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.
The Scottish Government has published a Route Map document for the easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland.
It is still important that physical distancing is maintained at all times – staying 2 metres apart – and practice good hygiene.
On 29 May, we entered Phase 1 of the route map. The following measures are now permitted:
- One household can meet up with another outdoors. This should be only one household within the same day and a recommended maximum of 8 people overall.
- Outdoor spaces can be used for recreation, for example sitting in parks or having picnics. However people should not share foods between households and avoid using shared facilities.
- People can travel a short distance for leisure but it is recommended that you stay in your local area and avoid public transport. Some outdoor activities like golf and angling can resume. Recreational boating is also permitted: https://www.shetland.gov.uk/ports/documents/NTM0720.pdf
- Most outdoor workplaces can resume.
- The construction sector will move to the first phase of its re-start plan.
- Restaurants and cades can provide delivery, take-away and drive through food.
On 1 June:
- Staff can return to schools to prepare for schools to reopen for blended learning on 11 August.
- Household waste recycling centres begin to reopen.
On 3 June:
- Childminding services and outdoor nursery provision will be available, subject to increased hygiene and physical distancing
If the police find people on premises flouting these rules, they will offer strong advice for people to stop. However, if you are aged 18 years or over and refuse to follow their instructions you may be issued with a fixed penalty notice.
People who are shielding are being asked to continue to do so for the time being.
The First Minister reiterated that people should not be travelling to and from the isles except when essential, and we have welcomed this reminder.
Further Phase 1 guidance is available here.
“Protests across the world have asked us to think about whether we have a role in feeding or overlooking racism in our communities, from overt discrimination to unconscious or systematic bias.
“I believe that the Shetland community is, on the whole, welcoming and kind. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do better.
“Some may have been party to things that seemed harmless, but in fact have never been acceptable. As individuals we should call out racist remarks or so-called jokes when we hear them. Seeing blacked-up faces at some local events needs to be a thing of the past.
“Part of being an ally is looking at yourself and your community and recognising where you can do better. Shetland, just like everywhere else, can do better.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is paying tribute the Shetland’s carers this Carers week (8 to 14 June) and encouraging people to come forward to access the support they are entitled to.
Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. This year’s theme is Make Caring Visible
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has called for “boots on the ground” to tackle the impending mental health crisis within schools.
Following questioning from Ms Wishart in the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said that there will be “an increasing number of children who have been severely traumatised” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has today called the prospect of job losses at the Moorfield Hotel a “devastating blow”, having raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions.
On Tuesday (2nd June) it was announced that almost 50 jobs were at risk at the Moorfield Hotel following Total’s decision to move worker accommodation to the Sella Ness block. A staff redundancy consultation process has begun.
Legal proceedings are also underway in response to a Scottish Government reporter’s ruling to overturn a Shetland Island Council decision to turn down planning permission for the Sella Ness facility to remain open.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has today (Thursday) sought an update on testing capacity in Scotland’s Islands as the Test and Protect strategy is rolled out across health boards.
During virtual Health questions, Ms Wishart noted that demand for tests will rise significantly with the move to the Test and Protect and strategy. Ms Wishart asked Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, for an update on how local capacity will be increased to meet this demand and given the hurdles to accessing testing in island communities.
The Health Secretary said that an agreement had been reached to use “satellite sites” in the Islands and to ensure that the necessary chemicals and testing kits are available on site. Ms Freeman committed to providing an update to MSPs.
Northern Isles MSPs, Beatrice Wishart and Liam McArthur, have asked the Scottish Government to address the “unique hurdles” that islands communities will face as demand for testing expends with the government’s ‘Test and Protect’ rollout.
The Scottish Government’s contact tracing system will be rolled out nationally later this week. Where confirmed cases of covid-19 are identified, this system will trace contacts so that all those thought to be at risk can self-isolate in order to suppress the spread of the virus.
During her statement yesterday (Tuesday), the First Minister said that tests would be available: “at one of the drive through testing centres or mobile testing units. For some, there will also be the option of a home testing kit.”
She also noted that “We will also continue to build testing capacity and make access to testing more locally accessible.”
The First Minister has announced a four phase route map for the easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions. You can read the document here.
Current advice remains unchanged but we will move to Phase 1 of the route map on 28th May if the virus continues to be suppressed. Progress will continue to be assessed every three weeks.
Some of the key phase 1 provisions include:
- You will be able to meet people from one other household, though initially in small numbers, and at 2 meters distance while you are outside.
- You will be able to sit or sunbathe in parks and open areas.
- Some non-contact outdoor leisure activities will be allowed to restart - such as golf, tennis, bowls and fishing - subject to appropriate hygiene and physical distancing.
- People will be able to travel – preferably by walking or cycling - to a location near their local community for recreation.
- Non urgent NHS treatment and surgery will gradually restart.
The First Minister also announced that schools are expected to open on 11 August with pupils learning part time in classrooms and at home. Teachers and school staff will return in June to prepare classrooms.
The advice for those who are shielding isn’t changing yet and the government will issue new guidance before 18 June.
More details on expected measures in different sectors are to come.