The Leader of Orkney Islands Council has welcomed the opportunity for further engagement with the Scottish Government on the potential for a more localised approach to coronavirus restrictions.
James Stockan, along with the Leaders of the Councils in Shetland and the Western Isles, met with Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, and the National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch, last week, together with other Scottish Government and NHS representatives.
The three Leaders had sent a joint letter to the Government asking for the meeting, for discussions on a matter of considerable importance for their communities.
Councillor Stockan said: “We considered how island areas could be involved in advance when decisions are being made to increase restrictions, so the possibility of a different approach for the islands could be considered.
“There was a positive outcome, with agreement that the Deputy National Clinical Director Dr John Harden will take forward further engagement with the Islands Councils and the NHS at an early date.
“I am pleased that the Government is open to discussion on the potential for a more localised approach for the islands, striking a balance between the need to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and the overall wellbeing of our communities and local economies.”
Councillor Stockan added: “I believe that in the right circumstances, there is a strong case for a different approach for Orkney and the other island areas.
“This could allow, for instance, social visits to other households if it can be clearly shown that it is safe to do so because the risk of transmission is low.
“Folk across our community have shown their commitment over many months to keeping us safe by following public health guidance – as have the many visitors who’ve travelled here in recent times.
“I am concerned that if we continue with the same level of restrictions Scotland wide, there will be an adverse impact as winter approaches on the mental health of many in our community and our already vulnerable economy will suffer greatly.
“I made the point during our discussions last week that if there’s flooding in Glasgow you don’t put out sandbags around Orkney. But you do have sandbags ready for when there’s flooding here.
“In other words, restrictions in response to a major spike in Covid cases in the Central Belt shouldn’t necessarily be imposed to the same degree in the islands – providing there are clear procedures in place for a rapid response to test, trace and protect the community if there is a local outbreak.
“These are important, sensitive and complex matters and I welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with Public Health Scotland and the Government at an early date – with the other Islands Councils and local partner organisations.”