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Looking Back on Lockdown: June 2020


By Gregor White

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As many businesses got set to reopen others faced tough decisions and figures began to emerge showing the extent of the upheaval lockdown was causing.

A city hotel had provided almost 700 "bed nights" for frontline workers having to travel from outside the city for work.

There was criticism of the Glen Mhor Hotel last month as it was revealed it had made furloughed staff redundant.

Sandy MacLeod, of Macleod Roofing, with Munlochy Animal Aid’s Iona Nicol.
Sandy MacLeod, of Macleod Roofing, with Munlochy Animal Aid’s Iona Nicol.

Black Isle animal shelter operators welcomed a £500 donation at a time when fundraising activities had ground to a halt.

Contractors MacLeod Roofing gave the cash to Munlochy Animal Aid.

The firm's director, Sandy MacLeod, said: "These charities need our support, and more so in these difficult times."

Highland Council was calling for a Scottish Government bail-out to address financial woes caused by Covid including an almost £800,000 bill for childcare for key workers.

Fears were raised over large gatherings being held at Dores and other Highland locations.
Fears were raised over large gatherings being held at Dores and other Highland locations.

Communities across the Highlands raised concerns about large gatherings being held as coronavirus restrictions gradually eased.

Warm weather brought people out in droves, with police called to several locations after complaints.

One local resident at Dores said the area was "under siege", with similar complaints in Nairn and on the Black Isle.

There were calls to make parking free in Inverness city centre to help with the post-lockdown economic recovery.

Mike Smith, manager of Inverness Business Improvement District, said both Rose Street and Eastgate car parks – which were free for key workers at this time – could continue not charging motorists who, he said, might need to be actively encouraged to return to the city centre as lockdown measures eased.

Environmental campaigners wanted more concentration on greener modes of transport.

The Loch Ness Etape was called off.
The Loch Ness Etape was called off.

Cancer Research UK's Race for Life in Inverness was cancelled.

It had originally been postponed from May 24 in the hope it could be rescheduled for the autumn.

The Etape Loch Ness cycle event was similarly cancelled, having initially been pushed back from April to September before organisers decided it was not feasible to hold it at all in 2020.

Michael Golding of Visit Inverness Loch Ness.
Michael Golding of Visit Inverness Loch Ness.

Industry leaders welcomed the announcement of a provisional date of July 15 for restarting tourism.

Michael Golding, chief executive of Visit Inverness Loch Ness said: "Tourism represents our greatest opportunity to restart the local economy."

Margaret Payne.
Margaret Payne.

There was praise for the efforts of 90-year-old Highland great-grandmother Margaret Payne's charity climb.

Mrs Payne was scaling the stairs at her home to the equivalent height of Suilven, inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore.

Highland Conservative MSP Edward Mountain celebrated her achievements during a debate at the Scottish Parliament, with Prince Charles also writing to her.

"It is people like yourself who showed that, for every hardship, there has been a hero or, of course, a heroine," he told her.

Completing her daily challenge this month Mrs Payne raised more than £400,000 for Highland Hospice, NHS charities and the RNLI.

More than 40,000 jobs in the north were being supported through the coronavirus crisis, the UK government said.

Statistics from HMRC showed 44,100 jobs were being supported in the Highlands and Western Isles either through the furlough scheme or help for the self-employed.

Hundreds of individuals and families in need were being helped by a new food hub.

New Start Highland launched the service in response to hardship being experienced by people due to the pandemic.

It was awarded £55,000 by the Scottish Government's wellbeing fund, set up to help voluntary groups provide crucial services.

It in turn then helped about 40 community groups with vital food supplies as well as pre-paid energy keys and phone cards for local distribution.

Scott Murray of Cru Holdings was rolling out a home delivery cocktail service.
Scott Murray of Cru Holdings was rolling out a home delivery cocktail service.

Cru Holdings, which runs city bars Bar One, Scotch & Rye and others, launched a home delivery cocktail service.

Mix'd provided a range of 16 mixes in resealable pouches.

Managing director Scott Murray said: "With the ongoing restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, so many businesses have been adapting and innovating, so bringing our cocktails to customers at home was a no-brainer for us."

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited introduced new safety measures at its properties as flights gradually restarted.

The measures in place at Inverness Airport included safety screens and a requirement for customers to wear face coverings.

Highland Council chief executive Donna Manson told the Scottish Parliament's Cpvid-19 committee she preferred a national rather than local approach to easing lockdown.

"National messages have kept everybody feeling safe and it has kept everybody together," she said.

She also told the committee of incidents where Highland residents from other European countries had faced "unpleasant" incidents where they were told to "go home" and objected to incidents where posters had been put up in local areas warning tourists to stay away.

