Scottish MP suspended for taking train after positive Covid test

SNP’s Margaret Ferrier was awaiting result when she travelled for coronavirus debate in House of Commons

SNP MP Margaret Ferrier in the House of Commons on Monday during a debate on the coronavirus response. She had experienced symptoms before the debate and her test came back positive. Photograph: Parliament TV/PA Wire

SNP MP Margaret Ferrier in the House of Commons on Monday during a debate on the coronavirus response. She had experienced symptoms before the debate and her test came back positive. Photograph: Parliament TV/PA Wire

 

An MP has apologised for travelling to London to debate the coronavirus response in parliament after experiencing Covid-19 symptoms before testing positive and returning to Scotland.

The SNP suspended Margaret Ferrier after she acknowledged on Thursday that “there is no excuse for my actions” and said she had reported herself to police after revealing her journey while positive with the virus.

Party leader Nicola Sturgeon condemned the “utterly indefensible” behaviour amid calls for the MP to go.

Ms Ferrier said she took a test on Saturday afternoon after experiencing “mild symptoms”, meaning she should have self-isolated, before travelling by train to London on Monday.

“This was wrong, and I am very sorry for my mistake,” the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West said.

Ms Ferrier spoke in the coronavirus debate in the House of Commons on Monday and, by her account, tested positive for Covid-19 that evening.

“I travelled home by train on Tuesday morning without seeking advice. This was also wrong and I am sorry,” she said.

“I have been self-isolating at home ever since.”

The MP said she had informed the test and trace system and Commons authorities and had “notified the police of my actions”, with Police Scotland saying they were liaising with the Metropolitan Police.

“Despite feeling well, I should have self-isolated while waiting for my test result, and I deeply regret my actions,” Ms Ferrier said.

“I take full responsibility and I would urge everyone not to make the same mistakes that I have, and do all they can to help limit the spread of Covid-19.”

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, said he was suspending the whip from Ms Ferrier having spoken to the MP.

Ms Sturgeon welcomed the move and added: “It’s hard to express just how angry I feel on behalf of people across the country making hard sacrifices every day to help beat Covid. The rules apply to everyone and they’re in place to keep people safe.”

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said Ms Ferrier had put passengers, rail staff, MPs and Commons staff “at unacceptable risk”.

“To breach the rules twice is simply unforgivable, and has undermined all the sacrifices made by her constituents,” the Labour MP added.

Cummings criticism

Ms Ferrier previously called on the government to investigate Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, for potential breaches of the rules over his trip to Durham.

She criticised the prime minister for standing by his aid, and accused Mr Cummings of “undermining public trust in lockdown rules”.

On Monday, Ms Ferrier gave a four-minute speech in the Commons from 7.15pm and focused on the “economic health” of her constituents, calling for greater financial support.

Train drivers’ union Aslef said: “For an MP to get on a train knowing she has Covid-19 is both dangerous and disgraceful.”

Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Holyrood, said: “This Margaret Ferrier case is different – knowingly taking public transport after testing positive for Covid-19 is to put lives at risk.

“She has to go.”

The Glasgow-born politician (60) first entered parliament in 2015 taking the seat in South Lanarkshire from Labour. She lost in 2017 but won the constituency back in last year’s snap election.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We are aware of the circumstances and are liaising with our colleagues in the Metropolitan Police Service.”

The Commons confirmed she had informed parliamentary authorities of her diagnosis.

“We have closely followed public health guidance on the action to take following a confirmed case of Covid on site,” a spokesman said. – PA