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The controversial travel ban will be put into law from Friday, but Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has said it is “very, very unlikely” the police will be stopping people under the new restrictions. In addition to movement restricting movement between Scotland and England, the ban means people living in level three or four council areas of Scotland’s coronavirus tier system will not be allowed to leave except for specific essential reasons.
People living in lower-risk level one and two council areas were likewise told not to travel to level three or four council areas.
Ms Sturgeon’s proposed travel ban faced criticism as it was debated in Holyrood.
Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative party at Holyrood said: “People across Scotland desperately need clarification on what this travel ban will mean for them.
“For this to be even remotely workable, everyone, especially those living near council boundaries, must know exactly where they can travel and the police need to know precisely how they are expected to enforce it.
“That clarity has to be provided before these restrictions commence on Friday.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles was called to order after shouting at Ms Sturgeon that the travel restriction would be “impossible” to enforce.
He stressed the decision should be made by the Parliament, not Ms Sturgeon herself and added: “I am not—no one is—accusing the First Minister of making decisions lightly.
“I want to make that clear.
“These are difficult decisions; we all understand that.
“However, for the first time, the First Minister intends to use regulations to make it illegal to travel from one area to another.
“That is without the authority of Parliament and may be illegal, as it is unenforceable and may not be a proportionate measure in law.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that the ban is “very, very unlikely” to be excessively enforced by the police but people could be faced with a fixed penalty notice if they breach the restrictions.
However, he added that people travelling to other areas on essential business will not be required to show paperwork to support this if they are stopped.
He continued: “If an individual happened to be stopped by the police, which I think is a very, very unlikely circumstance, on their way to a hospital, if they were to explain to a police officer they were going to hospital for a critical appointment that would be an end of the matter.”
He added that the purpose of the restrictions is to send a “clear signal” to the public stressing: “That signal is basically to say to people that the law requires individuals not to do that unless there are good reasons and particular exemptions for that to be the case.”
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“And that again comes back to the core point that we have got to minimise human interaction.”
Police Scotland said it will not be putting up roadblocks or stopping vehicles they suspect to be violating the regulations.
They said: “The policing approach we adopted from the outset of the pandemic will not change.
“Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance, and encourage compliance.”
Speaking during the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon added: “Let me be very candid – I know that it doesn’t sit easily with anybody, including me, to be told that you can’t travel freely within the country, I absolutely understand that.
“But many countries have restrictions like this in place right now to help stop the virus spreading from area to area and that’s particularly important in Scotland where we are deliberately trying to take a more localised approach, we are trying to avoid the whole country having to go into Level 4 restrictions.
“To be blunt, we can only keep relatively low levels of restrictions in areas with low levels of the virus if we ensure that people don’t travel.”
It comes as Police Scotland said they were carrying out further inquiries into an alleged breach of coronavirus rules by MP Margaret Ferrier.
Ms Ferrier had the SNP whip removed after it emerged she made a trip from Glasgow to the House of Commons while waiting for results of a Covid-19 test and a return journey after being informed she had the virus.
The force submitted an “initial assessment” to the country’s prosecution service.
In a statement, Police Scotland said this evening: “We have submitted an initial assessment of the circumstances to (the) Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and are carrying out further inquiries under their direction.”
The Scottish Crown Office declined to comment.
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