THE news that Clackmannanshire will be placed into the Level 3 restrictions, the second highest under the Scottish Governments new system, will no doubt come as a disappointment.

Sadly though, it is necessary and anything less would risk lives and lead to an inevitable rise in infections.

As this paper reported, Clacks currently has the highest rate of transmission in the Forth Valley area and hospital admissions are rising.

This is not a situation anyone wants to be in but following the restrictions and guidance from health professionals is, for now, the only way to push down the prevalence of Covid-19 and stop further infections overwhelming medical capacity.

However, while the Scottish Government has my support for these frustrating but necessary restrictions they need to be matched by support for communities and individuals who have seen their livelihoods threatened by the devastating economic consequences of the pandemic.

Local authorities are at the forefront of supporting communities affected by the pandemic. While in the early stages of lockdown they were provided with the additional resources they needed to do that this latest round of restrictions appears to come with no additional funding.

Councils will also play an important role in enforcing the current restrictions and that requires funding. While the vast majority of businesses have complied with the restrictions and done everything possible to support staff there have been exceptions.

There are unscrupulous employers who have put their own interests ahead of their staff's health and that of the community.

There have been reports of staff told to use holiday entitlement to self-isolate or told their pay will be docked.

Anyone who has been forced into a period of self-isolation after having been potentially exposed to the virus knows that is a time of anxiety, frustration and hardship. It is not a holiday and workers must not be punished for keeping themselves and the community safe from harm.

Of course, the UK Government's U-turn on its disastrous decision to terminate the furlough scheme in the middle of the second wave came far too late and threadbare benefits have left workers vulnerable to exploitation.

Across Scotland we've seen a spate of redundancies as firms were told in no uncertain terms the furlough scheme was coming to an end. This, very brief, extension comes too late for them.

It's a situation that could have been easily avoided if the UK Government had only listened. It is often easy to become numb to Conservative indifference to the plight of suffering communities but once again the Tories prove their callousness.

In amongst all the gloom though there was a sliver of good news recently. The Scottish Government has announced its intention to offer a blanket pardon to miners arrested as part of the 1984-85 strikes.

Thatcher's willingness to throw entire communities onto the bonfire of neo-liberalism left marks on Clackmannanshire communities that persist to this day.

I pay tribute to the dignity and determination with which miners and their families have campaigned for justice.

Their efforts to protect their livelihoods and the solidarity extended by the community around them has deep relevance in these challenging times. Now, 35 years later, the jobs may have changed but the struggle carries on.