Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Orkney, Liam McArthur, has called on the Scottish Government to provide urgent clarity around future coronavirus restrictions in the islands.
Last month, the First Minister announced plans to ease restrictions on the Scottish mainland from 26th April. At the same time, she confirmed that the Scottish Government would consult islanders on whether and when to ease restrictions in the islands.
Despite the consultation closing on 26th March, there has been no confirmation from Ministers about what arrangements will be in place for the islands over the coming weeks or indeed any clarity about when an announcement might be expected.
Mr McArthur has again raised concerns about islanders being left 'in the dark' about what is happening, with no ability to plan ahead.
Mr McArthur commented:
"Three weeks on from the First Minister's announcement about changes to restrictions in mainland Scotland, islanders are still in the dark about what the government intends to do. As a result, there is no opportunity to plan ahead and lives are having to be put on hold.
"Undertaking a consultation is all very well but not as an after-thought, without any explanation as to how it will inform Ministers' decisions. It is also hard to see how this squares with the First Minister's commitment to be 'driven by the data'.
"Everyone recognises these are difficult decisions with uncomfortable balances to strike. However, they are not made any easier for people to deal with when they are only revealed at the last minute.
"It is time for SNP Ministers to come clean with islanders on what they intend to do."
On the issue of pre-departure testing, Mr McArthur added:
"We are seeing community testing being used extensively across the UK, providing added reassurance to the public and a chance to identify cases before they have a chance to spread.
"For whatever reason, the use of such testing in Scotland has been much lower than elsewhere in the UK. I still believe, though, that pre-departure testing at airports and ferry ports can play an important role as we emerge from the current lockdown.
"SNP Ministers have been sympathetic to this argument but islanders need to know when the government expects to introduce such testing and how the scheme will work in practice."