Scottish Labour Policy Forum: Covid-19 update
Scottish Labour is a democratic socialist party. We make our policy together, through our policy development process leading to next year’s Scottish Parliament manifesto. It is designed to involve all members, local parties, trade unions, socialist societies, elected representatives as well as the wider community. It is the most open and engaging process adopted by any political party.
As the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown was implemented, we were completing our second stage consultation. We will now finish that stage virtually. Our policy commissions are looking at the evidence submitted and drafting a final stage document for consideration by our elected Scottish Policy Forum later this month.
We recognise that many organisations were unable to respond to the second stage consultation because of the pandemic. For that reason, we have built-in some flexibility into what is usually an internal final stage of the process. This means we will consider all submissions before making final decisions in the autumn.
Drafting a policy programme during a pandemic is challenging, and Scottish Labour will continue to listen to views as we review the lessons learned. After a decade of austerity, our public services and the economy were stretched before the pandemic. Scottish Labour is committed to ensuring that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past – we will aim to build back better.
There are immediate concerns around government preparedness, particularly over Personal Protective Equipment, the provision of intensive care beds and testing for the virus. The health and care chapter will recognise that the NHS hospital, community, and social care workforce have responded magnificently to the crisis. We must prioritise staff welfare given the stress many workers have operated under and ensure their efforts are properly recognised.
The coronavirus pandemic poses a massive threat to the Scottish economy, which was struggling to match UK growth rates before the crisis. If we are to ensure that the Scottish economy is robust enough to weather the storm of coronavirus it is of the utmost importance that governments, businesses and trade unions work together to develop a plan to rebuild and reform our economy sustainably. In particular, we are recognising that the pandemic has shown that we cannot function without a wide range of public service, retail and other essential workers who are often the lowest paid in society on insecure contracts.
The pandemic has disrupted most parts of the education system. There will be immediate concerns over the assessment of pupil performance and how safe teaching can be maintained as lockdown is relaxed. As well as funding, particularly in further and higher education. Scottish Labour has set out the need for a strategy to mitigate the attainment gap widened by the shutdown. Such a strategy would aim to protect the health and mental well-being of children and young people and staff, to consider approaches to schools opening, and the role of home learning and online learning.
The crisis has highlighted the importance of communities of place and interest, which have responded marvellously to support each other through difficult times. We must assist communities with properly funded local services that enable our communities to prosper, as well as strengthening local democracy. That includes new homes and real protection for tenants. Our natural environment has had an enforced breather during the crisis, and we must ensure that we take the necessary action to address the climate change crisis.
How Scotland comes out of the pandemic will depend on the creativity of our people and the willingness of political parties to commit to real change. Scottish Labour is grateful to everyone who has contributed to our policy process and welcomes further ideas on how we can build a better Scotland.
For further information, you can visit our dedicated policy web site www.scotlabpolicy.org