13 November 2020

That was quite a week but when the result came it was worth the wait. I think there was a collective sigh of relief around the world when CNN forecast that Joe Biden had won the US election. 

As President Trump continues to claim electoral fraud, the contrast with speeches from President-elect Biden and his Vice-president Kamala Harris couldn’t have been greater. They offered hope for the future but have a mountain to climb to heal a divided country where 70 million people voted for four more years of President Trump.

Division and healing is a lesson that could be learned here too.

In a quiet moment on Sunday, standing in front Lerwick’s war memorial, I reflected on so many lives lost in wars and the impact that loss has had on communities like ours. My thoughts turned to my parents, and what their hopes might have been 75 years ago. They both served King and country in World War Two and were still in their twenties when war finally came to an end in 1945. Like so many others, the impact of their war experience was lifelong.

Their generation had to re-build a country decimated by six years of war. We have to re-build after a global pandemic. The news of a breakthrough in a vaccine gives us a glimmer of hope that there is light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

Tuesday’s announcement that household visits in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles will be allowed - a maximum of six people from two households – was welcome. Balancing social and economic harms with the harms of the virus is a delicate act and many people have struggled with the “no in-house socialising” rule. Loneliness has had a negative impact on the mental health of one in three adults in Scotland according to recent research by British Red Cross.

 Christmas is only six weeks away, and a four nations approach is needed to ensure that the movement of people across the country can be done as safely as possible. Plans must be in place to test students who want to return home so the mistakes of September, which saw students arriving on campus only to be locked down, aren’t repeated. As one student put it to me, that created the perfect hothouse environment for the virus to spread.

A visit to Shetland Farm Dairies last Friday gave a chance to discuss the management of the local milk supply chain and the importance of local produce. The subsidy under the EU School Milk Scheme finished in July meaning primary school children across the country will miss out on that nutritional boost between breakfast and lunch. A local solution is on the horizon though.

Local food and drink producers have lost huge amounts of business because of Covid, and the dairy is not alone in seeing a serious reduction in demand for their product because the hospitality sector has been hard hit. Buying local is one way we can all support this sector.

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