Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th January 2021.

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The First Minister:

I will not pretend to people that any of these decisions are easy—they are not easy for the people who have to live with the consequences, nor are they easy for any Government, anywhere. Nonetheless, we will do everything that we can—as we did earlier in the pandemic, and at the outset when we were in lockdown previously—to help people to navigate their way through those decisions and deal with the impact of them.

We have taken significant steps on online learning. For example, the national e-learning offer, which is a collaborative programme involving the Scottish Government, Education Scotland and local government, has already helped to improve the options that are available to schools and enhanced the provision for live remote learning, recorded lessons and supported learning via online digital learning. One initiative within that is e-Sgoil, which has been refreshed with an expanded range of study support courses, ranging from national 5 to advanced higher.

That support has already been strengthened in a number of ways, but we will seek to do that on an on-going basis. Fundamentally, however, the priority in getting transmission down again is to keep the period during which schools are closed as short as possible.

As I said earlier, we will discuss with business organisations—starting today, with the economy secretary—the expectation on businesses to do everything that they can to support their workers to work from home and to support workers who have childcare responsibilities. We will keep Parliament updated on any further initiatives that arise from that, but I know that businesses have already worked hard to do those things. Again, we are at a stage when we need a massive national collective endeavour to overcome the severe challenge that we face, and I know and expect that businesses will play their full part in that.