Martin Whitfield MSP has marked his first speech at Holyrood with a commitment to listen to children and young people as the country gears up for the recovery from coronavirus.

Speaking during a Scottish Government debate on education recovery, the former teacher referenced his experience in the classroom and how for years to come children and young people will be asked to recall the events of the last year and their experience of the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr Whitfield also used his first speech at Holyrood to reflect on the wider impact of Covid, the contribution of NHS and other key workers and the importance of supporting them and other workers with a fairer future as we emerge from the pandemic.

The South Scotland MSP also paid tribute to his predecessors Iain Gray, who represented the East Lothian constituency between 2007 and 2021, and Claudia Beamish, who served as a regional MSP between 2011 and 2021.

Speaking after the debate, Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“The youngest in society are the ones who will bear the memory and impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the longest time. It has already had a profound effect on most aspects of their lives. We have seen the fallout with things such as the SQA debacle, reduced physical activity levels and an increase in mental health problems.

“I wanted to set out my commitment to genuinely listen to them and their families from day one as we set about forging plans for recovery. I believe my experience as a teacher will stand me in good stead for engaging with and listening to children and young people about what they want our recovery to look like in the months and years ahead. 

“If we don’t secure the kind of fair and positive recovery we need as a society, Covid could continue to result in more problems for children and young people. That’s why I think it’s so important we listen to them, not just to pay lip service, but to really understand their circumstances and act on their needs.”