Industry leaders warn Scottish aviation is being left behind on COVID-19 testing
A Test to Release scheme is launched in England, but there is no such scheme in Scotland, despite persistent calls from aviation industry leaders.
AGS Airports, Edinburgh Airport and Airlines UK, the industry association representing UK-registered airlines, have warned that Scottish aviation is being left behind due to the lack of a testing strategy. They have called on the Scottish government to make urgent progress on the introduction of an effective testing regime that will enable the safe restart of aviation and protect thousands of jobs.
It comes as the Test to Release scheme for international travel is launched in England. From 15 December, passengers arriving into England are able to reduce mandatory quarantine by at least a week by taking a COVID-19 test after five days of quarantine. A negative result will release them from the need to self-isolate.
Passengers can book and pay for a COVID-19 test from a private provider on an approved government list, ensuring the NHS Test and Trace testing capacity is protected.
The Test to Release scheme was welcomed by industry which described it as a step in the right direction, and one that offered light at the end of the tunnel. There is no similar strategy in place for Scotland.
Derek Provan, Chief Executive of AGS Airports which owns Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, said: “Today, airports and airlines in England can start making plans to safely restart international travel and get the aviation industry moving again. There are no such plans in place for Scotland. We now risk being left behind as airlines will opt to relocate their aircraft and with them what’s left of our connectivity and the jobs that rely on them.
“We have been calling for the introduction of a testing regime for months and despite putting proposals in front of the Scottish government, we’re no further forward. We can’t have a piecemeal approach when it comes to reopening aviation, which is why we need to see urgent progress from the Scottish government on the introduction of testing which needs to go hand-in-hand with the vaccination roll-out.”
Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said: “The introduction of Test to Release in England is a huge step forward for the aviation industry which has been decimated by the pandemic and has never had the chance to enter recovery. Reducing the quarantine period by more than half will help to open up more markets and provides a good platform for further discussions with the government about making use of advances in testing to get rid of quarantine altogether. That Scotland has failed to put in place a testing regime at all – not even a trial – is hugely disappointing and somewhat at odds with its status as an aviation nation, and it does place Scottish airports at a serious competitive disadvantage.”
A spokesperson for Edinburgh Airport said: “Airports and airlines across Europe continue to plan for the safe restart of aviation, and it is incredibly disappointing that Scotland has decided not to take its seat at that table. Instead we are operating in the worst of both worlds – a competitive landscape where Scotland stands alone and is left behind.
“Having no plan has immediate and long-term issues as airlines have already stated that divergence will lead them to relocate their aircraft elsewhere, taking with them jobs and hard-won connectivity.
“Scottish airports have presented plans shown to improve on the current quarantine system to the Scottish government. These plans are being considered by Ministers and we hope they will lead to a pilot.
“We reiterate our call for an immediate and clear plan from the Scottish government that introduces testing at the border in tandem with the vaccination programme.”