People across Scotland can make non-essential journeys in their local authority area from Friday 2 April when a requirement to Stay Local will replace the Stay at Home rule.
Hairdressers, garden centres, car showrooms and forecourts, homeware stores and non-essential click and collect services will be able to open from Monday 5 April, subject to enhanced safety measures including physical distancing, face coverings and pre-booking where appropriate. More college students will be able to return to on-campus learning and 12-17 year-olds will be able to resume outdoor contact sports from this date.
Restrictions on non-essential travel across local authority boundaries will remain in place. People must stay within their council area for non-essential shopping and should only travel to another area for essential shopping if there are no practical alternatives. People should also continue to work from home where they can to prevent unnecessary contact that could risk transmission of the virus.
I have grave concerns that while the UK government is trying to bypass the European Union, they are also trying to bypass Scotland. The outcome of which would be to make us the most insignificant part of an increasingly insignificant island. Brexit will accomplish the first part of their ill-conceived master plan as is shown by the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics which showed UK exports of goods to the EU plunged by 40.7% in January, the biggest monthly decline in British trade for more than 20 years.
The latest figures from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) show that the agriculture and food sector has been one of the hardest hit with new checks and requirements for health certificates a significant barrier to trade. This is backed up by a report from a Scottish langoustine producer bemoaning the fact that he now has to produce 38 pages of paperwork and pay additional fees in excess of over £500 per shipment to export to France. He says it is crippling his business. Overall figures now show that food and drink exports collapsed in January, plunging overall by 75.5% year on year. And the second part of this journey to oblivion is facilitated by the UK government using the powers they gave themselves in the Internal Market Bill and making decisions on a UK wide basis, the latest being the Infrastructure Review, without any engagement with the devolved powers. Scotland is being press ganged into taking part in a hazardous journey and it is time to launch the lifeboats. All aboard.
Farmers, landowners and land managers across Scotland can now access a £22 million fund to undertake peatland restoration projects.
This is the next stage of the ten year, £250 million package announced by the Scottish Government in February 2020, and underlines the essential contribution that restoring degraded peatland makes to addressing the twin crises of the global climate emergency and biodiversity loss.
Peatland restoration is a key part of the Scottish Government’s goal of achieving a net-zero Scotland by 2045 at the latest.
As well as smaller projects, the 2021 funding round has been expanded also to welcome large-scale schemes over multiple years, enabling more flexible planning of projects and providing longer-term confidence to those looking to invest in people and machinery to undertake works on the ground.
An old friend of mine passed away during the week. That’s a phrase many of us will have used during the pandemic. But it doesn’t carry any less weight. The loss of a friend makes me look back to the times we had together, simpler times. My days as a kid kicking a ball about the Battery or as a young man playing rugby at the Wanderers. It’s easy to misrepresent these times through a fog of nostalgia but the truth is that pre-Covid times actually were simpler. We have all had a burden placed upon us by a virus. A virus that dictates that we can’t see our loved ones, that our work and our social life is disrupted. A virus that heightens our own feelings of mortality. But good can come of this. We can nurture a better understanding of what really matters. We can appreciate our friends while we have them. And in the meantime, in order to work our way through the pandemic, the requirement to adjust falls upon us all and the more responsible of us have taken that on board.
Unfortunately, some it seems will never learn. For them it is always someone else’s problem. There is a song, there is always a song, called Respect Yourself by The Staple Singers which contains the lyrics ’if you disrespect anybody that you run into, how in the world do you think anybody is supposed to respect you’. It’s not Shakespeare but it speaks to me. Respect yourself and your community and we may just emerge from this pandemic a better, more appreciative, more tolerant society.