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Gail Ross underlines need to stop unnecessary travel to Highlands

By Alan Hendry

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Gail Ross says there has been a lot of anger in her constituency over people travelling to second or holiday homes with the intention of self-isolating.
Gail Ross says there has been a lot of anger in her constituency over people travelling to second or holiday homes with the intention of self-isolating.

North MSP Gail Ross has asked the Scottish Government if more powers will be given to local authorities to prevent people travelling unnecessarily to the Highlands and other rural areas during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking during a virtual question time, Mrs Ross, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: “There has been a lot of worry and indeed anger in my constituency since the beginning of lockdown, and in other remote and rural areas, about people coming to second or holiday homes in order to self-isolate.

"We know that the police have new powers in this regard but is consideration is being given to empower local authorities to take any additional action?”

Scotland's cabinet secretary for communities and local government, Aileen Campbell, responded: “I understand exactly why there will be anxiety in areas which have seen people visit when the advice is to the contrary, and that has been very clear advice that people should avoid travelling unless it is essential.

“The First Minister in her update today reiterated that very important message where we are starting to see people feeling a bit frustrated around the restrictions in their life, but it is really critical that we continue to abide by those messages of avoiding unnecessary travel."

This meant people should not travel to second homes, Ms Campbell said, adding: "It is for Police Scotland to enforce the regulations around individual movements and gatherings in public spaces.

“We believe that is the right approach, so we are not at this point considering additional powers for local authorities, but as ever we are always willing to engage and consider new additional ideas to help reiterate and underline those important health messages.”

Both the Scottish Government and Police Scotland have stated that people should only leave their homes for the following reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • Daily exercise, for example a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where you cannot work from home

Those found breaking restrictions on movement and gatherings can be held liable for a fixed penalty notice ranging from £30 to £960.

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