English holidaymakers 'enquiring about refunds' after Nicola Sturgeon quarantine warning

Simon Johnson
·5-min read
The Scotland-England border on the A68 near Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders - PA
The Scotland-England border on the A68 near Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders - PA

English holidaymakers have already started enquiring about a "full refund" for their Scottish 'staycations' if Nicola Sturgeon forces them to enter quarantine, tourism chiefs have warned as she refused to backtrack.

Marc Crothall, the Scottish Tourism Alliance's (STA) chief executive, warned that more than 70 per cent of the country's influx of visitors comes from the rest of the UK and "any restrictions on domestic travel will have a significantly negative impact."

Fewer than 24 hours after Ms Sturgeon's warning, he said businesses have been contacted by concerned English customers about a potential quarantine "and have asked for reassurance of a full refund" if that happened.

With self-catering accommodation in Scotland reopening on Friday, the Scottish Tories said her intervention "jeopardises" the struggling industry as it tries to recover from lockdown.

Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservative leader, said: "The practical implications of quarantining everyone who crosses the border into Scotland are staggering."

He added: "Any suggestion that English people are not wanted in Scotland would be economically and morally dangerous.”

Ms Sturgeon said they were welcome but she "wouldn’t be honest with people standing here right now or doing my job properly" if she ruled out quarantining English visitors to Scotland.

Although she said there are "no plans for this right now", she pledged that she would "take the decisions that are necessary to protect the Scottish population" during the pandemic.

The First Minister doubled down on her warning the previous day, when she said "I'm not ruling anything out" if there is a surge of Covid-19 cases south of the Border.

She highlighted how US and German states with low Covid-19 transmission have introduced quarantine checks for visitors from parts of their countries with high rates.

While she said her strategy was to eliminate the virus, Ms Sturgeon said she suspected Boris Johnson's was to let it "circulate at higher levels as long as it doesn't threaten to overwhelm the National Health Service."

But it was disclosed that the number of deaths registered in England and Wales over one week has fallen below the five-year average for the first time since lockdown was imposed in March.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were 65 fewer deaths than average registered in the week ending June 19.

Scotland's tourism and hospitality businesses, other than self-catering, are allowed to reopen on July 15. Their competitors in England will reopen this Saturday.

Mr Crothall warned that a "great deal is at stake", including the "reputation of and sustainability of our tourism industry."

He welcomed SNP ministers' assurances they have "no intention as it stands to impose such a quarantine restriction on those visiting from England" but said he hoped "the virus does not spread in such a way that it requires the Scottish Government to reconsider this status."

Mr Crothall said: "People will want to travel and holiday around the UK and all over Scotland from all four nations and indeed further afield.

"The industry fully appreciates that people will be hesitant, and we must proceed with caution to ensure that our communities do not feel under threat and are comfortable in welcoming visitors in the spirit that we are so well known for."

But he added: "Clearly, given that over 70 per cent of Scottish tourism comes from the UK market, any restrictions on domestic travel will have a significantly negative impact on the sector.

"In fact, I know of a few businesses who have received enquiries from people south of the border who have become concerned about a potential quarantine and have asked for reassurance of a full refund should a quarantine come into force."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, wearing a tartan face mask during a visit to New Look at Ford Kinaird Retail Park in Edinburgh - PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, wearing a tartan face mask during a visit to New Look at Ford Kinaird Retail Park in Edinburgh - PA

Challenged that English tourists could be deterred by her quarantine comments from making bookings, Ms Sturgeon reiterated that she was not "categorically ruling anything out" given Covid-19's "unpredictability."

The First Minister said: “I know the concerns the Scottish Tourism Alliance would have about a policy like that, I understand that and we would consider anything like that very carefully.

“But I know the STA would also be concerned, and I’m sure should be concerned, about the prospects of having an increase in cases of the virus in some of our beautiful tourist spots.”

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Ms Sturgeon said that she hoped to “strike a balance” between restarting the economy and keeping the Scottish public safe from the virus. However, she added keeping the virus under control was the "driving imperative."

The First Minister said that "people in England are welcome in Scotland" but added: "I cannot guarantee that we will have no need to impose any kind of restrictions to keep this virus under control, and anyone who thinks I should do that right now is coming at this from completely the wrong perspective."

But Mr Carlaw said: "Any suggestion that Scotland will be closing its borders to England clearly jeopardises that vital market at a time when it is desperately needed."