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Pressure on the UK Government as Wales and Scotland reveal lockdown easing plans

24 April 2020

By Siân Jones, Associate Partner

The Welsh and Scottish Governments have this week begun to set out their blueprints for easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions, continuing the trend of increased policy divergence in the devolved administrations and putting renewed pressure on the UK Government to reveal details of its coronavirus exit strategy. 

This morning, Wales’ First Minister, Mark Drakeford, revealed his government’s ‘traffic light’ approach which he said could commence at the end of the current three-week lockdown period. The initial, ‘red light’ phase would see the most careful and controlled lifting of restrictions, followed by further relaxations in the ‘amber’ phase. The ‘green’ phase would see life being returned to what Mr Drakeford described as “more like the lives we had before the crisis hit”.  However, tougher measures will be introduced in the meantime to prevent travel to second homes and exercise outside people’s local areas.

The Welsh Government have said that seven questions will be asked at each stage to determine whether it is appropriate to relax restrictions. In what may be a divergence from UK Government policy, particular emphasis will be given to the impact on equality, which raises questions as to what extent political considerations will weigh in any easing of restrictions.

The approach set out by Wales’ First  Minister today follows the Scottish Government’s publication of its own blueprint. In announcing her government’s measures, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon struck a consultative tone, setting out the complexities involved and inviting the public to start a “grown-up conversation”. Some in Westminster feel UK Government Ministers - who have thus far stuck rigidly to the “Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives” mantra - would do well to adopt a similar approach.

Mr Drakeford stressed today that he was keen to continue co-operating with governments across the UK in his response to COVID-19. However, the different approaches taken by devolved administrations highlight the difficult balancing act required for the next complex phase of this crisis. With the UK Government’s Communicator-in-Chief, Boris Johnson, still recovering, his Ministers will come under increasing pressure to provide more clarity in the coming days.