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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
While the rest of us continue to live with the constraints of lockdown, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) has pushed ahead with plans to centralise air traffic control services. Last week it issued an £8.5m tender for the provision of technology at the new surveillance centre in Inverness.
These are strange times, but as the days have gone on we have become accustomed to the sudden change in our lives knowing, hoping, that it won’t be for too long.
“Furlough, “social distancing”, “shielding” and “self-isolation” have become every day words and phrases. Daily briefings from Downing Street and the First Minister have become the norm as Covid-19 works its way around the world wreaking havoc.
Home in Shetland it now feels like the calm before the storm. We know something big is brewing, we’ve prepared as best we can for the worst, and we wait.
We are living in a time of crisis. The COVID-19 virus has changed our lives, and will do so for many months to come.
It was a sombre sitting in Parliament on Tuesday. Sombre but very unified. Only a handful of weeks ago all the political parties were disagreeing over constitutional issues and much more. But differences have been put aside in the face of this unprecedented national and global crisis.
The Cabinet was in the chamber to answer the many questions MSPs had after statements from the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Health ranging from Personal Protection Equipment for healthcare professionals to education closures to business support.
The proposals for change brought about by the Re-create Scalloway project were on display in the Youth Centre last Sunday. Although the turnout could have been better, it was good to see in practical terms what might be achieved for the village following input from the community.
The remnants of the old youth centre building has blighted the waterfront for too many years so its removal would be welcome. As the funding from the Town Centre fund has to be spent before the summer that should happen sooner rather than later.