IN a welcome statement to Holyrood on January 11, the First Minister raised a few eyebrows when she said that “we know that we cannot continually rely on restrictive measures to manage the virus because we know the harm that does” and that the way forward was “to live with virus."

I couldn’t agree more but in light of the outrageous move by Nicola Sturgeon's government to make some temporary Covid emergency powers permanent, described as a “shameless power grab from the SNP” by Scottish Labour's Covid recovery spokesperson Jackie Ballie, I doubt I’m alone in thinking that “learning to live with the virus” is actually Holyrood newspeak for learning to live with restrictions.

I fear that future public consultations and input from trade and industry bodies to important policy documents, such as the new Strategic Framework, will now be severely compromised if those informed opinions are blithely ignored, and flagrant abuses of democracy become the norm.

First the good news though. After enduring nearly four long, insufferable weeks of bleak Covid hibernation since Boxing Day, disproportionate mandatory closure restrictions and limits on indoor attendance, brought in by a panicked Scottish Government, restrictions have been eased.

Nightclubs, late-night entertainment bars and live music venues, many of whom are now crippled with debt, breathed a sigh of relief when, due to substantial falls in Omicron case numbers, and more importantly Public Health Scotland’s doom-laden prophesies of carnage within our embattled NHS not materialising, were finally given the green light to reopen their doors.

Music to the ears of thousands of dance-starved revellers and an announcement welcomed by musicians, bands, event organisers and live music promoters, who can now plan ahead for a solid summer with a degree of confidence and certainty.

DF Concerts and TRNSMT festival head honcho Geoff Ellis said: “It’s really welcome news that we can return to live music from Jan 24 and then – hopefully – we will also see the removal of the other restrictions [vaccine passports and mask wearing] as will be the case in England from Jan 26."

This view was echoed by Regular Music’s chief Mark Mackie, who said: “We are so looking forward to the summer of music we have all been denied over the last two years.”

And the reasons to be cheerful didn’t stop there. In a marked shift from the government's previous in thrall to Covid policy, the First Minister announced that, from Monday, guidance urging people to work from home would be replaced with encouragement for a phased return to the workplace.

A massive boost to business, which will hopefully be a major economic shot in the arm for those traders currently struggling in our empty and forlorn towns and cities. In particular Glasgow, Scotland’s once proud economic powerhouse, which is now a dishevelled dystopian film set for superhero movies. It has suffered badly as Covid curbs and budget cuts have taken their toll.

It will require a lifting of all Covid restrictions, considerable investment and a solid determination from both government and Glasgow City Council to successfully regenerate this fantastic city.

The future might appear bright but if the Scottish Government truly wants Scotland to thrive then their messaging has to change from one of negativity, caution and fear to a narrative that is both aspirational and bursting with confidence.

They should embrace consultation and partnership and try to reach broad agreement and consensus, not ride roughshod over the democratic process.

Seeking to retain emergency powers under the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Bill when there is no emergency is a shameful abuse of power. As such, the bill in all its ugly forms should be immediately scrapped.

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