Today, Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart questioned the Scottish Government on what is being done to ensure access to online learning for those in remote, rural and island communities, as colleges and universities gear up to re-open under a blended learning model.
Ms Wishart noted that Universities Scotland has said that digital poverty will “reinforce disadvantage”, and asked the Minister for Higher and Further Education what will be done for those whose internet speeds “can’t cope” with online learning.
This follows concerns raised by Ms Wishart and Liberal Democrat colleagues about delays to the Scottish Government’s rollout of superfast broadband in the Highlands and Islands.
In response, the Minister for Higher and Further Education agreed that it was an issue that needed addressed, and confirmed that some of the funding announced to address the digital access could help those who are struggling with online access because of rurality.
Responding to the news that the Scottish Government have announced additional funding for four new jobs to develop crofting in the Western Isles, Northern Isles MSPs Liam McArthur and Beatrice Wishart have asked the Scottish Government to “follow that logic through”, and allow for a fully tailored approach to crofting.
A group of Liberal Democrat Highlands and Islands MPs and MSPs have written a joint letter to express their “increasing concern” at the reported threat to the R100 programme for superfast broadband in the Highlands and Islands.
This follows reports that the ongoing legal action taken against the Scottish Government’s handling of procurement for the ‘Northern Lot’, may mean that its European state aid protection could expire before the contract is actually awarded.
Scottish Liberal Democrat Beatrice Wishart MSP has today written to Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell to ask the Scottish Government to clarify what plans it has for imposing local lockdowns or restrictions in the event of localised COVID-19 outbreaks.
It comes after Scottish Liberal Democrats called for a rapid forward-looking inquiry into Scotland's preparedness for a second wave of COVID-19
On 24 June the First Minister announced further expected changes to lockdown restrictions.
If the Covid-19 continues to be suppressed from:
- 3 July – Travel distance limit for leisure will be lifted
- 3 July – Self-catering holiday accommodation will be permitted, providing it requires no shared facilities between households
- 6 July – Outdoor hospitality can commence subject to the Scientific Advisory Group review
- 10 July – People can meet in extended groups outdoors, with physical distancing
- 10 July – Households can meet indoors with up to a maximum of two households, with physical distancing
- 13 July – Organised outdoor contact sport can resume for children and young people, subject to guidance
- 13 July – All dental practices begin to see registered patients for non-aerosol routine care, and work will begin to return aerosol generating procedures to practice safely
- 13 July – Increasing capacity within community optometry practices for emergency and essential eye care
- 13 July – Non-essential shops inside shopping centres can reopen, subject to the Scientific Advisory Group review
- 15 July – All childcare providers can open subject to individual provider arrangements
- 15 July – All holiday accommodation will be permitted
- 15 July – Indoor hospitality can reopen, subject to the Scientific Advisory Group review
- 15 July – Hairdressers and barbers can reopen with enhanced hygiene measures
- 15 July – Museums, galleries, cinemas, monuments, libraries will reopen with physical distancing and other measures, such as ticketing in advance
You can read more here.
The next formal reviews of coronavirus regulations will be on 9th and 30th July when the First Minister will make further statements.
On 23 June, the Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary announced that the Scottish Government’s assumption is now for children and young people to be back at school full time in August.
The change comes after frustration about some local authority plans that would have seen pupils in school for one day a week.
You can read more here.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that islanders are not disadvantaged when it comes to the easing of coronavirus restrictions. Ms Wishart has received representations from constituents who are frustrated about their ability to see family and friends on the Mainland.
Guidance published by the Scottish Government on 18 June stated, “Travelling to and from islands to visit family would be acceptable within this guidance, but individuals should consider whether they can do so while acting in line with all other guidance.” This effectively meant most islanders would have to arrive and return the same day in order to stick within the current guidance that indoor meetings are not possible.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is highlighting that the Scottish Government’s new fund to support women who have experienced mesh complication will be open for applications from 1 July 2020. Ms Wishart is encouraging eligible women in Shetland to apply.
Women who have received a transvaginal mesh implant through an NHS Scotland Health Board and who have experienced complications can apply for an one off £1,000 payment. Women can claim if they have had to pay for emotional or practical support to help manage their condition.
National Alert Level
Today the four Chief Medical Officers of the UK downgraded the national alert level from 4 to 3, indicating that the virus remains "in general circulation" but there can be a "gradual relaxation of restrictions". Put simply, there is still a risk of outbreaks but there has been a sustained drop in the number of cases. It is worth noting that the alert level is a general indicator of the state of the pandemic but is not directly linked to any particular policy changes (see below).
Northern Isles representatives Alistair Carmichael MP and Beatrice Wishart MSP have written to the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, calling for improved isles connectivity to be a positive legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic. Highlighting the increased need for strong connections due to “work from home” guidance and the ongoing challenges faced by isolated communities such as Foula and Skerries in Shetland, the Liberal Democrat parliamentarians call for close cooperation between the UK and Scottish governments with telecoms providers to improve service.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has reinforced the need for a 12-month support package for Shetland’s tourism and hospitality industries to help the sectors survive the impact of Covid-19. Ms Wishart made the case again to Tourism Secretary, Fergus Ewing during a Holyrood virtual question session.
Ms Wishart told parliament that Shetland has a shorter tourist season that mainland Scotland and that some in the industry have likened the prospect of a recovering from Covid-19 as “having to first survive three winters”. Ms Wishart asked the Tourism Secretary if the government will consider a 12-month “bespoke” support package for Shetland to help the visitor economy survive until next year.