On 21 May 2020, the First Minister published the COVID-19 – Framework for Decision Making setting out Scotland’s Route Map through and out of the crisis. This was supported by the Transport Transition Plan that was published on 26 May 2020.
As the First Minister confirmed on 18 June 2020, when publishing an updated Route Map and announcing the move to Phase 2, the gradual easing of restrictions must be the same for every part of Scotland, including the islands, and apply equally to all.
Accordingly, in seeing friends and family, travelling to and from islands to visit other households within the regulations is now possible. However, individuals should consider whether they can do so while acting in line with all other guidance.
Ferry services will be increased throughout this Phase. However, those intending to travel should note that, as with all public transport across Scotland, capacity will remain limited by the need to implement physical distancing requirements to reduce the risk of transmission of the Coronavirus. Physical distancing requirements are under review but, at present, remain at 2 metres.
There will however be a limited increase in sailings on the CalMac network from 1st July onwards, with a more substantial increase in capacity in line with the next phase, Phase 3, of the Route Map. Serco Northlink will put in place a normal timetable from Monday 22nd June, with two vessels on the Aberdeen routes. We will retain 2 return sailings on the Scrabster to Stromness route and review this pattern as we approach phase 3. Freight services will continue as normal, but no passenger service will be offered on freight vessels to protect these services. Capacity constrained on both networks as a consequence of physical distancing requirements.
Travel to and from the islands for leisure and recreation by ferry is not encouraged. Tourism has not restarted and tourist facilities including accommodation will not be open. It is not possible to stay away from home overnight except in certain clearly defined circumstances, such as in the creation of an “extended household”.
Business and freight can continue to use the services and travel for essential work and work allowed under Phase 2 of the Route Map is permitted. In addition, travel to a second home for essential maintenance purposes only, but not for leisure purposes, is possible from 29 June.
Plan your journey
Ferry services vary significantly across Scotland from short crossings with small passenger-only vessels to long overnight crossings with cabins. Therefore, you should check with your ferry operator about the specific measures that they have put in place to ensure your safety when travelling. Ferry operators are working hard to maximise capacity of vessels, however many ferry routes will operate with reduced capacity due to physical distancing measures.
It is essential that you plan your journey and check with travelinescotland.com or your ferry operator for the latest travel advice on your route. Please also check the arrangements for your journey to the port and onwards on the island, including subsequent ferries, as there may be adjustments, capacity limits and longer connecting times.
Access to our islands for island residents and key workers, such as NHS staff, is essential and we will seek to put measures in place to support this where possible.
Advanced booking will be required on many routes and if you arrive at the port without a booking you may not be permitted to travel. Where possible, book your travel online through your transport provider’s website. If you are unable to pay for tickets online you should check whether contactless or cash payment will be available before travelling to your port of embarkation.
Travel is not permitted if you are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19.
When travelling it is essential that you comply with any signage or instructions on the ferry or from staff as the various safety measures are in place are for everyone’s benefit and safety. On ferry services passengers have to wear a face covering unless they have a reasonable excuse (as defined in the Regulations) or are directed otherwise by the ferry operator.
You should try to keep 2 metres away from other passengers not from your household and from staff at all times. If any problems or emergencies arise or you feel ill during your journey, speak to a member of staff at the earliest opportunity when you can safely do so.
Further information is provided at www.transport.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/transport-transition-plan/advice-on-how-to-travel-safely/#section-63886