STARTING the conversation on how we transition out of lockdown was a much-needed initiative from the First Minister last week. Life must go on, but any loosening of the rules must be safe and secure.

There’s no quick fix, but equally the drawbridge cannot be pulled up indefinitely if we are to meet the needs of all of our citizens and businesses.

The fact we still have more than 10,000 international travellers arriving in the UK every day with no self-isolation hasn’t helped. We are still discussing self-isolation for travellers when most countries have just done it. There has been a lot of dithering.

Worryingly, almost 40% of community care services in Glasgow have disappeared in the last few weeks. That’s almost 2000 people in Glasgow with disabilities and severe frailties not getting non-residential care services. You can’t rely on family and friends indefinitely to replace specialist care at home.

Last night’s BBC Disclosure Investigation illustrated that a total lockdown isn’t sustainable as a long-term proposition. We need to think of new mechanisms to provide more vital services in communities. That means different ways of working and PPE for more workers so they can do their job and support people.

While the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 framework document has rightly focused on public health and the economy, it will be essential to plan for financial support and resilience for vulnerable people across Scotland. In my experience these issues underpin good mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Various forms of financial support and forbearance are scheduled to come to an end in a few months. What will happen? An avalanche of redundancies, debt litigation and enforcement, evictions and mortgage repossessions? We need to prevent that from happening and I’ll explain why.

It’s helpful to remember the UK Government’s response to the financial crisis in 2008. Whereas the Covid19 pandemic is no-one’s fault – a force majeure or damnum fatale – the financial crisis was self-made and self-inflicted.

The avarice and caprice of a small number of greedy investment banks and traders who almost blew up the Western world economy.

A House of Commons briefing paper (No. 5748) confirmed that the UK spent £137billion in loans and capital to prop up UK banks during the crisis, while also providing financial guarantees to investors over £1trillion.

My starting position is simple. The pandemic is no-one’s fault. Yet, it will impact on those with the weakest employment rights, or no real rights at all.

It has already made those on low incomes poorer. Those who were struggling financially before the pandemic may be pushed over the precipice.

We have a powerful moral duty to ensure that this does not happen in Scotland.

For the record, my view has always been those who can pay must – as a matter of law and ethics.

Those who have had virtually no income because of Covid-19 – or have had to flee their homes because of domestic abuse – shouldn’t be punished for something that isn’t their


I believe we need to think about new initiatives. A new form of Covid-19 consumer debt relief in Scotland that has no impact on an individual’s credit rating. Free to access. Interest on credit is frozen. Targeted at those who’ve had a drop-in income because of Covid19. Applicants could repay debts affected up to £10,000 at between 1 and 25 pence in the pound based on good cause shown directly linked to the pandemic.

Some debts should be written off. We did it for the banks so we can do it for our most needy citizens. The Scottish Parliament could enact the necessary legislation.

I’ve spent the last few weeks working with Pauline McNeill MSP on her Fair Rent (Scotland) Bill. This should be part of our exit solution.

We can’t have private renters hit with even more rent increases, so we need a fair rent cap at no more than the consumer prices index plus 1% per annum. We also need to give tenants the right to have a lower rent set on good cause shown – where the standard and quality of the property is poor.

We also need to be prepared for a massive spike in employment advice and support.

Advice for those who may be unfairly made redundant or not get what they are due in payments. And be ready to support people get back into jobs.

It’s only a matter of time before this all happens.

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