McArthur urges Ministers to engage in debate on localised approach to lifting restrictions

Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Friday) again urged Ministers to ‘engage actively and constructively’ in the debate about whether and how island communities might safely pilot the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

During virtual Members Questions, Mr McArthur recognised that decisions around how and when to lift restrictions had to be guided by public safety and science, but pressed for assurances that the government is not ruling out such an option.

In response, the Cabinet Secretary for Constitutional Relations, Michael Russell, acknowledged that discussions around a localised approach will form a live part of the consultation process and confirmed that any eventual decisions will be driven by science and potential risk involved. Mr Russell’s comments come in the wake of the First Minister’s announcement of an expansion of testing.

Following the exchange, Mr McArthur commented:

“There is an increasing level of public interest in the proposals put forward by Professor Pennington and Dr Allyson Pollock in recent weeks that the islands could start to ease lockdown restrictions sooner than mainland Scotland.

“Such a strategy could only be adopted, however, if a rigorous and extensive system of testing, tracing and isolating was firmly established. The First Minister’s announcement today of a further expansion of testing perhaps paves the way for such a system being put in place.

“Public safety, of course, remains the priority and must underpin any decision taken in relation to how and when restrictions are eventually lifted. That is true of our island communities as it is other parts of the country.

“However, Ministers must not discount possible options without proper consideration. I therefore welcome Mr Russell’s assurances that the government will engage actively and constructively in the debate about whether and how our islands might safely take the lead.

“This is unlikely to lead to any quick decisions, not least as the stakes are so high. It is encouraging, however, that Ministers are prepared to keep an open mind over the coming weeks”.

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