South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned that the collapse in relations between the UK and devolved Governments will put borders communities at risk during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The local MSP was commenting after the UK Government ditched the “four nations” approach in the fight against Covid-19 and announced a unilateral change in its key messaging, along with proposals to begin the exit from lockdown in England.
The ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ message previously used by the UK Government has now been replaced by one urging people to ‘Stay Alert, Control the virus, Save Lives’.
The Scottish and Welsh Governments say they were not consulted or told in advance of the change and intend to stick to the message that people should ‘Stay Home’.
The Prime Minister also said people who could not work from home should return to the workplace if it is in England- but avoid public transport.
He said he hoped the next step “at the earliest by 1 June” would be for some primary pupils to return to school in England.
The moves by the UK Government come on the back of a recent statement by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that Scotland “will not hesitate” to diverge from UK policy on when it may lift the coronavirus lockdown.
It was revealed last week that the Scottish and UK Government were developing separate phone apps for each side of the border to detect the spread of the Covid-19.
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “It is clear that the relationship between the UK and devolved Governments is in a state of collapse. When we need all Governments across the UK to be working together, the mixed messages are bad news for borders communities.
“Of course each Government needs to make decisions on when to exit the lockdown based on the circumstances in their area. But at the very least they need to be consulting with each other and ensure they consider the unique impact their decisions have on people living near the border.
“This is clearly not happening. It seems it’s a return to politics as usual with the borderlands once again becoming the forgotten region.
“Much has been said about the Prime Minister’s announcements on relaxing the lockdown only applying to England but in fact it has huge implications for people who live in Scotland but work south of the border. They will now be unsure when they are expected to return to work, and if they have children, Borders and Dumfries and Galloway Councils will come under pressure to add them to their list of key workers so they can access childcare.
“There will be a real worry that the signal from the Prime Minister that people can travel by car to exercise could see an increase in visitors to tourist hot spots in Scotland. Unlike the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government failed to make this an offence in Scotland so there is little they will be able to do to enforce a ban.
“With so many people in borders communities travelling in normal times between Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria and the Borders and Northumberland every day for work, health, education and leisure, the UK and Scottish Governments need to understand that the decisions they both make, will impact on people living on both sides of the border.”