Covid-19 (Next Steps)

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

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The First Minister:

If this has not yet been conveyed, I am sure that it is about to be: I think that Jamie Hepburn is planning to meet the unions. I am willing to meet unions; I meet all sorts of people and do so happily, but of course I have a team of ministers, because the Government has a lot of work to do and we want to be able to do all of it.

I understand acutely the severity of the challenges that face the aviation sector. To be frank with Neil Bibby, simply to refer to global conditions as if they are some kind of incidental matter does not do justice to the issue.

Yesterday’s decision on air bridges, albeit that it perhaps does not sound like a difficult one, was one of the most difficult decisions that the Government has had to take in all this so far, because public health considerations tell us that the risk of importing the virus is possibly the biggest health risk that we face, and yet we understand the importance to the aviation sector of allowing international travel to start to resume. Therefore, we had to make that balanced decision. Getting people able to travel again is one of the most important things that we can do to help companies such as Swissport and Menzies, and airports and airlines.

These are not easy challenges, but we will continue to try to do everything that we can and we will work with trade unions and others to deal with some of the longer-term implications of the situation. Anyone in my position in any country in the world who stands up and blithely says that we can wave a magic wand and take these challenges away is not doing justice to the issue. Just as we have worked day and night for the past three months to tackle the virus, we will work day and night to do everything that we can to mitigate and deal with its economic impact.