DESPERATE travel agents are calling on our politicians to order the ramping up of airport testing to keep borders open and save their beleaguered industry.

The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association have become increasingly worried for the future of their sector as more and more countries are taken off the exempt list which means travellers must self-isolate for a fortnight when they return to Scotland.

Croatia, Austria, Switzerland and Trinidad & Tobago were added last week to a long list of countries which includes popular Scottish hotspots Spain and France, with the only crumb of comfort being Portugal has been given a reprieve.

Holidaymakers faced a mad dash yesterday to beat the 4am deadline to beat the cut-off point when they would have to self-isolate on their return to the UK.

And just like for those who were caught out in Spain and France, there were tales of holidaymakers who had to shell out heavy extra costs to return home.

Steve Laws, 53, a company director from Thame in Oxfordshire, branded the situation as “shambolic” after spending £2000 to return from his holiday eight days early with his wife and three children. “There are zero checks at immigration. The process was a complete farce,” he said.

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Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association warned that the situation was critical and advised that Scotland follows the example of other countries in how to deal with travel and the pandemic.

She said: “We’re calling for testing at airports because of the importance of travel to the Scottish economy. Outbound travellers are worth £1.7 billion to Scotland and outbound travel sustains more than 26,000 jobs for our country.

“We understand that there is a cost associated with testing. However, the cost to the UK and Scottish governments of the failure of the travel sector in Scotland with the associated job losses would utterly dwarf the investment in airport testing.

“It seems paradoxical that the majority of drive-through Covid-19 testing centres in Scotland [four out of six] are based at airports [Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Prestwick] but there is no passenger testing at these locations.

“Other countries such as Germany have managed to introduce well-managed testing programmes at airports and are reporting minimal wait times with, for example, no-one in Hamburg waiting more than 30 minutes to be tested.”

She continued: “Even Jersey, which is part of the British Isles, has a testing operation for all arrivals at the airport. We cannot understand why testing does not appear to be being considered in Scotland and seems to be a low priority. A testing regime could potentially reduce the requirement for a 14-day quarantine to a more manageable eight days. Without that, the travel sector in Scotland faces imminent decimation.”

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Glasgow Airport told the Sunday National that testing could make all the difference. A spokesman said: “Blanket quarantine isn’t working and we want to speak to the Government to find the best process for a robust testing process. We need the government input on this. We must work together to develop the best system. There are tests where you can get the results in three minutes, three hours, three days with varying costs.

“Customers who have been asked are saying different things about whether they would pay the extra costs but our point is that let’s find the test before the cost lands on the market.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf reiterated the Scottish Government’s stance that the situation was constantly in flux and that travellers should be aware of this if they choose to travel abroad.

He said: “We will not hesitate to take the action we consider necessary to safeguard public health in Scotland recognising that the level of risk across the four nations may lead to different decisions. As I have said previously, we do not make these decisions lightly but suppressing the virus and protecting public health is vital.”