The First Minister reiterated concerns that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland considered afterthought in key discussions on COVID-19 travel changes
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has attacked the central UK government in a recent press conference, outlining the perceived lack of consultation between the Westminster government and the parliamentary bodies of the other 3 nations regarding COVID-19 travel restriction policies.
UK foreign travel restrictions have been reconsidered, with UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announcing on July third, from today (July tenth), visitors from Spain, France, Italy, and Germany will be exempt from fourteen day self-quarantine measures upon entering the UK.
A further 27 European countries are exempt, alongside another 32 countries globally and including fourteen British overseas territories.
Essentially the UK has opened up travel to a great deal of people worldwide once more.
Sturgeon, alongside Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, have condemned the UK government for its “shambolic” handing of travel restrictions, in particular with regards to Westminster’s lack of consultation with the rest of the UK.
In the press conference, Sturgeon outlined how “…often the UK government’s attitude to four nations discussions appears to be that they make the decision and the other three nations just come along to rubber stamp the decisions [instead of] a proper discussion based on shared evidence and information.”
Sturgeon also echoed sentiments from scientific experts and medical advisory bodies by illustrating how her own government could be potentially sued if they are not attempting to control every pathway in which COVID-19 could be spread.
Sowing further seeds of dissonance and disagreement within the UK over a litany of concerns.
However, Transport Secretary Shapps and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have insisted all three governments have been closely consulted.
Shapps said the list of exemptions was devised with advice from the joint biosecurity centre, which includes the chief medical officers of all four UK administrations.
It is unclear whether this has been confirmed as no official spokesperson has commented on the chief medical officers perspectives on this specific issue of consultation.
Nor have any chief medical officers given statements about their involvement in the decision to lift the travel bans.
We have observed how, although taking their cues from Westminster, leaders around the UK have dealt with COVID-19 in differing ways, with Scotland delaying many Westminster announcements and lockdown adjustments by weeks.
There is clear parliamentary conflict about the rate at which lockdown restrictions are being lifted, a concern which has the world in a vice like grip, with calls being made that polarise the fight against COVID-19 as one of economics, normality, and business vs human safety.
Sturgeon has stated that the Scottish government would accept lifting or adjusting quarantine travel restrictions for low-risk countries but is nervous about doing so for those that were medium risk.
Those decisions will be confirmed next week, with Scotland expected to typically follow Westminster’s travel ban liftings.
The disagreements over travel echo earlier problems facing the UK, with concerns over the English/Scottish border still ruminating after Sturgeon indicated that English travellers could face restrictions at the Scottish border given the higher rate of infections reported.
In the face of local lockdowns, climbing infection rates and fears of a so called ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 (realistically it is doubtful if we ever fought off the ‘first wave’ to even get to a ‘second wave’) it is apparent to this writer that there is a conflict between safety and COVID-19 prevention, and economic stability.
A complex argument that although would seem like an easy question to answer is proving to be a tough call for nations worldwide, with no clear answer.
Feature Image Credit: Andrew Cowan, Scottish Parliament