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by Andrew Learmonth
22 June 2021
COVID update: Manchester travel ban row overshadows First Minister's coronavirus statement

COVID update: Manchester travel ban row overshadows First Minister's coronavirus statement

The Scottish Government will be quizzed on their Manchester travel ban today, with the Tories securing a question in Holyrood on the row. 

Andy Burnham’s war of words with Nicola Sturgeon continued yesterday, with the Labour Mayor raising the prospect of legal action over the decision to ban travel between Scotland and Greater Manchester.

He has ordered an economic analysis to establish how much money is being lost to the region’s economy.

With question swirling over Keir Starmer’s leadership, Sturgeon accused Burnham of stirring up the row in a bid to position himself as a candidate in a potential Labour leadership contest.

Speaking after receiving her second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at Glasgow's Louisa Jordan, the First Minister said: “I’ve always got on well with Andy Burnham and if he wants to have a grown-up conversation he only has to pick up the phone but if, as I suspect might be the case, this is more about generating a spat with me as part of some positioning in a Labour leadership contest in future, then I’m not interested.”

Burnham said the ban was unenforceable: “I don't want to work directly against a legitimately democratically elected government, but I am struggling very much to see how this is proportionate or justifiable,” he said.

"To ban double jabbed, older people, from the entirety of Scotland … I think that’s an infringement on their civil liberties, definitely.

“Just to say that you cannot go to Scotland because you happen to live in Salford, Manchester or Bolton, when all the evidence that we have locally is that the cases are significantly within the under-25s, the case rate amongst the over-60s is very low. I think it is an infringement of their civil liberties.

"I'm not going to directly contravene another democratically elected devolved administration by telling everyone here to ignore them. But at the same time, I'm struggling to understand their policy.”

He added: “I also don’t know how the ban gets enforced, to be honest. That is also a matter for the Scottish Government to set out.”

Asked if he would consider legal action, he added: “I certainly think there is some shaky ground here for the Scottish Government.

"I don't know if they could demonstrate fairness across the different areas affected by restrictions. It raises the question of discriminatory action against people living in some areas.

"So I've had actually a lawyer getting in touch to offer help. I'm not necessarily saying that to say that we're going there.

"Threatening legal action is something that only should be done if appropriate, but I can't rule out. If there's hundreds of people that are out of pocket by hundreds of pounds ... if there is a legal redress route for them, then I think that should be considered.”

The ban on travel between Scotland and Manchester or Salford came into force yesterday after officials in Edinburgh warned of a surge in the number of cases of the Delta variant in England’s North West.

People found to have breached the travel rules could be fined £60, which can keep doubling to a maximum of £960 for repeat offences. 

Tory MSP Graham Simpson will ask the government to explain the “basis it has introduced a ban on non-essential travel between Scotland and Manchester and Salford” during today’s topical questions. 

The row has overshadowed this afternoon’s COVID announcement, with the First Minister expected to delay the further easing of restrictions by around three weeks. 

Meanwhile, reports this morning suggest British holidaymakers who have had both coronavirus jags could be allowed to travel to countries on the amber list without having to quarantine for ten days. 

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Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Miners' Pardon: 'I knew I had done nothing wrong'.

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