Scotland must be part of 'uniform' approach to foreign holidays, say travel chiefs

Transport industry chiefs have called for Scotland to be part of a “uniform” UK approach to international holidays as the EU Commission recommended easing restrictions on non-essential travel from overseas.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday there would be “some opening up” in England on May 17 as he stressed the approach to foreign travel this summer would need to be sensible and cautious to avoid "an influx of disease".

But the Scottish Government has remained non-committal on any similar relaxation of restrictions north of the border, with the First Minister previously saying non-essential international travel from Scotland was unlikely to resume from May 17.

More details are expected this week to confirm when and how international travel will restart in England.

Edinburgh Airport chief are among those calling for a four-nations approach to international travel. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Ms Sturgeon has said her first major decision, if the SNP is returned to power in Thursday’s Scottish election, will be to approve changes to coronavirus rules due to come into force on May 17.

A SNP spokesman said in a statement last night the position on international travel would be considered in the next Covid review, expected to be announced next Tuesday.

Read More

Read More
Scottish election 2021: Nicola Sturgeon pledges first job will be lockdown revie...

There is currently a ban on non-essential travel abroad from Scotland under Covid rules.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks to members of the public while campaigning on behalf of Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer ahead of the 2021 Hartlepool by-election. Picture: Lindsey Parnaby - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Under EU plans, anyone who has received the last dose of an EU-approved vaccine at least two weeks beforehand will be permitted to travel.

Edinburgh Airport management have backed the move, stressing a “uniform” approach to international travel was needed for the UK.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “This is a sensible recovery plan that uses data and the success of the vaccines whilst retaining the flexibility to respond to change where necessary.

“The Scottish and Westminster governments should ensure an UK approach mirrors this system, providing a uniform approach across Europe.”

Alan Glen, from the Scottish Passenger Agents Association, said there was "no way" any foreign travel system would work if Scotland had a different system to England.

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We have to have a four-nations approach to this.

"There's no way it's going to work [with] Scotland operating a different system to England when you can freely travel across the [Scotland-England] border and fly out of an English airport – and that's exactly what will happen."

Mr Johnson said there would be "some opening up" in England on May 17, but that things must be done in a way "to make sure that we don't see the virus coming back in" to the UK.

Mr Johnson's cautious tone came as some MPs called for restrictions on foreign holidays to be maintained to protect the country from Covid-19 variants, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged a "careful" approach.

UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab has confirmed plans to adopt a "traffic light system" in England for international travel.

Mr Glen said he believed foreign holidays this year would be "very much safer" than last summer, with travellers expected to carry out PCR Covid tests on return to the UK.

"For the travel industry, the traffic light system is a cautious approach and a risk-based approach,” he said.

"There's a couple of other things that you've got to factor in now that weren't available last year – one is the vaccine, another thing is testing.

"Even when you're on the 'green light', which will be low-risk countries, you'll have to have two PCR tests to come back ... it's not just throwing the borders open."

Mr Johnson told reporters during a campaign visit to Hartlepool: "We do want to do some opening up on May 17, but I don't think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else.

"I certainly don't and we have got to be very, very tough, and we have got to be as cautious as we can, whilst we continue to open up."

Asked if people should be planning foreign holidays, he said: "We will be saying more as soon as we can.

"I think that there will be some openings up on the 17th, but we have got to be cautious and we have got to be sensible and we have got to make sure that we don't see the virus coming back in."

Sir Keir criticised the "chopping and changing" of the travel corridors list introduced last year and said such a situation should be avoided this holiday season.

Speaking on Monday, the opposition leader said he would "wait and see" what the UK Government announces.

He said: "It's clear that the virus is increasing in some countries around the world, so we have to be very, very careful.

"What we can't have is a repeat of last summer, where the lists were chopping and changing on a daily or even weekly basis."

The Labour leader’s comments came as the European Commission proposed to ease restrictions on travel to countries in the bloc amid progressing vaccination campaigns and lower infection rates.

The commission said it was proposing "to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation, but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine".

It was not said which countries would be on its list, but one unnamed EU official said the UK remains a "question mark".

Discussions on the plans will begin on Tuesday.

One travel firm boss said there had been "great progress" in countries such as Portugal and Spain in preparing for the return of holidaymakers.

Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "When the holidays proper start at the end of June, we are expecting most of the countries that the UK goes on holiday to – Europe particularly – to be open.

"We are expecting Portugal, Spain, Greece, Croatia and so forth to be open, it would be nice if Turkey was open."

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, claimed the "best financial support the Government can now offer the travel sector is to open up overseas travel as planned from the 17th May", something he said can be done "safely with widespread testing".

A SNP spokesperson said: "If re-elected, one of our first acts will be to conduct the next Covid review which takes place just days after the election, including considering the position on international travel.

"That’s why it is essential that Scotland has the strong and experienced leadership of Nicola Sturgeon at the helm, to guide us through the pandemic and into recovery."


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.