Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford accuse Boris Johnson of ‘utterly shambolic’ plan to lift travel quarantine
The Scottish and Welsh first ministers united in their condemnation of Westminster. (PA)
The first ministers of Scotland and Wales have slammed the UK’s government’s “shambolic” plan to ease a 14-day quarantine for people arriving here from overseas.
Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford both took aim at the Westminster administration on Friday as England pressed ahead with allowing travel to some countries without the devolved nations on board.
And both accused the UK government of making last-minute changes to its list of countries deemed safe to travel ahead of its publication on Friday.
But Number 10 defended the “cautious” plans, while Boris Johnson insisted there had been “very good conversations with all the devolved administrations”.
It was confirmed late on Thursday night that arrivals into England from Spain, France, Italy and Germany will no longer need to go into mandatory two-week self-isolation from July 10.
The Foreign Office is also updating its advice warning against “all but essential” international travel to any country, and has now exempted destinations the Government believes “no longer pose an unacceptably high risk of Covid-19”.
If the country someone visits is exempt under the FCO advice, they will no longer have to isolate themselves for 14 days upon their return — a requirement that airlines have argued heaps further pressure on already hard-hit industry.
UK ministers have accused Scotland of dragging its heels on agreeing the list of countries deemed to be less risky under the plan, with the Government publishing its full guidlines on Friday afternoon.
But speaking at their respective press briefings, Ms Sturgeon said it had been “really quite challenging for Scotland to come to a position on the UK proposals with any speed”, while Mr Drakeford accused the UK of putting headlines before policy.
The Scottish first minister said: “We've often had limited or no notice of the UK proposals, and that matters because some of the judgments involved here are difficult and complex.
“And just to illustrate the point about the shifting sands of the UK government's position, the list of countries that they were yesterday demanding that the Scottish Government signed up to and suggesting that we would have a barrier to getting agreement on, is not the same as the list that they have shared with us today.
“So, we need as the Scottish Government to analyse these proposals properly, and rationally, and we need to do that, obviously from a public health perspective.
“But we also need to do that from a legal perspective. All of these decisions are of course potentially open to legal challenge.
“And 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, about it, shambolic decision-making process.”
And Mr Drakeford said: “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.”
'VERY GOOD CONVERSATIONS'
But Mr Johnson downplayed suggestions of a major rift with Wales and Scotland over the proposals, telling LBC radio: “We've actually had very good conversations with all the devolved administrations about this.
“And I'm sure that everybody will work together to make sure people's holidays to those countries — and it's a small list of countries where we're going to have the air bridges... go ahead.“
Meanwhile Number 10 said it had been vital to bring in the quarantine measures in the first place to avoid the UK “importing the virus from overseas at a time when the UK public were doing so much to bring the spread of coronavirus under control”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson added: “The changes which we are making now are cautious and will allow those who want to travel to an exempted country for work or holidays to do so without the need to self-isolate their return.
“It’s for devolved administrations to make and explain their own decisions around the measures that they are putting in place.”
Asked whether the list of green-lit countries shared with the devolved administrations yesterday had been the same as today’s, the spokesperson said: “In terms of the list which we’ll be publishing, that has been developed and continues to be developed by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, working with Public Health England and the chief medical officer for England.”