Scottish National Party MP’s actions subject of police inquiry

Margaret Ferrier resists call to resign after travel with Covid-19 symptoms and diagnosis

British police are investigating the actions of an MP who travelled from Glasgow to London after she developed coronavirus symptoms and returned to Scotland by train after she tested positive for the virus. Margaret Ferrier, who regained the seat of Rutherglen and Hamilton West for the Scottish National Party (SNP), has so far resisted calls to step down as an MP amid widespread criticism of her actions.

The Metropolitan Police said on Friday that she may have broken the law as well as ignoring guidance on self-isolation after developing coronavirus symptoms.

"This related to her actions earlier this week, including a train journey on Tuesday, September 29th, between London and Glasgow, following a positive Covid-19 test. Following consultation with Police Scotland, officers from the Metropolitan Police, working with British Transport Police, are conducting an investigation into potential offences," the Met said in a statement.

‘Worst breach imaginable’

The SNP has withdrawn the whip from Ms Ferrier, who apologised on Thursday evening and said she deeply regretted her actions. Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had urged the MP to resign her seat after committing "possibly the worst breach imaginable" of coronavirus rules.


"The most important relationship I have right now is with the Scottish public and I can't ask you to make all of these sacrifices if I am going to stand here trying to explain away what Margaret Ferrier did," Ms Sturgeon said.

“The rules apply to everyone, regardless of who you are. I’ve spoken to her directly and I have made crystal clear to her that I think she should resign as an MP.”

Ms Ferrier took a coronavirus test in Scotland last Saturday after she felt unwell but, feeling better on Monday, she took the train to London before receiving her test result. This was against the rules, which require anyone experiencing coronavirus symptoms to self-isolate until they receive a negative test result.

Train journey

Ms Ferrier spoke in the House of Commons during a debate on coronavirus on Monday and later that evening she learned that she had tested positive for the virus. The following day, she returned to Scotland by train, a journey that takes about five hours.

Strangford MP Jim Shannon, who sat at the same dining table as Ms Ferrier on Monday evening, started self-isolating after being alerted on Wednesday to her positive test result.

“Upon receiving this news, Mr Shannon immediately self-isolated and on Thursday afternoon he received a negative Covid-19 test result,” the DUP said in a statement. “Mr Shannon sought and at all times has followed the advice of Public Health England and the House of Commons Covid-19 team in dealing with every element of this incident. As a precaution, Mr Shannon is self-isolating at home.”

Ms Ferrier captured the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat in Glasgow from Labour in 2015 but lost it in 2017 before regaining it in 2019. Her slender majority of 5,230 votes makes the seat a target for Labour if she resigns and triggers a byelection, which would be Keir Starmer's first electoral test since he took over the leadership this year.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times