Christine Jardine – 2020 Speech on Covid-19

Below is the text of the speech made by Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, in the House of Commons on 12 May 2020.

It is a pleasure to take part in this debate today, as I look out of the window at this beautiful day in Edinburgh. Although the past few months have been tough and we have come through much, the people of this city and my constituency know that it will take every ounce of our energy to preserve what it is that makes Edinburgh such a wonderful place. Traffic at our airport is now almost negligible, the Royal Highland Show, which contributes £65 million to our economy, has been cancelled, and that shining gem in Scotland’s cultural calendar, the Edinburgh Festival, will not bring the world to our city this August. Across Edinburgh, myriad small, medium-sized and international companies are concerned for their future—a future of challenges for which they are not responsible.

For us here in Edinburgh West, as in most constituencies up and down the country, perhaps the biggest task is looking after the thousands of people concerned about their health, their jobs and their financial future. We calculated yesterday that during this period of lockdown we have dealt with around 1,000 pieces of individual casework, every one a personal emergency.

Much of this crisis has been managed by the UK Government, but also directly, here in Edinburgh, by the Scottish Government. The issues that they face are exactly the same; but in tackling them I would appeal to both our Governments to work together. Much has been said this week about mixed messages, uncertainty, a lack of clarity about what the UK Government were saying about lifting lockdown. Imagine what that is like ​for the people of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, with advice that is often contradictory—not just different: completely contradictory. Can I go out? Can I go to work? Which Government do I listen to? Which advice do I follow? Which guidelines are appropriate if I am out walking my dog? That is ridiculous. It is also not good enough for my constituents, or for any other constituent in any other part of the devolved nations. And for those organisations and companies that I mentioned earlier, any uncertainty is a potential recipe for disaster. In Scotland, our businesses have now had more than eight years of debate about our future. Will our economy be in an independent Scotland? Will our economy be in the UK? Will we be part of the European Union or not? All the uncertainty they have had to deal with seems small now in comparison to the emergency that is Covid-19.

I would ask both our Governments to work together, so that our airports and our airlines, which are so vital to our economy, are able to build a strategy in which they know that they will be speaking to not just the devolved authority but the UK authority and wider authorities, so that companies like Diageo, based here in Edinburgh West, know which framework they are falling into, and the people of Edinburgh West, Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom have a clear path- way out of this crisis—a clear, united pathway, with their Governments walking in lockstep for everyone’s future.