Tourist businesses want FM to rule out closing border

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today written to the First Minister to warn that hotels and holiday lets are facing cancellations from English holidaymakers as a result of what one tourism business described as the “ever present threat of a quarantine on visitors from south of the border.”

In his letter he called for the First Minister to ensure that support schemes for the tourist and hospitality industry are extended so as to support the sector throughout its recovery and to use her next press conference to make clear that a nationwide quarantine of people from the rest of the UK will not happen.

Willie Rennie commented:

"The threat of cross-border quarantine is taking a real financial toll on hard-hit small businesses across Scotland.

"Constituents have been in touch with me to report losing thousands of pounds worth of bookings from English visitors who are thinking twice about venturing North. 

"We will of course have to be responsive to any flare-ups or cluster outbreaks of the virus. But this blanket threat is harming our tourism sector in a critical, and already cut short, season."

The text of the letter can be found below:

Dear First Minister,

This week I have been contacted by a number of tourism businesses who have seen holidaymakers from England cancelling their reservations this week in the wake of your comments on The Andrew Marr Show.

Quoting from one such business:

"I understand and accept the principle of local lockdowns but the Scottish Government’s suggestion that the whole of England could count as a local lockdown is directly damaging our very fragile tourist industry."

I and many others appreciated your comments that protestors at the border were “not sensible or helpful”, but the failure to categorically rule out such a whole-countryquarantine is having a real-world impact on businesses who have already lost much of their busiest season.

Even at the height of community transmission, the prospect of closing the border between Scotland and the rest of the UK was not discussed as a serious public health solution. Similarly, we have seen several months in which people arriving at Scotland’s ports and airports have not been subject to testing.

The reaction of the Scottish Government to concerns about this, such as the quote below, are fuelling unhelpful speculation and causing people to decide to cancel travel unnecessarily:

"There are many, many parts of the world right now, where particular parts of the country have internal borders closed to other parts of the country because of a desire to stop this virus spreading..."

As you know I have been supportive of the government using local, targeted measures to tackle community outbreaks, suppress the virus and avoid the need for another national lockdown.

I hope you will give some much-needed confidence to holidaymakers and tourism businesses and use your next press conference to make clear that a quarantine on those from the rest of the UK will not be introduced.

I would also like to use this opportunity to ask:

  1. What measures are being put in place to ensure that those tourism and hospitality businesses that are unable to reopen or are suffering due to a downturn in demand are supported?
  2. Whether compensation or financial support will be made available for those businesses which have to suspend activity due to either outbreaks of coronavirus or staff and guests needing to self-isolate?

Yours sincerely, 

Willie Rennie

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