Nicola Sturgeon: ‘This virus cannot define our futures’

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Nicola Sturgeon has said the programme for government will not be a “normal one”

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted Scotland “cannot let coronavirus define its future”.

The first minister is due to set out her programme for government for the coming parliamentary year this week.

She warned it would not be a “normal” programme and said that health and the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic would be the “cornerstones”.

Opposition parties insisted the SNP’s plans for the country’s recovery had to be fast and “needle sharp”.

The Scottish government will announce its legislative agenda for the rest of the parliamentary session on Tuesday.

With the virus being implicated in the deaths of as many as 4,222 Scots, according to National Records of Scotland (NRS), and the country officially in recession after the lockdown, Ms Sturgeon said “this will not be a normal programme for government”.

She said: “Next week, I will set out radical and wide-ranging policies not only to help Scotland through this crisis but to drive a strong recovery with a renewed focus on what matters to people across the country.

“We have an opportunity, not simply to go back to how things were, but to address many of the deep seated challenges our country faces.

“The programme for government 2020-21 will be based on our determination to recover from this virus and deliver a fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland for everyone.”

As localised outbreaks continued in Coupar Angus, Kingspark School in Dundee and in Hawick, the first minister cautioned Scots on the need to ensure the virus remains under control.

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Nicola Sturgeon will reveal her programme for government on Tuesday

She said that businesses and individuals had made extraordinary sacrifices to tackle the pandemic praised the incredible resilience, compassion and skill of local communities to provide everything from the most advanced intensive care, to simple acts of kindness.

“At the same time we must also look to the future, to think about how we can help people, businesses and communities recover from this pandemic,” she said.

“We cannot, and should not, let this virus define our futures.”

Help needed ‘months ago’

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said Nicola Sturgeon had to face up to the issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic “now, not later”.

He said: “Businesses have been absolutely decimated and help should have been given by the SNP government months ago instead of leaving it to this point during a pandemic to announce something.

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The Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see a reversal on the increase in childcare hours

“Already Scotland is facing a deeper recession than the UK as a whole, with unemployment rising faster here – that’s real people finding themselves out of work.”

He added: “It’s vital plans are put in place now to ensure the economy can rebuild and peoples livelihoods are protected.”

He suggested one issue which could be addressed now was for the SNP to work with the UK government to trial a new payment for those in lockdown or isolation who cannot go to work.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard urged the Scottish government to prevent the rising tide of poverty and an “impending tsunami of job losses”.

He said: “Scottish Labour is calling on the government to bring forward an equivalent of the Scottish Child Payment and is demanding action to retain and create jobs. The economic crisis cannot be understated and requires a bold response from the Scottish government.”

‘Strong childcare service’

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie called for a package of action that addressed the immediate economic need, promoted recovery in health and care services, and planned for future prosperity.

He said: “The focus of the Scottish government on economic and social recovery from the virus crisis needs to be needle sharp. There must be no distractions.

“One of the specific measures that the Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see in the programme is the reversal of the year-long delay in entitlement to 1,140 hours of childcare. We say there will be no strong economic recovery without a strong childcare service.”

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