THE immediate challenges of the public health emergency are far from behind us, but already we are seeing choices by both UK and Scottish Governments which will determine the kind of recovery we may see, and the kind of society we will live in once we move beyond the crisis.

The UK Government’s instincts are clear. In signalling an early easing of the lockdown, forcing people to consider returning to work before schools are open and without safety measures being put in place, they are putting GDP ahead of people’s lives. And of course, it will mostly be lower-paid people who are expected to squeeze on to Tubes and buses to get to work. The Tory priority is to get back to business as usual, with no recognition that change is needed.

The Scottish Government, meanwhile, is being more cautious. Rightly so. They are also giving an indication of what kind of recovery they want – the First Minister says this crisis must lead to a “fairer, greener and more equal” society.

It’s undeniable that governments around the world have earned back the right (which should never have been surrendered in the first place) to be more assertive in the economy, and to place clear expectations on the private sector to act in the interests of the public good. Pretty much all economic activity is now so clearly dependent on state intervention and public funding. In reality, of course, it always was, but the persistent myths of the free market have been shattered completely in the last few months.

Any government which says it wants a zero-carbon economy, an end to poverty and inequality, or high standards for protecting people’s health now has the unassailable authority to tell the private sector to play its part.

But are we seeing the kind of choices which will “Build Back Better” and achieve that “fairer, greener and more equal Scotland” the First Minister spoke of? I fear that at this stage the signs are not good.

The Scottish Government’s financial support package has included a deal with the Tories to create a special fund to benefit landlords. They could have attached a condition to ensure that tenants get a rent break, but they didn’t. Indeed, tenants have been offered comparatively little. Evictions have been deferred, but there has been no rent relief and nothing to stop arrears building up. This means landlords will be even more financially secure when lockdown ends, while tenants will face unmanageable debts.

Private schools’ legal claim to charity status has exempted them from non-domestic rates that are payable by the state sector, and the Scottish Government has just extended this unjustified tax break. At the same time the replacement for this year’s exams will see pupils’ attainment adjusted up or down based on what school they go to. So, no matter how hard a young person has worked for this year’s Highers, if they go to a school in a more deprived area they are likely to be deliberately marked down. These measures will widen the attainment gap, and certainly will not make Scotland any more equal.

As for a greener Scotland, we’ve seen £10 million announced for temporary active travel measures, but it comes from the money already allocated to the permanent version. So temporary infrastructure will be installed, then removed, and there will be less money left to achieve lasting change. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has postponed its biggest public health measure to protect people’s lungs – the development of Low Emission Zones. It is astonishing that during a pandemic of a virus which attacks people’s lungs, we’re going to kick a clean air measure into the long grass and lose the headstart that today’s lower traffic volumes have given us.

AND while the Scottish Government has supported the principle that firms using tax havens shouldn’t get access to a public bailout, they have so far fudged the issue and taken no actual action. Meanwhile, the Welsh Government this week announced just that – they won’t fund businesses based in tax havens.

The Scottish Greens have put forward productive suggestions that would turn the ambition to build a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland into reality. From housing to transport, from tax to teaching, we’ll keep putting pressure on the Scottish Government to take the action that matches its rhetoric.

This has so often been the way we’ve made an impact – not by denouncing everything the Government does, but by putting forward positive, constructive ideas and showing that they can do better. The SNP in government have often been at their best when they are under pressure from the left, and that’s the positive role we’ve played in recent years.

The immediate impact of the pandemic is profound, but the long-term impact is also being shaped by the choices we make right now. If we’re to achieve the First Minister’s ambition for a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland, we must start with the acknowledgement that the old normal was already broken, and the new normal must involve determination to build back better.