Covid-19: Community Response

Published date : 24 June, 2021
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Rees. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) on securing this important and timely debate. It has been a real pleasure to hear the stories that we have heard so far about the way all our various communities have pulled together in the face of the pandemic that we have been going through, and to take a moment to celebrate the contribution of the many unsung heroes in our communities.

I will highlight just a few examples of the good work that has been carried out in the communities across my constituency of Gordon. Derek Davidson and the community council in Danestone, in the north of Aberdeen, have contributed a lot to their local community by keeping up local morale and spirits with the fairy doors and the welly wall and by organising litter picks and keeping the planters made by the gentlemen at the local men’s shed planted and brightening up the community in what has otherwise been a pretty dark time for us all.

Moving out towards Insch, in the countryside, the Rev. Dr Kay Gauld of the Insch-Leslie-Premnay-Oyne Church of Scotland and her team, Diane and Debbie, established a resilience group in the town of Insch, supporting people who were in isolation and who were shielding. They also set up a community larder, which continues to offer support, gathering—according to need —everything from firewood to clothes, bread to tinned goods, and even meals if there was a need to help out in that way.

In Ellon, the local Baptist church made its whole building available to the local food bank, which is run by the Trussell Trust and which normally operates out of a much smaller part of that building. Every square inch of the building was needed to cope with the generosity of the community in terms of the donations that were made and to accommodate the support in other aspects that was received.

In the time remaining to me, I would especially like to draw attention to what happened in the town of Huntly and how it pulled together in a particularly adverse set of circumstances earlier this year. On 2 February, the town experienced a complete failure of the gas network—a total shutdown. That left approximately 4,500 people without gas overnight, in temperatures of minus 6°. As if that was not enough, exactly the same thing happened just a month later, again leaving residents without gas overnight, that time in temperatures of minus 5°.

It was testament to the success of the multi-agency response that the prolonged losses of supply did not have more serious consequences, but what really shone through was how, without being asked, local organisations, agencies and individuals stepped up to the plate in order to assist each other in any way they could, whether that was by highlighting those in the community who were especially vulnerable or simply by taking any practical measures that they could to ensure the safety and comfort of others. It included local Facebook pages helping to share information and the local Neep & Okra Kitchen—a locally sourced food project and community business—giving away free food. So many people—too many to mention in the time available—stepped up to look after each other.

Often, it is in the worst circumstances that we find the best of ourselves. We hope that with more and more people each day being double-jabbed, an end to this situation might be in sight; and hopefully we have discovered not so much a sense of community as a renewed sense of community—the understanding that we are each of us part of something much greater and much bigger than ourselves and that our greatest calling in life is to be in the service of others. That is a sense of purpose that can serve us incredibly well in the weeks, months and years ahead as we all seek to build back better in our communities and beyond.

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