Incoming travellers to Scotland will face quarantine hotels from Monday
Travellers arriving in Scotland on an international flight will need to quarantine in hotels from Monday, with six facilities booked near major cities to handle arrivals.
The announcement by transport secretary Michael Matheson has marked a split from the UK Government’s plans, outlined earlier by UK health secretary Matt Hancock, and are stricter than those in place in England.
Arrivals into Scotland from outside the common travel area will be required to pay to book for a quarantine hotel room for £1,750 per person and will be expected to isolate for ten days and take two Covid-19 tests, one on the second day and one on day eight.
Mr Matheson said discussions were ongoing with the UK Government on how to avoid individuals arriving into other parts of the common travel area and travelling onwards to Scotland avoiding the requirement to self-isolate.
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Those arriving into England for onward travel to Scotland “will have to isolate in a hotel in England”, the transport secretary said.
Announcing the details of the policy in Holyrood, Mr Matheson said: “That advice is clear – we need a comprehensive approach to restricting international travel.
“It is vital that we do everything possible to prevent these variants entering Scotland and gaining a foothold.
"We cannot risk variants from international travel undermining the deployment of our vaccine.”
He added: “Unfortunately at the present moment, the UK Government continues to rely on a targeted, reactive approach.
"It is clear that this approach is no longer sufficient to provide the protection necessary.
"From Monday we will require all international travellers arriving directly on flights into Scotland to enter managed isolation.”
Six hotels have been booked close to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with a capacity of 1,300 rooms, the transport secretary set out.
He said final costs for families or those travelling together are being finalised, alongside details of a welfare fund for those unable to pay.
Potential exemptions include those coming to the country for a funeral are also being finalised by the Scottish Government.
Warm-weather training camps for elite sportspeople, such as the controversial trip to Dubai by Celtic football club, have been limited to just those preparing for the Olympics and Paralympics.
Additional criminal offences will also be brought in to help enforce the requirement to self-isolate in the quarantine hotels.
Scottish Conservative MSP Graham Simpson criticised the lack of engagement with airports and the aviation sector, with MSP Paul Wheelhouse in meetings with the major airports as Mr Matheson was making the statement to Holyrood.
Colin Smyth, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson, said the Scottish Government had been “slow, slow, slow” in bringing in testing at airports, asking why it had taken so long for the restrictions on incoming travellers to be introduced.
In response, Mr Matheson said it was one of the Scottish Government’s regrets that it had not been stricter on international travel during and following the first wave of the pandemic.
Responding to a question from Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens’ co-leader, Mr Matheson said the prospect of vaccine passports – where travellers are given allowances to avoid quarantine if they have been vaccinated – are unlikely to be considered in the short to medium term.
They could, however, become a long-term solution, but Mr Matheson recognised they carry potential civil liberties issues.