LABOUR mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has claimed that the SNP treated the north of England “with contempt” during the Covid pandemic.

Speaking during an event at the Edinburgh Fringe, Burnham hit out at the Scottish Government for making people from his area feel “not welcome” - and sparked a row with ministers by claiming his meeting request with Nicola Sturgeon this week had gone ignored.

Last summer, the First Minister announced a travel ban between Scotland and Manchester and Salford due to high levels of coronavirus in the Greater Manchester region.

At the time, north-west England had the highest proportion of people likely to test positive for coronavirus of any region in the country.

READ MORE: Liz Truss brands Manchester’s Andy Burnham a ‘miserabilist mayor’

Burnham reacted furiously, arguing that the restrictions weren’t proportionate and accusing the Holyrood government of “hypocrisy”.

During an interview with former Labour MSP Neil Findlay (below) at the Fringe event on Tuesday, Burnham brought up the row once again.

The National:

He added that he’d asked to meet Nicola Sturgeon during his visit to Scotland this week – but hadn’t heard back. He is due to meet Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken on Wednesday.

“I asked to meet the First Minister while I was here and I haven’t had a reply," he told the crowd.

However, the Scottish Government said this was inaccurate.

A spokesperson said: “It is factually incorrect to say that no reply was sent to Mr Burnham’s meeting request.

"The First Minister’s office contacted Mr Burnham’s office the same day the meeting request was received. Since then, in discussion with his office, an agenda has been agreed and dates identified. The First Minister remains open to this meeting taking place.”

But later, the Scottish Government confirmed that a meeting time had been identified.

The spokesperson confirmed: “Both offices have today identified a suitable time for the meeting and the First Minister is looking forward to meeting Mr Burnham on Wednesday.”

Setting out his constitutional views further, Burnham said: “I never want to see a border across the top of the north of England and Scotland in my lifetime.”

The Greater Manchester mayor then discussed his dispute with the Scottish Government over the Covid travel ban.

He said this was done without any notification or discussion with his office, adding: “What message do people in the Scottish Government think that sent to people in our place? Basically, ‘you’re not welcome’.”

He continued: “We expect the Tories to treat the north of England with contempt, but that was the Scottish National Party treating the north of England with contempt.”

Burnham further discussed independence with Findlay, arguing that being mayor for the last five years had given him “more of a perspective on the Scottish independence debate”.

He said: “This country, the UK needs to be completely rewired, there needs to be a redistribution of power.”

READ MORE: Profile: Andy Burnham, Manchester mayor and independence opponent

He continued: “I understand how, for Scotland, just saying: ‘OK, the status quo but with a bit more devolution’ is not an answer if there’s to be another referendum.

“You have to have a much better alternative next time and that for me is a completely rewired Westminster where I would say a proportional representation for the Commons, a Senate of the nations and regions elected to replace the House of Lords.

“Much more devolution out of the whole thing, as close as you can get to home rule for Scotland I would say.”

Within Scotland, he said more power should be devolved from Edinburgh to local communities.

Elsewhere during the talk, Burnham said Labour should not “hold back” in supporting workers who go on strike to improve their wages.

Waste and recycling workers have gone on strike in the city and piles of rubbish have accumulated around bins in the city centre, as authorities hope a new 5% pay increase offer will bring disruption to an end.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar under fire for failing to criticise Edinburgh Council over bin strike

Burnham said he supported the waste workers, adding: “I observe what has happened here as similar to Westminster where councils have been cut to the bone.

“This is the consequence of it – these things have consequences.

“I’m all about local empowerment, getting power and resources into the hands of people at local levels to build communities and I see the opposite having happened here, power has been hoovered up to the centre and out of cities.”

Findlay asked him what the party’s response to the current wave of industrial action should be more generally.

Deregulation and privatisation are contributing to the rising prices, Bunham said, adding: “We’re in a cost-of-living crisis where we don’t control the basics.”

He said: “Labour – it’s not a time to be neutral. It’s a time to, I think, come forward and call it out quite clearly.”