Covid-19 Recovery (Island Communities)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 8th December 2021.

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Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government how its policies across Government will support island communities to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. (S6O-00494)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

We know that the impacts of Covid-19 continue to be felt acutely by many individuals, businesses and other organisations across our island communities.

The £30 million islands programme will ensure delivery of the national islands plan, and is informed by our learning on how island communities have responded and adapted to Covid-19. We continue to work closely across Government and with our island partners to implement the shared vision and outcomes of the Covid recovery strategy, which sets out the actions that we will take to address systemic inequalities made worse by Covid-19, make progress towards a wellbeing economy and accelerate inclusive, person-centred public services.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

What can be done to build resilience to ensure that the supply chain issues that badly affected some island communities at various points throughout the pandemic are not repeated in the future?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I need share no information on the matter with Dr Allan, given his assiduous representation of his constituency, but the island communities are heavily dependent on the ferry connections that provide essential services in bulk to the islands. Over the course of the pandemic, there have been instances in which staff have had to isolate for Covid purposes, which has disrupted the availability of the ferry network.

I assure Dr Allan that a very pragmatic approach is taken to ensure that island communities are properly and fully serviced by ferry vessels. I noticed that, as a consequence of today’s disruption due to weather issues, CalMac Ferries has put in place additional sailings to, I think, Castlebay. That is an indication that, where possible, we will use flexibility and pragmatism to ensure that island communities are properly serviced at a time when there can be unavoidable disruption due to self-isolation and other impacts of the Covid pandemic.