UK

Nicola Sturgeon threatens to CLOSE border over hotel quarantine row

Nicola Sturgeon threatens to CLOSE the England-Scotland border if Boris Johnson fails to adopt her tougher quarantine rules for travellers from EVERYWHERE to go into hotel isolation

  • All international arrivals in Scotland must self-isolate in government hotels
  • But in England hotel quarantine only applies to arrivals from ‘red list’ countries
  • Scottish government concerned people may fly to England then go to Scotland
  • Nicola Sturgeon said she does not rule out closing England-Scotland border
  • That would likely see the Scottish government introducing checks at the border  

Nicola Sturgeon today threatened to close the England-Scotland border unless Boris Johnson adopts her stricter hotel quarantine rules. 

All international arrivals in Scotland have to self-isolate for 10 days in a government-approved quarantine hotel. 

But in England the requirement only applies to travellers arriving from 33 ‘red list’ countries which have recorded significant outbreaks of coronavirus variants. 

The Scottish government is concerned that people could fly into England before then heading to Scotland, avoiding the tougher hotel quarantine rules north of the border.  

As a result, Ms Sturgeon is urging Mr Johnson to adopt the same measures as Scotland or at the very least to work with Holyrood to put in place a system to stop people circumventing the restrictions. 

However, she said this afternoon she would be willing to take the nuclear option of closing the border between Scotland and England should the two sides fail to reach an agreement. 

Such an approach would likely involve the Scottish government introducing some form of border checks in a bid to keep track of international arrivals coming from England.   

It is unclear how such a system of checks could work but any proposals would be likely to pose significant logistical and political challenges for Ms Sturgeon.  

Nicola Sturgeon today warned she is willing to close the England-Scotland border if Boris Johnson does not adopt tougher hotel quarantine rules 

Under Mr Johnson's scheme in England only arrivals from 'red list' countries have to spend 10 days self-isolating in a quarantine hotel. But in Scotland the scheme applies to all travellers

Under Mr Johnson’s scheme in England only arrivals from ‘red list’ countries have to spend 10 days self-isolating in a quarantine hotel. But in Scotland the scheme applies to all travellers

Could Nicola Sturgeon actually close the England-Scotland border?

Nicola Sturgeon is insistent it would be within her powers as First Minister to close the border between England and Scotland should she deem it necessary. 

However, such a move would present the Scottish government with massive logistical as well as political challenges.

Logistically, the land border between the two countries is more than 90 miles in length. 

It is crossed by some 21 roads as well as two railway lines.

Ms Sturgeon said this afternoon that she does not rule out checking people coming across the border.  

But even if this was done in a relatively light-touch manner, with police patrols conducting random stops rather than installing physical border infrastructure, it would still require significant resources. 

Politically, any move to restrict movement from England into Scotland would almost certainly prompt a furious row with Downing Street, especially amid growing concerns over the state of the Union. 

Ms Sturgeon told her daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh she wanted to focus on finding a solution with the UK Government but that she does not rule out closing the border if Mr Johnson does not budge.

‘There are two things that we want to continue to try to come to an arrangement around,’ she said. 

‘Firstly, and this would probably be the best arrangement, if the UK Government decided to apply on a comprehensive basis as well, but if not then to work with us so that people who are destined for Scotland but come in through an English airport that that requirement to isolate can be imposed at the point of arrival.

‘People will say why don’t you check people coming across the England-Scotland border. 

‘Now of course we don’t rule anything out in terms of how we might have to deal with the risk of travel but in a sense if that is the solution we are already undermining the policy because somebody will have travelled quite a distance before they get to that point.

‘That is why isolation as close to the point of entry is so important here.’

Asked directly if she would be willing to close the border, the Scottish First Minister said: ‘I don’t rule it out. I would like to have the most effective system in place here so I am not sure it is the best solution to have, now, if it is the only one I can put into place then it may come to that, but why let somebody travel half way across the UK before you do that?

‘It would be better if we had that four nations approach or certainly at least a three nations approach where the border of the island that Scotland, England and Wales share has the same provisions in place.’ 

Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson warned on Sunday that the ‘loophole’ allowing overseas travellers to avoid hotel quarantine still existed which could ‘potentially undermine the public health approach here in Scotland’. 

Unless exempt, arriving passengers in Scotland must pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10-days in a room at one of six government-designated hotels.

Those who arrive in England from a non-‘red-list’ country who then enter Scotland would still have to self-isolate for the 10-day period, but would not have to do so at a designated hotel due to a lack of agreement between Holyrood and Westminster. 

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this morning he is happy to discuss the matter with the Scottish Government.

Six hotels have been block-booked in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with up to 1,300 rooms available.

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