Grant Shapps today demanded Nicola Sturgeon bows to ‘logic’ by backing his plans for exempting a swathe of countries from UK quarantine travel restrictions.
The Transport Secretary hit out at the Scottish First Minister as he finally paved the way for summer holidays by releasing a 60-strong list of countries which will no longer be subject to 14 day self-isolation rules.
The publication of the list has been repeatedly delayed with the UK Government blaming the devolved administration in Holyrood for dragging its feet.
Mr Shapps has now decided to push ahead without the agreement of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which means that when the changes come into force on July 10 they will only apply to England.
Mr Shapps said ‘the logic is very much on side for all four nations to do this’ as he outlined his hope that the other three countries will follow suit before July 10.
But Ms Sturgeon blasted the Transport Secretary for going ahead with the changes as she accused the UK Government of failing to adequately consult on the plans and of overseeing a ‘shambolic decision making process’.
The SNP leader said she would not be ‘dragged along’ by the UK Government and that she would ‘take time to properly and rationally consider’ the changes before agreeing to any.
Grant Shapps said he hoped Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government will accept the ‘logic’ of making some countries exempt from quarantine rules
Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to weigh up the public health risks of the changes as the Holyrood said it had only been shown the UK Government plans at the ‘last minute’
The government will soon publish a list of countries that will form part of the quarantine-free air bridge to restart the tourism industry
The Transport Secretary revealed that France, Italy, Spain, Germany and New Zealand will be among around 60 destinations on a safe travel list from July 10.
They will be split into a ‘traffic light’ system, with unconditional ‘green’ ratings for those with very low coronavirus rates, such as New Zealand.
Other such as France will be classed as ‘amber’, with reciprocal agreements for travel – although it is not clear whether the deals will be formal. The US will be classed as ‘red’ due to soaring cases, meaning travellers will still face quarantine.
Greece will also not be approved, as it has declared that arrivals from the UK will be ordered to self-isolate.
Mr Shapps said he had hoped to announce a UK-wide approach but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had failed to so far agree to the plans.
He told Sky News: ‘At the beginning of the week I said I would announce this by the end of the week and I was hoping to do it a day or two earlier but we haven’t managed to get the devolved administrations to sign up to it yet.
‘This won’t come in until July 10 so there is still an opportunity for them to do that.
‘It is obviously a decision for them to make so as you said, it should be stressed this is England and if you are travelling to and from England and indeed that is your permanent residence, this applies to you.’
Asked directly why no agreement had been struck between the four Home Nations, Mr Shapps replied: ‘We have a devolved system and they have their own governments and it is for them to decide.
‘The Joint Biosecurity Centre does work across all four nations so I think the logic is very much on side for all four nations to do this but we will see in the next few days.’
Mr Shapps yesterday directed the blame for delays in publishing the list at Ms Sturgeon who had previously said she wanted to weigh up the public health risks of easing the travel restrictions.
A furious Ms Sturgeon hit back at lunchtime today as she claimed the list of countries proposed by the UK Government had been like ‘shifting sands’ in recent days.
She told her daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh: ‘We have often had limited or no notice of the UK’s proposals and that matters because some of the judgements involved here are difficult and complex.
‘Just to illustrate the point about the shifting sands of the UK Government’s position, the list of countries that they were yesterday demanding that the Scottish Government signed up to and suggesting that we were a barrier to getting agreement on is not the same as the list that they have shared with us today.
‘So we need as the Scottish Government to analyse these proposals properly and rationally.
‘We need to do that obviously from a public health perspective but we also need to do that from a legal perspective.’
She added: ‘When so much is at stake as it is right now, we can’t allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of another government’s, to be quite frank about, shambolic decision making process.
‘We will take time to properly and rationally consider this before hopefully very soon setting out our own decision.’
Ms Sturgeon said it is ‘very likely’ that the Scottish Government will agree to lifting quarantine on low risk countries but that medium risk countries would need to be carefully considered.
Earlier, Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf criticised the UK Government’s approach to air bridges, saying the Scottish Government was not given adequate consultation.
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Reporting Scotland programme, he said he wants to take a ‘swift’ decision and is ‘all for’ a four-nations approach.
‘That’s why it is so frustrating that the information that the UK wanted us to consider has either been given to us the night before they intend to make an announcement, including last night, or indeed given to us 30 minutes before a meeting with substantial changes, and of course that is no way to get any kind of agreement,’ he said.
Likely list of air bridge countries
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Czech Republic
- French Polynesia
- San Marino
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Pierre and Miquelon
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Wallis and Futuna
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘The UK Government’s latest plans for air bridges, released overnight, include countries which present differing levels of risk.
‘Scottish ministers are actively considering the public health impact of these proposals, as well as the data and evidence underpinning them. Once they have done that they will announce any changes in relation to Scotland.’
The spokesman added: ‘It is disappointing that the UK Government have chosen to make an announcement on the countries they intend to exempt before a four-nations agreement has been reached.
‘We would still like to reach a four-nations approach if possible but that is difficult when the UK Government change proposals and give us last-minute sight of them.’
Boris Johnson today tried to play down the row between London and Edinburgh as he insisted the four Home Nations are working together to find a way forward.
‘We have had very good conversations with all the devolved administrations about this,’ he told LBC radio.
‘I am sure that everybody will work together to make sure that people’s holiday’s to those countries – and it is a small list of countries where we are going to have the air bridges – can go ahead.
‘There will be large parts of the world, I’m afraid at the moment, where you will have to observe 14 days’ quarantine when you have come in and that is only right.
‘We have made a huge effort in this country to get this virus under control. We cannot have reinfection from abroad.’
Mr Shapps said much of the list was ‘common sense’ – but confirmed there will not be pacts in place for the ‘green’ rated countries, meaning there is no guarantee Britons will not face restrictions upon arrival.
Meanwhile, he said the Government is working with airports to introduce effective screening systems from later this month that could lower the risks of travel spreading infection.
The full list will be released around lunchtime, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will rework its advice against ‘non-essential’ travel guidance – starting from July 4.
However, the measures exempting travellers from quarantine will not be in force until July 10.
The majority of passengers will still have to provide contact details when they arrive in England.
A passenger wearing a face mask arrives to to board Ryanair flight FR2190 to Malaga at London Southend Airport in Essex on Wednesday
Holidaymakers return to Portals Nous in Mallorca yesterday as Spain starts to return to normal
Those who have been through countries still on the quarantine list in the past 14 days will still have to self-isolate for two weeks.
In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Mr Shapps said: ‘There will be a list of 50-plus countries. If you add in the overseas territories (there will be) 60-something-or-other that will be announced later today.
‘France, Germany, Italy and Spain will be on that list. It is really important that we have done this in a very careful and cautious way. The most important thing is to maintain the gains that we have had.’
Explaining the system, Mr Shapps said: ‘We have countries in the green category where there are very low occurrences (of coronavirus), and then countries in the amber group.
‘They would include France, Germany, Spain and quite a number of others.’