People travelling to and from Spain will still have to go into quarantine when arriving in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The Scottish government has approved almost all of the “air bridge” travel destinations set out by UK ministers.
This means that from 10 July, Scots can travel to 57 other countries without having to self-isolate on returning.
However, Spain and Serbia have been omitted from the list due to concerns about the prevalence of Covid-19.
The first minister said this was a “very difficult decision” to make, but that it was needed to “protect Scotland as far as possible from a resurgence of this virus in the weeks ahead”.
And she warned that people should not seek to “get around” the restrictions by travelling via English airports, insisting that the rules “are here for a reason”.
The UK government had set out a list of 59 countries around the world which it said now pose a “reduced risk” from coronavirus, and which would no longer be subject to quarantine rules.
These include most countries in Europe, island nations in the Caribbean and countries further east – including Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
Scottish ministers – who have the final say on public health arrangements north of the border – have now approved this list, but with two exceptions.
Ms Sturgeon said the lower prevalence of the virus in Scotland meant its position was “a bit different to that of the UK as a whole”.
And she said that “we cannot in good conscience lift restrictions” for people arriving from Spain or Serbia.
The first minister said this was “the best balance we can arrive at”, and said she hoped the situation could be updated in the near future.
The move means anyone entering Scotland from Spain or Serbia will have to go into self-isolation even if they travel via an English airport.
Spot-checks are conducted on people who are meant to be in quarantine, and fines can be levied if it is found they are not.
Where can I go without quarantining on return?
From Friday, travellers are exempt from quarantine rules when they arrive in Scotland from:
Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, Croatia, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Réunion, San Marino, Seychelles, South Korea, St Barthélemy, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Pierre and Miquelon, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Vatican City, Vietnam.
The Scottish government has targeted the effective elimination of coronavirus north of the border, and Ms Sturgeon said the importation of new cases from abroad was “one of our biggest risk factors”.
She said it was estimated that for every 100,000 people in Scotland, 28 currently have coronavirus. She said this compared to 128 across the UK as a whole, and about 330 in Spain – a “significantly higher prevalence” of the virus.
“That means the [infection] rate reported for Spain, while less than twice the rate of the UK as a whole, is more than 10 times the estimated rate for Scotland,” she said.
She said ministers had taken a “very difficult decision” to omit Spain and Serbia from the list, and that the move was “evidence-driven and motivated only by a desire to protect Scotland as far as possible”.
Economic impact of travel
Source: Visit Scotland (2018 figures)
Figures from VisitScotland suggest Spain is Scotland’s fifth largest market in terms of tourism visitors, with 205,000 visits recorded in 2018.
Most visitors came for tourism, but VisitScotland said there had been a sharp increase in recent years of people visiting friends and relatives, with travellers staying an average of six nights and spending almost £80m.
The first minister said she knew Scots loved travelling to Spain and that Scottish businesses welcomed many Spanish tourists, adding that the position could change “possibly very soon”.
She said she was “acutely aware of how important international travel is for our tourist sector and aviation industry”. She said such saying decisions were “really difficult” and were “not taken lightly”.
Ms Sturgeon also urged Scots to have a “staycation” this summer rather than going on holiday abroad.
“If you’re feeling frustrated about any of this, if you are upset at me about because you don’t have the certainty of being able to go to Spain on holiday over the next few weeks, remember that this is about trying to stop people getting a deadly and damaging virus and trying to minimise as far as possible any further loss of life,” she said.