‘STAY AWAY’ – is the message being delivered to individuals choosing to head to the Highlands in a bid to escape from the Covid-19 outbreak gripping the UK.

This mindset has caused uproar amongst Highlands and Islands communities, who have urged non-locals to heed government advice and stay at home and practice social distancing as directed.

There have been reports of people with second homes or those with campervans travelling northwards in recent days, which prompted Scotland's finance secretary Kate Forbes, to tell people to stay away.

The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP said: "If you live elsewhere, please don't use the Highlands as your means of self-isolation. People live here who are trying to follow government guidance and the continuing flow of campervans and other traffic who appear to be escaping the cities is not helping."

Journalist and Highlands inhabitant Alex Tiffin took to twitter to send a stern message: “I live in the Highlands. My parents, my children and my wife live in the Highlands. There are 265,000 people who live in the Highlands. There are 16 Intensive Care Beds in the Highlands. There are zero for young children. Your holiday is not essential travel. Please stay home!”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon echoed the ‘stay home’ sentiment in a coronavirus update she issued this lunchtime: “You must stay at home unless essential to go out and this includes working from home where possible. Life should not be carrying on as normal right now. If it is, then you are not doing the right things and I want to ask you today to please put that right.”

At a media briefing on Sunday, Ms Sturgeon addressed the issue of people ‘flocking to Scotland’s remote communities’: “It may well be an understandable human instinct to think we can outrun a virus – but the fact is we can’t.

“What we do is risk taking it to the places we go. And in our remote and rural communities that means extra pressure on essential services and on health services that are already more distant from people,” she continued.

“So I can confirm that as of now we have advised our ferry companies – who have already suspended bookings – to no longer take non-essential travellers," said Ms Sturgeon.

“Those who do not normally live on the islands and have travelled there in the last few days will be able to leave to reduce pressure.

“From now on ferries will only be used by islanders who have an essential need to travel to or from the mainland and for essential supplies or business.”

With restrictions being placed on transport to and from the islands, The SF spoke to Kris Bevan, freight manager for NorthLink Ferries in Kirkwall, Orkney, who offered reassurance that livestock were still able to move freely from the island to be fattened: “Livestock shipping is continuing unaffected, for now. Big lift today of cattle from Orkney to Aberdeen. So long as there are auctions, I expect this to continue – we’re keeping an eye on IAAS and NFU advice.”