IT is no doubt a statement of the obvious, but nevertheless true – Covid-19 is the greatest public health crisis of our times and it has created, in its wake, an economic crisis of equal measure.

The world as we knew it changed overnight back in March, and life has not been the same since.

Indeed, life is unlikely to return completely to normal for some time to come.

This reality and the scale of the challenge we face in combatting the health and economic pressures of the pandemic is therefore – not surprisingly – the focus of the Scottish Government’s new Programme for Government which I laid out to Parliament yesterday.

Front and centre is a commitment to do everything we can to keep the virus under control. This will be a time in our lives I am sure we will never forget – but it’s also one we must strive to avoid repeating.

So controlling Covid-19 will be an inescapable objective for the government in the coming months.

That’s why we will continue to invest in Test & Protect and in local and national surveillance, and do everything we can to persuade people the length and breadth of the country to follow all the vital public health advice that is encapsulated in the FACTS campaign.

If we don’t keep Covid-19 at bay, everything else we want to do will be so much harder.

But if we do keep it at bay, we can turn our minds more to recovery and start to look to the future with greater confidence. And we can think about how we can do things better and differently.

While we all want to get back to normal, we have a chance to think about what we want ‘normal’ to mean in future.

Maybe life, and the country, shouldn’t look exactly as it did before Covid-19 struck.

Maybe, instead, we have the chance to build back fairer and stronger.

That’s the opportunity the Programme for Government starts to grasp.

Pre Covid-19, we had already made very significant commitments to tackling child poverty, delivering a net-zero emissions society, improving and reforming our public services, ending homelessness, and making clean, green long-term investments that will transform our society and build a wellbeing economy.

Covid-19 means the starting point for this work is different, but the urgency of it is greater than ever.

As we recover from the impact of the virus, we shouldn’t just slip back to business as usual.

Instead, we must use this moment to accelerate progress towards the fairer, greener, more prosperous Scotland we all want to see.

Our Programme for Government sets out how we will do as much as we possibly can to mitigate the immediate economic, employment and social impacts of the crisis – but also pave a way forward for a sustainable long-term recovery with equality, fairness and human rights at its heart.

At the heart of the Programme is a national mission to create new jobs.

There will be a driving need in the coming months to support buisnesses and people faced with redundancy. But if we do that in a way that equips them with the skills our economy needs for the future, we can build an opportunity out of necessity.

The crisis also gives us an opportunity to radically rethink our quality of life, particularly through the lens of the places we live in. We want to ensure our communities become vibrant hubs where people can work, shop, learn, keep active, and socialise.

We showed during the pandemic that we can make rapid and radical progress in tackling issues such as homelessness, so we must continue with the same determination to ensure no one returns to our streets and no one has to sleep rough.

We will also ensure the best start in life for our children and young people, and enable them to grasp their potential. Crucially, we will deliver a Youth Guarantee, to ensure every young person has access to a job, education or training - and make sure that youth unemployment is not a legacy of Covid-19 that this and the next generation has to bear.

We have also reaffirmed our commitment to deliver 1140 hours free childcare.

All in all, this Programme shows the determination of the Scottish Government not just to help Scotland through this crisis but to recover strongly, with a renewed focus on what matters to people across the country.

Of course, our recovery from the virus will not be achieved by this, or any, government alone. It will rely on us all pulling in the same direction, looking out for each other, and trying new approaches, just as we did during the height of the pandemic.

Back in March, we probably would not have believed that we had the resilience to cope with all that the last few months have thrown at us. But we did.