Nicola Sturgeon was visibly vexed at this lunchtime’s media briefing after a succession of questions on Boris Johnson and others’ response to her warning earlier in the week that she might have to quarantine visitors from England. She told reporters:
The fact we are describing this as a “row” should make us all take a long hard look at ourselves … Other countries are just doing what they need to do in a public health sense to stop transmission of virus.
The fact that in Scotland we are trying to turn this into a standard political constitutional row – and I’m saying we to be charitable because it isnae me – is frankly disgraceful.
Addressing Johnson, Scottish secretary Alister Jack and other critics directly, she said: “If you find yourselves trying to turn any of this into a political or constitutional row go and take a long hard look at yourself in a mirror.”
At PMQs, in response to a question from a Scottish Conservative MP, Johnson said that he found the idea of visitors from England being quarantined “astonishing” and that there was no border between the two countries. (See 12.15pm.) Asked to respond to Johnson’s comments, Sturgeon was palpably frustrated, describing them as “absurd and ridiculous political statements”. She went on:
For a prime minister to try to politicise these things is shameful and unacceptable.
Pointing to the announcement by the governor of New York that he would quarantine visitors from particular states, she said:
I don’t think the governor of New York is being political or constitutional – he’s trying to protect the people he serves from being exposed to the spread of the virus.
She said that she would be failing in her duty not to consider cross-border quarantines if her scientific advisers suggested it.
Anybody you hear trying to turn this into a proxy debate about Scottish independence or the constitution, they are the one who are being reckless and failing the public health test.
Her comments come as national clinical director Jason Leitch confirmed a “cross-border cluster” of coronavirus infections around Gretna and Annan, right on the border between Scotland and England (the one Boris Johnson just said at PMQs doesn’t exist).
Sturgeon described it as a “sharp reminder for us that the virus is still out there”.
Leitch said that the cluster was currently in single figures and was complex because some tests were done in England and some in Scotland. The infections are not thought to be linked to a particular event. He said that Public Health Scotland and Public Health England have put together a cross border incident management team already, adding that clusters were much easier to deal with than sustained community transmission. “This is exactly what we expected to happen at this stage in the pandemic.”
PMQs – Snap verdict