16 March - COVID-19 Update

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Shetland has increased to 15 this afternoon.

Support for Self-Isolation Shetland - Coronavirus has been set up on Facebook to support people who are in self-isolation

I’ve spoken with some people in the business community today to discuss the challenges of coronavirus. If you are a business or an individual please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Beatrice.Wishart.msp@parliament.scot or on 01595 690 044 / 01313 486 296.

From today, SIC Housing will only respond to emergency and urgent repair calls. The Repairs Helpdesk contact number is 01595 744399. Community Housing Support will not be carrying out home visits but contact will be maintained via phone. New referrals will be restricted at this time. People should only visit the office at 6 North Ness if they need to make emergency homeless applications.

The BBC and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has issued a joint statement announcing a delay to charges to over 75s TV licence fees until 1 August.

Northlink Ferries has published an update for passengers, available here. Prior to checking in passengers will be asked if they have a new, continuous cough or a high temperature. If so, travel will be refused. Bookings can be amended by contacting Northlink on 0845 6000 449 or 01856 885500 or email reservations@northlinkferries.co.uk

 


COVID-19 and Support for Businesses

In response to understandable concerns from the business community about the potential effect of Covid-19 on viability, the Scottish Government has now issued the following statement on support that will be made available.

£320 million package of support for businesses
Immediate action in response to COVID-19.

New measures to limit the impact of COVID-19 on the business community in Scotland have been announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes.

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Statement on the COVID-19 Situation in Shetland

I recognise that there is considerable anxiety within the Shetland community regarding the spread of COVID-19. I have sought assurances from and listened to advice and updates from various officials and organisations, including NHS Shetland, Shetland Islands Council, the Scottish Health Secretary, Loganair, Lerwick Port Authority, and Oil and Gas UK.

Whilst the situation is understandably concerning, we must be guided in our actions by scientific advice. Certain measures are most effective when deployed at the right time.

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Wishart urges government collaboration on aquaculture in trade negotiations

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has urged the Scottish Government and UK Government to work together to secure a good outcome in UK/EU trade negotiations for the aquaculture industry, following news that the Scottish Rural Economy Secretary has not had any specific discussions with the UK Government on the sector.

In portfolio questions on Wednesday, Ms Wishart highlighted that 23% of UK farmed salmon is produced in Shetland as well as 75% of Scottish farmed mussels and noted how important aquaculture is to small rural communities. Ms Wishart asked the Rural Economy Secretary what recent discussions the Scottish Government has had with the UK Government on aquaculture in its EU negotiations and asked what additional resources are being planned to ensure producers can continue to export when the transition period ends.

Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing replied there have been no discussion on aquaculture but that the Scottish Government is concerned about the approach that the UK Government is taking on tariffs. He noted that he shared concerns about exporters being faced with the burden of red tape.

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“Body blow” for Shetland North Mainland – Wishart and Carmichael respond to Scatsta closure

Statement issued by Beatrice Wishart MSP and Alistair Carmichael MP in response to the closure announcement of Scatsta Airport in Shetland:

“This is a body blow for the North Mainland of Shetland. We have all known that changes within the oil and gas industry would inevitably bring changes to Shetland but this news has come with little warning or community consultation. We call upon the Integrated Aviation Consortium to explain the business case for the decision that they have made. The local community has served the industry well over the years and they deserve to be given more answers and better respect than this.

“Obviously we cannot maintain an airport for which there is no business but the availability of an alternative to Sumburgh is strategically important for the isles. The loss of it will be felt particularly acutely in the summer months when Sumburgh can be fogged out – sometimes for several days at a time. Shetland Islands Council, The Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the IAC should get together and look at all the options. What may look penny wise today can end up looking pound foolish in a few years’ time.”


Wishart celebrates Scottish Apprenticeship Week in Shetland

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart met yesterday (Monday) with a number of isles’ apprentices to mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week.

