Nicola Sturgeon has urged MP Margaret Ferrier to quit, describing her decision to travel on a train knowing she had Covid-19 as “possibly the worst breach imaginable”.
The First Minister said the Rutherglen and Hamilton West member should “do the right thing” after it emerged she travelled hundreds of miles by public transport from her constituency to the House of Commons and back with Covid-19.
Speaking during her daily briefing on Friday, Ms Sturgeon said Ms Ferrier’s actions were “reckless, dangerous and completely indefensible”.
She added she felt “very angry” on behalf of the public, who have made “horrendous sacrifices” as a result of the pandemic.
The first minister spoke to Ms Ferrier before the briefing and made it “crystal clear” she should quit as an MP.
She said: “I don’t have the power to force an MP to sit down, no party leader has that power.
“But I can make my views known and – difficult though it is – I have done so, and I hope she will come to the right decision in the interest of the overall integrity of the vital public health messages.”
Ferrier’s actions ‘completely reckless’
Ms Sturgeon said the former SNP MP did “not tell her one way or another” what she intends to do in regards to her future and the first minister claimed she was unable to get a “cogent explanation” for her actions.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle described Ms Ferrier’s actions as “completely reckless behaviour”, and said he found out while in the Speaker’s Chair at around 4pm on Wednesday.
This sends all the wrong messages. People have really got to consider their position on that.”
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle
When asked whether he believed she should quit as an MP, Sir Lindsay said: “I would expect the member to consider what they have done, and the reckless behaviour, and how that looks to the rest of the country.
“This sends all the wrong messages. People have really got to consider their position on that.”
He added: “Not to be told until Wednesday is not acceptable, and we were hearing different stories, different messages, that made it even more difficult to deal with.”
Ian Blackford says MP’s position ‘untenable’
The first minister said the SNP at Westminster knew on Wednesday that Ms Ferrier had tested positive but believed she had taken a test once she had arrived back in Scotland, but she did not know until after First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.
Ms Sturgeon added: “I understand she had informed colleagues on, I think Monday evening, that she was travelling back to Scotland because a family member might have been unwell.
“My understanding is this information came through the House of Commons test and trace mechanism and it was not until yesterday my colleagues in the House of Commons realised the circumstances, that she had taken the test before travelling to London and travelled back having been told she was positive.”
Ms Ferrier was already facing intense pressure after SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford described her position as “untenable”.
So many people have lost their lives, the fact that so many people are having to make sacrifices – not being able to see their family, their loved ones and so on, politicians have to be judged by their actions. I’m sad to say that Margaret has made a tremendous error of judgement in this.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford
Ms Ferrier was suspended from the SNP by Mr Blackford after her round trip became public knowledge. But questions are now being asked about when the SNP knew first knew about Ms Ferrier’s breach of the coronavirus regulations.
Speaking on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland, Mr Blackford said the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP had made a “tremendous error of judgment”.
LISTEN: Ian Blackford on Margaret Ferrier
(From: BBC Good Morning Scotland)
“So many people have lost their lives, the fact that so many people are having to make sacrifices – not being able to see their family, their loved ones and so on, politicians have to be judged by their actions,” Mr Blackford said.
“I’m sad to say that Margaret has made a tremendous error of judgment in this. She has apologised for it. But, at the end of the day, her credibility has been called into question. But not just that, but the fact that in doing this she has broken the law and she has rightly referred herself both to the police and the parliamentary standards.
“I’ve done – yesterday when I became aware of this – what I needed to do and that was to withdraw the whip from Margaret. She is no longer a SNP MP.”
Her position isn’t tenable given the circumstances that we are in and she has to accept her own responsibilities with what she must do.”
Asked if Ms Ferrier should now resign as an MP, Mr Blackford said: “She has to reflect on the circumstances she is now in. I would say to her, her position isn’t tenable given the circumstances that we are in and she has to accept her own responsibilities with what she must do. I can’t force that upon her. She is no longer an SNP MP.”
Pressed further on the same question, Mr Blackford said: “I think I have just spelt that out, haven’t I? At the end of the day, you have to be judged by your actions and you have to take responsibility for what you have done. I rightly called for Dominic Cummings to go after what he did and there is a difference in so far as Margaret has apologised for this. But I think she has to carefully reflect.”
I’ve spoken to Margaret Ferrier and made clear my view that she should step down as an MP. I did so with a heavy heart – she is a friend & colleague – but her actions were dangerous & indefensible. I have no power to force an MP to resign but I hope she will do the right thing.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) October 2, 2020
Calls for Ferrier to resign as MP
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called for her to quit as an MP. Mr Ross, the MP for Moray, told Times Radio: “(Politicians) have an important role to play. That is why her position as a Member of Parliament is now completely untenable because no-one can take what she says with any credibility because she has flouted the rules at every opportunity when she first became aware of the symptoms back on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, more pressure mounted from within the SNP, which Ms Ferrier had represented as an MP since 2015. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said her actions were “utterly indefensible”.
This is utterly indefensible. It’s hard to express just how angry I feel on behalf of people across the country making hard sacrifices every day to help beat COVID. The rules apply to everyone and they’re in place to keep people safe. @Ianblackford_MP is right to suspend the whip https://t.co/9rgWpPKrOe
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) October 1, 2020
Kirsty Blackman, SNP MP for Aberdeen North, and Stephen Flynn, SNP MP for Aberdeen South, joined those calling for her resignation.
I agree with David Linden. Margaret Ferrier must resign. Both David and Margaret are unparalleled campaigners for our party but in this circumstance David is right. Margaret’s actions cannot be overlooked.
— Kirsty Blackman (@KirstySNP) October 1, 2020
It came after David Linden, the SNP MP for the Glasgow East constituency neighbouring Ms Ferrier’s, called for her to go.
Ms Blackman tweeted: “I agree with David Linden. Margaret Ferrier must resign. Both David and Margaret are unparalleled campaigners for our party but in this circumstance David is right.
“Margaret’s actions cannot be overlooked.”
Mr Flynn retweeted Ms Blackman’s tweet, writing: “Impossible to disagree. The public will expect nothing less.”
Impossible to disagree. The public will expect nothing less. https://t.co/gpywSYMZSb
— Stephen Flynn MP (@StephenFlynnSNP) October 1, 2020
Ms Ferrier took a Covid test on Saturday after experiencing mild symptoms. Despite this she travelled by train to London on Monday to take part in a House of Commons debate.
Her test came through as positive on Monday night. The following day she travelled home by train. According to the House of Commons, she informed the SNP whip of her actions on Wednesday. The SNP’s opponents are demanding to know why it took until Thursday for details of her actions to emerge.