The Scottish government has signed up to the “traffic light” system for international travel this summer, after three months in which all international arrivals to Scotland have had to go into hotel quarantine for 11 nights.
From Monday 17 May this obligation will apply only to arrivals from nations on the “red list”, including Turkey, India, the UAE, South Africa and Brazil. Scotland is adopting the same approach as England, with most countries rated “amber” – requiring 10 days of self-isolation.
Travellers arriving from a short of “green list” destinations will avoid quarantine, though they will have to take a test before departure for the UK and after arrival.
The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “We still intend to be highly cautious on international travel, given the risk of new variants, but we consider that the situation now allows us to begin a careful move away from blanket restrictions on non-essential travel.”
But she differentiated between trips to see loved ones abroad and holidays.
“Everyone should think seriously about whether they really need to travel abroad this summer,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“I know for many people international travel is about family connections. But when it comes to holidays abroad, my advice continues to be to err on the side of caution and to staycation this summer.”
The first minister added: “Green list status should be the exception, not the rule.”
The Scottish aviation industry responded with a joint statement from Edinburgh airport, AGS Airports – owner of Aberdeen and Glasgow airports – and Airlines UK.
“Whilst removing the travel ban is a step in the right direction it is very much a missed opportunity with so few countries making it onto the green list,” it read.
“We are again in the position of being a week away from a major change to operations and are waiting on details of how the Scottish government wants this to work and how it will be managed.
“We would also encourage government to take advantage of the vaccination rollout to open up many more green countries in the EU at the new review point in three weeks, as the EU themselves have proposed, and to work where possible as the four nations to ensure consistency and avoid confusion for operators and passengers.
“The Scottish government must also be very clear about when and how we can encourage visitors from green list countries to try and save the thousands of jobs in Scotland that depend upon international travellers.”
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, the travel association, said: “We have been calling for a broad alignment across the four nations and a coordinated approach on international travel.
“It is welcome that the first minister also signalled today an intention to follow this approach, while reserving the right to diverge, where necessary.”
But other travel industry figures criticised Ms Sturgeon’s warning against holidaying abroad – and her view that green list nations should be exceptional.
Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), said: “She thinks there has to be a good reason for adding a country to the green list. No, there needs to be a good reason to keep a country off it.
“This mindset needs to change. Our vaccination programme is going exceptionally well, and people are desperate to take advantage of their jabs and jet off.
“Countries like the US where vaccination rates are very high should be opened up immediately and other should be opened as soon as possible.
“Amber and Red should only be used when there is a good reason to stop people from travelling – they should absolutely not be the default option.”
Sophie Griffiths, editor of Travel Trade Gazette, called the first minister’s words “particularly unhelpful” and tweeted: “Assume you’ll be providing dedicated support for Scot travel industry, @NicolaSturgeon, in light of this comment?
“Fourteen months with zero income – now you want agents to lose summer bookings too!”
Besides Portugal, the only countries on the green list which are viable for UK holidaymakers are Iceland, Gibraltar and Israel – though each has its own restrictions on travel.
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