Northern Isles Parliamentarians have called on Scottish Ministers to fully consider and openly engage with all potential approaches to easing lockdown restrictions, following further statements by Professor Hugh Pennington of the University of Aberdeen before the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee today (Tuesday).
During the virtual evidence session, Professor Pennington said that the northern isles “could really do something different” in terms of moving away from lockdown. The academic suggested that the next stages of coronavirus containment could be developed earlier in the islands, “but only if we had a comprehensive testing strategy in those places to make sure that the virus wasn’t going under the radar”.
Shetland and Orkney’s parliamentarians, Beatrice Wishart MSP, Liam McArthur MSP and Alistair Carmichael MP have called on the Scottish Government to provide assurances that they will engage meaningfully with Professor Pennington’s proposals and be open to considering how they might be implemented safely.
Looking Beyond Lockdown
The Scottish Government has published a paper outlining how decision will be taken on controlling coronavirus whilst restoring a degree of normality to everyday life. The paper recognises that we will need to find a “new normal”.
Feedback on the document is invited from members of the public to help inform the government’s work.
The document is available here: https://www.gov.scot/news/looking-beyond-lockdown/
The Scottish Parliament has formed a committee to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s response to coronavirus. Beatrice has been appointed to the committee.
In the first session on Friday she asked the Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, Europe and External Affairs for more information on how the government is communicating its message to the public whilst highlighting the digital divide that exists in Scotland regarding access to technology that might be used to tackle the virus.
Holyrood's new Covid-19 Committee met for the first time today and Liberal Democrat representative Beatrice Wishart MSP questioned Mike Russell, as the minister leading Scotland's emergency legislation, on plans to roll out test and trace procedures and how the government will ensure that any technological solution works for remote and rural communities where digital provisions are less comprehensive.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is encouraging people to show their appreciation for postmen and women who have been working flat out by giving them a thumbs up.
Royal Mail staff have an important role during the coronavirus pandemic in delivering essentials and helping to keep communities connected. Royal Mail is asking people to show their appreciation by giving a thumbs up to their postie from a safe distance and encouraging children make colourful pictures for their front window.
Additional Funding for Businesses
The Scottish Government has announced additional support for businesses affected by coronavirus.
The new package of measures includes £120 million to extend the Small Business Grant scheme to ensure that, in addition to a 100% grant on the first property, small business rate payers will be eligible to a 75% grant on all subsequent properties.
A further £100 million fund is being made available to self-employed people and viable micro and SME businesses. The fund will be channelled through local authorities and enterprise agencies to target newly self-employed people and businesses who are ineligible for other Scottish Government or UK Government schemes.
Applications for the £100 million fund will be open by the end of the month, and the new arrangements for the Small Business Grant will be in place to receive applications on 5 May.
If you are unsure whether your business will qualify, contact Business Gateway Shetland at [email protected]
We are continuing to pursue remaining business support issues, like the lack of support for businesses registered at a domestic address.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has welcomed government confirmation that peat casting is permitted during the coronavirus lockdown, having written to the seek clarification for concerned constituents.
Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, told Ms Wishart:
“I recognise the importance of peat as a domestic winter fuel source in parts of Scotland, and of the need to begin to cast peat now to ensure adequate personal supplies for next winter. As long as the published guidance on social distancing is followed, this collection of an essential fuel supply should be permissible. However, it is also essential that those undertaking this activity follow precautions such as not sharing tools and cleaning them thoroughly after use.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has welcomed the Scottish Government announcement that around £220 million of further grants are being made available to help businesses affected by coronavirus, whilst warning of the economic consequences if gaps remain to be addressed.
In recent weeks, Ms Wishart has been contacted by individuals and businesses from wide variety of sectors who will receive limited support from the Scottish Government or none at all due to the Coronavirus Business Support Fund eligibility criteria.
Concerns about island supply chains were highlighted in a call with Scottish Ministers today by isles representatives Alistair Carmichael MP, Liam McArthur MSP and Beatrice Wishart MSP.
During a call with Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Minister for the Rural Economy and Tourism, and Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, MSPs and MPs representing island communities across Scotland outlined problems encountered in getting supplies to local businesses and constituents.
Following discussions with local wholesalers, shop owners and constituents over recent days, Mr Carmichael, Mr McArthur and Ms Wishart highlighted some of the difficulties faced getting essential goods to the isles. They urged the Ministers to help apply pressure on suppliers to improve supply chains as well as do more to allow local wholesalers to access support under the various government schemes. Mr Ewing and Mr Wheelhouse welcomed the input from local MSPs and MPs and agreed to keep them updated on their discussions with suppliers and the supermarkets.
News today that payments worth £19.1 million have been made to farmers and crofters in remote and rural areas from the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) has been welcomed by isles representatives Alistair Carmichael MP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Liam McArthur MSP.
Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart said:
“Crofters and farmers will be pleased that this financial support is being paid out. It is all the more important at this unprecedented time where we need to make sure that crofting and farming businesses in Shetland remain viable.
“The Coronavirus crisis has brought into sharp focus how valuable our crofting and farming community is in providing high quality produce. Indeed the benefits of buying local to support our community and reduce food miles are clear to see.”