Boris Johnson’s U-turn on Tuesday evening in which he dropped guidance against face masks in schools came just hours after Nicola Sturgeon said Scottish secondary school pupils should wear masks in communal areas and on school buses.
It was just the latest in a run of instances where England followed Scotland in adopting more stringent rules, often after claiming there was little evidence to do so:
Scotland banned mass gatherings of more than 500 people on 12 March but the UK government did not follow suit immediately. Johnson had even played down the importance of banning mass gatherings, suggesting Scotland’s decision reflected the lack of resilience of its emergency services.
“The scientific advice, as we’ve said over the last couple of weeks, is that banning such events will have little effect on the spread,” he said. However, scores of events had already been cancelled unilaterally by most major sports, music promoters and even by Buckingham Palace.
Schools in Scotland and Wales announced they were to close on 18 March, with Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, saying schools had lost too many staff to continue as normal. It was widely expected that England would follow immediately afterwards and school closures were announced by Gavin Williamson several hours later – though the move was already in train.
Face masks in shops
Scotland made face coverings mandatory in shops from 10 July but UK government ministers set out several contradictory positions before announcing the measure in England, four days after Scotland’s new rule came into force.
It was preceded by a weekend of indecision, with Michael Gove saying it should not be compulsory but people should be trusted to use their common sense, only then to be contradicted by Johnson who said people “should be wearing” face coverings inside shops to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. A day later, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced the change.
The Scottish government backtracked on grades awarded by an algorithm which hit almost 76,000 pupils by downgrading one or more of their results, mostly those from poorer backgrounds. The Scottish government’s education secretary, John Swinney, apologised to the young people whose predicted grades were reduced and said the government “got this wrong”.
Yet a similar system was used weeks later in England which resulted in almost 40% of pupils having grades lowered. Days later, the UK government also made a humiliating U-turn, despite defending the system.
Source: The Guardian