The SIC’s political leader has welcomed the new strategic framework – but criticised the ongoing ban on household visits as “extremely disappointing”.
Steven Coutts, speaking after the First Minister’s announcement that Shetland was included in level one restrictions, said the new framework recognised the need for a tiered approach.
“It provides the vindication for the efforts we put into pressing for a localised approach,” he added.
“The government and others have moved away from the narrative of those who advocated a ‘one size fits all’ national approach.
“This is welcome.”
Mr Coutts also praised the new framework’s acknowledgment of the wider harm caused by restrictions, and the need to strike a balance.
However, he said the ongoing ban on household visits was “extremely disappointing”.
He criticised the government for taking a very “urban-centric approach” around the availability of cafes and pubs, which he said would provide “little comfort” to remote and island communities, who were already cut off digitally and physically.
“Essentially, with no access to public spaces, those in remote and rural Shetland have effectively been placed in tier two – which embeds and increases serious inequalities in our community,” he added.
“The government’s own evidence and indicators show a ban on in home visiting is not necessary.”
Mr Coutts’ said he appreciated the First Minister’s offer to review the necessity of the household ban in level one areas ahead of 10th November.
“I will as a matter of urgency be taking up that offer,” he said.
“I will seek to ensure the government does not further isolate already disadvantaged individuals in our community any longer than is necessary.
“I have the confidence that as we approach the winter period we, as a community, will continue to play our part in controlling the Covid-19 impact. However, we are better able to do this if we have confidence and clarity on new guidance and restrictions, and that they are fit for Shetland.
“As an elected politician, it is important I am able to scrutinise and question measures that are impacting on community wellbeing. I will continue to press for recognition of the ‘balance of harms’ and the real needs of our Shetland community as we approach winter.
“I would finally take the opportunity to again remind individuals of the need to follow the FACTS guidance.
“We are going to have to work hard to convince the Scottish government that they can lift the ban on home visiting at their first review of tiers.
“Everyone needs to take responsibility and demonstrate that reinstating this additional freedom will not cause behaviour that promotes virus transmission.”