SNP MP disciplined after travelling to Westminster and back with Covid

The Scottish National party took disciplinary action against one of its MPs on Thursday after she admitted travelling hundreds of miles to and from parliament while infected with Covid-19.

Margaret Ferrier said she experienced coronavirus symptoms on Saturday and took a test for the virus, but still travelled to Westminster by train on Monday.

After giving a speech in the Commons chamber, the SNP MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West near Glasgow later on Monday received a positive test result for Covid-19, but returned to her constituency on Tuesday, again on public transport.

The MP’s actions prompted fierce criticism and calls for her to be sacked.

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said he had suspended Ms Ferrier from the party whip.

“She fully accepts that what she did was wrong. Margaret will be referring herself to the parliamentary standards commissioner as well as the police,” Mr Blackford said on Twitter.

In a statement on Twitter, Ms Ferrier said she was “very sorry” for her mistake.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the pro-independence Scottish nationalists, said the MP’s actions had been “utterly indefensible” and that Mr Blackford had been right to suspend the whip.

“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, she tweeted. “The rules apply to everyone and they’re in place to keep people safe.”

And a fellow SNP MP David Linden, whose constituency is in Glasgow East, said he was “furious” with Ms Ferrier’s behaviour, and on BBC’s Question Time called for her to quit. 

“I don’t think her position is tenable and she should resign”, he said. “We are asking people to follow very, very strict public health guidance. If a member of parliament can’t do that, I think they’ve got to reflect upon their position.” 

Ms Ferrier had previously called for the sacking of Dominic Cummings, prime minister Boris Johnson’s top adviser, saying that by travelling to the north of England while infected with Covid-19 he had “undermined the sacrifices” made by the public.

“The public health advice is crystal clear,” Ms Ferrier’s local newspaper, the Rutherglen Reformer, quoted her as saying in May. “Anyone with coronavirus symptoms must self-isolate . . . They should not leave the house for any reason.”

Ruth Davidson, who leads the Scottish Conservatives group in the parliament in Edinburgh, said: “Knowingly taking public transport after testing positive for Covid-19 is to put lives at risk. She has to go.” 

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray described Ms Ferrier’s actions as “reckless”, adding: “Through her irresponsible actions, she very possibly has passed on the virus to a vulnerable person, who may now have Covid-19 and be in danger.”

There will now be pressure on Ms Sturgeon to take stronger action against Ms Ferrier. 

The Scottish government’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, sparked fierce criticism in April when she admitted to having defied lockdown to visit a holiday home. Ms Sturgeon initially sought to retain Mr Calderwood, but told her to resign after concluding her position was untenable. 

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A House of Commons spokesperson said the priority was to ensure that people working on the parliamentary estate were safe while business continued: “We have closely followed public health guidance on the action to take following a confirmed case of Covid on site.”

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