Nicola Sturgeon’s travel ban left in tatters as police admit it’s ‘impossible’ to enforce

Andy Burnham hits out at Scotland's Manchester travel ban

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Friday that all non-essential travel from Manchester and Salford would be banned due to rising coronavirus cases. This prompted anger from Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham at the weekend, who said the move was disproportionate and should have been communicated to his administration beforehand.

Mr Burnham had demanded compensation from the Scottish Government to help local businesses affected by lost bookings from Scots expecting to travel to the region.

But the First Minister defended her decision and today suggested Mr Burnham was seeking to “generate a spat” with her in order to position himself in a future Labour leadership contest.

Under the measures, introduced under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 from today, Scots could be fined £60 and up to a maximum of £960 if they repeatedly break the rules.

Senior figures from Police Scotland have tonight raised serious concerns about the enforcement of the laws, especially around checking travellers.

One senior police source said, “the specific nature of the associated legalisation” surrounding location would make it nearly “impossible” to enforce.

They added: “These latest coronavirus restrictions are more or less not enforceable at all, especially around the border.

“Ministers can pass what legislation they please but in respect of these restrictions, we are hardly going to be enforcing this unless there is a significant link or evidence of a crime being committed.

“Physically setting up roadblocks or checkpoints is not efficient.”

Sir Desmond Swayne, New Forest West MP, said: “Are we one kingdom or not?

“Having travel bans in different parts of the UK is something I’m really uncomfortable with.”

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The Tory MP said it was “highly regrettable” for the people of Manchester to find themselves “banned at short notice” from Scotland.

A UK Government source claimed the SNP led Scottish Government were “trying to stoke division with the ban” and added: “It feels like it’s discriminatory against English people.”

Cllr John Leech, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Manchester City Council, said the ban was a “bit of a nonsense” when parts of Scotland had infection rates as high as parts of England.

The latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) reveal coronavirus infection rates have continued to rise in most parts of the city, with Salford recording a rate of 336.9 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending June 14, just as high as Dundee in Scotland.

In Greater Manchester as a whole, the infection rate is 261.2 cases per 100,000 population.

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Cllr Leech stressed: “The restrictions won’t make a difference in terms of spreading the infection.

“Somebody who has been vaccinated and follows all the guidance on social distancing shouldn’t be expected to stay at home.

“But there are clearly some people who have blatantly broken the rules.

“It seems very unfair. I imagine there would be zero enforcement of the restrictions as police will have more pressing matters to attend to.”

Jamie Greene MSP, Scottish Conservative Justice spokesperson, said: “The SNP’s Covid laws are becoming increasingly confusing.

“Now we see Police Scotland talking up that they apparently won’t even be able to enforce the latest cross-border travel ban that has been put into force by SNP Ministers.

“That sort of lack of clarity around how Covid-related rules will actually work in practice only leads to an erosion of trust among the public.”

Ms Sturgeon told BBC News today: “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.

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“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.

“We’ve all got a serious job of work to do right now and I’m serious about doing that job in a way that keeps Scotland as safe as I possibly can.”

Responding to the comments today, Mr Burnham said: “I find that insulting, not for me, but for people here who are directly affected by what she announced. It’s not just the direct impact on Greater Manchester, it’s on our reputation as a city. 

“If the First Minister of a country stands up at a press conference and announces that the UK’s second city is going under a travel ban, it has an impact.

“People elsewhere in Europe, around the world, hear that. So it’s not like it’s just a sort of more localised thing between us and Scotland, it has an impact on our city region.

“I don’t think we’ve been treated with the respect we deserve and I’m talking mainly there of the people of Greater Manchester, not myself.”

Alan Speirs, Assistant Chief Constable of Police Scotland, added: “Our approach throughout the pandemic has not changed.

“Officers will engage with the public, explain the legislation and encourage compliance, but will not hesitate to use enforcement as a last resort.

“The Chief Constable has said publicly on numerous occasions that we will not be routinely stopping vehicles or setting up road blocks, and that will not change.”

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