大发体育网站

Comment

Was Nicola Sturgeon's England quarantine threat a fit of pique or a realistic option?

大发体育网站 She knows that Scotland, as an integral part of the United Kingdom, has no power to close its internal border with the rest of Britain.

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out imposing quarantine on English visitors to Scotland
Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out imposing quarantine on English visitors to Scotland Credit: Getty Images Europe

It was as half-baked as it looked ill-tempered. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tried hard to disguise her displeasure at not being consulted by Boris Johnson’s ‘air bridges’ 大发体育网站holiday destinations but she didn’t really succeed.

She said she hadn’t been consulted by the Prime Minister about his decision to end quarantine regulations for visitors to the UK and as a result hadn’t made up her mind whether the new free-for-all would apply to Scotland.

大发体育网站And it was clear from her general demeanour that she didn’t like being ignored one little bit but also that she didn’t really know how to defy Downing Street on the issue.

 "We cannot simply be dragged along," she said of Mr Johnson’s act in ignoring her and then proceeded to suggest that in England he was allowing the virus ‘ to circulate at a higher level’. 

大发体育网站However, she knows and, indeed, had to confess the fact that Scotland, as an integral part of the United Kingdom, has no power to close its internal border with the rest of Britain - much as she might like to.

大发体育网站And so her veiled threat that she might stop travellers from England or anywhere else in the world from entering Scotland seemed to be somewhat pointless and left us to wonder if it may have been as much a fit of pique as a realistic option.

The Scotland-England border on the A68 near Jedburgh Credit: PA

She admitted that she couldn’t put border guards on Scotland’s airports to check on the health of visitors, although she did insist that her government did have responsibility for health matters north of the border.

It wasn’t clear if this meant that there would be health checks by doctors and nurses at Edinburgh and Glasgow airports and we didn’t get round to asking if they would be augmented by police officers, stationed on the M74 and A1 - the two main trunk routes into Scotland.

But with Mr Johnson due to announce the details of how he’s to allow ‘air bridges’ between the UK and selected holiday destinations, Ms Sturgeon said she hadn’t decided whether she would go along with them or not.

大发体育网站Before anyone could accuse her playing politics or engaging in constitutional arguments, she insisted that her main priority was the health of her country and that she had a responsibility to reduce the likelihood of the worst effects of the virus returning; all this when she had just reported that Scotland had had four days with no deaths.

And to questions about whether she might impose quarantine restrictions on tourists arriving in Scotland she said she was still considering the situation, before adding:  "I am not ruling anything out."

The FM and PM have maintained a reasonably dignified existence since the start of the pandemic emergency, given that neither rates the other very highly, and the former has generally kept her frustrations about what she sees as a lack of consultation from London pretty much to herself.

That’s no longer the case. She believes that Mr Johnson is allowing the Covid rate to circulate at a higher level in England, for reasons about which she didn’t elaborate, although she conceded that he wasn’t allowing it ‘to get out of control so as to overwhelm the NHS’.

大发体育网站In Scotland, however, she stressed that her aim was simply to reduce significantly the incidence of the virus.

It has always been apparent that the two had different ways of tackling the emergency but the very suggestion that she might impose restrictions from England - no matter what they’re doing in different states in the US - is bound to create a serious rift in the United Kingdom.

She’ll forgive me, I’m sure, but I suspect that such a situation wouldn’t cause Ms Sturgeon to lose much sleep.