NICOLA Sturgeon has again refused to rule out quarantines for travellers from England despite reports of tourists already asking about refunds for their holiday plans.

The First Minister said she could not guarantee having to impose restrictions to stop coronavirus being brought into the country.

It followed the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) saying some would-be tourists from south of the border had already inquired about getting refunds if a 14-day quarantine was introduced.

The Scottish Tories said trying to quarantine everyone who crossed the border would pose “staggering” practical probelms as well as jeopardise an already desperate tourism market.

At the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon also announced there had been four deaths from confirmed Covid-19 overnight, the first after four days without any.

She said Scotland faced a moment of “great opportunity” as the lockdown eased and business returned to the high street, but also one of “very real danger”.

She stressed coronavirus had not gone away and urged people not to become complacent and slip into their pre-Covid way of life.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman also announced that patients on non-Covid hospital wards would be able to receive single visitors from July 13 subject to physical distancing.

The Scottish tourist season is due to restart on July 15, with all holiday accommodation and indoor pubs and restaurants allowed to reopen.

STA chief executive Marc Crothall said he hoped the Scottish Government did not have to impose “a quarantine restriction on those visiting from England” because of the virus spreading. 

He said: “The industry fully appreciates that people will be hesitant, and we must proceed with caution to ensure that our communities do not feel under threat and are comfortable in welcoming visitors in the spirit that we are so well known for.

“Clearly, given that over 70 per cent of Scottish tourism comes from the UK market, any restrictions on domestic travel will have a significantly negative impact on the sector.

“In fact, I know of a few businesses who have received enquiries from people south of the border who have become concerned about a potential quarantine and have asked for reassurance of a full refund should a quarantine come into force.”

Asked about the STA comments, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had no plans to quarantine travellers from south of the border “right now”. 

But she went on: “But I wouldn’t be being honest with people and doing my job properly if, given the unpredictability of the virus, I was to say we’re categorically ruling anything out.

“This is about trying to keep the virus under control.

“I know the concerns the Scottish Tourism Alliance would have about a policy like that, I understand that, and we consider anything like that very carefully.

“But I know the STA would also be concerned about the prospects of having an increase in cases of the virus in some our beautiful tourist spots.

“This is a balance that we have to try and strike. It’s not ideal. None of us want to be in this position, but continuing to keep this virus under control has to be the driving imperative here. 

“This period ahead is a moment of opportunity, but it is also potentially a moment of real danger for us if we just forget about the risks and rush back to normal in every respect.”

Asked whether people in other parts of the UK should book staycations in Scotland for after July 15, Ms Sturgeon said: “People in England are welcome in Scotland, as has always been the case and always will be the case.

“But I cannot ever guarantee - just as the UK Government cannot guarantee right now that people in Leicester might not be restricted from travelling to other parts of England - I cannot guarantee that we will have no need to impose any kind of restrictions to keep this virus under control, and anybody who thinks I should do that right now is coming at this from completely the wrong perspective. 

“I will never take any decisions associated with this virus lightly, but I will take the decisions that are necessary to protect the Scottish population.

“It’s by protecting the health of the country that I do most to protect the health of the economy, and give it the best possible chance of recovery in a sustainable way.”

Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said: “As the SNP government knows, the practical implications of quarantining everyone who crosses the border into Scotland are staggering.

“Any suggestion that Scotland will be closing its borders to England clearly jeopardises that vital market at a time when it is desperately needed.

“It is clear that as the likelihood of local flare-ups increases, a locally focused lockdown approach will have to be considered. The SNP government’s primary goal must still be to ensure that the track, trace and test regime is fully effective.

“Only with an wholly efficient testing regime will Scotland be able to emerge from the current health and economic crisis as quickly and safely as possible.”