Travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel room, under new regulations taking effect on Monday.
Unless exempt, a passenger will have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a room at one of six designated hotels in a bid to avoid importation of the virus.
However, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said on Sunday a “loophole” allowing overseas travellers to avoid hotel quarantine still exists which could “potentially undermine the public health approach here in Scotland”.
In England, the UK Government will only require hotel quarantine for visitors from a “red list” of 33 countries designated as high risk, meaning travellers arriving from elsewhere could avoid it by entering Scotland via England.
Visitors would still have to self-isolate for the 10-day period, but would not have to do so at one of the designated hotels due to a lack of agreement between Scottish and Westminster governments.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that he is happy to discuss the matter with the Scottish Government.
Mr Matheson told the BBC’s The Sunday Show: “It is a loophole that has been created by the UK Government and its failure to take action on the basis of the clinical, expert advice that has been provided on this matter.”
He added: “The simplest and the safest approach to dealing with this is to have a comprehensive system in place.
“If the UK Government aren’t prepared to do that, we could resolve the issue by simply ensuring those who are transferring on to Scotland have to go to a quarantine facility near to the airport they arrive at in England.”
Asked about the possibility of border checks, Mr Matheson said it would be “very challenging” to implement due to the number of vehicles travelling between England and Scotland.
In an interview on BBC Good Morning Scotland on Monday, Mr Hancock was asked whether he could assist the Scottish Government by allowing people travelling to Scotland to quarantine in England if they arrive at Heathrow or another English airport.
He said: “I’m happy to have those conversations.”
Asked whether this would be with a view to making it happen, he said: “If you allow me to have the conversations first.
“But because we have put in place one system to operationalise this that applies across the different airports of the UK including Edinburgh and Glasgow, that does mean that we are in a position to make these sorts of amendments, but the central point is, it doesn’t matter where you land in the UK, (there is a) very robust, comprehensive system of quarantine, and it is comprehensive, because you have to quarantine for 10 days and have the two tests after you arrive no matter where you are coming from.
“But there is a different degree of risk coming from somewhere where a new variant is the dominant variant locally, like Brazil, or coming from somewhere where there isn’t much coronavirus.”
Announcing the quarantine policy in parliament last week, Mr Matheson said six hotels have been block-booked in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with up to 1,300 rooms available.
Three of the the hotels are near Edinburgh Airport, two close to Glasgow Airport and one near Aberdeen Airport.
Scottish Government guidance stipulates those subject to quarantine require a negative Covid-19 test no more than three days before travelling and to have booked at a room at a quarantine hotel in advance.
They will also have to submit a passenger locator form to the Home Office declaring which countries they have been to in the 10 days before arrival in the UK.
Airlines have been asked to check for these and they will also be checked by Border Force officers on arrival, who can issue fines of £480 for non-compliance.
Security will then escort passengers to baggage reclaim and to pre-arranged transport to the quarantine hotel.
On arrival at the hotel, they will be given two home testing kits to be used on days two and eight of isolation.
These are covered by the cost as are three meals per day, fruit and soft drinks.
If they test positive at any point they will be required to stay in the hotel for 10 days after the test, at an additional charge starting at £152 daily for the first adult.