If you listen to BBC Radio Scotland’s “Good Morning Scotland” on Sunday mornings, you’ll know there’s a favourite topic of conversation where guests are asked what they’ve been doing “in lockdown” and what they’re anticipating “post COVID”. I do not accept the relevance and significance of either of these phrases.
Those of us who were mostly working from home anyway are experiencing a better COVID than those who must go out to work. There’s a severe class divide between those of us who are still happily stuck in front of our screens at home and those working in the front line, especially in the NHS and key workers, too many of whom have literally given their lives. There also needs to be a better appreciation that COVID restrictions in one form or another are going to be with us for at least another year.
So I’m pretty fed up with all the stuff from the Benny Higgins Advisory Group Report on Economic Recovery to the Scottish Government and ‘Build Back Better’ – or anyone who keeps banging on about “getting back to normal”. I do not want to see a Scotland where the liberal elite of the Wellbeing Alliance or Royal Society of Edinburgh provide our theoretical or ideological guidance or underpinning.
In any case, we still have Brexit to come. I doubt whether Johnson or Cummings with his NASA screens know or care about some of the detailed effects for those who must work for a living. I simply don’t understand how Johnson and Cummings can aspire to run a Government when on Tuesday 03 September 2019, 21 Tory MPs had the Tory Whip removed so they couldn’t stand again for Parliament simply because they were capable of independent thought, and when six (and rising) senior civil servants have resigned because they didn’t want to advise Johnson’s cronies. All the Permanent Secretaries I used to meet, whether you agreed with them or not, were men and women of substantial character and competence who knew their trade. I would swap any of them working part time just two days a week for Cummings with his SPADs and screens.
As you will see from postings from others and myself in ‘Contributions’ below, I’m writing more about COVID’s providing the rationale for removing the market and private sector competition from the delivery of public services. I am especially concerned about those in Social Enterprise UK and the wider Cooperative Movement who see no problem in third sector organisations in competition with the private sector – though they must cut wages, terms and conditions to win contracts. They are taking on the mantle of the “Non Profit Industrial Complex” in the US.
I am also passionate about Scotland’s becoming an independent country and rejoining the European Union. The EU is far from perfect, especially with Viktor Orban and Fidesz, the Hungarian Civic Alliance and Jarosław Kaczyński from Law and Justice in Poland. But many of us have more in common with a range of political leaderships in mainland Europe, including many Christian Democrats, than ever we could have with Johnson and Cummings. A good friend in the European Parliament was one of the leaders of the German truck drivers’ union and a Christian Democrat. There is also the possibility of building new political alliances with Sinn Fein and others in Ireland, now that the grip of the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael duo is at last being weakened.
Finally, as always, I am concerned about my students at GCU. Like me, many of them are the first in their entire families to go to university and they need a lot more support. Especially during COVID, I want to see the Scottish Government expand both FE and HE, especially for students in poorer areas. It is not good enough simply to switch to online or “blended learning”. We need to find ways of assisting more students with outreach centres equipped with IT and mentoring. Though at GCU we are getting better at switching to online delivery, students cannot do HE courses on their phone.