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Coronavirus / Islands shouldn’t be an afterthought in recovery from Covid, MSPs say

SHETLAND MSP Beatrice Wishart and her Orkney counterpart Liam McArthur have written to the Scottish Government to encourage officials to place the islands at the “front and centre” of their thinking when it comes to the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Their letter to cabinet secretary for Covid recovery John Swinney comes ahead of a cross party steering group meeting next week.

The isles MSPs shared the frustration of many of their constituents who felt that Orkney and Shetland were often seen as an “afterthought” in Scottish Government decision making processes.

In the letter, the MSPs pointed to repeated announcements that updated central belt communities while neglecting to mention the differences in restrictions for the islands.

The MSPs wrote to Swinney to “ask for assurances that the specific needs of island communities are taken properly into account in any future planning and decisions”.

“As we look ahead to dealing with the impacts of the pandemic and shaping the recovery, it is important that this work fully reflects the islands dimension,” Wishart and McArthur said.

“We seek assurances, therefore, that steps will be taken to ensure that this happens. Close collaboration with locally elected representatives, including the island authorities, will be important but we would encourage you and your officials to look at other ways of making sure this happens from the outset.

“Needless to say, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss this matter in more detail. Meantime, we wish you well in the substantial task that lies ahead and stand ready to assist, particularly in ensuring the needs of our islands are front and centre of government thinking.”

The islands have consistently had a relatively low prevalence of coronavirus cases during the pandemic.

On Monday, Scottish islands dropped to level one Covid restrictions, while the majority of the mainland only moved from level three to two.