THE Scottish Government has hit back at claims it has been delaying plans to relax travel restrictions, calling them “completely unfounded”.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps appeared to suggest this was the case in the House of Commons yesterday.

The National reported at the weekend that news of the “air bridge” plan had come as a surprise to the Scottish Government when talk of it had arisen in the media.

Nicola Sturgeon criticised the UK Government for failing to consult her ahead of announcing proposed changes to the regime.

On Monday, she said she wanted to “take a bit of time to consider the public health impact” of the plan and the evidence underpinning it. But when SNP transport spokesman Gavin Newlands raised his concerns on aviation workers being “fired and rehired on slashed terms and conditions”, Shapps responded that “fair play” needs to be guaranteed for employees.

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He then added: “I would say to the honourable gentleman, I’d appreciate his help in ensuring that air bridges can get going as quickly as possible.

I’m very keen to get the devolved administrations, including the Scottish Government, on board so we can get this thing announced.”

He urged another SNP MP, Philippa Whitford, to “ask the Scottish Government to join with us in ensuring we can have these air bridges in place nationwide as quickly as possible”.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf hit back at Shapps’ comments.

“This suggestion is completely unfounded,” he said.

“We have sought, as far as possible, a four-nations approach to this issue, but such a policy requires meaningful consultation by the UK Government – something which has so far been lacking.”

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The First Minister took to Twitter to say that the claims were a “misrepresentation of the position”, adding that it was “disappointing but sadly not surprising”.

Referring to her tweet, Yousaf further called Shapps out, saying: “A complete mispresentation by @grantshapps.

“Despite asking for a call with UK Government all of last week on this issue we were told on Friday night ... the details would be in Saturday’s press.

“Meeting due with UK Government yesterday at 6pm, at 5.30pm they sent through updated list of countries they wanted to announce.

“Original list we considered had 15 countries green and 27 amber risk – with 30 mins notice, [they] asked us to decide upon updated list [of] 40 countries green and 33 amber risk.

“I told them we clearly were not going to agree until our CMO and other advisors could consider updated list.

“There was also an agreement between all four nations that we should revisit the date of any announcement to take into account route map milestones of each nation.”

A Welsh government source said communication with London on the matter had been “patchy”, saying that they are awaiting “confirmation of a planned four-nation ministerial meeting ahead of any announcement being made”

People arriving in the UK – including returning residents – are currently required to self-isolate for a fortnight to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The UK Government is expected to announce a list of countries which will be exempt from the restrictions this week, but so far details have not been published.

Reports have suggested that as many as 75 countries could be exempted from the quarantine restrictions, based on their Covid-19 situation, when the list is finally published.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the list will lift the Foreign Office ban on non-essential travel to nearly all EU destinations, the British territories including Bermuda and Gibraltar, as well as Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.