Resignation the right punishment for rank stupidity

Scotland's chief medical officer resigned last night after twice visiting her second home during the coronavirus lockdown.

Resignation the right punishment for rank stupidity STV News

Late last night, the chief medical officer fell on her scalpel.

Dr Catherine Calderwood clearly concluded that the full apology issued yesterday for breaking the very coronavirus guidelines she had drawn up would not hold.

Only a resignation would kill the story and more importantly allow the daily communication briefings to stick to what’s important, the dissemination of hard information on the virus.

When the story broke I remember thinking, well that’s the line at the moment, we will see how long it lasts. These stories play out the same way and involve a slowish burn to resignation against a backdrop of the usual thunder from the twitterati.

A public figure makes a mistake, in this case a serious one, a line of defence is put up and supported by the government. However, a combination of politicians, media and outraged voters force a change of script.

The line of Saturday night is met with a predominant thumbs down in the court of social media opinion and by Sunday night it’s a question of change the narrative NOW. The only dynamic that changes the narrative is resignation.

And yet it appears very little consideration was given to some key questions. Does her resignation compromise the smooth running of government strategy? Will her departure lead to a loss of vital expertise? Is resignation the right response because her mistakes can’t be managed in a news sense?

The First Minister was perhaps hoping that Dr Calderwood would be cut some slack given the unprecedented times. But given the calls from senior parliamentarians early on Sunday the die was cast and the course to resignation set.

For what it’s worth I think it is the right call. Catherine Calderwood’s action’s were not only hypocritical, they were rank stupid, and that’s the last thing you want in your chief medical officer at this time.

She was perhaps the second most important person in Scotland in recent weeks. Did no government adviser send her a note: the media will be watching, don’t do anything silly. If they didn’t, they should have.

This is a personal tragedy for Dr Calderwood but I would not be unduly worried by this. The reality is the government receive advice from many people behind the scenes. Catherine Calderwood was the face of that advice, she was but one player in crystallising strategy, albeit an important one.

Her departure is a blow but it is not critical to government policy. It is never an edifying spectacle when people bow to pressure and there is a sense that the dogs have been set upon them.

But in this case it was alas inevitable. For once the punishment did fit the crime.