The results of the recent Shetland Islands Tourism Survey 2019 is good news in a sector that has been hit hard by the impact of Coronavirus. Tourism was the first to feel the effects as it closed up before the 2020 season got underway, and it will probably be the last industry to come out the other side of lockdown. The worry is that many tourism businesses won’t be able to survive until next Spring.
The financial support packages provided by the UK and Scottish Governments have been welcome, as have the adjustments they’ve made as things have moved on. There remains, however, a significant number of micro businesses, many tourist-related, that have not been eligible for any grant funding. Without them it will be a challenge to build on the good work done pre-Covid to expand tourism in the renew and recovery phase and to showcase all that Shetland has to offer.
Last week, Stage 3 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill was passed. It repealed parts of the previous emergency legislation that had scraped through after a tied vote and extended the deadlines for public bodies to deal with Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. The previous legislation meant that a 20-day deadline to respond to FOIs had been temporarily extended to 60 working days. This put Scotland, along with Brazil, in the unenviable position of being only two countries internationally trying to roll back freedom of information under the guise of Coronavirus emergency legislation. Scottish Liberal Democrats along with Labour, Greens and Conservatives, submitted amendments to rewind the previous legislation and by Stage 3 the government backed down.
The vast majority of people have stuck by the lockdown rules and done as they were asked, often at great personal hardship. Many families have told me how difficult these last few weeks have been, working at home while trying to support children with their school work. And that includes families with a teacher parent. We now know schools will return on 11th August. Families can plan for the future but blended and online learning will be with us for some time to come. Which is why I’ve written again to Ministers to ask what is being done to improve broadband services in Shetland.
Many women across the country have experienced complications after having transvaginal mesh implants. A fund has now been set up to help those who have experienced hardship as a result of these complications. Many women have been unable to live the life they did before the operation, and it has impacted their ability to earn a living. Successful applicants will receive a one-off payment of £1,000 towards costs associated with emotional or practical support. Whilst more could be done, this is a start. The fund opens on 1st July and the eligibility criteria will be published nearer the time. Anyone who wants further information should e-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll forward details when available.
Stay safe, stay home. Save lives.
We will get through this.