First Minister tells MP to stand down after Covid breach

Nicola Sturgeon revealed in a tweet that she had spoken to Margaret Ferrier and advised her to stand down as an MP.

Nicola Sturgeon has told an MP who travelled on a train from London to Glasgow while knowingly infected with coronavirus that she should stand down. 

SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, who represents the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency, travelled to London on Monday to attend parliament despite developing coronavirus symptoms and booking a test.

She then travelled home by train on the Tuesday despite receiving a positive test result on Monday evening.

The MP has had the whip suspended as a result of the breach.

At Friday’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister addressed the scandal, repeating that she had spoken to Ferrier and urged her to resign as an MP, having tweeted about it earlier.

She told the briefing she was “very angry” about what she branded as Ferrier’s “reckless, dangerous and completely indefensible” actions.

Sturgeon said: “Margaret is a friend of mine, so everything I’m about to say is obviously with the heaviest of hearts, and of course I wish her a speedy recovery from Covid-19.

“But none of that changes the fact that her actions were reckless, dangerous and completely indefensible and I feel very angry and on behalf of all of you.

“Every single day I stand here and I ask you to make horrendous sacrifices as part of our collective efforts against Covid-19.

“And it’s really important – whether you agree with me or not, whether you love me or loathe me – that you can have confidence in the advice that I give you.

“That means me being clear that the rules apply to everyone, regardless of who you are and regardless of what your political allegiances.”

She said that while she understood that following Covid rules is difficult, the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP had displayed a “monumental almost incomprehensible error of judgement”.

The FM continued: “Trust me, it’s one of the easiest things in the world in politics to call for tough consequences when one of your opponents breaks the rules, that’s not hard for any of us.

“The litmus test, though, is whether you’re prepared to do the same when it’s one of your own breaking the rules.

“And in these abnormal times when everybody has been asked to do difficult things, I think that is more important than ever.

“That’s why the SNP whip has been withdrawn from Margaret, and that is the most serious sanction a party can impose on an elected representative.

“I’ve also spoken to her directly and made crystal clear to her that I think she should now resign as an MP.”

Sturgeon said in her conversation with Ferrier, the MP “didn’t tell me one way or another” if she planned to resign.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle described Ferrier’s actions as “completely reckless behaviour”, and said he found out while in the Speaker’s Chair at around 4pm on Wednesday.

DUP MP Jim Shannon, who was seated at the same dining table as her on Monday evening, with social distancing in place, is now self-isolating.

In a statement released on Thursday evening, Ferrier said: “I apologise unreservedly for breaching Covid-19 restrictions by travelling this week when I shouldn’t have.

“There is no excuse for my actions.

“On Saturday afternoon, after experiencing mild symptoms, I requested a Covid-19 test, which I took that day.

“Feeling much better, I then travelled to London by train on Monday to attend parliament as planned.

“This was wrong, and I am very sorry for my mistake.”

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP said she then received a positive test result on Monday evening.

She continued: “I travelled home by train on Tuesday morning without seeking advice.

“This was also wrong and I am sorry. I have been self-isolating at home ever since.”

Ferrier said she had spoken to the relevant public health authorities and also notified police of her actions.

She closed her statement by urging the public “not to make the same mistakes that I have, and do all they can to help limit the spread of Covid-19”.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he had spoken to Ferrier about the issue.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman confirmed they were aware of the reports that Ferrier had travelled after testing positive for Covid-19.

The spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the circumstances and are liaising with our colleagues in the Metropolitan Police Service.”

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