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Letters / ‘We are not our own country’

I read with disappointment the letter published by Shetland News criticising the council for “deciding to keep in step with Holyrood” on lockdown restrictions (Shetland following like sheep; SN, 27 May 2020).

Shetland following like sheep

Does the author of this letter genuinely believe local authorities have the power to choose whether to follow or abandon the government’s lockdown restrictions?

There would be little point of even having a national strategy if each area of the country could diverge from it at will.

Mr Leask’s assertion that the council has followed “like sheep” without considering local conditions is simply untrue.

He states if we were a country with no cases in three weeks we would be doing things differently. On this, I fully agree.

However, the harsh fact is we are not our own country nor do we have our own government, which can take such decisions unilaterally.

People have rightly been impressed with the crisis management in places like Faroe and Guernsey. We do not enjoy the powers of government that these island groups possess, although I have always believed that we should.

Mr Leask’s concerns about Loganair flights still operating make little sense. It is an inescapable fact that essential travel by key workers must continue or else life as we know it would not be sustainable. It has not been planes full of holidaymakers flying back and forth.

I am also perplexed by his assertion that our education service has not been preparing for social distancing in schools. They have been doing so for weeks and the necessary measures will be in place long before pupils return in August.

He touched on the fact that our schools closed before the rest of the country’s: this was a perfect example of local initiative being used where possible to get ahead of national guidance and was the right decision at the time I believe.

As far as lifting lockdown early in Shetland goes, just because Mr Leask has read a few government advisors or representatives mentioning the concept does not mean that it has been on offer or that it is even practical or safe to do.

As I touched on earlier, Shetland is not as isolated as people may believe. Even throughout this crisis we have had many people coming and going for work and medical reasons. This cannot stop or be restricted to the point where it means our society cannot function effectively.

The council will continue to have dialogue with government on local variations but introducing more severe travel restrictions on these islands than we are currently under is not something that should be taken lightly.

It is worth remembering that at the beginning of this Shetland was a hotspot for infections. Between the SIC, the NHS and the public we have managed to get to the position we are in now. I believe that should be applauded.

From a personal point of view, I would like to commend the council staff and everyone else on the front line who have worked tirelessly throughout this crisis and continue to do so.

I believe that council services have done everything within their power to help our community, even if at times we have been hamstrung by national requirements and regulations.

Councillor Duncan Anderson (North Isles)
Whalsay

PS: I must stress that these are my personal views rather than any official council position.

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