Politicians in the Northern Isles have welcomed the chancellor’s announcement this afternoon (Thursday) that self-employed people can access taxable grants of up to 80 per cent of there average monthly profits to help them bridge income losses due to the coronavirus emergency.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said: “There are countless successful businesses in Shetland which must not be driven to closure simply because they cannot access financial support. These businesses will be crucial to the recovery of the local and national economy when this crisis comes to an end.
“It is now important that the scheme gets up and running quickly and is easy to navigate and that any gaps that are identified are closed. I would encourage anyone who feels like they will not be able to access support to get in touch.”
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “We have such a strong tradition of self-employment across the Highlands and Islands, with so many people working for themselves.
“Many of these activities have been curtailed, threatening the incomes of thousands of people who don’t have an employer to turn to for help.
“We still face a huge task here, and across the country, in tackling this pandemic. But I hope that these measures will help to alleviate at least some of the worry that so many people will be feeling.”
Scalloway Hotel is to close with the loss of 17 jobs as a downturn in the oil and gas sector and coronavirus crisis impacted its financial performance.
The company which operated the hotel has been placed into administration.
All employees have been made redundant with immediate effect.
The award-winning hotel – run by Caroline and Peter McKenzie – closed its doors earlier this month due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it will now not re-open.
Read the full story here.
1/ The Government has announced a new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme to support those who work for themselves. pic.twitter.com/GTxO5Br4iO
— HM Treasury (@hmtreasury) March 26, 2020
A community campaign has been launched encouraging people to make scrubs for the NHS Shetland’s clinical staff during the Covid-19 emergency – with over 100 people already coming forward to help out.
The plan is for people to create scrubs – the clothing worn by medical staff – by sewing together pieces of fabric using patterns provided by the NHS as a guide.
It has emerged that there is a “chronic shortage” of scrubs at NHS Shetland because the hospital team has been changing over more often due to the busy coronavirus period.
Read the full story here.
Shetland Islands Council has confirmed that the Gremista Waste Recycling Facility in Lerwick is now closed to the public.
The bulky items collection service is now also suspended.
Household collections are still operating as normal but may change depending on staff availability, meaning that collections may be at a different time, or the next working day. Any changes to collection days will be notified here.
Bags should still be placed out by 7.30am on the day of collection.
Replacement staff may be unfamiliar with collection points, so householders are asked to make sure that bags or bins are visible to staff.
Business collections are operating as normal but any businesses who have suspended trading, or who would like to make changes to collections, are asked to get in touch by email.
Assisted collections are still operating as normal.
The Energy Recovery Plant, meanwhile, is operating as normal for business customers only, where the trip is deemed to be necessary. Anyone without a weighbridge card should not visit the plant until further notice. Hand hygiene wipes are available for drivers of vehicles.
Shetland’s two political representatives have welcomed the decision by HIAL to close its airports, including Sumburgh, to scheduled flights.
Alistair Carmichael MP said: “In recent days many local people have contacted me to voice their concern that flights remained open to everyone including tourists, long after ferry services moved to only allow essential travel.
“It is important that islanders are able to return home if they have been away but this move will help protect not just HIAL staff in our airports but people across the isles. Lifeline services must be the priority.”
MSP Beatrice Wishart added: “This is the right decision. The highest priority right now is protecting each other, both island residents and HIAL staff. Lifeline services such as patient transfers and mail deliveries must continue with minimum disruption. These services are all the more essential at this exceptional time.”
Shetland Charitable Trust is set to ride out the economic uncertainty surrounding coronavirus before considering further grant applications.
The Trust’s chairman Dr Andrew Cooper said that with the trust’s funds being hit by the global economic downturn, plus the extra burdens being placed on staff who were now working from home, there would be an as yet indeterminate period when new applications would not be processed.
The trust earlier announced its suspension of an £881,000 grant aid scheme intended to tackle “inequality and social exclusion” that had received 29 eligible bids.
Full story can be read here.
Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood estimates that between 40,000 and 50,000 people in Scotland are infected with the coronavirus, most of them not being aware of it and potentially infecting others if not abiding by the strict movement rules imposed on Monday.
Officially the number of confirmed cases stands at 894 cases. Twenty five people have died, an increase of three since yesterday. The number of confirmed cases for Shetland remains at 24.
