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Coronavirus / Consultation showed desire for isles to drop down Covid levels more quickly

There were only 97 responses from Shetland, however, to a Scottish Government consultation in March

THE MAJORITY of people who responded to a poorly advertised government consultation on Covid restrictions in March wanted to see Shetland drop down a tier quicker than the rest of Scotland – something which never initially happened.

More than 60 per cent of respondents from Shetland said they wanted to see the isles drop from level three to two come 26 April, allowing greater freedom over socialising, whilst continuing to have travel restrictions.

That never came to pass, with the Scottish Government instead choosing to keep the whole country under the same level three rules whilst reopening all non-essential travel on 26 April.

In March the government said it would consult Scottish islanders on whether they wanted to reopen travel and stay in level three, or move down a level and maintain a travel ban.

While a link to a consultation was circulated online there was widespread frustration locally that the exercise had not been advertised more widely.

A freedom of information request shows that there were only 97 responses in Shetland – compared to 710 in Orkney.

Sixty two of Shetland respondents wanted Shetland to drop to level two with travel restrictions in place, and 30 wanted the isles to remain in lockstep with Scotland. Eight people wanted ‘other’.

In Orkney around 60 per cent also wanted to drop a level, but maintain travel restrictions.

A total of 1,207 responses were received from all of Scotland’s islands. Of these responses 38 per cent wanted to move in lockstep with the rest of Scotland, 49 per cent wanted to move to individual levels with travel restrictions and 13 per cent suggested another option.

Taking Orkney out of the equation there was minimal engagement from communities. Only 10 people responded in the Highlands, while in the Western Isles there were 111 responses.

Shetland, however, only had to wait a few weeks before dropping down the tier system, with the isles today (Monday) moving from level three to one while most of the mainland only drops to level two.

The government said the consultation was undertaken in “parallel to meetings with island local authorities and continued engagement with island community groups, businesses and tourism organisations”.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said the consultation process for Shetland “on the face of it was poorly devised, and this latest revelation shows that the people in Shetland who did respond weren’t properly listened to”.

“Moving forward I would urge the Scottish Government to listen to the concerns of Shetlanders and act upon them,” she added.

“Only by working together can we come through this pandemic.”