A controversial travel ban between Scotland and Greater Manchester has been lifted by Nicola Sturgeon, despite coronavirus rates in both places being higher than when it was imposed.
The First Minister said restrictions were being ditched from Wednesday as there was no longer a "significant difference" in case rates between the areas and Scotland.
The ban on travel to Salford and Manchester, which came into force just nine days ago on June 21, sparked a furious row between Ms Sturgeon and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.
Mr Burnham accused Ms Sturgeon of “hypocrisy” for imposing the “completely disproportionate” restrictions on movement without any consultation with him.
He raised the prospect of legal action and demanded compensation for residents who had booked holidays which they were then forced to cancel at the last minute, a request the SNP rejected.
However, Ms Sturgeon confirmed yesterday that restrictions would be lifted for Manchester, Salford and Bolton. They will remain in place for Blackburn with Darwen, which is outside of Mr Burnham’s constituency, although this will be reviewed next week.
The Queen meets Nicola Sturgeon at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on Tuesday
Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire/Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Responding to the announcement, Mr Burnham said he had "serious concerns about this travel ban and the way it was introduced” but is “grateful to the First Minister and to the Scottish Government for listening and for the decision” to lift the ban.
When it was extended to Salford and Manchester, the cities had cases rates of just over 300 cases per 100,000. Last night, both had more than 400 per 100,000 although cases in Scotland have grown at a far steeper rate. Dundee yesterday reported a rate of 713.9 cases per 100,000.
The Scottish Tories have demanded that SNP ministers “re-think their decision to roundly reject calls to compensate businesses who have lost out” over the “confusing and unenforceable” ban.
“As usual, businesses were an afterthought for this SNP government who imposed these restrictions with little notice. The ban has been yet another hammer blow for many Scottish businesses, particularly in our tourism and hospitality sectors,” said transport spokesperson Graham Simpson.
He added: “Vital jobs and livelihoods remain at great risk as a result of SNP ministers’ decision to introduce this baffling travel ban to Manchester and elsewhere in the north-west, especially at a time when Covid rates in parts of Scotland were far higher.”
Confirming the end to the travel ban on Tuesday, SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf defended the restrictions as “only taken after extremely careful consideration and analysis of data to help prevent the spread of variants of concern”.