Swinney defends ‘justified’ Greater Manchester travel ban

Deputy first minister says Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham's call for compensation is 'not a relevant point'.

Swinney defends ‘justified’ Greater Manchester travel ban Getty ImagesGetty Images

Deputy first minister John Swinney has defended the Scottish Government’s decision to implement a last-minute ban on people entering the country from the Greater Manchester area.

Swinney said it had acted within the realms of what the public would expect from them after it announced on Friday that Greater Manchester and Salford residents have been temporarily banned from travelling to Scotland and vice versa.

Due to “high levels of Covid”, the cities have been added to a list that already includes Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen.

The ban came into effect at midnight on Sunday.

Swinney told the Today programme: “We have got to take decisions based on the data and the evidence that presents itself, and take decisions which are designed to stop the spread of the virus.

“In our judgement, the rising case numbers and the high levels of the virus in the Greater Manchester and Salford area justified the decision we took and we are taking that to try and minimise the circulation of the virus.”

When questioned about the last-minute nature of the ban, he added: “That is something we will reflect on but we put in place very similar provisions in relation to Bolton, which is part of the Greater Manchester area, back in May, and we’ve just followed exactly the same approach in relation to this decision.”

At the weekend, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham spoke out against the move, saying it was disproportionate and his administration was not contacted prior to the announcement.

Sturgeon pinpointed the areas as Covid-19 hotspots, despite figures in the cities matching case rates in parts of Scotland.

Swinney also said Burnham’s call for compensation is not “a relevant point”.

“We obviously face many challenges in the suppression of coronavirus,” Swinney told the BBC’s Today programme.

“We have in place, in Scotland, business support that we have made available to companies to try and sustain them, there will be support in place in England for exactly the same circumstances.

“We have got to take decisions based on the data that presents itself and sometimes that is very uncomfortable data for us.

“We have to act quickly to try to make sure we are doing everything possible to suppress the spread of the virus, and that is what members of the public would expect of us.”

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Burnham said: “I was really disappointed on Friday that the First Minister of Scotland just announced out of the blue, as far as we were concerned, a travel ban saying that people couldn’t travel from Scotland to Manchester and Salford and people couldn’t go the other way.

“That is exactly what the SNP always accuse the Westminster Government of doing, riding roughshod over people.

“The SNP are treating the north of England with the same contempt in bringing that in without any consultation with us.”

He added: “I just think it’s double standards, it’s hypocrisy.”