Sturgeon: Weeks without Cobra meetings ‘regrettable’

The First Minister said she thinks there should be more discussions between leaders on a four-nations basis.

Cobra: Meetings held routinely in early days of pandemic. Getty
Cobra: Meetings held routinely in early days of pandemic.

Nicola Sturgeon has said the lack of any Cobra meeting between the UK and devolved governments “for weeks” on the coronavirus crisis is “regrettable”.

The UK’s civil contingencies committee Cobra had been meeting routinely on a four-nation basis in the run-up to and in the early days of the pandemic.

But speaking at the Scottish Government’s Monday press briefing, the First Minister said no such meeting had taken place in recent weeks.

Sturgeon told the briefing: “I think that’s regrettable. I think we should have more opportunities to discuss things on a four-nations basis.”

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“There have been a couple of four-nations discussions with the Prime Minister, there have been four-nations discussions that Michael Gove has convened, I have taken part in a couple and Humza Yousaf took part in one this morning.”

However, Sturgeon said there needed to be more discussion between the UK and Scottish governments “not just about decisions that have already been taken” but also before decisions are taken.

She accused the UK Government for failing to consult her administration ahead of announcing proposed changes to the blanket travel ban on Friday.

The measures could see “air bridges” with certain countries allowing holidays to and from these countries without visitors having to quarantine for 14 days, as in the UK at present.

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Sturgeon said: “We are still considering our response and our own proposals.

“We can and do of course see the benefits of adopting a consistent approach across all parts of the UK.

“However, we also know that quarantine measures, albeit perhaps on a more targeted basis in future, may become more important in Scotland rather than less as our infection rates fall, since then the relative impact of new cases from outside Scotland potentially becomes greater.

“And the prospect of cases coming in from elsewhere poses a risk – not just to health but also to our economy.

“We therefore want to take a bit of time to consider the public health impact of the UK Government’s proposals as well as the data and evidence underpinning them, which hopefully we will see before too long.”

The First Minister said approaching the issue through the prism of Scottish politics or the constitutional question would be “inappropriate” and said she has no plans to introduce a quarantine on visitors from England.

She said justice secretary Humza Yousaf’s meeting earlier on Monday had been a conference call with Michael Gove and the other devolved administrations on the subject of air bridges.

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The Scottish Government said the quarantine rules are a devolved matter as they relate to public health.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “On the issue of quarantine we have taken a four-nation approach to these matters throughout.

“We have worked closely with the devolved administrations at all times and this continues.”

Asked whether Sturgeon could block the plan, he added: “We do continue to work with the Scottish Government on this.

“Our approach on the issue of quarantine has been a four-nation one and we will continue to work with the devolved administrations.”

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