Scots warned Hogmanay travel to England ‘wrong course of action’

John Swinney says cross-border trips would go against the 'spirit' of regulations put in place by the Scottish Government.

Scots warned Hogmanay travel to England ‘wrong course of action’ iStock
New Year's Eve parties have been given the go-ahead in England.

Scots planning trips to England for Hogmanay parties have been warned that “would be the wrong course of action”.

Deputy first minister John Swinney said on Wednesday that people were free to make their own decisions but discouraged cross-border journeys to bring in the bells.

He said such trips would go against the “spirit” of the regulations put in place by the Scottish Government.

New Year’s Eve parties have been given the go-ahead in England after UK Government ministers announced no new Covid measures would be imposed before the end of 2021 despite rising cases of the Omicron variant.

That contrasts with the situation in Scotland where new curbs on hospitality venues came into effect on Monday.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Swinney said: “People have got to make their own choices, they have got to follow the advice we put in place.

“We have the power in Scotland to put in place certain restrictions and we have done those on what we consider to be a proportionate and appropriate basis.”

He added: “People are free to make their own judgments. But what we have got recognise is that Omicron is a serious threat to absolutely everybody within our society and we have all got to take measures to protect ourselves by limiting our social contacts and connections and by complying with the restrictions we have in place.”

Asked if there would be anything to stop people heading to England, Mr Swinney stated: “People are free to take those decisions, but I would discourage them from doing so.

“I think it is the wrong course of action for people to take because we have a serious situation we have got to manage and we encourage everybody to play their part in addressing that.”

Nightclubs in Scotland closed on December 27 for three weeks unless they are able to operate with social distancing and table service.

All indoor hospitality and leisure venues are required to ensure one-metre social distancing between groups of people who are attending together.

Meanwhile, large-scale traditional Scottish Hogmanay celebrations on December 31 – including Edinburgh’s Party at the Bells on Princes Street – have been called off.

Numbers at indoor public events are limited to 100 standing or 200 seated.

A spokesperson for Night Time Industries Association Scotland said: “The industry has consistently warned devolved governments that the closure of the late night economy could result in an escalation in house parties and illegal events given the restrictions over the last year and the understandable desire to celebrate NYE this year.”

“It comes as no surprise to hear that people are planning to travel across borders on NYE to access less restricted hospitality events in England, although given the options and public health considerations, we would rather people enjoy their NYE in regulated settings with mitigations in place to protect patrons and staff.”

The Scottish Conservatives also said reports of people planning to travel south was worrying news for Scotland’s hospitality sector.

A party spokesperson said: “It is not unexpected that some people may choose to travel across the border to celebrate New Year.

“This will come as another blow for Scottish businesses who have been forced to close during their busy Hogmanay period.”

On Tuesday, national clinical director Jason Leitch described Scotland’s surge of almost 40,000 Covid cases over the Christmas break as “depressingly predictable”.

A total of 8252 cases were provisionally recorded on December 25, 11,030 on December 26, 10,562 on December 27, and 9360 on December 28 – the highest daily totals recorded since the start of the pandemic.

Swinney said Scotland is seeing levels of infection “never seen before”, adding this is an “alarming increase which I believe merits the type of restrictions we are reluctantly having to apply”.

He added: “We have very reluctantly had to take the steps we have had to take to make it impossible for large-scale events to take place, like the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations”.

He insisted: “We have to take these decisions to protect public health and the public interest at a very challenging moment.”