Scottish islands demand Nicola Sturgeon introduce alternative lockdown measures

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James Stockan, the leader of Orkney Islands Council said over the weekend that the Scottish Islands were at a disadvantage to the rest of Scotland and should be given special treatment. Cllr Stockan has pressed the Scottish Government to draw up alternative plans to ease the pressure on the islands and be guided by scientific evidence.

He said “island communities can be more responsive to the local situation” stressing there had been no transmission between people on the Isles since April.

Cllr Stockan stressed they could have a local lockdown on the isles “at the drop of a hat” adding he would like to have a conversation about what “more could be put in place to safeguard the islands”.

But he stopped short of saying tourists should be restricted.

He pointed out there were other island groups which test everybody coming in.

 

The isles have recorded about 26 cases since the start of the pandemic including three since the start of the month.

Cases on Shetland and the Western Isles were relatively higher however with 63 and 62 recorded respectively.

Addressing her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said Scotland overall has recorded one death from coronavirus and 993 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

When Express.co.uk asked if they were considering alternative COVID measures for the Scottish Islands including Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, Ms Sturgeon said: “Our islands are for obvious reasons in a different position.”

She added: “I think we’ve got to be very cautious, we can’t be complacent about the risk in our islands.

“We know certainly in Orkney and Shetland, we don’t have the same increase in cases that we have seen in mainland Scotland.

“We do need to on an ongoing basis to consider whether we want to take a different approach to the Islands.

“Like anything in relation to this virus though and how we manage the virus, there are trade-offs.

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“If we wanted to have a situation where restrictions in place on mainland Scotland were not in place in the Islands, that would probably necessitate more strict travel restrictions between the Islands and the mainland.

“So there is always a trade-off to be made, it’s why it’s important that we continue to listen to those on the islands, island authorities and not rule out anything.

“That will continue to be part of our consideration in the period ahead.”

It comes after Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director said the Scottish Government “is going to look into” testing on arrival hinting they may use the islands “as a trial”.

The First Minister has said the Scottish Government’s strategic plan for tackling coronavirus will be published at the end of this week.

Nicola Sturgeon said she would discuss the outline of the framework with party leaders on Tuesday with the intention to have a debate in Holyrood at the beginning of next week.

The First Minister has previously said a tiered alert system, similar to what was put in place in England last week, will be part of the Scottish Government’s approach.

During the briefing, the First Minister also said there were discrepancies in the number of COVID-19 cases being reported in Scotland in recent days due to tests being diverted away from the UK Government’s Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow.

The First Minister said that the step was taken to ensure the laboratory, based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, did not reach capacity.

Some of the diverted tests were from drive-in testing centres, where the number of positive cases found is usually higher.

This meant the number of new cases may have been skewed due to some tests being taken elsewhere.

 

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