Your collective efforts to protect our communities and NHS has been exemplary and has undoubtedly already saved lives and will continue to do so in the weeks ahead.
Even as we look toward a gradual easing of lockdown measures, it is clear that day to day life is going to be very different. Just as we have seen local businesses reinvent themselves over these past weeks to provide lockdown services, we will need to reinvent ourselves to protect our post-virus communities and local economy.
Like many of you, I have been working remotely via digital connections. I’ve been participating in parliamentary debates and representing the views of people here via video link. I have been conducting meetings with industry, local businesses and, crucially, helping constituent with their issues via video, phone and email contact, as well as connecting with people through my social media feeds.
While it has been a hectic time for my team and me, I am acutely aware that we, and all of those who can work from home, are the lucky ones. Not everyone can do their job from the comfort of their home.
This increased use of technology isn’t limited to communication. While, online shopping has long been a challenge facing our High Street, and manufacturing has been grappling with further automation for some time, the COVID crisis has accelerated the trend to go further.
People who had never ordered online before or had food or goods delivered to their homes now have, and it is habit-forming. Our tourism industry, which has helped our physical ‘High Street’ economy to survive, will also face new challenges for short to medium term at least. Experts do not predict anything more than a minimal uptake in traditional business before summer 2021 – considering quarantine, travel conditions and attitudes to travel safety.
The ‘furlough’ scheme has helped and has been welcome but extended for a relatively short period and businesses will not have recovered in time to foot part of the furlough bill post-August, as suggested by the Chancellor.
Our most significant challenges as we recover from COVID 19 are going to be keeping people in employment and our local economy moving. A Universal Basic Universal Income would help us meet that challenge and my SNP colleagues and I will keep up our pressure on the Chancellor to put this universal support in place.
Without a doubt, there are tough times ahead, but here in the Highlands we are creative, inventive and resilient and, if we all pull as one, we can look after each other and rebuild our communities and economy.
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