Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that islanders are not disadvantaged when it comes to the easing of coronavirus restrictions. Ms Wishart has received representations from constituents who are frustrated about their ability to see family and friends on the Mainland.
Guidance published by the Scottish Government on 18 June stated, “Travelling to and from islands to visit family would be acceptable within this guidance, but individuals should consider whether they can do so while acting in line with all other guidance.” This effectively meant most islanders would have to arrive and return the same day in order to stick within the current guidance that indoor meetings are not possible.
Now the planned re-opening of the tourism industry from 15 July, combined with social distancing reducing ferry capacity by 80%, leaves the prospect of islanders and visitors struggling to secure bookings.
Ms Wishart raised the matter with Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell in a meeting of Holyrood’s COVID-19 Committee. Mr Russell said exercising freedoms coming out of lockdown could be more difficult for islanders and but he “can’t see a practical way of resolving that.” Ms Wishart also raised the issue with Minister for Older People and Equalities, Christina McKelvie.
Commenting Ms Wishart said:
“People have rightly contacted me feeling frustrated that they don’t have the same opportunity as people on the Mainland have to visit family and friends. Grandparents are especially anxious to see their grandchildren. There’s already an inequity issue around single grandparents and grandparent couples seeing their grandchildren as a consequence of the change to lockdown restrictions announced last week.
“Islanders must not be disadvantaged with easing of coronavirus restrictions. The Scottish Government must ensure coronavirus guidance and policy announcements are properly island proofed to reflect the reality of island life. Otherwise too many questions are left unanswered.
“Islanders and visitors both have legitimate reasons to travel to and from the islands so we must ensure that bookings are taken fairly to manage demand and ensure that all travel is safe.”