EVER since the British Empire annexed the Cape Colony from the Dutch during the Napoleonic Wars, there has been a close connection between Scotland and South Africa. The colonial club in Cape Town is called Kelvingrove, while James Douglas Logan from the Borders established Matjiesfontein in the Karoo semi-desert as the pre-eminent resort in the empire in the 1890s.

Logan’s home of Tweedside Lodge was the first in South Africa to have flushing indoor toilets, electricity and a private telephone. The clerk of works for the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the HQ of the South African government and where Nelson Mandela had his office, was the Gaelic poet Duncan Livingstone, whose manuscripts are in the South African library in Cape Town. The Free Church Minister Andrew Murray sorted out the Dutch Kerk into the Dutch Reformed Kerk on Free Presbyterian lines, and inadvertently contributed to apartheid.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is today a World Top 100 academic institution but started as the South African College in 1829. In its early days, there was such a large proportion of the staff that were Scottish that it was known as the Scottish Mission to the Cape. Indeed, to this day, the South African education system is a copy of Scotland’s.

The Scottish Currency Group is leading the campaign for an independent Scotland to have its own currency as soon as practicable, – within a couple of months of independence day. As part of that we set up reservebank.scot to provide information on currency and the new central bank of Scotland.

We recently came across Leen Remmelzwaal, a PhD student at UCT. He is in the department of engineering, carrying out research in the field of computational neuroscience. He was shocked by how little detailed statistical information was available in South Africa on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and therefore applied his skill to develop a dedicated website which was launched on March 23. Up until June 1, South Africa had recorded 705 deaths and, compared to the UK, has had an exemplary campaign against the virus. South Africa had carried out 742,742 tests compared to the 115,259 in Scotland.

We seized the opportunity to add a live statistics section to the site. In only a week, with support from XYZ Maps in Dalkeith – makers of the Indy Scotland maps – Remmelzwaal has created a Scottish coronavirus stats portal that is now available at www.reservebank.scot/statistics.

This is not just about the virus but also about the wider socio-economic impact. It is updated daily and provides a service to Scots where they can easily check on progress in containing the virus and check on the wider impact. Scotland is the first country in Europe to be part of Remmelzwaal’s dashboard.

The National:

THE charts show the day-by-day progress of the virus from the first case across Scotland. We are currently in a declining phase with new cases down to 18 on June 1 from a peak of 430 on March 31. Total deaths with a confirmed positive test were 2363 and were running at one death per day. The problem of reporting on deaths at the weekend is obvious from the dip in the graph every seven days.

On the website there is also the breakdown by health board. The cities of the central belt have been the hotspot, with 3949 cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and 2714 in Lothian, against six in the Western Isles and 54 in Shetland. Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles have had no new cases since May 1. This clearly suggests that easing lockdown should proceed on a geographical basis so long as the current ban on travel to the islands is maintained. That could in due course be extended to other regions that show sustained absence of new cases, so long as travel into those regions is curtailed or incomers tested.

The socio-economic impact is also being included. So far the FTSE 100/FTSE 250 are shown and have recovered some ground from their March 18/19 nadir, though the market is still way below late January levels. Similarly, with the pound/dollar and pound/euro exchange rates. The Bank of England base interest rate remains at a 350-year low of 0.1%.

We will be adding more data to www.reservebank.scot/statistics over the next few weeks including deaths data by council, Scottish monthly unemployment data, benefit claims, crime statistics, UK Government borrowing and as much else as we can obtain. It is disappointing that much of the data you would need to accurately track and monitor the Scottish economy is only available quarterly and in many cases months, if not longer, after the event. Yet another reason why we need a proper Scottish statistics service.

Dr Tim Rideout is Convener of Scottish Currency Group