Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) called on the First Minister to factor in additional travel days for island communities over the festive period.
Currently, the Scottish Government’s guidance states that travel across the country, including to and from the islands, can only take place between 23rd and 27th December.
However, during First Minister’s Questions, Mr McArthur pointed out that more flexible arrangements have been allowed for those travelling to and from Northern Ireland. Orkney’s MSP therefore pressed for similar consideration to be given for Scotland’s islands given that these rules risk creating ‘bottlenecks’ on ferry and air services while also reducing the time islanders have to spend with family members.
In response, the First Minister said that she would look as reasonably and favourably as she can at all circumstances but that she didn’t want to lose sight of the default advice that people should think carefully about travelling and coming together with other households over the Christmas period.
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur commented:
“While the five-day window over the festive period will be very welcome news for many in Orkney who may not have seen family members for most of this year, the current guidance appears to be too much of a one-size-fits-all approach.
“The proposed five-day window ignores the added logistical challenges of travelling to and from the islands. Not only does this reduce the benefit of the five-day window for islanders, it also risks creating serious bottlenecks and pressure on our transport services. That cannot be in the interests of public health.
“Extra time is being allowed for travel to and from Northern Ireland, where travel times are often shorter and options less limited than they are in relation to the Northern Isles. Adopting a similar approach for our islands, therefore, would seem to make sense.
“I agree with the First Minister about the need for additional care to be taken this festive period, including careful consideration around the need for travel at all. However, for those who are travelling to or from our islands to visit family, there needs to be fairness and a chance to do so as safely as possible.”