Air bridges and troubled water - another unnecessary row

The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have criticised the UK government's "shambolic" handling of quarantine rules for travellers returning to the country. Credit: PA

Arguments between the different governments of the United Kingdom are nothing new, and it's no surprise that they have intensified during the coronavirus pandemic as four governments of five different political parties try to make difficult decisions together. 

However, the argument over today's announcement about 'air bridges' and changes to the quarantine rules, seems to have been entirely avoidable. 

Mark Drakeford was clear before this that he was more than likely to follow suit and carry out the quarantine changes in Wales at the same time as they come into force in England , and even in his angry comments, remained clear that that was still his intention. 

Nicola Sturgeon too, much more critical publicly in the last week, also has no real intention of diverging wildly from the new rules. 

Instead it seems that not getting a clear steer from the UK Government about what it was going to announce - which countries would be on the list, when they'd publish the new guidance, etc - caused intense frustration to the devolved governments. 

Travellers from England returning from countries such as Spain, France, Italy and Germany will no longer need to self-isolate for two weeks. Credit: PA

Even then, that frustration would have probably only have led to the political equivalent of muttering, but instead it burst into public criticism after a clunky attempt to blame the devolved administrations for the delay of today's announcement. 

Number 10 says, "We have been working with all devolved administrations on quarantine from the outset and we will continue to do so."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman added that, "It is for the devolved administrations to make and explain their own decisions and the measures they’re putting in place.

"Air passengers arriving in airports in England should ensure that they follow the guidance from the relevant devolved administrations in the area where they live."

When the dust settles, the new quarantine rules are almost certain to be introduced here in Wales on 10 July, as they are planned to be in England, although the First Minister insisted that will only happen if the Chief Medical Officer agrees. 

And yet there's been another unedifying quarrel between at least three of the UK's four governments. 

Does that matter? The First Minister described it as "the exception rather than the rule" and there's little doubt that officials in the different governments are working well together and in constant contact. 

But the decisions they are taking are crucial to the health and wellbeing of all of us, and those decisions are, in the end, political.

And when you have a situation where the Prime Minister and First Minister haven't spoken since 28 May, those political decisions are increasingly being taken without consulting each other. That should matter.