THE last seven months have asked a lot everyone and all of you have had to make many sacrifices, large and small.

Everyone has worked so hard to stop the continued spread of coronavirus but despite all these efforts yet again cases have risen significantly, and worryingly hospital admissions increase.

Last week the first minister announced a new strategic framework which sets out how we will work to suppress the virus as we move forward

Full details of this can be found at:

This approach to outbreak management is based on five levels of protection, which have packages of measures to reduce transmission of the virus, that can be applied locally or nationally, according to changing patterns of infection and transmission.

I believe this new framework presents an honest reflection of the decisions we will need to make, and the balance we will have to reach.

It seeks to tackle the direct and very real harm to health and life caused by Covid whilst recognising the wider health harms that will result if our NHS is overwhelmed by Covid; the social harms caused by lockdown, such as increased isolation and inequality; and of course the economic harm suffered by businesses and workers across the country, which in turn causes physical and mental health problems.

It is clear that none of these issues can be viewed in isolation and the best balances have to be struck in the interests of minimising the overall harm that the pandemic is causing.

No one wants to be living under any restrictions that are not absolutely necessary or for any longer than needs be and these new proposals will allow the Scottish Government to work in partnership with public health and local authorities to make the decisions that best meet local circumstances.

Last week, the Scottish Government announced a further £10million of funding to extend free school meals. I am pleased that more than 1400 children and young people across Clackmannanshire will be supported by this investment which will help families meet the cost of meals over Christmas, February and Easter holidays.

The Scottish Government's decision to extend the free school meals scheme will be a great relief for many hard-pressed parents and is in stark contrast to the actions of the Tories at Westminster who had an opportunity to support thousands of families worrying about how they will put food on the table in the weeks ahead, but they refused to do the right thing.

The Scottish Tories have a dreadful voting record at Westminster. In the past few months alone, they have voted to impose an extreme Brexit against Scotland's will, backed a power grab on the Scottish Parliament, voted against protecting Scottish food standards, opposed human rights for refugee children, and backed Tory plans to scrap the furlough scheme – putting millions of jobs and businesses at risk during a pandemic.

The SNP will continue to deliver progressive policies in Scotland in the face Tory cuts, but it is becoming ever clearer that the only way to properly protect Scotland's interests and our values is to become an independent country.