Covid has created an incredible community spirit that a second Scottish independence referendum would shatter – Robert Aldridge

After a year of lockdown (on and off) there is a pent-up frustration in Edinburgh. People are on a short fuse.

By Robert Aldridge
Monday, 19th April 2021, 7:00 am
Scotland is split 50:50 on the independence question but needs to be united to ensure recovery from the Covid crisis (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland is split 50:50 on the independence question but needs to be united to ensure recovery from the Covid crisis (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

It is not surprising. Many people have been unable to work, whether on furlough or having lost their jobs. Family finances are stretched and people are starved of normal social activities.

At this time of year, Edinburgh should be gearing up for a bumper tourist season, with businesses booming and the streets, bars and restaurants full of people socialising.

I am sure there is a significant hidden mental health crisis resulting from the pandemic and the restrictions we have had to endure. I also suspect that the full impact on jobs is still to be fully felt.

The impact of Brexit has been masked by the lockdown restrictions and some businesses will have very tough decisions to take when furlough ends.

So in my view we need a total focus on recovery and on bringing the city and the country together.

The last thing we need is yet another constitutional referendum. At best, it is a distraction from the huge amount of work we need to do to get Edinburgh and the country back on its feet. At its worst, it will lead to months of instability, division and ill temper.

We all know that Scotland is divided around 50:50 on the question of independence. The worst possible time to take such a momentous decision is when we need to unite to get Scotland back on track, and in reaction to a completely abnormal situation.

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Legislation drawn up in haste in reaction to a specific event is never good. Similarly voting on our long-term future in the midst of the biggest crisis since the Second World War is unwise.

There is a huge amount of work to be done to get our city back on its feet. Whether it is helping people who have been isolated for months get the confidence to get out and mix with others, revitalising our hospitality and tourist industries, helping school and university students regain the studying time and socialising they have missed out on, tackling the growing mental health crisis or playing our part in tackling the climate emergency, it all needs us working together.

The pandemic has shown that when we have a unity of purpose it brings out the best in community spirit. There is an incredible generosity and kindness which we need to build on as we jointly create the ‘new normal’.

So let’s not throw it away with a descent into the tribalism and bitterness of yet another referendum, especially when people are on a short fuse because of lockdown. Instead let’s simply work together for the good of Edinburgh and the country.

And as the whiff of sleaze once again affects Westminster, I urge everyone in public life to follow the ‘Evening News’ test. Regardless of whether something is technically within the rules, if it would look bad on the front page of the Evening News, don’t do it!

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