Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to consider booking a holiday at home amid a growing row over the UK Government’s “shambolic” handling of plans to ease quarantine rules for air travellers.
The first minister said people looking to book a summer vacation abroad should instead consider lending their support to the Scottish tourism sector, which has been devastated by the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
This came as Ms Sturgeon and Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford hit out at Boris Johnson over an apparent lack of involvement of the devolved administrations in finalising plans for 73 territories to be linked to the UK by so-called air bridges.
The scheme means English holidaymakers will from July 10 be able to visit a range of countries, such as Spain, France, Australia and New Zealand, without being forced to self-isolate for 14 days when they return home.
At her daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the first minister said it was “very likely” restrictions will also be eased for people arriving in Scotland from “low-risk” countries but further scrutiny was needed for medium-risk locations.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet agreed to the UK Government’s proposals and Ms Sturgeon criticised the “shifting sands” of UK policy on the issue, which she said had made it “really challenging” to come to a position.
Scotland’s justice secretary, Humza Yousaf, reported he was presented with a list of 40 countries earmarked for approval on Wednesday night, only to be shown a list nearly twice as long 30 minutes before the meeting began and asked to make a decision.
He said his “blood boiled” when he was told on June 26 – the evening of what was feared at the time to have been a terrorist attack in Glasgow – that plans had already been briefed to the press, despite no agreement being reached.
UK transport minister Grant Shapps accused the SNP of dithering when Mr Yousaf refused to sign off on the plan but Ms Sturgeon revealed the final list announced on Friday was different even to the one given to her officials one day earlier.
“When so much is at stake, as it is right now, we can’t allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of – to be quite frank about it – another government’s shambolic decision process,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“We want to welcome visitors again from around the world, and we also want to allow our own citizens to travel. We also want, if possible for obvious practical reasons, to have alignment on these matters with the rest of the UK.”
The first minister denied there had been a breakdown in her relationship with the UK Government but said there was “very often a frustration” from devolved leaders about a “lack of communication” from Westminster.
She said the prime minister should “reflect” on why both she and Mr Drakeford had independently described his government’s handling of the issue as “shambolic”.
Asked about Ms Sturgeon’s comments, the prime minister’s spokesman said the proposed changed are “cautious” and it was for devolved administrations to “make and explain their own decisions around the measures that they are putting in place”.
He added: “We have been working with all devolved administrations on quarantine from the outset and we continue to do so.”
The Scottish Government believes the virus is five times more prevalent in England than in Scotland, and Ms Sturgeon said it “will not be the case” that Scottish tourists are able to avoid quarantine by flying into England.
Scotland’s national clinical director, Jason Leitch, confirmed contact tracing related to a cross-border coronavirus cluster in southern Scotland and northern England had likely been completed after one further positive case was identified.
It follows a row this week over suggestions of implementing a quarantine for people travelling from England to Scotland, which saw Ms Sturgeon and the prime minister brand each other “shameful”.
Professor Leitch said 23 people had been traced through the contact-tracing system.
Ms Sturgeon also announced one more person had died after testing positive for Covid-19 overnight, taking the total number of deaths 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.
The first minister extended an “extra-special thank you” to NHS and social care workers, as Sunday will mark the 72nd anniversary of the creation of the health service in Scotland.
She said: “We are grateful to those working in health and care services every single year but there is no doubt at all that our health and care workers have been challenged over the past period like seldom before in that 72-year history – and they have responded absolutely magnificently.
“So my thanks, once again, goes to each and every one of them. It is not possible to find the words to sum up the gratitude I feel – and I know that gratitude is shared by everyone across our country.
“We are all grateful for everything you have done and continue to do.”