Ms Wishart met with apprentices at Hame Fae Hame nursery in Scalloway, working towards a qualifications in Social Services (Children and Young People), and went on to visit New Craigielea to meet a current apprentice on a Business and Administration course and a former apprentice in Social Services and Healthcare.

The visits were organised by Train Shetland who co-ordinate apprenticeships in the isles.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week runs from 2 to 6 March 2020. This year the theme is “Talent Without Limits” with the programme of events focusing on challenging stereotypical views of apprenticeships.

        

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“Pull out all the stops” to guarantee childcare rollout

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has demanded the government “pull out all the stops” to ensure high quality childcare is in place by the end of the summer as promised, after Audit Scotland reported serious concerns about nursery infrastructure and staff recruitment.

The report revealed that:

  • as of September 2019 councils still needed to recruit approximately half of the additional staff required for the expansion
  • around half of the work to put the necessary infrastructure in place is planned for completion in the final few months, escalating the risk level to the highest level meaning it is both “very likely to occur” and will have a “very high impact”
  • “it is likely that some aspects of the policy, such as delivering flexibility and choice, will not be fully implemented by August 2020.”
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Exiting Erasmus would be a disaster for Scottish students and universities

Following the publication of the Government’s Brexit negotiating strategy this morning (Thursday), Scottish Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has warned that abandoning the Erasmus scheme will be a disaster for Scottish students and universities.
 

Section 21 of the document reveals that the UK will “consider options for participation in elements of Erasmus+ [after 2021] on a time-limited basis, providing the terms are in the UK’s interests.”
 
This suggests that the UK may seek looser membership of Erasmus as a ‘partner country’, which would mean less funding for British universities and colleges to offer student and staff exchanges. Instead, they would be reliant on their partners in EU member states to manage projects and funding on their behalf.
 
Universities have warned that partner country status will mean fewer opportunities to study abroad, higher costs, less influence over the future of the programme and a possible cap on the number of students who are able to take part.

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Wishart stresses the need for Jarlshof solution

Shetland MSP has Beatrice Wishart has today sought assurances from Tourism Secretary, Fergus Ewing, that visitor facilities at Jarlshof will be looked at with a manner of urgency ahead of the upcoming tourism season. Visitors to the Bronze Age site are currently using parking spaces and toilets at the nearby Sumburgh Hotel, which has become increasingly unsustainable for the business.

The Jarlshof site, managed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has no onsite toilet or parking facilities, leaving visitors to use the services at the Sumburgh Hotel by agreement with the owner. Previous Freedom of Information requests show that in February 2018 HES acknowledged that there is “increasing visitor pressure” at Jarlshof “with current health & safety issues to address.” However in January 2019 the Scottish Government rejected a business case put forward by HES for the development. Over 100 cruise ships are due to visit Lerwick this year, carrying almost 100,000 passengers.

During the Tourism Question session today, Ms Wishart highlighted the need for a permanent solution and asked the Cabinet Secretary to look again at the business case for the works. The Cabinet Secretary noted that HES is “actively engaged” on the issues and offered further discussion on the matter.

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Wishart supports campaign to scrap 20 metre rule for Personal Independence Payments

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has shown her support for MS Society Scotland’s campaign to ensure that Scotland’s new social security does not fail people living with disabilities. MS Society Scotland were campaigning at Holyrood this week to urge the Scottish Government to scrap the “crude and cruel” ‘20-metre rule’.

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) UK-wide system which people living in Scotland currently apply for is set to be devolved next year. The Scottish Government has pledged to end PIP when powers are transferred to Holyrood but is yet to confirm whether the 20-metre rule, which states that anyone who can walk this short distance is not entitled to the higher rate of mobility assistance, will remain a part of the devolved system. The 20m rule is a poor fit for conditions like MS where symptoms fluctuate.

Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the 20m rule at First Minister’s Question this week and answered that the Government is looking “looking very carefully and very seriously at that issue.”

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