SNP under fire after new quarantine rules announced – ‘Need to get a grip!’

Michael Matheson announces new travel measures

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The SNP led Scottish Government are introducing new Australian-style quarantine measures and tighter border restrictions. Under the new measures, all arrivals to Scotland from outside the Common Travel Area (UK and Ireland) will have to book and pay for managed isolation in quarantine hotels.

 

Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also had discussions with Police Scotland to ramp up enforcement of people travelling into Scotland from England.

But Graham Simpson MSP, Scottish Tories Transport spokesman said Scottish airports “needed to be fully on board” with the quarantine scheme and said they hadn’t been consulted.

Speaking in Holyrood, he added: “Until today, no minister has been in touch with them with these plans.

“Why didn’t ministers engage with the airline sector at an early stage?”

Colin Smyth MSP, Scottish Labour Transport spokesman, said the SNP Government had been “slow, slow, slow” at introducing the quarantine system.

He added: “A lack of consultation with Scotland’s airports ahead of this suggests the final details have still not been fully worked out.”

The MSP later said: “This SNP government needs to get a grip.

“Ministers appear to have learned nothing from a year of putting protections in place only when the damage is done.”

Scottish Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said Edinburgh Airport had only just been informed of the plans.

He claimed: “They have informed me that they only received notice and the details of this plan as the Cabinet Secretary got to his feet some moments ago.”

Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said stronger restrictions on travel were needed as part of efforts to combat COVID-19 and announced new sweeping measures on international travel.

Six hotels close to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports with a combined capacity of 1,300 rooms will be used to implement the quarantine at a cost of £1,750.

SNP ministers added passengers arriving from England from red list countries who intend to travel up to Scotland will first have to complete their quarantine in England.

But Mr Matheson admitted they hadn’t yet reached an agreement with the UK Government on the matter.

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Mr Matheson, however, said the four nations of the UK had agreed on a joint approach to contracting the transport and accommodation services for managed isolation.

He said it would see a common approach adopted to procuring hotels, based on a UK Government contract – but he said this would have “flexibility” to cope with the “different policy directions we are taking”.

Meanwhile, speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said discussions with Police Scotland were “ongoing” at increasing patrols around the border.

It comes as Police Scotland figures revealed only 60 fines had been handed out to people breaking travel rules in the border areas of Scotland since new rules came into force last year.

The First Minister made clear she was engaging with Chief Constable Ian Livingstone on changes to policing and that “discussions were ongoing”. 

Currently, it is illegal to cross the border into Scotland from England except for “essential purposes”.

It comes as the UK Government said Britain will require passengers arriving from countries where worrying coronavirus variants are spreading to pay for 10 days of quarantine in hotels, while rule-breakers will face heavy fines or jail terms, under tighter restrictions from next week.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said people could be sent to prison and fined up to 10,000 pounds ($14,000) if they break the rules which come into force on Feb. 15.

“Anyone who lies on the passenger locator form and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on the ‘red list’ in the 10 days before arrival here, will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years,” Hancock told parliament.

A total of 58 deaths in Scotland have been recorded in the past 24 hours, along with 822 new cases.

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