THE SNP candidate for Shetland in the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election says he “absolutely sympathises” with local hospitality businesses who have been forced to close as part of national coronavirus restrictions.
Tom Wills, who is also the convener of the local SNP branch, said the situation is a “disaster” for the industry.
Many in Shetland have taken to social media to criticise the Scottish Government for applying new restrictions on hospitality, such as cafes and restaurants having to close at 6pm while selling no
alcohol, on businesses in areas like the isles where there is a relatively low prevalence of Covid-19.
It meant that some pubs in Shetland have shut completely until at least 26 October, when the temporary restrictions are set to end.
The leaders of the Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles councils, meanwhile, wrote to the Scottish Government last month to encourage officials to think about adopting bespoke restrictions for the islands.
They highlighted the social impact of the ongoing ban on visiting households, particularly as winter approaches.
NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson previously said he felt sticking with national guidelines offered the quickest route towards ultimately being able to ease restrictions.
Wills said he is “totally open” to the idea of localised guidance – but be warned that there would have to be concessions, such as travel restrictions.
“I think we need to be very careful and weigh up the trade offs, and I think we need to be led by the medical experts, or at least the public health experts, but with due consideration of the economy,” he said.
“I think as the crisis proceeds the granularity of the response should be evolving and getting more nuanced. I’m pleased to see that Nicola Sturgeon is open to that.”
Wills, however, said localised restrictions are “not necessarily the no brainer that some of our elected representatives are suggesting”.
“I think the debate is absolutely worthwhile and we should be having it but I think we need to err on the side of caution.”
He added that financial support needs to be in place for hospitality businesses “so they can get through an unprecedentedly challenging time”.
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