Islands (Travel Restrictions)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st May 2020.

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Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

My constituency is, I think, in the unique position of having had no confirmed deaths from Covid-19. However, given that coronavirus infections have been recorded on the islands, there is clearly no room for complacency. Having responded to Mr McArthur, the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs will be aware that there is some debate about the possibility of lifting lockdown measures on Scotland’s islands at a different stage than for the rest of the country, if the evidence points to good reasons for doing so. Can the cabinet secretary confirm that travel restrictions to and from the islands will be dropped only when the scientific advice says that it is also safe to do that?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Absolutely—that has to be the case. The travel restrictions to all the islands have been exceptionally important, and they must remain in place. I pay tribute to the staff, particularly the CalMac Ferries staff, who have been instrumental in helping that to happen with good grace, dignity and persuasion. That has worked well and continues to work well, but the restrictions must continue to be in place.

As I said to Liam McArthur, as someone who represents a large number of inhabited islands, I am familiar with the debate. There are different voices in the debate, because some people are concerned about the possibility of lifting the restrictions. I am also conscious of what the chief constable said at yesterday’s Scottish Police Authority meeting. He was concerned about there being different messages and different enforcement regimes for different places.

There is a lot of discussion to be had on the issue. It is not a panacea for moving forward. However, the discussion needs to happen, and there have been very important contributions to it. I have heard those contributions from islands in my area, and they will be a serious part of our debate and discussions.