We had some good news at the start of the week with the confirmation that all care home residents in NHS Grampian region who were fit, able and willing to receive a Covid-19 vaccine have now done so.
This represents a significant step forward in protecting some of the most vulnerable members of our community and plans obviously continue to develop to expand the vaccination programme to other vulnerable groups. Taken together with the encouraging downturn in infection numbers in Scotland, it is to be hoped that this marks solid and sustained progress towards stifling the impact of the virus on the lives of us all.
Regular readers will know that I have always been a strong opponent of Brexit, believing firmly that the best future for Scotland - whether independent or not - was to be in the EU alongside the rest of the UK.
The Brexit (2016 Edition) was one which had plenty of upsides, with any and all potential downsides being airily brushed aside. That ‘all things to all people’ prospectus frankly was never going to survive contact with negotiations and a UK Government having to make some hard political choices about what its end objectives really were.
Nowhere can that be seen more clearly right now than in the impact which the UK’s new status is having on the seafood industry. Promised a ‘Sea of Opportunity’, the industry instead faces a crisis from which some businesses will sadly not emerge.
It’s misleading to describe the current time being taken for exports to pass through the UK/EU border as representing a ‘delay’, as if matters will eventually return to what we experienced prior to Brexit. While some things will of course settle down, the harsh reality is that the increased time taken now largely represents the time required to navigate the extra bureaucracy and red tape that our importers and exporters now face.
This is obviously extremely challenging for those who export perishable products. It’s also having an impact on individuals having to pay extra to receive goods sourced from outside the UK.
This could all have been avoided had the UK Government agreed instead to remain in the single market and customs union. This would have meant no border in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and ensured the continued free-flow of goods between the UK and EU. It would also have allowed the UK to become a coastal state, with no links between access to fishing waters and access to markets.
Instead, the nature of the Brexit deal leaves our fishermen with a poorer deal than they had in the CFP. It also seems inevitable that Ireland is now on a path towards, if not formal reunification, then certainly accelerated and ever closer links between the North and the Republic. It leaves the UK diminished economically, socially, culturally and also internationally.
With both Labour and the Liberal Democrats now confirming that they will not seek to return the UK to the EU, it is more important than ever that voters in Scotland should again have the democratic opportunity to choose their own future, and to do so sooner rather than later.