Pages tagged with "Coronavirus"

UK Government abandons the vulnerable and fails to set up pandemic recovery

For over a year now, countries across the world have faced the greatest health crisis in living memory. As a result, governments worldwide have introduced a number of extraordinary measures, including business closures, social distancing, and travel bans. However, alongside these public health interventions, has come increased social support. Therefore, this article sets out to analyse the type of support that is in already in place to help individuals during this type of health crisis, as well as the new policy changes. We will consider exactly how effective these measures are in the UK and across various countries worldwide.

Sick pay

Firstly, let’s look at statutory sick pay. This has become a controversial matter in recent times, with many people across the world having to take time off work to recover or isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. A recent report from The Compensation Experts, that looks at European countries specifically, has demonstrated that there is very little consistency across countries in Europe in terms of sick pay. Indeed, it is evident that certain countries provide a better scheme than others. So, how does the UK perform in this area? Well, according to this new research, the situation in the UK is rather gloomy. In fact, the UK offers the third worst sick pay scheme in Europe.

In the UK, employees that are off from work due to ill-health are eligible for just £96.35 per week, for up to 28 weeks. Furthermore, the UK Government’s involvement with supplying this sick pay ceases after just the fourth day of the employee being absent from work. After this period, the employer is required to step in and continue the payments.

On the other end of the spectrum, Iceland is ranked highest for offering the most effective and comprehensive sick pay scheme in Europe. In fact, many of the small, independent countries in Europe offer a very effective sick pay scheme, as demonstrated in the table below.

Country European Rank Minimum Sick Pay Maximum Sick Pay Maximum Period
Iceland 1st 100% 100% 2 days for each week worked


2nd 100% 100% 52 weeks
Denmark 4th 100% 100% 30 days + 22 weeks


7th 70% 100% 44 weeks


40th £96.35 per week £96.35 per week 28 weeks

Unemployment Benefit

In the last quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate (of those aged 16 and over) was 5.2%. While measures such as the furlough scheme have helped to protect jobs during this health crisis, many have still been made redundant and companies have closed. Moreover, the number of people out of work is expected to grow further. Therefore, it is important to consider the type of support that is offered to unemployed people in the UK and how this compares to other countries across the world.

To offer a comparison of unemployment benefits across different countries worldwide, we will refer to the OECD database of benefits in unemployment. In particular, we will look at the share of the individual’s previous income after 2 months and then after 6 months. Of the 40 OECD countries included in this database, the UK offers the worst unemployment benefit after 2 months and the 4th worst after 6 months.

So, let’s take a look at how some of the small independent countries compare.

Country Benefits in unemployment, share of previous income (after 2 months) Benefits in unemployment, share of previous income (after 6 months)
Denmark 82% 82%
Croatia 78% 39%
Iceland 75% 63%
Norway 68% 68%
Finland 58% 58%
Ireland 39% 39%
UK 22% 22%

This data is very interesting, as it shows that small independent countries are able to support their unemployed to a much greater extent and for a longer period. The UK offering the worst unemployment benefits in the short-term (after 2 months) is very significant and perhaps, shows why many people in this country have faced such hardship during this health crisis.

Coronavirus spending packages

While the UK stimulus package, that allowed for the furlough scheme and various grant programmes to be put in place, has protected jobs across the country, it is worthwhile comparing the UK economic package that was put in place at the start of the pandemic to others across the world. Research from Professor Ceyhun Elgin has tracked the responses of 166 countries worldwide. So, how does the UK compare.

Country Economic Stimulus Package, as of May 2020 (% of GDP)
UK 5%
France 9.3%
Germany 10.7%
Italy 5.7%
Japan 21.1%

As this table shows, the UK’s initial stimulus package was actually provided a much smaller percentage of its GDP than many other countries. So, how did this situation look a year down the line?

Country Economic Stimulus Package, as of May 2021 (% of GDP)
UK 17.8%
France 23.8%
Germany 39.3%
Italy 37.7%
Japan 56.1%

Again, the UK has still spent a much smaller percentage of its GDP on challenging, supporting and recovering from this health crisis than many other nations across Europe and the rest of the world.

