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Covid-19: Guidance on International Travel

Volume 697: debated on Wednesday 23 June 2021

What discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) the Scottish Government on harmonisation of covid-19 guidance on international travel. (901455)

I and other UK Government Ministers are in regular contact with the Scottish Government and other devolved Administrations to try to secure the harmonisation particularly of covid-19 guidance when it comes to regulations on international travel, while at the same time of course respecting devolved competence in matters such as public health.

Golf tourism plays a major part in the local economy of North East Fife, particularly as St Andrews is the home of golf. There is a whole ecosystem built up around golf tourism, including accommodation, hospitality and inbound tour operators. The majority of these tourists come from north America and then travel to other golf courses around the UK, and there are concerns about the incoherent travel rules between the four nations and restrictions within the four nations deterring those visitors. Can I therefore ask the Minister to outline what steps he is taking to reach consensus, particularly in relation to the US?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, which is pertinent not just for golf tourism but for whisky tourism and tourism in general across Scotland. The UK Government are committed to full alignment with the devolved Administrations, because we recognise the importance of such alignment for public compliance, as well as for business confidence and for tourism. We share the data, and we have created the structures to make that happen. However, we also respect the right of the devolved Administrations to make their own decisions on devolved matters. Thankfully, the differences in the exemptions, particularly for international travel, are not currently that material and can be justified as legitimate differences, but I do take on board the comments she made about golf tourism specifically.

This morning we heard that as a direct result of the baffling and inconsistent travel ban placed on Scots going to Greater Manchester, easyJet has cancelled its newly announced route from Aberdeen to Manchester, putting at risk many jobs in north-east Scotland. What work is being done, and may I beg the Minister and the Scotland Office to ensure that in the reopening of international travel, the same rules and regulations will apply around the entirety of the UK, instead of leaving the Scottish aviation sector and the thousands of people it employs at the mercy of a Scottish Government who have completely abandoned them?

My hon. Friend and I share a lot in common, not least the regular use of Aberdeen airport, to which he refers, and the fact that we both have wives who were not born in this country and unfortunately have not been able to visit their families for the last year and a half. That aside, on the specific issue about easyJet and the flight to Manchester, it has made a commercial decision, announced today, in response to the Scottish Government’s decision to regulate to prohibit travel to Manchester. The Scottish Government decision has been widely criticised as disproportionate; clearly Scottish Government Ministers will be keeping travel regulations under constant review, and there are calls for this regulation in particular to be reviewed in closer consultation with all interested parties. The Scotland Office would be happy to facilitate that, if helpful.

UK Government Ministers talk about a single approach, but, if we cast our minds back just a couple of months ago, travellers from India into Scotland faced managed hotel quarantine whereas the same travellers into England did not, and the consequences of that inaction are clear for all to see with the delta variant now dominant right across the UK. So I ask the Minister, does he regret the damage caused to Scotland’s covid-19 recovery as a result of his Government’s failure to follow Scotland’s lead?

What I regret, particularly considering the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, is that the Scottish Government did not, despite the repeated calls from the oil and gas industry, from MSPs, and from MPs who, like him, represent constituencies in the north-east of Scotland, give the same allowance for oil and gas workers from amber list countries that was allowed to them by the rest of the UK.