Police announce investigation into SNP MP Margaret Ferrier over Covid trip from Scotland to Commons

Simon Johnson
·4 min read
Margaret Ferrier speaking in the House of Commons in London on September 28 while she had coronavirus - AFP
Margaret Ferrier speaking in the House of Commons in London on September 28 while she had coronavirus - AFP

Police on Friday launched an investigation into a disgraced SNP MP who travelled from Scotland to Westminster and back while suffering from coronavirus.

The Metropolitan Police said it had launched an inquiry with the British Transport Police into the 800-mile round trip by Margaret Ferrier, the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP.

The announcement came after Nicola Sturgeon said she had made it "crystal clear" to Ms Ferrier that she should quit over her "reckless, dangerous and completely indefensible" decision.

In a direct message to Scots furious at Ms Ferrier being guilty of "possibly the worst breach imaginable", Ms Sturgeon insisted that "the rules apply to everyone" including her MPs and pleaded with them to retain "confidence in the advice I give you" on the pandemic.

But Ms Ferrier gave no indication to the First Minister whether she would resign.

Although Ms Ferrier has been suspended from the party, Ms Sturgeon said she did not have the power to force her to step down as an MP, and insisted she could not expel her from the SNP without "due process."

However, Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said the SNP's account was “full of holes” over when they knew about Ms Ferrier's actions and questioned why Ms Sturgeon could not immediately kick her out of her party.

Mr Ross, who resigned as a UK Government minister in protest at Dominic Cummings' lockdown trip to Durham earlier this year, challenged the Scottish Nationalists' claim they only became fully aware of the situation on Thursday morning.

Boris Johnson told BBC Scotland that it was vital that "everyone obeys the rules and the guidance" regarding coronavirus and warned that after the virus receded in the summer "everyone got a bit, y'know complacent and a bit blase."

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, said he was "very, very angry" at Ms Ferrier's behaviour and he could not believe she had put other people's health at risk.

The MP took a coronavirus test last Saturday after feeling unwell but took the train on Monday to London while she awaited the results because she was "feeling much better".

She spoke for four minutes at 7.15pm in the Commons chamber during a coronavirus debate, even tweeting a video of her speech, but was told later that evening that she had tested positive for the virus.

Instead of self-isolating, she made the 400-mile trip back to Scotland by train on Tuesday after telling her party whips a family member was unwell.

She informed Patrick Grady, the party's chief whip at Westminster on Wednesday afternoon that she had tested positive for the virus and he immediately informed the Speaker's office.

Ms Sturgeon said her party believed that Ms Ferrier had only been tested once she arrived back in Scotland. However, the First Minister did not say whether the MP was asked about this or when she had displayed symptoms.

Senior SNP sources said Mr Grady and Ian Blackford, the party's Westminster leader, only discovered on Thursday morning that Ms Ferrier had been tested before travelling down to London. Ms Sturgeon was informed that afternoon, immediately after First Minister's Questions at Holyrood.

Jim Shannon, the DUP MP for Strangford, on Friday announced he was self-isolating at home as a precaution after sitting at the same dining table as Ms Ferrier on Monday evening. However, he had so far tested negative for the virus.

Mr Blackford also said that Ms Ferrier's "position isn’t tenable". He added: "We’ve got be judged by our actions and you have to take responsibility for what you’ve done.”

Ian Murray, Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary, wrote to Mr Blackford with a series of questions about Ms Ferrier's conduct and when the SNP found out about it.

He said: "We are faced with catastrophic, negligent actions by an MP which have put lives at risk. You and your party’s slow response leaves much to be desired, and the party must come forward with a full and clear explanation. "