All travellers to Scotland from international destinations will have to test negative for coronavirus before they can enter the country, it has been announced.

Under plans set out by Transport Secretary Michael Matheson, passengers travelling to Scotland from abroad by – including UK nationals – will be required to have proof of a negative test taken a maximum of 72 hours before travel.

The new public health requirement, to be introduced "as soon as practically possible", aims to strengthen current safeguards against imported cases and in particular protect against new strains of coronavirus such as those identified in Denmark and South Africa.

Similar measures have been announced by the UK Government, while officials were said to be working closely with the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland on adopting them there.

HeraldScotland: Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson

Those coming from countries not on the quarantine exemption list will still be required to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival.

Non-essential travel to or from Scotland is currently illegal and will not immediately change with the introduction of pre-departure testing.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Travel into or out of Scotland is currently illegal and that will remain the case while we work to suppress the new strain of COVID-19.

“The Scottish Government has been consistently clear about the risks associated with international travel and the importance of public health measures in helping to stop the spread of coronavirus.

"That is why we have been in regular dialogue with the UK Government and the other devolved administrations about what further measures can be put in place, including the introduction of pre-departure testing (PDT)."

Failure to comply will lead to an immediate £500 fine. There will be a limited number of exemptions, including hauliers, children under 11, crews, arrivals from the Common Travel Area with Ireland and for those travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver tests.

HeraldScotland:

Travellers must have a test before entering the country

Mr Matheson added: “The requirement for pre-departure testing will add to our suite of public health measures as we seek to help drive down transmission of the virus to safeguard health, protect the NHS and save lives. 

“It is important to emphasise that this additional measure does not remove the requirement for all passengers arriving from countries not on the quarantine exemption list to self-isolate for ten days, even with a negative test.  

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"Likewise, all passengers will continue to have to complete a Passenger Locator Form and, of course, they will be subject to national lockdown restrictions, which currently bar people from leaving their home or other fixed address without a reasonable excuse for doing so.

“As the UK Government has made clear, there are still some outstanding issues to address and it is important that we consider the implications, but we are keen to implement this as soon as it is possible.”

The announcement comes at a time when the latest lockdown restrictions across the four nations of the UK mean there is very little international travel.

The airline industry – which has been devastated by the pandemic – acknowledged the need for the restrictions but urged ministers to lift them as quickly as possible.

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Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said: “This should be a short-term, emergency measure only and once the rollout of the vaccine accelerates, the focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible in order to support the UK’s economic recovery.”