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McArthur seeks clarity on restrictions for isles

Liam McArthur MSP

Could Orkney be allowed to adopt slightly different lockdown restrictions to the rest of Scotland?

That is the question being posed by Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, who has said he is seeking clarity on the matter, after the Scottish Government cracked down on social gatherings, earlier this week.

On Tuesday, the First Minister announced nationwide restrictions on social gatherings to help control and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 following a recent increase in outbreaks of cases.

However, Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch subsequently acknowledged in media interviews that a more localised approach might be possible in the three main island authority areas, where the number of confirmed cases has been and remains significantly lower.

Mr McArthur has suggested that the isles could take a slightly amended approach to restrictions on social gatherings, following the government’s next review. He has sought a meeting with the health secretary, Jeane Freeman and Professor Leitch to consider how a more tailored approach for the islands might work in practice, including any potential impact on travel to and from the islands.

Mr McArthur said: “The recent decision by both the Scottish and UK Governments to enforce tighter restrictions on social gatherings is understandable given that confirmed cases are increasing across the country.

“Nevertheless, I am concerned that these moves are seen by many constituents as excessive in light of local circumstances.

“The national clinical director has acknowledged that a more localised approach in our islands could be possible.  The health secretary has also confirmed to me that a review of proposed options will take place over the next three weeks.

“Beatrice Wishart and I will look to take up Jeane Freeman’s offer to meet with her and Professor Leitch in the coming days to discuss this issue in more detail.  I know that all three island authorities support such a move and will be keen to be involved.

“Ultimately, any localised approach will still need to have public safety at its heart. However, I believe this can be achieved, while also acknowledging that tighter lockdown restrictions also have implications for people’s mental and physical health.”

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