WE are in the middle of a public health crisis. A global pandemic. Something with the potential to kill anyone is, in many ways, a very good leveller. But we’ve seen that deaths from Covid-19 occur more frequently among those who are disadvantaged in other ways.

In Scotland, we have generally taken a different approach to society and economy than the current UK Government has. Where the UK Government sees the pandemic as an opportunity to give massive contracts to its pals without oversight, we seek to build a consensus in which the public interest comes ahead of profiteering.

There are very important challenges ahead for our Scottish approach. The first is that health is collective. Covid-19 shows us that our collective wellbeing is based on the wellbeing of each and every one of us. It doesn’t matter how many fruit and vegetables you eat, you can die of Covid, and there’s very little you can do to stop it. That’s why we have an NHS that treats everyone equally.

Yet, at this very time, our NHS is under threat. It is up for sale as part of a Brexit trade deal with the US. We know the interests of private US health providers drive American politics. It would be foolish to think that them getting their hands on the NHS would be anything other than a prize for the US in future trade talks.

And, by voting down Caroline Lucas’s amendment to exclude the NHS from these trade talks (an amendment supported by Scottish SNP, Labour and LibDem MPs), the UK Government has put our health service on the table.

The NHS will be there for as long as there are people willing to fight for it. Unfortunately, the English electorate put Brexit ahead of the NHS in December’s General Election. Scotland’s voters overwhelmingly did not. We must find a way to protect our NHS from the impending trade deal. You can clap all you like for the NHS, but if you aim to sell it off to profiteers, you show that you have learned nothing from the Covid crisis.

And it’s no real surprise that the UK Government is so keen to turn the NHS from a health service into a source of profit. Far too much of the debate among right-wing politicians has sought to pit health against the economy.

Yet the most basic understanding of what’s good for health would show that it is also good for the economy. The countries that have dealt best with the coronavirus had well-planned lockdowns that came early and allowed a quicker re-opening. The thing that is best for health – dealing rapidly with the transmission of virus – is also best for the economy.

So why were so many in the Westminster bubble keen to set health and the economy against one another? It’s a good question, and one that points to the deep dysfunction at the heart of Westminster politics.

They were worried that people would consider health to be a bigger priority than the economy. And that meant they had to oppose an early lockdown. Because if you start to think that people’s health is more important than the economy, you might actually do things that make us all healthier rather than using government to give huge contracts to your friends for failed track-and-trace software.

Which brings me to what Scotland could do to benefit from this crisis. We need a vaccination, but that will be a global effort. Much more importantly we need a plan. The brilliant Devi Sridhar, professor of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, has been asking where the plan is to avoid a second wave of Covid-19.

The UK Government doesn’t seem to have one. It believes that planning is impossible, that planning was discredited in the 1970s, and that all government can do is to shift as much responsibility to private companies as possible.

IT ignores the reality that our society and economy are very different to those of the 1970s. The first railways were horse drawn. But only with the steam engine did they become the dominant mode of transport.

Just as railroads were less effective without coal, so planning was difficult without data. The 1970s were data-poor. Our world today is data saturated. To argue against planning on the basis of the 1970s economy makes no more sense than to argue against steam railways on the basis that there are too few horses.

It also ignores the reality that almost all of the biggest companies in the world operate on a planned basis. These companies are bigger than many states and show that if you want to achieve an objective you need to use data and planning. We urgently need to control and eradicate Covid-19, yet Westminster is totally incapable of taking the steps needed to achieve these aims.

We need to direct our society and towards dealing with Covid-19. We need a government that sets this challenge out and directs its activity toward it. Doing this will help us to pioneer a new way of doing government, one where our aims are set democratically and delivered by all the social partners. Once we have dealt with Covid, we can turn our attention to poverty, education and the climate emergency.

The UK Government is stuck in an argument that is nearly half-a-century old. The world has changed so profoundly that it can only fail. That’s why Westminster’s response has been to lean heavily on incompetent contractors. Scotland can – and must – do better. We can create a plan, and a big part of that plan should be focused on data. The Scottish Government can show how effective a collective approach to dealing with Covid-19 could be.

The contrast with the UK Government’s profit-for-my-pals approach will be obvious. We can protect our NHS. And by creating a better society based on a collective approach we can show how important it is to put society first, for both health and the economy.

Maggie Chapman is Voices for Scotland vice-chair and convenor of the Scottish Independence Convention