I wouldn’t normally be writing a column at this time of year, as it usually takes a break at the same time as the Scottish Parliament. However, although Holyrood is now officially in recess until 20th April – and the family should be on holiday in Ireland – my Easter break, as with everyone else, will consist of staying at home.
I feel fortunate to be able to enjoy a run in the countryside just by leaving my house. As we enter the third week of near lockdown in the UK, and with the clocks having gone forward and the schools now on holiday, I realise that obeying the Stay at Home message will be getting increasingly hard for many.
As time goes by it will be important for folk to look after their mental health as well as physical health, as many workers may be at a loose end if they have been placed on furlough. The situation is an understandable cause of concern and anxiety for many people. NHS 24 has already begun to see an increase and we anticipate this will continue to grow. A further £3.8 million was announced to increase the capacity of NHS 24’s telephone and online services. This includes £2.6 million to expand the NHS 24 Mental Health Hub and Breathing Space and £1.2 million to provide extra capacity for Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. A dedicated page on mental health support has been added to the NHS Inform website and can be found at www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus-mental-wellbeing.
The weekend incident surrounding the former Chief Medical Officer only serves to emphasise that no one is immune from the rules. Catherine Calderwood had to resign, realising that travelling away from her home was not in line with the advice we as the Scottish Government are asking everyone to follow. She has apologised unreservedly for this. It is clear that her mistake risked distracting from and undermining confidence in the government.
At the same time as these events were unfolding, I was disappointed to hear reports from Orkney of house parties having to be broken up by the police. With Orkney now having a number of confirmed Covid-19 cases – four as I write on Monday night – this type of behaviour risks spreading the virus and putting additional strain on our already hard-working health service staff. These irresponsible incidents really must not be repeated if we are to give our NHS a fighting chance of coping with any escalation of cases in the islands.
One of the many events to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic was Monday’s 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. Among the signatories of this historic document was Magnús Jónsson, who was Earl of Caithness and Orkney at the time.Amidst all that is going on, it is still important to recognise the anniversary of this document and its historic significance in establishing the constitutional principle of the sovereignty of the people. Our history, after all, is also our present and our future.
Stay safe folks.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Maree Todd. All list MSPs for the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their own views.