This week – for the first time in months – people have had a genuine sense of hope.
The news of the vaccine approval was the news we had all been waiting for. But for too many people, that hope on the horizon remains far too distant.
There are millions who still haven’t had a single penny of support from this UK Government, and they are facing a Christmas, and a new year, of hardship.
This week, during prime minister’s questions, I called for support for the three million people across the UK who have not qualified for the UK Government’s Covid-19 support package, and I raised concerns for the welfare of those who have been left behind.
The previous day, I had a meeting with ExcludedUK, a grassroots volunteer-run organisation that represents the millions of self-employed people including limited company directors who have not qualified for help.
Their members are from sectors including construction, healthcare, retail and hospitality and despite losing work due to the pandemic, they have not qualified for financial support from the UK Government.
Survey revealed shocking news
A recent survey by ExcludedUK of more than 3,000 respondents found more than half had seen their income fall to 20% or less of their income before the pandemic, and half have taken on personal debt.
A third have said they are struggling with their mental health; 80 per cent say they are stressed, anxious and have trouble sleeping, and 14 per cent said they suffer with thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
Speaking to the prime minister, I told him of the shocking news I had heard from ExcludedUK.
During our meeting I was told they are aware of eight people having taken their own lives in the last 10 days. It is a truly staggering, and deeply upsetting figure.
Despite representing three million people across the UK, and despite their best efforts, ExcludedUK had been unable to secure a formal meeting with a government minister.
This simply isn’t good enough. Those who have been excluded for the past nine months have been living without help or hope and now, tragically, it is costing lives.
This has been an abject failure by this UK Government – the prime minister has been missing in action.
While the SNP will continue to speak for the excluded, the silence from the Scottish Tories has been deafening – they must lobby the UK Government to help.
This UK Government has U-turned on almost everything else so why can’t Douglas Ross call on the prime minister and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to change their minds on support for these three million people?
The excluded need to feel hope for their futures – they need help, urgently.
Ian Blackford is SNP Leader at Westminster and MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber.