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'Utterly shambolic': Wales and Scotland hit out at UK government's shifting position on air bridges

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford accused the UK government of making an announcement and then trying to “work out” what they meant.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wearing a face mask during a visit to Fort Kinnaird Retail Park in Edinburgh last week.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wearing a face mask during a visit to Fort Kinnaird Retail Park in Edinburgh last week.
Image: Jeff J Mitchell/PA Wire/PA Images

WALES’ FIRST MINISTER Mark Drakeford has described dealing with the UK government over the last few days as “an utterly shambolic experience”.

When asked about the issue of air bridges and border quarantine, Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff today that they were matters for the UK government because the Welsh government is not in charge of border security

“I’ve seen it as our responsibility to put onto the statute book here in Wales the regulations that allow that UK scheme to operate here in Wales,” Drakeford said.

“But dealing with the UK government over the last few days has been an utterly shambolic experience.

“If ever there was an example of making an announcement first and then trying to work out what you meant by it – that is what we have seen since this announcement was first trailed in the press.

“And day after day we have attempted to get a sensible answer from the UK government on how they intend to make these changes, which countries they intend to extend the arrangements to, and I just have to say it’s been an impossible experience to follow.”

Under Westminster’s plan, people arriving in England from 50 countries including Spain, Italy and France will no longer have to isolate upon arrival from 10 July.

Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have not yet agreed to the proposals.

‘Quite challenging’ 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon echoed Drakeford’s sentiments, saying it had been “really quite challenging for Scotland to come to a position” on UK government proposals to lift quarantine restrictions on those flying into the county from other parts of the world.

She said there were “difficult and complex” decisions to be made, and added: “Just to illustrate the point (on) the shifting sands of the UK government’s position – the list of countries that they were yesterday demanding that the Scottish government sign up to, and suggesting we were a barrier to getting an agreement on, is not the same as the list they have shared with us today.”

Speaking at her daily briefing in Edinburgh, she said the Scottish government would need to analyse the proposals “properly and rationally” from both a public health perspective and a legal perspective before coming to their own decision.

“When so much is at stake, as it is right now, we can’t allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of another government’s, to be quite frank, shambolic decision making process.

“So we will take time to properly and rationally consider this before hopefully very soon setting out our own decision,” Sturgeon said.

She added: “We want to welcome visitors again from around the world, and of course we also want to allow our own citizens to travel.

“That is important for our tourism sector, it is important for our aviation sector, and it is important for our economy generally.”

But she stressed: “We must make sure we open our country up again safely and we absolutely must make sure the decisions we take don’t put at risk the progress we have made in tackling Covid.”

She said measures such as requiring those coming into a country to quarantine became “arguably more important” as levels of the virus in Scotland fall.

“When there are low levels of the virus here one of the key risks we have to manage … is the possibility of new cases of the virus coming into Scotland from outside,” she said.

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“That risk is of course greater when people might be coming to Scotland from countries where the virus is still more prevalent than it now is here at home.”

The Scottish government has assessed the prevalence of coronavirus in Scotland is five times lower right now than it is in England, Sturgeon added.

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