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Light at the end of the tunnel despite Covid restrictions


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Holyrood Notebook by Rhoda Grant

Price increases will hit travellers on the far north line in 2021.
Price increases will hit travellers on the far north line in 2021.

Can I wish you all a Happy New Year, I hope you had a restful festive season. We look forward to 2021 and hope it will bring better times.

The decision to change the Christmas regulations caught us all on the hop and came as a bitter blow to many who had hoped to see loved ones for the first time in many months.

For me, it meant a cancelled Christmas with my sister who had already bought a large amount of food for our visit. However, my other sister stepped in and invited us for Christmas Day. I was also able to visit my mother in her sheltered housing in the run up to Christmas. So, all in all I have little to complain about.

The new more infectious strain of Covid-19 has meant we are back where we started with an extreme lockdown. We saw how quickly it spread and I can’t help thinking had we had more information on the new strain in December people would have been much more wary.

What is different is that we know that this current lockdown is time limited.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though, the final hurdle is mass vaccination, and hopefully we will be able to get back to some semblance of normality when we all receive the jab.

That’s not to take away from the difficulty 2020 brought to us, but we should also be thankful to the many people stepped up to the plate and waded in to help others.

For those who are feeling depressed or down, please, please, reach out to family of friends or one of the many helplines out there who give mental health support. And remember this will pass.

What heartens me though is that, despite what we’ve suffered, we should eventually have more freedom this year.

I’m trying not to look back, but I do think the pandemic has made us realise how special our family and friends are and how we should give more help to others who live in our community.

It made me realise how many jobs are key and should be rewarded appropriately, from NHS and care staff to refuse workers, teachers, and all the myriad of services that our councils carry out, day in and day out sometimes without a word of praise, to retail, hospitality and postal workers.

For the SNP government to give £500 to one sector smacks of a sound-bite policy, when what is needed are pay scales which reward people for the services delivered despite the risks involved during a pandemic.

While the Scottish Government appears to many as good at communication, I hope that during this Scottish Parliament election year people will look deeper at its woeful record on education, on drugs deaths, on NHS improvements, transport and jobs.

Let’s not forget what the Tories have brought us through Brexit either. I can’t get over the television pictures, days before Christmas, of hundreds of lorry drivers stuck in their cabs at Dover, wanting to get home to their families.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour has called on the Scottish Government to freeze rail ticket costs in the light of a UK government announcement prices would rise beyond inflation for the first time since 2013.

A rise of 2.6 per cent will come into effect from March 1. That decision will impact on Scottish rail services.

The far north is more aware than most how increases can affect services and I believe the Scottish Government should commit now to freezing fares for the foreseeable future while the country gets back on its feet.

This year, as every year, what will keep me going is the need to stick up for your communities and for you. Wishing you all a better 2021.

Rhoda Grant MSP.
Rhoda Grant MSP.
  • Rhoda Grant is a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands


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