West Highland MSPs join forces to promote vital coronavirus message

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Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, and Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, have issued a joint message following the confusion caused on Sunday by the new UK Government coronavirus slogan and changes to lockdown.

The ministers are worried these factors and good weather in recent weeks could encourage some people to venture into the Scottish countryside and attempt to visit some of the islands.

Kate Forbes said: Communities throughout our constituencies – which cover a huge part of Scotland and almost 30 inhabited islands – are telling us they want the lockdown to continue, and to be firmly enforced, so lives can be saved. Many are concerned the new UK Government message is confusing and worried people will feel they are now free to visit the wonderful Highlands and Islands of Scotland, which look their best in the current sunny weather.

‘While tourism is the lifeblood of our areas, it is absolutely vital the Scottish regulations are observed and that means people are not free to visit at present. They cannot and must not seek out beauty spots or favourite places distant from their homes, go for prolonged drives by car or motorbike even if they don’t stop anywhere, nor can they stay in tents or use motor homes. The iconic sites across my constituency – such as Ben Nevis, the Fairy Pools [on Skye], Loch Ness and the Cairngorms – are all still going to be there at the end of lockdown.

‘If the rules are flouted, not only will that put lives in our constituencies at risk, it will also set back any hope of slowly easing the lockdown and bringing some new normality into our everyday activities. Those who defy the law are also likely to be stopped by the police who are increasing their vigilance and can expect not just an on the spot fine, but also to be turned round and sent back home, where they should be staying safe and not endangering themselves and others.’

Michael Russell MSP added: ‘I know everyone is keen to see progress made and the lockdown eased. It has been and remains tough, particularly for those on their own.

‘But if we get this process wrong then we run the risk not just of even longer in strict lockdown but also overwhelming our health service which up until now has been able to cope with the increased pressures. That would put every one of us in danger.

‘There are some essential national infrastructure works, for example in the energy, construction and food sectors, that have to go on but even these are subject to strict controls and must be able to prove they can work safely not just to protect their workers but to protect the communities in which they are operating.  All other work that is not prohibited in regulations can only take place if social distancing and rigorous hygiene is observed at all times and it is subject to inspection by councils and the Health and Safety Executive. Companies can be fined or closed for breaking these laws.

‘Kate and I are as keen as everyone else to see an end to this difficult time but we will only get to that point if we do the right thing now.

‘The right thing for our constituents is to stay at home. And the right thing for those who might want to come and visit our area is to accept they cannot do so at present and that they must observe – to the letter – the lock down regulations passed by the Scottish Parliament.

‘Kate mentioned the iconic sites in her constituency – let me mention mine too.  I hope it will not be too long until people are able to come ‘doon the watter’ to Dunoon and Rothesay, to stand in the view point above the Kyles of Bute, to take a ferry across Loch Fyne, to stroll along the main street in Oban or Campbeltown and to experience the hospitality and special beauty of Mull, Islay, Iona, Tiree and a host of other islands.

‘But that time is not now.

‘There can be no ifs, no buts and no excuses. Please stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. And go on doing that until the regulations in Scotland are eased, no matter what others are doing.’