Furthermore, while the furlough scheme has benefitted businesses across the UK so far, the UK Government has refused to extend the scheme beyond September 2021. Citizens Advice Scotland have said that this will force one in seven Scots into an income crisis. In contrast, Germany’s short-time working scheme will continue to provide the more generous support that has been available since the start of the coronavirus crisis until the end of 2021. France’s equivalent scheme will continue even longer, with eligible employers being able to claim support until 2023.


Throughout this health crisis, the UK Government has continuously suggested that this country offers the most generous support and “world beating” schemes. However, when you consider the international data, a very different picture emerges. Indeed, with regards to both the direct COVID financial support, as well as the schemes that were already in place, such as unemployment benefit and sick pay, the UK is clearly underperforming. Furthermore, much of this data has shown that small independent countries are more equipped and willing to support the vulnerable citizens of their populations both in normal times and during such health crises.

Is the UK really leading the way on COVID-19 vaccinations?

Both the UK Government and the media headlines have suggested that the UK is leading the way on the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. We recognised in a previous article, that the UK paid significantly more for vaccinations, causing delays within many EU countries as the manufacturers directed supplies towards the overpaying nation. Despite this, in terms of fully vaccinating the population, the UK is still trailing behind a large number of countries worldwide, including many of those in the EU. Let's examine the vaccination programmes in larger EU countries, with a similar population size to the UK, then compare smaller, independent countries to determine whether an independent Scotland would have been likely to have vaccinated its population more efficiently than it has as part of the UK.

Vaccination programmes in larger countries

As of the 9th February 2021, the UK had fully vaccinated 0.77% of the population. Meanwhile, Germany had vaccinated 1.32%, Spain 1.9% and Italy 2.05% of the population. The only European country with a similar population that is marginally falling behind the UK is France, with 0.54% of its population fully vaccinated. This suggests that, despite the headlines, the UK is trailing behind most of the most comparable nations in reaching full immunity from the virus. Despite these countries all being part of the EU and its vaccination programme, that was hindered by the UK capitalising upon the vaccine, they remain significantly ahead of the UK in terms of fully vaccinating their populations.

A comparison with small independent countries

The table below demonstrates the % of the population that have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in small independent countries, as well as the UK. The results highlight that all of these small independent countries have managed to fully vaccinate a greater percentage of their populations than the UK. Even a very small country, such as Estonia, has fully vaccinated nearly double the number of individuals that the UK has. Furthermore, the figures suggest that the UK’s progress is very slow and gradual, with the percentage of the population being fully vaccinated rising very slowly.

Share of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (%)

3rd Feb

4th Feb

5th Feb

6th Feb

7th Feb

8th Feb

9th Feb










































Despite headlines such as “Vaccine success to give UK huge economic boost! PM: 'Jabs get us closer to beating virus'” from the Express, it is clear that the UK still has a long way to go in terms of reaching immunity and fully vaccinating the population. the only thing the UK Government has been winning at recently seems to be false propaganda about it's vaccination programme.  Its shouldn't be a race, nations should be working tother to beat this health crises but the UK Government has been misleading people about their calcination programme success and thus politicking the issue.  Despite spending significantly more on vaccinations than other countries, and consequently causing EU deliveries to be held up , the UK trails behind a number of countries both large and small. Importantly, our findings recognise that small, independent countries have been more than capable of vaccinating their populations and in fact, have fully vaccinated a greater percentage of their populations than the UK.

Scotland offers a more effective vaccination programme than the rest of the UK

Scotland took a slightly different approach to vaccinating its population against COVID-19 than the rest of the UK. The Scottish Government planned for a slower start in the vaccination programme, due to prioritising the oldest and most vulnerable individuals. This has proven effective, with deaths among care home residents falling rapidly in Scotland. Furthermore, over the past couple of weeks, with the majority of all care home residents and over 80s having been vaccinated, the speed of Scotland’s vaccination roll-out has reached new heights and is now significantly more efficient than the UK’s overall. In fact, Scotland currently leads the way in Europe (alongside Wales) administering the most daily COVID-19 vaccine doses (0.89 per 100 people on 9th February - 7 day rolling average).

