Coronavirus – Statement from Transport Scotland

Wednesday 25th March 2020

Statement from Transport Scotland on restrictions on non-essential ferry travel to Scotland’s remote and island communities.

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Government has made clear the need to avoid all but essential travel by ferry to Scotland’s remote and island communities.

From Sunday 22 March 2020, until further notice, ferries will be for those who live on our islands, who have an essential need to travel to or from the mainland and for essential supplies or business. Nothing else.

Only if a prospective traveller can evidence that they are either an island resident, a key worker or travelling to provide medical support to family members will they be sold a ticket and permitted to travel. 

  • For residents that evidence could be a recent utility bill plus photo ID or Islander Card.
  • For a key worker that is someone who need access to the islands in the course of their business. Each local authority has a list of key workers.

Business and freight can continue to use the services.

The operator of the Northern Isles ferry services, Serco NorthLink Ferries have implemented these changes.

These restrictions are intended to avoid, within a context of the Coronavirus pandemic:

  • placing excessive pressure on local health services, food and resilience arrangements in our remote communities.
  • reduce the risk of transmission of the virus arising from a large influx of visitors.

These steps are consistent with the Government’s broader message on physical distancing.

On board passengers should stay 2 metres apart, use hand sanitisers provided etc. In the event of becoming ill on board passengers should contact a member of the ship’s crew without delay.

In practice, this will mean the following for ferry services:

  • A ban on recreational and social travel; and
  • A ban on non-essential travel to the islands by non-islanders

As a priority, ferry operators will help facilitate travel for non-Islanders to leave the island and to return home over the next few days. This will be deemed as essential travel.

Given the seriousness of the challenges facing island communities, the Scottish Government and ferry operators fully expect passengers to heed the above requirements.

Finally, please don’t be offended by this advice.  In due course we look forward to welcoming you back to the islands when the Coronavirus threat has passed.