Consistency in Scottish Government led to more Covid-19 trust, expert says

Conor Riordan, PA Scotland
·2-min read

Consistency in Scottish Government messaging has seen more trust in following Covid-19 guidelines than in England, according to an expert adviser.

Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University Linda Bauld said key differences between the approaches of Nicola Sturgeon’s and Boris Johnson’s administrations during the pandemic had contributed to changes in confidence.

The academic had been giving a presentation for the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on Wednesday where she outlined how effective public messaging had been during the pandemic.

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Speaking to the PA news agency, Prof Bauld said: “We have a First Minister – and this isn’t a political point – who is generally popular in the country, that has contributed and been very present throughout the pandemic.

“The daily briefings have been much more consistent, so people have known when they are taking place.

“The slogans have not chopped and changed much in Scotland, although they have changed recently.”

She pointed to a survey from last year which found trust in government had fallen in England, but remained steady in Scotland.

The UCL study from October showed the number of people in England who did not have confidence in the Government’s handling has more than doubled over six months.

Meanwhile, levels of “full confidence” in the Scottish Government were still higher at 17% than at the start of lockdown, but had fallen significantly since the peak of 34% in July

Prof Bauld added: “Experts who have appeared alongside the First Minister have also been trusted more.

“There just seems to be a lot of controversy on platforms, which sadly has been directed at UK colleagues with more questions about their advice.”

The Scottish Government adviser also pointed to there being more instances of what may have been considered rule-breaking by figures down south.

Scotland’s former chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood resigned in April 2020 after being found to have breached coronavirus rules by visiting her second home in Fife.

The Prime Minister’s former special adviser Dominic Cummings and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab have also faced controversy over conduct during the pandemic.

Prof Bauld  added: “This is anecdotal, but I think the behavioural advice that’s been given by the Scottish Government has been listened to more.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Our top priority has always been to work in partnership with the devolved administrations and focus on defeating the coronavirus right across the UK.

“Throughout the pandemic we have set out consistent, targeted instructions to the public on how to prevent the spread of the disease and stay safe.

“Our data shows that our multi-channel communications approach continues to have a significant impact on people’s behaviour.”