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

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The First Minister:

I agree that there is a price to pay for all sorts of aspects of this pandemic, which will definitely be paid back for some time to come, in Scotland, the UK, Europe and the world. However, there will be a much bigger price to pay if we do not act to get this virus under control. That is the central, driving imperative that motivates the Government every single day.

I will not insult the intelligence of any parent in relation to childcare—this is a very difficult situation and nothing that I can say, standing here, takes away the challenges with which parents are confronted. We will do everything that we can to help, in a range of ways, firstly through the key worker provision and the flexibility that we have left local authorities. There is the possibility—although it is more restricted—of informal childcare, where there are no alternatives. As I said a couple of times in response to previous questions, we will work with businesses to make sure that they help parents in their workforces who have childcare responsibilities. We will consider, in very short order—including with additional resources—what further practical and financial support we can provide to those who need it.

There will be a package of support, but I do not want to suggest that that will take away every difficulty that working parents will face over this next difficult period. That is why the most important thing that we can do—it is a job for Government and for all of us—is get the virus under control so that the period in which schools and early years education do not operate normally is as short as we can possibly make it.