Frustration over UK Government’s air bridges announcement

Scotland, Wales and Nothern Ireland have not agreed to the UK Government travel plans.

Frustration over UK Government’s air bridges announcement Getty Images
Travel advice amended for English holidaymakers.

The Scottish Government has expressed its disappointment after holidaymakers were given the green light to travel abroad from England before a four-nations agreement had been reached.

The 14-day self-isolation policy for people returning to or visiting England from destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Germany has been lifted by the UK Government.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will also exempt a number of countries from its advisory against all non-essential travel, which has been in place since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The change in travel advice for England comes into force on Saturday, while the quarantine policy will be amended from July 10.

But Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have not agreed to the plans.

A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers were considering the public health impact of the proposals, as well as the data and evidence underpinning them, adding that any changes in relation to Scotland will be announced once the review is completed.

The spokesperson said: “The public health measures relating to international travel are an important part of the wider response to this pandemic – to protect people and ensure that we limit the introduction of new chains of transmission of the virus when our own infection rates are falling.

“We will take decisions based on scientific advice to protect communities in Scotland.

“It is disappointing that the UK Government have chosen to make an announcement on the countries they intend to exempt before a four-nations agreement has been reached.

“We would still like to reach a four-nations approach if possible but that is difficult when the UK Government change proposals and give us last-minute sight of them.”

“I did want to have the devolved administrations come along at the same time, but they have their own processes to go through.”

Grant Shapps, UK Transport Secretary

A full list of the countries deemed to pose “a reduced risk to the public health of UK citizens” will be published later on Friday.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News around 60 countries and overseas territories will be on the UK Government’s initial list.

There is speculation it will include countries in the European Union, British territories including Bermuda and Gibraltar, as well as Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

Shapps said: “I did want to have the devolved administrations come along at the same time, but they have their own processes to go through.

“So it may well be they look at this and then do decide to agree to it, but, as I said, the system doesn’t come in until July 10.”

UK ministers failed to guarantee reciprocal arrangements with all the included nations, meaning some may require English holidaymakers to go into quarantine at the beginning of their trip.

They were also unable to convince the devolved administrations to sign off on the overall plan, with the Department for Transport (DfT) stating that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will “set out their own approach”.

The requirement for everyone arriving into the UK – bar a handful of exemptions – to self-isolate for 14 days was introduced on June 8.

It was met with fierce criticism over the impact on the UK’s travel, tourism and hospitality industries.

The DfT said a risk assessment for lifting the quarantine for arrivals into England was conducted by the Joint Biosecurity Centre in consultation with Public Health England and the chief medical officer.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said today’s news offered “more than a glimmer of hope” that the summer season can be rescued.

He said: “The emerging news that the UK Government is to agree 75 air bridges is hugely welcomed by the Scottish tourism industry, particularly by those operating within specific sectors such as golf tourism, business tourism and by hotel operators who have high dependency on both the corporate and international leisure traveller.

“We understand that countries with difficulties containing the virus will not be included; this risk-based approach is a sensible and effective means of balancing the economic challenges with health risks and offers a significantly important lifeline to Scotland’s tourism industry and indeed the millions that rely upon it. “