We perhaps did not realise the fragility of the 'just-in-time’ delivery services, operating at night, that were required to maintain this constant flow of food and other consumables.
The disruption and staff shortages caused by Covid, the imposition of regulations affecting truck transport between the UK and EU following Brexit, and the sudden collapse of carbon dioxide production – used in food production and preservation – appear to have combined to cause spaces to open up on our supermarket shelves, while there have even been warnings about toy shortages in the run-up to Christmas. And the situation has been made worse by those of us who have resorted to panic-buying.
At times like these, there is a need for strong leadership. The UK and Scottish governments should be looking to find ways to quickly restore supplies, reassure the public and help quell the fears of those prone to panic.
The UK government’s action to restore production of carbon dioxide at two major factors is an example of what can be done, although so far it has not solved the problem in of itself. It may be that further interventions in the normal operation of the market, possibly including steps that would have seemed strange before Covid arrived to shake our society to its core, will be required.
But each one of us can also play our part, by recognising that the ‘new normal’ is not just about benefits like the ability to work from home and that we may have to lower our expectations a little.
David Cameron’s talk of a ‘Big Society' was much mocked when he promoted it during his time in 10 Downing Street. But the idea that we should make small sacrifices to help others – for example, by turning down our thermostat to reduce demand for gas even if we can afford it – is one that has seldom had such importance in modern times, given the hard times we have experienced since March last year.
In these troubled times, it would help a great deal if we were all to become more resilient, stoical and thoughtful about the needs of others, and less fearful, demanding and concerned for ourselves.