Covid Security at UK Borders

Published date : 01 February, 2021
The covid-19 pandemic has heralded a challenging period for the aviation sector, and the new increased measures announced for the UK border last week will only make this situation more challenging for businesses and jobs in the weeks to come. There is a very clear and pressing need to increase the level of business support for aviation and aerospace companies to help them survive this pandemic. The Scottish Government have provided support to the sector within their available powers. However, the UK Government can and must do a lot more both in helping to strip out the fixed costs for the industry and in allowing the industry to invest and plan for the future.

My party has been consistent in calling for tough measures to be taken at the UK border in recent months. We now know that UK Ministers are planning to set up a hotel quarantine scheme for people arriving in the UK from 30 red list countries, yet the Home Office has still to provide full detail of the criteria that will be used either to add countries to or to remove them from its list, or of how passengers can be prevented from flying into the UK via a third country to get round the quarantine requirement. This matters. Last May, Sir Patrick Vallance told the Health and Social Care Committee:

“One of the things that looks clear is that early in March the UK got many different imports of virus from many different places”.

All too often throughout the pandemic, the UK Government have been susceptible to magical thinking, taking the path of least resistance only to pay a much heavier price later. With mutations in the virus, there are huge dangers inherent in only partially closing the door, as the UK Government propose. We desperately need to get ahead of this virus with supervised quarantine to allow the vaccination programme to do its job of saving lives. The lesson that we should have learned through this pandemic is that the best way to save lives and to protect jobs is to act early and to act decisively. The SNP has a strong preference in that regard for our having quarantine rules that work right across the UK.

The Scottish Government cannot unilaterally close the border, but believe that a comprehensive system of supervised quarantine is required. We are acutely aware that any measures taken that are significantly out of line with the rest of the UK might risk displacing travel to other airports, so we very strongly take a four-nations approach. However, we cannot get away from the fact that the UK Government have so far failed to go far enough in closing the door to further infections from overseas, and if the UK Government will not act, then the Scottish Government must. I look forward to hearing tomorrow about the tougher supervised quarantine measures that we judge are necessary to protect public health in Scotland. As so often in the past, where the Scottish Government have led, the UK Government eventually follow. I hope that, in the interests of us all, they are not far behind in doing so.

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