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McArthur calls for ‘island-proofed’ COVID recovery

Liam McArthur MSP (Orkney Photographic).

In the wake of the announcement of a new cabinet secretary for COVID recovery, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has called for Scotland’s post-pandemic rehabilitation plan to be “island-proofed”.

Mr McArthur has joined Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart in penning a letter to the new cabinet secretary, John Swinney, appealing for the islands to be “front and centre of Scottish Government thinking”.

This joint letter comes ahead of a cross party steering group due to be meet next week.

The isles MSPs have shared the frustration of many of their constituents who feel that Orkney and Shetland were often seen as an “afterthought” in Scottish Government decision making processes.

In the letter, the MSPs pointed to repeated announcements which updated central belt communities while neglecting to mention the differences in restrictions for the islands.

“Throughout the pandemic, there has been a frustration in the communities we represent that island needs have appeared to be an afterthought in Scottish Government decision making processes,” they wrote to Mr Swinney.

“Announcements have been made with a wealth of detail about restrictions affecting central belt communities, while failing to include any mention of important differences for island communities working under different rules.

“This has often created confusion, not helped by the recent consultation on the easing of restrictions in the islands which was ill-conceived, poorly constructed and the responses ultimately ignored by the government.

“As we look ahead to dealing with the impacts of the pandemic and shaping the recovery, it is important that this work fully reflects the islands dimension. We seek assurances, therefore, that  steps will be taken to ensure that this happens. Close collaboration with locally elected representatives, including the island authorities, will be important but we would encourage you and your officials to look at other ways of making sure this happens from the outset.

“Needless to say, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss this matter in more detail.  Meantime, we wish you well in the substantial task that lies ahead and stand ready to assist, particularly in ensuring the needs of our islands are front and centre of government thinking.

“We look forward to hearing from you in due course.”