Edinburgh Airport’s chief executive has accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of campaigning against his industry as he attacked the Scottish Government over airport coronavirus testing.
Gordon Dewar said ministers have thrown up “hurdle after hurdle” to an airport testing regime, leaving Scotland as the last country in Europe without such a system in place.
He also said plans for the vaccine rollout will not be fast enough to prevent the demise of large parts of the aviation industry.
Speaking to Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee on Thursday, Mr Dewar said passenger numbers are currently down by 95% from last year.
He said: “We’ve spent the last three months, nearly four now, trying to agree and implement a robust aviation testing regime.
“Hurdle after hurdle has been thrown at us and put in our way.
“We’re now in the bizarre position of possible having to submit an FOI (freedom of information) request to see a submission to ministers containing a proposed solution.”
He said quarantine arrangements, which require incoming passengers to self-isolate for 14 days, are not working as only about 65% of travellers are observing the restrictions.
While the airport has a testing system in place, he said, it is mainly to service the pre-flight requirements of other nations.
He said: “We are still the only country in Europe – and I repeat that, the only country in Europe – that is not using a testing regime to support and make flying safe again.”
As well as the testing regime, he called for a year-long holiday on the air passenger duty tax to encourage airlines to continue offering flights to Scotland as their fleets reduce.
He referred to comments made by Nicola Sturgeon at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing, when the First Minister said she would not “right now” be booking summer holidays due to the uncertainty about the state of the pandemic around the world.
Mr Dewar said: “Yesterday, the First Minister actively called for people not to book their summer holidays next year.
“We’ve got the First Minister campaigning against our industry.”
Plans for rolling out the vaccine are “woefully inadequate” to make a difference to the tourism industry, he said.
Mr Dewar added: “Unless we get the vaccine deployed by early summer and late spring, we’re actually going to be facing a 29-month winter.
“And let me tell you there are very, very few of the companies in that sector that will survive that.”
Committee member Annabelle Ewing asked Mr Dewar about the genomic research into Covid-19 that was revealed on Wednesday, pointing to the role of travel in reseeding the virus around Scotland during the summer of 2020.
Mr Dewar said: “I had a look at that and what it certainly demonstrates is that quarantine didn’t work.”
Ms Ewing responded: “We’re going through a pandemic and each country will try the best it can to do the best it can.
“But certainly before the second wave in Scotland we were doing pretty well indeed.”
The Scottish Government’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell appeared on a later panel of the committee.
He said the issue of travel is “fundamental” in controlling the virus and denied there is any campaign against aviation.
Responding to Mr Dewar’s comments, he said: “In terms of campaigning against his industry, absolutely not.
“I will be delighted to see that industry flourish and I hope it will again.”
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