A political row has erupted over a temporary mobile Covid-19 testing site that will open in Highland Perthshire next week.
The drive-through unit will be stationed in Pitlochry at the car park of the council housing office on Atholl Road for five days, from May 18 to 22, and will be operated by the military.
However politicians for the region claim there has been a lack of communication from the UK Government with local residents which could hamper how many people use the facility.
They have also questioned why the mobile unit, which was stationed in Dundee earlier this month, is only being brought to Highland Perthshire for a limited number of days.
Pete Wishart, SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, said: “I have raised my concerns about the confused messaging over who can get access to a test with the Scotland Office, but I remain unsatisfied with their response to this.
“I have real concerns that a lack of public engagement and mixed messaging will result in a poor uptake of testing at this pop-up facility.”
He added: “Widening of testing facilities is clearly welcome and is a key part of the test, track and trace strategy but this must happen with the relevant public engagement.
“It is obviously important that people get access to testing as close to home as possible, and this testing facility will mean that Highland Perthshire residents do not need to come into Perth to access testing.
“I would urge the UK Government however, to work more closely with the public and local representatives to ensure that our strategy to beat the coronavirus is as effective as it can possibly be.”
The Courier understands local residents and politicians were only made aware of the plans on Thursday, in a move that mirrors the lack of communication that caused outrage over the Perth College testing site.
Depute First Minister John Swinney said: “This test centre has clearly been planned and executed without appropriate public engagement.
“There is very limited public knowledge that the centre is going to be opening, and it is only right that local residents should be kept informed of these things.
“Moreover, it is not appropriate that elected officials representing the region found out about this testing centre second-hand.”
A spokesperson for the Scotland Office said: “The UK Government has funded these testing centres throughout Scotland to ensure testing capacity across the UK is maximised.
“As public health is devolved in Scotland it is the responsibility of the Scottish Government to define key workers and their eligibility for testing.
“Key workers can now also book their own test via the UK Government’s online portal.”
Perth and Kinross Council stated it was asked to provide a list of suitable locations and the Ministry of Defence chose the site.
A council spokesperson said: “The aim is to provide access to all key workers, over 65s and people that cannot work from home access to testing.
“We have informed local elected members and residents, as is good practice.”
Support The Courier today.
The Courier is committed to delivering quality content to our communities and right now that’s more important than ever — which is why our key content is free. However, you can support us and access premium content by subscribing to The Courier from just £5.99 a month. Because Local Matters.Subscribe