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McArthur: ‘Close consultation required before any easing of travel restrictions’

Restrictions on Orkney’s internal and external ferries could be scaled back after July 15.

Clarity has been sought from the Scottish Government over the process for lifting travel restrictions ahead of a possible reopening of the tourism sector next month.

Yesterday, the tourism secretary, Fergus Ewing announced that the sector should prepare to reopen on July 15, subject to public health advice and progression to phase three of the route-map out of lockdown.

But Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur quizzed Mr Ewing on consultation procedures between island communities and the government around the lifting of restrictions on ferry and air services.

Mr Ewing confirmed that transport ministers are in regular contact with island authorities on the issue and are working with them to ensure the safety of residents and visitors.

Following the exchange, Mr McArthur said: “Tourism is vital to Orkney’s economy and many local businesses have been severely impacted by the lockdown restrictions.

“For them, yesterday’s announcement will have provided some ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

“However, with restrictions currently still in place on travel within Orkney, questions have understandably been raised locally about how this process will work in practice.

“When publishing the transport transition plan last month, the transport secretary promised that any forthcoming decisions around easing of travel restrictions on ferry and air travel would be taken in close consultation with island authorities and communities.

“That now needs to happen so that steps to restart the economy, which is needed, are taken sensitively and in line with public safety.

“The tourism secretary accepted that point and I will be following up with his transport colleagues to get more detail about what this will mean in practice.”

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