This week saw the State Opening of Parliament take place in Westminster, with the UK Government announcing its plans for the Parliamentary term ahead through the Queen’s Speech. Even in a reduced form due to Covid the occasion made for an impressive spectacle, even if the content of the speech was not as might have been hoped.
Several days of debate usually follow each Queens Speech, as MPs take the opportunity to pick over whatever detail has been revealed of the Government’s plans in each of the themed day’s discussions thereafter.
I took the opportunity to speak on the theme of ‘Better Jobs and a Fair Deal at Work’, and to highlight the continued challenges and opportunities ahead for the Scottish and the North East economy following Covid.
A common theme in recent times from the UK Government has been to urge the Scottish Government to get on with the ‘day job’ – something which I think the Scottish Government has getting on with rather better in most respects than has its accuser! However, that charge can cut both ways, and in areas such as broadband, mobile coverage and energy policy, it’s imperative that the UK Government gets on with its own day job of ensuring that the evident policy and delivery gaps in those areas are filled.
Scotland of course has just gone through a Holyrood election and a new Government will be formed in due course. While I am delighted with the overall result for my own party, I also understand well what it’s like to stand for election unsuccessfully. For parliamentarians who have not been successful in being re-elected, we should spare a thought for the members of their staff who work hard in the background to support them and to make sure that their offices run smoothly, who will also lose their jobs.
To all local MSP candidates who were successful, I offer my congratulations as we look forward to fulfilling our respective mandates in the period ahead. And to all of the election staff who helped to ensure that an election could take place at all in these times, and to all of the voters who turned out to make their voices heard and deliver a record turnout in the process, a big thank you also. For democracy to thrive, it needs many people to participate in the process on polling day and beyond – many more than just those fortunate enough to be asked to give a victory speech once the votes have been counted.
This is also the end of Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 which followed the theme of ‘nature’. Over the past year or so, nature has provided support for many of us to maintain balance and a good mental wellbeing.
Research has shown that spending time outdoors can help combat loneliness, stress and ease worries. The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to prioritise finding time to spend outside surrounded by nature – a copy of the guide which they have published on how the outdoors can be enjoyed throughout the year can be found online here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/thriving-with-nature/guide