A growing proportion of passengers are bypassing the Scottish Government’s hotel quarantine system by flying from other airports in the UK, Scottish Labour has said.
The party received data on the number of internal and international arrivals at Scottish airports since the start of the year in response to a parliamentary question.
It showed 80% of passengers (1,999 people) arriving in Scotland did so via airports in England at the end of February, compared to 27% (3,848 people) at the start of the year.
The overall number of arrivals in Scotland has fallen steeply since the start of the year, going from 14,432 for the week beginning January 4 to 2,930 on the week beginning February 22.
A system of mandatory hotel quarantine for international arrivals was announced in early February.
All international passengers arriving at Scottish airports must enter the hotel quarantine system whereas the UK Government only requires this of those coming from countries on the “red list”.
Passengers flying to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK or Ireland can self-isolate at home when they arrive, provided they have not been to any “red list” countries previously.
Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: “This is further evidence of what Scottish Labour has said from the start; that the SNP’s hotel quarantine policy was riddled with loopholes – and made all the worse by the fact that it came almost a year too late.
“Time and again, Scottish Labour called for a robust regime of airport testing and highlighted flaws in the previous quarantine regime that meant few people who were supposed to be quarantining at home were ever properly checked.
“The SNP only listened and brought in testing and managed quarantine after passenger numbers were at record low levels – too little, too late.”
He continued: “Not only are 80% of passengers arriving in Scotland avoiding managed quarantine by travelling via England, but a week into the new policy passenger numbers are actually beginning to rise again.
“It simply highlights the breakdown in the relations between the Scottish and UK governments.
“At a time when people want our two governments to work together to make Scotland safe, their constant bickering has led to a half-baked quarantine policy that works for no-one and an aviation sector that continues to shed jobs by the day with very little government support.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has previously said the UK Government’s red list system is “inadequate”, saying the issue is the main area of contention between the Scottish and UK governments on coronavirus.
Responding to Labour’s claims, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “To manage the risk of importing new variants, and to give vaccine deployment the best chance of bringing us closer to normality, limits on international travel are necessary.
“A four-nations approach would be preferable and the partial approach adopted by the UK Government risks allowing new variants to enter the country.
“We’ve always been clear that we cannot unilaterally implement immediate managed quarantine for people who arrive in other parts of the UK before travelling on to Scotland.
“We have asked the UK Government to work with us to address this, but currently such travellers are required to isolate at home.”