At various points during the pandemic I’ve been left incredulous at how freedoms have been restricted by our Government without any democratic scrutiny.
The virtue signalling of the devolved administrations and city mayors, who all seem to want to lockdown further and quicker than the UK government, I also find deeply depressing.
But how students are being treated in Scotland right now tops everything that has happened so far. This weekend more than 1,000 students have been ordered to self-isolate in “prison-like” student accommodation in Glasgow and Dundee, following coronavirus outbreaks.
All 250,000 students, from those in their first year to mature students and postgraduates, have been ordered not to visit pubs, cafes and restaurants in what has been described as an “astounding” restriction of their liberty.
And while members of the public face £30 fines in Scotland for breaking the rules, students have been warned that if they are caught flouting restrictions, they could be expelled which could have consequences for their rest of their lives.
Emma Hardy, a masters student at the University of Glasgow, said: “We were told to come back to campuses with the promise of some in-person teaching. I signed my lease believing that I would be able to go to the occasional class and spend time with my friends.
She said she was only told this month that all her classes would be delivered online, for the whole year. “I’m now paying tuition fees and rent to live in a city far away from my family and I can’t even see my friends.”
One of the Dundee student’s parents Jackie Bruce said: “These young people’s human rights are being completely trampled on. They are at greater risk of serious mental health problems than of death or serious complications from Covid.
“The rooms are barely big enough to stand up and walk around in … it is like a prison, where you are also being charged an extortionate rent.”
How can it be right to discriminate against a particular group of people not only by virtue of their age but also because they happen to be studying.
Even though I’m 60, I still remember how I, and many other students, felt on arrival at university, the first time away from home adjusting to living in my tiny student flat, in an unfamiliar city, not knowing a soul and trying to cope with the new academic challenges of university life
It’s not often I agree with the head of the National Union of Students Scotland has slammed the sudden student lockdown backed by the Scottish Government last night “a complete disregard for students’ mental health.”
President, Matt Crilly said: “Tonight’s announcement by Universities Scotland, and endorsed by the Scottish Government, unfairly blames students for the spread of coronavirus.
“These measures are deeply concerning- not least to those students who rely on income from hospitality jobs.
“And the rules show a complete disregard for students’ mental health and well-being – we need better.”
There is now talk of students not being allowed home at Christmas. Crilly is right to focus on the mental health angle.
I believe these restrictions, if they are allowed to continue, will directly lead to the suicide of some vulnerable students unable to cope with being forced to live alone, away from their friends and family in prison-like accommodation. It really is an absolute outrage.