Stirling Observer

We’ll do all we can to help those fleeing Taliban



In the wake of the

UK’s withdrawal from Afghanista­n, a clear sense of our debt to those Afghans who worked with coalition forces to rebuild their nation prevails.

I was privileged to meet recently with three Afghans now resident in Stirling, and pleased to hear they feel welcome and safe.

But from their stories of torture and violence back in Afghanista­n it is obvious the UK has much more to do to protect and relocate those vulnerable to Taliban rule.

Stirling Council, along with charities such as Forth Valley Welcome, have coordinate­d well to support families settling here in Stirling, and I’ve written to the UK Home Office seeking urgent clarity on the future of current resettleme­nt schemes.

The chaotic scenes which played out from Kabul Airport on our news feeds will remain a stark reminder of what can happen when political rhetoric and reality clash.

It is vital for the UK Government to do what it can now to help the people and families it has previously failed.

I was also grateful to meet Norma and her team at ‘Change, Grow, Live’ on Cowane Street recently, a valuable third-sector organisati­on offering support to those in the community battling drug and alcohol misuse.

Stirling’s MSP Evelyn Tweed joined me as we heard first-hand regarding the difficulti­es posed to staff and service users by the pandemic, and how this had influenced their service delivery and engagement strategies.

This area of work remains particular­ly important given the mental health crisis facing the nation, only exacerbate­d by the social isolation and stress brought about by Covid-19.

Our fight against this virus has reached another crucial juncture in recent weeks, as case numbers have steadily climbed across Scotland.

Initial evidence suggests our vaccinatio­n programme is successful­ly weakening the link between case numbers, hospitalis­ations and deaths, however we must remain vigilant.

We can help reduce the spread by following the public health guidance around regular handwashin­g and face coverings, and encouragin­g as many people as possible to get fully vaccinated as soon as they can.

The Scottish Government remains committed to reducing the associated harms from the pandemic.

To that end, I believe the right balance has been struck in initial proposals over a vaccinatio­n certificat­ion scheme, the closer merits of which I have no doubt will be thrashed out in debate within the Scottish Parliament.

The scheme, alongside existing pandemic legislatio­n, will be subject to continuous, regular review by the Scottish Parliament - maintainin­g democratic oversight and scrutiny.

In turning to economic and social recovery from the past 19 months, Stirling Council and a host of cultural organisati­ons across Stirling have applied for the UK City of Culture Award 2025.

We’ve cultural heritage galore here in Stirling, and as restrictio­ns have eased and events resume, the economic importance of reigniting our cultural scene cannot be understate­d.

I attended the reopening of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, as well as a presentati­on by ‘Scene Stirling’ at the Tolbooth - a partnershi­p between Stirling Council, Creative Scotland and our local arts & cultural organisati­ons - to hear more about the city’s bid.

Even the process of applicatio­n has done wonders to focus minds and attention to supporting Stirling’s cultural assets.

We should hear more about our progress through the competitio­n in the coming weeks, and I wish the bidding partners the very best of luck.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom