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Isolation opening new doors for Stevenson as MSP launches blog


By Alan Beresford


THE life of an MSP is a busy one, but for Banffshire and Buchan Coast's Stewart Stevenson the coronavirus has forced him and wife Sandra to swap a hectic existence for isolation.

The transition from parliament chamber to isolation has prompted MSP Stewart Stevenson to launch a blog detailing his experiences.
The transition from parliament chamber to isolation has prompted MSP Stewart Stevenson to launch a blog detailing his experiences.

Mr Stevenson is one of four MSPs over the age of 70 who have been limiting their social contact in response to the spread of the virus, but far from being left penned in by the necessity has decided to share his experiences with others through a new blog.

Through it, he hopes to share his experiences of isolation as an over-70 in the hope that it will help others in a similar situation feeling lonely or anxious.

His Diary of the Eighth Decade got under way on March 22 with reflections on getting to grips with domestic tasks and he revealed it was a chance request for comment on the Covid-19 crisis which sparked the whole project off.

He said: "I was coming back from Edinburgh when I was contacted by a newspaper asking me for my thoughts as one of the four MSPs over 70 going into exclusion.

"It made me think about keeping an online diary to help me understand what was happening to me better and also to communicate with my constituents.

"For many folk my age this is a stressful and anxious time, having lived through many major events I truly have never seen anything like this and so I want to share my journey from beyond the 70-year barrier.

“My experience cannot and indeed must not, be unique. If over-70s are to stay healthy and not overwhelm the NHS, we've got a significant role to play. Our actions matter. Our actions can set an example for other age groups and it's important that we are seen to be doing this.

"We have a duty to ourselves and also to the wider community.

"As far as the blog goes, I'll keep doing as long as I'm able or there's a public demand for me to stop."

Serving a constituency which runs from Buckie to Peterhead, plus attending the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, normally makes for a busy schedule for Mr Stevenson, so a degree of dislocation was inevitable as he confined himself to his home near Cornhill.

"It's essentially been a case of adapting to the world behind the gate," he continued.

"Being country dwellers we're used to being more self-sufficient than perhaps someone living in an urban area would be so it's not been so bad an upheaval.

"I'm doing a longer walk every day than I'd normally do and I think I may even be a bit fitter asa result, too.

"What do I miss most? Well, I'd have to say gossiping with colleagues when I meet them in the corridors of the Scottish Parliament is one thing, as is meeting and talking to people on the train going to and from Holyrood."

The Covid-10 crisis has so far seemed to provoke the best and worst in society, with needless panic buying and instances of shop staff and other key workers facing inexcusable abuse being counterbalanced with volunteer groups springing up all over the country to look after the old and vulnerable.

Mr Stevenson was quick to praise those who have stepped up to the plate so quickly.

"People's approach to the crisis has been very variable. In Edinburgh, there're a lot of empty shelves but where we shop in Huntly there it has been little affected.

"In densely populated areas the health and panic buying problems appear to have been greater.

"I very much support the ad hoc community groups who are coming together to help those who need it. The most important thing is trying to identify who needs help. Many older folk can be a bit shy about asking for help and we don't want them to leave it too late.

"Myself and Sandra are contemplating supporting our local foodbank. Unfortunately, we can't do this in person at the moment as, of course, that wouldn't be appropriate, but I'm sure a cheque will be on its way to them soon to help them source provisions. The vital role they played before the crisis has just become even more important."

Mr Stevenson has had a long political career, both in and out of Holyrood, but the current situation has surpassed anything he has experienced before.

He commented: "'Unprecedented' is a word which has been used a lot and justifiably so.

"For politicians, these have indeed been interesting and challenging times – just about everybody who has come into the role [of a politician] has done so for the right reasons, to help communities get the best for their lives. of course, we may disagree how that is achieved but we all basically want the best for people.

"In the face of this dreadful situation we are facing politicians are putting their differences behind them to share the heavy lifting of finding a solutions.

"I find it quite heartening for the future of politics."

In the normal way of things Mr Stevenson would have been winding down his career after announcing his retirement from the Scottish Parliament after what will be 19 years serving first of all Buchan and Buchan and then Banffshire and Buchan Coast from 2011.

He joked: "I sometimes think life doesn't want me to retire at times!"

Follow Mr Stevenson's blog at http://8th.decade.scot

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