19 November 2020

S5M-23416 Coronavirus (Scotland’s Strategic Approach)

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-23416, in the name of John Swinney, on coronavirus: Scotland’s strategic approach.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

The pandemic continues to blight our planet and test our endurance as weeks have turned into months. As someone with a higher potential vulnerability by reason of age, I express my gratitude to the public, both personally and as a representative of a community of people who are vulnerable for a variety of reasons.

The pandemic has always been a public health emergency. The huge majority of our population recognises it in such terms, and we, in Parliament, need to recognise it as such. We honour and respect the work that people across our communities have done in protecting us from the worst excesses of the pandemic.

It is necessary to create legal frameworks for that minority of people who wish to test the boundaries of what is permissible. However, the legal frameworks need to follow the public health action. The great majority of people are doing the sensible thing, and we should thank them all. We should do nothing that suggests to them that their commitment and action—or their inaction—are not valued; they absolutely are.

The strategic framework helps us to understand what we must and must not do. Inevitably, if a concise view is to be produced of what is happening that might be presented in a single A4 page, of necessity it will not provide all the detail that might be found in a legal document. Frankly, no person in our communities will go and read the legal documents.

There is good news: vaccines are coming along. We hear that they have encouraging outcomes, although, of course, we do not know how long the post-jab immunity will last. That is just one of many things that we do not know about this pandemic or about creating immunity in individuals. However, each development moves us a little closer to a point at which we may be able to get a pharmacological grip on the pandemic. We already know that previous inoculations for viral infections are much more limited in their effect than those for bacterial infections. For example, an injection against cholera is required every year.

The bottom line is that protecting lives is the absolute priority for all legislators and for all people in our communities. Money cannot protect our citizens. The actions of citizens who limit their contact with other people is going to make the very real difference. It is nothing more than that, in any sense.

Of course, there is no point in protecting the community if we do not make sure that there is an economy after the pandemic, so we have to provide appropriate support to businesses. I am very fortunate in that about 15 per cent of my constituency is in level 1 and the rest is in level 2. Others, in the central belt, have more substantial problems. However, even in my area, as Gillian Martin mentioned, hotspots in some food-processing factories are giving us concern. I think that the incident management teams are doing an absolutely first-class job in working their way around that.

I thank the Government and the population for everything that they are doing. I will support the motion and the Green amendment tonight.


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