Orkney’s MSP has today called on the Scottish Government to “work now, to avoid past mistakes” as Scotland embarks on a new period of tighter restrictions.
During a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s COVID-19 Committee, Mr McArthur highlighted issues island businesses faced in earlier periods of lockdown, and urged the Scottish Government to offer assurances that they “will be looked at in a pre-emptive way, rather than waiting until we see problems emerging”.
Mr McArthur noted that eligibility criteria for Scottish Government support to the tourism sector may limit access for island businesses operating in Level 3. Orkney’s MSP pointed out that while not required to close, unlike tourism businesses in Level 4 on the Scottish mainland, effectively they have to shut down due to the complete absence of visitors.
Mr McArthur also noted that supply chains to island communities had experienced difficulties earlier in the pandemic. Mr McArthur told committee that islanders would be “desperately keen” to avoid any repeat of the squeeze on key items going forward.
Commenting following the debate, Mr McArthur said:
“The months ahead look challenging, as greater restrictions are put in place to combat the risk posed by the new strain of Covid. That said, there is an opportunity to learn the lessons so as to avoid the same problems or repeating the same mistakes.
“The Scottish Government has made clear that further support will be made available to tourism businesses forced to close their doors under the new restrictions. I have made clear that this support should be made available to tourism businesses in both Level 3 and 4, given that the impact is likely to be the same.
“I welcome the Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell’s acknowledgment of the case for such an approach. Indeed, he was correct to say that it is something that has arisen earlier in the autumn when Scotland first moved to a ‘tiered’ system of restrictions.
“Mr Russell insists that the Tourism and Finance Secretaries are working up the details of the scheme. I look forward to seeing the outcome in the coming days as it is vital that these funds get out to businesses as soon as possible”.
Commenting on the exchange in relation to supply chains, Mr McArthur added:
“In addition to the pandemic, businesses are also having to come to terms with the impact of Brexit. Already we are seeing issues emerging in relation to the supply of certain goods.
“Earlier this year, we saw how supply chains failed to take into account the needs of island communities. That cannot be allowed to happen again.
“Mr Russell again recognised the potential threat and offered reassurances that steps had been taken to mitigated such problems in the future. I certainly hope that is the case and will be keeping in close contact with local wholesalers in Orkney to monitor the situation”.