Nicola Sturgeon denies error to lift Spain quarantine then reimpose it three days later

Simon Johnson
·3-min read
Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to the NHS Louisa Jordan at the SEC, Glasgow, to learn about the venue being adapted for treating outpatients - Getty Images Europe
Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to the NHS Louisa Jordan at the SEC, Glasgow, to learn about the venue being adapted for treating outpatients - Getty Images Europe

Nicola Sturgeon has denied it was a mistake to reimpose quarantine restrictions on travellers from Spain only three days after lifting them.

The First Minister said her air bridges list of quarantine-free destinations was not "set in stone" or "entirely black and white."

She highlighted how she urged caution last Wednesday about booking foreign holidays, when she warned there was no guarantee holidaymakers would not have to quarantine for 14 days when they got back.

But the following day she added Spain to the list of air bridges, more than two weeks after the UK Government did so for England, despite official figures showing that Covid-19 cases there had tripled.

Along with the governments in the rest of the UK, she removed Spain and its islands from the list of destinations safe to visit with effect from midnight on Sunday.

Humza Yousaf, the SNP's Justice Secretary, admitted there were "lessons to learn" over the manner in which the Scottish Government reimposed restrictions.

But he warned that it was "inevitable" that other foreign countries will join Spain on the quarantine list following spikes in Covid-19 cases.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats urged the SNP government to compensate holidaymakers facing a loss of income when they quarantine for 14 days upon their return.

Willie Rennie, their leader, said ministers should set up a hotline for those affected by the "shambolic" about-turn to ensure they are not left out of pocket.

Around 4,000 passengers are believed to have flown to Spanish destinations from Edinburgh Airport alone since Mr Yousaf announced Spain's addition to the air bridges list on Monday last week.

Ms Sturgeon told STV News: "I don’t think it was a mistake. These things aren’t entirely straightforward or black and white.

“We’re dealing with a situation which is inherently uncertain and unpredictable right now. When we added Spain to the exempt list and made that announcement about a week ago, the days that followed I was at pains to tell people that it was not set in stone for any country."

She added: "We are dealing with a virus that does not behave entirely predictably so there is always going to be uncertainty.”

The about-turn was announced on Saturday evening, only a few hours before it came into effect, after ministers received figures showing a spike in cases in Spain.

Airport staff at the main terminal at Edinburgh Airport on July 7 - Getty Images Europe
Airport staff at the main terminal at Edinburgh Airport on July 7 - Getty Images Europe

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Mr Yousaf acknowledged how "frustrating and disappointing" the situation was for many tourists, but said travel during the pandemic would always have an element of risk.

The Justice Secretary said he understood why people would be "frankly quite angry" but he hoped they realised that the decisions were based on public health.

However, he added: "Clearly on reflection, perhaps there are some lessons for us to learn. I'm never against us doing that."

But Mr Rennie said: "The decision to reimpose the quarantine on travelers just three days after it had been lifted was shambolic and avoidable as there was evidence of a surge in cases in Spain.

"Now we need some practical solutions to support those travelers who jumped at the opportunity to go to Spain only to find themselves facing a fortnight off work in isolation. For many this could mean a significant loss of income."