Transport secretary urges devolved nations to back air bridge plans

A lack of agreement with the devolved administrations is delaying the government’s confirmation of plans to lift quarantine restrictions, the transport secretary has told Parliament.

Responding to a question from the SNP’s Gavin Newlands about the impact of the crisis on the aviation sector, Grant Shapps said: “I would appreciate his [Newlands’] help in ensuring the air bridges can get going as quickly as possible.

“I am very keen to get the devolved administrations including Scotland onboard so that we can get this thing announced.”

He later told the SNP’s Philippa Whitford: “There is something the honourable member may be pleased to hear she can do (to support aviation) which is to ask the Scottish government to join with us in ensuring we can have these air bridges in place nationwide as quickly as possible.”

Responding to a question about specific measures to support aviation, he added: “It will help as the air bridges begin to unlock. We will have more about that very soon.”

The government announced plans for a ‘traffic-light’ system to ease blanket quarantine restrictions on Friday last week, with Shapps expected to confirm details in line with a three-week review of quarantine restrictions on Monday.

However, the transport secretary then issued a written statement saying a list of countries included on a Covid travel list would be published along with an update on FCO advice “later this week”.

Reports on Thursday suggested the government was considering abandoning plans for individual air bridges in favour of broader relaxations, with as many as 75 countries deemed safe for travel without the need for a 14-day quarantine on return to the UK.

The Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously criticised the UK government’s consultation with the devolved administrations.

The Guardian reported the Scottish justice secretary Humza Yousaf as saying the proposals would be considered “in the coming days” following a meeting with health secretary Matt Hancock on Wednesday evening.

Yousaf said: “We have sought as far as possible a four nations approach to the issue. I joined ministers from the other devolved administrations for a discussion with the health secretary, Matt Hancock, [on Wednesday] evening to discuss the latest UK government proposals for possible ‘air bridge’ countries.

“I made clear that – as the first minister has already indicated – we will take time to consider the public health impact of the proposals, as well as the data and evidence underpinning them, before announcing any changes. I hope we will be able to do that within the coming days.”

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