International travel from Scotland unlikely to resume from May 17

Non-essential international travel from Scotland is unlikely to resume from May 17, according to first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

May 17 is the earliest date international travel could be permitted under the UK government’s roadmap for the easing of lockdown, but Sturgeon said a restart “may well not be possible for a further period” due to the prevalence of Covid-19 in destinations.

In a statement to the Scottish parliament, Sturgeon also said it was “likely” that pre-departure and post-arrival testing will form part of travel requirements “for some time to come”.

She said: “We intend to discuss with the aviation sector later this week how and when non-essential travel to some international destinations may be possible again.

“Like the UK government we are certain this will not be achievable before May 17; however, our view is that it may well not be possible for a further period after that given the circumstances and the situation with the virus in many other parts of Europe and the world.”

She added: “Even when overseas travel does resume, it is likely that a requirement for pre-departure and post-arrival testing will remain in place for some time to come, but we will keep this issue under close review.”

Sturgeon confirmed that domestic tourism businesses could be allowed to reopen from April 26 if progress continues to be made on the suppression of the virus and the rollout of vaccines.

April 26 is also the date when restrictions on travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK and common travel area could be lifted.

The UK government’s strategy for the reopening of international travel is due to be outlined in a report from the reconvened Global Travel Taskforce on April 12.

Restrictions on the opening of non-essential retail are due to be lifted in a phased approach from April 5, Sturgeon said, with the Strategic Framework Business Fund paying out four final weekly payments to eligible businesses on March 22.

Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots union Balpa, said: “It is disappointing that the Scottish Government appears to be taking a more pessimistic view even than the UK Government on the reopening of international travel.

“However, I was pleased to hear the first minister say that she will be engaging with the sector soon. I look forward to discussing with her the implication on Scottish jobs of the government’s continued shutdown of the air travel sector.

“One thing the first minister needs to have clear in her mind is that if government policy prevents passengers from travelling abroad this summer, there may not be a Scottish aviation industry left to power the country’s economic recovery.”

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