Like many, I have been disgusted to read the ongoing revelations around the breaking of COVID restrictions last Christmas when I and thousands of others spent the holidays without their loved ones. While I lost out on spending my mam’s last Christmas with her, our own UK Government felt they were above the rules – going so far as to laugh at those of us who followed them.
With the emergence of the new Omicron variant, it’s more important than ever that we pull together to prevent more unnecessary deaths over this festive season. My own staff Christmas party has been cancelled, and I urge everyone to be cautious and protect each other.
The recent Scottish Budget and its ambitions towards creating a fairer, greener Scotland were, I felt, a cause for socially distanced, responsible celebration.
The £831 million that will support the building of 110,000 affordable homes over the next decade was one of the key pledges for me. It is so important that we turn the tide on housing being seen as a commodity for the few to collect as much of as possible, and focus instead on providing a home for everyone in Scotland. The current housing crisis in Orkney makes this a key policy for the islands.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is also a Highlands and Islands MSP colleague, and I was able to ask her how the 2022-23 budget addresses depopulation issues across the region.
Kate outlined how it will support the delivery of Scotland’s first population strategy, to set out ambitious sets of actions to address demographic challenges.
I was heartened to hear Kate recognise that, as part of our overall investment in affordable housing, education and local government, the Scottish Government needs to make sure that it is giving its partners the tools and resources that they need to ensure that the Highlands and Islands is an attractive place to live, work and do business.
As well as addressing these issues, this is also a budget that sets Scotland on a path to a Just Transition.
Kate announced the first £20m of the 10-year £500m being invested into a Just Transition, increasing year-on-year and showing the SNP’s commitment to retraining workers.
Other spending commitments in the budget to make Scotland greener include £350m towards decarbonising one million homes across Scotland, and the equivalent of 500,000 domestic homes by 2030. Given the rising energy prices in recent months, it is of course critical that this happens without pushing more households into fuel poverty.
While Scotland forges ahead with progressive plans, the Tories at Westminster remain mired in controversy entirely of their own making and so typical of a regime that is led by a PM apparently bereft of any kind of moral compass.
As this is my final column before what is going to be, for me and many others, a very strange Christmas, I’d like to wish all readers a healthy and safe festive season.
This is a regular column by Highlands and Islands Regional SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Regional MSPs for the region have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their own views.