MSP leaves shadow cabinet
Mundell quits Tory front bench over travel policy
Oliver Mundell: could not back travel restriction
Scottish Conservatives’ rural economy and tourism spokesman Oliver Mundell has resigned from the party’s front bench as he could not share its support for the latest coronavirus travel restrictions.
Mr Mundell told party leader Douglas Ross he was unable to support the measures because of the impact the restrictions on cross-border movement with England would have on communities in his Dumfriesshire constituency.
Crossing the Scottish border will be illegal under sweeping new Covid restrictions which critics have described as ‘deeply flawed’.
As of 6pm on Friday, entering or leaving Scotland without a reasonable excuse is banned and anyone caught doing so could be slapped with a £60 fine.
People living within Level Three or Level Four lockdown areas – which includes vast swathes of central Scotland – are also not permitted to leave their area.
Explaining his decision to leave the Tory front bench, Mr Mundell said: “On this occasion it was sadly not possible to balance the very specific needs of my constituents with the need to take a collective view as a party that works for the whole country.
“I understand the difficult position that puts colleagues in and I have therefore regrettably offered Douglas Ross my resignation as a party spokesperson. I continue to fully support him and the party.”
Mr Ross said: “Oliver always puts the needs of his constituents first and while I’m very disappointed to see him leave the Shadow Cabinet, I appreciate that he is only doing what he feels is best for his local area.
“He has been a very capable member of the Shadow Cabinet and I thank him for all his work for the party. I know he will continue to be a great Scottish Conservative representative for Dumfriesshire.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins questioned whether the Scottish parliament had the power to put the restrictive travel ban in place.
In a statement issued to the media, he said: “There are serious legal questions to be asked about the draft regulations published by the Scottish Government, which include rules about who may “enter or remain in” Scotland. These rules appear to affect British and Irish citizens across the UK and Ireland.
Adam Tomkins: serious legal questions
“Is this within Holyrood’s competence? For one thing, freedom of movement would appear to be expressly reserved to the UK Parliament under the Scotland Act. For another, it’s not clear that the Scottish Parliament can make rules contrary to the Common Travel Area, as agreed to by the UK and Ireland.
“It’s not at all clear if the draft regulations published today are within the remit of the Scottish Parliament. There are, at least, grave doubts about the legal competence to act in the way Scottish Ministers propose.”
A Scottish government spokesman disputed these claims.
During First Minister’s Questions Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard criticised the ban as “deeply flawed”, and demanded action to increase testing, supply PPE to frontline staff, support businesses and hold a public inquiry into the disaster in Scotland’s care homes.
“The best-case scenario is that this travel ban will confuse them. The worst-case scenario is that it will criminalise them,” he said.