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Islands left ‘between a rock and a hard place’, says McArthur

Liam McArthur MSP

In the final session of First Minister’s Questions ahead of the upcoming Holyrood election, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has again raised concerns about islanders being left ‘in limbo’ regarding future coronavirus restrictions.

Mr McArthur told the First Minister that “While the rest of Scotland prepares for restrictions to be eased from 26 April, islanders remain in the dark. According to the First Minister yesterday, they will remain in the dark for a further ‘few weeks’”.

Mr McArthur asked why consultation is only happening now, and why it has presented islanders with a binary choice.

In response, the First Minister argued that the nature of the virus and its risk of spreading due to people travelling underpinned this difficult decision, which she therefore wanted to make in partnership with the islands.

Commenting after the exchange, Mr McArthur said: “The First Minister has put islanders between a rock and a hard place.

“After making clear what the rest of the country can expect, she is offering island communities a stark choice.  Either we remain in Level Three with some prospect of travel to and from the Scottish mainland, or we move to Level Two with severe travel restrictions but still limited opportunity for even small household gatherings.

“It’s hard to see how this is consistent with the First Minister’s promise to base decisions on the data and science.  On that measure, Orkney would presumably face a choice between sticking in level 3 and moving to Level One or even Level Zero.

“There is also no mention of the part that pre-departure testing could play in providing added reassurance.  Health Ministers insist plans for such testing are being taken forward, but there is no sign of them being factored into decisions about easing restrictions.

“As for the government’s much-vaunted consultation, it’s hard to understand why this didn’t take place before last week’s announcement. That, at least, would have allowed islanders some degree of clarity about what the immediate future holds”.