Nicola Sturgeon expects Aberdeen University to take suggestions its principal, Professor George Boyne, broke coronavirus guidelines “seriously”, after it emerged he travelled to Wales at the weekend.
The first minister said the rules should be observed by everyone, regardless of their status, when the incident was brought to her attention at her daily Covid briefing.
Professor Boyne has apologised after travelling to Wales for an appointment with a consultant he has been seeing for a private health matter.
The academic, who previously held a senior position at Cardiff University, issued an apology to students for staying in his Welsh home, which is occupied by his son.
In a statement, he admitted his actions might not have been “in line with local guidance”.
Fifteen out of Wales’ 22 local authorities are currently facing restrictions, affecting around two million people.
People are banned from entering or leaving the local lockdown areas without a “reasonable excuse”, although exemptions include health reasons. Friends and family are forbidden from meeting indoors.
Everybody, regardless of who they are – their position, their status – we all have to follow these rules because they are there to keep all of us safe. They don’t apply to some people and not to others.”
Ms Sturgeon said Professor Boyne’s actions were something for the university to look at, although she noted his journey had been “for a health reason”.
The first minister revealed she had not been in touch with the university or its principal about the matter.
But she added: “If there is any suggestion of a breach of guidelines I would expect the university to take that seriously, as I would always take that seriously.
“I would just take the opportunity to underline the fact that everybody, regardless of who they are – their position, their status – we all have to follow these rules because they are there to keep all of us safe. They don’t apply to some people and not to others. And I made that clear in another context on Friday and I make this equally clear in this context as well.”
Ms Sturgeon was referring Margaret Ferrier, the MP who has been suspended from the SNP for travelling from her Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency to the House of Commons and back on public transport with Covid.
Ms Sturgeon renewed her calls for Ms Ferrier to quit as an MP, saying of “egregious cases” of MPs breaching the guidelines there was a “danger of it undermining the public health message”. She also managed to refer to her SNP colleague as “Margaret Covid”.
Joining the First Minister today is Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and Scotland’s Interim Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith. https://t.co/HBB8ACTkxr
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) October 5, 2020
Details of the trip taken by Professor Boyne, who is also the university’s vice-chancellor, emerged at the weekend. Student newspaper The Gaudie said his actions were in “stark contrast” with university rules, which threaten robust action for those breaking Covid rules. Many students have been self-isolating in university halls in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.
In a statement to staff and students, Professor Boyne apologised.
Though he said police in Wales assured him no further action would be taken, university bosses have launched an inquiry into the matter.
Professor Boyne said he made the trip for a private health matter.
“On Friday I travelled to Wales for a private health matter, to see a consultant I have been seeing for some time,” the principal said. “For the purposes of the visit I have been staying at our house in Wales, which is occupied by our son. As I have reduced immunity, it felt like the safest option to be in our house, rather than in a hotel.
“It has been suggested to me that this may not be in line with local guidance. I have checked the position with South Wales Police and have been advised that they will not be taking any action.
“However I sincerely apologise for any concern this may cause. I have informed the senior governor of the University of Aberdeen.”
Esther Roberton, Senior Governor of the university, said: “The principal has informed me of this matter and I will take advice and consult with fellow trustees to consider the full implications of his actions.”