Leader comment: The ‘snow dividend’ of the Beast from the East

The Beast from the East caused mayhem but also produced numerous acts of kindness as people helped strangers caught in the snow (Picture: PA)
The Beast from the East caused mayhem but also produced numerous acts of kindness as people helped strangers caught in the snow (Picture: PA)
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We learn a lot about ourselves in moments of crisis. And many of the lessons from the mayhem caused by the arrival of the Beast from the East have been positive.

The Scotsman today reports on numerous acts of kindness and of people going the extra mile for others; there were so many it was nowhere near possible to get them all in the paper.

In a world often dominated by bleak, depressing headlines about human failings and appalling crimes, there are still an awful lot of really nice people out there.

But there are other, less obvious lessons we can learn. Some of us will have discovered that it is much easier to work at home nowadays than perhaps we thought.

Being forced to log-on from home for the first time by impassable roads may well have involved the tearing of hair and multiple calls to IT, but those who succeeded now have the option to do so again in the future – so they can keep an eye on children, take a break from the commute or for whatever reason.

Employers may also have gained a greater insight into the benefits of embracing the internet in order to allow things like home working and more flexible hours.

The snow that blanketed Scotland also revealed how reliant we are on rather thin supply chains with the National Grid issuing a warning about a potential ”gas deficit” and some reports of supermarkets running out of food, although this may have been partly caused by a bit of panic-buying.

Understanding this adds to the already considerable case for encouraging local food and creating more domestic sources of energy.

So the Beast from the East may have caused significant disruption, numerous accidents and a financial hit to many businesses, but in teaching us something about ourselves it has also produced what might be described as a “snow dividend”.

At the very least, it has highlighted a few possible ways to change our society for the better.

But perhaps its key lesson is that most people are prepared to go out of their way to help those in trouble.

Being overly cynical about others can create a downward spiral, in which people stop helping one another, producing yet more cynicism. Realising that, in fact, most people are decent and kind can have the opposite effect, creating a virtuous circle and a better Scotland. The trick will be finding a way to maintain the spirit of those who stood up to the Beast.