Councillor hits out at camper club
A WICK councillor issued an open letter saying that Caithness was not a "safe haven" for those trying to flee coronavirus.
On Saturday, Wick and East Caithness councillor Andrew Sinclair wrote to the Caravan and Motorhome Club (CMC) in order to reflect the feelings of local people over its "reckless" advice.
The councillor thinks the organisation bears a measure of responsibility for the "high influx of campervans" that have been reported heading to the north Highlands.
"The British and Scottish governments are advising against non-essential travel, yet the Caravan and Motorhome Club is advising its members to continue making frivolous leisure trips across the country," Councillor Sinclair said.
"This is reckless in the absolute extreme and risking the continued spread of the disease."
He went on to say in the letter that "camping is not an essential activity" and that Caithness "is not a haven for those seeking refuge from the coronavirus".
He added: "These campers are creating added risk to the health and wellbeing of the residents who live here, potentially aiding in the spread of infection from one end of the country to another.
"Perhaps you don’t appreciate the gravity of the situation but my constituents have compared the volume of campervans to that seen during the height of summer.
"Our supermarkets are already struggling with local demand. Our hospitals are under great pressure.
"All of our vital services are destined to face even greater difficulties over the coming weeks, as the virus continues to escalate.
"The selfishness of those who see the Highlands as a wilderness to which they can escape is the last thing we need on our plate. We live here, we absolutely depend on the limited services available to us."
Councillor Sinclair said he had received numerous reports on Saturday of campers "behaving aggressively when being refused access to camp sites" which were closed.
"The behaviour of many campers seems to be motivated by absolute self-interest and a desire to flee to a remote corner of the country in a time of national emergency.
"Public fury at your club, and those campers who are travelling here, is palpable. I strongly suggest you amend your advice to your members immediately.
"Stop non-essential travel. Stop coming to already fragile communities at this difficult time.
"Tourists will be more than welcome to visit when this difficult situation is over. But for the time being, they should stay at home.
On Sunday, the day after councillor Sinclair's letter was sent, the CMC issued an online message saying all its UK sites would close until June 30.
The message said: "The safety and wellbeing of our members, local communities, guests and staff is of paramount importance to us and we feel this move supports the recommendations issued by the Government.
"If you are currently on one our sites, please contact the site staff who will advise you on how and when you need to leave the site.
"Please ensure you maintain social distancing at all times, in line with Government guidelines.
"If you have an imminent booking please do not travel to site.
"We thank you for your patience and support during these challenging times. Stay safe and well."
John O'Groats Caravan and Camping Site was due to open at the start of April. However, its operators say: "Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic we are postponing the opening of our caravan site. We have a duty of care to our staff and our visitors, so in order to ensure everyone's health we must follow advice and delay our season's opening."