28 April 2020

Challenges Ahead

COVID-19 virus has emerged as the biggest global challenge that humanity has faced for generations.

Internationally, we have seen people and governments across the globe face similar challenges and choices to us and we stand in solidarity with the global effort to address the threat of COVID-19.

I know that the steps we have taken in Scotland to contain the virus are unprecedented and have changed life as we knew it, but I’m sure you will agree that the way the majority of people have responded to them shows exactly the kind of nation we are.

I want to start by saying thank you to everyone in Banffshire and Buchan Coast who has diligently followed our public health advice to stay at home.

This gratitude extends to all sectors of our community: our health and social care workers, who have mobilised with a world-class response; the other public service workers who have continued to provide vital public services and taken on new tasks to protect those most in need; our shop workers and our business community, who have found new ways to work and flexed their businesses to respond to our new circumstances; our food producers and delivery drivers who have ensured that the food we need is there when we need it; and our third sector which has found new ways to support our people.

Given the uncertainty that surrounds our global understanding of the disease, we will need to continue to work together to ensure that we protect ourselves, our families, our communities and our nation from the threat presented by COVID-19.

The path before us is through uncharted territory and will need careful navigation.

However as with everything I hope that our guiding values should be kindness, compassion, openness and transparency.

While we hope that scientific advances, such as treatments and a vaccine, will provide solutions in the longer term, in the more immediate future we will need to learn to live with this virus, possibly for some time to come and so that is why it was warmly welcome to see the Scottish Government unveiling the blueprint for the future.

Their challenge is to work out if and how we can continue to suppress the virus and minimise its harms while restoring some semblance of normality to our everyday lives.

I am pleased that this is being done with a careful approach that seeks to protect life and reduce harm. These decisions will not be easy.

However, I hope that people will begin to see hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite the challenges and necessary changes that lie ahead of us requiring us to adapt how we live our lives, I am certain that we will respond exactly as we have been doing- with a united effort from all parts of Scottish society.

Everyone in Scotland has a part to play and I for one will be proud to play mine as we enter this next phase of beating coronavirus.

14 April 2020

Tomorrow's World

In just a matter of weeks, all of our lives have changed in unimaginable ways. We have had to adapt to the challenges facing us by moving much of how we socialize, how we work and even our businesses online.

We have seen nursing, midwifery and students to step up at this unprecedented time when they have already experienced significant disruption as they come to the end of their courses. Their skills and experience will be vital in the coming months as we work to save as many lives as possible.

We have seen thousands upon thousands of volunteers offering support across all areas of health and social care. We see parents homeschooling their children, while teachers continue to support the most vulnerable. The commitment and enthusiasm of these volunteers, as with all of our NHS workers, deserve recognition and the gratitude of every one of us in Scotland.

Politics is no different from this, and we need to see the same innovation happening in politics as the way democracy is performed changes. Not invention, but the adoption of technologies new to our political institutions. The Welsh Assembly held a virtual meeting last week, and this week we were able to watch online First Minister's Questions, on this occasion only from Party Leaders. This definitely is not new technology being used here, although it is cheaper and of better resolution and lower latency than in years gone by.

It’s warmly welcome news that the parliament has moved online to ensure we are maintaining our democratic traditions in accordance with social distancing. I think we have shown that we can work remotely while holding the government to account for the decisions they make.

People up and down the country have made huge behavioral changes in a matter of days, and so it is of central importance that as politicians, we show that we are capable of it too. The parliament has had to achieve in just a few weeks what they thought they might have several years to do, and that’s not a bad thing. If tech is the future and we can work smarter, more intelligently and more productively using technology, it’s good to see the parliament adapting fast.

When our political system is as central to our lives and futures, more so today than at any point in our recent past, we must be utilizing the technology readily available. This will mean we are able to perform the parliamentary aspect of our roles more easily during the crisis and put constituency concerns directly to ministers without putting people at risk.

My hope is that when we come out of this, we don’t lose some of that good work. Having proven that people can work smarter using technology, we might opt not to revert to all the old ways of working when the emergency is over.

Stewart Stevenson
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