Dark times of Covid sees inspirational people shine brightly
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AN extraordinary year of challenges and community champions – that was the verdict on 2020 by Moray MSP Richard Lochhead as the new year dawned.
The year of pandemic brought with it a maelstrom of changes, often devastating and at times tragic, which touched every life, but there were many positives, too.
Mr Lochhead said: "It was an extraordinary year and clearly one which was very challenging for families, individuals and businesses with a huge impact on health and the economy.
"For many, 2020 is a year to forget but many will remember it well as a year when all the challenges we faced brought out the best in people. It was heartening to see so many people rallying round to help the more vulnerable in our communities. This has been a shining light during times which were very dark."
Like most people, Mr Lochhead found his life "turned upside down" by the lockdown. With his constituency office closed and his usual drive to get out and meet people, groups and businesses halted at a stroke by the phase 1 lockdown, new ways of working had to be found.
"Lockdown had a phenomenal impact on my day-to-day job as an MSP.
"Myself and my small team were working flat out given the gigantic volume of casework we had from people looking for advice about the Covid regulations to those dealing with some very severe challenges as a result of lockdown.
"As an MSP I usually set great store by being highly visible in the community but that wasn't possible.
"Everything was turned upside down but to an extent technology came to the rescue through the likes of Zoom and similar platforms. As a result of lockdown I started doing Facebook Live sessions, something which was completely new to me at the time. These have been very useful and I'm hoping to keep them going."
However, life is not all about work and the effects of the pandemic impacted on the whole Lochhead family – wife Fiona and sons Angus (17) and Fraser (12).
"I feel very blessed and lucky with our circumstances as a family in a situation which has been so challenging for many," Mr Lochhead continued.
"I've seen how the constraints imposed on Angus and Fraser's life has affected them – and it's not been good – and I clearly understand how this has hit young people across the country hard. Angus had his Highers cancelled last year and again this year and many of the things he enjoys – music festivals, football tournaments and going to watch the Dons – have all been cancelled.
"Fraser moved up to S1 at secondary after the summer but missed out on many of the rites of passage associated with that, including the chance to say goodbye to his primary school."
However, 2021 brings with it both hope and much to ruminate on from the impact of Covid.
Mr Lochhead said: "There is renewed hope now now as the vaccine is rolled out across Moray.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully as the year goes on we'll be able to enjoy more normality.
"We now have the twin challenges ahead of us of recovering from the impact of the pandemic and Brexit.
"For me personally there is the big challenge of the Scottish Parliament election in May.
"There's a lot for us to consider, as well. We were very fortunate during the lockdown to live in a place like Moray which has such wonderful outdoors, which was a big boost for our mental and physical health, it was a life-saver. Perhaps we'll appreciate it more now.
"The lockdown and its impact on businesses and the economy brought home how vulnerable people on lower incomes can be left when a major event like the pandemic hit. Inequalities in our society were very much exposed and this is something we have to think very seriously about as we move forward.
"Covid also highlighted the importance of many occupations, from care and health workers through to delivery drivers, who maybe hadn't been seen in the same light before."
With technology allowing MSPs to participate in debates at Holyrood over the last nine months or so, Mr Lochhead said there could still be a role for it in the years ahead.
"It was a bit of a surreal experience taking part in parliamentary debates sitting in my living room and I was very lucky, as one of the MSPs furthest away from Holyrood, to be able to do it.
"It does, I think, have further uses – for example, allowing MSPs to participate in committees held on a Friday – but I do think a parliamentarian needs to attend in person wherever possible to represent the interests of their constituents and the country."
much to ruminate on
inequalities going forward