When I sat down to write my last column of 2020 none of us would have imagined that a year later Covid would be dominating our Christmas plans yet again. The emergence of the Omicron variant, which is much more easily transmitted than other strains, has been a huge setback in the fight to get the disease under control.
The need to protect our NHS is now one of the biggest drivers of the restrictions we’re being asked to comply with. These are difficult at any time but even harder in the Christmas season when we all want to meet up with family and friends or go out and celebrate with work colleagues. To date, none of these things have been ruled out. The Scottish Government have so far been able to avoid anything like the full “lockdown” we saw in the early months of the pandemic. If we all comply fully with the current advice it gives them the best chance of avoiding having to impose further restrictions.
Even before there was any official government advice, people had either postponed or scaled down their plans to go out and party. This has obviously affected businesses such as pubs, hotels and restaurants, and all the others who support them. The Scottish Government has allocated an additional £100 million in emergency funding but much more is needed and it can only come from Westminster; the amounts involved can only be funded by government borrowing and none of the devolved governments has the power to borrow those amounts of money. At the time of writing, all we’ve seen from the UK Government is a re-announcement of previous funding.
For most of 2021 I haven’t been able to meet people face to face in the constituency, which for me is one of the most important parts of being an MP. I’ve been able to keep in touch online with a wide range of businesses and community organisations whose work has been crucial during an extraordinarily difficult year. Without exception these organisations are run by people who look beyond their own interests to the needs of the wider community. At a time when the papers are once again full of stories of people (usually politicians) who think they’re too important to bother with obeying the rules, we should never forget that there are far more good folk out there. I’ve been lucky enough to speak to some of the best of them this year and I’m hugely grateful to all of them for what they’re doing.
My constituency team have had another extremely busy year. Although casework numbers have eased off from the huge increase we saw at the start of the pandemic we’re still seeing over 50% more requests for help than we did before Covid. I know from seeing some of the very nice thank-you letters that come in that my constituents appreciate their work as much as I do.
I hope you all find peace and joy this Christmas and that we call all look forward to happier times next year.