This post is fucking massive, so apologies.
Had my coffee with John Mason MSP. Now he’s someone I fiercely disagree with on a lot of issues, many of which in the public eye and I think he’s had more than a few shockers of late on social media along these lines. Regardless, it was a relatively pleasant two-hour conversation where I managed to get my view across (I think).
I initially raised my issue with “tsunami” phraseology – at that time he was unable to provide me with the ICU/death figures for Omicron. He agreed that perhaps that phrase was not appropriate.
He had previously mentioned that whilst he receives e-mails from me, frustrated about the restrictions, he also receives emails from people on the other side. I put it to him that this is likely in large part to the Scottish Governments dangerous scare messaging. He noted this as a possible reason. He stressed again that ScotGov are going for the more cautious approach – I again noted that whilst this was fine earlier in the pandemic, we cannot continue to screech whatever parts of the economy the “matilda pointing at things” government chooses. I have previously raised my concern that football and hospitality are being punished – he disagreed at the time – but I felt that my explanation of why I felt this was the case was listened to. I pointed out that schools remain open and whilst I am absolutely not suggesting they get closed, it makes no sense keeping them open whist punishing private business. The issue of masks (more on that later) in schools and the data showing not a lot was again I feel listened to.
I raised the data issues. I spoke to their desperation to use scary SA and Denmark data but when that data was showing the decoupling between cases and hospitalisation/ICU this data was swiftly ignored. I struggled to understand this. He again doubled down on the more cautious approach. He himself believes the government is more cautious than needs, but these decisions come from the top (more on that later) and he himself has raised issues with the panicked messaging and random crowd numbers etc.
On the current restrictions. I asked him if he could say with a straight face that “sitting down” and table service made any difference in the data. He could not.
I spoke in general about the restrictions, that 2 years in the government needs to provide its citizens with the data that justifies the closing of businesses/restrictions rather than just deciding on a whim. He said this data is difficult to get. I said that whilst that might be the case, continually leaving business in uncertain situations cannot continue.
I then spoke about the data in Scotland vs England. Now his previous response here was along the lines of “yeah but if we didn’t do x then the numbers would be higher”. I put it to him that a) you could affectively say that statement FOREVER and b) we have the best real world data in terms of restrictions anyone could EVER hope for on this island with England vs Scotland data tracking perfectly. Again he defended this point – but I fought back strongly on this and being the utter loser I am pointed to the graphs reflecting this for his consideration. It did seem like this got through, and at the Covid committee on Thursday he intends to raise this now.
We spoke about next winter. His last e-mail to me was incredibly strange because I asked why there is no consideration for NHS capacity. On this, we didn’t go too deep into the NHS but he did agree that based on this winter the Scottish Government needs to take more time and considering whether they need to act next winter in the likelihood of “new variants”.
I raised the concept of the ScotGov bubble. Of course we are all familiar with Westminster bubble but in my head I am astonished that the First Minister believes that a) people are following the guidance in terms of 3 households/limiting contacts and that b) any pubs etc outwith the city centres are actually following these nonsense rules. He agreed on these points and reflected on the massive reduction in “check-ins” and that the government needs to look at phasing this sort of thing out.
I then raised the issue of younger people suffering during the pandemic (I’m 28 so not sure I quite qualify). In previous twitter conversations with him, he enraged me by saying that “nightclubs etc” are “extra”. Now I realised 3 years ago that city centre night clubs are no longer the place for me – but I don’t believe it’s fair that he or anyone in government get to decide on a whim what is extra. For example, I put it to him that I am the biggest atheist ever and he is very religious. I feel churches are extra. But he would no doubt disagree.