A comparison of the two nations

31st February – 10th February 2021

 Over the past week, Scotland has administered more doses of the vaccine each day (per 1,000 people of population) than the UK average, and in fact, England has vaccinated notably less than the other nations.

Number of 1st dose of COVID-19 vaccine daily per 1,000 individuals (31st Jan – 10th Feb 2021)

31st Jan 1st Feb 2nd Feb 3rd Feb 4th Feb 5th Feb 6th Feb 7th Feb 8th Feb 9th Feb 10th Feb
Scotland 1.76 6.38 7.04 8.25 8.82 8.04 9.67 5.04 11.2 10.5 11.56
England 5.14 4.98 5.33 6.73 6.90 7.14 8.14 4.08 4.48 5.5 6.02
UK (total) 4.78 5.24 5.61 7.02 7.19 7.40 8.23 4.18 5.28 6.17 6.75

Scotland’s approach proving effective

 Scotland is now not only vaccinating more people per day than the UK average, but the government’s decision to vaccinate the most vulnerable individuals first is proving to be a success. The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland highlight that 68 people residing in care homes in Scotland died with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 in the week beginning 1st February. When compared to the week beginning 4th January, the number of deaths has declined by 40%. This suggests that in Scotland, deaths in care homes are falling 10 times faster than amongst the general population. While it is not yet clear to what extent the vaccine has contributed to this, it is likely that the prioritisation of vaccinating the elderly and most vulnerable first, will have played a key role in these promising figures.

This graph highlights the change in Scotland's vaccination programme after a majority of care home residents and staff had been vaccinated. On the 1st of February 2021, 98% of older care home residents and 88% of care home staff had been vaccinated in Scotland, as the government had planned. Therefore, with a majority of the most vulnerable members of society having been vaccinated, the focus of vaccines could shift to the wider population and be carried out at a greater speed. This is clearly demonstrated in the graph and from this point the Scotland has vaccinated more 1st doses per 1,000 people each day than the rest of the UK.


Throughout January, Scotland’s approach to rolling-out the vaccine was politicised and often criticised in the headlines. However, recent figures, showing a decline in deaths among those in care homes, have suggested that this approach may have been significantly more effective. Meanwhile, the statistics on daily doses across the UK suggest that Scotland is now leading the way and exceeding all targets set out by the Scottish Government.

Independent Scotland COVID-19 response would have been better than UK's

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that Scotland would not have been able to fight the virus as effectively without the support of England and the rest of the UK.  With the increasing politicisation of the pandemic, we feel it is only right to point out the facts. As the UK recently passed a grim milestone, with over 100,000 people having died from COVID-19, it is important to consider the grave mistakes that have been made by the UK Government and question whether an independent Scotland, with fully devolved powers, would have taken a different and more successful route in tackling the pandemic.

To understand how an independent Scotland would have been likely to respond during this crisis, let’s examine some of the independent countries across Europe, with similar population sizes to Scotland, including Ireland, Finland, Norway and Denmark. The measures enforced and the consequent results in tackling COVID-19 across these countries will be compared to those of the UK. Looking at these case studies in comparison to the political one liners, allows us to recognise why an independent Scotland would have coped better with the pandemic than it has been able to as part of the UK.

     1. Higher case numbers

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UK has faced disproportionately high case numbers. Throughout the winter months, cases of COVID-19 have run out of control once again. As of the 3rd February 2021 (rolling 7-day average), there were 22,2476.4 daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Nordic countries, Norway (268.3), Denmark (463.1) and Finland (347.6), have kept their number of daily cases under greater control.

Norway and Finland, in particular, implemented strict measures quickly after the summer months and despite a slight rise in cases over the winter, have avoided case numbers escalating out of control.

