Passengers flying into Edinburgh being bussed to Glasgow for quarantine despite Covid transmission risk

Georgina Hayes
·5-min read
The Daily Telegraph understands that passengers arriving into Edinburgh will be taken to Glasgow until at least Friday - PA
The Daily Telegraph understands that passengers arriving into Edinburgh will be taken to Glasgow until at least Friday - PA

Passengers arriving into Edinburgh Airport who have to quarantine are being bussed to a hotel in Glasgow to serve their isolation period there, prompting accusations that SNP ministers are flying in the face of the public health advice they claim to be following.

The Daily Telegraph understands that passengers arriving into Edinburgh will be taken to Glasgow until at least Friday, despite the Scottish Government claiming last month that it’s “essential” that quarantine hotel rooms are near the place of arrival to “minimise the risk of transmission from airport to hotel”.

"It is quite surprising that the small number of passengers arriving into Edinburgh are then being bussed fifty miles across the country to Glasgow, only to make that same return journey at the end of the managed isolation period – and these journeys come at an additional public cost in an already expensive policy,” an Edinburgh Airport spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph.

“We would have thought that a shorter journey in an enclosed environment would be preferable, especially when a further two hotels in Edinburgh have already been reserved but now lie completely empty. It highlights more issues with a policy which has already created confusion for airlines, airports and passengers."

The Scottish Government’s policy, which requires all people arriving in Scotland from outside the British Isles to quarantine in hotels at a cost of £1750, has been heavily criticised after official figures showed that fewer than one in seven people travelling into the country from abroad are being forced to isolate in the hotels. This is because hundreds have been able to exploit a loophole in the controversial system which allows them to skip quarantine if they catch a connecting flight from within the UK first.

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When asked in Parliament on Tuesday about a merchant seaman who arrived at Edinburgh Airport being bussed to Paisley, Nicola Sturgeon said she was “not aware” of an inadequacy of rooms in Edinburgh but will “look into it”.

Responding to the latest controversy, opposition parties have accused SNP ministers of presiding over a “clueless” and “shambolic” policy.

Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Alex Rowley said: “The SNP Government's hotel quarantining rollout has been clueless from the start.

“When they finally implemented the policy several months too late, it was full of errors and loopholes that have left travellers bewildered about rules and £1750 out of pocket. Now they have backtracked and are bussing passengers from Edinburgh to Glasgow as there aren’t enough quarantine hotel rooms in Edinburgh, showing yet more incompetent planning.

“The Scottish Government must get a handle on its haphazard travel strategies. No more surprises - they must be honest and clearly lay out once and for all what passengers can expect when they arrive in Scotland.”

Scottish Conservative shadow transport spokesman Graham Simpson accused the SNP’s restrictions of lurching from “one shambles to another”

“This is yet another blunder that clearly could have been avoided if SNP Ministers had fully consulted with airports before putting their policy into practice.

“They are flying in the face of the public health advice they claimed to be following by now bussing these passengers between two of Scotland’s major cities. To not have enough hotels booked in Edinburgh is a failure from the SNP to make sure basic details were carried out.

“SNP ministers must be upfront about why yet another significant error has been made in relation to their quarantine policy. With each passing week, it is threatening to completely unravel.”

Nicola Sturgeon's hotel quarantine policy goes further than England's - PA
Nicola Sturgeon's hotel quarantine policy goes further than England's - PA

It comes as Mark Johnston, Chief Operating Officer of AGS airports, warned a Holyrood committee that Nicola Sturgeon’s failure to give an indicative road map of lockdown easing means that airlines may move their capacity down south.

“That’s the challenge we have with the different policies that are in place and the loophole that effectively exists,” he said.

“The UK Government has set out a road map for coming out of the restrictions, albeit there’s heavy caveats on the dates where those things might occur, but at least there is a road map with prescriptive triggers.”

He added: “There are lots of people booking flights down there, and anecdotally we hear from the airlines the potential that they will move their capacity down south because there’s effectively no light at the end of the tunnel or road map in Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The managed isolation system has been designed to flex to meet varying demand and some travellers arriving in Edinburgh over the next few days will be accommodated at the Glasgow hotel to avoid opening an additional hotel and incurring additional costs. This approach is similar to the UK Government’s approach of transporting travellers from Manchester to Birmingham and is considered to be the most cost-effective method of responding to short-term peaks in numbers.

“Passengers are delivered door to door from the airport to the site of quarantine to minimise the risk of transmission during the transfer from airport to hotel. We have been repeatedly clear that room capacity is kept under constant review and will be scaled up or down as circumstances require. On completion of their period in Managed Isolation guests are offered transport back to their airport of arrival.

“To manage the risk of importing new variants, and to give vaccine deployment the best chance of bringing us closer to normality, these limits on international travel are necessary."