Comhairle Leader, Roddie Mackay, has expressed his concern over the coronavirus' long-term effects on the community.

Mr Mackay has written to Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, regarding the current lack of funding support for the Self-Catering Industry in the recently announced support packages.

Mr Mackay, said: “I believe that whatever direct damage COVID-19 causes to health and well-being, there may well be much longer and embedded effects from the impact on communities from the loss of business, industry and jobs. Therefore, it is vital that we do what we can to maintain key sectors so that they can bounce back quickly when this crisis is over.”

He added that: “Those who run self-catering and B&B businesses throughout the islands are a really significant contributor to the local economy, as I am sure they are in Ms Forbes own constituency, and they are deserving of similar levels of support to that on offer to retail and hospitality.

“I know that the First Minister, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and indeed Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, all value and understand the hugely important role of this sector in rural Scotland and particularly in the Highlands and Islands.

"I am sure that they will make every effort to support them in conjunction with the UK Government grants scheme. Whilst I do understand why they would seek to exclude empty holiday homes from this scheme, I think that asking for evidence of trading, such as submitting accounts to the Inland Revue and having a tax reference number, will sort that.”

Highlands and Islands, MSP Donald Cameron, commented: “We have many business providing self-catering accommodation across the Highlands and Islands and their owners stand to lose significant amounts of income during the pandemic.

“While the UK Government has included self-catering businesses as eligible for some support in England and Wales, we have not yet seen an equivalent measure announced by the Scottish Government, and this is causing confusion and concern across the region.

“We have raised the issue of self-catering accommodation directly with Scottish Ministers, to ensure that the right businesses are eligible for support from the Scottish Government in these difficult times.

“We have been assured that this is being looked at with urgency and I hope this provides some re-assurance to worried business-owners.”