Monday 21 June 2021 5:29 pm

Sturgeon and Burnham row over Covid travel ban compensation heats up

Scottish First minister Nicola Sturgeon and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham are engaged in a war of words over the Scottish Government’s decision to impose a Covid-19 travel ban on parts of north west England.

Burnham continued his criticism of the restrictions, saying he felt people in his region had been “insulted” by Sturgeon’s approach and a lack of consultation.

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

Travel ban

On Friday, Sturgeon said that all non-essential travel from Manchester and Salford would be banned due to rising coronavirus cases.

This prompted anger from Burnham at the weekend, who said the move was disproportionate and should have been communicated to his administration beforehand.

The First Minister was asked about Burnham’s reaction on BBC News on Monday. She said: “These are public health measures. I have a duty, and it’s one I take very seriously, to keep Scotland as safe as possible.”

“I’m sure Andy Burnham feels the same sense of duty toward people in the Greater Manchester area. 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,” she added.

“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.”

Earlier, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney also defended the decision to impose a travel ban.

Swinney also said Mr Burnham’s call for compensation is not “a relevant point”.

He told the Today programme: “We have in place, in Scotland, business support that we have made available to companies to try and sustain them, there will be support in place in England for exactly the same circumstances.

“We have got to take decisions based on the data that presents itself and sometimes that is very uncomfortable data for us.

“We have to act quickly to try to make sure we are doing everything possible to suppress the spread of the virus, and that is what members of the public would expect of us.”

Letter from Burnham

Burnham responded to the Sturgeon’s comments this afternoon, saying he would be writing to her asking for compensation for people affected by the ban.

He 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,” Burnham said.

“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.”

He continued: “It’s had an impact with people with holiday cottages booked, people who are having to go for work reasons.

“So to suggest, as the First Minister has done today, ‘Oh, this is all about politics and posturing’, well say that to them, say that to those people.

“Why is Bolton under a travel ban today, when it has a case rate that is quite a lot lower than Dundee? How is that fair?”

Later, Burnham published his letter to Sturgeon on his Twitter feed. It asked her to clarify the criteria for the ban, as Bolton has a Covid-19 case rate of 269 per 100,000, while Dundee has a rate of 318, similar to the rate in Salford and Manchester.

He also asked for compensation for those affected, quoting an email from a local resident who has lost £1,000, which read: “My husband and I have been virtually isolated for 18 months. Both fully vaccinated. Test ourselves twice a week. Never had a positive result. But the cottage won’t let us cancel as my daughter booked it and she is allowed to travel.”

Sturgeon’s official spokesman was also asked about the travel ban on Monday. “Health is a devolved matter. It is for the Scottish Government to explain that decision.”

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