A Holyrood minister has said the Covid-19 crisis has given Scotland the chance to “start from scratch” in terms of how it supports vulnerable people.
Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, spoke to the Tele via a video interview, joined by the leader of Dundee City Council, John Alexander.
She compared the efforts made after the Second World War to improve the UK as a possible blueprint to how society can change for the better once the pandemic ends.
When asked if this was a chance for society to “start from scratch”, Ms Campbell, who is MSP for Clydesdale, said: “I think so, I think it’s got to be. I listen to a podcast by Stuart Cosgrove, and it was Val McDermid, she was talking about how this is a global thing that has happened, this has touched everybody’s lives, and everybody’s been impacted.
“So, it’s maybe not like some of the other things that have happened in the past, but it might be a bit more like the Second World War, because that impacted everybody.
I kind of think there is a bit of space and an appetite for a bit of a rethink, rebalance, renewal, and reform of what we do, and I think that’s exciting territory.
“There are now more folk that have gone through Universal Credit and I think there’s more folk aware of how that doesn’t meet the needs of people. There is more understanding of what matters and what we should value in society.
“And I have to say, that that’s probably what keeps me through this as well, is to think that actually from it there can be something that’s bigger and better than what we had in the past.
“That’s going to be challenging because there’s not the same amount of money to deliver it, but that’s going to mean we’re going to need to think critically about how do we sift down and prioritise what matters.
“(The phrase) ‘build back better’ has been what’s been getting used on social media, and I think there’s an opportunity and an appetite and a desire for that to happen.”
John Alexander, who has led the council since April 2017, said: “I would agree wholeheartedly with that, and I think, looking forward after this pandemic, our biggest failure would be if we didn’t do anything.
“The way we look at every aspect of service delivery, I think, has changed, and it’s going to be vital that we learn from everything that’s worked – but also learn from things that didn’t work, because going into this – and I was on a call recently with a major organisation in the city – they saw working from home as a major barrier for the vast majority of their workforce.
“There were calls for changes to be able to work from home and (the firm said) it would take them a couple of years to get to that space – and within a matter of weeks they’ve managed to get everybody to working from home. It just shows you what you can do in many ways when your back is against the wall.”