Boris Johnson has said “there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland” following suggestions from Nicola Sturgeon that travellers from south of the border may be quarantined.
The first minister said on Monday that she had no plans at present for any special measures, but pointed at decisions by US states such as New York and New Jersey to quarantine travellers from US hotspots.
“I’ve no plans to introduce anything like this just now but I’m not ruling anything out, if it’s required from a public health perspective,” Ms Sturgeon said earlier this week.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack described the comments as “divisive” and said any such move would be bad for business.
Mr Jack, speaking in the Commons, said: “What’s deeply regrettable is that the first minister has encouraged reckless talk.
“This talk of quarantining people from other parts of the United Kingdom is disappointing, it’s divisive.
“It’s not the language which we should be hearing from our First Minister because it undermines the joint efforts that we’ve had in tackling Covid-19 and it’s bad for business and it’s especially bad for the tourism business.”
Boris Johnson, asked about the same comments at prime minister’s questions, said he found the suggestion “astonishing”.
What is “reckless’ is trying to turn a public health battle against a deadly and dangerous virus into a political/constitutional argument. https://t.co/QNVJerm44q
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) July 1, 2020
North-east MP Andrew Bowie asked the prime minister: “Does he not share my anger and the frustration of the Scottish tourist sector, just as it’s getting back on its feet, that it’s having the legs pulled out from under it by deeply irresponsible, damaging and divisive talk of arbitrary border closures and quarantining of visitors from across the United Kingdom?”
“I must say I found the suggestion absolutely astonishing,” Mr Johnson responded.
“There have been no such discussions with the Scottish administration about that but I would point out to (Mr Bowie) what he knows very well – there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.”
Responding to the criticism, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “What is reckless is trying to turn a public health battle against a deadly and dangerous virus into a political/constitutional argument.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford later pressed Mr Johnson on what new Barnett consequentials will be coming to Scotland following the prime minister’s “build, build, build” speech on Tuesday.
He told the Commons: “Yesterday the prime minister delivered the self-proclaimed ‘relaunch’ speech. But when asked what new money will be given to the Scottish Government at the daily press briefing, the prime minister’s official spokesperson laughed.
“That’s what this Government thinks about funding for the Scottish economy – jobs, families and livelihoods, they think it’s a joke.
“Is the prime minister capable of answering a direct question and I don’t want the usual waffle, it’s a straightforward question – What are the new Barnett consequentials coming to Scotland as result of yesterday’s speech?”
Mr Johnson responded: “I think he probably does the spokesman in question a serious injustice because I don’t believe that he would have taken this issue anything other than seriously.
“He should wait until next week to have the full Barnett consequentials for what we’re outlining.”