Nicola Sturgeon reveals key dates for easing travel and holiday rules

Northern link: the Forth Bridge (Simon Calder)

Northern link: the Forth Bridge (Simon Calder)

Domestic tourism will be permitted in Scotland from 26 April.

Scotland will lift its near-nationwide “stay at home” order on 2 April, and initially, for at least three weeks, the guidance will be to “stay local”.

The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, told MSPs that according to an “indicative timeline” of 26 April, restrictions on journeys within mainland Scotland will be lifted and tourist accommodation will open.

Museums, galleries and hotels will also open.

Links with other UK nations will also be possible from 26 April “or very shortly afterwards”.

But Ms Sturgeon said that international travel may well not open until some time after 17 May.

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Non-essential retail and hairdressers will begin to open from 5 April.

The first minister said the “significant reduction” of cases over the past few weeks allowed some relaxation. The number of Covid deaths in the past two weeks has halved.

“We have now vaccinated almost all over-65-year-olds,” Ms Sturgeon said.

Almost two million Scottish residents have been vaccinated, with a rate of 400,000 jabs expected into April.All nine priority groups, including everyone over 50, are hoped to have been offered vaccinations by 15 April.

But the first minister played down the reopening of large-scale tourism – in particular, the foreign visitors who normally provide a large slice of revenue for Scottish enterprises.

She said that international travel is likely to be “one of the last things that changes” because of a continuing risk of importing new variants to Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said she continued to urge the government in London to extend hotel quarantine to all international arrivals – as Scotland does.

Many travellers from abroad to Scotland are arriving at English airports and going north to avoid the need to pay £1,750 for an 11-night stay in a hotel.

The sequence of events is out of step with England.

Under the terms of the prime minister’s roadmap, the stay at home rule for England is set to be lifted on 29 March.

Overnight stays in self-contained accommodation will be allowed in England from 12 April, with hotels and B&Bs able to open on 17 May.

These dates, as with the Scottish timetable, are provisional and depend on no significant worsening of the coronavirus situation.

Derek Mallon, a restaurateur and bar owner from Glasgow, told BBC Radio Scotland: “Being permitted to open is one thing, but I think the restrictions need to be favourable, the wider economy needs to be there as well.

“It’s not just a case of ‘open the doors and that’s the job done’ – there’s a lot more to it. And international tourism plays a major part of the hospitality industry in Scotland.”

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