Scotland will follow England in allowing international travel to 12 green-list destinations from next week.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, announced the relaxation of restrictions on Tuesday, confirming the adoption of the same traffic light system for categorising destinations outlined for England by UK transport secretary Grant Shapps on May 7.
In a statement announcing a more general relaxation of restrictions in Scotland, Sturgeon said: “We will move to a traffic light system [for international travel] based on assessments by the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
“So if you enter Scotland from a red list country you will still be required to enter managed hotel quarantine for 10 days. This will include Turkey, the Maldives and Nepal.”
Arrivals from amber list destinations will be required to self-isolate at home and take two PCR tests after arrival, as in England.
Sturgeon said: “We will introduce a green list from which you will need to take a PCR test but will not need to self-isolate.
“I can confirm the green list will be the same as for England for now.”
However, Sturgeon insisted “the bulk” of destinations would be amber and said: “We still intend to be highly cautious given the situation with variants of concern.”
She suggested Wales and Northern Ireland would follow in adopting the traffic light system, but implied the opening up of travel would remain cautious, saying: “The four chief medical officers [of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland] have agreed the green list will be the exception not the rule.”
Sturgeon noted that “as of now we have a consistent position on international travel” saying this had been made possible by the government in Westminster “taking decisions that are cautious”.
She made clear: “Even as the rules are starting to change, we are not saying non-essential travel is desirable.
Sturgeon staycation call
“When it comes to holidays abroad my advice continues to be to err on the side of caution and holiday by staycation this year.”
Responding to the announcement, SPAA president Joanne Dooey said: “It’s a relief for the entire travel sector that limited international travel will be permitted from 17 May, in Scotland in a four nations’ approach. Although it should be remembered that there are limited flights to the green light countries from Scotland and that some of the green light countries are not currently permitting entry for travellers from the UK.
“The inclusion of Portugal on this list is very significant and important for Scotland – it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations for Scots ranking in the top choices along with Spain, Greece and Turkey.
“We expect to see airlines and operators transferring any spare capacity to flights to Portugal this summer.”
Dooey renewed calls for PCR testing to be replaced by less-expensive options, and for clarity on how a ‘vaccination pass’ could work to allow non-vaccinated passengers to travel.
She added: “It’s important that travellers understand that the green light countries may have their own specific requirements for entry for travellers in addition to the UK’s testing requirements. We look forward to the forthcoming announcements of which new countries will be added to the green list.
“We recommend that travellers use an SPAA travel agent for all bookings to give then the reassurance of professional advice and support, from booking to returning to the UK.”
Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel, said: “We are pleased to see the Scottish government confirming they will be reopening international travel from this Monday in line with the UK government’s approach. We have long been advocating for consistency across the four nations and we urge the Scottish government to continue taking this approach when it comes to travel.
“Both the inbound and outbound travel industries are interconnected across the UK and having consistency will be critical when it comes to recovery. For our customers, having one clear message is important to support confidence.”
She added: “We know our customers will have a number of questions about today’s announcement and the future of travel. The Scottish government must also confirm its plans regarding the digital health passport and how we may utilise the NHS app to track vaccine status and negative testing for travel abroad.”
Abta welcomed the news. Chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “We have been calling for a broad alignment across the four nations and a coordinated approach on international travel, and it is welcome that the first minister also signalled today an intention to follow this approach, while reserving the right to diverge, where necessary.
“We now look ahead to the next review of the country lists, where we hope more destinations will be opened up.
“Outbound travel is worth nearly £2bn to the Scottish economy every year, and also underpins the viability of routes that bring valuable visitors to Scotland. It is important that the Scottish government continues to engage with and support the industry through to recovery.”
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “Ending blanket hotel quarantine measures is a big step forward for Scotland. Yet despite today’s announcement and Scotland’s successful vaccine rollout, a meaningful restart of aviation is not yet possible because there are so few countries on the green list.
“Aviation is essential to connect friends and families once again, to provide well-earned holidays, and for businesses to reach new and existing customers abroad. The Scottish government must play its part by adding countries to the green list as soon as the local health situation allows and by introducing rapid, affordable tests for travellers.”
She added: “Pre-pandemic thousands of Scottish jobs were supported by aviation and tourism, so a full recovery must be a priority for the Scottish government. They need to use the upcoming reviews to reduce restrictions for fully vaccinated people, just as the EU and the US are planning. This is particularly important for restarting the Scotland’s inbound tourism sector.”
In a joint statement, Airlines UK, Edinburgh Airport and AGS Airports – owner of Glasgow and Aberdeen airports – said: “Whilst removing the travel ban is a step in the right direction it is a missed opportunity with so few countries making it on to the green list.
“We are again in the position of being a week away from a major change to operations and waiting on details of how the Scottish Government wants this to work and how it will be managed.
“We need that detail as soon as possible to allow everyone to understand what is required.”