I’ve been thinking about key messages, and how I’ll answer any difficult questions I might be asked (if anyone does!) and I believe what I most want to convey boils down to this:
It’s OK to be afraid, but we must not allow our fear to make us selfish.
Millions of our fellow citizens have endured a year of unspeakable hardship, and it’s simply not right to let that continue a moment longer.
Below are some questions I think it is reasonable for people to ask me, and the answers I have. I’m posting them here in the hope they will be a using starting point for anyone who wants to define their own motives – predictably, these are far more complex concepts to convey than ‘Stay Home – Save the NHS’.
Q1. Why are you doing this?
We’ve spent the past year being taught to fear and shun each other, and the isolation is hurting us, we are tribe animals and we need each other’s company. I want to spread some smiles – and cake – and just remind people of the silly joy there is in being human.
Q2. You are irresponsible to endanger public health by organising this
People have more chance of being struck by lightning while kissing George Clooney than they do of catching Covid outside from a passer by, even SAGE agrees that it is incredibly difficult to catch Covid-19 outside.
Our ability to assess and evaluate risk has been shot to bits as a result of a year-long campaign of psychological manipulation.
Q3. Restrictions are lifting anyway, why bother?
Because the goal has changed: at the outset, we were asked to consent to the unthinkable – the temporary suspension of our sacrosanct civil liberties for three weeks in order to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed – and you know what, at that time facing horrifying unknowns, I think it was the prudent thing to do, and as a society we gave our consent. We didn’t protest, we didn’t riot, we did our bit.
What we were not asked, and what we have not consented to, is the FM’s new declared aim of eliminating Covid altogether – this is a pernicious and disingenuous pipe-dream that, if it could be done at all (which I doubt), could only be done by imposing punishing levels of continuous restrictions, and for years to come.
There must never be another lockdown, and there must NEVER be another assault on our basic human rights and hard-won liberties – to go to school, to earn a living, to see family and friends, to fall in love and get married, to have loved ones around us when we die.
People have given their lives – and still do – fighting oppressive regimes for freedoms of movement, assembly, protest, and free speech that we previously took for granted – we must never allow them to be taken from us again.
Q4. But cases are rising – look at students and school children
As long as the NHS can cope, case numbers don’t matter now. What matters is the numbers of deaths which are – thanks to the vaccine – falling sharply. Young healthy students and school children getting Covid is not a worry – Flu is more dangerous to the young than Covid is – and cases will inevitably rise as testing goes through the roof and as we lift restrictions. And, now that over 2M of the most vulnerable Scots are vaccinated, it’s OK for cases to rise.
What then happens is exactly what has happened here in St Andrews (and the University has behaved impeccably throughout all this) we are made aware of local outbreaks and those most vulnerable can decide how or whether they wish to adapt their behaviour over the following weeks. Everyone uses their common sense.
We know that the most dangerous places where you are most likely to catch Covid – and for it to be life-threatening to you – are STILL in hospitals and care homes.
Q5. But not everyone has common sense
True. Some people drive dangerously or drunk, but we don’t say ‘no one can drive because a tiny minority drive irresponsibly’. We accept that the value that driving brings to us is worth the risk.
A vast number of our fellow citizens have endured a year of hell, in atrocious situations, and for many this will have changed the course of their lives irretrievably for the worse. I think it is morally reprehensible to ask them to sacrifice even one more day under restrictions, when the overall risk from Covid is so low.
Other key points
Extended lockdowns are causing way more harm than the coronavirus itself – the children denied education and companionship, the loneliness of the elderly and acceleration of dementia, the loss of jobs, the closures of businesses, people’s savings wiped out and mounting debt, the spiralling addictions, the domestic abuse and child neglect and malnutrition, the lives cut short by undiagnosed and untreated illnesses. A terrible price has been paid.
Three weeks ago today, 1.5M of the most vulnerable Scots had received their first jab, and their immunity builds with every successive day: they are 60% less likely to catch Covid; 80% less likely to wind up in hospital if they do; and 85% less likely to die of it.
We are in no danger of overwhelming the NHS – that was the original pretext for lockdown – not to eliminate Covid, but to contain it to levels we can manage it.
We gave our consent to suspend our liberties for a specific reason, and that reason no longer exists. End lockdown – and restrictions – now.
Get a good night’s sleep everyone – if you’re out tomorrow please take photos – if you post them on any social media using the hashtag #cakeandliberty, I’ll find them. I would LOVE to see your photos.