Covid-19 (Next Steps)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th July 2020.

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The First Minister:

Willie Rennie has been constructive throughout the Covid crisis, so I do not want to turn this into an adversarial exchange. Please accept that.

However, the reality for almost every aspect of life right now is that nothing is fixed, which is really difficult.

Willie Rennie talked about timescales. Given that we have inevitably and unavoidably lost time in the delivery of the provision over the Covid crisis period, we are trying not to raise the expectations of parents before we know that we can deliver. This will probably happen in a range of ways. We will build a bit more time into things than we genuinely hope might be necessary. We are trying to strike a balance. We will do everything here—as well as across the whole range of our other responsibilities—to accelerate things as much as possible. There are significant uncertainties around how plans can be recast and accelerated as quickly as possible and around what we face with the virus.

Our key challenge over the next few weeks is to ensure that we do not allow the easing of the lockdown to lead to a resurgence of the virus, because that will set everything back even more. We will then go into a winter period in which the risks of a genuine second wave are significant.

Believe me, given the uncertainty of the past four months, I would love nothing more than to be able to give people in every sector cast-iron certainty about the future, but it would be irresponsible of me to do that. We try to build the most realistic timescale that we can, on the basis that we will bring it forward where that proves at all possible. That will be the case with childcare and everything else that we are dealing with.