Calls for a more equal society as Scotland steps out of lockdown

Some 80 civic societies have written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to insist people be placed before profit as Scotland makes its recovery from coronavirus.

By Neil McGrory, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 1st June 2020, 2:10 pm
The signatories have asked for a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
The signatories have asked for a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The groups, which operate across various sectors including health, inequality, the environment, food and housing, all insist coronavirus and climate change are worsening inequalities in society.

Charities, trade unions, churches and community groups have together proposed five steps for the forthcoming recovery plan and economic stimulus that will enable the building of a fairer, greener and more equal society.

These are to provide essential public services for people, not profit, protect marginalised people and those on low incomes by redistributing wealth, provide new funds to transform the society and economy to meet Scotland’s share of climate emissions cuts and enhanced biodiversity,

to strengthen democracy and human rights, and provide solidarity across borders by backing an international response to coronavirus and climate emergency.

Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly said: “Since the start of this crisis, we have seen the strength of compassion and solidarity at the heart of our communities. But we have also seen that our economy is failing to live up to these values.

“Our social security system and labour market have failed to protect too many of us from the grip of poverty: particularly women, disabled people and people from black and minority ethnic communities. Even before Covid-19 arrived, one in five people in Scotland was living in poverty.

“As we plan our economic recovery, we must build back better. We must design a more just taxation system, provide affordable and accessible public services, build a labour market that works for everyone, and ensure that everyone has an income that meets their needs.”

UNISON Scotland convenor Lilian Macer added:  “Public services and the workers in them have demonstrated their value during this crisis. Health and care workers, cleaners and domestics, shop workers, posties and transport workers. All have stepped up to the plate. All are low paid. In the recovery phase we must ensure that the services they provide are protected for the future and that they are rewarded better for the jobs they do all of the time and not just in a crisis. The future must provide justice for these workers”

Friends of the Earth’s Caroline Rance added: “As we recover from coronavirus, we have a chance to transform our society and economy in a way that puts people and the planet first. The Scottish Government’s recovery plan must lay the foundations for a fairer, greener future.

“We need huge public investment in good, green jobs and a Just Transition to a zero carbon economy. By ensuring that Scotland does its fair share of international climate action we can help mitigate the devastation of unchecked climate breakdown.”

Zarina Ahmad, from the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisation, said: “At the heart of Scottish Government’s Recovery Plan there must be social and climate justice ensuring the existing inequalities in society are tackled,  with vulnerable and marginalised people in Scotland being protected, valued and part of an inclusive society. Furthermore, International solidarity is paramount to tackling inequalities with an international coronavirus and climate emergency response being recognised and supported.”

Anna Brown, from Scottish Youth Climate Strike, added:  “If the coronavirus pandemic has proven anything, it is that humanity is capable of rising to the occasion during a crisis. It is of extreme importance that we learn this lesson as we move forwards to face a far greater challenge: the ongoing climate emergency.

“There is opportunity for a green recovery which takes into account the urgent need for both climate action and justice for all. By listening to the voices of the youth and by educating people on the need for climate action, we can take this chance for change. It is our future we are fighting for and we need you to take this as an opportunity to become a fairer, greener country. Now is the time!”

The signatories have asked for a meeting with Ms Sturgeon.