By Andrew Atkinson

Scots have been told by Ryanair they could book flights abroad this summer – with reasonable confidence – because high vaccination rates must result in the removal of coronavirus restrictions.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said both the Scottish and UK Governments would be under pressure to ease restrictions – when vaccination rates reached high levels.

O’Leary predicted passengers would have to continue wearing masks until at least spring 2022.

His comments came as Ryanair announced new routes between Edinburgh to Naples this summer, and Knock this autumn, which were previously operated by other airlines.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the ban on non-essential international travel may remain in force in Scotland after May 17, the earliest date the UK Government has said it might be relaxed in England.

The First Minister said she was certain international travel from Scotland would not be possible before May 17: “It may well not be possible for a further period after that”, she said.

She also said that pre-departure and post-arrival testing was very likely for some time: “We expect that from April 26, restrictions on journeys within mainland Scotland will be lifted entirely.”

If restrictions on socialising and hospitality are relaxed more quickly and significantly on the islands, there may be a need to retain some restrictions on travel – to and from the mainland – to protect island communities from the importation of new cases.

“Rather than impose that decision now on our island communities, we intend to discuss it directly with them to determine what arrangements they consider will work best for their circumstances.

“We hope that restrictions on journeys between Scotland and other parts of the UK and the wider common travel area can also be lifted, if not on April 26, then as soon as possible thereafter.

“We need to keep this under review, as part of our efforts to reduce the risk of new cases being imported into Scotland and we will update the position during April,” she said.