The past few weeks of tighter restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic has been testing for all of us, and I know so many folk in Orkney had to go through isolation due to the local spike in cases.
For that reason I welcomed the moves that saw changes coming in at the start of this week, heralded by a statement during which the First Minister said that we have ‘turned the corner on the Omicron wave’.
From Monday, it means that restrictions on hospitality, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and indoor adult contact sports have been lifted.
Guidance on only meeting a maximum of three other households at a time is also lifted. The Covid Certification Scheme will remain where it is already in place but will not be extended.
Certain mitigations, such as face coverings in indoor spaces and public transport and working from home for those who can, are remaining in place. It is also important to continue testing regularly.
Nicola Sturgeon also re-emphasised the importance of becoming fully vaccinated.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in Orkney who continue to follow the guidance to keep their communities safe.
Elsewhere, I know that usually only folk with a really keen interest in politics will be interested in ministerial appointments within the Scottish Government. However, for a couple of reasons I think the one that took place on Monday will have caught the attention of folk in Orkney.
For one, the initial change was in the position of Minister for Transport, one that is of particular interest at a time when ferries are never far from the top of the agenda in the islands.
The resignation of Graeme Dey for health-related reasons led to the appointment of Jenny Gilruth to replace him. Taking on the Transport portfolio with immediate effect, Jenny will oversee a range of policy areas including the upcoming transfer of Scotland’s railways into public hands, reducing carbon emissions from our transport network and delivering new ferries for Orkney and other island communities. As a member of the Net Zero portfolio, she will play a key role in ensuring Scotland meets our climate targets. I look forward to engaging with Jenny on transport issues affecting Orkney and the rest of the Highlands and Islands.
And with Jenny moving on from her role as Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Orcadian Neil Gray, MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, will join the Scottish Government in that role. Working with the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Angus Robertson, Neil will lead on major events, the creative industries and international development.
As a member of Holyrood’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee, which Neil has steered very effectively as convener, I will be sad to see him move on from that role. However, I am sure he will do very well as in his ministerial post, and I think folk in Orkney can be very proud of having one of their own now serving in the Scottish Government.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands MSPs have been given the opportunity to share their personal views in The Orkney News.