     2. Rising hospital admissions

In relation to the rising number of cases, the UK has faced a serious rise in hospital admissions, putting severe and continuous strain on the NHS. On the 22nd January, the UK had 38,167 COVID-19 patients in hospital. In comparison, Ireland had 1,969, Norway had 131, Finland had 136 and Denmark had 745.

These figures demonstrate that the UK has a higher number of COVID-19 patients in hospital per head of population than the smaller independent nations that we have benchmarked against. Again, this is due to their ability to implement strict measures quickly and effectively.

     3. Greater number of deaths

With rising cases and hospital admissions, it is unsurprising that the UK has also faced a severe number of COVID-19 deaths. In fact, the UK’s mortality outcome is among the worst in the world. When considering the COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 of the population, the UK has the third biggest cumulative death total, with only Slovenia and Belgium having higher mortality rates.

Meanwhile the latest data shows a drastically different picture among some of Europe’s small independent countries. On the 4th February 2021, Norway had registered 574 deaths (cumulative total per 1 million population, 105.88) , Finland 685 (123.63), Denmark 2,170 (374.64), Ireland 3,512 (711.25) and the UK 109,335 (1,610.57).

     4. Delays in locking down the UK

Government advisers have recognised that the UK’s delay in locking down in March 2020 was a crucial mistake. The UK Government did not announce national lockdown until 23rd March 2020. In comparison, Norway announced a national lockdown almost two weeks before, on 12th March 2020. Denmark followed suit, implementing lockdown on 13th March and Finland on 16th March. Closer to home, Ireland started to take action, such as closing schools and colleges, as early as 12th March 2020.

The UK were slow in locking down, especially when compared to smaller independent countries across Europe, and this has had critical and grave effects. The different approach adopted by many small independent nations suggests that an independent Scotland would have been likely to implement measures sooner, particularly without the pressures of following a four nations approach as part of the UK.

     5. Failure to close borders

Unlike the UK, Finland, Norway and Denmark all closed their borders by 19th March 2020. This allowed these countries to be less strict in other respects, such as the number of times people could leave their house in a day to exercise. The UK Government holds control over borders and has only recently closed all travel corridors and made a negative test mandatory before entering the country. However, great pressure remains on Boris Johnson to close the borders completely.

The significance of this failure of the UK Government to close the borders in March 2020 and only recently implementing more lenient measures, has even been recognised from within the Cabinet itself. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, stated that it was a mistake not closing the borders last year in March.

     6. Vaccine capitalism

As of the 2nd February 2021, the UK had vaccinated 10.52 million individuals. Boris Johnson claimed that there would not have been any COVID-19 vaccines in Scotland if it had not been for the Union. This insensitive and irrational comment can be understood as an attempt by the PM and the Conservative party to politicise the pandemic and the vaccination programme.

Evidence shows that an independent Scotland would be more than capable of vaccinating its population, as other small independent nations have done so. Although the Nordic countries and Ireland have not yet vaccinated as many individuals as the UK, they are certainly capable, as by mid-January, Denmark had administered their vaccines so efficiently that they had run out. This shortage in vaccinations is largely a result of the UK capitalising the vaccine. It has been reported that the UK has paid between £24 and £28 per dose on the Moderna vaccine, meanwhile the EU is paying approximately £13. Moreover, the AstraZeneca vaccine has cost the UK £3 per dose and the EU £1.61. The UK paying significantly more for the vaccinations than the EU has resulted in the UK being prioritised for distribution by the struggling drug companies, thus breaking their contracts with several EU nations. This is being recognised as a success for the UK Government, despite that it will almost certainly result in worsening trade relations with the EU and greater austerity within the UK due to the accumulated COVID response overspend.

Meanwhile, EU nations and the other Nordic countries have largely administered the Pfizer/BioNTech (95% effective after two doses) and Moderna (80.2% effective after one dose and 95.6% effective after two) vaccines, which offer greater effectiveness than the AstraZeneca vaccination (76% effective after one dose and 82% after two).

