The effect of the Covid19 pandemic on the economy has been illustrated in the figures for the retail sector published yesterday, 29th of April. For the first quarter of 2020 it shows a decline of -1.1% in Scotland. The figures are also given for GB and it is actually worse at -1.6%
This is not surprising given most shops have had to close since lockdown, March 23rd, and people understandably concentrated on buying essential supplies. Remember the images of supermarkets stripped of food stuffs and oddly – toilet paper.
As it became clear that there would be a lockdown there was panic buying and this threw sharply into focus that this country has a huge problem with our food supply chain. Many people found they could not get basic foodstuffs. Today there are still shortages for some food products.
At the end of this year we will be finishing the Brexit Transition period. The UK has left the EU and is now negotiating (or not) its future relationship with the EU. There will be new rules on trade on 1st of January 2021 and so far we are still heading towards a no deal scenario.
Brexit meant that things were already changing. It is not just the economic consequences of a pandemic which will bring about a new ‘normal’.
A struggling economy hit by the limitations of lockdown has yet to feel the effects of the new rules for living, working, travelling and doing business in the UK and EU from the 1st of January 2021.
The Alston report into poverty last year was damning in its investigation into inequality in the UK : A ‘Harsh & Uncaring’ UK – The Alston Report
Our minds might be struggling just to deal with the reality of keeping safe in our isolation but the millions having to survive on low incomes when Professor Alston collected his evidence are still there. Indeed with the economic effects of the lockdown the numbers now trying to get by on low incomes will have far exceeded the data Alston recorded.
The lack of preparedness of the UK Government and the devolved administrations to manage a pandemic is one feature of a system which was already failing millions of its citizens. Scotland’s Death Total Due to #Covid19 Rises to Over 2,000
For years our health and social care systems have been underfunded. Its workers undervalued. The NHS is not a charity. We pay for it out of our taxes so that it is free at point of need. Nothing illustrates the failure of a government to protect the health and well being of its citizens more than a nonagenarian feeling the need to raise money for our public health care system by walking for miles round his garden.
Change must happen.
There can be no back to normal.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame