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Anger at decision

Holyrood ‘just wants to be different’ on Covid tests

airport queues

Travellers will see changes

The Scottish government has come in for heavy criticism after refusing to follow England and ease Covid tests for returning international passengers.

Frustrations spilled over on social media after Scottish ministers adopted the UK travel changes, including a simplification of the traffic light system, but said it had “significant concerns” about the public health risk of easing Covid tests.

This prompted a backlash on social media from those who believe the Scottish government is just showing it “wants to be different”. Some said that its actions are putting the Scottish recovery on hold.

Edinburgh Airport said: “We are now the most restrictive country in Europe yet there is no justification or health benefit to retaining testing measures… This is great news for airports in Manchester and Newcastle.”

Alan Glen of Glen Travel said: “They are making this stuff up as they go along and will succeed in strangling the life from the Scottish aviation, travel and inbound tourism sector.”

Martin Sim, managing director of Sim Building Group, said: “Got to be different for the sake of it.”

Simon Capaldi, partner at property agent Knight Frank, said: “Surely this only harms the Scottish economy further, everyone will travel out of and back in to airports south of the border. No benefit to anyone other that the airports south of the border, utter madness.”

Lesley Millar, owner of Jigsaw Travel, said: “This bizarre decision has yet again placed Scotland on the back burner of economic progress. It’s now becoming childish and embarrassing.”

The attacks on Scottish ministers came after holiday bookings in England rose sharply following the UK Government’s decision to ease restrictions. Travel agents predicted this weekend would be their busiest of the year with demand for October half-term trips three times higher than in August as firms announced cut-price breaks.

Green and amber classifications will merge across the UK, but the red list will be retained for those countries deemed to have high COVID19 case rates or variants of concern. 

Among other countries, Turkey, Egypt and the Maldives will all be removed from the red list from 4am on Wednesday 22 September.

The current amber-level restrictions will become the default for travellers from non-red countries, with eligible fully vaccinated travellers able to benefit from quarantine-free travel.

The number of countries recognised in the eligible vaccinated traveller policy (currently only UK, EU/EFTA and USA), is being expanded to recognise countries where vaccine certification meets appropriate standards.

These include Canada, Australia, Israel, and New Zealand – with these opening up from 4 October – the date the current traffic light system formally ends.


The Scottish Government said it aims to maintain a four nations approach to international travel restrictions, “but will need to carefully consider the risks associated with aligning with the UK Government.” 

Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said the simplification of the system recognises the success of global vaccination programmes.

He said: “This is a major step but one with sensible safeguards built in recognising the success of the Scottish Government’s vaccination programme.

“The expansion of the eligible vaccinated traveller policy combined with the changes to the traffic light system will provide a welcome boost to Scotland’s tourism industry.

“However, we have concerns that the UK Government’s proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test for some travellers will weaken our ability to protect the public health of Scotland’s communities. 

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“While we want to maintain a four nations approach to these matters, we need to consider urgently their implications.”

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport, said the changes [in England] were a “significant and welcome step towards recovery” and a boost for travellers seeking to get away this winter.

Shares in travel and aviation businesses including the British Airways owner, IAG, Ryanair and the aero engine maker Rolls-Royce have risen on the news `(see market report).


Travellers are now able to use private sector tests where they are now required when returning to Scotland. The step allows people to choose from a list of approved providers which can be found on the website.

Countries removed from the red list from 4 am on 22 September are:

  • Bangladesh
  • Egypt
  • Kenya
  • Maldives
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkey

Countries added to the eligible vaccinated traveller policy from 4 October are:

  • Canada
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Antigua & Barbuda
  • Barbados
  • Brunei
  • Taiwan
  • Dominica
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Qatar
  • Kuwait
  • Malaysia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain

Changes in England

  • From Monday 4 October, countries will no longer be divided into green, amber or red lists
  • The amber and green lists will merge into a “Rest of World” (ROW) list
  • Anyone in a country on this list who’s fully vaccinated will no longer have to take a PCR test three days before travelling to England
  • They will still need to take a PCR test two days after arrival, but this will be replaced by a cheaper and simpler lateral flow test later in October
  • There will still be a red list of countries – if you visit one of these, you’ll have to to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers
  • Before the move to the two-tier system, eight countries are being removed from the red list from 22 September
  • They are Turkey, Pakistan, The Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya.

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