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Driving lessons still in limbo

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By Fiona Reid
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Driving lessons still in limbo

FRUSTRATED driving instructors in the region are demanding answers about when they can get back to work.

Malcolm Mcewen runs Elta Driving School in Annan and has been out of action since March and still doesn’t have a return date. He said: “Driving instructors in England went back on July 4 and Welsh instructors are in the next day or two and you could book tests from yesterday. What we do not understand in Scotland is how you can now sit on an aeroplane or go to the pub but cannot have driving lessons.

“And taxis have been running the whole time, but no reasons have been given to us.”

He is fully prepared to get back behind the wheel and has a raft of precautions in place, saying: “It is very easy to be safe in a car: I am going to get tested every two weeks and will wear a visor and students will wear face masks. We will meet the student outside the car and give them hand sanitiser. We can even take their temperature.

“There will be no physical contact, we sit side by side, not facing. I see three or four people a day and can control it.”

The car will be cleaned in between lessons and sessions will be cancelled if someone has symptoms. Despite the ban, he has still had insurance and some other costs to pay out but has had no income coming in and said: “I have not earned a penny since March. The self employed grant has not made a huge difference, nowhere near.”

Malcolm, who has been teaching for two and a half years, added: “Students are absolutely desperate to get back, I get calls every day about it. I already have 33 active students on my books and a waiting list. All of us round here were already very busy with waiting lists but these have now grown massively. The test waiting lists are going to be crazy too.”

The Scottish Government has listed the restart of driving lessons as part of phase four but Malcolm and his colleagues want more information and a set date. He said: “They said they see phase three going on for a long time. Safety has to come first but it looks to me like they are opening up things like pubs for tax reasons.

“There is no good reason why learning to drive is more unsafe and it’s hitting young people hard. There’s at least 30 driving instructors in this region, some are retired with health conditions so they are not going to do it if it’s not safe.

“The feedback from England is that so far it all seems to be fine and no instructors have taken ill since restarting.”

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell is looking into the situation and yesterday said: “I have been inundated with messages from constituents who want to know when they can get back behind the wheel. “It seems wrong that something so important has been put at the foot of the priority list, especially when they have found a way to restart driving lessons elsewhere in the UK.”

He has raised the issue twice in the Scottish Parliament and hopes instructors will finally get the green light next Thursday.

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