We then had an in depth conversation about how the government actually governs. Because I was intrigued to understand what the role of the “covid committee” actually was, and let me tell you, the answer did not please me. When I raised my concern that Devi is monetising the pandemic with her books and talks, he smiled and agreed it shouldn’t happen. Regardless, it was made clear that the leadership in the Scottish Government are advised (and she does indeed have the FM’s ear), decisions are made on this and THEN the Covid committee analyses these decisions. I was really perplexed by this – in government I’d have thought a far better way to work would be for the committee and the leadership to work together (and cross party) when it comes to speaking to “independent” advisors and making decisions. So for anyone wondering how these decisions are being made, based on the conversation I had with him, it is very clear that the “cautious approach” is being driven by the leadership at the top. I noted the number of times that “Nicola” was used in the answers to what I was saying – basically every answer.
I reflected on the recent car crash interviews from Swinney and Humza. On Swinney it was actually him that asked the question regarding crowds and he agreed he was not satisfied at all with the answer. On Humza, he stated that the omicron/with or because of Covid data was hard to collect. I said I understood this – but ultimately 2 years on the government have had plenty time to sort out a system to do this if they actually had an interest in keeping the country open and it’s downright irresponsible not to. This was noted.
We then moved on to discuss what happens in the future, and I asked a couple of questions that the P&B masses and some pals put to me:
I raised very serious concerns with vaccine passports, in terms of their use, their discriminatory nature and the various domino affect repercussions that come with them. I also again raised this as another example of a shan policy cooked up in Holyrood left to private business to deal with. I raised the very real issue of ScotGov simply saying “aye but France etc are doing it” without considering why (France’s vaccine uptake was a lot lower than UK’s, and in that manner it did work). I stated clearly that this is the exact kind of policy that needs to be backed up by concrete data. And I asked when this, along with masks, will be fired into the bin. He was unable to tell me, but agreed that they cannot remain a part of the fabric of our society long term. Whilst I said they needed binned now because of the clear uselessness in the face of omicron, this was noted, and will also be raised at the covid committee should he have time (each MSP seems to only get around 5-6 minutes to question Swinney and Leitch at these things). On masks I’ve ranted about this many many times with him so we didn’t go too in depth but again, along with masks, he is hoping to raise this issue.
I raised my concerns on data/safe modelling by email and we touched on this briefly – he said he felt it was correct that government looked at worst case and based on this. I blew my top about that via email, and I interrogated him on what qualifications within government do MSPs and ministers have to interrogate data correctly. This wasn’t really answered, but when I took issue with the “worst case” scenario not having any probability attached to it, rendering it meaningless, he seemed to roll back on his view. Regardless, incredibly concerning that we’re being governed like this.
Moving forward he has said many times he wants this to move to be more like flu – seasonal jabs for the over 50’s and vulnerable. I asked if this was a universal view point or just his, but he wasn’t sure on this.
John Mason to put it kindly is an outlier within the SNP, the leadership don’t seem to like him because of his somewhat controversial views, so it’s difficult to assess whether or not the leadership agree on the seasonality and binned the need for 28 year olds like me to be getting jabs left right and centre. “Civil Liberties” was raised by me – he put it that looking at the example of the government wanting to enshrine the UN Rights of the Child into law shows the government is doing more on civil liberties. I noted this point – but in terms of the past two years I was talking about things like vaccine passports which in the discussion overall were listened to. He doesn’t like the restrictions and I think he is likely to not really tow the party line with them like others. For example, I also invited Alison Thewliss for a coffee but it became clear that this would not have gone down well as she is far more in line with Nicola Sturgeon. So to answer someone’s question that was put to me – yes it does seem very much like the SNP government and those representing are telt to tow the line, and we went into detail a bit about how a few years ago it was actually worse in terms of party discipline and not being able to speak out (he raised the trans debate but I had absolutely no interest getting into that).
There’s probably some stuff I’ve missed, and again apologies for the long post. I would again stress – Covid and restrictions and the things raised in this thread I have noted have made me a much angrier person over the past 2 years and I strongly recommend voicing your views to your MSP because it almost certainly helps. If anyone’s any other questions just let me know.