News round-up: School re-opening plans; Hotels fear price war; labour market and immigration….

Plans ABC for schools

There will be a plan A, B and C for Highland children going back to school in August.

Highland Council’s Education Committee discussed the three plans last Thursday.

The council’s plan A is for a 100 per cent return of pupils, should social distancing measures be relaxed to zero, on 12th August.

Plan B is also for a 100 per cent return, based on a one-metre social distancing rule.

A range of local buildings and additional staffing could be used to help should the virus ‘R’ factor increase.

Plan C is for 50 per cent return, based on the two metre social distancing guidelines to which schools had been preparing for until the Scottish Government changed tack on 23rd June.

The Deputy First Minister announced then that the aim was for the full return of children to schools in August – subject to ongoing scientific and health advice.

Plans B and C will remain as a contingency.

Councillor John Finlayson, Chair of the Education Committee said: “I would like to thank all our staff for their hard work on developing plans, including contingencies, so we can accommodate the maximum number of young people safely in our schools.

“This is an immense and complex task.”

More at

Tourism price war

Some of Skye’s leading hoteliers have called for accommodation providers on Skye to work together to avoid ‘a race to the bottom’.

The warning comes amid fears over a post lockdown price war between online travel agents.

Hoteliers met las week to discuss the challenges of re-opening within new operational protocols and procedures as outlined by the Scottish and UK Governments.

Hotelier Clare Winskill, of Coruisk House, said: “Extreme price cutting threatens the viability of our businesses and the quality of the experience that we can and must deliver to our guests to encourage them back both now and year on year into the future.”

Hoteliers met via a video conference organised by the island’s destination management organisation, SkyeConnect.

Immigration change risks jobs

The UK Government’s proposed new immigration system could halve the number of people coming to Scotland, risking labour shortages in key sectors, an independent expert group has warned.

New research shows that 55.9 per cent of migrants who want to work in the Highlands would be ineligible to come to the UK.

According to previous analysis by the Expert Advisory Group, 53 per cent of roles filled by employees in Scotland earn less than £25,000, including up to 90 per cent of jobs in the care sector.

The Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee has warned that demographic changes could pose risks for the NHS.

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “This is one of the most destructive policies for the Highlands and Islands that’s ever come out of the UK Government.

“Furthermore, the Covid-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated the UK’s reliance on key workers who have come to Scotland from all over the world.”