Coronavirus - petitions calling for a travel ban to the Islands win thousands of signatures

Visitors to the Islands are being asked to stay away during the Coronavirus pandemicVisitors to the Islands are being asked to stay away during the Coronavirus pandemic
Visitors to the Islands are being asked to stay away during the Coronavirus pandemic
The debate over what is “necessary travel” in regards to the Coronavirus pandemic is on the rise following reports that people are fleeing the higher level of risk posed in UK cities to travel to remote and rural areas.

Many places are now calling for visitors to stay away and in the Western Isles - one of the few places in the UK which is still believed to be virus-free - two petitions have sprung up calling for Calmac and Loganair to stop carrying non essential traffic.

The first petition, started by Mairi Macritichie yesterday (Saturday, March 21st) and hosted on website: is titled:

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“Stop Calmac and Loganair from allowing any traffic other than essential to/from Western Isles”.

In only 24 hours the petition has gathered 4,700 plus signatures, and aims to win at least 5,000 in backing from supporters.

In another petition, also hosted on and started by Padula’s Island Stores in Castlebay, the petition title is: “Stop Calmac and Loganair bringing tourists to Barra and Vatersay”

That petition has gathered 1,300 plus signatures in two days with the aim of gathering 1,500 supporters.

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In its explanation of why it had organised the petition, Padula’s Island Stores stated: “Barra and Vatersay are Covid 19 free at the moment and we would like to keep it that way.

“We are approaching tourist season and this will compromise the safety of the island.

“Many holiday lets have closed, the two hostels are closed, two of the campsites have closed and more will follow, although we love having tourists here we value the health of our elderly more .

“We need to keep this virus out and to do this we are asking Calmac and Loganair not to carry any tourists.

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“Make our ferries freight only, no shopping trips, no holiday traffic, no visitors . This will protect islanders and ship crews.”

The statement noted that some travel was essential and included hospital visits, essential repair engineers and freight in this, but that no one else should be using either the plane or the ferry.

It concluded that islanders travelling for work should not as this may put their family and other people in danger.

Yesterday evening Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing issued a statement urging people to stop travelling to the Highlands and Islands.

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Mr Ewing said: “I am furious at the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of some people travelling to the Highland and Islands.

“This has to stop now. Let me be crystal clear, people should not be travelling to rural and island communities full stop. They are endangering lives. Do not travel.”

The statement went on to suggest that visitors were panic buying which was leading to a negative impact on rural shops.

He continued: “The Scottish Government’s advice is that essential travel only should be undertaken. We have been in touch with CalMac and industry leaders to discuss what further measures may be required to deal with this issue.”

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As well as visitors, the Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary also included people with second homes in the region to stay away.

Perhaps a universal travel ban to and from the Islands is the way forward, as those with second homes, returning students, or islanders travelling to the mainland for business, or personal necessity pose just as much of a risk as visitors to the area.

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