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Covid in Scotland: 'Let us meet granny and grandad indoors'

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image captionHighland councillor and mum-of-nine Margaret Paterson says small gatherings indoors should be permitted

Community leaders in the Highlands and islands say people should be allowed to meet indoors under new Covid rules.

Highland, Moray, Northern and Western Isles could be placed under level one of Scotland's five-level system.

The category allows for six people from two households to meet indoors, but the Scottish government said this might not be possible immediately.

But community leaders say the geography of their areas and weather conditions should be taken into consideration.

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On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said central Scotland local authorities would likely move to level three, with most of the rest of Scotland moving to level two. Both levels include guidance against in-home socialising.

However, she said the Scottish government was considering exceptions for Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles. They could move to level one due to their lower rates of infection.

The category allows for meetings of six people from two households at home, but the government said guidance against this may have to remain as part of efforts to supress the spread of Covid-19.

'I count my blessings'

Highland councillors voted 46-11 in favour of supporting the introduction of level one without the restriction on in-house socialising at a meeting on Wednesday.

Highland councillor and mother-of-nine Margaret Paterson had earlier called for the restriction on small indoor gatherings to be lifted for the region when the new system comes into force next week.

She said: "I really think that we really have to ease it a bit."

The land area of Highland Council is 20% larger than Wales and almost the same size as Belgium.

It has the seventh highest population of Scotland's 32 authorities, but lowest population density with few stretches of dual carriageway road and some communities served by single-track roads.

Ms Paterson said: "I have got nine children and they can come to the window and wave to me, and I am lucky and I count my blessings, but there are lots of people who cannot manage to come a distance and not be able to come into the house to see their parents or granny and grandad."

Following the council vote, councillor Carolyn Caddick said households should be allowed to meet indoors. She there was no longer the "luxury" of the fine weather that was experienced over the summer for meeting outdoors.

She said: "People should be given the opportunity to mix with someone they know and trust and is looking after themselves.

"If we don't look after our individuals, not just our elderly but all the individuals in the Highlands who live on their own, I think that is going to be dire for the mental health of folk here."

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image captionRelaxed rules for islands communities have been called for

Islands communities face similar challenges to trips to see family, with some journeys involving ferry crossings to other islands or mainland Scotland.

'Harsh weather'

Shetland Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart said she was concerned about the risk of isolation to those in rural and islands communities, especially at a time of increased likelihood of frequent bad weather.

She said: "It has taken a great community effort to keep the levels of the virus so low in Shetland.

"However, the rules on in-home socialising have weighed heavily on families and friends, something I know is replicated across the country.

"When the going gets tough, those support networks are often what gets us through.

"Shetland has a harsh winter, and stopping people from meeting inside at all will add further to feelings of anxiety, loneliness and isolation."

Last month, Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney islands councils asked for more relaxed, localised Covid-19 restrictions to be applied to their areas.

In a joint letter to the Scottish government, the islands authorities said their lower rates of infections should be taken into consideration.

They said some restrictions were needed but the limits on household gatherings had been met with "dismay".

Related Topics

  • Shetland
  • Highland Council
  • Orkney

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