THE Scottish Border should be policed to prevent day trippers and holiday makers entering or leaving if lockdown measures are lifted in England before Scotland, according to SNP MP Angus MacNeil.

He spoke out in the wake of a report that senior police officers believe Police Scotland would have to take action if there are different rules on movement.

Fears are growing that there may be an influx of people from England if newspaper reports that Boris Johnson will ease lockdown restrictions in England this week prove accurate.

Residents of the Scottish Borders are already claiming that some holiday cottages in the area are occupied and one self-catering property owner in St Andrews responded positively to an inquiry from the Sunday National about whether his apartments were available to rent this month.

Most of the larger websites offering self catering accommodation, however, say they will only take bookings from the beginning of June.

At the beginning of the lockdown, many people tried to travel to their second homes in rural areas, prompting worries that they would put too much strain on communities with a limited number of food outlets and poorly serviced by health facilities.

Now MacNeil has said the Border might have to be policed if, as has been briefed to newspapers south of the Border, the Scottish Government and Westminster policies on easing the lockdown diverge.

He warned: “If England opens up too soon they are heading for another downturn because England, like Scotland, has no idea about the asymptomatic in their midst. If people move and mix more the virus is going to spread.

“On the Irish border the guards are there to make sure people are not moving and it may be the case that we have to do the same at the Scottish border. Policing the borders would not be impossible to do. It is already being done for the islands.

“On the whole most people are being good. A few make it through on the ferries but are booted back.”

The National:

He said that if restrictions were eased in England some Scots could decide to go for jaunts south of the Border.

“That is another risk as they might want to go to England to enjoy the freedom but they could take the virus to England or bring it back with them. For the good of both populations, the Scottish Border should be policed for day trippers or those whose trips are non-essential if the English decide they want to ease up. Most people use the A1 or the A74 so it would be easy enough to do.”

Easing the lockdown now would be very difficult, MacNeil said.

“To be blunt we have wasted the lockdown by not following positive leads,” he said. “We should have been contact tracing and testing.”

SNP MP Ian Blackford said it was “imperative” that non-essential travel was forbidden.

He said the worst scenario would be to ease up the lockdown too soon and allow for a second peak of the deadly virus.

“Any decision taken on lockdown restrictions must be based on scientific and medical advice,” he said.

“Whilst many people might want to travel to the tourist areas during the better weather, it is imperative that non-essential travel is not permitted. Travelling to a rural area not only increases the risk of infection for local people, but it puts pressure on local amenities and healthcare. In my own community of Skye we have had a devastating and heartbreaking outbreak of Covid-19.

“What is important is that we save lives – tourism will return when it is safe to welcome people.”

Maree Todd, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands said the advice to stay at home had not changed.

“I understand there is a high level of concern over people potentially travelling to the Highlands should there be any difference in lockdown restrictions south of the Border,” she said.

“However, it’s important to remember that the reports of the UK Government altering restrictions is nothing more than speculation at the moment.

“At this stage, the advice remains the same. We need everyone to stay at home and help save lives and protect our NHS.

“In terms of holiday accommodation, the rules are clear – all holiday lets should be closed except in certain circumstances and there should be no unnecessary travel. We must continue to protect our rural communities from the risks of Covid-19, therefore, this will not change until it is safe to do so.

“Any decisions taken in Scotland will be made in the interest of tackling the virus and saving lives.”

The National:

Despite the briefings to newspapers last week Westminster politicians have suggested any lifting of lockdown restrictions announced today by the Prime Minister will not be major.

Traffic to the VisitScotland website is three times higher than this time last year, rising from 800 visits per day this time last year to 2600 visits per day over the past week.

A two-year-old post of Luskentyre beach on Harris has also suddenly began trending again on social media, resulting in a peculiar peak on Sunday, April 26, according to the organisation’s research.

A spokesperson for VisitScotland said the pandemic had “completely devastated” the tourism industry, impacting on jobs, people’s wellbeing and future investment but it was “crucially important” for people to continue to follow the guidelines if the industry was to recover in the long term, as well as ensure the safety of the population.

He added: “We do not know how long this unprecedented situation will last and it is too early to say what the sector will look like in the coming months, but we have a resilient industry in Scotland, sustaining many communities and we believe tourism will be a key part of the economic recovery.

“We’re already building a plan to stimulate that recovery which will be implemented as soon as things improve, and restrictions are lifted across the entire country.”

VisitScotland CEO Malcolm Roughead said it was hoped the domestic market could re-emerge in the autumn if the pattern is similar in Scotland to those in other countries.

Day trips would provide the “first green shoots of recovery”, he said, and encouraging those living in the UK to holiday in Scotland would be the first leisure campaign the organisation would run – but it would be coordinated to ensure maximise geographic spread across the country.

Roughead said international visitors would probably not return in any number until next year and restrictions at airports, on transport and at borders would make it harder for people to travel.

He stressed that communities would also have to feel safe and secure about visitors returning to their areas and agencies involved in tourism would have to ensure demand was managed effectively.

“Equally, the economic and social importance of tourism will need to be resold to those areas,” he said.

“As we recover, we will all need to apply a new perspective on destination, development and community engagement.”

Roughead said there was a chance now to think about how the industry could be restarted with “responsible tourism” at its heart.

“Sustainable initiatives will emphasise that this new perspective for tourism can deliver environmental benefits as well as bring social and economic advantages for the whole destination,” he said.

He added that the events industry would take longer to recover, with mass gatherings “a real and perceived issue” for consumers.

A survey conducted near the start of the lockdown by VisitScotland found that the predicted average length for survival of a business without support was three months.

The majority of respondents claimed to have lost up to £50,000, with some claiming losses of substantially more.

However, VisitBritain tracking research in terms of UK holiday intentions post-lockdown has found that Scotland is cited as a top destination.

Rural locations outstrip urban locations, with “rural /coastline” topping the list overall.

Only three in 10 say they would prefer a city or large town destination – despite “the city break” traditionally being the most preferred type of domestic short break.

The research also showed that the majority of the GB population who have planned a holiday from July to September, whether domestic or overseas, believe it unlikely to go ahead.

A minority of the population who have cancelled holidays are looking to replace them but these replacement holidays are most likely to be from October onward.

Those looking to replace an overseas holiday with a domestic holiday are more likely to be families, and aged 35-54 years old.

Those looking to replace a domestic holiday with another domestic holiday are more likely to be aged 55 plus.

The Tourism Destination and Sector Support Fund is providing financial help to tourism destination and sector organisations across Scotland who have lost income from membership subscriptions from tourism businesses because of the coronavirus lockdown.

The fund, which is a one-off programme, is open to all groups that have a membership base made up of entirely or predominantly tourism businesses and will award up to 50% of membership income that is under threat due to coronavirus. Over £400,000 is available to applicants and interested groups. Applications must be made by May 22.