It's time to delay

Introduction by Paul Gray, Consulting Partner

News briefing by Scarlett Regan, Researcher

Good morning,

It’s not often that governments are praised for announcing a delay, but yesterday’s decision by both the UK and Scottish governments to move to the ‘delay’ phase of our response to coronavirus is welcome.

It is a delay that sits at the uneasy nexus of politics, people and profit, where decisions taken in the public interest will always have an impact that leaves someone worse off. That is where leadership enters the equation, where balanced judgements are needed, and when values become clear through the decisions made, and the actions implemented.

Coronavirus is serious. Very serious, in fact. It is spreading and people are dying. But it is also being taken very seriously, on a global scale.  Yesterday’s decision to move to ‘delay’ and the decisions that have flowed from that, are evidence of that.

Most governments have made clear that their decisions are informed by the most up-to-date scientific and clinical advice. That is entirely as it should be, but governments are elected to decide, and to lead their countries in times of crisis. Not everyone will agree with every decision; some will wish that they had gone further, others will think that they have gone too far. Goldilocks commentators who assess that it is “just right” will be in short supply. And when further decisions are made, informed by additional evidence gathered, and by further spread of Covid-19, there will no doubt be further commentary. But leadership faces up to these challenges – and it is right that ministers have already made clear that there will be further changes to current guidance as time goes on.

On Wednesday, the chancellor announced his budget, no doubt anticipating what is happening now as well as what lies ahead. Some of it was about health, with a guarantee to provide “whatever resources the NHS needs”.   Some of it responded more broadly to the current situation, with additional support for business through a range of reliefs, and for employees, through measures such as changes to benefits thresholds. But not all of the budget was about coronavirus and neither should it have been. Covid-19, deadly as it is, will pass. Sensible organisations will be planning not just for the here and now, but for the tomorrow that will eventually dawn.

In saying that, there is a here and now, and just as the responses of governments tell us something about their values and their leadership, so our decisions and actions shine a light on ours.

Jason Leitch, NHS Scotland’s national clinical director, assured people earlier this week that “coronavirus isn’t your fault”. He was right, of course, but we are all responsible to respond to it wisely. We need to follow the appropriate public health advice, including advice from government, even when it is inconvenient and uncomfortable, and to plan now to act later on what this outbreak teaches us. Cabinet secretary for health, Jeane Freeman, said yesterday, “help us to help you”. That also seems worth repeating here.


Following the emergency COBRA meeting, the UK government announced yesterday that those who have a fever or a cough should self-isolate for seven days. Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called their decision not to cancel public events over the coronavirus “concerning”. All overseas school trips are to be cancelled in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus. Unlike in Ireland and France, schools in the UK will remain open for the time being. Durham University has cancelled all face-to-face lectures from Monday, announcing that teaching will move online. (£)  Chelsea Manning, the former US army intelligence analyst and Wikileaks source, has been released from prison. Found guilty of charges in 2013 such as espionage for leaking secret military files to Wikileaks, she was released yesterday after news that she had tried to take her own life.

Business and economy

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTCC) has announced that up to 50 million jobs could be lost due to the pandemic. The travel sector could shrink by up to 25% in 2020, and the WTCC is calling on governments to take measures such as relaxing “unnecessary barriers” at ports and airports.  Goldman Sachs has launched a virus crisis plan, including banning gatherings of more than 20 people and splitting its 80,000 staff worldwide into two “teams” – blue and white. Staff in each team will alternate weekly between working from a main office or from home. (£)  Intu Properties has warned that it could collapse if it is unable to raise further funds. The owner of the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Braehead in Renfrewshire and other shopping centres announced a £2bn loss for 2019, making it another victim of the struggling retail sector in the UK.

Columns of note

In the Financial Times, John Lloyd questions whether Scottish independence is inevitable. Charting the rise of the nationalists, Lloyd argues that independence would both scar Britain and plunge Scotland into bitter arguments over the terms of separation, as well as more years of recovering the same living standards as under the ‘United’ Kingdom. (£)  In The Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff considers that some of the changes being made to daily life during the coronavirus pandemic will stick. She likens this to women taking over men’s work in factories during the war, intended as a temporary factor but one which changed the normal working sphere. Facetime-ing grandparents, paying digitally, voting electronically: daily life is changing. What we will miss most during the crisis is each other, she suspects.

Source: The Financial Times


What happened yesterday?

In their worst day since the 1987 crash, US stocks fell by almost 10%, with the S&P 500 suffering its fifth-biggest one-day drop on record. Donald Trump’s ban on Europeans travelling to the US caused markets to panic – “This was the most expensive speech in history”, said Luca Paolini, chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management.  The FTSE 100 fell 11%, and European equities shed a tenth of their value.   This was despite emergency actions by the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank to mute the financial damage of Covid-19. The European Central Bank left interest rates on hold, declining to join the Fed and the Bank of England in rate cuts.  The travel and leisure sectors were particularly badly hit. United Airlines fell 25%, and the cruise ship operator Carnival lost nearly a third of its value. Cineworld also warned that it might be unable to pay its debts, putting its ability to continue at risk.

What's happening today?

Finals Eurocell  Triple Pnt Soc


Bbva Ord

Final dividend payment date Avon Rubber  Jpmorgan Rus

Int. economic announcements (07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)  (12:30) Import and Export Price Indices (US)  (15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US)

Source: Financial Times

Did you know?

Giving cows names increases their milk production by 3.5%.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons Private Members’ Bills  Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill: Second Reading – Mike Amesbury  Private Members’ Bills  British Library Board (Power to Borrow) Bill: Second Reading – Bim Afolami  Private Members’ Bills  Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Bill: Second Reading – Mary Kelly Foy  Private Members’ Bills  Public Sector Exit Payments (Limitation) Bill: Second Reading – Sir Christopher Chope  Private Members’ Bills  Green Belt Protection Bill: Second Reading – Sir Christopher Chope  Private Members’ Bills Bat Habitats Regulation Bill: Second Reading – Sir Christopher Chope  Private Members’ Bills  School Toilets (Access During Lessons) Bill: Second Reading – Layla Moran

Adjournment  Roadworks in and around Rayleigh – Mr Mark Francois House of Lords (10:00am) Legislation  House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] – Second reading – Lord Grocott  Legislation  Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL] – Second reading – Lord Bird

Scottish Parliament Portfolio Questions Government Business and Constitutional Relations Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Scottish Labour Party Debate: Investing in Our Future Sarah Boyack, Aileen Campbell and Murdo Fraser