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Orkney should ‘have a voice’ in testbed discussion says Scottish Minister

Questions came from Orkney and Shetland residents during this week’s edition of Debate Night, hosted by Stephen Jardine.

It should be up to the people of Orkney to decide whether or not the county ought to become a testbed for a lockdown exit strategy.

That was the message conveyed, last night, Wednesday, by secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP, who represented the Scottish Government on BBC Scotland’s Debate Night panel.

The programme, which brought together a group of Orkney and Shetland residents via conference call, saw some of the Northern Isle’s most pressing issues put to Ms Hyslop, alongside fellow panelists Conservative MP Andrew Bowie, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and biologist Professor Dame Anne Glover.

When quizzed over whether suggestions made by some scientists, particularly Aberdeen microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington, that Orkney could be an ideal place to test lockdown exit strategies — such as a test, trace and isolate system — Ms Hyslop did not rule the potential for this kind of isles-based approach.

“There’s two things about whether Orkney — or indeed Shetland — would want to do this,” she said.

“One — it would have to be planned, and people would have to understand why they were doing it, what the purpose is, and underpin it with with the points about security in terms of services.

“But, secondly — and this is also important — this is not just about the science, it’s about the community.

“It shouldn’t be done to islands; islands should want it and discuss it, and it should be something that communities understand why they want to do it, and be part of that — rather than being told by Edinburgh or, indeed, London, that we want to use you as some kind of experiment.

“I’m not saying ‘no’ — and I think there are active discussions about, if people did want it, how you would do that. But that’s got to come from the islands themselves.

“I’m not trying to say it will happen, at all, but it’s a live discussion. I am not discounting it, and neither am I going to say it’s going to happen — but I do think it’s worth considering. I think the people in Orkney and Shetland and, indeed, the Western Isles — they have a voice in this as well.”

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