Seafarers told they were heading home to spend quality time with family have instead been left stranded “like prisoners” in a quarantine hotel after arriving in Scotland hours before exemption rules were updated.
About 25 workers returning from working off Angola were forced into isolation, while colleagues from England were allowed to continue home due to a “ridiculous loophole”.
While the exemption was applied by the UK Government on Friday, it did not come into force in Scotland until 4am on Saturday.
The men’s plight was blamed on the Scottish Government “moving the goalposts” amid new calls for discrepancies in exemption rules for offshore workers to be clarified.
Grant Bowman, 46, from Alness, missed his son Shaun’s 20th birthday after being told to quarantine when he got back to Scotland on Friday.
Mr Bowman, a subsea engineer, was among a group returning from Angola where they work on an offshore rig.
They flew to Paris on Friday, with some then taking onward flights to Edinburgh and others to London.
He received a letter from the UK Chamber of Shipping last week stating the UK Department of Transport had announced all seafarers, irrespective of nationality, would be exempt from mandatory quarantine restrictions as of Friday.
However, on arrival in the capital he was sent straight to an isolation hotel.
Mr Bowman said: “It seems crazy we are being held here when others can wander home or fly to England and drive home. I feel like a prisoner.
“I’m missing my son’s birthday. When you work offshore and are away from home you miss things, I accept that. But when it’s for no reason it makes me angry.”
Mr Bowman has been working off Angola for a number of years, and on eight-weeks-on, four-weeks-off shifts since the Covid outbreak.
He added: “It is very disappointing. Nowhere in any of the forms I filled in did it say that Scottish seafarers are not exempt.
“The worst of it is I know of people who have been flying into London then driving to Scotland. The loophole is ridiculous.
“It is keeping us away from home for another 10 days. I don’t think it is right.
“The sign in the airport says UK Border Control, not Scottish Border Control.”
Another worker, from Bridge of Don in Aberdeen, says if he had arrived after 4am on Saturday he would have been allowed to go straight home.
He said: “We are stuck here in quarantine for 10 days due to a clerical error on the Scottish Government’s part.”
He said the workers are confined to their rooms with windows that don’t open and no fresh air.
The worker added: “We have to ask to get out to exercise. It’s like solitary confinement.”
North East MSP Liam Kerr, who called for a review of quarantine rules for offshore workers last week, said: “These workers adhered to clear UK-wide rules only for the Scottish Government to move the goalposts.
“As a consequence, they are now trapped in a hotel for 10 days while colleagues from elsewhere in the UK were free to return home.
“The first minister was urged to look at the inequality this has created weeks ago. The industry and workers are still crying out for clarity.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is vital we do everything possible to prevent the importation of coronavirus, and clearly we cannot risk Covid-19 variants from international travel undermining the deployment of vaccines.
“The UK Chamber of Shipping incorrectly provided advice based on the UK Government’s position without checking the Scottish Government’s position. This gave the misleading impression that seafarers were exempt in any circumstances.
“Seafarers arriving into Scotland from acute-risk countries like Angola are only exempt from self-isolation in certain circumstances related to their work, and this amendment did not come into force until 4am on March 20.”
A UK Chamber of Shipping spokesman said: “We still want to see seafarers exempt from quarantine restrictions and will continue to work with the Scottish Government to try to bring their position into line with the rest of the UK.”