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Connect at Christmas: Scottish party leaders join forces to battle loneliness

P&J Christmas campaign
Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is backing The PJ's campaign.

Scotland’s political leaders have put their differences aside to join together with a pledge of support for The P&J’s Connect at Christmas campaign.

After a year like no other, the party bosses united today to back our attempt to ensure as few people as possible suffer the harmful effects of loneliness this festive season.

Connect at Christmas aims to inspire our readers to pledge to do one thing to make someone less lonely this winter, and will also highlight the great work already being carried out by charities and volunteers across the north and north-east.

The campaign includes a video advent calendar, a big quiz at Christmas and New Year and we are encouraging people to show solidarity by putting snowmen in their windows.

The initiative has now won the backing of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, Scottish Labour’s Richard Leonard, Green co-leader Patrick Harvie and Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attends a sheltered housing development in Edinburgh where she participated in an inter-generational Christmas tea party to raise awareness of loneliness and isolation.

Ms Sturgeon, the SNP leader, said the tighter restrictions that she has just announced would make the aims of the Connect at Christmas campaign even more important to achieve.

“I know how heart-breaking it is for so many people to be apart from loved ones over Christmas and the festive season – and the updated restrictions we had to announce at the weekend will only have added to that feeling,” she said.

I think The Press and Journal’s Connect at Christmas campaign is a great way of helping to make sure people don’t feel too isolated.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“The pandemic has been difficult for all of us, but especially so for those who live alone, and I think The Press and Journal’s Connect at Christmas campaign is a great way of helping to make sure people don’t feel too isolated.

“It’s important we all stick to the rules to keep everyone safe – but looking to connect in other ways will help tackle the issue of loneliness, as we look forward to the better times that do lie ahead.”

P&J Christmas campaign
Moray MP Douglas Ross with Laurie Piper, chief executive of Visit Moray Speyside.

Mr Ross, the Moray MP, said contributing just a few minutes of one’s day to help others could have untold benefits.

He highlighted the work of charity Re-engage, which has a branch in Moray and described their work to get older lonely people interacting with others as a “lifeline”.

He said: “Talking would be important at any time, but the ongoing restrictions of this devastating pandemic make it absolutely vital this winter.”

Backing the P&J’s campaign, Mr Ross added: “This is an extremely worthwhile initiative from The P&J and one that I am very happy to support.

“Far too many elderly people suffer from the harmful effects of loneliness. Tragically, around half say that TV is their main source of company.

It will inspire P&J readers to pause and think about those in our local area who would benefit from some company.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross

“By its very nature – unseen and behind closed doors – the vast number of people living with loneliness may not be obvious as we go about our busy lives.

“And that is why campaigns like this to raise awareness need our backing.”

“It will inspire P&J readers to pause and think about those in our local area who would benefit from some company.

“Even just checking in or taking a few minutes to enjoy a simple chat can make a world of difference.”

P&J Christmas campaign
Richard Leonard at the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard fears the ongoing lockdown restrictions will have “grievous consequences for mental health and wellbeing”.

“Loneliness has surged during the pandemic, with grievous consequences for mental health and wellbeing,” he said.

“Many months of restrictions have made the hardships faced by those who are isolated and lonely much worse.

“It’s important that we all look out for people facing isolation during the festive period, and that appropriate support is given to them through our public services.

“I fully support The Press and Journal in this campaign and commend the work of charities offering support to those facing a lonely Christmas.

“As leader of the Scottish Labour Party, I am happy to offer whatever support I can to those affected by the crisis of loneliness that Scotland is facing during the hard winter pandemic months.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie also endorsed the initiative, saying: “At a time of collective effort to stay apart and keep each other safe there is an increased risk of loneliness and social isolation over this festive period.

Nicola Sturgeon, Willie Rennie, Kezia Dugdale, Patrick Harvie and Jackson Carlaw highlight the need to tackle loneliness and isolation in Scotland last year.

“Many community gatherings and support groups will be cancelled or restricted in their usual activities.

“That’s why this campaign to encourage people across the north and north-east to find innovative ways to reach out and help someone in their community is especially welcome this year.”

Mr Rennie, the Lib Dem leader, urged Scots to show their support for Connect at Christmas by displaying snowmen in their windows.

This is a great initiative from The P&J to spread some Christmas cheer and put a smile on people’s faces at what, for many, will be a very difficult time of year.”

Willie Rennie

“In the depths of the first wave of the pandemic the rainbows in people’s windows fostered a sense of community and showed our gratitude to the amazing key workers keeping our health service running,” he said.

“This is a great initiative from The P&J to spread some Christmas cheer and put a smile on people’s faces at what, for many, will be a very difficult time of year.

“I’d encourage everyone to get on board and put a snowman in their window.”

Connect at Christmas: More from our campaign

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