U.K. Gets Into Another Domestic Row Over One of Its Borders

Britain has been no stranger to arguments over its borders recently. Talks over leaving the European Union hinged on the one in Northern Ireland and current Brexit trade negotiations involve how to avoid costly customs checks with the continent.

Now another row has erupted, this time over Scotland’s seamless border with England after the semi-autonomous government in Edinburgh this week threatened to quarantine visitors from the rest of the U.K. should there be a spike in coronavirus cases.

“There is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday. He found the quarantine suggestion by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week “astonishing and shameful,” he said. The U.K. secretary of state for Scotland, Alister Jack, said the notion is both “disappointing” and “divisive.”

That provoked an angry reaction from Sturgeon, whose pro-independence Scottish National Party runs the administration north of the “border.” A long-time critic of Johnson, she accused the Conservative prime minister of making a political issue out of the ongoing health crisis.

“There is no border between Scotland and England is an absurd comment,” she told reporters in Edinburgh. “There is certainly a geographical boundary to the limits of my power as first minister.”

Scotland’s government is responsible for health and other parts of the economy, but not border control. Sturgeon hasn’t said how any potential move to force visitors to isolate would be implemented or policed. She argued, though, that she would have the authority to do it -- if needed -- under Scotland’s devolved health powers.

“Any leader who sees this crisis as a popularity contest is not doing their job properly,” Sturgeon said. “The fact that I am having to respond to this is absurd and ridiculous. We should be focusing on our own areas of responsibility and not making this about independence.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.