The future is bright for Scotland post-pandemic — if we learn from our actions

Anne Glover wearing a purple shirt
Professor Dame Anne Glover FRSE

Whilst we are some way into this pandemic, there is still some way to go. The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) responded to the pandemic by setting up the Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission in April 2020. Scotland has a real opportunity to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as a stronger nation, as long as we learn from our response to the crisis and take action to prepare for any future challenges.

As the pandemic exposed our vulnerabilities, we identified four key themes to address; building national resilience; data, evidence and science; inclusive public service and public debate and participation. We were able to draw some key conclusions from the insights we gathered from a wide range of groups and individuals across society. The Commission launched its report in November 2021 and we recommended tangible actions for government, the third sector and businesses to act on.

Data and science were used to make key decisions throughout the pandemic, but how many of us were confident understanding the information shared?

We identified the clear value of giving the public a voice when it comes to policies and decisions which affect their lives. Routine channels should be formed to create a two-way dialogue between authorities and society to collaborate, giving both a better appreciation of how things could and should be done from different perspectives.

Data and science were used to make key decisions throughout the pandemic, but how many of us were confident understanding the information shared? Enhanced STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is needed to empower the public to assess, question and act upon the evidence provided.

Communication must also be improved – transparency is vital and a lack of it can heavily influence the way in which we respond to information; if we receive clear, genuine messaging, it will make it easier to follow guidance and prepare efficiently. We also need to recognise that we all communicate in different ways, and this should be no different during a crisis – accessibility to information must be addressed.

So, how can we act on these recommendations to build a brighter future for Scotland? The bottom line is learning from the Covid experience. The RSE Commission played an important role by asking the questions, bringing together diverse groups of people and challenging organisations in the private, public and third sector to make changes. However, we can all play a role in maintaining the momentum for change and building upon the community spirit we generated to support each other. Given the right support, we can all take responsibility to help Scotland prosper as we emerge from the pandemic.

Professor Dame Anne Glover FRS FRSE chaired the RSE’sPost-Covid-19 Futures Commission and is a molecular biologist. She was the first Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) for Scotland (2006-2011) and the first CSA to the President of the European Commission (2012-2015).

This article originally appeared in The Times on 22 December 2021.

The RSE’s blog series offers personal views on a variety of issues. These views are not those of the RSE and are intended to offer different perspectives on a range of current issues.

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