‘Shambolic’ Covid rules stop Scottish passengers getting off cruise ship in Scotland

Passengers on a cruise ship touring the UK have been told they will not be allowed to disembark in Scotland because of the SNP’s Covid rules.

The MSC Virtuosa left Liverpool this week with planned stops in Greenock in Inverclyde, as well as Belfast and Southampton. All the passengers are UK residents, fully vaccinated, and recently tested negative.

But the SNP government has said that domestic cruises can restart only when restrictions in all of Scotland reach Level 1 of Nicola Sturgeon’s lockdown restrictions. Although Inverclyde is in Level 1, 14 other council areas are in Level 2.

The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association has confirmed that Wednesday’s scheduled stop in Greenock has had to be cancelled. The industry body said the situation meant Scots on board the vessel were effectively "barred from setting foot in their own country".

Although the ship can carry more than 6,000 passengers, it has just under 900 currently on board to allow for social distancing measures. Train, aircraft and car passengers can currently travel between Scotland and the other parts of the UK.

The Scottish government said the decision was based on the risks "between both cruises and the wider travel context" but a travel agent described the decision as "another nail in the coffin for the travel industry".

Linda Hill, who owns LAH Travel in West Kilbride, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime programme: "Sadly, the Scottish government has said passengers cannot embark or disembark at Greenock. The sailing is still going ahead – it’s just missing out Scotland."

Murdo Fraser, a Conservative Tory MSP, tweeted: "I’ve had constituents in contact about this latest farce. They are booked to sail on this cruise but cannot board in Scotland – however, they could travel to an English port and board there. Shambolic."

A Scottish government spokesman told the BBC: "Following extensive engagement with stakeholders, we have now confirmed that domestic cruises can restart when all of Scotland reaches Level 1 and we have made industry, including the operator, aware of this."

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