Roddy and Kenny Riddle, of Bikes of Inverness, saw a rise in the popularity of cycling.
Roddy and Kenny Riddle, of Bikes of Inverness, saw a rise in the popularity of cycling.

Demand for bikes had soared during lockdown according to local sellers.

Staff at Bikes of Inverness in Grant Street said orders had doubled in recent weeks.

Putting it down to lockdown co-owner Kenny Riddle said: "It's created a whole new customer base than we had before."

High Life Highland chief executive Steve Walsh.
High Life Highland chief executive Steve Walsh.

Bosses at High Life Highland said the charity faced losing £10 million of income, though mitigation measures meant it projected a deficit of £3.3 million.

As the charity planned a phased reopening of some of its sites chef executive Steve Walsh said: "There is no doubt in my mind that the challenge ahead is one were we are going to need the support of our customers more than ever, working together we can bring sport, leisure and culture back to our communities."

Hundreds of staff were told to expect a 20 per cent cut in their wages while non-contracted staff faced losing their jobs altogether which a spokesman for the GMB union described as "a kick in the teeth."

Mr Walsh said: "We would not be putting these measures in place unless it was absolutely necessary to help us protect jobs and the long-term future delivery of services."

Highland Labour MSP David Stewart called for more to be done to address health inequalities laid bare by the pandemic.

Statistics from the National Records of Scotland indicated that those living in the poorest areas of the country were twice as likely to die from Covid-19 compared to residents in more affluent areas.

He said: "Over the last decade there has been a desperate need to plough more investment into these communities, to find better ways to tackle health inequalities.

"Covid-19 has brought into sharp focus that this has not happened, and it's shameful."

Aileen Hendry and Tania Kennedy of Rouge Boutique were ready to reopen.
Aileen Hendry and Tania Kennedy of Rouge Boutique were ready to reopen.

As on-street non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen from the end of the month the Inverness Courier launched its Getting Back to Business campaign, letting readers know how their favourite shops were gearing up to welcome them back.

One way systems were in place for most shops, along with other social distancing and hygiene measures.

Owner of Rouge Boutiques in Castle Street, Tania Kennedy, said: "We've had lovely messages from people saying 'We hope you are OK and come out the other side."

Four community groups were pulling together to help revitalise Nairn.
Four community groups were pulling together to help revitalise Nairn.

Groups in Nairn joined forces to regenerate the town in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Nairn Business Improvement District, Nairn Improving Community Enterprise (NICE) and the town's two community councils had a plan in place.

Group convener Bob Ferenth said: "What our collective approach has done is identify key areas such as encouraging visitors, regenerating the town centre, enhancing the amenities at the Links and improving access and travel routes into and around the town, to name but a few, that will help Nairn recover from what has been catastrophic for the local economy."

Highland Council issued a call to private landlords interested in leasing their properties to the authority to get in touch.

The council said the coronavirus crisis had placed extra pressure on the homelessness service, to the point it needed to source additional properties for those in need.

David Traill.
David Traill.

Angry business owners claimed the creation of more space for cyclists and pedestrians in Inverness city centre could be the final nail in the coffin for many.

Plans for a one way traffic system around Inverness Castle as part of the Spaces for People measures, supported by £752,954 from the Scottish Government, provoked a strong reaction from Castle Street businesses fearing it could deter customers.

David Traill, owner of angling and shooting equipment store J Graham called the proposals a "preposterous waste of money."

But the council said the plan was "proportionate" and that 2400 people had signed a petition asking it to go further than its current proposals.

Brooke Hunter gave a socially distanced high five to head teacher Rhona MacCormick at a graduation ceremony for P7s at Dalneigh Primary.
Brooke Hunter gave a socially distanced high five to head teacher Rhona MacCormick at a graduation ceremony for P7s at Dalneigh Primary.

Pupils at Dalneigh Primary School, denied their usual graduation ceremony, gathered for a socially distanced goodbye instead, including handshakes and high fives with staff utilising a glove on a pole.

Salon owner Alison McRitchie allowed Keith McCaffery to use her closed premises as a pop up shop.
Salon owner Alison McRitchie allowed Keith McCaffery to use her closed premises as a pop up shop.

A city centre hairdresser not allowed to open until July 15 stepped in to make her premises available to another trader in need.

While on-street retailers were allowed to reopen earlier, those indoor – in the Victorian Market and Eastgate Shopping Centre – had to wait a little longer, as did salons.

Alison McRitchie of the Head Gardener in Church Street decided to allow Keith McCaffery of Eastgate-based clothes shop McCaffery's Designerwear to use her premises instead.

"I thought, if it works, and he can move his stock in here, then he has got an outside front door to comply with the regulations," she said.


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