It really was heart-warming to hear that the biggest ever vaccination clinic that Orkney has seen went ahead despite the wintry weather at the weekend.
It is fantastic that over 1,000 Mainland residents between 70 and 74 were given the opportunity to get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and while some didn’t make it due to the weather I understand arrangements are in place to catch up with them all in due course.
It is testament to the community spirit in Orkney that Police Scotland and Orkney Islands Council were involved in ensuring as many folk as possible could get to the Balfour Hospital safely, and the volunteer marshals were on hand to keep everyone right.
Here’s hoping for slightly easier road conditions when the next mass vaccination clinic, for 65 to 69-year-olds on the Mainland, is due to take place this coming weekend.
As we make rapid progress with getting the vaccine to folk the length and breadth of Scotland, the plans for economic recovery are running in tandem.
Tuesday at Holyrood saw a debate on the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s Green Recovery Inquiry.
I know that discussions have already been taking place in Orkney about how a greening of the economy could be a key route out of the present situation. The islands are certainly well placed, being at the forefront of developments in marine renewables as well as energy storage and management.
At a national level, a green recovery is at the heart of successive Scottish Government policy publications, including the 2020-21 Programme for Government and the Climate Change Plan update.
The commitment to ensuring Scotland’s recovery from COVID-19 is green has been prioritised despite the significant financial challenges of COVID-19, delays to the UK Budget, the UK Government Spending Review worsening our capital position and key powers remaining reserved to Westminster.
And everybody will be able to play their part. Responding to the Global Climate Emergency is a truly national endeavour. We also need the UK Government to match not just our ambition but our action.
While all these longer-term plans are taking shape, Orkney’s school pupils will – hopefully – be looking forward to a return to some kind of normality in the near future. I appreciate only too well the burden being placed on many families as they navigate this COVID pandemic. As Minister for Children and Young People, I am also acutely aware of the need to maintain teaching and learning wherever possible. In doing so, the health and wellbeing of our children, young people and staff is paramount.
The Scottish Government’s priority has been to ensure a safe return for children and young people to school and nursery as quickly as possible. That is why the steps that were announced last week are guided by the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and public health experts. Scotland’s children and young people will begin a gradual, phased return to classrooms supported by a testing regime and enhanced guidance. Stay strong folks.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Maree Todd. All regional MSPs for the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.