Scotland ‘reluctantly’ aligns with England on new international travel rules

·2 min read
Arriving soon: rules for arrivals to Edinburgh airport will be the same as for England from 4 October (Simon Calder)
Arriving soon: rules for arrivals to Edinburgh airport will be the same as for England from 4 October (Simon Calder)

Scotland will align its international travel rules for arrivals with those of England “reluctantly”.

At present the four devolved nations have the same policy on testing, with a test before travel to the UK and a PCR after arrival mandatory.

The UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced changes for England a week ago. Until today, the devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast had not announced their policies.

Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson confirmed that from 4 October the testing regime for arrivals to Scotland will be eased, with no “test to fly” required.

“We have concerns that the UK government’s proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test for some travellers could weaken our ability to protect the public health of Scotland’s communities,” he said.

“However, we also recognise that not having UK-wide alignment causes significant practical problems and creates disadvantages for Scottish businesses.”

Officials at Edinburgh airport, the main arrival point for Scotland, had warned that Scottish travellers would simply switch flights to Manchester or Newcastle; from 4 October passengers arriving at these airports will not be asked for tests before they fly.

The transport secretary said: “If non-alignment led to travellers to Scotland choosing to route through airports elsewhere in the UK, the public health benefits of testing would be undermined in any event.

“We have urgently considered all these implications, weighing any possible impact on the public health and the logistical realities.

“After liaising at length with stakeholders from the aviation sector to understand the impact of adopting a different approach in Scotland, we have reluctantly concluded that, for practical reasons, alignment with the UK is the best option.”

He also indicated that other measures are being considered for “the implementation of additional public health surveillance around international travel”.

The Independent has asked for clarification of what that might entail.

Northern Ireland has also aligned with England. A statement is expected later on Friday from the Welsh government.

From some as-yet-unknown date in late October, the UK government intends to downgrade the post-arrival PCR for vaccinated travellers to a cheaper lateral flow test.

Grant Shapps earlier suggested that such tests could be bought cheaply from discount supermarkets such as Lidl.

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