‘WHEN can we have holidays abroad again?” This question from journalists comes time and time again in TV briefings, but I don’t think many people care so much about sunbathing in Spain or road trips in Italy in the next few months.

Most people understand that travelling outside the UK will likely be limited for the best part of the year. Even those for whom this represents an extra hurdle: the international citizens of Scotland.

Yes, we decided to build a life here, far from our families, and very well knew the consequences of that choice even in normal times. Yes, we want to do the right thing, make sacrifices just like the rest of the country, because, we want life to go back to some degree of normality soon, and the lockdown, as necessary as it may be, has been long and difficult. Yes, we were fine with the two weeks of quarantine, because it made sense. We did all of this because it was normal, and with the hope that we too could reconnect with our loved ones at some point this year.

Then came the hotel quarantine policy.

Requiring people to stay in managed isolation has been recommended since the beginning of the pandemic: experts say this is the most effective way to ensure travellers do not import new cases and new strains that might evade immunity provided by vaccines. However, requiring travellers to pay more than £1700 is a political decision that will put those of us who have significant parts of our lives outside of these borders at a huge disadvantage.

This may not be a very popular opinion. But consider this: most people in Scotland can expect to see their loved ones at some point over the next few weeks … without breaking the bank. The prospect of having to pay more than twice my monthly rent in quarantine makes that prospect vanish for a lot of international citizens, potentially for a long, long time.

The anxiety is real among international residents in Scotland. After asking people on Twitter how they felt after the announcement of the policy a couple of weks ago, I was inundated by messages, mostly saying: “I hope nothing tragic happens to my family back home because I can’t afford quarantine.”

What brought many of us some hope and solace in the past few months was to think that when the situation becomes safer here in Scotland and where our families are, we could make plans to see our relatives, even with quarantine requirements and Covid tests. What prevents the majority of us from making these plans in the future isn’t the unwillingness to respect the rules, but the cost.

All we can wish for now is that the policy will be tweaked – not to create exemptions, but to take into account the different circumstances facing people on these shores.

Clearly, there is room for improvement as this puts many people in impossible situations. If the government is unwilling to consider the fact that many people want to travel not for leisure, but for the essential need to see family, then what is it telling us? That we are “valued and appreciated”, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has often said since Brexit, but family isn’t as essential for us as it is for those who were born and bred in Scotland? Is that really a message the Scottish government wants to send? This really is a matter of empathy and understanding.

Of course, we are not supposed to be travelling now anyway, except for imperative reasons.

However, it would be good to know that the government is aware of this issue potentially affecting 9% of Scotland’s population, and will go back to the drawing board to imagine a more sensible, more compassionate policy – not to offer a preferential treatment, but to show that all the voices of Scotland are indeed valued and appreciated.