THE First Minister has set out further detail on why the Scottish Government is yet to agree to the UK’s plans to relax overseas travel restrictions.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, after ministers said it was “disappointing” that the UK was going ahead with its plans to abandon quarantine rules for those coming in from at least 50 other nations without coming to a four-nations agreement, Nicola Sturgeon explained more about the “shifting sands” of Westminster’s position.

The SNP leader stressed she wants to see alignment with the rest of the UK on non-essential overseas travel rules, but that Scotland has to be reopened safely.

Yesterday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pinned blame on the Scottish Government for delays in getting the new rules, which had been due to be in place from July 6, made public.

Sturgeon rejected the claims – while Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Government hadn’t been given adequate time to consider the proposals.

Speaking this afternoon she said: “As you know, the UK Government has announced a list of countries that it intends to remove from quarantine restrictions in relation to travel to England from July 10.

“Now I explained yesterday some of the reasons why it has been really quite challenging for Scotland to come to a position on the UK’s proposals with any speed. We’ve often had limited or no notice of the UK’s proposals and that matters because some of the judgements involved here are difficult and complex.

“Just to illustrate the point about the shifting sands of the UK Government’s position – the list of countries that they were yesterday demanding the Scottish Government signed up to, and suggesting we were a barrier to getting agreement on, is not the same as the list that they have shared with us today.”

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She went on to say the Scottish Government needs to analyse the proposals from a public health perspective as well as a legal perspective before they can make any decisions.

She went on: “And when so much is at stake as it is right now, we cannot allow ourselves to get dragged along in the wake of another government’s, to be quite frank about, shambolic decision-making process. So we will take time to properly and rationally consider this before hopefully very soon setting out our own decision.”

The First Minister reiterated that she wants to welcome visitors from around the world – and allow our own citizens to travel abroad – because it is important for the tourism and aviation sectors, and the economy generally.

But she stressed: “We must make sure we open our country up again safely. And we absolutely must make sure that the decisions we take don’t put at risk the progress that we have made in tackling Covid.

“Measures such as quarantine, they become arguably more important, not less, as levels of the virus here in Scotland reduce. And that’s because when there are low levels of the virus here, one of the key risks we have to manage … is the possibility of new cases of the virus coming into Scotland from outside. That risk is of course greater when people might be coming to Scotland from countries where the virus is still more prevalent than it now is here at home.”

The First Minister then explained a further added factor was the differences in prevalence of the virus across the UK – she says the Scottish Government estimates Covid-19 levels in Scotland are five times lower than in England, and added Northern Ireland faces a similar challenge.

She said it would be “very likely” that Scotland will agree with the UK Government on a list of safe countries – but added she would need to take “particular care” on medium-risk countries.

Sturgeon concluded that if you’re desperate to get on holiday, consider booking in Scotland to give support to our tourism sector at a crucial time.