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Looking Back on Lockdown – November


By Gregor White

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Flights were suspended to and from Inverness Airport.
Flights were suspended to and from Inverness Airport.

A new tier system for Scotland meant greater freedom to move in the Highlands – but fears about what a lack of visitors to the area could mean.

As a new system of regional levels for different parts of Scotland was announced the Highlands was placed under the less restrictive level one measures while places such as Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh were placed in level three, with fears over how that could impact on the Highland tourist trade.

Tony Story, owner of Patio Hotels which owns the Kingsmills and Ness Bank hotels in Inverness, said bookings were down a third this month compared to October.

There were further concerns as many airlines temporarily suspended flights to and from Inverness in response to a new Covid-19 lockdown imposed on England.

Highlands and Islands development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, David Richardson, said: "Following advice from both governments, travelling travel to and from England and the central belt has all but dried up and businesses that rely on this traffic, which is most in the all-important Highland tourist industry, are very worried."

Assurances were also being sought that timetable changes by ScotRail were only temporarily.

A number of Highland Main Line and local serviecs were cut from its new seasonal timetable, which the firm said was due to vastly reduced passenger numbers in the face of travel restrictions and a rise in people working from home.

Council leader Margaret Davidson.
Council leader Margaret Davidson.

Highland residents were thanked for following coronavirus regulations as the new regional restrictions kicked in, but also urged not to become complacent.

Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson said: "It must be our cherished goal to enter 2021 with greater hopes for our health and local economy."

Hootananny shareholder Kit Fraser said the pub and live music venue was in need of help if it was to survive.
Hootananny shareholder Kit Fraser said the pub and live music venue was in need of help if it was to survive.

Two city pubs launched crowdfunder campaigns to boost their fight for survival.

Hootanannay and The Gellions faced a "devastating" financial hit amid the pandemic and were looking to raise up to £50,000 and £35,000 respectively to stay afloat.

UK charity the Music Venue Trust included the pubs in its list of 1000 venues on "red alert" and at "imminent threat of closure", saying both were vital to the continued support of grassroots music.

Kit Fraser, leading shareholder in Hootananny's, said: "People might be surprised to hear Hootananny is facing this kind of crisis as it is one of the busiest pubs in Inverness, but what we do is hugely labour intensive, with sound engineers, programmers, security, countless staff, bands and contractors."

Music lovers were delighted to see be back at a live performance at the Ironworks – even if it was on a small scale.
Music lovers were delighted to see be back at a live performance at the Ironworks – even if it was on a small scale.
Torridon performed to just 100 people at the Ironworks gig.
Torridon performed to just 100 people at the Ironworks gig.

In more hopeful news the Ironworks in Inverness hosted its first live show since before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, putting on a gig by local favourites Torridon.

Under level one restrictions the venue was allowed to host indoor, seated events up to a capacity of 100 people with social distancing in place.

The venue is normally able to welcome up to 1000 gig-goers.

Will Hayden and his poppy stones.
Will Hayden and his poppy stones.

With Covid-19 restrictions limiting the usual sale of poppies for Remembrance Sunday members of the 1st Nairn Scouts devised new ways of raising cash.

One member, Will Hayden, painted poppies on stones with the names of fallen war heroes from Nairnshire painted alongside.

Setting up a donations box and display at the end of his garden lane he had to work hard to keep up with demand.

Martin Macdougall won two awards for his effort to spread a bit of joy during lockdown.
Martin Macdougall won two awards for his effort to spread a bit of joy during lockdown.

Merkinch man Martin MacDougall, a street sweeper with Highland Council, was named Stagecoach Highlands' local community hero after hand-delivering more than 650 activity packs to children in the city and beyond during lockdown, many of the packs paid for with his own money.

He was later named the national hero too and was left "overwhelmed, shocked and emotional" at the honour.

Managing director for Stagecoach Highlands, David Beaton, said: "We're thrilled that Martin is getting the recognition he deserves for his care and help for the community in Inverness and the area surrounding the city."

Highland MSP David Stewart called for more government support for professional football clubs he said had been hit by a "perfect storm", with supporters and hospitality guests still excluded from stadiums.

"Loss of matchday revenue is having a significant impact," he said.

Rachel Urquhart wanted to do her bit to help Eden Court.
Rachel Urquhart wanted to do her bit to help Eden Court.

A former Eden Court drama student urged the public to rally round the venue which had just partially reopened after a seven-month closure.

Rachel Urquhart, who took drama classes at the theatre, launched a Just Giving page on social media with the aim of raising £1000 for the venue, which has charity status.

The theatre also unveiled plans for a moving tribute to those whose lives had been lost to Covid-19 as part of its plans to mark the festive season.

A 30-foot tall Norwegian spruce was to be installed on its front lawn with more than 3000 lights representing the total number of Covid deaths in Scotland by that point.

A star at the top lit by more than 50 lights would representing Highland deaths from the virus.

Balnain Primary Scohool with just 25 pupils, was closed for two weeks after a coronavirus case associated with the school was identified.

At the same time more than 80 pupils at Culloden Academy were advised to self-isolate for the same length of time after positive tests among pupils there.

A parent who did not want to be named said: "The fact we are in tier one has made too many people complacent.

"I personally think no one is taking coronavirus seriously any more."

High Life Highland was set to furlough more staff.

In a report to Highland Council the organisation said it now predicted a deficit caused by lockdown of £500,000, which it could cover from its own reserves. The deficit had previously been predicted to be more than £3 million.

The reduction sparked calls from union the GMB for any staff furloughed to have their pay topped up, as happened earlier in the pandemic.

NHS Highland said it would need a further £34 million from the Scottish Government to cover the cost of Covid-related medical services.

The extra cash injection sought as on top of £39 million already given to the health board this year to help it meet the challenges of dealing with coronavirus.


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