Michael Gove 'at pains' to say international travel restart on May 17 not 'set in stone'

Nicola Sturgeon has said Michael Gove was “at pains” to say the May 17 date for the restart of international travel in the UK was not “set in stone”.

International flights could be suspended for the foreseeable future in Scotland.

The First Minister was being questioned on the future of the aviation industry by the Scottish Conservative MSP, Graham Simpson.

Warned that airport are saying they cannot sustain losses “for much longer”, Ms Sturgeon said she was “working closely” to “rebuild connectivity”.

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She said: "We recognise that globally, not just in the UK, the aviation industry faces one of the longest recovery periods given the impact of Covid on route networks.

"That’s why we’ve extended the 100 per cent non-domestic rates relief for the aviation sector for another year.

"We are working closely with airports to rebuild connectivity for business and inbound tourism once we are able to safely lift travel restrictions.

Responding, Mr Simpson called for an aviation recovery plan and said: "First Minister offered a lockdown exit strategy based on data and not dates, so far the aviation sector has had neither.

"Airports are telling us they won’t be able to sustain losses for much longer.

"Airlines are already considering moving aircraft and jobs out of Scotland to places they have certainty of flying from.

"We risk turning the clock back decades. There was a hastily convened Scottish Government working group which heard from officials that there may be restrictions on flying for the rest of the year. Is that the First Minister’s position?"

Replying, Ms Sturgeon said that the risk of importation of new variants of Covid was very high with air travel and that decisions were being made to protect the population from the virus.

She said: “Other parts of the UK that often are described as having given certainty I don’t think have done that either.

"I took part in a four-nations call last night chaired by Michael Gove who was at pains to say that the May 17 date for the UK Government was not set in stone and it would depend on the state of the virus.

"That is just the reality of the situation we face.

"Graham Simpson might think that I should ignore that but it would not be responsible to do that.”

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