A north-east MSP claims passengers are being pushed away from Aberdeen Airport due to a major discrepancy that leaves those returning to Scotland paying more than twice as much for Covid tests than England.
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative MSP, quizzed Ms Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions on whether she would review the guidelines and introduce a “more equal testing system” in Scotland.
He said the difference in the cost of tests will “price many people in the north-east out of travelling” and will potentially push passengers to travel to and from English airports.
AGS Airports, which owns Aberdeen International and Glasgow airports, said there were “major inconsistencies” in the price of testing and urged the Scottish Government to review its guidelines “as a matter of urgency”.
Passengers returning from countries on the ‘amber’ and ‘green’ lists must take Covid-19 tests before departure and on their return to the UK.
While passengers returning to England are permitted to puchase tests from private suppliers, that approach has not been mirrored in Scotland with current regulations explicitly stating tests from private suppliers cannot be used.
A testing package for passengers arriving in Scotland from ‘amber’ countries is £170 per person and £88 per person for those arriving from ‘green’ listed countries.
Some private suppliers are offering testing options for as little as £20 per person, prompting concerns from Aberdeen Airport that they were at risk of losing passengers because of the difference.
Review of policy
In response, Ms Sturgeon said all tests in Scotland must be NHS tests while in England “many of the tests are outsourced to private companies”.
She added that she was “not sure that going down the same route as English on this is the right thing to do” but confirmed she would review the decision.
The first minister said she had “frustrations” over the “lack of robustness in terms of UK border control in the past” but that these protections on travel would “minimise the risk of importation of the virus”.
The Scottish Government needs to sit up and finally take note of this.”
Liam Kerr, north-east MSP
Speaking after FMQs, Mr Kerr, said the discrepancy puts “another barrier in Aberdeen Airport’s runway to recovery and it is simply not fair on north-east passengers”.
He added: “In her response to me, Nicola Sturgeon brushed the concerns of the airport to one side at a time of desperate need.
“As restrictions ease, the threat of job losses won’t automatically go away and the Scottish Government needs to sit up and finally take note of this.”
A spokesman for AGS Airports Ltd, which owns Aberdeen International and Glasgow Airports, said: “It is not fair that people in Scotland are being forced to bear such high costs when there are private suppliers offering the same tests that meet strict UK Government requirements for a fraction of the cost.
“Earlier this month the Scottish Government confirmed it would adopt a four-nations approach, but now we find ourselves in a situation where there are major inconsistencies in the price of testing – an essential and costly requirement for passengers who wish to travel.
“This lack of parity with England will be a very real barrier to Scotland’s airports as they work to safely restart operations in order to deliver the vital connectivity our country depends on.
“The Scottish Government must review its guidelines as a matter of urgency and introduce an equitable testing system that doesn’t penalise Scottish passengers or airports.”