The English Cambridge Dictionary definition of ‘double standard’ is clear and concise: a rule or standard of good behaviour that, unfairly, some people are expected to follow or achieve but other people are not.
I’m forever advising my fourteen-year-old daughter to read more books but often devote far too much of my own time to Ozark on Netflix or repeated viewing of ‘Modern Family’ episodes, especially over this last three weeks. It used to be far too much football pre-COVID-19! I am therefore guilty of practicing ‘double-standards’. It doesn’t necessarily make me a bad parent or a horrible person but eradicating double standards from our personal lives is an honourable pursuit.
However, the practice of double standards while in elected public office or positions of professional responsibility is an altogether more serious human error. It is an error that the now-former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland was guilty of, and it is right that Catherine Calderwood resigned over those errors. Indeed, had she not resigned she should have been sacked.
The Belfast born consultant is clearly a very qualified and capable doctor and medical practitioner but COVID-19 thrust her onto an altogether different platform and her appearance at daily Scottish Government briefings and fronting up the Public Health message via targeted Scottish TV adverts was designed to underline a very important but difficult and controversial message – Stay At Home.
Scotland’s CMO Had to Resign or Face Being Sacked
Over the last three weeks Catherine Calderwood in her position of authority and respect as Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) communicated the stay at home message as an essential part of the overall health strategy designed to tackle the deadly COVID-19 virus. She informed us that the very best medical advice available demanded we avoid all but essential exits from our home. Only for essential purchase and collection of food and medicines should we leave our homes or for administering essential care to elderly relatives.
The permitting of a once daily excursion to walk or run for exercise was accompanied with caveats and has become more confused as each week has passed. What was abundantly clear was that visits to holiday or second homes was not allowed. First it was advice and instruction but now it is actual law.
From Friday 20th March all of Scotland was advised to stay at home but for essential journeys. Key workers had to travel to work but the rest of us were permitted to collect groceries once a week and exercise only once a day. It was an unprecedented and severe message. On Saturday 21st March the First Minister of Scotland advised us not to visit our own mothers the next day despite it being Mother’s Day.
That was very difficult advice for many citizens to adhere to. Not even visiting our own mothers on such a special day. No hugs or kisses or conveying of gifts. The message was however clear. Promoted by the CMO and designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, protect our NHS and its staff and to save lives.
For the CMO herself to ignore that clear message was double standards and irresponsible. The picture was confused on Saturday evening. Apparently, she had left her comfortable Edinburgh home with her family to visit their second home in Fife. That was not an essential journey. The initial spin was the journey was required to check up on securing the home. Still not essential unless there had been a reported break-in which there wasn’t.
The CMO had let down herself, the First Minister and most importantly of all the people of Scotland. Her important public health message was undermined by her own actions. She should have resigned immediately. She didn’t. Instead a press statement was issued apologising for the error in judgement. She was remaining in her position as CMO.
Story Developed and Police Involvement Revealed
By Sunday afternoon the narrative changed. It emerged there was not one visit to the second home but two. The same journey had been taken the weekend before. The CMO had not just ignored her own advice this weekend, she had also ignored her own advice last weekend. Her journey was so trivial it attracted a visit from Police Scotland. She could have been issued with a fixed penalty notice for breach of the law.
She was lucky to avoid such a notice. Instead she received a stern warning. The Chief Constable of Police Scotland issued an important statement on the matter yesterday. It was clear and well worth reading in full.
Here is a relevant excerpt:
“Earlier today, local officers visited Dr Catherine Calderwood and spoke to her about her actions, reiterated crucial advice and issued a warning about her future conduct, all of which she accepted.
The legal instructions on not leaving your home without a reasonable excuse apply to everyone. Social distancing is the key intervention to curtail the spread of coronavirus and it is essential the instructions are followed to protect each other, support key workers, take strain from the NHS, and save lives. It is vital that everyone adheres to these requirements.”
All Our Lives Have Been Turned Upside Down
Millions of people across Scotland are being instructed to turn their lives upside down. To refrain from visiting family members. To avoid friends. Not to socialise. Elderly relatives in care homes are refused contact with their sons, daughters and grandchildren. New-born babies and children are kept from loving grandparents. Families are being cooped up in small houses and flats, many without the luxury of a garden space to walk in. My contact with my eighty-two-year-old mother is severely restricted based on the Scottish Government instructions.
I haven’t seen my two sisters for almost three weeks. Children are being denied the essential socialising experiences of school and play parks. None of this is easy. In fact, it is increasingly difficult to comply with. So, when an official responsible for developing and implementing this strict set of rules flouts them their resignation should be encouraged or demanded.
He had no essential reason to travel. He broke the rules. The laws on restricting non-essential travel had not yet been passed but we were all subject to the Scottish and UK government’s advice to stay at home. Unless you are a pampered royal and feel able to do whatever you want!
What rich irony in all this double standards tale? While in Scotland Prince Charles was tested for COVID-19. He didn’t qualify for the test under any of the stated conditions. He had not been in self-isolation for seven days with no improvement to his condition. Yet he and his wife could jump the very anxious queue of NHS staff and care workers to get a test. It was a disgrace. He was then diagnosed with ‘mild symptoms’ of the virus.
A diagnosis which underlined why he shouldn’t have been tested in the first place. The test for him and his wife was clear evidence of privileged treatment. It was double standards in action.
Prince Charles Double Standards Covered Up by Lickspittle Media
The media did not pursue this case with the vigour they pursued Catherine Calderwood. Like the lickspittles they are, they largely ignored the disgraceful behaviour by Prince Charles, something the Queen failed to apologise for last night during her TV address.
But guess who failed to uphold the stated conditions for COVID-19 testing and effectively shielded the Prince and his wife from the criticism and ire they deserved? You guessed it. Scotland’s CMO at that time, Catherine Calderwood, issued a statement that claimed the Prince and his wife were tested for “clinical reasons”.
Frontline NHS staff and home care workers dealing with the elderly and vulnerable are denied tests, but the prince and his wife were given one despite flouting the stay at home instructions. Now that she is a victim of her own double standards in relation to the stay at home message, I wonder if Catherine Calderwood regrets shielding the heir to the throne and his wife from the accusation of double standards they were so clearly guilty of fourteen days ago?
Follow the Rules and Stay at Home – Help Our NHS Workers Save Lives
The stay at home and social isolation messages are not arbitrary or petty. They are issued as the key and critical strands in the public health strategy of beating Covid-19. The NHS workers who are losing colleagues in this battle and working in increasingly difficult and stressed conditions are appealing to us all to STAY AT HOME. Don’t be guilty of double standards by applauding for the NHS staff and other key workers one day but flaunting the stay at home message the next.
Please watch the desperate plea of Intensive Care nurse Shirley Watts and resolve to help her and every other health and social care worker in this deadly battle. We can’t all be on the frontline of the fight but we can concretely assist those who are by staying at home.