Blackford pleads with tourists to ‘stay away’ during virus crisis

Ian Blackford.

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Local MP Ian Blackford has condemned several tourism accommodation providers for actively encouraging people to flock to Lochaber and elsewhere in the Highlands to ‘self-isolate’ during the current coronavirus emergency.

The MP for  Ross, Skye and Lochaber has already pleaded for tourists to stay away from the region.

He has now turned his wrath on certain tourism accommodation providers he accuses of flouting earlier advice about ‘essential travel only’ and roundly condemned them for their ‘unacceptable behaviour’, which, he said, risked the potential spread of Covid-19 and putting pressure on the health services in remote and rural areas.

Welcoming the UK Government decision on Monday to effectively ‘lock down’ the UK, the SNP’s Westminster leader said: ‘The new guidance is that everybody must close down today if they have not done so.

‘The need to control the spread of Covid-19 is the greatest challenge facing us all at this time. There has been a rapid acceleration in the number of cases reported and it is vital that we all do the right things now so we can reduce the impact of coronavirus and save lives.

‘If we don’t, we face the stark reality that many more people will become ill and die.’

Echoing government statements that essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays, he called out what he said were ‘recent examples of completely unacceptable behaviour’.

A furious Mr Blackford told us: ‘We are not like a city where you can travel to the next hospital if one is already under pressure. As there is a lack of an ability to accept responsibility it has been necessary to take action to force providers to shut down.’

Mr Blackford revealed he had received more than 1,000 emails over the weekend from constituents concerned by the number of camper vans visiting the area despite government advice directing people to avoid non-essential travel.

‘We have been inundated in my constituency with visitors who have shown no concern for the local population,’ Mr Blackford told Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock in the House of Commons on Monday.

‘This is a dangerous situation, imperiling the lives of constituents. They must go home and stay home. People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on
communities and services that are already at risk.’

And Mr Blackford told the Lochaber Times: ‘I appreciate that most people are making every effort to act responsibly and follow the advice on social distancing provided by government experts.

‘However, there are those who appear to think the advice applies to everyone else and who have chosen to head to the Highlands to self isolate.
This is putting our local residents at risk and is not acceptable.

‘For those visiting the Highlands just now, please leave. ‘