South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has demanded answers from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about the need for continuity north and south of the border when it comes to a lockdown exit strategy.

At the weekend, several news sources suggested some lockdown restrictions in England could be lifted in May, while First Minster Nicola Sturgeon refuted the claims there would be any change in Scotland in the foreseeable future.

Colin Smyth has warned that a co-ordinated approach between both Governments across the UK was vital, particularly for border communities.

The local MSP has also highlighted specific issues relating to Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders. In normal times, around 4,000 people in Dumfries and Galloway alone travel to Cumbria for work, education, health and leisure. If shops, colleges and workplaces south of the border were to reopen before those in Scotland, there is a chance those living in Dumfries and Galloway would end up breaking Scottish advice to stay at home.

Speaking during a special session of First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Colin Smyth said: “The First Minister said that she will not hesitate to use a different approach or timescale to the rest of the UK when it comes to exiting lockdown. The national clinical director has said that Orkney is ‘quite different from Oxford Street’.

“Does the First Minister agree that, when it comes to the current path of Covid-19, there is little difference between Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway, or between the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, and, that we therefore need the right exit strategy for both sides of the border?

“Does she also accept that two different strategies, with different timescales for communities that are next to each other, would simply add to confusion and would be almost impossible to enforce in one community, when a neighbouring community, barely a social distance apart, is doing something completely different?”

After the session in parliament, Colin Smyth added: “Nicola Sturgeon said she would take these matters into consideration when the lockdown exit strategy was being formulated and I will continue to hold her to account on this important matter.

“She rightly said that a lockdown exit strategy would not be a “predetermined and ideological constitutional or political decision” but we must do all we can to avoid dangerous mixed messages. Our governments must start working together to ensure that they are on the same page.

“No one expects either Government to set out a timescale yet for an exit strategy. But the public have a right to know what that strategy will look like and everything possible should be down to make sure the strategy is the right one on both side of the border.”

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