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.
Responding to the news that the Chancellor has announced that eligible self-employed people can access a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said:
“Many self-employed people have contacted me with real worries about paying household bills and keeping their businesses afloat at this time. It is a relief that pressure colleagues and I across parties have put on both the UK Government and Scottish Governments has begun to make a difference.
“There are countless successful businesses in Shetland which must not be driven to closure simply because they cannot access financial support. These businesses will be crucial to the recovery of the local and national economy when this crisis comes to an end.
“It is now important that the scheme gets up and running quickly and is easy to navigate and that any gaps that are identified are closed. I would encourage anyone who feels like they will not be able to access support to get in touch.”
You may only leave your home for the following reasons:
- Shopping for basic necessities, which should only happen once a day (use food delivery services where you can);
- One form of exercise a day, like a run, walk or cycle, either alone or with members of your household;
- Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person;
- Travelling to and from essential work but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.
Emergency legislation will give powers of enforcement to back up the measures on social distancing and premises closures.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has addressed the Scottish Parliament on the economic impact of COVID-19 in Scotland.
In her statement she warned that as a result of coronavirus, the Scottish economy is facing an immediate collapse in demand.
She outlined the actions being taken by the Scottish Government to support businesses including a package of measures worth £2.2 billion from 1 April:
- a full year’s 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism
- £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief
- £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000
- 1.6% relief for all properties, effectively freezing the poundage rate next year
- First Minister to convene an emergency meeting of the Financial Services Advisory Board
- urging local authorities to relax planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate temporarily as takeaways
- extending the go live date for the deposit return scheme to July 2022
- halting the introduction of the Visitor Levy Bill
The Scottish Government has announced a £350 million fund to support welfare and wellbeing.
The funding will be made available to councils, charities, businesses and community groups and designed to be flexible, cutting down on red tape to enable them to respond swiftly and according to local need for people impacted economically or through reduced contact with society, including anyone struggling to access food.