Contact tracers are descending on Parliament today after an SNP MP flouted self-isolation rules to attend the Commons.
Margaret Ferrier is facing universal condemnation for her ‘utterly indefensible’ behaviour in going to Westminster while suffering symptoms – and then taking a train back to Scotland after her test was positive.
The flagrant breach of quarantine law is punishable with a £4,000 fine, and Ms Ferrier is also being urged by her own colleagues to resign as MP for Rutherglen & Hamilton West.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who has already stripped her of the whip, said this morning that she must ‘reflect on her position’. ‘I think it is obvious what she needs to do,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
The Commons said one person who had come into contact with Ms Ferrier had been told to self-isolate, with investigations into who else might be at risk set to continue. Extra cleaning precautions have also been taken – although the damage might already have been done.
Astonishingly, the 60-year-old received a positive result on Monday night and still appeared in the Commons chamber (pictured), speaking in a debate on coronavirus and its impact on the economy and jobs
Her own leader, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, branded her MP’s actions ‘utterly indefensible’ and said it was hard to express ‘how angry’ she felt
Margaret Ferrier’s statement in full
‘I apologise unreservedly for breaching Covid-19 restrictions by travelling this week when I shouldn’t have. There is no excuse for my actions.
‘On Saturday afternoon, after experiencing mild symptoms, I requested a Covid-19 test which I took that day. Feeling much better, I then travelled to London by train on Monday to attend Parliament as planned. This was wrong, and I am very sorry for my mistake.
‘On Monday evening I received a positive test result for Covid-19. I travelled home by train on Tuesday morning without seeking advice. This was also wrong and I am sorry. I have been self-isolating at home ever since.
‘I have used Test and Protect and I have notified the House of Commons authorities who have spoken with Public Health England. I have also notified the police of my actions.
‘Despite feeling well, I should have self-isolated while waiting for my test result, and I deeply regret my actions. I take full responsibility and I would urge everyone not to make the same mistakes that I have, and do all they can to help limit the spread of Covid-19.’
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon condemned the MP’s ‘utterly indefensible’ behaviour and welcomed her having the whip suspended, but there were calls for Ms Ferrier’s resignation including from within the party.
The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP said she took a test on Saturday afternoon after experiencing ‘mild symptoms’, meaning she should have self-isolated, before travelling by train to London on Monday having felt better.
Labour suggested the party covered up knowledge of Margaret Ferrier’s actions after it emerged they knew of her diagnosis a day before she disclosed it on Thursday evening.
She spoke in the coronavirus debate in the House of Commons on Monday and, by her account, tested positive for Covid-19 that evening. She did not make clear whether she received the result before or after she spoke.
In a statement, she said she travelled home to Glasgow on Tuesday, where she has been self-isolating ever since.
Police Scotland said the MP informed them of her behaviour on Thursday and officers are ‘looking into the circumstances’ along with the Metropolitan Police.
The Commons said she did not inform her party whip until Wednesday afternoon and that one person was identified as a close contact and told to self-isolate.
Ms Ferrier 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.
‘Despite feeling well, I should have self-isolated while waiting for my test result, and I deeply regret my actions,’ she said.
The SNP gained the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat from Labour in the 2019 general election, when Ms Ferrier won with a majority of 5,230.
Ms Sturgeon welcomed Ms Ferrier being stripped of the whip, and said: ‘It’s hard to express just how angry I feel on behalf of people across the country making hard sacrifices every day to help beat Covid. The rules apply to everyone and they’re in place to keep people safe.’
David Linden, the SNP MP for the Glasgow East constituency neighbouring Ms Ferrier’s, has called for her to go.
He told BBC Question Time her behaviour is ‘utterly inexcusable’, adding: ‘I don’t think her position is tenable and she should resign.’
Margaret Ferrier said she was ‘very sorry’ for travelling from her Rutherglen seat to attend the Commons.
Margaret Ferrier: Comeback MP who won her old seat off Labour in 2019 – only to be suspended less than a year later for Covid-19 train journey
Margaret Ferrier, 60, is MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, in central Scotland.
As an SNP candidate, she won the seat in 2015 in the party’s landslide on the back of the 2014 Independence referendum.
She was almost instantly made a party spokesperson on Scotland and was elected to the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee.
However she was narrowly beaten by Labour in the 2017 General Election.
But in last year’s poll she retook the seat. Until tonight, she was the SNP’s spokesperson on manufacturing.
Ms Ferrier was born in Glasgow but lived in Spain for several years when she was a child.
In an interview with the Daily Record, she said she had been a member of Scottish Labour in her youth.
This has since been echoed by Kirsty Blackman, SNP MP for Aberdeen North, and Stephen Flynn, SNP MP for Aberdeen South.
Ms Blackman said that while Ms Ferrier is an ‘unparalleled’ campaigner for the party, she must resign.
‘Margaret’s actions cannot be overlooked,’ she added in a tweet.
Mr Flynn retweeted Ms Blackman’s post, writing: ‘Impossible to disagree. The public will expect nothing less.’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who resigned from Boris Johnson’s Government over Dominic Cummings’ lockdown movements, said ‘the public deserve clear answers’.
‘We now know that the SNP were informed on Wednesday that Margaret Ferrier had been tested, after she had already travelled back to Scotland from London by public transport while infected with the virus,’ he said.
‘These actions not only broke the law, they will have put lives at risk.
‘We must hear from Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Blackford about exactly when they knew and why they kept this information secret from the public for hours or maybe even days.’
Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray also demanded answers from First Minister Ms Sturgeon and Mr Blackford.
The Labour MP tweeted: ‘SNP in chaos & appear to be covering up serious breach of public health laws.
‘FM & Blackford must hold press conference tomorrow am to answer questions about what they did & didn’t know.’
An SNP spokeswoman insisted the party did not know until Thursday that Ms Ferrier had taken a test prior to travelling to London.
‘Ms Ferrier informed the SNP on Wednesday, when she was in Glasgow, that she had tested positive,’ she said.
‘The SNP’s chief whip immediately informed Parliament authorities. The SNP only became aware on Thursday that Ms Ferrier had been tested prior to travelling to London and had travelled back to Glasgow, knowing that she had a positive result.’
On Monday, Ms Ferrier gave a four-minute speech in the Commons from 7.15pm and focused on the ‘economic health’ of her constituents, calling for greater financial support.
A Police Scotland spokesman said officers are liaising with colleagues in the Metropolitan Police.
‘Margaret Ferrier MP contacted Police Scotland earlier today about travelling between London and Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus,’ he said.