Nicola Sturgeon: UK Government’s decision-making on air bridges shambolic
Nicola Sturgeon has criticised the UK Government’s “shambolic” plans to develop air bridges, but said it is likely Scots will be allowed to travel to some low-risk countries without having to quarantine on their return.
The First Minister said she wants to “maximise alignment” with the rest of the UK so travellers do not have to quarantine, but added she needs time to study the British Government’s proposals – saying they have regularly changed like “shifting sands”.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has revealed quarantine restrictions for people returning to or visiting England from destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Germany will be lifted from July 10.
Speaking about the policy at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Friday, Ms Sturgeon said: “It is likely – very likely – that we will be able to agree the list of countries that the UK has categorised as low risk, although we will need to do appropriate assessment of that.
“But we need to take some particular care in our assessment of the list of countries that are being categorised as medium risk, because that is where there may be some countries that have a higher prevalence of the virus than Scotland does right now.”
Ms Sturgeon said the list of eligible countries suggested by the UK Government has repeatedly changed, including within the last 24 hours.
She added: “When so much is at stake, as it is right now, we can’t allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of another government’s – to be quite frank about it – shambolic decision-making process.
“So we will take time to properly and rationally consider this before, hopefully very soon, setting out our own decision.”
If Scotland pursues a different policy to England, Ms Sturgeon insisted travellers would need to follow quarantining rules when entering Scotland, even if they arrive from abroad at an English airport.
She said: “Just to illustrate the point (on) the shifting sands of the UK Government’s position – the list of countries that they were yesterday demanding that the Scottish Government sign up to, and suggesting we were a barrier to getting an agreement on, is not the same as the list they have shared with us today.”
Ms Sturgeon said she would make a decision on air bridges and what countries will be exempt from quarantine “over the next couple of days”.
She added: “I want travel to be as free as possible, I want there to be as much alignment with the UK as possible”, but she said she is “not prepared to take careless decisions that put at risk the progress against this virus” that has been made.
Ms Sturgeon echoed comments from Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on the issue, who said: “Dealing with the UK Government over the last few days has been an utterly shambolic experience.”
The Scottish Government has assessed the prevalence of coronavirus in Scotland is currently five times lower than it is in England, and it announced that one more person has died after testing positive for Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths under that measure to 2,488.
A total of 18,276 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 12 from 18,264 the previous day.