Can I visit Scotland? Latest advice as local travel restrictions are set to lift on April 26

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Emma Featherstone
·4 min read
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highlands - Getty
highlands - Getty

Scotland's 'Stay at Home' rule will be replaced by the 'Stay Local' message for a maximum of three weeks from April 2, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on March 16.

Travel within Scotland will be permitted from April 26 when restrictions within the mainland will be "lifted entirely".

All tourist accommodation will be able to reopen from this date, subject to any restrictions.

The Scottish Government is to discuss with island communities how best to prevent new cases being imported, including if rules on socialising and hospitality were to be lifted more swiftly on the islands.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to stay open outdoors until 10pm and indoors until 8pm from April 26. Alcohol will only be served outside.

"Normal" indoor hospitality is then set to resume from May 17, this will include the easing of restrictions around alcohol and more regular opening hours.

Hospitality bosses welcomed the announcement.

Marc Crothall, the chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, told the PA Scotland: "The First Minister's announcement of an indicative timeline for the phased reopening of our tourism and hospitality sector will be massively welcomed by the sector today; it is the most positive news we have received in a long time."

He added: "Today's announcement will offer some very much needed light at the end of what has been the darkest tunnel for our industry."

Here, we look at the key questions surrounding holidays in Scotland.

What are the lockdown rules in Scotland, and when might they lift?

The latest lockdown rules in Scotland came into effect on January 5. The 'Stay at Home' order is set to lift on April 2, with some sectors reopening on April 26 when Scotland’s levels system (similar to tiers in England) will resume.

Nicola Sturgeon has listed a series of changes that will take place from April 26. Changes affecting hospitality and tourism include:

  • All remaining retail will reopen, including tourist accommodation

  • Libraries, museums and galleries reopen

  • Numbers who can attend wedding and funerals increased to 50

  • Outdoor socialising further eased so groups of six from up to three households can meet

  • Children aged 12-17 can meet outdoors in groups of up to six people from six households

  • Cafes, restaurants and bars will be able to serve groups of six outdoors. Alcohol will be permitted, and there is no requirement for food to be served

  • There will be limited indoor opening of hospitality, restricted to food and non-alcoholic drinks until 8pm, to groups of no more than two households

Further changes should apply from May 17 when all level three areas of Scotland will move into level two. Those affecting hospitality and tourism will include:

  • Indoor hospitality will see restrictions ease around alcohol and "more normal opening hours"

  • Cinemas amusement arcades and bingo halls reopen

  • Outdoor and indoor events restart "on a small scale"

  • Non professional performance art can resume

  • Restrictions on outdoor socialising to ease further

  • People will be allowed to meet up inside each other's homes, probably restricted to groups of up to four people from no more than two households.

edinburgh - Getty
edinburgh - Getty

When will hospitality reopen in Scotland?

The reopening of different parts of the economy will be staggered within intervals of "at least three weeks" from April 26 when Scotland’s levels system resumes.

Cafes, restaurants and bars will be able to serve groups of six outdoors. Alcohol will be permitted, and there is no requirement for food to be served

There will be limited indoor opening of hospitality, restricted to food and non-alcoholic drinks until 8pm, to groups of no more than two households.

When will Scotland welcome visitors?

Current Scottish regulations mean that you must not travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK without a reasonable excuse. This does not include leisure trips. Meanwhile, rules in England do not permit travel for leisure before April 12.

Ms Sturgeon said on March 16 that she hopes restrictions between Scotland and other parts of the UK can be lifted "if not on April 26, then as soon as possible thereafter". This will be confirmed during April.

Non-essential travel to "some international destinations" may not be possible "for a period after" May 17 because of the rising cases elsewhere, she added. It is likely that testing will continue to be a requirement for some time.

Should I book a holiday in Scotland?

To do so would come with the risk that your holiday could not go ahead and that you might lose some, or all of, the money you had paid towards it. The Scottish Government has yet to confirm clear dates for the reopening of tourism to people outside of Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon has said that travel restrictions within mainland Scotland will be lifted completely by April 26; rules for the islands have yet to be decided. It is expected that Scotland will open to tourists from elsewhere in the UK from April 24 or soon after.

Residents of England, Wales and Northern Ireland are subject to restrictions on travel in their own country.

Read more: When can I go on holiday abroad?