First, I offer my condolences and those of my party on the news of the passing of Kay Ullrich, who was respected by members across the chamber.
I, too, am grateful to you, Presiding Officer, for recalling Parliament for today’s statement.
Nobody wants to live under restrictions for a moment longer than is absolutely necessary or wants those restrictions to be any tighter than needed. However, the increase in infection rate and the transmissibility of the new variant give grave cause for concern. We have come too far to throw all our efforts away, and the roll-out of the vaccine means that we can see a time, soon, when all this will begin to be over.
That said, this is hard news at a hard time, when the resilience of people across the country has already been worn down over the past year. Many will be dismayed by today’s news, not least the parents of school pupils, who now have to rip up their childcare plans, negotiate with their employers and worry about their children’s fractured education.
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has expressed concerns that closing schools poses
“a serious risk of harm to the wellbeing of children and young people”.
He has warned that
“support for online learning is being provided inconsistently” across Scotland and that
“there is not enough national guidance and support for schools” from Government ministers, which threatens a further widening of the attainment gap. What further steps is the Scottish Government taking to address those concerns and to ensure that Scottish pupils continue to get equal access to high-quality education?