Boris Johnson has joined the row over an SNP MP who made a “monumental” error of judgment by taking a train from London to Scotland when she knew she had tested positive for coronavirus.
The prime minister was asked about Margaret Ferrier on BBC Scotland when he replied that it was vital that “everyone obeys the rules and the guidance” regarding coronavirus.
He said that in March and April people in Scotland and across the UK “came together and got the virus down” but added: “Alas what happened since then is that everyone got a bit, y’know complacent and a bit blase.”
Johnson insisted: “I think everybody should stick to the rules and that’s what they are there for. We’ve seen they did make a huge difference”.
It comes in the same week that Johnson’s own father broke the rules, leading to Tory ministers scrambling to support Stanley Johnson, in the same way they defended the prime minister’s senior aide Dominic Cummings.
Johnson’s comments follow a call from Scotland’s first minister for Ferrier to “come to the right decision” and step down as an MP.
And speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing on Friday, first minister Nicola Sturgeon could not hide her displeasure with her former party colleague.
Sturgeon said: “This was a monumental, actually almost incomprehensible, error of judgment on Margaret’s part, and I can’t make my feelings on that any clearer than I am doing.
“There surely can be nobody in this country who doesn’t know that if you have a positive test for Covid you should isolate yourself, and you certainly shouldn’t sit on a train for six hours taking a 450-mile journey.”
Ferrier issued an apology on Thursday evening as she revealed she was tested for coronavirus on Saturday after developing symptoms, but then took a train to Parliament on Monday when she should have been self-isolating.
She spoke in a Commons debate on coronavirus on Monday, and was told at some point that evening she had tested positive.
Instead of self-isolating, she took a train back to Scotland on Tuesday.
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.
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-isolated.
SNP staff at Westminster say they were told on Wednesday Ferrier had coronavirus, and initially thought she had taken the test after returning to Scotland – only learning about her breaches of self-isolation rules on Thursday.
Sturgeon said on Friday that Ms Ferrier had been unable to give a “cogent explanation” for her actions.
The MP is now facing growing calls to quit, with Sturgeon saying she has herself told her to resign.
The first minister 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.”
Sturgeon said while coronavirus rules have changed during the course of the pandemic, “the one rule that has been clear and unchanging really throughout this is the need to self-isolate when you have symptoms and get tested, and if you test positive to absolutely make sure you complete that self-isolation”.
She added: “This is not a minor breach of the rules, it is not an inadvertent breach of the rules, it is a really flagrant and dangerous breach of the rules.”
In a statement, Ferrier said she travelled home to Glasgow on Tuesday, where she has been self-isolating ever since.
She apologised for her actions and said there was “no excuse”.
Police Scotland said the MP informed them of her behaviour on Thursday and officers are “looking into the circumstances” along with the Metropolitan Police.
She could face a £4,000 fine for a first-time offence of coming into contact with others when she should have been self-isolating, under a law that came into force on the day of her positive test.