PM ‘astonished’ by idea of quarantine for Scotland visitors

Boris Johnson claimed there is 'no such thing' as a border between Scotland and England.

The idea of a quarantine for visitors to Scotland from other parts of the UK “astonishing and shameful”, Boris Johnson has said.

The Prime Minister said he has had no discussions with the Scottish Government on such a move – and declared there is “no such thing” as a border between Scotland and England.

His remarks came at PMQs on Wednesday after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon refused to rule out such a policy in future if scientific advice supported it.

But Sturgeon stressed she currently has no plans to enact such a measure in the fight against coronavirus.

Speaking later on Wednesday, the First Minister said it would be “disgraceful” to politicise issues around tackling the pandemic.

She also described Johnson’s statement there is no Anglo-Scottish border as “absurd and ridiculous”, adding: “I’m not sure what he would say if I pitched up in Newcastle and started to try to implement Scottish Government policies.”

Sturgeon has repeatedly stated she will not rule out quarantine measures on other British travellers into Scotland if they are supported by public health evidence.

But responding to a question from Conservative MP Andrew Bowie, the Prime Minister said he found that notion “absolutely astonishing”.

He added: “There have been no such discussions with the Scottish administration about that but I would point out to (Bowie) what he knows very well – there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.”

Earlier, Scottish secretary Alister Jack described the idea of quarantining UK travellers as “divisive”.

He told MPs: “What’s deeply regrettable is that the First Minister has encouraged reckless talk.

“It’s not the language which we should be hearing from our First Minister because it undermines the joint efforts that we’ve had in tackling Covid-19 and it’s bad for business and it’s especially bad for the tourism business.”

But the First Minister has highlighted local quarantines in the state of New York, as one example – which has quarantine measures in place for travellers from 16 other US states – as well as various European countries.

She said if advisers told her that a quarantine rule would be “a necessary measure to protect people” then she would be “failing in my duty not to consider it”.

It comes after public health officials identified a new cross-border cluster of coronavirus cases between Dumfries and Galloway and north-west England.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Wednesday briefing, she criticised the Prime Minister’s “absurd and ridiculous political comments” claiming there is no Scottish border, and urged him to focus on the pandemic.

The FM continued: “What there definitely is, is a geographical boundary to my powers as First Minister.

“If the Prime Minister is questioning that now, I’m not sure what he would say if I pitched up in Newcastle and started to try to implement Scottish Government policies in Newcastle.

“And see what I’ve just said there? It’s absurd too, which is why we shouldn’t be having these discussions.

“We should all be focusing with an absolute laser-like focus on what we need to do within our own responsibilities and working together when necessary to stop a virus.”

She added: “Given the nature of what we’re dealing with right now – just to remind the Prime Minister: an infectious virus – I would not be doing my job properly if I ruled things out that, as we see from countries around the world, are being used selectively in appropriate circumstances to try to contain a virus.

“If I’m looking at the data and the evidence and I’m seeing that there’s a risk to Scotland of infection coming in from other parts of the UK and I think that there needs to be measures taken to contain that, then I will discuss that with other administrations as appropriate.”

Sturgeon insisted her one objective while the fight against Covid-19 is ongoing is “trying to stop this virus getting out of control”.

She said: “That’s all that drives this decision-making process right now, and I really do say to people – whether it’s the leader of the Scottish Tories, the secretary of state (for Scotland), or even the Prime Minister, who I have been at pains not to criticise over this:

“If you find yourself trying to turn any of this into a political or a constitutional argument, go and take a long hard look at yourself in a mirror.

“If you’re being honest with yourself, you will admit that you’re failing people or risking failing people, so I’m not going to do that.

“I’ve said from day one that however long this crisis lasts, I’m going to stick with it because I take my responsibility to the best of my ability to protect Scotland from this virus more seriously than perhaps I’ve taken anything in my life before.”

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