Concerned about the lack of preparedness of our islands to protect ourselves against the pandemic I wrote to my councillors on 14 Feb 2020 urging them to address their emergency plan for pandemics.
In my communication I highlighted many issues which should be addressed including:
- monitoring people entering the islands;
- stopping people entering the islands.
In fairness to the councillor he immediately solicited answers from senior officers within the NHS and Shetland Islands Council.
Those replies included complete reassurance that every was in hand even stating:
“Under the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008, Health Boards and Councils have a responsibility to plan for emergencies, including pandemics. In line with that we have well rehearsed plans in place, which include all the elements that Mr Leask asks about.”
I think it would be reasonable to conclude that, both the councillor and I were ‘lied to’ or they don’t think this pandemic was serious enough to invoke such measures?
I guess councillors are not allowed to accuse officials of lying, but should engage in the correct procedure to address the matter. In my experience such procedures are likely to last longer than the pandemic.
In June 2020 along with 25 local businesses we lobbied both council and the NHS culminating in a formal request that our council consider improving Shetland’s on island Covid-19 testing capability.
With little to no debate our request was ‘noted and filed’ or in layman’s terms binned.
What of public opinion? Perhaps I only move in circles of like-minded people because throughout this last year I am yet to encounter anybody who is not of the opinion that we should be doing more to control access to our islands.
NFU Shetland recently called for improved Covid-19 testing and better controls on movement in and out our islands. I suspect that too will be ‘noted and filed’.
“Viking workers will be tested” I read this week. A significant breakthrough, but lead by community council and their liaison group.
I note they, the liaison group, were keen to play down their role, but I have to ask where our councillors were on this issue?
So what is going wrong? Westminster and Holyrood are all accused of ‘too little too late’ but at least they debate the issue and come up with a plan albeit not always to everybody’s approval.
In fairness to our members of parliament Beatrice Wishart and Alistair Carmichael, both as far as I am aware have always supported tighter controls on movement.
I know some councillors appear to be of the opinion that to take action, we would need to be an independent country. Really?
Now, I am no fan of Nicola Sturgeon but I would be fairly confident that had our council and NHS presented a plan to safeguard our islands including stringent measures on movement in and out, Nicola would have given it her full support.
She may even have presented the authors with a good citizen award!
We are constantly reminded that the pandemic is far from over and restrictions are likely to remain in place for most of this year, if not beyond.
So come on councillors, it may be late in the day but I urge you to get together with the NHS and come up with a plan to start building confidence and at least get our lives in the islands back to as near normal as possible.