Nicola Sturgeon: I will not shy away from imposing quarantine on English visitors to Scotland

Dan Sanderson
·3-min read
Nicola Sturgeon has said she is concerned about potential importation of the virus from other parts of the UK
Nicola Sturgeon has said she is concerned about potential importation of the virus from other parts of the UK

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will “not shy away” from imposing quarantine restrictions on visitors from England to Scotland, if it is necessary to protect public health.

The Scottish First Minister said that while she is not “immediately planning” to implement any restrictions on English travellers the possibility would be kept under review and that she would "take a very close look" at the measure.

Unionists reacted with anger to her latest statement, accusing her of attempting to “drive a wedge between Scotland and England”. 

The tourism sector in Scotland has also expressed concern about the possibility of border restrictions, with some businesses saying customers from England have already cancelled bookings.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly said that rates of Covid-19 infection in Scotland is around five times lower than in England, although opponents have questioned the claim. However, evidence does point to a lower prevalence of coronavirus in Scotland, with just seven people testing positive and no new deaths reported on Saturday, as 147 coronavirus deaths being reported in England.

Asked about the possibility of imposing self-isolation on visitors from England, Ms Sturgeon told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme: “I’ve said we will keep all of these things under review.

“One of our biggest risks over the next few weeks is that we have driven levels of the virus down to very low levels in Scotland, is the risk of importation into the country. 

“That’s why we’ve taken a very cautious decision about international quarantine and, this is not a position I relish being in, it also means we have to take a very close look at making sure we are not seeing the virus come in from other parts of the UK.

“That’s not political, it’s not constitutional, it’s just taking a similar view to countries across the world in terms of protecting populations from the risk of the virus. It’s not something we have decided to do, it’s not something I’m immediately planning to do, but I will take decisions the best I can to protect the health of Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon pointed out that restrictions on internal travel had been implemented in other countries, such as Australia and the United States.

She added: “This is not about saying to people in England they’re not welcome in Scotland, of course people in England are welcome in Scotland.

“Leaders across the world are taking these very objective public health driven decisions and I’m determined to do likewise. 

“These are not decisions I will take lightly, but they are equally not decisions I will shy away from.”

Last week, Ms Sturgeon announced that travellers from Spain would still have to quarantine for 14 days if they visited Scotland, although they will not have to if they visit England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Ms Sturgeon has also been accused of stoking tensions which led to protests on the border last weekend, when Scottish nationalists in hazmat suits urged motorists from England to “stay out”.

A demonstration on the border last weekend - Euan Cherry/Euan Cherry
A demonstration on the border last weekend - Euan Cherry/Euan Cherry

She later condemned the demonstration, but refused to commit to taking disciplinary measures against any SNP members who took part. Pictures later emerged of Ms Sturgeon posing with some of the participants.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK Scotland in Union campaign group, said: Nicola Sturgeon can’t help herself. By once again talking up the prospect of quarantining English visitors she is trying to drive a wedge between Scotland and England, and giving the green light to her supporters to repeat their ugly protests.

“Any future lockdown measures should be taken on localised public health decisions, as we have seen in Leicester, not based on the line on the map between Scotland and England that Ms Sturgeon is so obsessed with.”