THROUGHOUT the Covid-19 crisis, Greens have been making the case that as well as tackling the virus itself and driving down infections, we need to be pro-active about the kind of society and economy that emerges after this.

The blame for the economic crisis that began in 2008 clearly lay with free-market extremism. Yet governments around the world proceeded to double down on that failed ideology and focused on rebuilding the banks’ balance sheets instead of rebuilding the lives and livelihoods they had destroyed.

This new crisis has a very different cause, but it, too, will present governments with a choice – try to refloat the old economy and get back to “normal”, or deal with the systemic failings and build back better.

The First Minister has repeatedly said she wants to do the latter. She says recovery from Covid must mean achieving a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland. The reality, so far, is that we are still not making that a reality.

Of course, much of the economic response is controlled by the UK Government. The furlough scheme and the abysmal Universal Credit system are UK responsibilities.

Both governments have been left trying to stop people falling through the gaps, which a true Universal Basic Income would have prevented. The decision to taper and then withdraw the furlough scheme altogether was made by Whitehall, too, and we are only just starting to see the impact of that, as jobs are lost in industries that will take longer to recover.

While welfare for people remains inadequate for basic human needs, corporate welfare is, of course, far more generous. As Ben Smoke at Vice has shown, nearly one in every three firms which accessed the Covid Corporate Financing Facility made payouts to shareholders and investors, totalling an eyewatering £11.5 billion despite receiving emergency cash from the public purse.

An even bigger proportion of the recipients have announced lay-offs too, resulting in as many as 43,000 people losing their jobs. This scheme isn’t available to small independent businesses, who often end up paying as much as 10 times the rate of interest as that available to the giants.

So whether it’s support for people or for businesses, there is a real danger that the UK Government’s economic response to Covid will result in more inequality and deeper exploitation. The Scottish Government’s powers are more limited, but where it does have power is it taking a better approach?

The decision to appoint Benny Higgins, the executive chairman of Buccleuch Estate, to lead our Government’s economic recovery advisory group should have been a warning. Alhough his report contained a few useful ideas, such as a job guarantee for young people (which the Greens have been calling for since long before the pandemic), it earned a tepid response from all sides of the political spectrum.

When it was criticised on the issue of sustainability by environment NGOs, he denounced the green movement as “ideological zealots”, a term which is surely better suited for those who put GDP growth ahead of the survival of the living world.

The Scottish Government’s support for hospitality businesses, announced recently by Scottish Enterprise, could have been an opportunity to roll out the Living Wage and achieve more secure working hours across a sector with endemic poverty wages, but no such conditions seem to be attached.

THE insistence on blocking additional support for tenants while setting up a “hardship fund” for landlords is part of the same picture.

We now know that hundreds of people have been faced with eviction notices in recent months even when the rules apparently protected them, and those numbers are likely to increase dramatically when the temporary measures end.

Without rent controls and debt forgiveness, we will see a tidal wave of evictions – which could be prevented with existing devolved powers.

And, of course, this week’s SQA scandal needs to be seen in the same context. Despite months of warning that marking pupils down because of the school they went to would be wildly unfair, and especially so for working-class young people, this breathtaking injustice has been allowed to happen.

Far from ending educational inequality, we will see it entrenched even further unless we fix this now.

A “no detriment” policy in the appeals process would be a good start, but action is needed urgently, especially for those trying to get into higher education.

I know that some will read this and say: “But the Tories are worse!” Yes, they are. Much worse. But it’s simply not good enough to point elsewhere and say how much worse things are.

Whether it’s Covid, emergency support, housing, education or any other area where Scotland already has the power to act, we will only build that fairer, greener and more equal society if we act boldly, radically and urgently.