Border checks could be introduced to stop travellers entering Scotland by landing elsewhere in the UK, Jeane Freeman has warned.
The health secretary said “serious thought” was being given on how to close the loophole caused by the Scottish and UK Governments taking different approaches to self-isolation rules for travellers.
All international arrivals in Scotland will be expected to enter one of six quarantine hotels for a period of 10 days from Monday, with limited exceptions for essential workers.
In England, only travellers arriving from so-called “red list” countries will need to quarantine, which means someone flying in from elsewhere could land in England and then cross the border into Scotland themselves without the need to self-isolate – and avoiding the £1,750 hotel accommodation fee that goes with it.
Discussions between the two governments are ongoing, but Freeman said Scotland may need to look at other options to prevent Covid-19 from being imported into the country.
But Scots Tory leader Douglas Ross said he was concerned by the “drip, drip” of updates to travel restrictions and possible border checks.
The MP saId speculation “just spreads real fear and uncertainty” and called on both the Scottish and UK Governments to work together to resolve any issues.
Standing in for Nicola Sturgeon at today’s media briefing, Freeman said: “We continue to discuss with the UK Government because we think their approach, which confines itself to the red zone areas, is insufficient and we continue to work with them to try and persuade them that they should adopt the tougher stance that we’re adopting.
“However while we do that, we do have to give serious thought to the options that may be available to us.
“Many will enter the UK via the major airport hubs in London, Manchester and elsewhere and will then travel to Scotland.
“So we will need to work through with the UK Government how that will be managed, how we will know that and if there is a need for other measures at the border. Of course that is an operational issue for our chief constable, he will be giving that come consideration but the decision around that should remain with him.”
Freeman also used the briefing to reiterate that Scottish ministers are disappointed tighter regulations have not been put in place in England.
She said: “It’s deeply disappointing that as part of a family of equals, one partner isn’t prepared to help the other partner enforce the policy that they think is the right policy for the people they represent.
“The discussions will continue, because we are, as we have always been, keen where we can to reach a four-nation approach to deal with a virus that doesn’t respect boundaries and borders.
“But in the meantime, we will work through what the options are to mitigate where the UK Government stance creates a loophole in what the Scottish Government believes is exactly the right thing to do.
“The best solution is actually for all four nations of the UK to agree that the right way to do this, as other countries have done, is to make sure that all international arrivals have to undertake managed quarantine.”
With the regulations due to come into effect on Monday, the broad rules around who needs to quarantine, how they can do so and how much they will need to pay are known, but finer details still remain unresolved.
When asked about the plans yet to be finalised, the SNP minister said: “The rules will be finalised in time, I can’t be clearer than that I’m afraid because these discussions are important discussions and they need to work their way through, but everyone is very conscious of Monday and are working really hard to make sure the rules are finalised in time, not only in time for Monday, but in time for people to know and understand them.”
Responding to the briefing, Ross told the BBC: “I am concerned by the drip, drip into the media, without actually giving any solid answers, just spreads real fear and uncertainty.
“I know my colleagues that represent constituencies along the border – Alister Jack, David Mundell, and John Lamont – have got constituents who are really worried about whether they are OK to cross the border to go to work or go to a doctor’s appointment.
“There’s lots of issues being raised at a local level.”