The great and the good are starting to convene to help figure out what sort of country Scotland could – and should – be after the coronavirus storm. As the commissions, recovery groups, leaders forums, advisors all pop up, a Venn diagram of overlapping bubbles is emerging, populated with wise heads ready to look to Scotland’s future.
That should be very reassuring.
Unless your definition of what makes someone truly great or good for this task is determined by a number of things that – so far – are not clearly reflected across these bubbles.
As Dr Sally Witcher powerfully articulated, there are people who the ‘old normal’ didn’t work for and without hearing from them about what must change, it is likely that the ‘new normal’ won’t either.
The statistics are stark – those losing their loved ones in disproportionate numbers, the most terrifying aspect of this pandemic – are black, Asian, mixed race and minority ethnic and people from poorer parts of the country. Their lives will never be the same.
We know coronavirus has made the effects of poverty, abuse and neglect, and the challenges of loneliness and addiction all more acute. So, when it comes to rebuilding at a personal level, people whose lives have closed in since the world locked down will also carry a much greater burden.
In the midst of the impacts of the pandemic, there has been a phenomenal response from communities. People throughout the country have stepped up… shown kindness… supported others… delivered food, toys, power cards… provided technology and mobile phone top-ups… and so much more. Communities have shone in their ability to act rapidly and creatively to adapt and respond to circumstances none of us have faced before.
Meanwhile, every day folk are standing steady at the frontline of Scotland’s NHS and care services, unpaid carers are out of bed and carrying on, people are keeping public transport running and shops open.
It is these folks who I want to hear from when looking at Scotland’s future.
So I have a challenge to wise heads:
You have important work to do that you must get right – therefore be bold and show your wisdom by seizing this moment to:
- include people who were previously left behind;
- honour those whose loved ones have died by listening to their voices;
- seek out our most marginalised citizens, invite them into the very centre and listen carefully to what matters;
- make sure that the future shape of Scotland is in the image of those who have shown compassion and wisdom at our most challenging time;
And don’t forget our children and young people who will inherit the future. They have already demonstrated an ability to challenge the status quo and imagine a new and better world so make sure that you listen to and learn from them.
Giving people a seat at your table recognises their experience, knowledge and skills – and acknowledges that the last few weeks will almost certainly have been a lot tougher for them than the others sat around it.
If you make this choice, we will all benefit as it will result in conversations that have much deeper understanding and value.
However, having spent the last three years chairing a review, I know how reductive it is to assume that the person in the seat is the representative voice… and how insulting to have a tick-list to make sure ‘categories’ are all covered.
So conversations about the future can’t happen in any one room, or around any one table. They need to be wide ranging, reach right into communities, and listen – and not just rely on the traditional structures that so often exclude (whether intentionally or not) and right now, are not possible anyway.
Corra occupies a position of privilege and power which we recognise and try to give it up or share it as best and as much as we can. We don’t always get this right, but we’ve learned that getting alongside people and listening are crucial.
So, as well as challenging those who are already having conversations about Scotland’s future, I’d love to listen to you if you feel your voice is not being heard. Please share your thoughts using the hashtag #SameStormDifferentBoat – you could blog, tweet, record a video or a conversation between you and someone else in your household.
If you’d like any help to do this please email firstname.lastname@example.org who would be more than happy to chat with you.