Nicola Sturgeon has criticised the UK Government for a lack of robust border controls leading to a rise in the Delta Covid-19 variant.
The First Minister said there is “no doubt” that too lax controls over UK border arrangements had played a part in the situation the country is currently in.
It comes after delays to lockdown were announced for England by Boris Johnson on Monday, whilst Sturgeon on Tuesday indicated that restrictions would not be lifted in Scotland until into July.
The delays have been attributed largely to concern over the Delta variant, which originated in India, which is estimated as the cause of more than 90% of new cases in the UK.
It prompted Labour to accuse the UK Government of incompetence over its handling of Covid variants, saying that lax border policies led to the Delta variant entering the country.
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon said her government had pleaded with UK ministers for greater controls to be put in place.
“There is no doubt, and I don’t think I am the only person that will say this, that the lack of very robust border controls in recent months has I think been a factor in the situation that we’re dealing with right now and that is deeply frustrating,” she told MSPs.
“We are where we are, so we have to all of us take our responsibility for navigating our way through this.
“But, if we cast our minds back to mid-February, the Scottish Government decided to insist on mandatory managed quarantine for all direct arrivals into Scotland, regardless of what country they came from, so that would have included India.
“At that time, despite our pleading, the UK Government only insisted on managed quarantine for red-listed countries and it took until the latter part of April to put India on the red list.”
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove earlier on Tuesday defended the actions taken by the UK Government over its timing for putting India on the red list.
He told Times Radio: “We can always look back and wish that we’d done things differently but we operated on the basis of facts that we had at the time, and India was placed on the red list before the Delta variant was a … variant of concern.
“And again, you know, the decisions that ministers, that doctors, that scientists have to take can never be made with perfect knowledge.”
Gove was condemned by Sturgeon for refusing “point blank” to agree on provisions which would have required those travelling onto Scotland via English airports to have to quarantine.
She said: “I’ve said many times, people have heard me say it, that that left us with a serious vulnerability of people coming into the UK to English airports and travelling to Scotland and therefore not being caught by our managed quarantine arrangements.
“We pleaded with the UK Government to put common provisions in place across the UK, but we also pleaded with them to introduce a situation where people coming into an English airport, but intending to go to Scotland, would be made to quarantine at the point of arrival.
“Michael Gove, I think, wrote to the transport secretary back in February refusing point blank to do that. They wouldn’t, and I’m quoting, ‘legally treat people differently in England based on their final destination within the UK’.
“So, I do have a deep frustration about this, but we are where we are and we have to deal with this, but there is no doubt at all that too lax border controls around the whole of the UK have played a part in where we are right now.”