THE people of Scotland united in a collective déjà vu last week while watching Nicola Sturgeon, impose tough new restrictive measures.

However, while March saw the nation pull together and lockdown as one, September has seen the generations divide.

COVID-19 is once again rife in Scotland, all thanks, apparently, to the reckless youth.

It seems that young people can’t do anything right. In March, they abandoned hopes, dreams and social lives to protect the older generations.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: 'Mass exodus' of students from locked down university accommodation

Following UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock’s “Don’t kill your gran” quip to Radio 1 listeners, Scotland’s First Minister was quick to announce she would not follow his footsteps to mark Generation Z as Generation Scapegoat.

During Wednesday’s daily briefing, she expressed her gratitude to students, “the vast majority” of whom she knew were doing the right thing.

She went on to highlight that although the student way of life lent itself heavily to the transmission of the virus, this was “in no way, shape or form the fault of the students.”

But following this compassionate display of understanding, it came as a shock to the youth when, on Thursday evening, phones buzzed with the notification announcing the ban on students in pubs and restaurants in Scotland.

WhatsApp groups came to life, expressing upset, anger and anxiety. “How do they expect people to make friends now?” read one message. “We are all being punished, and we haven’t done anything” read another. It’s a valid point. Evidence from testing undoubtedly demonstrates that COVID-19 is spreading faster through the younger population.

What is not clear, however, is whether it is the youth as a collective at fault.

Every generation produces a few rogues; take Dominic Cummings for a start. Generation Z did not condone the entirety of Generation X for the Cummings Barnard Castle scandal, nor would it have been fair to do so.

How, then, is it fair to brand our entire generation as irresponsible, too irresponsible to even leave our rooms?

The rebrand has been successful. We are shouted at in the street and berated in the media.

What these street shouting critics seem to forget, is that the impact of a pandemic is universal.

Contrary to the beliefs of an angry middle-aged man on a recent Radio Scotland phone-in, Generation Z consume and share more content than any of their predecessors.

We are well informed, and therefore we know as well as they do that it is the older generation who bear the physical scars of the virus. Unfortunately, the emotional scarring faced by the young has the potential to be just as harmful.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: 'Mass exodus' of students from locked down university accommodation

I appeal to you to think back to leaving home for the first time, aged 18. Or perhaps, reminisce about dropping your son or daughter at their University halls, excited and nervous in equal measures.

Remember the paralysing fear of a new place, with new people from all corners of the world. Remember that embarking on a new life away from home is a hugely daunting step at the best of times.

Today’s 18-year olds have had a particularly tough year. School ended without goodbyes or celebrations.

The keys to their future, disguised as exams, were cruelly taken away, only to be thrown carelessly back to them, just slightly too late. When they finally arrived at their halls of residence, socialising in all capacities was made illegal. In the current climate, making friends with more than five fellow freshers can lead to police fines and, for Edinburgh University students, expulsion.

While in times past, second year students have dreamt of repeating those heady Freshers weeks, this year they feel “extremely lucky” for their 2019 enrolment.

“There’s no opportunities for freshers to meet other freshers, especially if you don’t get on with your flatmates.” said one second year from Napier University.

It is not just first years struggling to adapt to a changing University landscape. With study spaces operating at limited capacity, most students have joined the WFH (Working From Home) phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.

Or not. A fourth-year history student explained he found it harder to remain focussed at home, and more difficult to maintain a work-life balance.

It is hardly surprising that 21-year-old students are struggling, when professionals with years of experience under their belts have grappled with the WFH mindset. A partner at a large accountancy firm said that “the loss of genuine human contact has made work more challenging and less enjoyable.”

Contrary to yet another popular belief about young people, most students attend University not for the parties, but to develop skills to propel them forward into adult life.

With the very essence of Universities transforming in the space of six months, many students are rightly questioning the legitimacy of their COVID degrees.

Practical courses, such as performance music, are particularly negatively impacted, and some students believe that the fees should be reduced as the quality of the course has declined.

A student in Glasgow described their disappointment in their institution: “They tell us we are receiving an education of “equal worth” but I signed up for the course to gain practical experience playing with other musicians, which is impossible. I feel totally cheated.”

Unfortunately, graduating won’t improve these students’ situations.

According to the UK Parliament’s paper on Youth Unemployment Statistics, the number of 16-24-year olds claiming unemployment related benefits rose by 124% between March and August 2020.

This is in part due to the frequently impossible standards set by employers: one entry level job on LinkedIn cited eight years of work experience. Most people would have to be at least 26 to even apply, seven years older than the ONS’ estimated average age for entering into full-time work. 

The glow of graduation optimism is fading fast. “It’s hard to stay optimistic for future prospects and our future quality of life” tells a psychology graduate. “I’m scared I won’t find any independence or stability and that I will feel isolated for a long time.” 
Fears of isolation have cropped up in many young peoples’ responses.

For months, we have discussed how to tackle isolation in the elderly, but never expected these feelings to be mirrored by the most sociable generation.

One 23-year-old highlighted that the people making the policies are primarily middle aged in stable family units, who fail to take into account how the restrictions isolate people in their 20s who live in flat shares with people they aren’t close to. 

When asked what changes she would like to see, she responded “I think the Scottish government should think about ways to introduce spaces for young people to socialise indoors that aren’t restaurants as not everyone can afford to eat out in order to see their friends.”

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there are no quick fixes. 

Patience has never been such a virtue, and perhaps it’s time to have a little more patience with the youth. 

Our lives, like yours, were thrown far off the track, it’s just taking us a little longer to figure out the way back. 

With your help, we will find our way. As the first minister put it, “If we stick together, we will get through it.”