Stephen Daisley

The strange revision of a Scottish scientist’s schools advice

The strange revision of a Scottish scientist’s schools advice
Professor Devi Sridhar
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Let’s play spot the difference.

Here is a tweet posted on Tuesday afternoon by Professor Devi Sridhar, a member of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Advisory Group:

Now, here is a tweeted posted by Professor Sridhar on Wednesday morning:

The tweets are separated by 15 hours. What happened in that time to prompt Edinburgh University’s Chair in Global Public Health to issue an apparent reversal of her considered opinion?

Nicola Sturgeon has been under fire for the delay in reopening Scottish schools, with parents unhappy that children will not return to the classroom until August 11, and even then on a part-time basis. In Edinburgh, just one third of pupils will be allowed to attend school at a time, while in Fife secondary school students will only be accepted back one day a week. Sturgeon’s deputy and education minister John Swinney faces the ire of parents who say the Scottish Government is acting too slowly while their children fall behind in lessons.

Professor Sridhar’s comments yesterday gave hope to those parents but it caused a political problem for the Scottish Government, which has continually fallen back on scientific advice and safety to justify its school closures. Here was one of its own expert advisers saying it was safe to resume normal teaching much sooner.

Why did Professor Sridhar feel the need to post the second tweet, which seems to undermine the analysis given in the first? Why did she believe it was necessary to declare herself ‘completely aligned’ with the First Minister and even include a paean to Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts? What led to this strange episode involving an advisor to the Scottish Government — this Scottish Government, this Scottish Government, and this Scottish Government? We may never know.