There were a number of problems with the policy, chief among them that it could hardly be accurately described as a ban given it was effectively unenforceable.
The police in Scotland were unlikely to start asking random travellers where they were heading and then checking their maps to see if the address came within the boundaries of Greater Manchester, and police forces in England would presumably have given any request from Edinburgh to do the same a low priority, if any at all.
However, it would be wrong to cast doubt on Scottish ministers’ motivations. The government has been required to make many difficult and complicated decisions over the lockdown restrictions for more than a year now, so the occasional mis-step or over-reach is understandable.
The imposition of the travel ban was at odds with the opening up of our economy, but it was hardly in Nicola Sturgeon’s interests to pick a random fight with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. Boris Johnson is the main nationalist bogeyman, while Burnham’s style of politics will have admirers among SNP members.
What was clearly a mistake – one that may have been born out of a degree of arrogance – was the failure to inform Burnham in advance. There might still have been a public row, but it perhaps would not have been tinged with the same degree of personal rancour. Had Westminster imposed a travel ban on Scotland without consulting with Sturgeon, she would have been just as outraged as Burnham.
It is hard to say what effect, if any, an eight-day, unenforceable travel ban will have had on the Covid outbreak in Scotland.
But what it has done is strain relations with one of England’s greatest cities, which is a shame as an online poll by the Manchester Evening News in 2015 rather flatteringly found that 72 per cent of readers wanted Manchester to leave the UK and become part of an independent Scotland instead.
Given Scotland and the north of England have many things in common and shared interests, perhaps a little bridge-building on Edinburgh’s part would not go amiss.