Sturgeon: Assessment on air bridges with Scotland ongoing

The FM said she has heard 'very loudly' criticisms from airport bosses over the issue.

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The Scottish Government is still assessing which countries it could form so-called “air bridges” with, the First Minister has said.

There is currently a 14-day quarantine for all travellers into Scotland and the UK to try to avoid imported cases of coronavirus.

But the quarantine rule for travellers to England from destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Germany will be lifted by the UK Government on Friday.

Nicola Sturgeon said she has heard “very loudly” criticisms from the airport bosses accusing her government of “dithering” on the issue.

It followed revelations Scottish officials had not been carrying out their own compliance checks to ensure quarantine was being followed – despite the measures being brought in on June 8.

This was despite justice secretary Humza Yousaf telling MSPs on June 23 that “spot checks” were being carried out on 20% of visitors quarantining in Scotland.

Yousaf has said he will write to Holyrood’s health and sport committee to correct the record.

It later emerged quarantine checks had been held up due to officials in Scotland not having the security clearance to access the required Home Office data.

They finally began on Tuesday, with six reports of suspected non-compliance with quarantine received by police in Scotland.

Responding to STV News at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, the FM said she would not simply “rubber stamp” the UK Government’s approach on air bridges for Scotland.

Neither the Scottish, Welsh nor Northern Irish administrations have agreed to Boris Johnson’s plans.

Last week, the UK Government published a list of 73 countries and territories where English holidaymakers can visit without self-isolating on their return, putting them into green and amber groups.

Both colours mean they are deemed safe enough that travellers into the UK from these countries do not have to self-isolate.

They include popular short-haul destinations such as Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, as well as long-haul locations including Australia, Barbados, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Sturgeon said on Monday the Scottish Government is “looking more closely at the countries in the amber risk grouping, which are medium, moderate risk”.

Asked on Tuesday if Scots should avoid foreign holidays this year, she said: “I want people to be able to travel freely as quickly as possible.

“We want to get to a better position as soon as we can, but we need to do it safely.”

In a recent refrain from the First Minister, she encouraged the public to consider “staycations” and holiday in Scotland.

Sturgeon continued: “These are really difficult judgements – all countries are having to grapple with this right now – and it’s important that we apply as much reason and objective evidence as possible.

“I’m not prepared to simply rubber stamp decisions taken by another government.”

She highlighted renewed lockdowns announced in places in Australia, Spain and Serbia following fresh waves of Covid-19, saying: “There is increasing volatility internationally in terms of levels of infection.”

On air bridges, the FM added: “That assessment is continuing.

“I think it’s really important we do that carefully.

“I hear and have heard very loudly the representations made by airports, for example.

“But I also have to balance that with serious public health considerations.”