Political life is reviving as the initial unity caused by the impact of the Coronavirus crisis starts to wear thin.
So politicians across the spectrum are beginning to advocate divergent approaches.
Yesterday, Friday April 25, SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil called for the Faroes to be involved in coronavirus testing.
“It has been obvious for a while that testing has been required, testing at the point of admission to hospital is not what successful countries have been doing in stopping the spread of this virus.
“We already have a professor of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University backing Hebridean testing. We now have this offer from the Faroe Islands to do the testing and I think it is up to NHS Western Isles now to take a step forward and not just take orders from Edinburgh but to decide what we need in the islands and what is good for us.
“It was interesting to hear the First Minister last night say that they decided to close down and stop testing when the infection rate was at three times, that wasn’t the case in the islands and it probably isn’t the case in the islands even now, so therefore the case for testing is unanswerable and it should get under way.
“The fact that the Faroese are offering some of their capacity to help us should be grabbed with both hands by the Scottish Government and NHS Western Isles should be lobbying the Scottish Government to make sure that happens.”
He did not explain how this would work, given the lack of direct links between the Hebrides and the Faroes.
Local Conservative MSP and Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Donald Cameron spoke out after a spa business owner attacked the SNP over a lack of support for small firms during the coronavirus pandemic. Michael Lumsden, who runs a spa business across the country, said there was growing disparity between what the SNP was providing to retailers and what was happening elsewhere in the UK.
The PURE Spa and Beauty director said he’d spoken to numerous businesses in England which had already received their full £25,000 grant to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. In a letter to MSPs, he said: “Unfortunately the changes to the retail, leisure and hospitality grants implemented by the Scottish Government have made the administering of the £25K grants by councils unnecessarily slow. Our businesses cannot afford such unnecessary delays caused by bureaucracy.”
Mr Cameron said: “It is now beyond doubt that the SNP’s package of support for small businesses falls well short for far too many.
“This is another hardworking business owner whose properties would fare far better if they were based south of the border. That’s not an acceptable situation for the Scottish Government to create and is affecting firms here in the Highlands and Islands where we have many more small and medium sized businesses."
And Angus Brendan MacNeil also attacked the Westminster Government over its immigration policies. He met virtually with Minister Douglas Ross at the Scotland Office on Friday April 24 along with other cross-party colleagues to discuss a range of issues. Mr MacNeil said the UK Home Office should now allow non-EEA fishermen to come and work in the west coast of Scotland. Mr MacNeil pointed out that this could be one of the few things the government could do quickly, easily and cheaply. "It wouldn't cost a penny, in fact, it would raise tax revenues as well as helping the Scottish fishing industry get going as quickly as possible.
"I hope the Home office drop their stubborn nonsense which they have maintained over the last few years. Their arrogance cannot continue and surely this time we will see that the Scottish Office can manage to make them listen to some sense and enable non-EEA fishermen to work in the west coast of Scotland, helping the much needed recovery in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas. All they need to do is lift a pen and the problem is sorted."
Meanwhile, there's growing divergence over how to curtail the severe lockdown measures. Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan says the public must prepare for restrictions on normal life to continue for some time.
The comments come as the Scottish Government published a new document outlining how decisions will be taken to control coronavirus (COVID-19) while restoring a degree of normality to everyday life. The paper - COVID-19: A Framework for Decision-Making - sets out the position during this ongoing period of lockdown and outlines the factors that must be considered as we move gradually to ease restrictions. It also recognises that new ways of living – effectively a “new normal” – may have to be in place for some time to come.
Travel to and from the Western Isles is currently restricted to islanders and essential workers only, with CalMac now taking less than 1% of the passengers they were taking at this time last year. The islands MSP has written to the Scottish Government to ask that decisions on lifting travel restrictions to and from the islands should potentially be taken separately to when lockdown ends nationally, to make sure that any changes come at a time that is informed by local factors.
“I know that the lockdown restrictions have been difficult for us all to deal with – not least for many tourism businesses - but they are helping to save lives and protect the NHS.
“There has been a lot of talk nationally and locally about how and when the lockdown restrictions will be eased. The publication of this document is very timely, and I urge everyone to take the time to read it.
“It is vital that any decision to ease restrictions is based on the best scientific advice possible. However, this is a constantly-changing situation and there may be a need to reapply restrictions after they are lifted. It is only when we are sure the virus is under control that we can even start to ease any of the restrictions because the virus will not have gone away.
“The virus is progressing at different rates around different parts of the country. We have thankfully not had any fatalities in the Western Isles and it has been some time since new cases of infection have been reported. I am really grateful that so many islanders have been earnestly sticking to the social distancing guidance: this has undoubtedly kept infection rates down and helped ease the burden on the NHS.
“I know that the talk of lifting lockdown has a lot of people concerned about the prospect of an influx of people from areas of the country heavily affected by Coronavirus. I certainly don’t want to see this, and I think we should all be prepared for the travel restrictions to the islands to be in place for the foreseeable future – even if that means restrictions staying in place after lockdown across the rest of the country has been lifted.
“In the coming days and weeks members of the public will be invited to contribute their thoughts and views on the next steps we must make together. There are no easy answers – but it is right for the Scottish Government to be clear about the factors that will inform decision making.
“Unfortunately, returning to what we regard as a normal life will not be possible in the near future so we need to prepare for a new normal until treatments and a vaccine offer different solutions.”