During a press briefing in Edinburgh this lunchtime Dr Calderwood repeated her plea to everybody to follow those rules, and not to venture out unless absolutely necessary.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon said during the same press briefing that emergency powers to force people to follow those rules have now received Royal assent. They will be used, she warned, but also expressed her hopes that people would continue to comply.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds a press conference on COVIDー19.
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) March 26, 2020
Loganair has provided some more details of how its services will run in the coming days and weeks following news that Sumburgh Airport would close to all but essential flights.
The airline said Aberdeen-Sumburgh and Kirkwall-Sumburgh are among a number of routes which will be maintained to a “limited timetable”.
“The airline is also working to keep abreast of impending closures of several airport terminal facilities and to ensure contingency plans are available to continue to deliver these services even if the usual airport terminals are not available to accommodate customers,” a spokesperson said.
“Further information will be released once the need for such arrangements becomes clear.”
A host of Loganair routes and services are suspended from 30 March until at least 20 April. Some will already have been closed for booking.
The services provided in the meantime will be to facilitate travel only for those with an essential need, such as workers in designated critical professions and others covered by the latest government advice.
Customers booked on routes which have been suspended or cancelled will be entitled to a refund of their ticket.
White fish sales are continuing in Lerwick and Scalloway with around six boats expected for tomorrow (Friday), but the situation will be reviewed again next week.
The situation is set to be reviewed next week when there should be a better view of how the market is holding up after sales tomorrow and on Monday.
Full story can be read here.
Shetland Islands Council (SIC) has sought to clarify its position around cash-handling, particularly on public transport – saying that it takes its guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Its advice is that people should wash their hands after handling money, especially if they are then handling or eating food. There has been no public health advice against using money.
Concerns have been raised from passengers and staff of the council’s ferries, but the SIC said it has been undertaking Covid-19 risk assessments to manage this perceived risk, and all control measures which have been identified are being implemented.
The council has also introduced an accounts system on the ferries which is payable every fortnight following the decision to restrict transport to critical travel only.
Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee and transport partnership ZetTrans said: “I’m aware that there is a misconception that the WHO has advised folk not to use cash for payments – this is categorically not true.
“I entirely understand that, in this time of uncertainty and fear, misinformation can easily be shared as fact, but the Council must make its decisions, and take action, based on evidence and good scientific advice.
“We will not simply stop taking fares on our ferries and buses. We cannot take action based on bad science. The advice is clear – stay at home and do not travel unless it is absolutely essential; follow the guidance to stay at home if you have symptoms for seven days and for 14 days if anyone in your household has symptoms; and follow good hand hygiene practices.”
Local musician Jack Sandison has launched a fundraising campaign for Shetland Foodbank during the coronavirus crisis.
He busked on the Commercial Street at the weekend to raise cash for the foodbank – before stricter guidance on movement was issued by the government – and has since started an online crowdfunding page.
“I have set up this page for anyone to share and raise funds for by staying at home and demonstrating their creative skills,” Sandison said.
He will also hold a Facebook Live ‘busking’ session this Saturday (25 March) at 12pm.
A temporary foodbank is set to open in Brae (tomorrow).
Read more here.
This was the scene at the St Ninian’s Isle sands on Wednesday afternoon – a message of positivity.
The operator of Sumburgh Airport has confirmed that all of its airports in the Highlands and Islands will close to scheduled flights as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), however, confirmed that the airports – particularly island ones like Sumburgh – would operate a “skeleton service” which would ensure lifeline and essential flights will continue.
It would include traffic relating to the NHS, Royal Mail and the oil and gas industry.
HIAL is in talks with Transport Scotland and airline Loganair to agree on a plan of action.
Read the full story here.
Charities and community groups in Shetland can now apply to the Third Sector Resilience Fund if they find themselves in financial difficulties directly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The fund has been launched by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
The fund is part of the £350 million support package announced by the Scottish Government and will provide grants between £5,000 and £100,000, as well as fully flexible, zero per cent interest loans starting at £50,000.
To be eligible, interested organisations must be:
A charity, social enterprise or voluntary organisation based in Scotland and/or primarily delivering services/activities in Scottish communities
Already delivering those products or services prior to March 2020
And needing funding to stabilise cashflows directly as a result of the impact of COVID-19, as opposed to pre-existing financial difficulties
Applications can be made here.
(Almost) 10 year old Archie, from Lerwick, spells out what is the most important thing for all of us who are not needed to run essential services.
Many thanks to Aimée Irvine for allowing us to use these photos.
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