South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has once again raised the matter of incompatible COVID-19 contact tracing apps north and south of the border with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
It comes after people in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders flagged up to the local MSP that the Scottish Government’s Protect Scotland app doesn’t work in England and has to be switched off if someone wants to use the English app. However, residents from Scotland can’t use the English app properly because it doesn’t recognise Scottish postcodes.
On Thursday, during First Minister’s Questions, Colin Smyth demanded answers about the issue which affects his constituents on a daily basis.
The local MSP is furious that a previous pledge by the First Minister in May, that any apps would work cross border, has not been kept.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, he said: “In May, I asked the First Minister whether, given the decision to develop different Covid-19 phone apps in different parts of the United Kingdom, those apps would be compatible with one another.
“The First Minister’s answer was yes. That has not happened. Five months on, the Scottish test and protect app does not work in England, and the thousands of my constituents who travel south of the border every day cannot use the English app properly when they are in England because it does not recognise a Scottish postcode.
“Why has the disconnect between the UK and Scottish Governments allowed that basic failing in any credible test and trace system to happen, and when exactly will it be fixed?”
Speaking afterwards, the local MSP continued: “Five months ago I raised my fears with the First Minister over having two separate apps north and south of the border and Nicola Sturgeon gave me an assurance both systems would be compatible with each other.
“I am furious this hasn’t happened, and this utter failure is putting the health of my constituents at risk.
“Is it yet another example of the complete breakdown in communication between our two Governments in the battle against Covid-19. With so many people in border communities in particular travelling between Scotland and England 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.
“The disconnect between Governments mean we have the chaotic situation where someone from Scotland may slip through the system because the English app doesn’t recognise a Scottish postcode and the Scottish app has to be switched off if you want to use the English one when south of the border. It is just not good enough that once again border communities have been completely forgotten and overlooked by both governments and I’ll be demanding action to fix this shambles.”