John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of the SNP has declared that an "independence referendum is an essential priority for the people of Scotland and it is a critical response to COVID.” His comments have been met with fury in some quarters and critics of the SNP believe that a divisive referendum is the last thing that the UK needs while continuing to deal with a global pandemic.
The UK government and the SNP have been each other's fiercest rivals throughout the pandemic and Sputnik spoke with the leader of UKIP Scotland, Donald MacKay, to find out what he thinks about how Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon have handled the ongoing crisis and whether there is indeed an appetite for a second independence referendum?
Sputnik: John Swinney said that independence was an priority for the people of Scotland and it is a critical response to Covid. What are your thoughts on these comments?
MacKay: Well, the vacuous comments from a vacuous politician, there may be an argument for independence, that's fair enough. But it's completely got nothing to do with COVID. The present situation that we're faced with is, in my judgment, standing at the edge of an economic abyss and our policies at UKIP is that the Scottish Government is a misnomer - it's a Scottish local authority. But the people who run that particular branch of government are people who have no understanding or experience of the world of business whatever. And they are introducing measures in Scotland which will potentially destroy the livelihood of a great many people who are in the small-business community.
Sputnik: Throughout the pandemic, it would seem that the SNP and the UK Government have occasionally been each other's fiercest critic. What are your thoughts on the way Boris Johnson and Nicolas Sturgeon have handled the COVID crisis?
Mackay: Well, I make allowances for Nicola Sturgeon, because she's basically a socialist who thinks that government of whatever sort should be telling people what to do. I think Boris Johnson's response to it is quite dreadful for a man of liberal tendencies. We have a problem: there's no question about that. We have a health issue: there's no question about that. But the solution to it is not to crush the economy, and for a Conservative Prime Minister to behave in that way, is deplorable - there's no excuse for it. He's the worst Prime Minister of my lifetime, and I was born in 1960. He has no rivals, in that respect. He has no excuses. And there's no way that we should be tolerating this nonsense, but we end up with police officers arresting two girls going for a walk in the Peak District. When we've reached that stage, we've reached a state of affairs, which to say the least is sinister.
Sputnik: What is your opinion on the present lockdown measures that have been introduced by the UK Government and the SNP?
MacKay: The end result will be far worse than anything that's gained. They are listening to one group of scientists and ignoring another group of scientists, all that information is coming from one direction. And if we continue in this vein, we will, as I say, destroy businesses and the hospitality sector. Businesses in the retail trade, the small-business community is being hammered by these people. It serves no purpose of any kind - we as UKIP are completely and totally opposed to lockdown. We're not arguing against common sense measures, by all means, let's have the kind of sensible social distancing rules that are required in the present situation. But that's not the same as shutting everything down. We even have Churches shut down, that hasn't happened for eight centuries.
Sputnik: You mentioned some of the problems that Covid has brought, would you say now that there's an appetite for a second independence referendum in Scotland. Or given that we're in the midst of a pandemic should that remain the nation's priority?
MacKay: It's completely irrelevant to the lives of ordinary people in Scotland. My slight concern is that people of England will tell Scotland to clear off. And that will be the end of that, because economically, this Scotland is incapable of supporting itself since we have such a limited entrepreneurial spirit in the minds of those who supposedly exercise authority. If you look at the so-called Scottish "cabinet", almost all of them have only ever worked in the public sector, or in the media, or in the world of academia. I believe one of them has had what one could call a proper job. Now, these people are running Scotland and in an independent Scotland, we would be heading for big trouble. You need money and people that know how to make profits. You need people that can expand businesses. And I think that if the question were examined seriously, then I would suspect that the Unionist cause would prevail, even though at the moment it doesn't seem likely. I also have a suspicion that actually some of the SNP don't really want independence. They talk and talk about it. But sometimes, people talk about things that they don't actually want, to serve their purpose to create a climate of grievance.
Sputnik: How does the UK come out of the present Covid crisis? Is everything now completely dependent on the success of the rollout of the vaccine?
Mackay: Well, I'm not a doctor or a biologist. But just using common sense, I would have thought that the sensible thing to do is to focus on the most vital members of the community so that would be people in care homes, people who work in care homes, and older people. I would certainly say they should be the priority for any vaccine. And this should have happened a long time ago. What I don't understand is how we make any serious difference to COVID by shutting down an economy. Most of the people who are working in that economy are healthy enough, that even if they catch COVID they're likely to recover from it.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.