Pilots union Balpa has criticised Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s stance on green list destinations, stating there must be "good reason" to keep countries off the list.
Sturgeon on Tuesday (11 May) confirmed Scotland would adopt a traffic light system and allow international travel to restart from 17 May, although she urged Scots to think carefully about any international plans and to, ideally, holiday at home at home this year.
Scotland’s initial green list will mirror England’s, opening up Portugal, Israel, Iceland and Gibraltar in just under a week’s time. Ryanair has already committed to putting on an extra 20,000 Portugal flights from Scotland.
However, Sturgeon said green list status should be "the exception, not the rule" and that there would need to be "good reason" to add a country to the green list; by contrast, Balpa said there needed to be good reason to keep a country off.
“This mindset needs to change," said Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton. "Our vaccination programme is going exceptionally well, and people are desperate to take advantage of their jabs and jet off."
Strutton said future green list revisions should take account of vaccination efforts. "Countries like the US, where vaccination rates are very high, should be opened up immediately and other should be opened as soon as possible," he said.
“Amber and red should only be used when there is a good reason to stop people from travelling – they should absolutely not be the default option."
In a joint statement reflecting on the first minister’s announcement, Airlines UK, the trade body for UK registered airlines, AGS Airports and Edinburgh airport said while lifting the country’s travel ban was a step in the right direction, it was a "missed opportunity" with so few countries making the green list.
"We are again in the position of being a week away from a major change to operations and are waiting on details of how the Scottish government wants this to work and how it will be managed," they said. "We need that detail as soon as possible to allow everyone to understand what is required."
The partners said the Scottish government must now work with the sector to help make testing more affordable and ensure it doesn’t become a barrier to those who need and want to travel.
"We would also encourage government to take advantage of the vaccination roll-out to open up many more green countries in the EU at the new review point in three weeks, as the EU themselves have proposed, and to work where possible as the four nations to ensure consistency and avoid confusion for operators and passengers," they said.
"The Scottish government must also be very clear about when and how we can encourage visitors from green list countries to try and save the thousands of jobs in Scotland that depend on international travellers."