Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon skewered over Covid rules
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The most recent formal polling into the First Minister’s popularity in late November showed that her personal approval rating had plummeted 40 points since August 2020. The analysis found that Ms Sturgeon’s pushes for a second independence referendum clashed with the Scottish public’s list of priorities.
The same survey found that Scottish independence lagged behind in eighth position in terms of policies that mattered most to voters.
Writing in The Times, polling expert Professor John Curtice described how the results showed Ms Sturgeon appeared to be “a politician stuck in second gear”.
Professor Curtice added: “While she may still be Scotland’s most popular politician (albeit not as popular as earlier in the pandemic) who leads by far and away Scotland’s most popular party (albeit one dependent on the Greens for its Holyrood majority), there is little sense of progress towards its ultimate goal of independence.”
However, despite it featuring lower down on the agenda for most voters, Ms Sturgeon promised in November to “initiate the process” of a second independence referendum during 2022.
The most up-to-date IndyRef2 poll, carried out by Survation, showed that an increasing majority of people in Scotland opposed another independence referendum within the next two years.
The 2014 referendum saw over 55 percent of voters going in favour of staying in the union.
In the Survation poll in November 2021, almost six in ten people responded they would now vote to remain part of the UK in a fresh referendum.
Going against the findings of the polls, the First Minister has attracted criticism not just for the promotion of the SNP’s independence agenda, but for the increasingly unpopular handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that restrictions introduced over Christmas to curb the spread of the more transmissable Omicron variant would be lifted from next week.
This includes phasing out the three-household guidelines on mixing, and not extending the COVID-19 passport scheme.
Scotland reimposed a number of coronavirus measures on Boxing Day, along with Wales and Northern Ireland.
Limits on large events came into force on December 26, including a cap of 100 people at indoor standing events and 200 people at indoor seated events.
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The following day saw the closure of nightclubs, a one-metre distance rule for hospitality and no more than three households in a group.
The measures enraged members of the public and particularly the hospitality industry in Scotland, with Scottish ministers accused of excessive caution in putting the measures back in place.
This anger from pubs, restaurants, and other businesses relying on steady flows of customers was heightened by their reliance on New Year’s Eve trade.
After the First Minister announced the restrictions, William Lees-Jones, owner of JW Lees pubs, responded by barring Ms Sturgeon from his premises “for life”.
The businessman told Manchester Evening News: “The reshuffling of bookings and New Year, that’s going to send some businesses over the edge.”
The hospitality sector and other businesses, although relieved that the restrictions will be lifted on 24 January, condemned the lack of clarity from the First Minister on next steps towards recovery.
Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive, Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “The removal of the operating limits placed upon the hospitality, retail and evening economy is good news and will be welcomed by many businesses.
“With these restrictions lifting from 24th January, these sectors will finally be able to reopen fully and work to rebuild confidence after what has been a bleak winter.”
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