Time to put people first after two years of hardship - Lorna Slater

After two years of hardship and pandemic, 2022 must be a year of change and recovery that puts people first.

Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 7:00 am
Lorna Slater, Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity

The omicron outbreak meant that New year celebrations were quieter than usual. Street parties and gatherings were cancelled across Edinburgh and beyond. For many, it was a difficult finish to a hard year.

Our NHS teams and other frontline workers have above and beyond, and we all owe them our sincerest thanks and gratitude. That's why we all need to be cautious, get our vaccines and encourage our friends and family to do the same.

It is sometimes hard to believe, but these days will eventually pass. And, when they do, we have to make sure that the society we rebuild is one that recognises and responds to the pain and loss that so many have experienced.

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Our services need to be resilient and robust. The policies we implement and changes we introduce must be ones that focus on wellbeing, equality and environmental justice rather than going back business as usual.

When I look to Boris Johnson and his Westminster colleagues I see a big moral vacuum. Their failure to reintroduce furlough and adequately support people and businesses made the festive period so much harder than it would otherwise have been.

I've been contacted by so many people and businesses that are suffering amidst the uncertainty. Yet, despite the welcome steps we have taken, we haven't had the powers to respond in the way we would have liked to.

The UK government knows the impact of their decisions, but that hasn't stopped them from punishing the most vulnerable.

They have delivered a hard Tory brexit that has hammered businesses during a pandemic while introducing a national insurance hike that has hit households and people on low incomes. They topped this off with a cruel and unnecessary Universal Credit cut that has plunged tens of thousands of children and their families into poverty.

We can do so much better than this. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequalities in our society. We need to ensure that our recovery is one that reflects the country we want to be.

That is why I am proud that the Scottish Government is doubling the Scottish child payment, which will be worth an additional £500 for every child. We understand the impact that the last two years have had, which is why we are supporting people and investing record amounts in mental health support services.

Young people have lost out on so much over the last two years. They wont get that time back, which is why we are delivering £145 million to recruit new teachers and classroom assistants.

2022 will be a pivotal year. It will be crucial in shaping our recovery and our future.

I began 2021 as an engineer. I was a project manager in the renewable sector, where I worked on O2, the world's largest tidal turbine. A lot has changed for me since then, but my belief in science, engineering and green technology is as strong as ever. They need to be right at the heart of our vision for a better Scotland.

When I stood for parliament it was because I knew and understood the role that politicians and governments can play in building the fairer, greener world that we need.

This generation of politicians will be judged by how we responded to the pandemic and how we rebuild from it. 2022 will be crucial in shaping that legacy. There are big and era-defining decisions ahead. With a new year upon us, I am determined that we get them right.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity