SNP MP Margaret Ferrier has been suspended from the party for travelling from Scotland to Westminster after experiencing Covid symptoms then taking the train back after testing positive.
The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP admitted there was “no excuse” for travelling hundreds of miles on public transport in breach of coronavirus restrictions.
Her actions were greeted with astonishment by her political opponents who said she was guilty of putting train passengers, rail staff, MPs and House of Commons staff at risk.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he was suspending the whip from Ms Ferrier after the MP released a statement apologising for her actions, which included travelling by train to the House of Commons to take part in a Covid debate.
I have spoken with @MargaretFerrier this evening who fully accepts that what she did was wrong. Margaret will be referring herself to the parliamentary standards commissioner as well as the police. I am tonight suspending the whip from Margaret. https://t.co/1bCst4r5Pu
— Ian Blackford (@Ianblackford_MP) October 1, 2020
Those found guilty of “recklessly” breaching self-isolation rules can be fined up to £4,000. In May this year Ms Ferrier called for Dominic Cummings to resign over his controversial trip to the north of England during lockdown.
Mr Blackford said Ms Ferrier would be referring herself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner as well as the police, adding: “I am tonight suspending the whip from Margaret.”
The SNP Westminster leader and MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber acted after Ms Ferrier faced calls for her resignation from Ruth Davidson and other MPs demanded disciplinary action from the SNP.
This Margaret Ferrier case is different – knowingly taking public transport after testing positive for COVID-19 is to put lives at risk. She has to go.
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonMSP) October 1, 2020
In her statement, Ms Ferrier revealed she took a Covid test on Saturday afternoon after experiencing “mild symptoms”, meaning she should have self-isolated, before travelling by train to London on Monday.
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.”
Margaret Ferrier, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West
“This was wrong, and I am very sorry for my mistake,” the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West said.
Ms Ferrier spoke in the coronavirus debate in the House of Commons on Monday and, by her account, tested positive for Covid-19 that evening.
“I travelled home by train on Tuesday morning without seeking advice. This was also wrong and I am sorry,” she said. “I have been self-isolating at home ever since.”
Ferrier takes ‘full responsibility’ for actions
The MP said she has “notified the police of my actions” and has informed the test and trace system and the Commons authorities.
“Despite feeling well, I should have self-isolated while waiting for my test result, and I deeply regret my actions,” she said.
“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.”
Margaret Ferrier’s decision to get on a train after testing positive for Covid is breathtakingly irresponsible. She has undoubtedly put lives at risk. This was cripplingly selfish and downright dangerous behaviour and I think her position as a public representative in this time of national crisis is untenable.”
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton
Ms Davidson, the leader of the Conservative Party in the Scottish Parliament, tweeted: “This Margaret Ferrier case is different – knowingly taking public transport after testing positive for Covid-19 is to put lives at risk. She has to go.”
Tory MSP Graham Simpson added: “Margaret Ferrier should listen to her own words, do the right thing and resign.
“If she’s shameless enough to try to stay on after acting so recklessly, Nicola Sturgeon must sack her. Margaret Ferrier would expect nothing less.”
‘Passengers, rail staff, MPs and many others put at risk’
Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray called on SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to condemn the MP’s actions and pursue disciplinary measures against her for having acted with “astonishing recklessness”.
“She has put passengers, rail staff, fellow MPs, Commons staff and many others at unacceptable risk,” the Labour MP said.
“To breach the rules twice is simply unforgivable, and has undermined all the sacrifices made by her constituents.
“Nicola Sturgeon must come out and condemn her MP’s actions and tell the Scottish people what disciplinary action she will be taking. There cannot be one rule for Margaret Ferrier, another for everybody else.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Margaret Ferrier’s decision to get on a train after testing positive for Covid is breathtakingly irresponsible. She has undoubtedly put lives at risk.
“This was cripplingly selfish and downright dangerous behaviour and I think her position as a public representative in this time of national crisis is untenable.”
Ms Ferrier previously called on the government to investigate Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, for potential breaches of the rules over his trip to Durham.
She criticised the prime minister for standing by his aid, and accused Mr Cummings of “undermining public trust in lockdown rules”.
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.
The Commons confirmed she had informed parliamentary authorities of her diagnosis.
“We have closely followed public health guidance on the action to take following a confirmed case of Covid on site,” a spokesman said.