A Highlands and Islands MSP has again criticized the Scottish Government for its lack-lustre approach to promoting its own guidance for those travelling to Scotland islands.
Scottish Conservative Jamie Halcro Johnston, who lives in Orkney, has previously raised concerns with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that advice which suggested people should take two Covid tests before travelling to Scotland’s islands was not being adequately promoted or monitored.
Mr Halcro Johnston followed up this exchange with a letter to Ms Sturgeon asking for more details on how the guidance was being promoted and how compliance with that guidance was being monitored. In a reply on behalf of the Scottish Government, Health Minister Maree Todd confirmed there was no monitoring of compliance and so ministers were unable to say the proportion of those travelling who were taking tests.
With increasing numbers of cases being reported on Orkney, Mr Halcro Johnston has now asked the Scottish Government for confirmation that ministers and officials travelling to the islands in an official capacity will be following the advice.
He said “I have repeatedly challenged SNP ministers, including Nicola Sturgeon, to take this matter more seriously but they continue to fail to do so. With Covid rates in the Central Belt surging – now the worst in Europe – it seems extraordinary that they are not ramming home the message about the opportunity of testing before travel."
“The Scottish Government is already being severely criticised for its shortcomings with regard to its management of test and trace, and it’s disappointing that ministers have not been more proactive in doing something which, actually, would have been quite simple to carry out."
“As a result of our geography, the islands have benefited in the fight against Covid-19. However, with more travel, we should continue to use these non-obtrusive ways to keep infection low."
“The sad thing is that I suspect many people planning to travel to the islands would take the tests in advance if only they knew about the guidance and how easy it was to acquire test kits. Before returning home to Orkney myself, I undertook the tests as advised, with both tests negative. I hope all MSPs would do the same."
“I have now sought confirmation from the Scottish Government that ministers and officials visiting Scotland’s islands in an official capacity lead by example, follow the government’s own advice on testing and play their part in helping protect our islands communities”.
Mr Halcro Johnston’s question to the Scottish Government (submitted today) is provided for information:
To ask the Scottish Government if Ministers and Scottish Government officials (i) have been instructed and (ii) are required to follow Scottish Government guidance on Covid-19 testing three days and one day prior to visiting island communities