Covid Scotland: Travel industry 'left guessing' by lack of decision on PCR testing in Scotland

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The Scottish Government has been urged to decide its position on PCR testing for travellers after a change was implemented in England on Sunday.

Fully vaccinated travellers to England from a non-red list country are now able to take a cheaper lateral flow test on day two of their return, rather than a PCR test.

When the UK Government initially announced this coming change on September 18, the Scottish Government said it would not follow suit, as PCR tests are more reliable.

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However, this position was reversed after a week, as Scotland’s transport secretary Michael Matheson said Scotland “intended to align with the UK post-arrival testing regime”.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Airport called for a decision to be made. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesA spokesperson for Edinburgh Airport called for a decision to be made. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
A spokesperson for Edinburgh Airport called for a decision to be made. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

But when UK officials later announced this change would come into effect on October 24, the Scottish Government said this was yet to be confirmed north of the border.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government confirmed on Monday there had still been no decision made about the change in Scotland, meaning it has not yet come into effect.

Airport leaders said the resulting “confusion and delay” were “frankly not good enough”, while opposition leaders accused the SNP of “shambolic last-minute decisions”.

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A spokesperson for Edinburgh Airport said the industry had been “left guessing” and customers “may simply assume the worst”.

“As an industry, we have called on the transport and health ministers in the four nations to restart international travel with a four-nations approach,” they said.

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"Despite assurances to date, this has proved elusive. Whether this repeated lag in Scottish implementation arises from a lack of an open and collaborative approach following a UK Government decision or the relative lack of agility in Scottish Government decision making is not clear from the outside, but it’s negative impact on the Scottish economic recovery is plain to see.

“The resulting confusion and delay is frankly not good enough and we urge all four administrations to consider increased collaboration and co-ordinated implementation ahead of decisions to ensure the four UK nations move as one to prevent a repeat of what we are currently seeing on the non-aligned implementation of day two lateral flow tests.”

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A spokesperson for AGS Airports Ltd, which owns and operates Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, called for a four-nation approach to “help deliver much-needed consumer confidence for our passengers so Scottish airports are not put at a disadvantage".

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Bailie said constituents had been in touch “utterly confused” about the new rules.

“Once again the SNP are dithering and delaying on key questions,” she said.

“No matter what they do, these shambolic last-minute decisions aren’t helping anyone. They need to look at the evidence and make a decision either way, instead of burying their head in the sand while the industry hangs in limbo.”

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The Scottish Conservatives accused the government of “dithering” and “lagging behind the rest of the UK”.

Shadow transport minister Graham Simpson said: “The SNP have treated the travel industry as an afterthought throughout the pandemic. They have been too slow to act despite vital jobs being under threat.

“The SNP Government finally announced changes to international testing last month, but now they are dithering once again and lagging behind the rest of the UK.

“Ministers must catch up again, given the sector’s recovery from Covid is barely underway.”

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