A mother with terminal cancer will be able to take her children on a final holiday to Tenerife despite concerns that coronavirus travel restrictions would prevent her from getting to Edinburgh airport.
Nicola Sturgeon clarified that Linzi Page from Burntisland in Fife would be able to go from her home to the airport with her two young children after her case was raised at First Minister’s Questions.
Ms Page, 38, had feared her holiday would be wrecked by the ban, which from Friday makes it illegal for people to travel outside their council area if, like Fife, their local authority is subject to tier three or four restrictions.
Questions about the implications of the local ban on foreign travel were raised when External Affairs Secretary Michael Russell told Holyrood this week that international trips would not be illegal but going to the airport or port for that purpose would be against regulations.
Linzi’s situation is tragic, but on both compassionate and indeed on legal grounds she can go on her holiday and I wish her and her family well.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Ms Page, who has stage four bowel cancer, wrote to Ms Sturgeon to ask the first minister if she could fly on compassionate grounds to make a “final memory” with her seven-year-old son and four-year-old daughter.
Her case was also raised at Holyrood by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard when he questioned the first minister.
Mr Leonard said: “The Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs told an incredulous public at a meeting of this parliament that while international travel continues to be perfectly legal, travelling to the airport may be a criminal act.
“Let me describe what this means to one family. Linzi Page lives in Fife. She has stage four cancer. She is just 38 years old. She has a family holiday in Tenerife booked with her seven-year-old son and her four-year-old daughter.
“I spoke to Linzi this morning. She told me the family have had a tough year and this holiday would be a nice memory for them.
“She said it is a precious time with the family which we will never get back. They are due to fly out to Edinburgh a week today, only by then it will be illegal for her to travel to the airport.”
‘My heart goes out to her’
Mr Leonard asked Ms Sturgeon what advice she had for the mother-of-two. The first minister said Ms Page’s situation was “indeed tragic and my heart goes out to her”, adding that she had written to the family to clarify the situation.
Ms Sturgeon explained that there was an exemption to the travel ban when it came to those wanting to make a trip for compassionate reasons.
“She asked me for clarity on whether she could go on one, final holiday with her family. I have written back to her today advising her that, under the regulations, anyone in a situation like hers can go on a final holiday,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“The travel restrictions come with a general exemption that is termed in law a reasonable excuse. The regulations give a list of examples of what a reasonable excuse might be. But as I’ve said already it is not exhaustive.
“However there should be no doubt that Ms Page would absolutely meet that exemption because one of the explicit examples given on the face of the regulations is, and I quote, ‘compassionate reasons which relate to the end of a person’s life’.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “Linzi’s situation is tragic but on both compassionate and indeed on legal grounds she can go on her holiday and I wish her and her family well.”
Mr Leonard said the clarification would be “greatly welcomed and the compassion that lies behind it is something which I’m sure we all approve of”.
Leonard claims travel ban is ‘red herring’
But he warned the travel restrictions are a “red herring” that could either confuse or criminalise Scots.
Calling for the Scottish Government to “rethink the travel ban and its application”, Mr Leonard said the focus should be on resolving issues with Scotland’s Test and Protect system, routine testing for frontline workers and ensuring medics have the proper personal protective equipment.
Ms Sturgeon replied: “In a situation like this, it is absolutely incumbent on somebody like me to do my level best to do the right things and the necessary things, even if these are not always popular or welcome things.
“I would be failing in my responsibility if I didn’t do that on travel restrictions.”