Nicola Sturgeon warns international travel restrictions may not be lifted for sunseekers

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For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon during the Election Scotland 2021: Leaders' Debate at Edinburgh's Corn Exchange. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 4, 2021. The Scottish Parliamentary elections take place on Thursday. See PA story SCOTLAND Election. Photo credit should read: Kirsty Anderson/BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption. - Kirsty Anderson/BBC/PA Wire
For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon during the Election Scotland 2021: Leaders' Debate at Edinburgh's Corn Exchange. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 4, 2021. The Scottish Parliamentary elections take place on Thursday. See PA story SCOTLAND Election. Photo credit should read: Kirsty Anderson/BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption. - Kirsty Anderson/BBC/PA Wire

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that she may only initially lift international travel restrictions for Scots who want to go abroad to meet family, and not sunseekers wanting a foreign holiday.

The First Minister told a BBC One Scotland Holyrood election leaders' debate that she would consider the UK Government's traffic light scheme, which may allow holidaymakers to fly from English airports to Europe's top holiday destinations from next month.

But she warned she was prepared to maintain restrictions on flying from Scotland's airports "for a little bit longer" to allow her to "open up much greater normality domestically".

Ms Sturgeon said: "It may be that restrictions on international travel are the price we have to pay for that, and when we do open up we focus on family reunification before holidays".

Although she said she wanted a deal on common arrangements with the UK Government and her Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts, she said it had to be "on the right four nations basis".

However, she and the other party leaders failed to spell out how the Scottish Government could stop sunseekers getting round her restrictions by flying from English airports.

UK ministers will meet this week to agree a limited "green list" of about a dozen countries that people from England can travel to from May 17 without having to quarantine on their return. However, this list could be expanded next month to include Spain, Greece and France.

Ms Sturgeon's current regime is already stricter than England's, with arrivals from all countries forced to quarantine in a hotel.

However, it was unclear how airlines and border control officers would distinguish between passengers travelling for leisure and family purposes.

The First Minister also urged Scots to vote for her even if they do not want a second independence referendum, even though she will count their vote towards the mandate she claims for the vote.

Asked what people should do if they wanted her to continue leading the Scottish Government during the pandemic, but were opposed to another referendum, she told the debate they should still vote SNP.

The debate took place shortly after the publication of three opinion polls, two of three which showed Ms Sturgeon is on course for a majority of four or five seats in Thursday's election.

A YouGov survey for The Times said the SNP would win 68 seats, a majority of four, while the Scottish Conservatives would comfortably hold on to second place with 26 MSPs despite losing five seats.

Labour would win only 17 seats, down seven, the Liberal Democrats four, down one, and Alex Salmond’s Alba Party one. This would mean almost two-thirds of the MSPs elected would support leaving the UK.

An Opinium survey for Sky News found Ms Sturgeon is on course for a five-seat majority but that barely a quarter (28 per cent) of Scots want another referendum in the next two years, in line with her preferred timetable.

Only 42 per cent supported another separation vote taking place within the five years of the next parliament, a drop of seven points since last month. This compared with 50 per cent who said it should be staged later or not at all.

If the Prime Minister refuses to drop his opposition to another vote, Ms Sturgeon has threatened to hold her own vote and challenge him to block it in the courts.

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, told the debate this would constitute an "illegal, wildcat" referendum but she accused him of issuing "smears" and "untruths" about her stance.

For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of (clockwise from top left) presenter Glenn Campbell, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, during the Election Scotland 2021: Leaders' Debate at Edinburgh's Corn Exchange. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 4, 2021. The Scottish Parliamentary elections take place on Thursday. See PA story SCOTLAND Election. Photo credit should read: Kirsty Anderson/BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption. - Kirsty Anderson/BBC/PA Wire
For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of (clockwise from top left) presenter Glenn Campbell, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, during the Election Scotland 2021: Leaders' Debate at Edinburgh's Corn Exchange. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 4, 2021. The Scottish Parliamentary elections take place on Thursday. See PA story SCOTLAND Election. Photo credit should read: Kirsty Anderson/BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption. - Kirsty Anderson/BBC/PA Wire

However, asked how she would deliver a referendum if the UK Government refused, she did not answer and claimed "we’re getting ahead of ourselves".

Ms Sturgeon also accused Boris Johnson of trying to distract voters from Tory "sleaze" by preparing to announce within weeks a new national flagship named after the Duke of Edinburgh that will be seen as a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The new ship is expected to be named HMS Prince Philip and will boost British trade and drive investment into the UK economy.

However, Mr Ross said he would not support public money being used to meet the estimated £200 million cost.

Ms Sturgeon also clashed with the chair of the debate, the BBC’s political editor Glenn Campbell, after he asked the party leaders to raise their hands if they did not have plans to raise income tax.

“Come on, hands up? Can we not have a proper debate,” the First Minister said. “These are complex issues, it’s a bit more complicated than hands up, hands down.”

Ms Sturgeon said that she had no plans to increase income tax but left the door open to rises if there were “unforeseen circumstances” such as if the “Tories absolutely slashed our budgets, for example, beyond what we expect them to do.”

In fact, the SNP’s spending pledges are based on the assumption that funding from the Treasury will rise. The leaders also disagreed over SNP plans for a national care service for care homes.

The SNP has said the service will oversee the delivery of care, improve standards, training and staff pay and conditions while giving support for unpaid carers. However, it will not initially mean a wholesale nationalisation of the sector.

Ms Sturgeon compared the ambition of the plan to the establishment of the NHS after the Second World War but was challenged over a previous pledge in 2011 when she said then improving care for older people would be a “personal priority.”

She insisted improvements had been made over the past decade and said she would like to “in time” see a “structure of ownership that is not based on profit” in the sector.

Willie Rennie, the LibDem leader, said he was “very wary” about the plan due to fears that mistakes made in centralisation of services like Police Scotland could be repeated.

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