Quarantine fears hitting tourist trade, according to Borders MP

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s continued refusal to rule out quarantining visitors from England has come in for criticism from Borders MP John Lamont for hampering efforts by the region’s tourism businesses to get back on their feet after almost four months of lockdown.

Monday, 13th July 2020, 6:25 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 2:03 pm
First minister Nicola Sturgeon at today's Scottish Government coronavirus update in Edinburgh.

Questioned about her stance on potential border controls to curb the spread of coronavirus on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show yesterday, July 12, Ms Sturgeon again insisted that a quarantine policy along the Scotland-England border remains an option to be considered if necessary even if it’s not something she’s planning at the moment.

“We will keep all of these things under review,” she said.

“One of our biggest risks in the next few weeks is the risk of importation into the country.

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The Scotland-England border at Carter Bar. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

“That’s why we’ve taken a very cautious decision on international quarantine.

“This is not a position I relish being in, but it also means we have to take a very close look into making sure the virus doesn’t come in from other parts of the UK.

“These are not decisions I will take lightly, but they’re equally not decisions I will shy away from.

“That’s not political. It’s not constitutional. It’s just taking a similar view to countries across the world in terms of protecting populations from the risk of the virus.

“It’s not something we have decided to do at this stage – it’s not something I’m immediately planning to do – but I will take decisions the best I can to protect the health of Scotland.

“This is not about saying to people in England ‘you are not welcome in Scotland’. Of course people in England are welcome in Scotland. Lots of people from England live in Scotland and vice versa.

“This is not about politics. It’s not about a constitutional agenda. It’s just about taking decisions to protect people in Scotland as much as possible from Covid.

“We need to be sure that any outbreaks in England are being properly managed, just as England will want to be sure that any outbreaks in Scotland are properly managed.

“It’s when there isn’t that confidence that the concerns about possible importation would grow.”

That refusal to remove the threat of a two-week quarantine period for visitors from England from the agenda comes as a blow to the tourist trade, as well as creating uncertainty for Borderers, according to Mr Lamont.

“This constant talk of closing the border will be discouraging visitors from the rest of the UK,” said the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP.

“This is very concerning when the tourism industry is trying to recover from the huge economic hit of coronavirus.

“Localised restrictions like we have seen in Leicester will continue to be an option, but Nicola Sturgeon must rule out widespread quarantining of people travelling from England or risk even further hits to our economy.”

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton agrees, saying: “Yet again, Nicola Sturgeon has failed to rule out quarantining English visitors to Scotland.

“This lack of clarity is damaging the tourism industry, with visitors reluctant to book holidays to Scotland.

“The negative protests on the border, combined with this lack of certainty, is really offputting for visitors.

“English tourists are Scotland’s largest market, and we need people to spend money here to restart our economy.

“We need to let people know Scotland is open for business so we can reverse the fortunes of our rural areas and help businesses take advantage of the summer season.”

Mr Lamont is also concerned about the possible impact of potential quarantine rules on Borderers needing to travel south into England regularly for work or shopping.

“These plans to impose quarantine on people travelling from England completely disregard the way in which a lot of Borderers live their lives on a daily basis,” he added.

“I know lots of communities along the border where their nearest supermarket or bank branch is in England.

“This is not to mention those who work and live on different sides of the Tweed. Would these people need to quarantine every time they go to Morrisons in Berwick?”