Scotland's Overseas Travel Testing Rules Reduced

The Scottish government has stated that fully vaccinated visitors to Scotland will no longer be required to complete pre-departure Covid testing.

Scotland's Overseas Travel Testing Rules Reduced
Scotland's Overseas Travel Testing Rules Reduced

Scots returning home from overseas and visitors from non-red-list nations will benefit from the move. Scotland would also "adhere to the UK's post-arrival testing framework," though the details are still being worked out. The Scottish government announced last week that testing restrictions would be maintained due to public health concerns.

Ministers were still concerned, but after speaking with the aviation industry, they "reluctantly concluded" that following the UK's testing path was the "best option," according to Transport Secretary Michael Matheson. 

Last Friday, plans were unveiled to streamline the international travel traffic light system by combining green and amber categories and removing more countries from the red list. These modifications will take effect on October 4th. Travellers from non-red-list countries who have been properly vaccinated will no longer be needed to show proof of a negative test result before entering Scotland.

However, they must have been vaccinated in a country that meets "recognised standards of certifications". Mr Matheson said the move to align with the rest of the UK came after consideration of the "logistical, health and economic implications". He added: "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." Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: "We welcome this decision which will be a huge bonus for Scotland's travel and tourism sector and will provide some much needed confidence for people who need and want to travel."

"While this is something we have been encouraging the Scottish government to do for months, and the ensuing delay has badly impacted the industry in Scotland, it is a good step forward," Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports, which runs Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, said. This judgement, by guaranteeing Scotland's equivalence with the rest of the UK, will restore much-needed consumer confidence, allowing our passengers to resume travel." 

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce's chief executive, Dr Liz Cameron, added: "International travel restrictions and testing regimes that differed would have put Scotland and its airports at a substantial economic disadvantage. "This sends a clear signal to the world that Scotland is open for business." Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com, claimed the firm had seen an immediate surge in bookings for flights and package holidays since the announcement. 

He said: "We had already seen demand step up following the decision to scrap the traffic light system, however, this announcement removes several major barriers. "The fact that Scottish holidaymakers will no longer have to take a pre-departure test in resort is a welcome step towards normality."

'Late U-turn'

To prevent the importation of new Covid variations, the Scottish government has announced it will explore how "further precautions and surveillance of inward travel can be introduced." "This SNP retreat will come as a comfort to firms in Scotland's much-overlooked tourism and aviation industries," said Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson MSP. However, due to the lateness of the U-turn, Scottish airports would miss out on any potential rebound that might have occurred during the October break."

Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime programme said she was a "little perplexed" at the latest easing of travel restrictions when "we are still right in the middle of this pandemic".

"I know some of the trends are in the right direction, and it feels like we're turning a corner," she continued. "Whether or if it is a long-term stance will depend on our continued vigilance and the implementation of preventative measures." Today's announcement is another one that could have far-reaching consequences. I understand why; it's about being pragmatic and preparing for the situation across the United Kingdom. 

However, it is not without risk "Even though PCR testing will be available for red-list nations, there is no guarantee that you will not find mutations of concern in other countries. They aren't simply limited to countries on the red list, which I believe is a cause for concern."