When Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the Programme for Government last week it was clearly very much one for unusual times.
Covid-19 – the single greatest threat to public health of our lifetimes – has had a profound impact on our health, economy and society, indeed the whole way we live our lives.
This was reflected in the content of the programme, recognising the need for steps to rebuild an economy that is stronger, fairer and more sustainable. In order to address some of the deep-seated challenges our country faces, the 2020-21 programme is based on our determination to recover from this virus and deliver a fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland for everybody.
Some of the key commitments are specifically to address issues around the pandemic, including the launch of a proximity tracing app, Protect Scotland, which will enhance and support our Test and Protect programme. Given recent increases in Orkney, this will no doubt be a welcome development.
The introduction of a £25 million National Transition Training Fund to provide support for up to 10,000 people facing redundancy and unemployment, alongside the Scottish Youth Guarantee to ensure every young person has the opportunity of work, education or training is also a key long-term economic boost.
Even before the pandemic, the Scottish Government had committed to a Green Energy Deal to revolutionise the renewable economy in Scotland and the rest of the UK. That deal recognised that we have a moral responsibility to tackle climate change and to lead the way in showing how our society can transition to net zero while creating economic opportunity and providing the assurance of rewarding work for all.
Underlining that commitment, the Programme for Government set out the first tranche, worth £1.6 billion, of our £2 billion low carbon funding including investments in heat and energy efficiency in our homes and buildings, a Green Jobs Fund, and industrial decarbonisation.
Elsewhere, there is a commitment to establish an independent review of adult social care, and to expand digital access to health care to ensure more people can get the treatment they need.
It will also see us improve access to community based health services through the launch of Pharmacy First, accelerating the rollout of our Community Treatment and Assessment Centres, and of our Covid-19 hubs.
In my role as Minister for Children and Young People, I am particularly proud to be part of a government that has pledged to deliver a revolution in children’s rights by incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law by the end of this parliament.
I also welcome the fact that appplications for our new Scottish Child Payment will open in November, with the first payments due to be made from the end of February 2021.
Finally, although the number of positive tests for Covid-19 in Orkney may have halted at 17 after the recent increases from 9 in mid-August, we must all remain vigilant as numbers of positive cases increase across the UK.
Stay strong folks.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Maree Todd. All regional MSPs in the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.