Scottish islands and rural areas urge people to stay away following social distancing measures

Tourists have been asked not to use remote places and Scottish islands as a “safe haven” during the coronavirus outbreak.

MSPs and tourism board bosses have urged people planning to visit remote parts of Scotland to stay away to protect local residents.

The disease has so far infected more than 350 people in the country.

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MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber Ian Blackford said there are reports of a “substantial amount” of tourists in the Highlands.

Highlands and remote places in Scotland including several islands urge people to stay away and not use them as 'safe havens'

He raised concerns about The Hebridean Princess cruise ship due to arrive at Fort William on Wednesday.

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On Twitter he posted: “The Hebridean Princess should not be coming to Fort William.

“This must be cancelled. It is not business as usual. Only essential travel should take place. There are reports of a substantial number of tourists in the Highlands. Put simply do not come.”

MSP Kate Forbes expressed her concern for tourists using remote parts of Scotland as a way of social-isolation.

She tweeted: "If you live elsewhere, please don’t use the Highlands as your means of self-isolation.

"People live here who are trying to follow government guidance and the continuing flow of campervans and other traffic who appear to be escaping the cities is not helping."

Shetland currently has 24 positive cases.

Islands including Barra and Arran are among many remote areas that have issued a 'do not visit' plea to prevent the risk of coronavirus spreading in their local communities, most of which have a high population of elderly people.

A Facebook post from the Isle of Arran's main tourist board, VisitArran, reads: "After considering all options, many of our businesses have taken the difficult and emotional decision to close and take a pause during the current situation.

"This is not a decision that has been taken lightly, but the priority for Arran as an island is to look after the health and wellbeing of our island residents first and foremost.

"Our skilled health and social care team already work under pressure with limited resources to support critical and essential services on the island.

"To this end, and in accordance with national guidelines, we are sure you can understand that we are not encouraging visitors to Arran at present. It would be irresponsible of VisitArran to be promoting our island for any non-essential travel."

It reassured visitors that the island has a great community support network and tourists will receive a warm welcome when the outbreak is over.

The tourist board on Barra also raised concerns about their community being affected by visitors.

The organisation tweeted: "Don’t travel here, don’t put unnecessary strain on our medical staff and limited resources.

"We will open again and be delighted to see you.

"But in the meantime, we are looking after our community, the thing that makes us so special."

Former VisitScotland PR Iagan MacNeil urged tourists to stop travelling to the island at this time.

He said: “Yesterday, the annoyance was panic-buying shoppers. Today's it's panic buying holidaymakers. If you're thinking of an 'escape' to the outer Hebrides, in particular the Isle of Barra, during Covid-19, then don't. You are being selfish and irresponsible. Simple.

“The Hebrides are as prone to coronavirus as anywhere. Nowhere's immune and protected, especially if the no non-essential travel rule isn't adhered to.”

He said remote areas are already stretched for resources and having holidaymakers coming and going would add “unnecessary pressure.”

He added: “For the time being stay where you are and allow these fragile communities to manage during these difficult times with the limited resources available to them. Remember, your 'escape' could cause more damage than you'd ever want.

“As much as I would love to be home on Barra just now, my own plans to see my siblings, nephews and nieces are on pause for the foreseeable future. I will always be guided by the medical experts, not my own desire to pretend I know better! You should be too. Stay at home.”

CalMac ferries also announced since new measures have been imposed passengers should only travel if it is essential.

In a statement the company said: “We are encouraging all passengers to ensure that the journey they are making is essential in line with Government advice.

“If you don’t need to travel then please don’t risk your health and the health of others.”

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