     7. PPE shortages

Another crucial error made by the UK Government refers to the major PPE shortages experienced by the UK.  Despite the UK government emphasising that sufficient stockpiles of PPE existed and were available, this was most certainly not the case. In fact, Professor Ewan Macdonald, one of the UK’s leading occupation health specialists, recognised the way in which the government had tailored its advice and guidance on the use of PPE to the availability they had. Ultimately, the UK Government failed to recognise the urgency and volume of PPE that would be required and instead, had to play catch up with other nations in trying to secure its share of scarce resources.

On the other hand, Finland demonstrated a very different approach to the pandemic from the beginning. As the UK scrambled to find resources, Finland held a grand stockpile of PPE and surgical masks. The stockpile had been built up over many years and includes medical supplies, oil, grains, tools and raw materials. This level of preparedness is something that the UK Government has lacked hugely throughout the pandemic.

     8. Testing failures

Norway and Finland were some of the first countries to begin testing for COVID-19, with tests being carried out towards the end of February 2020. In April 2020, when the virus was peaking in the UK and across Europe, the UK trailed behind some of the smaller, independent countries with regards to testing. On 25th April 2020, the UK was carrying out 0.39 tests per 1000 people. Denmark was carrying out more than 4 times the number of tests per 1000 people than the UK was at this point (carrying out 1.72 tests per 1000 people). Norway, Finland and Ireland also proved to have more effective testing systems.

Despite, the UK’s testing system gradually improving since the beginning of the pandemic, Denmark continues to carry out approximately double the number of tests per 1000 people than the UK. This, again, shows the capabilities of smaller independent nations.

     9. Eat out to help out

The UK Government introduced the ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme in the UK during August 2020. The scheme involved the government funding discounts on food and non-alcoholic drinks on Monday-Wednesday throughout August. The idea aimed to boost the economy and help businesses get back on their feet. However, the irrationality of this programme was evidenced in the consequent increase in COVID-19 cases. Research has suggested that the scheme contributed directly to the rise in cases over the summer. This demonstrates an example in which the UK Government prioritised the economy over the health of the population.

     10. Poor economic recovery

As of December 2020, the Scottish Government had been allocated £8.2 billion and was not aware of any further funding from the UK Government in respect of COVID-19. However, not all of the £8.2 billion had been transferred as cash to the Scottish Government bank account yet. £3.063 billion has been formally allocated at the UK Main Estimate, the remaining is expected to be allocated at Supplementary Estimate later this financial year.

Despite, the UK Government asserting that Scotland is financially better off during this crisis as part of the Union, earlier last year, we discovered that had Scotland been both independent and a member of the EU, it would have received roughly £5.4bn worth of funding to help tackle the COVID-19 crisis.

Throughout this global health crisis, it has become clear that small independent countries have been able to offer very supportive economic recovery packages. For example, Norway and Denmark, two of our closest neighbours which have similar population sizes to Scotland, have been able to source large sums of funding to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and restarting their economies.


This article has recognised only a handful of the numerous significant mistakes that the UK Government has made throughout this pandemic. As Boris Johnson’s Government leads the UK past a grim milestone of over 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, and with rising cases and hospital admissions, the winter peak appears to be far from over.

Throughout this article, we have outlined some of the UK’s COVID-19 measures and policies and their consequent results and have offered a comparison to those of the smaller independent countries across Europe. These case studies have allowed us to understand how an independent Scotland would have been likely to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is clear their approach would have been undoubtedly more successful.

With delays in locking down, PPE shortages, open borders, billions spent on track and trace apps that do not work and poor testing systems, it is clear that the UK Government has made grave mistakes from the beginning of this crisis, and these failures would have been avoidable with competent governance and greater preparation, as displayed within a number of the independent Nordic countries.

Therefore, without the numerous U-turns and policy disasters, the ability of an independent Scotland to handle the pandemic more effectively appears very probable. The evidence has demonstrated that Scotland, with a similar population size to the case study countries, would have been likely to have coped in a similar manner and tackled the pandemic more successfully as an independent nation.