Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has today discussed the impact of Northlink’s decision to cancel tour group bookings for 2021 with the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse. On 14 October Northlink told travel operators that all group bookings for 2021 had been cancelled due to concerns about the impact of Covid-19
Ms Wishart was joined on the call by Orkney MSP Liam McArthur to highlight the impact of the decision on the Islands’ tourism industry and to discuss the lack of consultation and communication with businesses, as well as the need to rebuild confidence in the sector going forward.
During the meeting, the Minister confirmed that it is a commercial decision by Northlink to provisionally cancel bookings and the decision is being reviewed on an ongoing basis. Mr Wheelhouse recognised that communication had been an issue and resolved to work with Northlink and the tourism industry to avoid similar issues in the future. The Minister also agreed to work with Tourism Secretary, Fergus Ewing, to see if support can be provided to businesses facing hardship as a result of the cancellations.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart will use a speech in Holyrood this afternoon to make clear that the “islands can’t be an afterthought” in coronavirus decision-making.
Ms Wishart will be speaking in a debate on the Scottish Government’s proposed Strategic Framework for dealing with COVID-19 which sets out five levels of restrictions that could apply to local authority areas.
A Government letter sent to COSLA yesterday indicated that Shetland could be placed in Level 1 with additional measures on “no in-home socialising”. The First Minister told Parliament that she will announce on Thursday which areas will be placed in which level before the rules come into force next Monday.
Responding to the Scottish Government’s new strategic framework, Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart commented:
“It has been an extremely difficult year, with constant upheaval in every quarter. People are craving certainty, stability, and hope.
"We need a plan that can withstand what the virus throws at us, and a plan that can stand the test of time. The support for individuals and businesses needs to be sure and defined. There also needs to be meaningful engagement with the communities that will be affected.
“In that context, the framework published by the Scottish Government must now be given full and proper consideration. I will do everything I can to make sure that the views and needs of Shetlanders are properly incorporated into these plans. If people have concerns about what has been put forward, I would urge them to get in touch.”
Commenting on the Scottish Government’s decision to postpone rollout of new fire and carbon monoxide alarm regulations, after people were only alerted to the planned changes by a private company just months before the February 2021 deadline, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said:
“The Scottish Government promised a comprehensive information campaign to ensure that people knew about the changes they would need to make to comply with the new fire alarm regulations.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today written to the Education Secretary to raise concerns about the safety of school staff across Scotland who were asked to shield and propose the implementation of a Danish-inspired scheme, whereby teachers with existing health conditions could seek consultations with their doctors, and that the doctor’s advice to the individual teacher returning to work must be adhered to by the employer
Following the conclusion of the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the 2013 helicopter crash off Sumburgh, Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart has written to the Lord Advocate to request that he addresses the “inexcusable” seven year delay behind the findings.
In her letter, Ms Wishart wrote:
It is welcome news that the inquiry is reaching its end. Answers about the incident itself are valuable, and will serve as important lessons.
But for the families and friends of those lost, the questions that must now be answered relate to the seven year delay it took to get to this stage. I want to make clear, once again, that this was inexcusable.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is seeking an urgent meeting with Scottish Government Ministers following news that Northlink Ferries has cancelled all tour group bookings for 2021 due to Covid-19.
Ms Wishart has received representations from the hotel industry who have expressed their concerns about the impact of the decision on Shetland’s tourism industry and its recovery from Covid-19. Travel operators received correspondence from Northlink today informing them that “Due to the ongoing concerns over Covid-19, NorthLink Ferries have decided not to take any bookings for Groups in 2021. All 2021 group bookings have been cancelled”.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is supporting calls from NFU Scotland for the continuation of support schemes that provide vital income for crofters and farmers in island and remote rural areas.
NFU Scotland has launched a new policy document, ‘Less Favoured Areas - Delivering for Scotland,’ which highlights the value generated by crofters and farmers in less favoured areas, like the islands, and proposes changes to the schemes that would better target support.
NFU Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to fully reinstate LFASS payments to 100% of 2018 rates and retain the scheme with a £65 million budget until at least 2024.
This Challenge Poverty Week (5 to 11 October), Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is encouraging anyone who is worried about their income and the cost of living to seek help as soon as they can.
Challenge Poverty Week aims to build awareness and support for solutions to poverty, change the conversation around poverty and help end the stigma of living on a low income.
Responding to the publication of the review of the recent exams fiasco and the Scottish Government's announcement of its plans for 2021, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP commented:
"The review today highlights the countless opportunities the Education Secretary had to avoid dealing a crushing blow to pupils' ambitions and penalising those from poorer backgrounds. They fell on deaf ears, and the scramble to undo the damage is still being felt.