ALEX Salmond has backed his former health secretary’s call for an alternative to local coronavirus lockdowns. 

The proposal comes in a new action plan to tackle the likely unemployment crisis in Scotland caused by the pandemic.

Alongside calls for huge amounts of public spending, including proposals for a National Housebuilding Company and "shovel ready" infrastructure projects, the report suggests the country moves to a system of focused protection, identifying “those who are most likely to require hospitalisation if they catch Covid so they can receive early intervention to stop them doing so.”

READ MORE: Alex Salmond unveils strategy to get Scotland onto its feet after pandemic

The paper, which has been written by Alex Neil with contributions from Salmond, states: “There now seems little doubt that a tsunami of job cuts and business closures are about to hit Scotland and the rest of the UK due to the coronavirus crisis. Some forecasters estimate that the level of unemployment could double in Scotland over the next few months, resulting in many thousands of people losing their jobs.

“This level of unemployment is unacceptable. The human and financial costs of high unemployment are avoidable if we take action now.”

Neil says the immediate priority must be to “save as many existing businesses and jobs as possible until the pandemic is under control” with the roll-out of the vaccine. 

“Until that can be done, our strategy should be to learn the lessons from numerous countries in Asia, which have successfully brought the virus under control by means which are far less damaging to their economies than wide-scale lockdowns and business closures, and has also resulted in fewer deaths from Covid-19.”

This strategy, Neil says, also includes mass testing with reduced turnaround times for results,and tackling the problem of super-spreader.

The plan also calls for an expansion of the programme for “distributing Vitamin D supplements to targeted groups who are the most vulnerable to catching the virus.”

The paper says these measures should help reduce the spread of the disease, reduce the number of people requiring hospitalisation and thereby help reduce the number of people dying from Covid-19.

The call for focused protections as an alternative to strict Coronavirus restrictions puts Salmond and Neil at odds with the approach to tackling the pandemic taken by the Scottish Government. 

Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh and a scientific adviser to Nicola Sturgeon, recently told The New Statesman: “We can’t shield the vulnerable, we tried that, it didn’t work, so a lot of people are going to die ... It will put you into cycles of lockdown and release because of rising hospitalisation. Young people don’t die of this but they are hospitalised: those in their thirties, forties, fifties. And if your hospitals are full, all the other health stuff can’t run, which means you’re forced into a lockdown.

“Then you have long Covid, rising morbidity in young people. We’ve never used this approach to any infectious disease in the past, we’ve never let them spread, we’ve used control and elimination strategies ... Focused protection doesn’t work. It’s unethical and unscientific, it’s telling people what they want to hear and giving it a veneer of scientific credibility.”

Neil told The National he wasn't calling for an end to current restrictions.

"What I am saying is that if these other measures are implemented then over time the need for such strict restrictions will be reduced, because you catch outbreaks quicker and can therefore contain them much quicker

"Regarding the early intervention for those most vulnerable to hospitalisation, there is already work going on in Edinburgh and Liverpool, and probably elsewhere, to assess the impact of this.

"I am told unofficially that early results seem promising and that such an approach seems as though it can reduce, but not eliminate, the number of people who have to be admitted to hospital."

The call from the two men cames as Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the current level of restrictions in place for Scotland's 32 local authorities are set to remain for the next week.