A HAPPY New Year to you all. I hope that, even in these most trying of circumstances, you managed to have a restful time over the holiday period.

The measures put in place to curb the spread of this terrible virus continue to take a toll on all our lives, our families and our economy. But with almost 2000 new cases of Coronavirus now being reported daily here in Scotland, and the number of people in intensive care continuing to rise sharply, these restrictions are entirely necessary.

At the time of writing, the Scottish Cabinet is meeting to discuss whether further restrictions are required to stop the rapid and continuing spread of the virus. We await the outcome of those discussions and can assure Glaswegians that they will be kept fully informed of any impact these may have on the services the City Council provides.

In the meantime, I hope the Scottish Government’s additional financial support to hospitality, retail and other businesses will help as many employers as possible through the current phase of this crisis. The continuing roll-out of vaccinations in the weeks ahead also provides some light at the end of the tunnel for care homes residents and staff, the over-80s and our health and social care workers.

Until then every one of us must ask ourselves what we can do to make a difference, what interactions outwith our households are absolutely necessary or avoidable and what additional sacrifices are required to bring the curtain down on this dreadful chapter of our history.

For almost a year now, the pandemic has dominated our news agendas. It continues to have a huge impact on everyone’s lives. It’s entirely understandable therefore that, for many here in Scotland, one of the biggest political follies of our lifetimes may be passing us by somewhat.

But the reality of Brexit, for ordinary households and our economy, will become starker as the months progress. Businesses are already seeing that reality up close and counting the cost. The food and drink sector is one of our best performing and a key exporter. Yet the body which represents the industry has stated that at least £1 million of seafood alone has been unable to leave Scotland every day due to the red tape that comes with leaving the European Union. And other sectors exporting from Scotland are finding themselves caught up in tailbacks at ferry ports, sometimes lasting several days, because of the new regulations required by Brexit.

Let’s be clear, however. This isn’t just about bureaucracy or conditions surrounding trade. It is about significant damage to our prosperity which will affect ordinary households and businesses. One often quoted estimate of the damage, prepared by the UK Government itself, puts it at nearly 7% of gross domestic product by 2035. That is a serious blow to living standards already eroded – not by immigration or the EU – but by a decade of Tory austerity.

But it goes beyond even that. We at the City Council continue to monitor the potential impact of Brexit on the cost and timescales for building projects – from affordable homes to new schools to pedestrian bridges - through to the food for our kids’ school meals. Brexit seriously restricts our ability to live and work and find opportunities across Europe, denying opportunities to our young people, and to find the skills and the talent we need to bolster our domestic economy. It threatens the hard-won protections enjoyed by so many Scottish workers and erodes the security and value people enjoy in their jobs. And in an age when the climate emergency is the crisis of our times, Brexit also poses a serious danger to our environmental protections.

Here in Glasgow, the Tories don’t want to talk about the damage caused by Brexit to livelihoods, businesses, freedoms and protections or the fact that Glaswegians voted by a huge majority of over 66% to remain as EU members. They prefer to indulge in divisive and juvenile agendas. Their appetite for personal attacks can be partly explained by filling their time by doing anything other than owning the responsibility of the damage inflicted on Glaswegians by successive Tory Government policies.

And anyone holding out for Labour committing itself to restoring the benefits and protections we have enjoyed as EU members can think again. During his bid to become party leader, Sir Keir Starmer promised to end Labour’s flip flopping over Europe and demand the restoration of free movement within the EU after Brexit. Fast forward just 11 months and Sir Keir has performed a full 180-degree U-turn, declaring at the weekend that the matter, like our borders with the EU, was now closed. If elected Prime Minister, he will provide continuity for Boris’s Brexit.

As we emerge from the impact of the pandemic in the months and years ahead, Scotland and Glasgow have the task and the opportunity to create a fairer, more equal, more sustainable economy and society. We cannot continue to be left at the mercy of the consequences of generations of Tory Party squabbles or monumental lies and delusional fantasies peddled by hard-right ideologues. Neither can we be an afterthought in the pursuit of votes in former Labour heartlands and Middle England, acknowledged every so often with dusted-down talk of fantasy federalism.

That’s why Deputy First Minister John Swinney was right when he said that, far from being a distraction, an independence referendum must be a priority – and a necessity. In 2014, a majority of Glaswegians voted Yes to Scotland being able to choose its own future, and the polls tell us that many more now agree that we need the levers available to other nations to make our own decisions about how we rebuild.

Glasgow is an outward-looking and international city in an inclusive, welcoming and progressive nation. And we want the opportunity to again take our place in Europe, to re-engage with the EU and the benefits it brought. Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit. It’s not who we are.