Skye and Lochalsh police encouraged by public’s response to lockdown measures

PC Chris Tate at the normally bustling car park at the Old Man of Storr

Police in Skye and Lochalsh say they are encouraged at the public’s response to the lockdown restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Across the Highlands 90 fixed penalty notices have been issued, and four arrests made since the emergency coronavirus powers came into force on 27th March.

Under the new legislation officers were given the power to fine people who refuse to stay at home or who are outside without ‘reasonable excuse’.

In Skye area inspector Lynda Allan said that so far, local teams only had to deal with a few minor incidents.

Inspector Lynda Allan: “Local police teams well equipped.”

She told the Free Press: “We are fortunate that the majority of people are complying with the lockdown restrictions and most of the concerns reported have turned out to be calls with good intent, where the circumstances are not as initially thought.”

Coastguard teams have been providing assistance during lockdown, visiting local beauty spots and posting flyers with education on the rules that the public are now required to follow.

Inspector Allan added: “The full team are also now trained and equipped with PPE so in a very good place to respond to whatever comes in appropriately, and most importantly safely.

“There hasn’t been any big street parties or gatherings needing split up –  just small incidents that could potentially have grown arms and legs.

“Hopefully, it will stay that way.”

Figures released last week showed that Police Scotland issued 1,637 fixed penalty notices and made 78 arrests across the whole of Scotland between Friday, 27th March,  and Thursday, 23rd April.

Highlands and Islands divisional commander, chief superintendent George Macdonald, said: “It has been one month since the Scottish Government’s coronavirus emergency powers were introduced, and I would like to express my sincere thanks to the vast majority of people living in the Highlands and Islands for your support during this extraordinary time.

“The public’s response has been extremely positive and only on very rare occasions have officers had to issue warnings or take enforcement action where individuals have flouted regulations and failed to comply repeatedly with police direction.

 “I appreciate that as the restrictions persist and the weather continues to be so good, it may feel tempting to spend time more outdoors and to visit the countless remote and rural beauty spots we are fortunate to have across the Highlands and Islands.

“However we need everybody, collectively to play their part, and the message is clear – you should only leave the house for very limited purposes including buying basic necessities such as food and medicine, for daily exercise, for medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done at home.

“Do not travel to take exercise, do not hold gatherings with people from outwith your household and do not hold house parties.

“In line with the rest of the country, our patrols will continue at key locations including beaches, dog walking areas, parks and other green spaces – if you are out and about, officers may engage with you, please explain your individual circumstances to them and if appropriate listen to their advice and encouragement to stay at home.  

“We are well aware of the sacrifices people are making to play their part in preventing the spread, protecting the NHS and ultimately save lives.”

Dr Ken Oates, NHS Highland’s director of public health, said: “We are benefiting greatly from the physical distancing measures and self-isolation because those measures were started here when we were earlier in the curve, but it is clear that the epidemic won’t go away, the virus won’t disappear.

“It’s vital that we continue to adhere to the physical distancing guidance and don’t become complacent and assume that because we are a rural area it will be fine – because it will still challenge us severely, probably the most significant challenge we have ever had to our local health and social care services.”

Recorded crime has fallen by around a quarter since measures to support physical distancing came into effect, early indications suggest.

Serious assaults have reduced by around 40 per cent while common assault has fallen by just over a quarter when compared to the same time last year.

Housebreakings are down around 30 per cent.