

In the survey, 77% of respondents said "moving too quickly" to ease restrictions was "a bigger risk to Scotland" than moving too slowly, compared to 19% who said the opposite.

A total of 81% said Scotland's restrictions should be lifted at a different time to those in the rest of the UK "if the Scottish government believes that is necessary", with 19% saying the lockdown should be lifted north of the border "at the same time as in the rest of the UK".

Did Scotland and the UK enter lockdown at the right time?. . 70% of respondents said the UK entered lockdown "too late", to 3% "too soon" and 26% "at the right time". .


by Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University

The difference in how well the UK and Scottish governments are thought to have handled the coronavirus crisis is remarkable.

After all, they have both faced very similar criticisms, including too little PPE, too little testing and too little care and attention to the needs of care homes.

In part, the explanation lies in long standing differences in attitudes towards the two governments. Ever since the advent of devolution, voters in Scotland have been inclined to evaluate the Scottish government more highly than its counterpart in London, whatever the issue at stake.

The Scottish government benefits from a halo effect whereby credit for what is done well in Scotland is attributed to Holyrood and blame for poor performance is laid at the door of Westminster.

Meanwhile many voters will be viewing the two governments through a partisan lens. And it also looks as though the Scottish government is closer to the public mood as to how the lockdown should now be handled.

What should happen next?

At the time the survey was conducted, those taking part were not calling for widespread changes to lockdown.

Only 30% of people surveyed said non-essential shops should be permitted to re-open, while 46% said people should not be allowed to return to workplaces even if they are unable to work from home.

However 77% said people should be permitted to meet a friend or family member from outwith their household - as long as they are outdoors and stay two metres apart.

What should be allowed to happen next?. Survey of how Scots want to see lockdown lifted. The majority back allowing people to meet outdoors, at a 2m distance, while many oppose re-opening non-essential shops and people are split on returning to workplaces .

Among respondents with children of school age, 76% said they would be either fairly or very uncomfortable sending their child back to school in June. The Scottish government aims to reopen schools in August.

And 39% of those taking part said people over the age of 70 should be required to stay home after restrictions had been lifted for other age groups, compared to 52% who said they should not.

Younger respondents were more likely to back such a move, with 56% of 16 to 34-year-olds in favour of it compared to 26% of those aged 55 and older.

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