SNP accuse PM of ignoring scientific advisers over tighter travel restrictions

The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford urged Boris Johnson to convene a four-nation meeting to discuss the issue.

Ben Hatton
Wednesday 01 December 2021 15:12
Ian Blackford was speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)
Ian Blackford was speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

The Prime Minister is ignoring his own scientific advisers by putting in place less stringent travel restrictions in response to the new Covid variant, the SNP’s Westminster leader claimed.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Ian Blackford accused Boris Johnson of ignoring the same advice from the Scottish and Welsh governments, the effect of which would be to “imperil the health of the public”, he said.

Mr Blackford explained that he was referring to leaked minutes of a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), where scientists reportedly discussed the Government’s policy of a single PCR test within two days for international arrivals.

The BBC reported on minutes of a Sage meeting which it said showed scientists said the Government’s current testing policy for international arrivals would “identify significantly fewer cases” than an additional test on either day five or day eight.

Mr Blackford asked the Prime Minister if he would “finally convene a four-nation Cobra meeting to tighten travel restrictions”.

He added: “Or will he continue to ignore the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and his own scientific advisers in Sage, and imperil the health of the public of these islands?”

Mr Blackford also raised reporting in the Daily Mirror which claimed the Prime Minister gave a speech at a packed leaving do for a senior aide last November when the country was in the midst of the second lockdown.

The newspaper said members of his No 10 team then held their own festive party days before Christmas, while London was under Tier 3 restrictions.

Mr Blackford said: “This is at a time when leadership matters, when truth matters and when trust really matters.”

He added: “The Prime Minister might be denying it but I’ve spoken to the Mirror newspaper this morning and they are confirming what happened, and they have legal advice on potential illegality.

“At a time when public health messaging is so vital, how are people possibly expected to trust a Prime Minister when he thinks it’s one rule for him and one rule for everybody else?”

Addressing the claims in the Daily Mirror, Boris Johnson said Ian Blackford was ‘talking total nonsense’ (House of Commons/PA)

The Prime Minister said he wanted to work with Mr Blackford and there would be “abundant” opportunities to address the situation regarding the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 and “concert our activity”.

He said Mr Blackford was “simply wrong” about the steps the Government had taken and that the restrictions were “balanced and proportionate measures designed to protect the British people from the Omicron variant”.

“This country was actually the first to respond. And for the 10 countries that are most likely to seed Omicron in this country, we’ve put them on the red list,” Mr Johnson added.

Addressing the claims in the Daily Mirror, the Prime Minister said: “He’s talking total nonsense”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also asked about the allegations in the Mirror, to which Mr Johnson responded: “All guidance was followed completely.”

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