Express & Star comment: United Kingdom far from united in coronavirus response

The United Kingdom has not been a united kingdom when it comes to the response to coronavirus.

A nurse prepares a vaccine.
A nurse prepares a vaccine.

The component parts of our nation have adopted their own paths. Leaders have taken to their presidential-style plinths to deliver their latest pronouncements as they affect their turf.

It wasn't like this once. Before devolution the Prime Minister spoke for the nation as a whole. In coronavirus era Britain, Boris Johnson speaks for England.

You can see the effect of this as the latest lockdown easing approaches. How it affects you depends on where you live, England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

It could all be very confusing trying to stay up to speed on all the differences, but it need not be. You only live in one place, so only need to know what's happening there. Unless, of course, you live near a border, which applies to our region as we have the border close by between England and Wales and you may have a reason to want to go from one side to the other.

Then the complications arise and you will need to know not just one set of rules, but two.

The borders between England and Wales, and England and Scotland, were notional borders before Covid-19. To see them develop into real internal borders, restricting freedom of movement within the United Kingdom, and with penalties imposed on those who transgress, is a profound change, but if you were cynical you would say that it is a profound change which suits the independence campaigns, particularly in Scotland.

They have been able to position themselves as distinctly different nations with different rules. They have indeed become separate countries. This change has established the possibility that people within the UK can become "foreigners" within the United Kingdom, for the reality is that under coronavirus restrictions what part of the UK you live in determines what freedoms or lack of freedoms you will be subject to.

The hope that devolution, giving component parts of the UK some autonomous powers, would dampen down ambitions for full independence, now looks naive.

In Scotland we have seen how events of the last year have energised and reinforced belief north of the border that they can – and should – rule themselves.

It is just another way Covid has changed our world.

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