16 October 2020

The trip down to Edinburgh was uneventful. All the Covid safety precautions are in place at Sumburgh and on Loganair, hand sanitiser everywhere, and with only a handful of passengers on board physical distancing was easy.

The city centre was a bit busier following the return of students, but the signs of the impact of Covid on the economy is there to see with the doors of many businesses, predominantly in the hospitality sector, remaining closed. Some of the shops on the Royal Mile weren’t open either, a direct consequence of the lack of tourists.

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2 October 2020

Students have had a raw deal. It was entirely predictable that a mass movement of people across the country and coming together in “new households” would lead to further cases of Covid-19.

Those going to university or college for the first time, including some 17-year olds, have been hit especially hard with their last year at school undermined by the SQA grades uncertainty and debacle, now their first experience of higher education began with a two-week lockdown.

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18 September 2020

The council’s decision last week to explore options “for achieving political and financial self-determination” resulted in some inaccurate national media stories about Shetland seeking independence. Nothing new there perhaps, and social media wasn’t immune to it either.

It is little wonder that councillors overwhelmingly supported the probing motion - and had I still been on the council I too would have voted for it. A combination of year on year reductions of central funding and the erosion of local decision-making powers isn’t working for an ambitious Shetland.

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4 September 2020

It goes without saying that the last twelve months have not unfolded as predicted. Equally, it was no surprise that Covid-19, and recovery from it, was the main feature in the Programme for Government which was delivered in Holyrood on Tuesday. This set out the legislative programme and bills to be introduced in the parliamentary session ahead of next May’s elections.

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21 August 2020

The week began with a virtual presentation, “Farm to Fork”, about why standards of food, animal health, welfare and the environment matter.

Hosted by one of the members of Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, MSPs and other stakeholders heard first hand of the high environmental and food production standards in the UK from two farmers, one based in the Borders, the other in the East Midlands, who are both passionate about sustainable farming and the environment.

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7 August 2020

Tuesday was Exam Results’ Day. Except this year there were no exams. Some people are still questioning why the exam diet was actually cancelled when most of the year’s work had been completed, and countries like Germany, France and Italy continued with their exams. So the grades awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) were anxiously awaited by young people and their parents and carers.

Congratulations to all the young people across Shetland who have received results this week. You have faced this most important stage in your lives in circumstances not experienced before.

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10 July 2020

The wearing of face coverings on public transport has been mandatory for a few weeks now but from today we’re required to wear them when shopping too. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of putting on a face covering when out shopping but confess I haven’t always remembered. Changing the habits of a lifetime isn’t easy.

There is a strong view that this preventative action should have been taken months ago. For now, with a few exceptions, we all have get used to covering our faces when shopping. I know the great efforts that shops across Shetland have undertaken during this lockdown period so the least we can do, while continuing to support them and the local economy as we slowly come out of lockdown, is wear a face covering and avoid the possibility of spreading the virus to shop staff or other customers.

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26 June 2020

This week sees the end of the school year. Thanks to Covid-19, this year’s P7 cohort haven’t been able to enjoy, as previous pupils have, that end of term feeling that comes with leaving the familiarity of primary school while preparing to transition into secondary school. It’s the same for children moving from nursery to primary.

The uncertainty of what the next academic year holds is a little less though after Tuesday’s announcement by the Education Secretary, which is all subject to the appropriate safety measures being in place and continued suppression of the virus.

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12th June 2020

“I can’t breathe”. The last words of George Floyd who died brutally at the hands of police in the US. His name will not be forgotten. After the explosion of global protests, amplifying the Black Lives Matter movement, remembering a name is no longer enough.

Locally, Joy Duncan and others formed a new group, ‘Shetland Staands Wi Black Lives Matter’ to show solidarity.  Given the pandemic and the need to ensure there’s no opportunity for the Covid-19 virus to spread, a socially-distant walk has been organised on Saturday across all parts of Shetland.

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30th May 2020

The results of the recent Shetland Islands Tourism Survey 2019 is good news in a sector that has been hit hard by the impact of Coronavirus. Tourism was the first to feel the effects as it closed up before the 2020 season got underway, and it will probably be the last industry to come out the other side of lockdown. The worry is that many tourism businesses won’t be able to survive until next Spring.

The financial support packages provided by the UK and Scottish Governments have been welcome, as have the adjustments they’ve made as things have moved on. There remains, however, a significant number of micro businesses, many tourist-related, that have not been eligible for any grant funding. Without them it will be a challenge to build on the good work done pre-Covid to expand tourism in the renew and recovery phase and to showcase all that Shetland has to offer.

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