Last week, some of the COVID restrictions that had been in place for many months were lifted – including with respect to physical distancing and size limits for social gatherings.
Hope people took the opportunity to have a little more fun and meet more friends and family than before.
While we’ve all been waiting for this for a long time, the COVID virus unfortunately remains a threat – and as we move into winter, it can pose challenges for us again.
However, we’re in a better position than we might have thought possible in early summer – so if we all continue to take reasonable precautions, we can hopefully keep it under control.
Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic
It is good news that 16 and 17 year olds can now be vaccinated, either by going to a walk-in clinic or by making an appointment.
Our way out of this pandemic is to get as many people vaccinated as possible, which is why it is essential that all eligible young people accept the offer of vaccination, if they can.
You can find out where your nearest walk-in clinics are by visiting NHS Inform which will direct you to the latest information from your local health board – or through your local council’s social media channels.
The past year has reminded us of the precious nature of things that we might have taken for granted before, but it has also shown that, when needed, we can achieve extraordinary things. If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that when we come together we can face any emergency and make the changes we need. In Scotland – and around the world – we have huge challenges to face and overcome – and climate change is right at the top of that list.
Leading by example in the climate emergency
Many of us will have watched reports of the devastating forest fires in Greece, the floods caused by torrential rains in Germany and Austria, and the devastating storms that swept across China, sadly killing over 300 people. The past five years have been the hottest on record, and these images show that the climate crisis – with its interrelated threats of climate change, loss of nature and pollution – remains the greatest challenge facing our planet.
I don’t think the pandemic has made people less concerned about climate change – despite the virus disrupting and dominating many aspects of our daily lives – but a new report released last week by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has definitely acted as a signal to ‘alarm.
The report painted a grim picture of the unprecedented actions now needed to save global warming ambitions. He revealed that global warming will continue at least until the middle of this century, and that failure to take urgent action to limit harmful emissions now would mean that the target set by governments to avoid exceeding 1, 5 ° C of global warming will be missed. It was a pretty terrifying warning.
With the COP26 summit set to take place in Glasgow in November, Scotland has a unique opportunity to shape the climate change narrative and show the world the work we are doing to tackle the climate emergency. We have already set ambitious targets to reduce Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045 – five years ahead of the UK – and we must continue to lead by example.
The Glasgow conference could be the last chance for world leaders to come together and make the bold and ambitious decisions that are more vital than ever. The decisions we make in November could affect the health, well-being and prosperity of our planet for decades to come. Simply put, it’s a success or failure situation.
Urgent action for a just transition
Over the past year, I think we’ve learned a lot about the kind of country we want to be and how we want to move forward with our plans to build a prosperous, fairer, and fulfilling nation. global responsibilities in a fair way, just way.
When the Prime Minister visited Scotland last week he made a callous and ill-informed joke about Margaret Thatcher’s closure of coal mines helping to fight climate change. I remember the lives and communities in Scotland that were devastated by Thatcher’s policies and his destruction of the coal industry – which had nothing to do with environmentalism or any concern for our planet.
These memories of the deindustrialization of the 1970s and 1980s made me absolutely determined to ensure that the move towards a net zero society was fair, with its benefits shared equitably among citizens, and all negative consequences identified and mitigated.
The task we face in the years to come is urgent and difficult, but it is not impossible. It just doesn’t require bold goals for the next few years, it requires urgent action.
We face a challenge that will affect each of us in the course of our lives. The need to act collectively and decisively has never been more urgent. Above all, we owe it to this generation and to future generations to rise to the challenge.