JOHN Swinney has urged Scots to exercise "due caution" as international flights resume under the new traffic light system.

The Covid Recovery Secretary said international travel is only currently permitted for essential reasons.

Scotland has now moved to the traffic light system for international travel, with those returning from green list countries required to take a coronavirus test while avoiding the 10-day quarantine period.

Those coming from amber list countries must isolate at home for 10 days and those arriving from red list countries must undertake a 10-day quarantine in a hotel when they get to Scotland.

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Swinney spoke about the new rules on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

He said that "not all" reasons people travel is about going on holiday, adding that some people have been unable to see family for some time.

Swinney said: "We're trying to create pathways for essential travel but our advice to people is that they should observe that essential travel element. We should not be undertaking non-essential international travel at this particular time."

The first international flight from Scotland since travel restrictions were relaxed set off from Edinburgh Airport this morning headed for Faro in the Algarve region of Portugal.

About 120 passengers were on board the 6am flight - mostly holidaymakers as well as some returning to second homes for the first time in a year.

Asked about the fact many flights to popular holiday destinations are resuming, the Deputy First Minister added: “People have got to make their choices, we do live in a free society and we are trying to enable people to get back to some form of normality after a period of severe constraint.

“But we are appealing to people, given the fragility of the situation we are in, to exercise due caution and to take steps which will minimise the risk of any circulation of the virus and to minimise travel that is not absolutely essential in the coming period.”

Swinney said that while there is optimism around the success of the vaccine roll-out in Scotland, he cautioned that we do need to "tread carefully" due to developing variants of Covid-19, including the so-called Indian variant.

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He added that the B1617.2 (Indian) variant of the virus is going to become the new dominant strain in Scotland and we do not yet know the full picture of what will happen in future with other variants.

Swinney said: "We have to continue to exercise caution, although there are very encouraging signs that the measures we've put in place, the levels of compliance and the success of the vaccination programme are putting us in a stronger position."

He added that any decision to change rules around travel will be based on clinical advice.

Nicola Sturgeon announced an easing of international travel restrictions earlier this month.

From today, the Scottish Government is also imposing temporary restrictions on travel to three areas in England which are dealing with outbreaks.

These are Bedford, Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen.