'Covid Conversations': experiences of the pandemic in Scotland

This report presents findings from qualitative research carried out between December 2020 and February 2021. These were referred to as ‘Covid Conversations’ as they gave people an opportunity to share their experiences of the pandemic and the public health measures that have been in place.

4. Communication: experiences of accessing and understanding guidance

Clarity and clear guidance

When asked what could make things easier, many participants mentioned clearer guidance and communication about what is going on. Participants described difficulties in remembering government messaging and expressed a desire for more positive communications from people that looked and sounded like them. Some participants also commented that the best messaging is that which is created together with people and suggested more working groups to come up with ideas.

"I know the Scottish Government have, is it FAST? F, A, S, T, I can't remember what it stands for. But the Westminster government have the message, is it space, face, something else? But they don't always stick in your head."

"Most of the time, I feel that there's not really clear messaging or a comforting message."

"It's better if messages came from people who aren't suited and booted…these are real people, they are saying real things, it doesn't sound as scripted maybe as some of the overly scripted things elsewhere."

Participants also talked about the need to make clear how different benefits – Child Winter Heating Assistance was given as a specific example – would actually be delivered and for government messaging to be clearer about how to access this.

"Talk about the practicalities rather than just 'we're going to do this'.'"

Reassurance for families with children

As mentioned, many participants had children in their lives and several expressed a desire for reassurance that their children would be okay in their schooling as well as more generally.

"People need to know that their children won't be forgotten…there are people who are drowning in it and there needs to be reassurance that their children's future isn't over…because they haven't got all the things and they aren't able to teach them."

Other participants described the importance of tailoring messaging to be child-appropriate or child-focused, commenting that children are aware of what's going on, are worried about their futures and feel overlooked.

"A lot of things that are being delivered or announced are adult-based."

"Maybe it's just cos I work with small children…it's like 'the children are the carriers' and 'the children are the ones who are going to bring it home'…I wonder what the impact of that is going to be when children are hearing this all the time. My daughter's like 'turn that off- I don't want to hear about it anymore'…she knows she's going back to school and I always have to reassure her. Children are listening and taking this in."


Participants described some anxiety around delays in receiving a second vaccine, as well as being able to access fixed vaccination appointment slots when relying on public transport.

One participant commented specifically on future vaccine prioritisation and called for particular workers to be prioritised.

"On behalf of low-paid workers like shop workers and classroom assistants, these folks have been asked to go to work, they're not at the top of the queue for the vaccination. They're high risk, so you're asking people to put themselves and their families at risk every day…I know a lot of classroom assistants who have had covid, they've got it from school and they take it back to their families. Then you ask them to respect the rules, but they feel disrespected in their roles. At the beginning they were given, special shop workers were given high praise but they're not at the top of the list…I feel really angry about it, that these folks are putting themselves at risk."


Email: covid-19.behaviours@gov.scot

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