Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has today pushed the Scottish Government for answers on when Shetland students will be able to travel home for Christmas.
With students reporting they have received no further details on the government plans for testing and staggering departure dates, and with travel now prohibited to and from Level 3 and 4 areas from Friday, Shetland students on the Mainland and their families have contacted Ms Wishart seeking advice.
Ms Wishart told the First Minister today at FMQS that, “Shetland students and their families are anxious about Christmas travel plans. Getting home to the Northern Isles is not easy. It’s always expensive, and bad weather often means cancellations. This year there are added – and understandable - complications with limited services and reduced capacity.” Ms Wishart asked the Scottish Government to issue urgent advice.
The First Minister replied that students will be exempt from Level 3 and 4 travel restrictions and that she will ask the Transport Secretary to address any public transport issues for isles student getting home.
Commenting, Ms Wishart said:
“We are fast approaching the end of term. I’ve been contacted by concerned students and their families who need information on how they can travel home safely from campus for Christmas. These concerns are all more acute for isles students who now find themselves in Tier 3 and 4 areas in the Central Belt where travel is now prohibited except for essential reasons. I’m pleased that the First Minister has confirmed that students will be exempt from these travel restrictions.
“That being said government and institutions need to make sure all students have all the information they need to make informed decisions. Further and Higher Education Minister said last week there will be testing and staggered departure dates. Those plans must take account of their circumstances. We know that travel to and from the Mainland is expensive so students have to know when and how they can leave their accommodation so they can book ahead. There is a question of capacity on socially distanced ferry services and flights to contend with if students all have to travel in a short time frame.
“Many students were let down when they arrived on campus in September to find their courses were entirely online and they ended up being confined to their rooms as the virus spread through student accommodation. This must be avoided in the New Year with clear plans for managing the return of students. There is still no confirmation whether there will be staggered arrivals in the new term or whether students will be expected to work remotely. Students need to know now whether they should pack up all their belongings to do the next semester’s study from home.”