Opposition MSPs from all parties have rightly expressed concern that we have been given very little opportunity to scrutinise the continuation of these emergency measures, which sadly is a reflection on how decisions have been made since the start of the pandemic.
The limiting of scrutiny and debate throughout the pandemic has been extremely concerning and moves by ministers to retain an excess of powers must be fully considered. The failure to genuinely consult with businesses and the public whose lives and livelihoods are affected by Covid restrictions has undoubtedly had a negative impact on people and there is concern this will also impact on the fragile economic recovery in Scotland.
Whilst it is essential we move cautiously, it is more important than ever to remember that the decisions MSPs take impact on people’s livelihoods, businesses and our economic recovery.
The lifting of Covid restrictions has been pushed back until 9 August, with a rise in the number of cases from Covid variants. What is reassuring is that the number of people in hospital, and in particular intensive care, is lower than it has been, which shows that the UK Government’s vaccination programme is delivering the protection needed.
Approximately four out of five people who are 18 and over have received their first dose and three out of five have received their second dose. Frontline healthcare staff, volunteers and the army have been outstanding and done an exceptional job in getting vaccinations into people’s arms.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has presented all governments with unprecedented challenges – however the early decisions and investment made by the UK Government in the research and vaccination production programme has been world-leading.
As we emerge from the lockdown and the restrictions on our lives are lifted, it is essential that elected representatives consult with businesses and people about how best we build back better.
It is vital that politicians in both of Scotland’s governments listen to people, communities and businesses, to put into place policies that are most beneficial to aiding our long-term recovery.
And it is vital that we look to the future and how we promote Edinburgh and the wider South-East Scotland region to investment. The recent opening of the new St James Quarter, for example, can only bode well for Edinburgh and Lothian’s recovery from Covid-19 – and work to make Edinburgh the best city in which to live, work and play.
Finally to update readers, the campaign to deliver a new Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion has finally made some welcome progress with the news that NHS Lothian has been asked to resubmit a business case for a new hospital, after the project was effectively cancelled by SNP ministers six months ago.
I very much welcome the cross-party working which has forced SNP ministers to make a U-turn on the decision. What is now important is to progress the project and I will be pressing the Scottish Government to give it the green light as soon as possible.
Miles Briggs is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian