ON hearing that the Scottish Government has been able to make its own decisions about requiring travellers from Spain to quarantine, I wonder whether it could also make its own decisions regarding Portugal, and allow Portuguese visitors, and holiday-makers coming home from Portugal, to avoid quarantine when arriving in Scotland?

According to all accounts I have read, Portugal is a much safer country than the UK (if we take the overall UK figures) in terms of coronavirus, which makes the Westminster government’s decision seem absurd.

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Portugal has been one of the most successful countries in Europe at controlling the virus, partly because of its cautious approach in imposing lockdown much sooner in the disease’s trajectory than neighbouring Spain (it looked at its European neighbours and LEARNED, unlike the UK Government). Another reason has been its record on testing – it has consistently tested a much higher proportion of its population than most other European countries, having decided early on that Portugal would produce its own tests, rather than relying on imports, and state and private laboratories collaborated with the government from the start. This could give an appearance of higher incidence of the virus than in some countries where there has been less testing.

Moreover, the opposition parties supported the government, avoiding making the crisis a political football as has happened elsewhere (so equivalent to Jackson Carlaw and Richard Leonard saying “Right, Nicola, we’ll work together with you and forget about political rivalry for the duration of this crisis” – just imagine). And the tourism sector has gone to great lengths to make everywhere that tourists might go as safe as possible. No Bournemouth beach scenes there.

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I have started to wonder whether Westminster have made this decision for political reasons. Portugal has a successful socialist government which managed to reverse austerity measures while still reducing its debt, and which was re-elected in September. I realise this may feel like a conspiracy theory, but would it be so surprising if Johnson’s government wanted to jeopardise the economy of a socialist country? And given the extent to which Portuguese tourism depends on UK tourists, it certainly will cause serious damage.

Portugal is a beautiful country with wonderful people, and deserves to be treated better (I lived and worked there for four years, so do have some experience on which to base this claim!). Moreover, Portugal is a friend of Scotland, with Portuguese people seeming very aware of the position that Scotland is currently in. When I went back to visit last September, friends and strangers alike would say things like “we know you in Scotland didn’t vote to leave the EU, we’re really sorry this is happening” or “surely Scotland could survive as an independent country?”. If Scotland could show friendship to Portugal by unilaterally lifting the travel ban imposed by the UK, I am sure it would be appreciated enormously.

Cathy Benson

WHILST we and most of the media have been preoccupied with the threat of Covid-19, a serious betrayal has been perpetrated by the very people elected to protect our interests at Westminster. David Mundell and Alister Jack, along with every Scottish Conservative MP, have voted against an amendment to the UK Agriculture Bill. This amendment would have guaranteed high standards for food and drink entering the UK post-Brexit.

The Scottish Farmers Union has been hugely angered by this betrayal. Why? Because it threatens the survival of Scottish farming. Consumers are furious at this. Why? Because it could flood our shops with poor-quality food sourced from animals that have suffered low standards of care.

In the last few days it has been reported that the Prime Minister wants to push through laws on food, environmental and animal welfare standards that would force the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to accept whatever standards are agreed under future trade deals with other countries.

It was so wonderful to see our local high-quality food producers back at the farmers’ market in Moffat last Sunday, and this really underlines how awful the betrayal by our MPs is. I believe all who want high-quality food and animal welfare standards must take a stand and demand that our MPs explain why they have let us all down.

We must also demand that the Scottish Government stands firm and defies this threat to the powers of our Scottish Parliament. Can you imagine what the Bard would say if he were alive today?

Christine Duncan

YET another breathtaking announcement from the Conservatives at Westminster: care workers are to be excluded from the new “visa route” immigration policy after Brexit. That will be our care workers who have certainly gone the extra mile during the pandemic, the care workers who deserved the wage increase the Holyrood Parliament announced in light of their heroic efforts during Covid-19. This is a real blow to the future of the care sector in Scotland going forward from Covid-19. No wonder the SNP government in Holyrood have requested immigration be devolved.

Catriona C Clark