In thinking what to write about for this, my final column of 2021, I would under normal circumstances have reflected on the past year’s events.
However, these are not normal circumstances and we again face Christmas with a threat from Covid-19 looming. So let me begin with the pandemic and also a few words about COP26.
This time last year, we hoped that the sacrifices we had made in terms of our personal, professional and family lives would allow us to look forward to a less restrictive 2021. In many respects that’s how things turned out, but the lesson learned is the price of such freedom is constant vigilance as to the risks the virus continues to present to ourselves and others.
New variants of Covid-19 meant that many events we looked forward to, many visits we had planned and things we planned to do have had to be curtailed – some, such as the North-east’s annual shows, galas and gatherings for a second time.
These will not have been easy decisions. No less easy than the decisions facing our local businesses as they try to keep staff and customers safe while maintaining a viable enterprise. This time, in the absence of a furlough scheme, the Scottish Government has done what it can and committed £100million in support. But Holyrood is not allowed to borrow money. Only the UK Government has that power but so far is showing no sign of offering that support.
The logical thing to do would be allow the Scottish Government the power to borrow to support policy decisions. Instead, we have to wait for the UK Government to increase spending for England before any additional resource works its way through to Scotland.
Let me turn briefly to COP26. If anyone thought that climate change and its effects were something that happened in far-off places then Storm Arwen has given us evidence to the contrary. This was something the like of which the North-east has not seen for decades and the effects are still being felt.
COP26 itself was something of a mixed bag but real progress has been made with the agreements reached – provided the governments keep those promises that they signed up to.
Scotland was among the first nations in the world to declare a climate emergency and Glasgow provided an opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world our ambitious approach to tackling that and achieve a net zero future.
This approach has led to Scotland managing to produce 97% of its electricity requirements from renewable sources and in the decade to 2018, Scotland reduced emissions faster than any other nation of the UK and ahead of any G20 nation.
As we look forward to 2022, I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and my best wishes for the New Year. I look forward to continuing to work hard as your voice in Westminster over 2022.