South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth has said the Scottish Government risks ‘criminalising confusion’ following the introduction of a cross border travel ban.
The local MSP also fears that people living in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders may be unfairly penalised, as essential cross border travel is a way of life for many communities.
A statutory travel ban was brought in on Friday which criminalises travelling in and out of level 3 and 4 restricted areas in Scotland for non-essential purposes. It also bans people from travelling to England, also for non-essential purposes.
During a debate on the issue in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Colin Smyth and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard proposed an amendment to withdraw the regulation imposing a statutory travel ban and to stick to the current guidance. However, Labour’s move was voted down in parliament by SNP, Tory, Green and Lib Dem MSPs.
Colin Smyth said: “We currently have guidance that sets out when people should travel. I am deeply disappointed that SNP, Tory, Green and Lib Dem MSP voted down Labour’s move to stop this becoming a legal travel ban, which is a step too far.
“More and more is being asked of members of the public. The rules and laws that they are being made to follow are becoming more confusing and come as a direct result of Scottish Government incompetence, not the public’s. The Scottish Government should have paused before it criminalises that confusion.
“Too many new rules and regulations concerning Covid-19 have been brought in by the Scottish Government without publishing evidence or proper scrutiny by MSPs.
“The catalogue of events that has led to another lockdown highlights the need for better scrutiny: the botched return of students to universities, the refusal to introduce testing at our airports where 168,000 people arrived in Scotland between June and November who were required to quarantine – but just 12 per cent followed up by contact tracers, and a failure to introduce widespread mass testing across the country of frontline workers.
“The cross-border travel ban is also a huge deal in my constituency where so many people travel between Scotland and England every day for essential work, education, health care and often because they cross the border for their nearest shops.
“Scottish Police resources are already stretched to the limit by the extra workload COVID-19 has imposed on them. However, the specifics of how a travel ban will be properly policed and managed are yet to be seen.
“Police Scotland said officers will only use the new powers as a “last resort” and presumably it is hoped that making restrictions into law will be enough of a deterrent to people. I will be continuing to monitor this situation closely to ensure my constituents are not unfairly penalised by these new rules.”