Remote communities cannot be left behind, MSPs warn

MSPs Beatrice Wishart and Jamie Halcro Johnston have raised concerns that rural communities could be left behind by the Scottish government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Halcro Johnston said that it was “a major concern” to hear that a study from the University of St. Andrews had found that death rates from coronavirus could be between 50-80 per cent higher in rural communities and small towns, if lockdown restrictions were lifted too soon.

And Ms Wishart questioned the functionality of a mooted test and trace app. She said that the Scottish government needed to ensure that such technology would work in areas where the connection was “unreliable or intermittent”.

She said that technology too often fails those in rural areas of the isles.

“Any technological solution needs to be built in such a way that it accounts for the existing digital divide, otherwise it won’t offer people in remote and rural areas the same level of protection.”

Ms Wishart referred to the statistics from the University of St. Andrews as “shocking”.

That statement was echoed by Mr Halcro Johnston, who said that the government must be “very cautious” about lifting restrictions in the Highlands and Islands.

“We want to keep it that way as far as possible, and this report suggests that we will have to be very cautious before our communities are fully opened up again.”


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