On Friday, I hosted a virtual coffee morning for more than 50 new parents in my constituency. From the start, it became clear just how much strain those people are under, especially the mums, with many reduced to tears as they shared their stories.
In England, the extended household policy has been expanded to allow parents with babies under the age of one to bubble up with another household of new parents. However, there is no such provision in Scotland.
Good parental mental health is a matter of profound importance for the wellbeing and development of babies. With the possibility of several more months of lockdown still ahead of them, we need to give those mums and dads a bit of hope and the society of their peers. Will the First Minister now follow England and allow those parents to bubble up with each other for support?
We will always consider what more we can do to ease the pressure that people, particularly parents, are living under.
Of course, Scotland, unlike England, has for some time excluded children under 11 from the limits that we have imposed on things such as people meeting up, and there is already the extended household concept in Scotland whereby single parents with children under 18 can join another household. Arrangements are in place, but nobody—least of all me—underestimates the difficulties that people are facing, and we will continue to consider every way in which we can make things better.
However, we have to do that carefully. As I keep saying, infection levels in Scotland are too high, albeit that they are coming down and are lower than those in England. Perhaps that suggests that the careful approach that we are taking is not always the wrong one. Nevertheless, I recognise the difficulties for particular groups of people, which is why we will always look at what more we can do to ease the restrictions where that is appropriate.