Credit: Ioanna Chrysanthakopoulou

A tale of two cities: the Glasgow and Aberdeen local lockdowns

By Dorota Dziki

Writer Dorota Dziki takes to twitter to understand difference between the Glasgow and Aberdeen local lockdowns.

At the beginning of March, the coronavirus lockdown flipped our lives upside down, and in August and September, just as we were adjusting to our new reality and appreciating the re-opening of our favourite shops, pubs and restaurants, Aberdeen and Glasgow were put back into local lockdowns. With the dreaded second wave of the pandemic looming over our heads and threatening the sense of normalcy we were just beginning to regain, many were left speculating why the two lockdowns are so different between the cities. 

Nicola Sturgeon announced that Aberdeen was going back into lockdown on 5 August, with new restrictions including a ban on multi-household indoor gatherings, the closure of restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs, as well as restrictions on travel further than five miles. The lockdown was reviewed a week later, but due to a further 177 cases being linked to the outbreak it was extended, with Sturgeon saying that cases were “still far higher” than in any other part of Scotland. 

A month later, at the start of September, coronavirus cases also began to spike in Glasgow, with 92 of the 208 new Scottish cases being in the Greater Glasgow area. However, unlike Aberdeen, Glasgow’s lockdown only banned people from entering another household, or hosting anyone from another household in their own home – while hospitality points remained open, baffling many people. 

This confusion led a twitter user to create a thread explaining the reasoning behind the different lockdowns. He stated that over 20 venues in Aberdeen had been proven to have had customers test positive for Covid-19 thanks to track and trace, hence the decision “to shut all pubs”. However in Glasgow there was no evidence linking the spike to any specific venues, and it was rather blamed on large household gatherings, leading to the decision to keep pubs and restaurants open. If this is the case, then the government’s decision regarding the lockdown seems to be based on science, but how do we know that this data is correct? To present the causes of lockdown in Aberdeen and Glasgow in such simple terms is dismissive of the undoubtable impact of hundreds of people packed into Glaswegian venues. 

Others have had their own theories for the drastically different approaches taken in both cities. Some say Glasgow hasn’t been put into full lockdown because, as the largest city in the country, in theory it could cripple the Scottish economy completely. Additionally the government would have to deal with the financial dilemma of putting people back on furlough – a scheme which the Scottish government alone is powerless to extend – or the repercussions of companies being forced to let even more people go.  

Perhaps this is a last-ditch effort to boost the economy in case of another impending national lockdown; banning indoor meetings but keeping hospitality points open will encourage people to go out and spend money now that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme is over and they can’t have people over to their own home for a boozy night in. Another twitter user seems to have a similar view, stating that the only difference between meeting in pubs rather than households is that “only one accepts contactless payments”. But then again, why has this not been a concern in Aberdeen, who had already missed out on most of the August Eat Out to Help Out scheme?

However, one of the most widespread arguments about why these local lockdowns are so different seems to be politics, with one twitter user openly asking “why no full local lockdown in SNP voting areas?” Many seem to believe the reason why Glasgow has been treated more leniently is because it has an SNP led government while Aberdeen is co-led by the Conservative and Labour parties. The Conservative co-leader of the Aberdeen City Council went as far as to claim that Glasgow voting in favour of the Scottish independence back in 2014 played a part in Sturgeon’s decision.  

There’s no real evidence to back up any of these claims and theories, and many people believe that the different lockdowns are simply due to the different causes of spikes in both cities. One twitter user argues the lockdown makes sense, as “pubs have track and trace, house parties don’t, not rocket science”. But Scotland’s new tracing app, Protect Scotland, is essentially track and trace, informing you if you’ve been in prolonged contact with someone who tested positive even if you’re not out at a bar or restaurant, which could potentially make household meetings more safe too.

Many are scared that ultimately Glasgow – or at this point, all of Scotland – will end up in full lockdown again. Coronavirus is something we don’t fully understand yet and the uncertainty over what caused lockdowns is proof that we shouldn’t take this lightly – and to keep our masks on.


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