By Bruce Crawford MSP, originally printed in the Stirling Observer on 22 July 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought grief to so many people, not just in Scotland, but also across the entire world. It continues to do so, and whilst the most recent figures for Scotland are indeed encouraging – with far fewer new cases and a much-reduced number of deaths – we cannot be complacent. As the spread of the virus rages on across the world and its presence remains in our communities, we must be especially vigilant -now more than ever.
Businesses such as restaurants, pubs, and cafes have begun to open their doors to customers once again, although clearly these activities are not returning to the normal we knew before Covid-19. However, these businesses will only stay open; we will only be able to continue visit families and friends at home or even to visit the barber/hairdresser if we all strictly follow the rules. Eliminating Covid19 is the essential priority. If Covid-19 spreads uncontrollably once again, we will find ourselves back in lockdown, our freedoms reduced once again and our economy in even greater peril.
However, I believe the crisis has given us something of a wakeup call to the way we live our lives. For a while, all but essential journeys by car had stopped and our roads were no longer congested. Many more people got on their bikes, taking up active travel as a means of getting around locally.
But, with restrictions easing there will again be increased road traffic. More places of work will reopen and Industry will use more energy once again. This is inevitable, but there are lessons we can take from our time locked down. Perhaps using the car less is much easier than we once thought.
To help us find new ways of getting about the Scottish Government is providing funding to encourage the uptake of e-bikes. Across Europe, e-bikes have transformed thousands of people’s relationships with physical activity. The realisation that for a fraction of the cost – not to mention a fraction of the associated carbon emissions – there exists a fun, easy way to get ourselves our shopping and even our kids around while at the same time getting some exercise, has meant e-bikes and e-cargo bike sales are going through the roof.
However, the initial outlay to buy an e-bike is considerable and so I welcome the grants made available through Energy Saving Trust so that more people can afford to benefit from that riding one.
This type of thinking will help shape the type of society we will emerge as from this crisis. We also now have an amazing opportunity for Scotland to take advantage of some of its natural advantages: the almost limitless quantities of renewable energy potential from wind, wave and tidal power we have can generate electricity surpluses to export to the rest of the UK and beyond.
Covid-19 has been an unprecedented global crisis that has fundamentally changed every aspect of our lives. However, as we cautiously emerge from lockdown, now is the time to re-imagine the Scotland around us, and to begin building a greener society and economy and massively reduce Scotland carbon footprint.
Renewables will play an increasing role in helping us do that, which is why I was delighted that renewable electricity generation in Scotland hit a new record high in the first quarter of 2020. New records have also been set for generation by onshore wind, offshore wind and hydropower.
While there is already a lot of work going on – If the crisis has taught us anything, it is that we can do so much more to help heal and protect our planet.