SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon calls for Margaret Ferrier to resign over Covid rulebreaking

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand


Margaret Ferrier is under pressure from all sides to resign after travelling to London from Scotland while awaiting a coronavirus test result and then returning north of the border having received a positive response.

The suspended Scottish National Party MP has been encouraged by her own leader Nicola Sturgeon to quit her role representing the constituency Rutherglen and Hamilton West. Ms Sturgeon, speaking at her daily briefing, said Ms Ferrier’s actions travelling between Glasgow and London with coronavirus symptoms and having tested positive were “reckless, dangerous and completely indefensible”.

The First Minister said: “I’ve also spoken to her directly and made crystal clear to her that I think she should now resign as an MP.”


Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the coronavirus briefing


Opposition politicians have demanded answers to what the SNP knew about Ms Ferrier’s symptoms and infection and the party’s response.

Scotland’s First Minister said she could not understand Ms Ferrier’s “flagrant, and dangerous breach of the rules” but said the SNP had acted quickly and “appropriately” when party members learned the details.

Ms Sturgeon said that stripping Ms Ferrier of the SNP whip was the “most serious sanction” the party could impose but urged her to “come to the right decision” and resign.

She added: “I don’t have the power to force an MP to sit down, no party leader has that power.

“But I can make my views known and – difficult though it is – I have done so, and I hope she will come to the right decision in the interest of the overall integrity of the vital public health messages.”

House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle was another to encourage Ms Ferrier to consider her position.

"Nobody - not even an MP - should do this," Mr Hoyle told ITV News.

"If somebody suspects that they may have Covid, what you do not do is then act recklessly.

"An MP is meant to set the standard and, quite rightly, I am angry, the public's angry.

"This, as I say, shouldn't have happened and it was reckless and I will certainly not expect anyone to do this again.

"Not only did they put the House of Commons at risk, they put public transport at risk - this is a person who went on the train - all these people have been put at risk because of self-indulgence.

"It's not acceptable and they should consider their position."

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has refused to say whether Ms Ferrier should quit, stating it is a matter for the SNP.

He told STV News, "I think that's very much a matter for the Scottish National Party and for Nicola Sturgeon.

"What I would say about the rules, is certainly that everyone should obey them and the point of them is - and I know they are bossy and intrusive and people don't like them - but believe me, they do save lives."

Johnson's comments come as the SNP's leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, said she only had herself to blame for having the whip removed.

Mr Blackford told BBC Radio 4: “This is regrettable; she is a woman who is much loved within the parliamentary group, and I feel for her.

“But she has created a set of circumstances that are simply not acceptable.

“And, rightly, there is anger right across the country that people have made enormous sacrifices, people have seen their loved ones dying, and our leaders, our parliamentarians, our public figures, have got to be held to the highest standards.”

Ms Ferrier said she took a test on Saturday afternoon after experiencing “mild symptoms”, meaning she should have self-isolated.

Margaret Ferrier in the House of Commons on Monday Credit: Parliament TV/PA

DUP MP Jim Shannon, who was seated at the same dining table as her on Monday evening, with social distancing in place, is now self-isolating as precaution, having been given a negative test result on Thursday.

His party’s statement said the Speaker’s Office told him on Wednesday he was a close contact of a positive case and he immediately self-

Many see Ms Ferrier's situation as untenable following the incident, which she has apologised for.

Asked if he wanted Ms Ferrier to resign, Mr Blackford said: “This is a very serious situation.

“That we have been living with this Covid for a number of months. Now, people are making enormous sacrifices.

“And MPs have to be judged to the highest standards.

“And, we have a situation here that not only has the guidance been broken, but the law has been broken.

“And, I would simply say to Margaret that people will expect her to reflect on the situation that she has put herself in.”

Ferrier, left, and Nicola Sturgeon, right. Credit: PA

Ms Ferrier is now left to contemplate her future as an MP, having spoken to Mrs Sturgeon who accepts the decision to remove the whip was correct.“She has let herself down, and she has let her constituents, and, indeed, the country down as well.

“I am asking her to reflect on her position – but I think it’s very clear what I’m doing.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross branded Ms Ferrier’s decision to travel between London and Glasgow on a train while suffering Covid-19 symptoms as “reckless and dangerous”.

Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Ross said: “We expect politicians to lead by example and follow the guidance we are setting – we are law-makers.

“Margaret Ferrier was part of the process to enable these laws to be enacted across the country and her actions are reckless, they are dangerous, they are undermining everything we are doing as a country to try and get on top of this virus.”

He criticised the SNP, saying: “There’s an awful lot of questions to be answered here as to when the SNP found out.”


Train users give their views on Ms Ferrier's decision to travel


He said the party might have been aware as early as Monday evening when Ms Ferrier first asked to be granted a proxy vote.

Mr Ross himself resigned as a Government minister over his party’s refusal to condemn Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham with his family at the height of lockdown while suffering coronavirus symptoms.