The last week or so has given Edinburgh its fair share of extreme weather, as we were hit with the full force of the Beast from the East – causing extensive disruption to people across the Capital.
Schools were forced to close as the conditions took a turn for the worse – giving many children a well-earned snow day to enjoy the winter weather. But of course, it brought some serious issues as well – with many shops reporting shortages of basic food items such as bread and milk. With many people, especially the elderly, struggling to leave their homes, the winter weather meant havoc and concern for many.
We will all have seen the videos and pictures on social media, some showing off Edinburgh as the beautiful and scenic place it is, and others showing the terrifying risks that this extreme weather can bring – not least the clip of the skilful bus driver Charmaine Laurie, who managed to avoid a serious collision with a car at Fairmilehead.
But it was this kind of skill and commitment from our public servants that ensured people across Edinburgh and much of the country were kept safe in these treacherous conditions.
As ever, our fantastic nurses and doctors continued to keep our hospitals staffed no matter whether the weather warnings were amber or red – making their way through some of the worst conditions Edinburgh has seen in years and working long hours to make sure those that needed help got it. In what is often a thankless task, our NHS staff always go above and beyond to keep us safe – and the commitment they showed over the last week epitomises what a great public service they provide, so I thank them on behalf of all of my constituents.
But it’s not just NHS staff that have helped keep us safe over the last week. Our council workers, transport staff, police and others have all played their part in preventing serious harm – from gritting and ploughing roads and streets, getting our trains and buses running again as quickly as possible and, as ever, responding quickly to the conditions to keep those making essential journeys moving.
A special mention also has to go out to 3rd Battalion the Rifles – based at Dreghorn – for assisting NHS staff and helping them get to work in the Army’s 4x4 vehicles. .
It is worth bearing in mind the reason for this extreme weather – and remembering that there will be more disruption like it in future if we don’t take action now.
Above average temperatures in the Arctic – up to 30C warmer than normal at this time of year – is linked to the area of high pressure which allowed the icy air to make its way from Siberia across Europe and onto Scotland. If we continue to avoid the urgent action needed to tackle the immediate threat of climate change – which can no longer be considered something for the future, but for the here and now – this kind of disruption, whether on the roads or in the form of food shortages, will become much more commonplace in the years to come.
This is why the Scottish Government’s climate change plan, launched last week amidst the climate chaos, is so important – aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds by 2032; end the need for petrol and diesel cars; increase woodland; introduce low-emission zones, and much more.
With this kind of action, renewing our world-leading efforts to fight climate change, we can continue to make a difference to our wider environment and hopefully prevent the kind of climate change that leads to the extreme and dangerous weather that we’ve seen in Scotland last week, and in California, the Caribbean, South Asia and across the world in recent months. However, in the face of all this disruption, the effort and desire of our public servants should be remembered and applauded as they continue to do all they can to keep our country running.
Gordon MacDonald is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands.