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.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is reminding the community to plan ahead and only order prescriptions when they are needed following news that community pharmacies in Shetland have been receiving double the amount of usual orders.
NHS Shetland Principle Pharmacist, Mary McFarlane, told BBC Radio Shetland last night that pharmacies in Shetland usually receive 300 to 400 prescription requests every day but that had doubled recently with people concerned about their supply and isolation. This has been adding pressure to staff workload and medicine stocks as the international supply chain faces disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, announced new guidance and measures for people returning from abroad. This included a pledge of £75m to charter flights to places where commercial flights have stopped running. If flights are still running where you are, the government has advised to contact your airline as soon as possible to get on the first available flight. Where routes have been cancelled, the government says the airline has a responsibility to offer alternatives flights. This includes allowing passengers to change tickets, including between carriers.
If you or someone you know is still abroad and are having difficulties in returning to the UK, please get in touch with Alistair’s office.
There have also been reports of airlines refusing to refund tickets where they have been cancelled, sometimes offering vouchers instead. Rules vary internationally, but if your flight began or ended within the EU, you have an explicit right to a full cash refund – our understanding is that this no longer applies to UK-only flights now that we have left the EU. Alistair has written to the Secretary of State for Transport to confirm if the government intends to create a policy on refunds in the future.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has welcomed the announcement that Scottish Government has taken action to increase isles patient transfer capacity to the mainland. The update today follows the military transfer of a patient ten days ago from the Gilbert Bain to intensive care in Aberdeen.
Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, announced to Parliament that Epishuttle single isolation pods have been procured for the safety of patients and staff during transfers. The Epishuttles are due to go live in the coming days and that in the meantime the Scottish Ambulance Service is working with the RAF to cover transfers.
On 17 March Ms Wishart sought assurances from the Health Secretary in Parliament that medical evacuations would be carried out safely and efficiently. Ms Freeman replied that challenges had been overcome and the Scottish Ambulance Service would guarantee the transfer of any patient with a clinical need.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has written to Scottish Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, to ask that eligibility criteria for the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus Business Support Fund be reassessed so that businesses operating from home can access support.
Current guidance states that eligible businesses must be located in a non-domestic property to apply for grants, excluding those who operate from home or have their business registered there.
Ms Wishart has written to the Finance Secretary to ask that the eligibility criteria be reconsidered.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has today moved to assure crofters and farmers that shepherds will be permitted to travel to Shetland for seasonal work, following concerns surrounding isles travel restrictions.
Last week, the Scottish Government introduced restrictions on ferries, meaning travel will only be permitted for “those who live on our islands, who have an essential need to travel to or from the mainland and for essential supplies or business.”
Following correspondence from constituents concerned about the impact of travel restrictions on workers travelling to Shetland by ferry for the lambing season, Ms Wishart contacted Northlink Ferries for clarification on the matter.
Ms Wishart was told that agricultural workers were specifically considered by the Scottish Government in discussions regarding travel restrictions and that travel to Shetland will be permitted provided workers can evidence their need to travel.
The Scottish Government has announced that due to the rapidly changing situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19), there is to be a temporary pause a number of screening programmes. These are:
- Breast Screening (mammograms)
- Cervical Screening (smear tests)
- Bowel Screening (home test kits)
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening (ultrasound of abdomen)
- Diabetic Retinopathy (Eye) Screening (images taken of the eye).
Pregnancy and Newborn Screening Programmes, including tests offered during pregnancy and just after birth, will continue where logistically practical.
This means no additional patients will be invited for screening until further notice. Results for those who have recently been screened or who have completed and returned home test kits will continue to be processed.
The suspension is temporary and will be formally reviewed after 12 weeks, or earlier if indicated by the evidence.
Pausing these screening programmes allows staff to be re-allocated to support other essential services, including COVID-19 laboratory testing and covering for colleagues who are unwell or self-isolating.
While the most important ask for the public remains to stay at home and follow the essential public health guidance, people who are healthy and not at risk can volunteer to provide practical or emotional help to those most in need. People who want to share their kindness with others can register as a Community Reserve Volunteer (CRV) and be part of Scotland-wide preparations to protect the NHS, support people in need and help save lives.