CLARITY is being sought by Eskdale and Liddesdale residents over travelling to and working in England after lockdown restrictions began to be lifted south of the border.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out a route map for coming out of lockdown last Thursday.
Part of that statement included the paragraph: “Within Scotland, we are keeping an open mind on the potential for regional variation as we move through the phases of the route map, if that best meets the particular circumstances and needs of the geographies concerned.
“We would engage with the communities concerned before taking any geographically differentiated approach to changing restrictions.”
The E&L Advertiser contacted the Scottish government about this statement and asked what discussions were ongoing with the communities in Eskdale and Liddesdale.
Hundreds of people in Eskdale and Liddesdale cross the border every day to work, shop, enjoy leisure activities, attend medical appointments and for other reasons. What is the government’s advice on this?
What guidance is available for Scottish residents who are being told by their English-based employers that they must to return to work because of the lifting of restrictions in England?
This is particularly difficult for people with children who had no access to childcare.
A government spokesperson said: “We’re clear we want people tostay at home except for essential purposes.
“In our route map we have outlined that people, who are working from home should continue to do so.
“We are also asking people to stay locally in terms of accessing services and going out for exercise.
“We are, in common with countries around the world, having to take unprecedented steps to deal with the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic brings.
“At all times the government’s actions have been guided by the best and most up-to-date expert scientific advice, working closely with governments in the UK.”
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 set out the current legal restrictions on individuals and businesses and the penalties for breaching them.
Fiona and Dave Patterson, who live in Langholm, both work for the NHS in Carlisle.
Fiona works in HR/recruitment and Dave is employed in IT and they are based in Maglona House in Kingstown.
Fiona said: “We both started working from home on March 23, me because I have asthma and Dave because he was able to and it was recommended.
“I don’t know what plans he has for going back but we’re aware that the Scottish government said home working should go on as long as possible. It’s on the route map it produced.
“We both have laptops and brought some equipment home. In the recruitment team we made a lot of changes.
“Most of the team are working from home because the office layout didn’t enable social distancing.
“We all communicate regularly by email, phone and video / virtual meetings.
“Nothing has definitely been said about going back. Personally, there would need to be a guarantee that social distancing could be adhered to.
“My boss has said that those currently working from home can do a bit of both, obviously while sticking to advice, with a view to eventually being back in the office full time.
“Clearly, the NHS is aware of keeping staff safe and there will measures in place but, as yet, none of that has been mentioned.”
Newcastleton resident Yvonne Scott works at Carlisle Brass in the city.
She had to return to work once the lockdown restrictions began to be lifted in England.
Yvonne said: “I said to my employer that Scotland was still in lockdown but I was told that I was allowed to work.
“I’ve no choice. I’ve been back at work since a week last Tuesday. They have put a lot of safety measures in place but I’m surprised facemasks aren’t compulsory.”
Yvonne had previously been furloughed. She doesn’t deal with public so she is okay about being back because it’s a skeleton staff at the moment.
She added: “However, we are busy and I don’t think I will be comfortable if they start bringing in more staff.”
People have asked why Police Scotland is not policing the border and stopping visitors to the area who shouldn’t be coming up here because Scotland is still in lockdown.
The current policy on managing the border and how it will change as the country moves through the five phases set out in the government’s route map has been reiterated by the force.
Inspector Claire Walker, Dumfries and Galloway community policing, said: “The government’s guidance is clear; people should leave the house only for very limited purposes, for example, for basic necessities such as food and medicine, exercise, medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done at home.
“Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation, encourage compliance and use enforcement only as a last resort.”
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, in a statement he issued last Friday, said: “As the First Minister has said, because of the self-discipline and personal responsibility shown by most people, we can look forward to a period and phases of transition.
As we progress through these phases, we will move from explaining, encouraging and enforcing and, where necessary, enforcing restrictions to a greater emphasis on guidelines and advice.
“This has been our approach throughout this emergency; to rely on the public’s common sense and personal responsibility to do the right thing, protect the NHS and save lives, not to avoid a criminal justice sanction but because it is the right thing to do.
“I’m clear we will continue to police with courtesy and fairness and with the support of our communities. The rules haven’t changed yet so please stick with it in the days ahead.”