Shetland Times Column 10th September 2021

The debate in the Scottish Parliament last Thursday on Supporting the People of Afghanistan was a powerful one which saw thoughtful and passionate contributions from all sides of the chamber. Keen to ensure that the country will play its part and offer refuge to those fleeing for their lives, there were repeated calls of support for the resettlement of refugees. The Scottish Government has made it clear that it will do so, as has Shetland Islands Council.

A Scottish Liberal Democrats amendment to provide immediate sanctuary to people fleeing persecution, oppression and terror, and that the resettlement figure of 20,000 people should be the starting point instead of the final target, won support in the debate.

It will come as no surprise that my inbox this week has seen an increased volume of e-mails about the Scottish Government proposals for Covid-19 Vaccine Certification, or vaccine passports.

My party leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, made it quite clear at First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) that we would be opposing them on the grounds that they are illiberal and unworkable.

Vaccinations are undoubtedly the route of this pandemic, but vaccine passports are not. Having a vaccination passport won’t stop you catching the virus or passing it on.

Maintaining social distancing, wearing face coverings, and washing and sanitising hands will be with us for some time to come but could be more difficult to encourage with a Covid ID card giving a false sense of security that makes people feel safer.

There is already a precedent to demonstrate vaccination status for the purposes of travel to another country, and I have aided some constituents who have had difficulties with their travel. But what is being proposed here goes much further than a travel document. The proposal will require you, for the first time in this country, to provide medical data while going about everyday activities.

There is no timescale on its limit and it’s an open door to expansion. Liberal Democrats have a strong track record of opposition to ID cards.

Issues around ferries and freight capacity continue to make headlines. The results of an HIE Business Panel Survey backed up what I had put to the Islands Minister about the twin challenges of Brexit and ferry freight capacity to the business community.

I took the opportunity to take part in Alasdair Allan’s private members’ debate seeking reserved board seats for islanders on CalMac Ferries Ltd and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, and made the point that this should be extended to include HIAL’s board.

Earlier in the week I met with Endo Bonds, an organisation that connects the endometriosis community in Scotland. We discussed the government’s Women’s Health Plan, equity of access and the failings of a system that takes on average eight and half years for a diagnosis. That this debilitating disease is being discussed more openly now is good but there is more work to be done. I shall be meeting with their representative for the North of Scotland in the coming weeks.

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