'WE are one nation. Scottish, English, Welsh, Northern Irish. We are in this together. Please stop this divisive, nasty talk of closing borders to 'others'” – tweet by Tory MP Andrew Bowie, June 29.


BOWIE is playing politics. The FM has no plans to close the Border. But very sensibly she is prepared to act if there is a second coronavirus spike in England, while Scotland is virus free.


ANDREW Bowie has been the Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine since 2017 – though he survived the 2019 election with only a thin margin of 843 votes. He is a former naval officer who campaigns for a bigger fleet. He was seconded full-time from Tory Scottish HQ to the Better Together Campaign during the 2014 referendum. He was Theresa May’s Parliamentary Private Secretary before being sent to the back benches by Boris Johnson.

Bowie is being alarmist for political reasons. Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has reiterated on several occasions that the Scottish Government has no plans to ban people from south of the Border or Northern Ireland from coming to Scotland for holidays or to make them quarantine. However, the Scottish Government maintains that that it would consider doing so only "if it is required from a public health perspective".

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Note: the Scottish Government was given such powers only in March this year, by the very Westminster administration of which Andrew Bowie is a supporter. Bowie did not object in Parliament. Why did he approve of the granting of such border powers (to be used only in a proven medical emergency) if he thinks they are “divisive”?


INTERNAL restrictions on the movement or residency of individuals are rare in the UK but have been imposed during previous national emergencies such as the two world wars. As a former serving officer, Bowie should know this.

The most common examples of controls over ‘internal’ travel in the UK concern Northern Ireland. During the First World War a system of internal travel documents covered entry in and out of Ireland (which was still part of the UK in its entirety, until 1922). During the Second World War, there was again control of movement across the Irish Sea between the UK mainland and Ireland, including the North.

In addition, during the war, the registration and compulsory direction of civilian labour did not apply to Northern Ireland, as it did in England, Scotland and Wales. As a result, Northern Ireland workers were not directed to move to work on the UK mainland, and vice versa. But movement of directed workers took place between the three mainland nations. Thus there were different rules for civilian movement – voluntary and involuntary – across the UK nations.

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The main application of restrictions on travel and residency between Northern Ireland and the UK mainland occurred during the recent Troubles, in response to the threat of possible Provisional IRA terrorism. The 1974 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) gave the UK Government powers to issue “exclusion orders” against named individuals, to prevent their movement from Northern Ireland to the mainland UK. These order could be issued against anyone the government “suspected” of aiding and abetting terrorism, even if not convicted.

Effectively, the PTA allowed the UK authorities to ban UK citizens from Northern Ireland from entering England, Scotland and Wales. In 1976, the PTA was extended to include exclusion orders against individuals moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Between 1974 and 1999, 448 people received exclusion orders, including then Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams.

There are fewer examples of internal movement being restricted within Great Britain, but it has occurred. During WWII, huge swathes of the GB coast – including seaside resorts – were restricted for entry by civilians other than local residents. In some areas, the exclusion zone ran 25 miles deep. There were stringent penalties for those making unauthorised entry and police boarded busses to enforce the rules.

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In Scotland during the Second World War, Secretary of State Tom Johnston arranged for a special dispensation to prevent Scottish building workers being ordered to England to repair bomb damage. He argued that it was more important to maintain new house building north of the Border, given the poor hygienic conditions in Glasgow’s slum districts. This is a species of travel ban “in reverse”, affecting only one of the UK nations.

These examples of travel and residency restrictions inside the UK occurred during national emergencies and for limited periods. But they set a clear precedent for any future national emergencies. Surely Covid-19 counts as such?


ASKED specifically if people from other parts of the UK should book a holiday in Scotland from the middle of next month (when the Scottish Government says it expects to lift restrictions on tourism), the FM replied: “they welcome to do that from the 15th of July". She continued: "People from England are welcome in Scotland, that has always been the case and always will be the case." However, she added: "I cannot guarantee that we will have no need to impose any kind of restrictions to keep this virus under control."

This measured language is hardly the “nasty talk” characterised by Bowie. Also, the FM’s statement came on the very same day (June) that Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary for England, announced the UK Government intended to impose a geographically specific quarantine on the city of Leicester. This move results from a local spike of Covid-19 in Leicester, which accounts for 10% of all new coronavirus cases. Surely if a geographical quarantine of Leicester (population 464,000) is warranted, then any extensive secondary outbreak of the virus in parts or all of England would be potential valid grounds for protecting other parts of the UK from infection though travel bans?


ANDREW Bowie is blaming the Scottish Government for doing what his own party is doing in Leicester – protecting the public.