We have been asked on very short notice for our views in relation to the announcement First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made regarding the planned timetable for easing of restrictions out of lockdown for Scotland – specifically regarding the mention of there being options for islands like ours which have been under slightly more eased restrictions.
We have not been given much clarity on what possible range of options may be available but as best we can determine it seems likely to be a straight choice between two main options.
According to the timetable for easing restrictions, there is an expectation that we will be allowed to travel freely within Local Authority areas for non-essential purposes (rather than the “stay at home” restrictions operating on the mainland). There will then be a general shift on April 26th which can broadly be thought of as the mainland of Scotland returning to what was called “level 3” – for the most part. At that point up to 6 people from up to 3 households will be allowed to meet outdoors, and up to 4 people from 2 households can socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant. These are similar to the restrictions Tiree is currently under . However the key difference is that travel will from that point be allowed across mainland Scotland, not just within your Local Authority area – and tourist accommodation will be allowed to resume general operation – i.e. people will be allowed to travel and stay overnight, as long as it is using tourist accommodation.
Because island communities like Tiree have been relatively safer with lower or zero case levels, there is an option (we assume from April 26th) for islands like ours to drop from current restriction level (level 3) to what will be the new level 2 equivalent. We assume this to mean something similar to the restrictions which are expected to come in no earlier than May 17th – at which point up to 4 people from 2 households can socialise indoors in a private home.
However: The Scottish Government concern is that if people were able to travel freely to and from islands like ours, we would be under disproportionate risk if we were to be operating under greater easing of restrictions from the earlier date. They are therefore considering that if islands like ours were to continue to be treated separately from the mainland, and move to lower restrictions on April 26th, it would need to be accompanied by a continuation of travel restrictions to and from those islands until the later May 17th date. Note: we are unclear if this would also imply us not being able to travel within the local authority area from April 2nd
We are therefore being consulted about a choice on how we would prefer to be treated.
Again we must emphasise that this has been a fast moving issue and there is not a lot of clarity on exactly what options would be considered, there may be some sort of middle ground possible – but as best we can tell this boils down to choosing between two options:
Option A: Tiree would remain in “Level 3”, and would align with the new eased restrictions for mainland Scotland as of April 2nd, and then on April 26th. Tourists would be allowed to travel to and from the island as of the 26th, and residents would be allowed to travel off the island within Scotland (Note: not necessarily cross border travel to England or elsewhere) and return, but all under level 3 restrictions – e.g. no indoor visits, accommodation only in hotels/tourist accommodation instead of staying with family, etc.
Option B: Tiree would move to the new “Level 2” equivalent earlier – possibly from April 26th, or possibly even April 2nd (we aren’t sure on this point!) – meaning lesser restrictions within the island community (indoor visits would be allowed, etc) – however travel to and from mainland Scotland would NOT be allowed for visitors or residents until the later easing of restrictions on May 17th – i.e. these further eased restrictions would only be available to us within Tiree itself until that later date.
Short-term Survey consultation:
We have set up a simple short survey poll to canvass opinion from the community, in addition to reaching out directly to consult with Tiree based business owners and operators. We have been asked to feed in a view by Monday 22nd – three days from the posting of this survey – so please respond quickly! You can complete the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PGWG6PD
If you have only one device but multiple people wishing to express a vote, drop us an e-mail or comment on the page instead as the survey only lets you vote once per device.
Some factors that the TCC members have considered in our own discussion of this:
- Option A allows an earlier resumption of tourism visits and therefore trade for island based tourism business – with resulting economic benefit
- Option A allows earlier travel off island for residents – albeit with pretty high restrictions still in effect – which could allow for some family contact (outdoors or limited in public places such as cafés etc). Alternatively family could come here, but they would need to stay in tourist accommodation, and the same restrictions would apply.
- Option A allows for earlier access to things like travel off-island for shopping for things not available on-island – although note that this will not be practical for most people on Tiree from April 2nd as tourist accommodation for non-essential use does not resume until April 26th.
- We are only talking about a period expected to be 3-5 weeks. Is it worth adding another layer of restrictions/complexity for the island compared to the mainland for such a short time rather than just being treated the same as the mainland?
- Option A would have a greater/earlier risk impact on staff who work in service/retail that will be in contact with visitors coming here from the mainland.
- Option B allows greater freedoms within the island community – but not for travel to and from the island. So those with family and friends here could see more of each other under that option, but not for family elsewhere.
- Option B is technically the safer option for those who live here with regards to the pandemic – but vaccination levels are increasing steadily, and with the retention of higher restriction level for longer under Option A this safety factor as not as dominant as it was earlier in the pandemic
- However – if the planned easing of restrictions does not go well and there is a resurgence in cases, or new variants of the virus, etc, remaining more secluded may mean the island could avoid as severe a return to lockdown and some of that risk.
What do you think?
Feel free to register and comment on this post below with your view as well as completing the survey on the two expected options. Please be mindful of our policy on comments