Scotland’s islands will reopen to travellers later this month, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Sturgeon on Tuesday (13 April) said the Scottish government was committed to consulting with island communities about how and when they emerge from long-standing Covid restrictions.
"I set out previously that we would consult with island communities about whether, from 26 April, they wanted to move down to level two [of Scotland’s Covid restrictions] – which the data would justify – even though that would necessitate keeping travel restrictions to and from the mainland in place to avoid the risk of cases being imported to and spreading within the islands," said Sturgeon.
"Or, alternatively, whether they preferred to stay at level three with the rest of the country for a further three weeks to enable the lifting of travel restrictions and the opening of tourism and hospitality to visitors."
Confirming the latter, Sturgeon said she accepted there was no "universal opinion". "Based on the balance of opinion, we have decided on the latter option – aligning islands with the rest of the country for a period so that travel, and therefore parts of the economy that so many islanders rely on, can operate more normally from 26 April," said the first minister.
The move has been welcomed by Scottish regional carrier Loganair. Chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said: "We are heartened to see the Scottish government has set out a path to the safe reopening of travel and tourism to and from Scotland’s islands – a move which has been made possible by the tremendous progress on the Covid vaccination programme.
"It is great news and can’t come a moment too soon for the parts of our islands’ economies, which are hugely dependent on tourism. As the airline that has served island communities for more than 50 years, and which remains fully committed to what is our heartland, we are very much looking forward to supporting this reopening."
Hinkles added air tickets were now on sale for all of Loganair’s island destinations, and that customers would be protected by the carrier’s Flex and Protect policy allowing them to rearrange their travel free of charge if the rules change again.