Scottish Government announces COVID-19 recovery strategy

The Scottish Government has announced that people who have suffered the most as a result of the pandemic will be at the heart of Scotland’s Covid recovery strategy.

Scottish Government announces COVID-19 recovery strategy

John Swinney

The new strategy, For a Fairer Future, sets out the next steps in Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic, recognising that while the pandemic has affected every area of life in Scotland, those who were already struggling have been hardest hit by its effects.

The strategy aims to address systemic inequalities made worse by covid, improve people’s wellbeing, and remobilise public services to be more focused on people’s needs, building on lessons learned during the pandemic.

Actions to achieve this will include upskilling and retraining opportunities for workers impacted by the pandemic and the transition to net-zero, help for low-income families most at risk of poverty, and locally-based mental health and wellbeing support for children and young people.

While the strategy is focused over the next 18 months, it includes a series of actions over the course of this Parliament to deliver substantial improvements in child poverty, make significant progress towards net zero, and secure an economic recovery that is fair and green.

John Swinney, deputy first minister and covid recovery secretary, said: “The impacts of this pandemic have not been felt evenly with the most disadvantaged suffering disproportionately from the virus, and the social and economic effects of lockdown restrictions.

“For that reason, our recovery must go further than how life was before Covid. This strategy sets out how we will do that, working with local government, the third sector, and businesses large and small.

“It is the product of months of engagement with a variety of individuals and organisations representing sectors across the country, including the Citizen’s Assembly and the Social Renewal Advisory Board.”

He added: “The experience of the past 18 months has shown us what can be achieved when we look past traditional barriers to get the right service or support to people when they need it.

“By working together with the same energy, imagination, and urgency as we approached the pandemic, we can drive a recovery that delivers more for all of Scotland.”

COSLA President Councillor Alison Evison commented: “I welcome the publication of this strategy and its vision, which has many parallels with the COSLA Blueprint. Covid-19 has had an immeasurable impact on communities across Scotland and although we continue to respond to the many challenges it presents, we must also take the necessary action to address inequalities in our society that have only worsened as a result of the pandemic.

“Local Government will be at the heart of recovery, just as we were in response to the pandemic. Recovery is a shared endeavour that requires us all to work together to address the areas of greatest harm resulting from the pandemic, and deliver an inclusive and green recovery for all of Scotland. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to deliver on a collaborative approach to recovery that is at all times rooted in the needs of the people that we serve.”

Louise Macdonald, national director of the Institute of Directors Scotland, said: “A strong, sustainable wellbeing economy and a fair, equal society are interdependent. We welcome the clarity in this strategy that a thriving economy underpins a successful recovery, especially in making the difference for those greatest affected by poverty and inequality. Leaders from business and cross-sector organisations in communities in every part of Scotland have played a vital part in the response to the pandemic in a myriad of ways and it is that spirit of collaboration, innovation and purpose – through collective effort and shared vision – which will deliver this ambitions of this strategy.”

Andrew McRae, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland, added: “Scotland’s recovery from the Covid crisis won’t be possible without economic recovery. Smaller businesses have an impressive track record of creating jobs and healing communities after economic shocks – so they must be at the heart of implementing this welcome recovery plan. We’re looking forward to working with the Scottish Government to ensure delivery of these plans is designed with small and new start businesses, as well as the self-employed, front and centre.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “There is much in the Recovery Strategy that the retail industry can get behind and support, especially the measures on skills, more affordable housing, better collaboration with business on economic policy, and delivering a retail strategy before the year end.

“The strategy explicitly acknowledges the impact of the pandemic and associated restrictions continues to be felt acutely on Scotland’s high streets, where shopper footfall and retail sales remain well below pre-pandemic levels. However, what’s missing is immediate action to bring energy and footfall back into our city centres and retail destinations and to help hard-pressed consumer-facing businesses over the next few months. City centre retailing can be a springboard for the economy to bounce back but for that to happen there needs to be a concerted effort to start the safe return of office workers to our city centres and to entice shoppers back.”

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