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Coronavirus / Coutts seeks clarity on Covid-19 measures to keep community on board

COUNCIL leaders in Shetland are hoping for meaningful discussions with Scottish Government ministers later today (Wednesday) about how the new tiered system of coronavirus restrictions would work in the isles.

The expectation is that Shetland, along with the other Scottish island authorities as well as Highland an Moray would be placed in tier one after the government’s new framework passed through parliament on Tuesday.

However, additional restrictions such as a delay in allowing household visits to take place again as well as possible travel limitations would place the isles nearer to what constitutes tier two.

SIC political leader Steven Coutts.SIC leader Steven Coutts: Photo: Shetland News

SIC leader Steven Coutts said this morning that so far no one-to-one discussions between individual island councils and Scottish Government minister have taken place.

He said that it was vital for the local authority to be fully consulted during the next 24 hours to ensure that the community has confidence in and a full understanding of the government’s decision-making.

“I need to see the evidence from the government that seems to suggest that we need to continue the in-home visit ban. What is the evidence that underlines that public health that the first minister referred to in parliament,” Coutts said.

He added the council welcomed the more localised approach to implement restrictions, however local authorities needed to be fully involved in the conversations.

“We need clarity what all this means for Shetland, because the community deserves that clarity and needs to know,” he said.

“As an island community we are best placed to inform the decision that are made because what we have seen is that the Shetland community has responded well throughout this pandemic, and we need now is the confidence that the measures that are being put in place are fit for purpose.

“We need to ensure that the community has  the confidence and understands the rationale behind where we at; so we need to provide that clarity and we need to provide that quickly – and that ‘we’ is us in the council, the government and public health colleagues.”

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart. Photo: Shetland News

Meanwhile, speaking in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart called for “meaningful engagement” with island communities to ensure compliance.

“There needs to be meaningful engagement with the communities to understand their needs. Guidance on quarantining before operations and on how students returning home has to involve public transport. The islands can’t be an afterthought,” she sadi

“It has taken a great community effort to keep the levels of the virus so low in Shetland. However, the rules on in-home socialising have weighed heavily on families and friends.

“When the going gets tough, those support networks are often what get us through. Shetland has a harsh winter, and stopping people from meeting inside at all will add further to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

“If the Scottish Government is going to keep asking people in Shetland to keep to that rule, they need to provide explicit evidence showing Covid risk in Shetland continues to outweigh those social harms.”

The Scottish Government will announce its decision on the tiered system at first minister’s question time on Thursday before it comes into force on Monday.