Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not shy away from taking a decision to impose quarantine on English visitors to Scotland, but neither will it be a decision she takes lightly.
Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday about the possibility of self-isolation for visitors from south of the border, the First Minister said the UK nations need to work together on outbreak management in a way that “mitigates against having to put any border restrictions in place”.
She said she is not “immediately planning” to implement a quarantine policy but will “take decisions the best I can to protect the health of Scotland and to take that absolutely from a public health perspective.”
She said the Scottish Government has to take a “very close look” to make sure the virus is not coming in to Scotland from other parts of the UK.
“This is not about saying to people in England ‘You are not welcome in Scotland’ – of course people in England are welcome in Scotland,” she said.
“This is not about politics, it’s not about a constitutional agenda, it’s just about taking decisions to protect people in Scotland as much as possible from Covid.”
Ms Sturgeon said she would like to see the UK Government be more explicit that it is trying to get to levels of coronavirus that are “virtually elimination levels”.
“We need to be sure that any outbreaks in England are being properly managed, just as England will want to be sure that any outbreaks in Scotland are properly managed,” she said. “It’s when there isn’t that confidence that the concerns about possible importation would grow.”
The Scottish Government has been criticised for its policy early in the pandemic of discharging hospital patients into care homes without being tested for coronavirus.
Almost half (46%) of Covid-19 deaths in Scotland relate to care homes, according to the National Records of Scotland.
What I absolutely refute is that there was some particular problem in Scotland or that we didn't take great careNicola Sturgeon
Asked about the Government’s record, Ms Sturgeon said she regrets and apologises for every death from Covid-19.
But she added: “What I absolutely refute is that there was some particular problem in Scotland or that we didn’t take great care.”
The First Minister said excess deaths in care homes are lower in Scotland than in England, with Scotland attributing more of them to coronavirus.
The First Minister’s handling of the pandemic has coincided with a rise in support for Scottish independence, with a recent Panelbase poll showing that 54% would support a Yes vote.
But asked if she was hitting the pause button on constitutional arguments during the coronavirus crisis, Ms Sturgeon said that for the moment she is focused “100% on tackling Covid”.
She said the recent rise of support for independence in Scotland “maybe has a lesson in it for my own party”.
“At no point during this have I weighed my decisions on political basis or a constitutional basis but, at a time when I and the SNP have not been talking about independence all the time but getting on with the job of autonomous decision-making and trying to get the right decisions to get the county through a crisis, support for independence appears to have increased, so maybe there is a bit of a lesson in there about show not tell.”
The First Minister also rejected comments from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that Covid-19 financial support is only possible because “we are a United Kingdom”.
She said: “These kind of nonsense points, frankly, I think are a bit regrettable and ridiculous, particularly given the severity of what we face.”