And lo, the Hogmanay of confusion did loom, and all the people did not know if they could gather or not.
And this spread through the land so the lord did say “well if it’s private it’s three family groups but make it public and you can have 500 people. Not too clear to me, frankly”.
And he retreated, grateful he’d got away with Christmas.
So should the black bun be out on the table, or under a sanitised Perspex cover?
Can we first foot, so long as we keep a few feet apart?
And how do we explain all this to the English people in the neighbouring holiday let who are up for the festivities?
England has gone the other way of course.
Driven by lower than expected infection rates and a population who have learned to be cautious, Boris Johnson is betting on Omicron not being so bad.
This makes Albion the outlier as the rest of Europe hedges its bets and opts for limited lockdowns.
It’s impossible to know who is right on this and hard to criticise either way.
Johnson is either being a leader or a gambler.
Sturgeon is either bravely saving the NHS or destroying hospitality.
Similar case numbers, different political responses
There is a growing body of evidence that Omicron is less severe than Delta, and the issue at the moment is staff shortages from isolation protocols.
However, a two year pandemic has made politicians wary of optimism.
Over the piece Scotland’s infection rate since the beginning of last year has been roughly in line with the rest of the UK, according to data from John Hopkins University.
Provisional data indicates an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Scotland.
To protect your loved ones and to keep vital services running, stay at home and limit socialising as much as possible.
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) December 27, 2021
Out of a total population of a bit over 5 million, there have been 835,000 recorded infections and around 9,000 deaths.
In comparison, of England’s 55 million people, there have been a little over 10 million cases and just under 130,000 deaths.
The overview is that both countries have suffered in similar proportionate ways. Yet both have generated very different political stories, and have never been in step with one another on Covid policy.
It’s not unreasonable to suggest that all the governmental difference didn’t amount to much when it came to who got infected and who died.
That’s not to say each government wasn’t right to lead as they saw fit.
It’s what they are elected for. Policy divergence within our nascent federal system is no bad thing.
It’s just you begin wonder what’s the point when freedom of travel is maintained.
Hogmanay will test this divergence
Hogmanay is our traditional festival.
Expats come home for the ceilidh and the English come north for the novelty.
Over the past 30 years we have converted a private event into an international commodity, for better or worse.
The effect is that local communities will inevitably welcome outsiders.
From the hospitality sector’s point of view, the more the merrier.
So too for many groups of friends and family – Hogmanay is the time to catch up with old acquaintances.
But if a resident Scot gathers near to bonfire, say, and next to them is an Scot up from London Town, and both have been in multiple social occasions over the past week, but never in groups of more than three “families” at once, what’s the benefit in having different health protocols?
Quite what the many England based people currently holed up across Scotland in the expectation of a hooley make of this it’s hard to know
Put another way, a Scot goes to London for the street party and comes home – how is that any safer for Scotland?
This point eventually dawned on Edinburgh which decreed that, if everyone doesn’t mind, it would rather Scots did not travel to England.
The deputy first minister John Swinney told the nation yesterday morning that going to England “….is the wrong course of action for people to take because we have a serious situation we have got to manage and we encourage everybody to play their part in addressing that.“
Quite what the many England based people currently holed up across Scotland in the expectation of a hooley make of this it’s hard to know.
Although you suspect they might regret travelling 500 miles when they could have gone clubbing at home.
Which policy is best? Open borders mean we’ll never know
There was hope that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon might change the rules in a special session of Holyrood yesterday afternoon.
Somewhat oddly, the drama of the announcement was off set by her making no changes.
It makes less and less sense to have divergent rules on a single island where movement is unrestricted.
The Covid response is justified by following the science. Allowing two regimes to intermingle makes a mockery of the science.
Maybe England is at fault, maybe Scotland. But with open borders, it will be impossible to tell.
There has been no rigorously enforced travel restriction within the UK since the pandemic started.
The data outcome is that all parts of the island have had pretty similar infection rates.
The scientific conclusion is that if the outcome is the same, there’s no merit in different inputs.
On that miserable note, happy new year.
Your kind support propelled this column to be voted the best in Scotland this year. I’m honoured and thankful.
Let’s meet again in 2022. Good luck.