Lorna Slater reflects on now and the post Covid future

Friday December 17th 2021


Lorna Slater, Scottish Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lothian MSP and Scottish Greens co-leader writes her monthly column for Midlothian View.

With Omicron infections spreading, it will be a difficult Christmas for many. As we approach 2022, we must ensure that the society we rebuild is fairer and greener than the one we had before.

Like previous Covid outbreaks, it is the most vulnerable who will be most impacted. This makes it even more important that we all get the booster vaccines and take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

It is a live situation and things are changing daily, but you can book your booster and get the latest advice at Gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19.

In Scotland we are taking action, with the Scottish Government advising caution and providing as much financial backing as we can. However, our ability to do so is hampered by a constitutional settlement that stops us from offering the levels of support that we would like to.

That is why my Green colleagues and I have called for the UK government to reintroduce the furlough scheme and show people and businesses the support that they need.

Unfortunately, like the first lockdown, Downing Street’s response has been too slow. It has also felt particularly chaotic with the revelations about questionable quiz nights and Downing Street parties.

These days will pass. And, when they do, we want to rebuild a society that recognises and responds to the pain and loss that so many have experienced.

We must ensure that our services are as resilient and robust as they can be, and that the policies we introduce are ones that benefit people and the planet.

Last week’s Scottish budget was the first since the cooperation agreement between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government. It came at a hard time, but included a lot of vital changes that I am very proud we are introducing.

I am delighted that we have been able to commit to doubling the Scottish Child Payment, which will help to mitigate some of the damage done by the cruel Universal Credit cut and will be worth an additional £500 a year to families.

Even prior to Covid, Scotland’s teachers had very heavy workloads, but over the last two years they have gone above and beyond to support our young people.

We recognise their vital work and are delivering over £145 million to recruit teachers and classroom assistants. That’s enough for councils to offer permanent contracts to all staff recruited temporarily during the pandemic and to add another 1000 permanent teaching posts on top of that.

We know the pressures that people are under. A lot of us have struggled with our mental and physical health and the uncertainty caused by Omicron will have caused an even greater level of anxiety. That is why we are investing a record £1.2 billion in mental health services, including £120million for a mental health recovery plan.

These are the changes we are making and a sign of the fairer, greener and more compassionate society that we want to build.

This is not how any of us wanted to end 2021. But a new year can bring new hope. As we look to 2022, I am stubbornly optimistic that it can be a pivotal year in the process of rebuilding and change.

I want to wish a happy holiday season to everyone at Midlothian View, and everyone reading this. I hope that you have as nice an end to the year as possible and a positive start to 2022. If there’s anything that my team or I can help with then please get in touch.

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