Coronavirus and Scotland follow-up inquiry
The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy, welcomes this follow up inquiry by the Scottish Affairs Committee into Coronavirus and Scotland, which is examining the extent to which sectors and industries within the Scottish economy have recovered since the pandemic and the effectiveness of UK and Scottish Government support in aiding recovery in the short and long-term.
The RSE addresses the following questions from the Coronavirus and Scotland follow-up inquiry:
How well has your industry or sector recovered to pre-pandemic levels?
How adequate was UK Government and Scottish Government support for your industry or sector to get back to pre-pandemic levels?
How effective was UK Government and Scottish Government spending around the pandemic?
How much did the UK Government and Scottish Government financial support assist in the recovery of your industry or sector to pre-pandemic levels?
- The RSE is not responding on behalf of a particular sector of the economy, although we do make some points about higher education within the response. Instead, the RSE was able to draw together perspectives from several industries and sectors to comment on how support to different elements of the Scottish economy was delivered and how the economy is now recovering from the downturn that Covid-19, in part, induced.
- As well as being weakened during the Covid-19 period, there have also been significant changes to the structure of the Scottish economy in recent years which are worth noting, including the ongoing effects of Brexit and the war in Ukraine. Thus, measuring the performance of sectors and the related success of government spending and support by looking at current levels of economic activity versus pre-pandemic levels is an imperfect benchmark. It is not the level of pre-pandemic activity that matters so much as the direction and speed of trends producing that level. While pre-pandemic trends such as digital transformation across sectors may have been accelerated by Covid-19, they have done so in a direction of travel that was to be expected, meaning that the effects, positive or negative, should be considered in this context. As technology continues to advance rapidly, the further we look into the future the harder it gets to draw comparison to pre-pandemic levels.
- While many sectors may have received adequate support to keep running throughout the pandemic, there is little direct connection between the support offered during the peak of the pandemic and long-term recovery. Many sectors have experienced significant structural change to their day-to-day activities, such as the shift to online sales and homeworking, with the full long-term implications of this for employment, the location of economic and social activity, and productivity still unclear.
- Many of the outcomes observed in sectors that have been most impacted have been driven by broader changes in the economy, most notably the long-term effects of the pandemic, often relating to people’s health and well-being, which are yet to be addressed appropriately. This is something the committee may wish to consider further as part of future evidence sessions.