Nicola Sturgeon has said comments from one of her government’s most high profile scientific advisers who said Scotland faces a “stream of incoming infections from England and Wales” were not political and were a “legitimate” public health point.
The First Minister, who was responding to a question asking her whether she thought the language was appropriate, also said people should stop ‘loading’ the debates with “political or constitutional arguments”.
Professor Devi Sridhar, who sits on the Scottish Government's Covid-19 Advisory Group had written in a New York Times article that Scotland and Northern Ireland had decided to undertake a “concerted plan to minimise community transmission”.
She added: “But neither nation has control over its borders because they are parts of the United Kingdom.
“So both now face a stream of incoming infections from England and Wales, which are behaving more like the rest of Europe, as well as from people returning from holiday abroad and not abiding by advice to isolate for 14 days.”
The comments had been criticised by senior members of the Welsh government since its publication at the weekend.
Professor Sridhar is chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, but has been an outspoken figure during the pandemic. She apologised recently after suggesting recently that pro-union supporters were anti-Scottish.
The First Minister defended her adviser, saying the point Professor Sridhar made was a “perfectly legitimate public health point”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I know the point Devi is making and I think it is a perfectly legitimate public health point.
"This is not about different countries or nationalities or different groups of people, this is about trying to keep an infectious virus under control and when there are outbreaks in particular parts of the UK that may mean limiting travel or advising against travel from those areas to other parts of the UK.
"As we get prevalence down to low levels in Scotland and this would be true of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the bigger challenge then becomes you then stop the virus being reimported from other places.
"This is just about all of us trying to keep the virus under control. It is not political, it is not nationality based, it is not country-based, it’s recognising that this is a virus that doesn’t of its own accord respect borders so we have to put fire breaks in place to stop it spreading.
"I would encourage everybody to see it purely from that public health perspective and not try to load these debates with political or constitutional arguments which incidentally I don’t think for a minute Vaughan Gething [Welsh health minister] will have been doing but I have heard others try to do that.
"I think that is really doing a disservice to the big challenge that we are all collectively facing.”